Weems' Life of General Francis Marion
[Note on text: Italicized words or phrases capitalized. Some obvious errors have been corrected.]
IMPORTANT NOTE ON THIS TEXT:
This biography, though historically based, should not be considered factual. It is not that there was no such man — indeed there was, and other accounts indicate that Francis Marion is as deserving of praise as this account would indicate — or moreso. It is not that the events described did not take place — most of them, at least, did.
It is simply that Parson Weems (Mason Locke Weems, 1759-1825), in an honest effort to teach a high patriotism, nobility, and morality, sometimes embellished or exaggerated his stories to the point of falsehood, as with his invention of the cherry tree anecdote in his Life of Washington. It seems strange that such a devotion to moral teaching should use falsehoods to reach its audience, but he apparently felt the means justified by the end.
Not everyone agreed with his methods, and Gen. Peter Horry wrote to him: "I requested you would (if necessary) so far alter the work as to make it read grammatically, and I gave you leave to embellish the work, but entertained not the least idea of what has happened . . . You have carved and mutilated it with so many erroneous statements your embellishments, observation and remarks, must necessarily be erroneous as proceeding from false grounds. . . . Can you suppose I can be pleased with reading particulars (though so elevated, by you) of Marion and myself, when I know such never existed." Though Horry did not want to be known as the co-author of this work, I have suffered to let his name remain, with this notice, as it has traditionally been connected with it.
For all this, the basic ideas, gleaned largely from facts provided by Peter Horry and Robert Marion (the nephew of Francis), remain largely unchanged. Even in this decadent state, Weems' biography brought the nation's attention to Francis Marion, and inspired numerous other writers to touch on the subject — two of these works, biographies by James and Simms, are especially noteworthy. Therefore, for the literary, rather than strictly historical, value, the following is presented to the reader.
Alan Light, Birmingham, Alabama, 1997.
======== Weems' Life of General Francis Marion [Mason Locke Weems, American (Maryland) author & Anglican priest. 1759-1825.] ========
The Life of General Francis Marion, a Celebrated Partisan Officer, in the Revolutionary War, against the British and Tories in South Carolina and Georgia
by Brig. Gen. P. Horry, of Marion's Brigade, and M. L. Weems, formerly rector of Mount Vernon Parish.
———— "On VERNON'S CHIEF why lavish all our lays; Come, honest Muse, and sing great MARION'S praise." ————
"O that mine enemy would write a book." — This, in former times, passed for as sore an evil as a good man could think of wishing to his worst enemy. — Whether any of my enemies ever wished me so great an evil, I know not. But certain it is, I never dreamed of such a thing as writing a book; and least of all a 'war book'. What, I! a man here under the frozen zone and grand climacteric of my days, with one foot in the grave and the other hard by, to quit my prayer book and crutches, (an old man's best companion,) and drawing my sword, flourish and fight over again the battles of my youth.
The Lord forbid me such madness! But what can one do when one's friends are eternally teasing him, as they are me, and calling out at every whipstitch and corner of the streets, "Well, but, sir, where's Marion? where's the history of Marion, that we have so long been looking for?"
'Twas in vain that I told them I was no scholar; no historian. "God," said I, "gentlemen, has made 'many men of many minds;' one for this thing and another for that. But I am morally certain he never made me for a writer. I did indeed once understand something about the use of a broadsword; but as to a pen, gentlemen, that's quite another part of speech. The difference between a broadsword and a pen, gentlemen, is prodigious; and it is not every officer, let me tell you, gentlemen, who can, like Caesar, fight you a great battle with his sword to-day, and fight it over again with his pen to-morrow."
"Burn Caesar!" replied they, "and his book too. If it were written in letters of gold, we would not read it. What have honest republicans like us to do with such an ambitious cut-throat and robber? Besides sir, your reasoning about scholarship, and fine style, and all that, does not, begging your pardon, apply at all to the case in hand. Small subjects indeed, require great writers to set them off; but great subjects require no such artificial helps: like true beauties, they shine most in the simplest dress. Marion is one of this sort: great in his simplicity. Then give us Marion — plain, brave, honest Marion; that's all we want, sir. And you can do this better than any other man. You have known him longest; have fought closest by his side: and can best tell us of his noble deeds. And surely now, after all, you can't bear to let him die, and all his great actions, and be forgotten forever."
This, I confess, went to the quick, and roused me completely. "What! Marion forgotten?" I exclaimed, "Marion forgotten! and by me!" No, never! never! while memory looks back on the dreadful days of the revolution; when a British despot, not the NATION, (for I esteem them most generous,) but a proud, stupid, obstinate, DESPOT, trampling the HOLY CHARTER and constitution of England's realm, issued against us, (sons of Britons,) that most unrighteous edict, TAXATION without REPRESENTATION! and then, because in the spirit of our gallant fathers, we bravely opposed him, he broke up the very fountains of his malice, and let loose upon us every indescribable, unimaginable curse of CIVIL WAR; when British armies, with their Hessian, and Indian, and tory allies, overran my afflicted country, swallowing up its fruits and filling every part with consternation; when no thing was to be seen but flying crowds, burning houses, and young men, (alas! too often,) hanging upon the trees like dogs, and old men wringing their withered hands over their murdered boys, and women and children weeping and flying from their ruined plantations into the starving woods! When I think, I say, of these things, oh my God! how can I ever forget Marion, that vigilant, undaunted soldier, whom thy own mercy raised up to scourge such monsters, and avenge his country's wrongs.
The Washington of the south, he steadily pursued the warfare most safe for us, and most fatal to our enemies. He taught us to sleep in the swamps, to feed on roots, to drink the turbid waters of the ditch, to prowl nightly round the encampments of the foe, like lions round the habitations of the shepherds who had slaughtered their cubs. Sometimes he taught us to fall upon the enemy by surprise, distracting the midnight hour with the horrors of our battle: at other times, when our forces were increased, he led us on boldly to the charge, hewing the enemy to pieces, under the approving light of day. Oh, Marion, my friend! my friend! never can I forget thee. Although thy wars are all ended, and thyself at rest in the grave, yet I see thee still. I see thee as thou wert wont to ride, most terrible in battle to the enemies of thy country. Thine eyes like balls of fire, flamed beneath thy lowering brows. But lovely still wert thou in mercy, thou bravest among the sons of men! For, soon as the enemy sinking under our swords, cried for quarter, thy heart swelled with commiseration, and thy countenance was changed, even as the countenance of a man who beheld the slaughter of his brothers. The basest tory who could but touch the hem of thy garment was safe. The avengers of blood stopped short in thy presence, and turned away abashed from the lightning of thine eyes.
O that my pen were of the quill of the swan that sings for future days! then shouldst thou, my friend, receive the fulness of thy fame. The fathers, of the years to come, should talk of thy noble deeds; and the youth yet unborn should rise up and call thee blessed. Fired at the charm of thy virtues, they should follow thee in the path of thy glory, and make themselves the future Marions of their country.
——————————————— The Life of General Francis Marion ———————————————
Short sketch of an extraordinary French couple, viz., the grandfather and mother of our hero — their early and happy loves — cruel persecution of the priests — final expulsion from their native country — providential settlement in South Carolina — their prosperous and exemplary lives — singular will of old Marion — and birth of his grandson, Francis.
Immortal may their memory be Who fought and bled for liberty.
One thousand seven hundred and thirty-two was a glorious year for America. It gave birth to two of the noblest thunderbolts of her wars, George Washington and Francis Marion. The latter was born in St. John's parish, South Carolina. His father also was a Carolinian, but his grandfather was a Huguenot or French Protestant, who lived near Rochelle, in the blind and bigoted days of Louis XIV.
The priests, who are the persecutors in all countries except America, could not bear that he should worship God in his own way, or dream of going to heaven but in their leading strings, and therefore soon gave him to understand, that he must either "recant or trot"; that is, quit his heresy or his country.
Too brave to play the hypocrite, and too wise to hope for happiness with a "wounded spirit", he quickly made up his mind, and, like faithful Abraham, forsook his country, to wander an exile in lands unknown. The angel who guides the footsteps of the virtuous, directed his course to South Carolina; and as a reward for his piety, placed him in a land where mighty deeds and honors were ripening for his grandson. Nor did he wander alone. A cherub, in the form of a lovely wife, followed his fortunes, and gave him to know, from happy experience, that where love is, there is no exile.
Previous to his expulsion, the priests had, for some time, suspected young Marion of what they called "heresy". But, learning that he was enamoured of the beautiful and accomplished Mademoiselle Louisa D'Aubrey, and like to win her affections, they withheld for a while, their sacred thunders, hoping, that through fear of them, and love of her, he might yet return to the bosom of the Catholic Church, to which she belonged.
Young Marion's suit to his fair mistress, was fortunate to the full extent of an ardent lover's wishes. The charming girl repaid his passion with such liberal interest, that, in a short time after the commencement of their delicious friendship, she received him for her husband, in spite of all that wealthier wooers could promise, or frowning friends could threaten.
The neighboring clergy now marked the conduct of Marion with a keener eye; and discovering in him no symptoms that pointed to recantation, they furiously pressed the bishop to enforce against him the edict of banishment.
