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Francis Marion, Personal Correspondence, Mar. 1781

Gen. Marion to Lieut. Col. Balfour.

Santee, March 7, 1781.

Sir,

I sent Capt. John Postell with a flag to exchange some prisoners, which Capt. Saunders, commandant of Georgetown, had agreed to, but contrary to the law of nations, he has been seized and detained as a prisoner. As I cannot imagine that his conduct will be approved of by you, I hope orders will be immediately given to have my flag discharged, or I must immediately acquaint congress of this violation. The ill consequence of which it is now in your power to prevent. I am sorry to complain of the ill treatment my officers and men meet with from Capt. Saunders; the officers are closely employed in a small place, where they can neither stand or lie at length, nor have they more than half rations. I have treated your officers and men who have fallen into my hands in a different manner. Should these evils not be prevented in future, it will not be in my power to prevent retaliation. Lord Rawdon and Col. Watson have hanged three men of my brigade for supposed crimes, which will make as many of your men in my hands suffer. I hope this will be prevented in future, for it is my wish to act with humanity and tenderness to those unfortunate men, the chances of war may throw in my power.

I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant,
Francis Marion.

———-

Gen. Marion to Col. Watson, of the British.

Santee, March 7, 1781.

Sir,

Enclosed is a letter which I wish may be forwarded as soon as possible. I make no doubt but that you will be surprised to see a flag sent at the head of an armed party. The reason of it is, that Capt. Saunders, commandant of Georgetown, has violated the law of nations, by taking, detaining and imprisoning Capt. Postell, who carried prisoners to exchange, which was agreed to by him. The hanging of prisoners and the violation of my flag will be retaliated if a stop is not put to such proceedings, which are disgraceful to all civilized nations. All of your officers and men who have fallen into my hands, have been treated with humanity and tenderness; and I wish sincerely that I may not be obliged to act contrary to my inclinations; but such treatment as my unhappy followers, whom the chances of war may throw in the hands of my enemies receive, such may those expect who fall in my hands.

I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant,
Francis Marion.

———-

Extract of a Letter from Gov. J. Rutledge to Gen. Marion.

Camp, at Haw River, March 8, 1781.

I have not yet received the blank militia commissions I expected out. If I do not get some before I arrive at Richmond, I will there have some printed and transmitted to you. In the mean time you will give brevets, and in order that you may carry sufficient authority over the several officers in your brigade, you may remove any of them, and appoint others in their stead, from time to time, as you think proper.

———-

Col. N. Balfour to Brig. Gen. Marion.

Charleston, March 12, 1781.

Sir,

I have received your letter of the 7th inst. respecting the detention of Capt. John Postell, when charged with a flag of truce to Georgetown, and complaining of the same as a breach of the law of nations. The best answer I can return to which is the transmission of his parole, which will clearly evince that the breach of such law, as well as those of honour, rest solely with that gentleman, who has acted in a military capacity when engaged by the most solemn ties to remain in a state of neutrality.

———-

Col. Balfour to Gen. Marion.

Charleston, March 21, 1781.

Sir,

I am greatly astonished to find that you have detained one of our officers,1 sent out with a flag of truce to you, and acting under its sanction; this is indeed an infraction of the laws of nations and of war, as you complain of in the case of Capt. Postell, and such a one as if not immediately redressed I shall be obliged to punish in the most exemplary manner by the severest retaliation. If in this action you could have alluded to the case of Capt. Postell, my letter of the 12th inst. must surely have convinced you, how truly dissimilar they are in every respect; but as from such conduct I must conceive, Sir, this letter may not have reached you, I now enclose a copy for your information and conviction. Let me observe, as faith had been violated by Capt. Postell, he naturally became to us an object for capture and punishment, under whatsoever circumstances he might be met, and to argue from his justifiable detention, a right to extend the like to those most unimpeachably upright in their conduct, is a confounding of right and wrong, and a violation of all principles under which any intercourse can subsist between powers at war with each other.

I am, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
N. Balfour.

1 Capt. Merritt.

———-

Col. Watson to Gen. Marion.

Blakely’s, March 15, 1781.

Sir,

The very extraordinary method you took of sending the letter I received from you, makes it rather difficult to guess in what way you mean to carry on this war, and therefore induces me to take the mode of addressing you through a neutral person. The bearer is a little boy of John Witherspoon’s. We have an officer and some men wounded, whom I should be glad to send where they could be better taken care of. I wish therefore to know if they will be permitted to pass, without interruption from any of your parties, to Charleston.

Yours, &c.
(Signed)
John Watson.

P.S. — If you have no objection to their going, you will be so good as to send a pass for them.

———-

Col. Watson to Gen. Marion.

Blakely’s, March 16, 1781.

Sir,

I do not think it necessary to enter into a detail of your conduct, or by words to justify our own. Your mentioning that you wished to carry on the war as usual with civilized nations, led me to mention the circumstance I did. Care is taken to prevent any thing being taken from those who do not bear arms against us, or who do not directly assist our enemies; whatever other people are deprived of we do not call plunder, but property fairly taken from the enemy; and what cannot be carried away conveniently we destroy, if we think proper. ~The burning of houses and the property of the inhabitants, who are our enemies, is customary in all civilized nations.~ But further than the distress that is occasioned to their families, the distressing women and children, is so far from being countenanced by any officers in our service, that on the contrary every assistance possible is afforded them.

I am, Sir,
Yours, &c.
(Signed)
John Watson.

———-

Capt. John Saunders to Gen. Marion.

Georgetown, March 24, 1781.

Sir,

The enclosed were received from Lieut. Col. Balfour, with orders to forward them to you. There is such an apparent dissimilarity in the cases of Mr. Merritt and Mr. Postell, that I am confident that Mr. Merritt will be immediately sent in. I am happy to hear by Capt. Spencer, who fell into my hands yesterday, that the detention of Mr. Merritt is occasioned equally by that act as by sending an improper person with a flag.

I am, Sir,
Yours, &c.
(Signed)
John Saunders,
Commandant, Georgetown.

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