About two miles north of Savannah, Georgia, in August 1779, two patriots dramatically rescued a desperate group of Americans held prisoner behind British lines. Now legendary, this Revolutionary War incident was recounted by Parson Mason Locke Weems, who also popularized the fabricated tale of George Washington and the cherry tree. Although scholars have not been able to verify Weems’s account of the rescue, it appears to be essentially accurate.
The story involves General Francis Marion and two of his scouts. Known as the “Swamp Fox,” Marion commanded guerrilla operations in South Carolina throughout the Revolutionary War. The scouts-William Jasper, who had previously distinguished himself at the Battle of Fort Moultrie, and John Newton- observed a group of about 10 American prisoners while visiting Japer’s brother, a loyalist encamped with the British Forces. The Americans were about to be sent downriver for trail at savannah and probable execution. Sergeants Jasper and Newton were said to have been particularly moved by the plight of a young man accompanied by his grief-stricken wife and child. The two scouts- who were dressed in civilian attire and trained to move through the woods undetected to gather information and intercept British patrols- hid and followed the party as it headed to Savannah. Without arms, they waited at a watering hole in hopes of waylaying the British escort. As the guards rested their guns, Jasper and Newton overpowered them, took the muskets, and freed the grateful prisoners.
From the United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art
By William Kloss and Diane K Skvarla
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Image: Sergeants Jasper and Newton Rescuing American Prisoners from the British by John Blake White