I mentioned on this website in my item on Gatlinburg, Tennessee how cool I think it is to leave behind a city named after yourself, an achievement that more than compensates for any other problems faced in your life.
Pat and I found a similar situation when we visited Marion, South Carolina in early August 2016. The city of Marion is named after The Swamp Fox aka Brigadier General Francis Marion (1732-1795) but, unlike poor old Radford Gatlin over in Tennessee, the latter part of Marion’s life was just one big success story.
His exploits in the American Revolutionary War have earned him a prominent place in the pantheon of American heroes and he is considered by many to be the father of guerilla warfare. He died loaded with honors and his memory is today commemorated in so many ways.
Francis Marion learned his military skills as a young man in the French and Indian Wars. When US independence was declared in 1776, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army and, for much of the conflict, commanded militia operating in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. He became a thorn in the side of larger and better equipped British forces, in particular Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who gave Marion the now famous nickname, Swamp Fox.
This region in South Carolina is low lying and marshy and close to the Atlantic Ocean. It is intersected by several rivers, the Great Pee Dee, the Little Pee Dee, and the Santee being the main ones. In this terrain, Marion avoided frontal encounters and would slip away after surprising the enemy and inflicting damage on them, hence his nickname of the Swamp Fox.
Pat already knew all about the Swamp Fox since, as a child, she was a fan of a TV series about him starring actor Leslie Nielsen and shown from 1959 to 1961, long before I settled in the United States.
We would have liked to visit his plantation, but it is today submerged beneath a man-made lake created by a dam built across the Santee River. Since this is today South Carolina’s largest lake and is named Lake Marion, the Swamp Fox is probably content with the situation. However, we did cross Lake Marion on Interstate 95 and also visited the gravesite of the Swamp Fox, which is located on Belle Isle what was his brother’s plantation.
Back in the city of Marion, seat of the county of the same name, we inspected its ancient courthouse. From the other side of the street, a large statue of The Swamp Fox gazed belligerently at the building. If that doesn’t keep the judges on the straight and narrow, then nothing will.
The Swamp Fox was also the star of the show at the City of Marion Museum, where we saw him depicted in various oil paintings as well as in a much smaller edition of the same statue that faces the courthouse.
Our next stop was at the local university, a most impressive campus, but there are no prizes for guessing its name. It is, of course, the Francis Marion University, a liberal arts school with over 4000 students. Its athletic teams operate under the name “the Patriots”, thus preserving a link with the activities of the Swamp Fox over two centuries ago.
A Swamp Fox Festival and Parade is held in the city of Marion every summer. This year it was in May, so we missed it. The local airport is NOT called the Francis Marion Airport, but I guess that’s only because there isn’t a local airport.
We left the Pee Dee region, which was hot and humid at this time of year, and headed south to the city of Charleston, SC. However, we could not escape the Swamp Fox any more than those British generals could so long ago. We passed The Francis Marion National Forest near Charleston and one of that city’s tallest buildings is The Francis Marion Hotel built in 1924. At that time, it was the largest and grandest hotel in town and even had its own Swamp Fox room.
Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston. Click on picture below for more pictures and information.
After the Revolutionary War, the Swamp Fox had a good life quite unlike poor old Radford Gatlin in Tennessee. He was awarded a generous government pension and sat as a South Carolina state senator. He lived in style on his plantation, buying a new set of slaves to replace those he had lost during the war. He died at the age of 63. Yet the way his reputation has survived and prospered over the years is amazing. As recently as 2008, a bill passed both houses of the US Congress authorizing the erection of a memorial to the Swamp Fox in Washington DC. The memorial has yet to built, however. It seems that some residents of Washington DC don’t care for the way that the Swamp Fox is said to have treated his slaves. Therefore the project is still mired in controversy, which is why construction has not yet started. A federal government with a 20 trillion dollar debt might do well to save some money, because the Swamp Fox already has plenty of memorials here in South Carolina, as we have just seen.
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