Letter from Francis Marion to Peter Horry after Battle of Camden, August 1780

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Francis Marion is one of South Carolina’s most iconic Revolutionary War figures.  Born near Charleston in 1732, Marion was a successful planter when tensions rose between colonists and the British.  He is best known for his military heroism and leadership during this time.  He served as the Captain of South Carolina’s Second Regiment during the Revolutionary War.  In the autumn of 1779, Marion was wounded during a Franco-American attack on Savannah.  Since he was sent away to recuperate, he was not present in May of 1780 when Charleston fell to the British.  Marion gathered a small party of militia together to prepare for a British invasion of a beleaguered South Carolina.  He organized a troop in the Pee Dee Region which came to be known as “Marion’s Men,” famous for their hit-and-run tactics.  Francis Marion earned the nickname “Swamp Fox” because of his ability to use the terrain to escape from British troops.  After the war, Marion returned home to a destroyed plantation, though he accumulated exceptional wealth throughout his life.  At the time of his death, Marion’s estate consisted of more than eighteen hundred acres of land and seventy-three slaves.  Marion later served as a prominent member of the South Carolina General Assembly.

 This letter illustrates the day-to-day events of “Marion’s Men.”  Marion wrote this letter to Colonel Peter Horry, his subordinate, after General Gate’s defeat at Camden.  “Marion’s Men,” were not present at the battle because they were out destroying enemy lines of communication and transportation, a specialty of his troops.  While writing this letter, he was retreating from Camden to Lynch’s Creek in present day Kershaw Country.  The letter contains news of Marion’s recent accomplishments and includes an inventory of British troops and supplies captured.  Marion expresses a need for more ammunition, arms, accoutrements, horses and supplies.  While short on supplies throughout much of the war, Marion and his men effectively frustrated British actions as the Patriots struggled to hold on to South Carolina.


Marion, Francis. Peter Force copies of Peter Horry’s transcripts of Francis Marion letters, 1779-1782. N.p.: 1846. microfilm reel. P900013. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, S.C.


Francis Marion to Peter Horry, August 27th 1780

Colo. Marion to Col. P. Horry dated 27th Augt. 1780 (Lynchs Creek)

Dr Sir,

            I am sorry to acquaint you General Gates is defeated with great loss, he was oblidge to retreat to Charlotte, which obliges me also to retreat.  You will without loss of time retreat with what men you get to Britons Neck where I have encamped.  It is necessary to obtain ammunition, arms, accoutrements, and as many good horses and you can, also get stores from George Town.  You will if possible send up the river to Briton’s Neck.  On the 20th instant I attacked a guard of the 63rd and Prince of Whales Regt. With a number of Tories, at the Great Savannah near Nelsons ferry, killed and has wounded_ Took 22 regulars and 2 Tories prisoners and retook 150 Continentals of the Maryland Line, and Waggon and a Drum, one Captain and one subaltern was also captured.  Our loss is one killed and Captain Benson Kightly wounded on the head_ I shall be at Britons Neck with the prisoners and Continentals tomorrow morning.  I must beg you’d retreat as immediately as you receive this, for I expect the enemy will send their horse in this part of the country, as soon as they can will recover a little from the great loss they sustained which is said is equal to a defeat.  Genl. DeKalb, is killed, Dubesan wounded, the particulars have not come to hand.  I beg youd procure me to quires of paper, I have not heard a word from you since you left me.

                                    I am Dear Sir,

                                    Your Obt. Servt,

                                    F Marion

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution and South Carolina’s role in the development of the new American nation.

Indicator 3-3.2 Summarize the key conflicts and key leaders of the American Revolution in South Carolina and their effects on the state, including the occupation of Charleston by the British; the partisan warfare of Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion; and the battles of Cowpens and Kings Mountain. (H, P, G)

Standard 4-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the conflict between the American colonies and England.

Indicator 4-3.4 Summarize the events and key battles of the Revolutionary War, including Lexington and Concord, Bunker (Breed’s) Hill, Charleston, Saratoga, Cowpens, and Yorktown. (G, H)

Standard 8-2:  The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution - the beginnings of the new American nation and South Carolina’s part in the development of that nation.

Indicator 8-2.3 Summarize the course and key conflicts of the American Revolution in South Carolina and its effects on the state, including the attacks on Charleston; the Battle of Camden; the partisan warfare of Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion; the Battle of Cowpens; and the Battle of Kings Mountain. (H, G)

Standard USHC-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the establishment of the United States as a new nation.

Indicator USHC-2.2 Explain the impact of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution on the American colonies and on the world at large. (H, P, E)


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