At this time, Marion with his lovely Louisa, were living on a small farm in the vicinity of Rochelle. As he walked one afternoon in the main street of that city, he was very rudely accosted by a couple of officers of the holy inquisition, whose looks and dress were as dark and diabolical as their employment.
"Vous etes nommes Marion?" said they; that is "your name is Marion?"
"Yes, gentlemen, that is my name."
Upon this, they rudely thrust a letter into his hand, and turned away, but with such looks as tigers throw at a tender lambkin, whose well-guarded fold forbids their access. On opening the letter he found as follows:
"Your damnable heresy, well deserves, even in this life, that purgation by fire which awfully awaits it in the next. But, in consideration of your youth and worthy connexions, our mercy has condescended to commute your punishment to perpetual exile. — You will, therefore, instantly prepare to quit your country for ever. For, if after ten days from the date hereof, you should be found in any part of the kingdom, your miserable body shall be consumed by fire, and your impious ashes scattered on the winds of heaven.
— * I forewarn all my friends from thinking me capable of charging this vile persecuting spirit on the "Old W—-e of Rome" exclusively. No, thank God, I have not so learned human nature. And they who are yet to learn, may, by reading the "Catholic Layman", soon get satisfied, that the PRIESTS are as apt to abuse power as the PEOPLE, and that, when "clad with a little brief authority," protestants as well as papists, have committed those cruelties which make milder devils blush. [By way of a note on a note, I would observe, that the "Catholic Layman", is a very sensible and spirited pamphlet; the production, it is said, of Mathew Carey, Esq., of Philadelphia, who though a Roman Catholic, has printed more protestant Bibles and Testaments than half the preachers and printers in America put together.] (Mathew Carey was also Weems' publisher. — A. L., 1997.) —
Had this dreadful letter been presented to Marion even while a bachelor, it would have filled him with horror; for the heart naturally cleaves to the spot where it awoke into being, and quits, with tearful eyes, the scenes among which were spent the first and happiest days of life. But ties stronger than those of nature bound Marion to his country. His country was the country of his Louisa. How could he live without her? And how could he hope that she would ever consent to leave her parents and friends to wander and die with him in hopeless exile?
But though greatly dejected, yet he did not despair. He still trusted in that parent-power who smiles even under frowns, and often pours his richest showers from the blackest clouds. Cheered with this hope, he put the letter into his pocket, and set out to seek his Louisa.
With arms fondly interlocked, she had accompanied him that morning to the gate on the back of the garden, through which he generally passed when he went to Rochelle. Soon as his horse was led up, and he about to mount, she snatched the bridle, and laughing, vowed he should not go until he had promised her one thing.
"Well, charmer, what's that?"
"Why that you will return very soon."
"Well, indeed I will; so now let me go."
"Oh no! I am afraid that when you get out of sight you will play truant. You must give me security."
"Well, Louisa, what security shall I give you?"
"Why you must give me that thing, whatever it be, that you hold most dear in all the world."
"Well done! and now, Louisa, I give you yourself, the dearest thing God ever gave me in all this world."
At this her fine face was reddened all over with blushing joy, while her love-sparkling eyes, beaming on his, awakened that transport which those who have felt it would not exchange for worlds. Then, after the fond, lengthened kiss, and tender sigh of happy lovers parting, he rode off.
Soon as he was out of her sight, she turned to go to the house. As she passed along the garden, the sudden fancy struck her to adorn the summer house with evergreens and flowers of the liveliest tints, and there, amidst a wilderness of sweets, to receive her returning lover. Animated with this fond suggestion of conjugal affection, (woman's true life,) which at every quickened pulse diffused an answering rapture through the virtuous breast, she commenced her pleasing task; and with her task she mingled the music of her voice, clear and strong as the morning lark, and sweet as from a heart full of innocence and love. The pleasant sounds reached the ear of Marion, as he drew near the garden. Then, entering the gate without noise, he walked up, unperceived, close to her as she sat all alone in the arbour, binding her fragrant flowers and singing the happy hours away. She was singing her favorite hymn, by Madam Guyon.
"That love I sing, that wondrous love, Which wak'd my sleeping clay; That spread the sky in azure bright And pour'd the golden day," &c. &c.
To see youth and beauty, though in a stranger, thus pointing to heaven, is delightful to a pious heart. Then what rapture to an enlightened soul to see a beloved wife thus communing with God, and becoming every day more and more angelic!
Soon as her song was finished, he called out, "Louisa!"
Startled at the sudden call, she turned around to the well-known voice, presenting a face on which love and sweet surprise had spread those rosy charms, which in a moment banished all his sorrows. "My dearest Gabriel," she exclaimed, dropping her flowers, and running and throwing herself into his arms, "here, take back your security! take back your security! and also my thanks for being such a man of honor. But what brought you back, love, so much earlier than you expected?"
Here the memory of that fatal letter went like a dagger to his heart, bleaching his manly cheeks.
He would have evaded the question; but in vain, for Louisa, startled at the sudden paleness of his looks, insisted the more earnestly to know the cause.
He delayed a moment, but conscious that the secret must soon come out, he took the letter from his pocket, and with a reluctant hand put it into hers.
Scarcely had she run through it, which she did with the most devouring haste, when she let it drop from her hands, and faintly articulating, "Ah, cruel priest!" she fell upon his bosom, which she bathed with her tears.
After some moments of distress too big for utterance, Marion, deeply sighing, at length broke silence.
"Ah, Louisa! and must we part so soon!"
At this, starting up with eyes suffused with tears but beaming immortal love, she hastily replied — "Part!"
"Yes!" continued he, "part! for ever part!"
"No, Marion, no! never! never!"
"Ah! can you, Louisa, leave father and mother, and follow a poor banished husband like me?"
"Yes — yes — father, mother, and all the world will I leave to follow thee, Marion!"
"O blessed priest, I thank you! Good bishop Rochelle, holy father in God, I thank you — your persecution has enriched me above princes. It has discovered to me a mine of love in Louisa's soul, that I never dreamed of before."
"My dearest Gabriel, did you ever doubt my love?"
"Pardon me, my love, I never doubted your love, Oh no! I knew you loved me. The circumstances under which you married me gave me delicious proof of that. To have preferred me to so many wealthier wooers — to have taken me as a husband to the paradise of your arms, when so many others would have sent me as a heretic to the purgatory of the inquisition, was evidence of love never to be forgotten; but that in addition to all this you should now be so ready to leave father and mother, country and kin, to follow me, a poor wanderer in the earth, without even a place where to lay my head ——"
"Yes, yes," replied she, eagerly interrupting him, "that's the very reason I would leave all to follow you. For, oh my love! how could I enjoy father or mother, country or kin, and you a wanderer in the earth, without a place whereon to lay your head! That single thought would cover my days with darkness, and drive me to distraction. But give me your company, my Gabriel, and then welcome that foreign land with all its shady forests! Welcome the thatched cottage and the little garden filled with the fruits of our own fondly mingled toils! Methinks, my love, I already see that distant sun rising with gladsome beams on our dew-spangled flowers. I hear the wild wood-birds pouring their sprightly carols on the sweet-scented morning. My heart leaps with joy to their songs. Then, O my husband! if we must go, let us go without a sigh. God can order it for our good. And, on my account, you shall cast no lingering look behind. I am ready to follow you wherever you go. Your God shall be my God. Where you live I will live, and where you die, there will I die, and will be buried by your side. Nothing my beloved, but death, shall ever part me from you."
"Angelic Louisa!" cried Marion, snatching her to his bosom in transports — "Wondrous woman! what do I not owe to God, ever blessed, for such a comforter! I came just now from Rochelle with the load of a mountain on my heart. You have taken off that mountain, and substituted a joy most lightsome and heavenly. Like a ministering angel, you have confirmed me in duty; you have ended my struggles — and by so cheerfully offering to forsake all and follow me, you have displayed a love, dear Louisa, which will, I trust, render you next to my God, the eternal complacency and delight of my soul."
In the midst of this tender scene, a servant came running to inform Louisa that her mother, Madame D'Aubrey, had just arrived, and was coming to her in the garden. This startled our lovers into a painful expectation of another trial. For as Louisa was an only daughter, and her parents dotingly fond of her, it was not to be imagined that they would give her up without a hard struggle. Seeing the old lady coming down the walk towards them, they endeavored to adjust their looks, and to meet her with the wonted smile. But in vain. The tumult in their bosoms was still too visible in their looks to escape her discernment. She eagerly asked the cause. Their changing countenances served but to increase her fears and the vehemence of her curiosity. The bishop's letter was put into her hands. Its effects on the good old lady were truly distressing. Not having, like her daughter, the vigor of youth, nor the fervors of love to support her, she was almost overcome.
Soon as her spirits were a little recovered, she insisted that her daughter and son-in-law should instantly step into her coach and go home with her. "Your father, my dear," said she to Louisa, "your father, Monsieur D'Aubrey, will, I am certain, do something for us."
