General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” was one of the most dashing figures of the American Revolution. He sabotaged the communication and supply lines of the British forces in South Carolina in a series of surprise attacks. With his small band of poorly equipped men trained in guerilla warfare, Marion lived off the land and hid in the swamps to evade the enemy. While camped at Snow’s Island, South Carolina, about 1781, the general was said to have received a British officer who had been sent to arrange an exchange of prisoners. Their negotiations completed, Marion invited the visiting officer to stay for a meal. There are at least three differing accounts of what may have transpired, but recent scholarship has uncovered a document that may shed light on the event.This document is the application of Samuel Weaver, a militiaman in North Carolina and Virginia, for a Revolutionary War pension. Weaver’s sworn statement, as recorded by a justice of the peace, suggests that he was present at the Snow’s Island Encampment:
During the rime he was with Gen’l Marion, a British Officer as he was told, came to Camp but for what reason he does not know & he was roasting and baking sweet potatoes on the coles – Gen’l Marion steped up with the British Officer and remarked he believed he would take Breakfast; he felt proud of the request, puled out his potatoes, wiped the ashes off with a dirty hankerchief, placed them on a pine log (which was all the provision they had) and Gen’l Marion and the British Officer partook of them. He had been told by some that this had been recorded in the log of the Gen’l as dinner but this was breakfast.
Legend says that the officer was surprised by the modest fare, as well as the simple attire and mode of existence that he found in the American camp. He was equally surprised that the American soldiers drew no wage and provided their own rations. General Marion explained that he and the Americans were willing to make these sacrifices to fight for liberty. The British officer was said to be so moved by the Americans’ dedication that soon thereafter he resigned his commission and switched allegiances, declaring that it was impossible to defeat soldiers who would serve “without pay, and almost without clothes, living on roots and drinking water; and all for Liberty! He reportedly served for the last six months of the was as a private under Marion, who later fought with General Nathanael Greence at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, forcing the British to retreat from South Carolina.
From the United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art
By William Kloss and Diane K Skvarla
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