The Swamp Fox by John Oller

Although at first blush the title of John Oller’s The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution seems a bit hyperbolic, but after reading it, I agree.

A brief summary from the publisher:

In the darkest days of the American Revolution, Francis Marion and his band of militia freedom fighters kept hope alive for the patriot cause during the critical British “southern campaign.” Like the Robin Hood of legend, Marion and his men attacked from secret hideaways before melting back into the forest or swamp. Employing insurgent tactics that became commonplace in later centuries, Marion and his brigade inflicted losses on the enemy that were individually small but cumulatively a large drain on British resources and morale.

Oller’s biography of Marion is the first in nearly 40 years of a pivotal leader in the American Revolution – even though most people have either not heard of or read much about Marion. The Patriot starring Mel Gibson was a loose depiction of his life – a very loose depiction. Oller quickly gives the measure of the man – quiet, modest, superb leader, quick learner, and great tactician.

Oller believes that the Revolution would have failed without Marion stepping into the gap to fill the void for the Patriot cause – I agree. Marion did this in the summer of 1780 after the fall of Charleston and the British victory at Camden. Marion stepped into the gap by waging guerilla warfare when there was no other organized force in the field for the Americans. He successfully pinned down British and Loyalist forces until American Continental troops arrived in the area.

Even though Marion was overshadowed by more flamboyant and outspoken leaders (Light Horse Harry Lee, Nathanael Greene, and Thomas Sumter), Marion was consistently a steady presence in South Carolina. He made mistakes (and owned up to them for the most part), but he learned from those mistakes and hit the British harder in the next engagement. He was successful despite using mainly militia (periodically called out to serve for short periods between times of farming).

An excellent book that describes the exploits of one of the saviors of the American Revolution in the South.

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