But in this she was woefully mistaken, for Monsieur D'Aubrey was one of that blind sort who place all their religion in forms and notions. He could smile and look very fond upon a man, though not over moral, provided that man went to his church — praised his preacher and opinions, and abused everybody else; but would look very sour on the best man on earth who differed from him in those things. In short, he was destitute of love, the sole life of religion. And though on account of his wife's importunities and his daughter's repose, he had consented to her marriage with Marion, yet he never liked the young 'heretic', and therefore he read the order of his banishment without any burst of grief, and made no effort to revoke the decrees of the church against him, but abandoned him to his fate.
Such insensibility to her husband's interest distressed poor Louisa exceedingly. However, it had this good effect: It contributed greatly to lessen her regret at parting with her parents.
"O had they but loved me as you do, my Marion," said she, "could they have been so indifferent when my all was at stake? No, indeed," continued she, "they could not," and burst into tears.
"Dearest Louisa!" replied he, tenderly embracing her, "would not I leave father and mother and all for you?"
"Well," returned she, with eyes of love, outshining all diamonds, "and am I not going to leave all for you? Yet a few days and I shall have no father, no mother, no country; cut off from all the world but you, Marion! alas! what will become of me if you should prove cruel to me?"
"Cruel! cruel to you, Louisa! O my God, can that ever be?"
"Ah Marion! but some excellent women have left father and mother, and followed their husbands; and yet, after all have been cruelly neglected by them!"
"Yes, Louisa; and God forgive them for that horrid crime! But to me such a deed were utterly impossible. I live for happiness, Louisa, I live for happiness, my angel. And I find so much happiness in loving, that I would as soon cease to live as cease to love. Some indeed, 'sordid celebutes' for example, seem to exist without love; but it is only a seeming existence, most joyless and imperfect. And they bear the dullness of apathy the better, because they have never known the transports of affection. But with me, my charmer, the case is happily different; for at the moment I first saw those angel eyes, they infused a sweetness into my heart unknown before. And those delicious sparks, fanned by your loves and graces, have now risen to such a flame of bliss, that methinks, were it to go out, my life would go out with it. Then, my first and last, and only sweetheart, I pray you, do not fear that I shall ever cease to love you: for indeed that can never be while you continue even half as lovely as you are at present."
"Well then, Marion," replied she, fondly pressing his ruddy cheeks to her heaving bosom, "if it depends on me, on my constant affection and studiousness to please, you shall never love me less; but more and more every day of your life."
The next morning, accompanied by Madame D'Aubrey, Marion and Louisa returned home in order to make the best preparations, which the shortness of the time would allow, to quit their country for ever.
In choosing his place of exile, it has been said that Marion's thoughts were at first turned towards the West Indies. But it would appear that Heaven had decreed for him a different direction. For scarcely had he reached his home, much agitated about the means of getting off in time, before a letter was brought him from an intimate friend in Rochelle, informing him that a large ship, chartered for the Carolinas, by several wealthy Huguenot families, was then lying at anchor under the Isle de Rhee. Gratefully regarding this as a beckoning from heaven, they at once commenced their work, and prosecuted it with such spirit, that on the evening of the ninth day they embraced their weeping friends and went on board the ship.
It is said that many of the most respectable families of Carolina — the Gourdines, Hugers, Trapiers, Postells, Horrys, &c. came over in the same ship.
The next day, the clouds began to bank the eastern sky, and the winds to whistle from the hills. Pleased with the darkly rippling waters, the ready ship got home her anchors and loosed her sails. Then wheeling before the freshening gale, she bid adieu to her native shores, and on wings of wide-spread canvas, commenced her foaming course for the western world.
But though mutual love and confidence in heaven were strong in the bosoms of young Marion and his Louisa, yet could they not suppress the workings of nature, which would indulge her sorrows when looking back on the lessening shores; they beheld dwindled to a point and trembling in the misty sky, that glorious land, at once their own cradle and the sepulchre of their fathers.
Some natural tears they shed, but wiped them soon, for the earth was all before them where to choose their place of rest; and Providence their guide.
But Marion and Louisa did not leave their country empty handed. Her Parents, 'tis supposed, gave Louisa money, but what sum, after this long lapse of time, is uncertain. Nor does tradition say for how much Marion sold his little farm. But it is well known that on their arrival in Carolina, they went up into the country, and bought a plantation on Goose Creek, near Charleston, where their dust now sleeps, after a long life endeared by mutual love, and surrounded by every comfort that industry and prudence can bestow.
We have said that Marion left his country for the sake of his RELIGION: which appears to have been of that cheerful sort for which a wise man would make any sacrifice. It was the religion of the gospel, that blessed philosophy which asks not a face of gloom, but a heart of joy. And thereunto enjoin a supreme love of God, and a close walk with him in a pure and benevolent life. From this, the genuine spring of all the sweetest charities and joys of life, Marion derived that cheerfulness which appears never to have failed him. Even in his last will, where most men fancy they ought to be gloomy as the grave whither they are going, his cheerfulness continued to shine with undiminished lustre. It was like the setting of a cloudless sun: which, after pouring its fattening beams on the fields of a live-long summer's day, goes down in smiles to rise a brighter beauty on another day. This will is certainly an amiable curiosity, and as it may be of service to the reader, by showing him how free and easy a good life makes a man with death, I will record it: at least the principal features of it, as I got them from the family.
After having, in the good old way, bequeathed "his soul to God who gave it," and "his body to the earth out of which it was taken," he proceeds in the manner following:
In the first place, as to debts, thank God, I owe none. And therefore shall give my executors but little trouble on that score.
Secondly — As to the poor, I have always treated them as my brethren. My dear family will, I know, follow my example.
Thirdly — As to the wealth with which God has been pleased to bless me and my dear Louisa and children, lovingly we have labored together for it — lovingly we have enjoyed it — and now, with a glad and grateful heart do I leave it among them.
He then proceeds to the distribution. Liberally to his children: but far more so to his wife — and at the end of each bequest assigns his reasons, viz., I give my ever beloved Louisa all my ready money — that she may never be alarmed at a sudden call. I give her all my fat calves and lambs, my pigs and poultry — that she may always keep a good table. I give her my new carriage and horses — that she may visit her friends in comfort. I give her my family bible — that she may live above the ill tempers and sorrows of life. I give my son Peter a hornbook — for I am afraid he will always be a dunce.
But Peter was so stung with this little squib, that he instantly quit his raccoon hunting by nights, and betook himself to reading, and soon became a very sensible and charming young man.
His eldest son, who, after his father, was named Gabriel, married a Miss Charlotte Corde, by whom he had six children — Esther, Gabriel, Isaac, Benjamin, Job, and our hero Francis, the least as well as the last of the family. As to his sister Esther, I have never heard what became of her; but for his four brothers, I am happy to state, that though not formidable as soldiers, they were very amiable as citizens. They bought farms — proved their oxen — married wives — multiplied good children, and thus, very unlike our niggardly bachelors, contributed a liberal and laudable part to the population, strength, and glory of their country. God, I pray heartily, take kind notice of all such; and grant, that having thus done his will in this world, they may partake of his glory in the next.
Marion's first appearance — a humble cultivator of the earth — the great Cherokee war of 1761 comes on — volunteers his services to his country — is appointed a first lieutenant in the provincial line — commands a forlorn hope — narrowly escapes with his life — the Anglo-American and the Indian forces engaged — bloody battle — the Indians defeated — their country laid waste — peace made — Marion retires.
Among the Mohawks of Sparta, it was a constant practice on the birth of a male infant, to set a military granny to examine him, as a butcher would a veal for the market, and if he were found any ways puny, he was presently thrown into a horse pond with as little ceremony as a blind puppy. Had such been the order of the day in 1732, Carolina would never have boasted a Marion; for I have it from good authority, that this great soldier, at his birth, was not larger than a New England lobster, and might easily enough have been put into a quart pot. This puny appearance continued with him till the age of twelve, when it was removed by the following extraordinary providence.
On a trip to the West Indies, which his friends put him upon for his health's sake, the little schooner in which he was embarked was suddenly attacked by some monstrous fish, probably a thorn-back whale, who gave it such a terrible stroke with his tail as started a plank. The frightened crew flew to their pumps, but in vain; for the briny flood rushed with such fury into their vessel, that they were glad to quit her, and tumble as fast as they could into their little jolly boat. The event showed that this was as but a leap "out of the frying pan into the fire"; for their schooner went down so suddenly as not to give them time to take a mouthful of food with them, not even so much as a brown biscuit or a pint of water. After three wretched days of feverish hunger and thirst, they agreed to kill a little cabin dog who had swam to them from the schooner just before she sunk. On his raw flesh they feasted without restraint; but the blood they preserved with more economy, to cool their parched lips. In a few days, however, their own blood, for lack of cooling food, became so fiery hot as to scald their brain to frenzy. About the tenth day the captain and mate leaped overboard, raving mad; and the day following the two remaining seamen expired in the bottom of the boat, piteously crying to the last for WATER! WATER! God of his mercy forgive me, who have so often drank of that sweet beverage without grateful acknowledgments! Scarcely was this melancholy scene concluded before a vessel hove in sight, standing directly for the boat, as if purposely sent to save the child that was tossing in it on the gloomy waves.
