Thursday, July 5, 2012

Foxy Man...I think I love you...

I like to watch the movie The Patriot every Fourth of July even though it is horribly inaccurate and Mel Gibson is crazier than a road lizard. The character he plays is called Benjamin Martin and is a larger than life almost savior like man. Rambo with a musket and bad ponytail. In all actuality the character is loosely based on a real man, a hero of the Revolutionary war, Frances Marion known as the “Swamp Fox.”

Marion is known as the one of fathers of guerilla warfare. During the war, Marion joined the troops of Major General Horatio Gates a little bit ahead of the Battle of Camden. Gates couldn’t stand Marion so he sent the man to take command of the Williamsburg Militia. Marion was to undertake the scouting of missions and try to slow the British down some after that battle. (The term lambs to a slaughter comes to mind) Marion ended up missing the battle because he was sent away. He did however manage to intercept and recapture about 150 Maryland prisoners, plus 20 British guards heading back to Charleston. The prisoners, now free, thought the war was already lost to the British so they deserted from the ranks of Marion.

Marion proved to be skilled at leading the irregular militiaman. Basically this means the guys who were a bit too rough and tumble for the Continental Army (Not the goody goody boys, but the down and dirty alpha men) served Marion will. Most did so without pay, supplied their own horses and arms, and often their own food.  Some may have felt the greater call for the cause of freedom from tyranny. Others probably just wanted to fight.

Marion rarely allowed his men to serve in the frontal attacks but preferred to fight from behind in sneak attacks, using the environment as a tool, and disregarding the rules of war as a means to fight his foes. Marion, as well as others in the Continental Army, understood that standing in a line facing each and firing weapons was not going to end up well for either party involved. Thus guerilla warfare was born for the American fighters.

The most fascinating fact about Marion, at least for me, is how he is viewed by the two sides of the fray. When the movie The Patriot came out, the news reported that the legend of Frances Marion and the Swamp Fox was revitalized for a new generation. Interest among Americans grew. People wanted to know about his exploits. However, on the other side of the pond the news media and prominent historians called him a terrorist and a rapist.

Marion never won any major battles, never led an army in a major battle, and never commanded a large army. Nevertheless, He is one of the Revolutionary War’s most intriguing and enduring characters. Because of Marion’s cunning and determination the cause of American independence was kept alive in the South.

In 1959 Disney produced a TV show called “The Swamp Fox” starring Leslie Nielson. (Yep, that Leslie Nielson. The one from Naked Gun and Police Squad – although my favorite Leslie Nielson vehicle is Forbidden Planet.) It was part of the Wonderful World of Disney. You can check out some of the episodes on YouTube if you’re so inclined. Just remember it is even more inaccurate then The Patriot. Disney referred to him as the Robin Hood of the Revolutionary War.

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog. 

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