Editorial: Sweet potatoes in the swamp

  • Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Francis Marion was among a small handful of men who turned the tide of the Revolutionary War that led to a free and independent United States of America.
Marion’s Men fought and bled and died throughout South Carolina, tying down thousands of British soldiers, mercenaries, Tories and much of the might of the British Navy.
He escaped capture in the fall of Charleston in May 1780 because he jumped from the balcony of a house where a lot of drinking was underway.
He broke his ankle in March 1780 and went home to recuperate, thus avoiding capture by the British.
Marion’s Men were not numerous, but they were wily Carolina farmers and planters and tradesmen. His slave Oscar Marion — who went to war with Marion — is shown in the painting here, as is an Indian and a number of other men.
They fought, captured powder and ball, supplies and more. Colonel Banastre Tarleton named Marion the Swamp Fox because the Patriots would fight and escape to fight again another day.
Many others “pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to secure liberty for their posterity.
In this famous painting, John Blake White depicts a scene where a British officer came to Snow’s Island — in Florence County about 7 miles from the Oatland Community of Georgetown County — to arrange a prisoner exchange.
According to an account of the painting on the United States Senate Web site:
“After the business has been arranged, Marion invited the visitor to take dinner with him. The moment chosen by the Artist is when they approach the table, which was composed of pieces of bark, bearing a dinner of sweet potatoes. The expression of surprise on the countenances of the stranger and Marion’s men is finely expressed. The scenery is said to be perfectly characteristic of a South Carolina swamp; and, altogether, it may safely be pronounced one of the best pictures of American history ever produced in this country.”
Visit the Web site  http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/common/image/Painting_33_00002.htm
The soldiers weren’t being paid any wages, and provided their own rations, weapons and horses.
Marion told the British officer the Americans were willing to make these sacrifices to fight for liberty.
The British officer was reportedly so moved that he resigned his commission and joined Marion’s Men, declaring that it was impossible to defeat soldiers who would serve “without pay, and almost without clothes, living on roots and drinking water; and all for Liberty!”
He reportedly served for the last six months of the war as a private under Marion, who later fought with General Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, forcing the British retreat from South Carolina.
Many men and women of all stations in life, and all races, gave their all so that America could be free.
We encourage everyone to honor those brave souls as we celebrate Independence Day on July Fourth, 2013.

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