Little Marion was so weak that he could not stir hand or foot to climb up the side of the vessel. The captain, however, soon had him on board; and by means of chocolate and turtle broth, sparingly given him at first, recruited him so fast, that, by the time he reached his native shores, he was in much better health than ever. So that on his return to his friends, it was found, as is often the case, that what was at first looked on as a great misfortune, had proved a very noble blessing. His constitution seemed renewed, his frame commenced a second and rapid growth; while his cheeks, quitting their pale suet-colored cast, assumed a bright and healthy olive. According to the best accounts that I have been able to procure, Marion never thought of another trip to sea, but continued in his native parish, in that most independent and happy of all callings, a cultivator of the earth, till his twenty-seventh year.
A report then prevailing that the Cherokee Indians were murdering the frontier settlers, Marion turned out with his rifle, as a volunteer under governor Lyttleton. The affair, however, proved to be a mere flash in the pan: for the Cherokees finding that things were not exactly in the train they wished, sent on a deputation with their wampum belts and peace-talks to bury the hatchet and brighten the old chain of friendship with the whites; and the good-natured governor, thinking them sincere, concluded a treaty with them. The troops of course were dismissed, and Marion returned to his plantation.
Scarcely, however, had two years elapsed, before the perfidious Cherokees broke out again in a fresh place, killing and driving the defenceless inhabitants at a most barbarous rate. Marion instantly flew again to the governor with the tender of his services to fight for his afflicted countrymen. His excellency was so pleased with this second instance of Marion's patriotism, that he gave him a first lieutenancy in the provincial line under the brave captain William Moultrie. The reported force and fury of the Indians struck such a terror through the colony, that colonel Grant (of the British) with twelve hundred regulars, was ordered out on a forced march to succor the bleeding frontiers.
On their way they were joined at Ninety-Six, May 14, 1761, by twelve hundred provincials, all men of surest aim with the deadly rifle.
To draw off the enemy from their murderous excursions, Col. Grant wisely determined to push the war at once into their own country; which was no sooner discovered by them, than they instantly collected their whole force to oppose him. The only passage into their country was through a dark defile or gap in the mountain, which it was resolved should be forced as rapidly as possible. A forlorn hope of thirty brave fellows were ordered to explore the dangerous pass: and Marion, though but a young lieutenant, had the honor to be appointed their leader. At the head of his command he advanced with rapidity, while the army moved on to support him. But scarcely had they entered the gloomy defile, when, from behind the rocks and trees, a sheet of fire suddenly blazed forth, which killed twenty-one of his men! With the remainder, he faced about and pushed back with all speed; whereupon great numbers of tall savages, frightfully painted, rushed from their lurking places, and with hideous yells and uplifted tomahawks, pursued and gained upon them so fast, that nothing but the nearness of the advanced guard saved them from destruction. The Anglo-American army then prepared themselves for a serious and bloody conflict.
An enemy in such force, so well posted, and defending the only pass into their country, would, they well knew, fight desperately. And well aware, also what slaughter would follow upon their own defeat, they determined to yield the victory only with their lives. A long summer's day was before them, for the sun had just risen above the hills, a bright spectator of the coming fight. Then, in high spirits, with justice on their side, and an approving conscience, they cheerfully left the event to Heaven. The British were formed in small corps, the more promptly to support the riflemen, who led the van, and now with wide extended wings began to move. In a little time they came in sight of the enemy, who appeared flying backwards and forwards, as if not well satisfied with their ground. The provincial marksmen then rapidly advancing, flew each to his tree, and the action began. From wing to wing, quite across the defile, the woods appeared as if all on fire; while the incessant crash of small arms tortured the ear like claps of sharpest thunder. The muskets of the British, like their native bull-dogs, kept up a dreadful roar, but scarcely did more than bark the trees, or cut off the branches above the heads of the Indians. While, with far less noise, the fatal rifles continued to lessen the numbers of the enemy. The action was kept up with great spirit for nearly two hours, during which the superiority of the American riflemen was very remarkably displayed. For in that time they lost only fifty-one — whereas of the Indians there fell one hundred and three, which so disheartened them that they fled and gave up their country to the conquerors, who prepared immediately to enter it.
Colonel Grant had hoped to surprise their towns, but concluding that their swift-footed runners had given the alarm, he moved on in slow marches through the wilderness towards the settlements, thinking that by the destruction of their towns and corn-fields he should drive them into a disposition for peace.
Marion often spoke of this part of the war, as of a transaction which he remembered with sorrow. "We arrived," said he, in a letter to a friend, "at the Indian towns in the month of July. As the lands were rich and the season had been favorable, the corn was bending under the double weight of lusty roasting ears and pods of clustering beans. The furrows seemed to rejoice under their precious loads — the fields stood thick with bread. We encamped the first night in the woods, near the fields, where the whole army feasted on the young corn, which, with fat venison, made a most delicious treat.
"The next morning we proceeded by order of colonel Grant, to burn down the Indians' cabins. Some of our men seemed to enjoy this cruel work, laughing very heartily at the curling flames, as they mounted loud crackling over the tops of the huts. But to me it appeared a shocking sight. Poor creatures! thought I, we surely need not grudge you such miserable habitations. But when we came, according to orders, to cut down the fields of corn, I could scarcely refrain from tears. For who could see the stalks that stood so stately with broad green leaves and gaily tasseled shocks, filled with sweet milky fluid and flour, the staff of life; who, I say, without grief, could see these sacred plants sinking under our swords with all their precious load, to wither and rot untasted in their mourning fields?
"I saw every where around the footsteps of the little Indian children, where they had lately played under the shade of their rustling corn. No doubt they had often looked up with joy to the swelling shocks, and gladdened when they thought of their abundant cakes for the coming winter. When we are gone, thought I, they will return, and peeping through the weeds with tearful eyes, will mark the ghastly ruin poured over their homes and happy fields, where they had so often played.
"'Who did this?' they will ask their mothers.
"'The white people did it;' the mothers reply; 'the christians did it!'
"Thus for cursed Mammon's sake, the followers of Christ have sown the hellish tares of hatred in the bosoms even of pagan children."
The reader will, however, with pleasure remember that these were the dark deeds chiefly of a kingly government.* A gloomy monarch, three thousand miles distant, and rolling in all the pomps and pleasures of three millions of dollars per annum, could hardly be supposed to know what was passing in the American wilds; but Washington had known. With bleeding heart he had often beheld the red and white men mingling in bloody fight. The horrors of the cruel strife dwelt upon his troubled thoughts; and soon as God gave him power, (AS PRESIDENT OF INDEPENDENT AMERICA,) he immediately adopted that better system which he had learnt from the gospel. His successors, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, have piously pursued his plan. In place of the tomahawk, the plough-share is sent to the poor Indians — goods are furnished them at first cost — letters and morals are taught among their tribes — and the soul of humanity is rejoiced to see the red and white men meet together like brothers.
— * This generalization is doubtful for the time of which Weems speaks, and is certainly false for some subsequent periods, in which Great Britain had far better relations with native peoples (as in Canada) than did the United States. — A. L., 1997. —
By this god-like policy, the United States have not only saved an immensity of blood and treasure, but are rapidly adding to the population and strength of the country.
Now to return to Marion's letter. — "After burning twenty towns, and destroying thousands of cornfields,* the army returned to Koewee, where the 'Little Carpenter', a Cherokee chief, met colonel Grant and concluded a peace." The troops were then disbanded: and Marion returned to his plantation in St. John's parish, where, with a few well-fed slaves, he continued to till his parental acres, occasionally amusing himself with his gun and fishing rod, of which he was always very fond.
— * To this day the Indians cannot bear the name of colonel Grant; and whenever they see a drove of horses destroying a corn-field, they call out "Grant, Grant." —
War between England and America — Marion appointed a captain in the Second South Carolina regiment — goes with the author on the recruiting service — curious anecdote of lieut. Charnock and captain Johnson — some melancholy and memorable relations.
Marion continued to tread the peaceful and pleasant walks of life, as above, till the beginning of May, 1775, when, by a vessel direct from Boston, news was brought of the gallant battle of Lexington. Instantly the whole town and country were in a flame for war, and the legislature being purposely convened, hastened to meet the wishes of the people, who were clamorous for raising two regiments for the service.
On balloting for officers, Marion's ticket came out for a captaincy in the second regiment, under command of the brave William Moultrie. In a little time my name was called out as a captain, also, in the same regiment with Marion. This to me, was matter of great joy, as I had long courted the friendship of Marion. For though he was neither handsome, nor witty, nor wealthy, yet he was universally beloved. The fairness of his character — his fondness for his relations — his humanity to his slaves — and his bravery in the Indian war, had made him the darling of the country. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that I should have taken such a liking to Marion, but why he should have conceived such a partiality for me, that's the question. But it is no business of mine to solve it. However, very certain it is, that on the first moment of our acquaintance, there was something in his eyes and looks towards me which led me to think there must be truth in the old saying of "people's falling in love at first sight." And when it is considered, that strong attachments generally spring from congenialities, I must confess, that the warm and constant friendship of Marion has ever appeared to me exceedingly flattering.
But to return to my narrative. — Our commissions as captains, were soon made out, and signed by the council of safety, the 21st of June, 1775. As we were a couple of flaming patriots, we could not bear to be idle a single moment — marching, fighting, killing, and taking prisoners, was all that we could think or talk of. But as all this fine sport could not be carried on without men, nor men to be had without recruiting; recruiting, of course, appeared to be the first act and prologue of our play.
