Francis Marion Biography

(Former Colonial American Military Officer and Politician)

Born: 1732

Born In: Berkeley County, South Carolina, United States

Francis Marion was a colonial American military officer and politician who is remembered for his exploits in the American Revolutionary War, against the British forces. The British nicknamed him the Swamp Fox because of his agility in the swamps and his elusive nature. He had also served in the French and Indian War and the Anglo-Cherokee War. Known for his guerrilla warfare technique, he became a national hero in the US for his heroics in the Great Savannah, Black Mingo, Georgetown, and Tearcoat Swamp. Initially a planter at his family farm, he owned many slaves and later purchased the plantation Pond Bluff. He also served in the South Carolina State Senate. His legacy lives on in movies, series, and books. Mel Gibson’s character in the 2000 film The Patriot was inspired by him. Many establishments in the US, including parks, roads, cities, educational institutes, and hotels, have been named after him.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: The Swamp Fox

Died At Age: 63


Spouse/Ex-: Mary Esther Videau (m. ?–1795)

father: Gabriel Marion

mother: Esther Marion

siblings: Esther Marion, Gabriel Marion Jr., Isaac Marion, Job Marion

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

Died on: February 27, 1795

place of death: Orangeburg County, South Carolina, United States

U.S. State: South Carolina

Childhood & Early Life

Francis Marion was born in 1732 in his family’s plantation in Berkeley County, South Carolina, US. Marion’s father, Gabriel Marion was a Huguenot who had moved from France to the Thirteen Colonies before 1700, as a result of the Edict of Fontainebleau. Gabriel later became a planter who owned slaves.

Marion was the youngest son of his parents and was born with deformed legs. In-spite of his disability, he was a restless young boy.

When he was 15, Marion joined a merchant ship which was supposed to sail to the West Indies. However, the ship sank on its maiden voyage, after colliding with a whale.

The crew, consisting of 7 people, escaped on a lifeboat and reached home after spending a week at sea. Later, Marion took charge of his family's plantation and managed his family's slaves, too.

Continue Reading Below
Military Career

Marion had his first experience in the military with the French and Indian War in 1757, followed by the war against the Cherokee Indians in 1759. In 1761, after defeating the Cherokees, Marion went back to farming. In 1773, he bought his own plantation, Pond Bluff.

In 1775, he became part of the South Carolina Provincial Congress and then joined the American Revolutionary War. Following the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the Provincial Congress voted to create three regiments. On June 21 that year, he was named a captain of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment and was to serve under Colonel William Moultrie.

On June 28, 1776, he was part of the famous Battle of Sullivan’s Island, in which around 400 South Carolinians successfully fought off a Royal Navy fleet that attacked Charleston Harbor. Following this victory, Marion was named a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army. In the autumn of 1779, Marion commanded the Second South Carolina Regiment at the Franco-American siege of Savannah, which the Americans lost.

In May 1780, while Marion was recovering from an injury that he had sustained after jumping out of a 2-story window to leave a party in a drunken state, Charleston fell to the British after General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered. He then escaped to North Carolina, where he joined General Horatio Gates’s army.  However, Marion was absent during the army’s the defeat at Camden in August that year.

Marion and his guerrilla army defeated many large bodies of British forces by their surprise attacks and rapid movements in swampy terrains. Between August and December 1780, Marion became a national hero in the US for his exploits at Great Savannah, Tearcoat Swamp, Black Mingo, and Georgetown.

It was during this time that he gained his famous nickname Swamp Fox after British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was sent to kill Marion and his men, became frustrated after not being able to catch the fleet-footed Marion and exclaimed, “…as for this old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him!”

Marion also co-ordinated with the Continental Army of Nathanael Greene. Joining hands with “Light Horse” Harry Lee’s Legion, Marion conquered Fort Watson on the Santee in April 1781. In May that year, he conquered Fort Motte, forcing the British to move out of Camden.

Marion rescued many Americans who were surrounded by the British at Parkers Ferry, South Carolina in August 1781 and was even appreciated and thanked by the Congress for his efforts. Following this, he was named a brigadier general.

Marion then commanded his South Carolina militia along with Andrew Pickens at the last big battle of the Carolinas, the Battle of Eutaw Springs, in September 1781. The battle witnessed the British suffer many casualties, after which they stopped any further inland campaigning.

Continue Reading Below

Later Life

After the war, Marion went back to Pond Bluff and found out it had been destroyed in the war. Of the 200 odd slaves who worked there before the war, most had fled the plantation and some had even joined the British, as Sir Henry Clinton had issued the Philipsburg Proclamation, which offered the Patriot slaves freedom.

Those of Marion’s slaves who had joined the British were later evacuated from Charleston. Meanwhile, some of his salves had moved to Belle Isle, a plantation that belonged to Marion's brother Gabriel.

Marion later went back to his peaceful life of a farmer. At 54, he married his 49-year-old cousin, Mary Esther Videau.

He led a peacetime militia brigade and later served multiple terms in the South Carolina Assembly (1782-1790), opposing the punishment of those Americans who had been loyal to the British during the war. He supported the loyalists’ amnesty.

In 1784, he was awarded the honorary position of Commander of Fort Johnson and thus received an annual stipend of $500. In 1790, Marion assisted in writing the South Carolina state constitution, following which he retired from public life.

Death & Legacy

Marion’s health suffered in his final years. On February 27, 1795, Marion died at his plantation, Pond Bluff. He was 63 at the time of his death. Marion was buried at the Belle Isle Plantation Cemetery of Berkeley County, South Carolina.

In December 2006, centuries after his death, Marion made headlines again, when then- US President George W. Bush signed a proclamation honoring him. Marion has also been featured and been the subject of several books, series, and films.

The first biography on him was Mason Locke Weems’s The Life of General Francis Marion, which was based on the memoirs written by South Carolina officer Peter Horry. Other books on him include historian William Gilmore Simms’s The Life of Francis Marion.

Marion was portrayed by Hans Conried in an episode of the anthology drama series Cavalcade of America. It is believed Mel Gibson’s character in the 2000 movie The Patriot was highly inspired by Marion. Critics, however, panned the film, saying it was historically misleading.

Several establishments in the US have been named after him. These include the Francis Marion National Forest near Charleston, South Carolina; the city of Marion in Iowa; Marion County in South Carolina; and the Francis Marion Hotel and the Francis Marion University, both in South Carolina. The US Navy ship USS Francis Marion was named in his honor.

See the events in life of Francis Marion in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Francis Marion Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

Donald Trump Biography
Donald Trump
Joe Biden Biography
Joe Biden
Barack Obama Biography
Barack Obama
Jimmy Carter Biography
Jimmy Carter
Ron DeSantis Biography
Ron DeSantis
Mitch McConnell Biography
Mitch McConnell
Kathy Hochul Biography
Kathy Hochul