01DEC1780 – Psych! PLUS Marion Camps at Snows Island, Ready for the Next Opportunity

As we last heard of Francis Marion’s situation, he had written Gen. Gates about a large encampment of British in Kingstree and wondered if he was ever going to be supported in the effort to keep the British occupied and delayed in the south. As it turns out, Marion’s reputation alone causes this force of almost 300 men to be vary nervous and so they break camp in Kingstree a day later and head to a more secure location, farther away from Marion’s lair, first at Murry’s Ferry on the Santee River and then at Sumter’s abandoned plantation further up river.

.. The Tory reinforcements McLeroth was expecting from Georgetown also had failed to show up; they had gone home after their leader, Barefield, was wounded in the skirmish with Marion’s men. Believing his position too weak to stay at Kingstree, McLeroth moved his 64th Regiment of Foot out of the patriot-infested Williamsburg area ..

Oller, John. The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution

This is not the only instance of the British playing it safe as the December 1780 calendar continues to unfold. This psychological element would be yet one more advantage that the guerrilla patriot force will need to not only survive, but also to continue distracting the British as long as they can.

The British high command were concerned with McLeroth’s performance, that he was more timid than the other commanders they had in the field. McLeroth’s force swelled to over 400 when he was reinforced at Murry’s Ferry before moving to Sumter’s plantation:

There he set up camp around Sumter’s plantation, the site of Marion’s daring rescue mission in August. Unlike Wemyss or Tarleton, though, McLeroth did not vent his frustration by laying waste to the countryside. A Scotsman by birth, he declined to burn the homes of his Scotch-Irish kinsmen, earning him the disdain of Cornwallis and other British officers.

Oller, John. The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution

Apparently, honorable British officers would be marginalized as it seemed that short-term goals were achieved better by the likes of Tarleton and Weymss. This strategy would continue to come back to bite them as the psychological aspect of this war would play a very important role in its outcome.

Marion wrote an updated letter to Gen. Gates on 22NOV1780 that the British moved away from Kingstree, but with limited resources as far as men and ammunition, he and what was left of his men moved to Snows Island on 24NOV1780 through 04DEC1780. Unknown to Marion at this time was that Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina on 02DEC1780 and took command of the Southern Army on 04DEC1780. This would bring a different dynamic to the relationship between the Continental army in the south and Marion’s militia in the months to come.

It seems that the non-traditional has an advantage. Marion, trained with British tactics also abandoned these tactics when they did not make sense. Greene as well came from a non-traditional background:

Nathanael Green had what was probably the best military mind in the Continental Army. Yet he had no military training and little formal education. A lapsed Quaker, he was suspended from their meetings after being seen at a public alehouse in 1773; later he formally withdrew from the pacifistic sect. In 1774 he organized a militia in his native Rhode Island to oppose the British. His military learning was self-taught, gained from books among his 250-volume personal library. When the Revolution came in 1775 Greene was promoted from private to major general of the Rhode Island state army, and in June of that year Congress appointed him as a brigadier in the Continental Army. He was only thirty-two.

Oller, John. The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution

So with Greene now in North Carolina, he was able to effect the strategy so desperately needed to delay Cornwallis as more British arrived. Unlike in the north where December meant winter quarters, down here in the South Carolina colony there were plenty of upcoming opportunities as the British attempted to gear up for a springtime move into North Carolina.

Stay tuned as by the end of the first week in December, events would unfold and harvest activities would wrap up so that would have Marion’s ranks swell with volunteers yet again!