"But what shall we do for money, captain Marion?" said I.
"Why," replied he, "we must get it from the assembly."
The assembly was accordingly applied to, but alas! "could not help us to a single dollar!"
I wonder whether posterity will ever muster faith to believe that the grey heads of South Carolina, without a penny in pocket, ventured to war with Great Britain, the nation of the longest purse in Europe? Surely it was of him who pitted young David with his maiden sling and pebbles against the giant Goliath.
But though the poverty of the legislature was enough to have thrown a damp on spirits of ordinary heat, yet to a flaming zeal like ours, it only served as water on a fiery furnace, to make it blaze the fiercer.
"Why truly, Horry!" said Marion, "this looks unpromising, but we must not mind it my hero, I'll tell you what — if the assembly can't help us, we must e'en help ourselves! So come let us try what we can do on our own credit."
"With all my heart," I replied.
So away went we to borrow money of our friends in Charleston; I mean hard money. And hard money it was indeed. The gold and silver all appeared as if it had caught the instinct of water-witches, diving at the first flash of the war, to the bottom of misers' trunks and strong boxes. For two whole days, and with every effort we could make, we collected but the pitiful sum of one hundred dollars! However, fully resolved that nothing should stop us, we got our regimentals the next morning from the tailor's, and having crammed our saddlebags with some clean shirts, a stout luncheon of bread and cheese, and a bottle of brandy, we mounted, and with hearts light as young lovers on a courting scheme, we dashed off to recruit our companies. Our course was towards Georgetown, Black River, and Great Pedee. Fortune seemed to smile on our enterprise; for by the time we reached Pedee, we had enlisted thirty-seven men, proper tall fellows, to whom we gave furloughs of two days to settle their affairs, and meet us at the house of a Mr. Bass, tavern-keeper, with whom we lodged. I should have told the reader, that we had with us, a very spirited young fellow by the name of Charnock, who was my lieutenant.
On the second day, a captain Johnson of the militia, came to Bass's, and took lieutenant Charnock aside, and after prattling a great deal to him about the "cursed hardship", as he was pleased to call it, "of kidnapping poor clodhoppers at this rate," he very cavalierly offered him a guinea for himself, and a half joe a-piece for Marion and me to let the recruits go.
Never did a poor silly puppy more completely take the wrong sow by the ear, than did Mr. captain Johnson, in thus tampering with lieutenant Charnock. For Charnock, though remarkably good natured and polite among men of honor, could not bear the least approach of any thing that looked like rascality. Immediately, therefore, on hearing this infamous proposition, he brought Johnson into the dining room where Marion and myself were sitting, and, in his presence, told us the whole affair.
Oh that my young countrymen could all have been there, that they might have seen what a pale trembling, pitiful figure a detected rascal makes! I am sure they could never have lost that blessed moment's impression in favor of truth and honor.
After much swallowing, Johnson, however, at last, got the better of his conscience, and came on with a stout denial of the fact. Whereupon Charnock, snatching a pair of pistols, ordered him to take one and fight him on the spot. This being refused, the furious lieutenant instantly fell upon him with a cane. Sensible that Johnson had very richly deserved this ignominious chastisement, we gave him up to Charnock, who thrashed him very soundly, until, falling on his knees, he roared out for quarter. Charnock then ordered him to be gone, but with the severest threats in case the recruits were not forthcoming at the appointed time.
On the morrow they came, and "let the cat out of the bag." It appeared then, that that most worthless fellow, Johnson, had told the poor simple recruits such dreadful stories about the war, that in their fright they had offered him all their cows and calves to get them off!
Our success in the recruiting business far exceeded our expectations, for in a very short time we made up our full complement of sixty men each. I have often lamented it as a most serious misfortune that we did not enlist for the war. I am certain we could as easily have enlisted for the war as for six months. We should then have had a host of veterans, masters of their dreadful art, inured to hardships, scornful of danger, and completely able to purge our country of her cruel invaders.
As a place of greater security from the enemy's vessels, Dorchester had been pitched on as a deposite for ammunition and military stores, and put under a guard of militia. But fearing that the tories might rise upon this slender force and take away our powder, an article, at that time, of incalculable value, the council of safety advised to add a company of regulars, under some brave and vigilant officer. Marion had the honor to be nominated to the command, and, on the 19th of November, 1775, marched to the post, where he continued, undisturbed by the tories, until Christmas, when he was ordered down to Charleston to put fort Johnson in a state of defence.
About this time an affair happened in Charleston, which filled with horror all who witnessed it. Captain Fuller, of the second regiment, a gentleman in other respects very amiable and exemplary, gave himself up to hard drinking, and to such an excess as brought on an inflammation in the brain. In this frantic state, with wild rolling eyes, and a face shockingly bloated and red, he would behave for all the world as if he were leading his men into action. "Come on, my brave fellows," he would cry, "now be cool and steady — reserve your fire till I say the word — now give it to them, my heroes — hurra, they run, they run. I thank you, my lads, for your gallantry in your country's cause."
All this time the sweat would roll in torrents down his cheeks. Then, quite exhausted, he would fall on his knees, and with clasped hands, and eyes lifted to heaven, would pronounce the Lord's Prayer and the creed in the most moving manner. For several days the soldiers gathered around him while thus employed: and often with tears in their eyes, would observe the total ruin which intemperance had brought upon this once elegant young gentleman. — His friends in the country, hearing of his deplorable condition, came and took him home, where death soon put an end to all his miseries.
In a short time after this, our regiment was deprived of another very genteel young officer, lieutenant Perrineau; who also fell an early sacrifice to that most shameful and detestable practice of morning slings and mid-day draughts of strong grog.
After these two tragedies, the reader will not, I hope, be displeased with the following farce, which was acted in fort Johnson, while Marion was repairing it, in January, 1776. The principal actors in it, were captain Marion, and a young lieutenant, whose name, delicacy, yet a while, bids me suppress. This officer, though in his person as handsome as Absalom, or the blooming Adonis, was as destitute of soul as a monkey. He appeared to have no idea above that of dress and diversion: and provided he could but compass his own little pitiful ends, which were always of the sensual sort, he cared not how shamefully he prevaricated and lied, but would wink, and grin, and chuckle, as if he had done some great thing. He had served under a score of captains, who had all spoken of him as a slippery, worthless fellow, whom they knew not what to do with. But though most heartily despised, the fool had the vanity to think himself amazingly clever; and actually boasted to me one day, that he would soon let me see how far he was over my famous captain Marion's speed. Presently he hears that there is to be, next week, a great cock-fight at Dorchester. Instantly his childish spirits are all on a fever to see the cock-fight. "Oh heavens! he would not miss the cock-fight for the world!" But how to obtain leave of absence from the fort at this busy time, was the rub; however, for such means as he was capable of using, an invention like his could not long be at a loss. In short, he went to Marion, with a doleful face, and in piteous accents, stated that his father, an excellent old man as ever son was blessed with, was at his last gasp, and only wanted to see him before he died.
The generous Marion, not suspecting that so goodly an outside could cover such falsehood, did not wait to hear the coming petition, but instantly granted his wish, unheard — "To be sure, lieutenant, go, by all means, go and wait upon your father; but return as soon as possible, for you see how much we have to do."
The lieutenant affected to be quite overcome with Marion's generosity, and swore he would be back in two days, or at farthest in three. As he stepped along by me, he thrust his tongue into his cheek, and looked prodigiously arch, as if he had achieved a grand exploit.
As soon as he was gone, I told Marion I suspected it was all a trick. And so it turned out; for instead of hurrying off, as he had pretended, to see his dying father, he slipt over to Charleston, where, for fear of being seen by any of our officers, he skulked about in the lower lanes and alleys until it was time to go up to the cock-fight at Dorchester.
At length after a fortnight's absence, he came over to the fort, and entering the marquee, where Marion was sitting with his officers, he began to bow and scrape. As if not perceiving him, Marion turned his head another way. The lieutenant then, exceedingly embarrassed, came out with his apology, — "I am sorry, sir, to have outstayed my time so long; but — but I could not help it — but now I am returned to do my duty."
Marion turned very quickly upon him, and with a most mortifying neglect, said, "Aye, lieutenant, is that you? Well, never mind it — there is no harm done — I never missed you."
The poor lieutenant was so completely cut up, that he could not say a word, but sneaked off, hanging down his head, and looked much more like a detected swindler than a gentleman soldier.
The officers, who were all prodigiously pleased with his confusion, presently went out and began to rally him — "Ah, ha, lieutenant, and so the captain has given you a set down."
"A set down," replied he, very angrily, "a set down, do you call it! I had rather a thousand times he had knocked me down — an ugly, cross, knock-kneed, hook-nosed son of a b-t-h!"
The officers almost split their sides with laughing. The story soon took wind; and the poor lieutenant did not hear the last of it for many a day. I have often heard him say, that nothing ever so completely confounded him, as did that dry, cutting speech of Marion.
