The revolutionary war raged no where more than it did where he commanded; in all this he had the head to lead and to plan, and the discernment to choose those who could best execute. His personal bravery was displayed on many occasions, but his own sword struck not the blow, it never was seen stained with blood; cool and collected, he was always the general, never the common soldier. In short the whole bent of his soul was how he should best provide for his men, how he could most annoy the enemy, and how he could soonest achieve the independence of his country. The characters of his officers will be best collected from the facts stated. In taking such wise measures as have been related for the defence of the lives and property of his friends, Gen. Marion could extend none of them to his own possessions. His plantation in St. John’s lay within a mile of the marches and countermarches of the British, and was subject to every species of wanton waste and depredation. One half of his negroes were taken away, and the other half must have been faithful, or they would not have remained. He had ten workers left, but plantation utensils, clothes for his people, household furniture, and stock of cattle and horses, were all to be purchased without a cent of money.5 He expected to receive half pay, but even in this was disappointed. At a session of the legislature shortly after, a garrison was established at fort Johnson, and he was appointed commander, with a salary of about 500 pounds.6 Yet, in despite of his recent and meritorious services, this moderate appointment became a butt at which they who are forever seeking popularity by recommending curtailments in useful and even necessary expenditures, soon levelled their shafts. His spirit could not easily brook such treatment, but his debts made it prudent to submit.
At this juncture, his merit and high reputation had made a favourable impression on the heart of Miss Mary Videau, one of his relations. She was observed to be fond of hearing his achievements spoken of in terms of high approbation; some of the general’s friends noticed it, and gave him a hint. He paid his addresses to her and was well received. They were soon after married, and he resigned his command at the fort. She brought him a handsome fortune, and as there was no great disparity, either in their years or disposition, she made him an excellent wife. She was in countenance the exact counterpart of the general. She partook in all his amusements, accompanied him in his journeys, and in his absence could not be better pleased than by hearing his praises. In short, nothing could have made this matrimonial connexion more happy, but its being more fruitful. They never had an heir. The general built a comfortable house of a single story, with one sitting room, but many chambers; its materials were of the most durable kind of cypress; but it received no coat either of paint or varnish. Here his friends were received with a hearty welcome and good cheer, and the stranger with kind hospitality. His planting interest was judiciously managed, and his property increased yearly. In the summer months he made excursions, into the upper country almost every year, for the benefit of his health. In these journeys he loved to renew former recollections. He had retained his marquee, camp bed and cooking utensils, and he always travelled as he had done in his brigade. To his wife nothing could be more pleasant, and she has often recounted these jaunts to her friends with delight. The old pot, kettle and frying-pan, tin plates, knives and forks were preserved as precious relics: the sumpter mules as friends. His faithful servant Oscar, who had accompanied him through all his difficulties, always received high marks of his favour. As to honours, Gen. Marion did not aspire higher than to a seat in the senate, which he continued to fill as long as he pleased, as a member for St. John’s. In May, 1790, he was a member of the convention for forming the state constitution; after which he declined all public duties. In politics he was a moderate federalist; such as were many great revolutionary characters. In May, 1794, the militia of the state were re-organized, and soon after Gen. Marion resigned his commission in the militia. Shortly after his resignation, at a meeting of the citizens of Georgetown, a committee of four was appointed to draw up an address to the general. These were William D. James, Robert Brownfield, Thomas Mitchell and Joseph Blythe. An address was prepared by the chairman (James,) and unanimously adopted. Copies were also directed to be distributed through the district. It is as follows:
At the present juncture, when the necessity of public affairs requires the military of this state to be organized anew, to repel the attacks of an enemy from whatever quarter they may be forced upon us, we, citizens of the district of Georgetown, finding you no longer at our head, have agreed to convey to you our grateful sentiments for your former numerous services. In the decline of life when the merits of the veteran are too often forgotten, we wish to remind you that yours are still fresh in the remembrance of your fellow citizens. Could it be possible for men who have served and fought under you, to be now forgetful of that general, by whose prudent conduct their lives have been saved and their families preserved from being plundered by a rapacious enemy? We mean not to flatter you. At this time it is impossible for you to suspect it. Our present language is the language of free men expressing only sentiments of gratitude. Your achievements may not have sufficiently swelled the historic page. They were performed by those who could better wield the sword than the pen. By men whose constant dangers precluded them from the leisure, and whose necessities deprived them of the common implements of writing. But this is of little moment: they remain recorded in such indelible characters upon our minds, that neither change of circumstances nor length of time can efface them. Taught by us, our children shall hereafter point out the places and say to their children, here Gen. Marion, posted to advantage, made a glorious stand in defence of the liberties of his country; there, on disadvantageous ground, retreated to save the lives of his fellow citizens. What could be more glorious for the general commanding free men than thus to fight, and thus to save the lives of his fellow soldiers? Continue general in peace to till those acres which you once wrested from the hands of an enemy. Continue to enjoy dignity, accompanied with ease, and to lengthen out your days blessed with the consciousness of conduct unaccused of rapine or oppression, and of actions ever directed by the purest patriotism.
This address was presented to the general and gave him great pleasure; but as he had not latterly been much in the habit of using his pen, his answer was a verbal one, expressive of his sincere thanks.
On the 27th day of February, 1795, Gen. Marion died at his house in St. John’s parish. As his fame is yet but indistinctly known, and much of that through the medium of fable, the present attempt has been made to arrest its progress, to do honour to his memory, and to transmit his example to posterity.
Gen. Marion’s Epitaph.
Sacred to the Memory
BRIG. GEN. FRANCIS MARION,
Who departed this life, on the 27th of February, 1795,
In the Sixty-Third Year of his Age;
Deeply regretted by all his fellow citizens.
will record his worth, and rising generations embalm
his memory, as one of the most distinguished
Patriots and Heroes of the American Revolution;
which elevated his native Country
TO HONOUR AND INDEPENDENCE,
secured to her the blessings of
LIBERTY AND PEACE.
This tribute of veneration and gratitude is erected
in commemoration of
the noble and disinterested virtues of the
and the gallant exploits of the
Who lived without fear, and died without reproach.
Taken from the marble slab at Belle Isle, this 20th September, 1821, by Theodore Gourdin.
2 Count Rumford told professor Pictet, of Geneva, many years after, that he had never been able to efface from his imagination, the horrid spectacle of the dead and wounded upon these occasions. — See Pictet’s Tour in England, p. 212.