"I was never at a loss before," said he, "to manage all other officers that were ever set over me. As for our colonel, (meaning Moultrie) he is a fine, honest, good-natured old buck. But I can wind him round my finger like a pack thread. But as for the stern, keen-eyed Marion, I dread him."
The truth is, Marion wished his officers to be gentlemen. And whenever he saw one of them acting below that character, he would generously attempt his reformation. And few men, perhaps, ever knew better how to manage truants from duty.
To a coarse, conceited chap, like our lieutenant, Marion gave no quarter, but checked him at once, but still in a way that was quite gentlemanly, and calculated to overawe. He kept him at arms' length — took no freedoms with him — nor allowed any — and when visited on business, he would receive and treat him with a formality sufficient to let him see that all was not right.
The effect of such management evinced the correctness of Marion's judgment. The young lieutenant became remarkably polite, and also attentive to duty. In short, no subaltern behaved better. And this very happy change in his manners, was soon succeeded by as pleasing a change in the sentiments of all around him. The officers of the regiment grew fond of him — Marion spoke of him with pleasure, as an excellent soldier — and he of Marion, as his best friend.
This is sufficient to show the truth of the remark made by Aristotle — "that there is no art so difficult and godlike as that of managing men to their own happiness and glory."
The clouds of danger darker and darker — two additional regiments raised — Marion promoted to a majority — fort Moultrie built — A British fleet and army invade Carolina — grand preparations to receive them — admirable patriotism of the Charleston ladies — heavy attack on fort Moultrie — glorious defence of the garrison.
The cloud of war growing still darker and darker every day, the council of safety determined to raise a regiment of artillery, and another of infantry. In consequence of this, several of the officers of the former regiments were promoted. Among these was my friend Marion, who from the rank of captain, was raised to a majority. His field of duties became, of course, much more wide and difficult, but he seemed to come forward to the discharge of them with the familiarity and alertness of one who, as general Moultrie used to say, was born a soldier. In fact, he appeared never so happy, never so completely in his element, as when he had his officers and men out on parade at close training. And for cleanliness of person, neatness of dress, and gentlemanly manners, with celerity and exactness in performing their evolutions, they soon became the admiration and praise both of citizens and soldiers. And indeed I am not afraid to say that Marion was the 'architect' of the second regiment, and laid the foundation of that excellent discipline and confidence in themselves, which gained them such reputation whenever they were brought to face their enemies.
In March, 1776, I was sent over with my company, to Sullivan's island, to prevent the landing of the British from the men-of-war, the Cherokee and Tamar, then lying in Rebellion road. I had not been long on that station, before Col. Moultrie came over with his whole regiment to erect a fort on the island.
The truth is, the governor had of late become confoundedly afraid of a visit from the British. The great wealth in Charleston must, he thought, by this time, have set their honest fingers to itching — and we also suspected that they could hardly be ignorant what a number of poor deluded gentlemen, called tories, we had among us.
The arrival of colonel Moultrie, with the second regiment, afforded me infinite satisfaction. It brought me once more to act in concert with Marion. 'Tis true, he had got one grade above me in the line of preferment; but, thank God, I never minded that. I loved Marion, and "love," as every body knows, "envieth not." We met like brothers. I read in his looks the smiling evidence of his love towards me: and I felt the strongest wish to perpetuate his partiality. Friendship was gay within my heart, and thenceforth all nature WITHOUT put on her loveliest aspects. The island of sand no longer seemed a dreary waste. Brighter rolled the blue waves of ocean beneath the golden beam; and sweeter murmured the billows on their sandy beach. My heart rejoiced with the playful fishes, as they leaped high wantoning in the air, or, with sudden flounce, returned again, wild darting through their lucid element. Our work went on in joy. The palmetto trees were brought to us by the blacks, in large rafts, of which we constructed, for our fort, an immense pen, two hundred feet long, and sixteen feet wide, filled with sand to stop the shot. For our platforms, we had two-inch oak planks, nailed down with iron spikes. With glad hearts we then got up our carriages and mounted our guns, of which twelve were 18 pounders — twelve 24's, and twelve French 36's, equal to English 42's.
A general joy was spread over the faces of our regiment, as we looked along our battery of thunderers.
But our glorifying, under God, was chiefly in our two and forty pounders. And indeed their appearance was terrible, where they lay with wide Cerberean mouths, hideously gaping over the roaring waves, and threatening destruction to the foes of liberty.
They were soon called to a trial of their metal. — For on the 31st of May, while we were all busily driving on with our fort, suddenly a cry was heard, "a fleet! a fleet, ho!" Looking out to sea, we all at once beheld, as it were, a wilderness of ships, hanging, like snow-white clouds from the north-east sky. It was the sirs Parker and Clinton, hastening on with nine ships of war and thirty transports, bearing three thousand land forces, to attack Charleston.
Such an armament was an awful novelty, that produced on us all a momentary flutter; but, thank God, no serious fear. On the contrary, it was very visible in every glowing cheek and sparkling eye, as we looked, LAUGHING, on one another, that we considered the approaching conflict as a grand trial of courage, which we rather desired than dreaded. And to their equal praise, our gallant countrymen in Charleston, as we learned daily, by the boats, were all in fine spirits, and constantly making their best preparations to receive the enemy. And still my pen trembles in my hand; even after this long lapse of time, it trembles with wonder and delight, to tell of that immortal fire, which in those perilous days, glowed in the bosoms of the Charleston FAIR. Instead of gloomy sadness and tears, for the dark cloud that threatened their city, they wore the most enlivening looks — constantly talked the boldest language of patriotism — animated their husbands, brothers, and lovers to fight bravely — and, for themselves, they vowed they would "never live the slaves of Britain." Some people in our days, may not believe me, when I add of these NOBLE ladies, that they actually begged leave of their commandant, to let them "fight by the sides of their relatives and friends." This, though a glorious request, was absolutely refused them. For who could bear to see the sweet face of beauty roughened over with the hard frowns of war; or, the warrior's musket, on those tender bosoms, formed of heaven only to pillow up the cheeks of happy husbands, and of smiling babes?
But though the SPIRITS of the ladies were willing, their NERVES were weak; for when the British ships of war hove in sight, opposite to the town, they all went down to the shore to view them. And then strong fear, like the cold wind of autumn, struck their tender frames with trembling, and bleached their rosy cheeks. Some, indeed, of the younger sort, affected to laugh and boast; but the generality returned silent and pensive, as from a funeral, hanging their lovely heads, like rows of sickly jonquils, when the sun has forsaken the garden, and faded nature mourns his departed beams. Sisters were often seen to turn pale and sigh, when they looked on their youthful brothers, while tender mothers, looking down on their infant cherubs at the breast, let drop their pearly sorrows, and exclaimed, "happy the wombs that bear not, and the paps that give no suck."
In consequence of a most extraordinary continuation of calms, baffling winds, and neap tides, the enemy's ships never got within our bar till the 27th of June, and on the following morn, the memorable 28th, they weighed anchor on the young flood, and before a fine breeze, with top gallant sails, royals, and sky scrapers all drawing, came bearing up for the fort like floating mountains.
The anxious reader must not suppose that we were standing all this while, with finger in mouth, idly gaping like children on a raree show. No, by the Living! but, fast as they neared us, we still kept our thunders close bearing upon them, like infernal pointers at a dead set; and as soon as they were come within point blank shot, we clapped our matches and gave them a tornado of round and double-headed bullets, which made many a poor Englishman's head ache. Nor were they long in our debt, but letting go their anchors and clewing up their sails, which they did in a trice, they opened all their batteries, and broke loose upon us with a roar as if heaven and earth had been coming together.
Such a sudden burst of flame and thunder, could not but make us feel very queer at first, especially as we were young hands, and had never been engaged in such an awful scene before. But a few rounds presently brought us all to rights again, and then, with heads bound up, and stripped to the buff, we plied our bull-dogs like heroes.
The British outnumbered us in men and guns, at least three to one, but then our guns, some of them at least, were much the heaviest, carrying balls of two and forty pounds weight! and when the monsters, crammed to the throat with chained shot and infernal fire, let out, it was with such hideous peals as made both earth and ocean tremble. At one time it appeared as though, by a strange kind of accident, all their broad-sides had struck us at once, which made the fort tremble again. But our palmettoes stood the fire to a miracle, closed up without sign of splinter, on their shot, which was stopped by the intermediate sand; while, on the other hand, every bullet that we fired, went through and through their ships, smashing alike sailors, timber heads, and iron anchors, in their furious course. And thus was the order of our battle — there, a line of seven tall ships; and here, one little, solitary fort — there, British discipline; and here, American enthusiasm — there, brave men fighting for a tyrant; and here, heroes contending for liberty. I am old now, and have forgotten many things, but never shall I forget the heart-burnings of that day, when I heard the blast of those rude cannon, that bade me be a slave; and still my aged bosom swells with the big joy when I hear, which I often do in fancy's ear, the answer of our faithful bull-dogs, as with deafening roar, lurid flame and smoke, they hurled back their iron curses on the wicked claim. But alas! for lack of ammunition, our opening victory was soon nipped like a luckless flower, in the bud: for the contest had hardly lasted an hour, before our powder was so expended that we were obliged, in a great measure, to silence our guns, which was matter of infinite mortification to us, both because of the grief it gave our friends, and the high triumph it afforded our enemies. "Powder! Powder! millions for powder!" was our constant cry. Oh! had we but had plenty of that 'noisy kill-seed', as the Scotchmen call it, not one of those tall ships would ever have revisited Neptune's green dominion. They must inevitably have struck, or laid their vast hulks along-side the fort, as hurdles for the snail-loving 'sheep's heads'. Indeed, small as our stock of ammunition was, we made several of their ships look like sieves, and smell like slaughter pens. The commodore's ship, the Bristol, had fifty men killed, and upwards of one hundred wounded!
The laurels of the second regiment can never fade — the destructive effect of their fire gave glorious proof, that they loaded and levelled their pieces like men who wished every shot to tell. They all fought like veterans; but the behavior of some was gallant beyond compare; and the humble names of Jasper and M'Donald shall be remembered, when those of proud kings shall be forgotten.
A ball from the enemy's ships carried away our flag-staff. Scarcely had the stars of liberty touched the sand, before Jasper flew and snatched them up and kissed them with great enthusiasm. Then having fixed them to the point of his spontoon, he leaped up on the breast-work amidst the storm and fury of the battle, and restored them to their daring station — waving his hat at the same time and huzzaing, "God save liberty and my country for ever!"
As to sergeant M'Donald, while fighting like a hero, at his gun, a cannon ball came in at the port hole, and mangled him miserably. As he was borne off, he lifted his dying eyes, and said to his comrades, "Huzza, my brave fellows, I die, but don't let the cause of liberty die with me."
The effect of our last gun, and which happened to be fired by Marion, is too remarkable to be lost. It was his lot that day to command the left wing of the fort, where many of our heaviest cannon were planted. As from lack of powder, we were obliged to fire very slow, Marion would often level the guns himself. And now comes my story. — Just after sunset the enemy's ships ceased firing, and slipping their cables, began to move off. Pleased with the event, an officer on the quarter deck of the Bristol man-of-war, called out to his comrade, "Well, d—n my eyes, Frank, the play is over! so let's go below and hob nob to a glass of wine, for I am devilish dry!"
"With all my heart, Jack;" replied the other; so down they whipped into the cabin, where the wine and glasses had been standing all day on the table. At that moment, one of our two and forty pounders being just loaded, Marion called to colonel Moultrie, and asked him if it would not be well enough to give them the last blow. "Yes," replied Moultrie, "give them the parting kick."
Marion clapped the match, and away, in thunder and lightning went the ball, which, entering the cabin windows, shattered the two young friends: thence raging through the bulk-heads and steerage, it shivered three sailors on the main deck, and, after all, bursting through the forecastle into the sea, sunk with sullen joy to the bottom.
We got this story from five British seamen, who ran off with the Bristol's long boat, and came and joined us that very night.
The next day, that noble whig, Mr. William Logan, sent us a couple of fat beeves and a hogshead of rum, "to refresh us," as he was pleased to say, "after our hard day's work." And on the second day after the action, the governor and council, with numbers of the great ladies and gentlemen of Charleston, came over to the fort to visit us. We all put on our "best bibs and tuckers," and paraded at the water's edge to receive them, which we did with a spanking 'feu de joie'*, and were not a little gratified with their attentions and handsome compliments paid us, for what they politely termed "our gallant defence of our country."
— * Bonfire. — A. L., 1997. —
And indeed to see the looks of our poor soldiers, when those great ladies, all glittering in silks and jewels, and powdered and perfumed so nice, would come up to them, with faces like angels, sparkling and smiling so sweet, as if they would kiss them; I say, to see the looks of our poor fellows, their awkward bows and broad grins, and other droll capers they cut, no human being could have refrained from laughing.
Presently that excellent lady, Mrs. Colonel Elliot (of the artillery,) came forward and presented us with a most superb pair of colors, embroidered with gold and silver by her own lily-white hands.
They were delivered, if I mistake not, to the brave sergeant Jasper, who smiled when he took them, and vowed he "would never give them up but with his life."
Poor fellow! he too soon made good his promise, near the fatal walls of Savannah.
But it was not the ladies alone that were attentive to us, for that great man, governor Rutledge, in presence of the regiment, took the sword from his side, and with his own noble hand presented it to sergeant Jasper. He also offered him a commission on the spot; but this, Jasper absolutely refused. "I am greatly obliged to you, governor," said he, "but I had rather not have a commission. As I am, I pass very well with such company as a poor sergeant has any right to keep. If I were to get a commission, I should be forced to keep higher company: and then, as I don't know how to read, I should only be throwing myself in a way to be laughed at!" Parents, who can waste on grog and tobacco, that precious money you ought to educate your children with, think of this!
Governor Rutledge harangues the Troops — shows Britain's injustice to have been the cause of the American war — independence declared — great joy on that account.
On the 20th of September, 1776, all the troops in Charleston were ordered to rendezvous without the gates of the city, to hear, as we were told, "Some great news." Soon as we were paraded, governor Rutledge ascended a stage, and in the forcible manner of a Demosthenes, informed, that Congress had dissolved all relation with England, by an open Declaration of Independence.
"You are, no doubt, gentlemen," said he, "surprised, and perhaps shocked at this intelligence. But however painful this measure may be to our feelings, it is absolutely necessary to our safety.
"Under the sacred name of 'mother country', England has long been working our ruin. I need not tell you that our fathers were Britons, who for liberty's sake, came and settled in this country, then a howling wilderness. For a long time they ate their bread, not only embittered with sweat, but often stained with blood — their own and the blood of their children, fighting the savages for a dwelling place. At length they prevailed and found a rest. But still their hearts were towards the place of their nativity; and often with tears, did they think and talk of the white-clifted island where their fathers dwelt. Dying, they bequeathed to us the same tender sentiments, which we cherished with a pious care. The name of England was a pleasant sound in our ears — the sight of their ships was always wont to fill our hearts with joy. We hasted to greet the beloved strangers; and hurrying them to our habitations, spread for them our feast, and rejoiced as men do in the society of their dearest friends.
"Oh! had our mother country but treated us with equal affection — as a tender parent, had she but smiled on our valor — encouraged our industry — and thus exalted the horn of our glory, our union and brotherly love would have been eternal; and the impious name of INDEPENDENCE had never been heard! But, alas! instead of treating us in this endearing spirit, she cruelly limited our commerce — compelled us to buy and sell to her alone, and at her own prices — and not content with the enormous profits of such a shameful traffic, she has come, at length, to claim A RIGHT TO TAX US AT PLEASURE.
"But, my countrymen, will you suffer thus rudely to be wrested from you, that goodly inheritance of LIBERTY, which was bequeathed to you by your gallant fathers? Will you thus tamely suffer to be frustrated all the glorious designs of God towards you and your children? For look but around on this great land, which he has given you, and yon bright heavens, which he has spread over your favored heads, and say whether he ever intended those mighty scenes to be the prison-house of slaves? — the trembling slaves of a small island beyond the sea? — hewers of wood and drawers of water, planters of rice and pickers of cotton, for a foreign tyrant and his minions? No, my friends, God never intended you for such dishonor — and can you be so wicked as to bring it on yourselves? I trust you will not. Nay, the voices of your brave countrymen in Congress, have said YOU WILL NOT, and anticipating your heroic sentiments, have already declared you a "FREE AND INDEPENDENT PEOPLE!"
"And now my gallant friends, are you willing to confirm their glorious deed? Are you willing this day, in the sight of heaven, to swear allegiance to the sovereignty of your country, and to place her in the highest rank of nations, by proclaiming her INDEPENDENT?"
In a moment the air resounded with "Yes! yes! independence! independence for ever! God save the independent states of America!"
The oath of allegiance was then tendered to the troops. The officers with great alacrity took it first, which highly pleased the common soldiers, who readily followed their patriotic example. Soon as the solemn rite was performed, the governor ordered a 'feu de joie'. Instantly at the welcome word, "handle arms", the eager warriors struck their fire-locks, loud ringing through all their ranks; and presenting their pieces, rent the air with fierce platoons; while the deep-throated cannon like surly bull-dogs, rolled their louder thunders along the field; then madly bounding back on their rattling wheels, they told to fancy's ear, "Freedom's sons are we, and d—n the villains that would make us slaves!"
Times growing squally — the author sets out a vagrant hunting — gets into hot water — narrowly escapes with his life — catches a host of vagabonds, but learns from experience, that, though a rascal may do to stop a bullet, 'tis only the man of honor that can make a good soldier.
"The devil," said George Whitefield, "is fond of fishing in muddy waters" — hence it is, I suppose, that that grand demagogue has always been so fond of war — that sunshine and basking time of rogues, which calls them out, thick as May-day sun calls out the rattle-snakes from their stony crannies.
In times of peace, the waters are clear, so that if the smallest Jack (villain) but makes his appearance, eagle-eyed justice, with her iron talons, is down upon him in a moment. But let war but stir up the mud of confusion, and straightway the eyes of justice are blinded — thieves turn out in shoals: and devils, like hungry fishing-hawks, are seen by the eye of faith, hovering over the wretched fry, screaming for their prey.
This was exactly the case in South Carolina. The war had hardly raged there above a twelvemonth and a day, before the state of society seemed turned upside down. The sacred plough was every where seen rusting in the weedy furrows — Grog shops and Nanny houses were springing up as thick as hops — at the house of God you saw nobody — but if there was a devil's house (a dram shop) hard by, you might be sure to see THAT crowded with poor Lazarites, with red noses and black eyes, and the fences all strung along with starved tackies, in grape-vine bridles and sheep-skin saddles. In short, the whole country was fast overrunning with vagabonds, like ravening locusts, seeking where they might light, and whom they should devour.
"Good heavens!" said Marion to me one day, and with great alarm in his looks, "what's to be done with these wretches, these vagrants? I am actually afraid we shall be ruined by them presently. For you know, sir, that a vagrant is but the chrysalis or fly state of the gambler, the horse-thief, the money-coiner, and indeed of every other worthless creature that disturbs and endangers society."
"Why colonel," replied I, "there's a conceit in my head, which, if it could but be brought to bear, would, I think, soon settle the hash with these rascals."
"Aye," replied he, "well, pray give it to us, for I should be very fond to hear it."
"Why sir," said I, "give me but a lieutenant, sergeant, and corporal, with a dozen privates, all of my own choosing, do you see, and if I don't soon give you a good account of those villains, you may, with all my heart, give me a good suit of tar and feathers."
My demand was instantly complied with. Then taking with me such men as I knew I could depend on, among whom was the brave lieutenant Jossilin, I set out from the Long Bluff, towards Sandhills. The reader will please to take notice, that in our hurry we had not forgot to take with us a constable with a proper warrant.
We had gone but a few miles, before we fell in with a squad of as choice game as heart could have wished, three proper tall young vagabonds! profoundly engaged at all fours, in a log tippling shop, with cards as black as their own dirty hands, and a tickler of brandy before them! and so intent were the thieves on fleecing each other, that they took no manner of notice of us, but continued their scoundrel work, eagerly stretched over the table, thwacking down their cards with filthy knuckles, and at every stroke bawling out, "there's a good trick!"
"That's as good as he."
"And there's the best of the three — huzza, d—n me, at him again my hearties."
"Lieutenant Jossilin," said I, "grab them fellows."
You never saw poor devils in such a fright. But soon as they had recovered the use of their tongues, they swore like troopers that they were the "most honestest gentlemen in all Carolina."
"Aye! well, I am very glad to hear that, gentlemen," said I, "for I love honest men prodigiously, and hope the magistrate will confirm the handsome report you have made of yourselves."
So off we set all together for the magistrate. About dinner time I ordered a halt at the house of one Johnson, a militia captain, who appeared quite overwhelmed with joy to see me.
"Heaven bless us!" said he, "and now who could have believed all this? And have I, at last, to my heart's desire, the great honor of seeing under my humble roof the noble major Horry?"
I told him I was much obliged to him, for his politeness — but, for the present, was rather too hungry to relish compliments. "Like sweetmeats, captain," said I, "a little of them may do pretty well after a good dinner."
"Oh, my dear major!" quoth he, "and how sorry I am now that I have nothing fit for dinner for you, my noble son of thunder — a saddle of fat venison, major; or a brace of young ducks; or, a green goose with currant jelly, and a bottle of old Madeira to wash it down, do you see, major! something NICE for you, do you see, major!"
"NICE," said I, "captain Johnson! We soldiers of liberty don't stand upon the NICE — the SUBSTANTIAL is that we care for — a rasher of fat bacon from the coals, with a good stout lump of an ash cake, is NICE enough for us."
"Oh, my dear sir!" replied he, "now DON'T, DON'T be angry with me; for I was only sorry that I have nothing half so good for you as I could wish, but such as it is, thank God, we have plenty; and you shall have a bite in a trice." So off he went, as he pretended, to hurry dinner.
Now can any honest man believe that this same man, captain Johnson, who had been, as Paddy says, "sticking the blarney into me at that rate," could have been such a scoundrel as to turn about the very next minute, and try all in his power to trick me out of my vagrants. It is, however, too true to be doubted; for having purposely delayed dinner till it was late, he then insisted that I must not deny him the "very great honor of my company that night." Soon as my consent was obtained, he despatched a parcel of riders, to order in, with their guns, as many of his gang as he thought would do. In the course of the night, snug as master Johnson thought himself, I got a hint of his capers, and told my men to see that their guns were in prime order.
While breakfast was getting ready, (for Johnson swore I should not leave him "on an empty stomach",) lieutenant Jossilin came and told me he did not understand the meaning of so many ill-looking fellows coming about the house with their guns in their hands.
I replied that we should SEE PRESENTLY.
Breakfast then making its appearance, we sat down, and while we were eating, (our men all on parade at the door) Johnson's men kept dropping in one after another, till there were, I dare say, as many as thirty of them in the room, ALL ARMED.
When breakfast was over, I turned to the constable, and desired him to look to his charge, meaning the three vagrants, for that we would start as soon as our men were all refreshed. Upon this captain Johnson said he believed he should not let the prisoners go.
"Not let them go, sir," said I, "what do you mean by that, sir?"
"I mean, sir," replied he, "that the law is an oppressive one."
I asked him, still keeping myself perfectly cool, if he was not an American soldier?
"Yes, sir," he answered, "I am an American soldier; and as good a one, perhaps, as yourself, or any other man."
"Well, sir, and is this the way you show your soldiership, by insulting the law?"
"I am not bound," continued he, "to obey a bad law."
"But, sir, who gave YOU a right to JUDGE the law?"
"I don't mind that," quoth he, "but d—n me, sir, if I'll let the prisoners go."
"Very well, captain Johnson," said I, "we shall soon try THAT; and if you and your people here, choose to go to the devil for resisting the law, on your own heads be the bloody consequences."
With this I gave the floor a thundering stamp, and in a moment, as by magic, in bursted my brave sergeant and men, with fixed bayonets, ready for slaughter, while Jossilin and myself, whipping out our swords, rushed on as to the charge.
A troop of red foxes dashing into a poultry yard, never produced such squalling and flying as now took place among these poor guilty wretches — "Lord have mercy upon us," they cried — down fell their guns — smack went the doors and windows — and out of both, heels over head they tumbled, as expecting every moment the points of our bayonets. The house was quickly cleared of every soul except Johnson and his lieutenant, one Lunda, who both trembled like aspen leaves, expecting a severe drubbing.
"Captain Johnson," said I, "don't tremble; you have nothing to fear from me. A man who can act as you have done, is not an object of anger, but CONTEMPT. Go! and learn the spirit that becomes a gentleman and an American soldier."
I should have observed, that as we advanced to charge Johnson's poltroons, one of the party, a resolute fellow, presented his gun to my breast and drew the trigger. Happily, in the very instant of its firing, lieutenant Jossilin knocked it up with his sword; and the ball grazing my shoulder, bursted through the side of the house.
As we rode off, some of Johnson's fugitives had the audacity to bawl out, though from a very prudent distance, threatening us that they would yet rescue the prisoners before we got to the bluff. But they wisely took care not to make good their word, for they were only a pack of poor ignorant tories, who did nothing on principle, and were therefore ready to quit their purpose the moment they saw danger in the way.
Our success at vagrant hunting was marvellous. I hardly think we could, in the same time, have caught as many raccoons in any swamp on Pedee. On counting noses, we found, that in our three week's course, we had seized and sent off to Charleston, upwards of fifty. With the last haul, I returned myself to the city, where I received the thanks of general Howe, for "the handsome addition," as he was pleased to term it, "which I had made to the regiment."
But on trial, it was found that such vermin were not worthy of thanks, nor were any addition to the regiment, except as disgust to the men and vexation to the officers. Destitute of honor, they performed their duty, not like soldiers, but slaves; and, on every opportunity, would run off into the woods like wild beasts.
The brave sergeant Jasper again on the carpet — in disguise visits a British post at Ebenezer — in company of sergeant Newton, makes a second trip thither — affecting view of an American lady and her child, with other whig prisoners at Ebenezer — desperate resolve of Jasper and Newton, to rescue them — their bloody conflict and glorious triumph.
In the spring of 1779, Marion and myself were sent with our commands, to Purysburgh, to reinforce general Lincoln, who was there on his way to attack the British in Savannah, which a few months before had fallen into their hands. As the count D'Estang, who was expected to cooperate in this affair, had not yet arrived, general Lincoln thought it advisable to entrench and wait for him.
While we were lying at Purysburgh, a couple of young men of our regiment achieved an act of generosity and courage, which, in former days, would have laid the ground-work of a heroic romance. One of the actors in this extraordinary play was the brave sergeant Jasper, whose name will for ever be dear to the friends of American liberty.
Jasper had a brother who had joined the British, and held the rank of sergeant in their garrison at Ebenezer. Never man was truer to his country than Jasper, yet was his heart so warm that he loved his brother, though a tory, and actually went over to see him. His brother was exceedingly alarmed at sight of him, lest he should be seized and hung up at once as a spy, for his name was well known to many of the British officers. But Jasper begged him not to give himself much trouble on that head, for, said he, "I am no longer an American soldier."