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Francis Marion, Preface

William Dobein James

ed. by Alan R. Light

A Sketch of the Life of Brigadier General Francis Marion,

and A History of his Brigade,

From its Rise in June, 1780, until Disbanded in December, 1782;
With Descriptions of Characters and Scenes, not heretofore published.
Containing also, An Appendix, with Copies of Letters which passed between several of the Leading Characters of that Day; Principally From Gen. Greene to Gen. Marion.

By William Dobein James, A.M.

During that Period one of Marion’s Militia.
At Present one of the Associate Judges in Equity, South Carolina.

Quae contentio, divina et humana cuncta perniscuit, eoque vecordiae processit uti civilibus studiis bellum finem faceret. — Sall.

District of South-Carolina.

BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the fifth day of April, Anno Domini, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one, and in the forty-fifth year of the Independence of the United States of America, the Honourable WILLIAM DOBEIN JAMES, deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as author and proprietor, in the words following, TO WIT:

“A Sketch of the life of Brigadier General FRANCIS MARION, and a history of his Brigade from its rise in June, 1780, until disbanded in December, 1782; with descriptions of characters and scenes not heretofore published. — Containing also an appendix, with copies of letters which passed between several of the leading characters of that day, principally from Gen. Greene to Gen. Marion. By William Dobein James, A.M. during that period one of Marion’s militia — at present one of the Associate Judges in Equity, South-Carolina.”

In conformity to the act of Congress of the United States, entitled, “An Act for the encouragement of learning by securing the copies of maps, charts and books to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned,” and also an act entitled, “An Act supplementary to an act, entitled, `An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned,’ and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching historical and other prints.”

Clerk of the District of South-Carolina.


During the siege of Charleston, in May, 1780, the grammar school at Salem, on Black river, where I had been placed by my father, Major JOHN JAMES, broke up; and I was compelled to abandon my school boy studies, and become a militia man, at the age of fifteen. At that time of life it was a great loss; but still I was so fortunate as to have General MARION as my commander, and my much honoured father, who was a sincere christian, as my adviser and protector. I do not intend to write a history of my own life; but it was thus, that I became in a great measure an eye witness of the scenes hereafter described; and what I did not see, I often heard from others in whom confidence could be placed.

I felt an early inclination to record these events; but Major WEMYSS burnt all my stock of paper, and my little classical library, in my father’s house; and, for two years and a half afterwards, I had not the common implements of writing or of reading. This may appear strange at present; but it is a fact, that even our general, when sending out a patrole, would request the officer to try to get him a quire of paper. After the war, other active pursuits prevented me from indulging my inclination; and the public attention, being long fixed upon the bloody wars and great battles in Europe, had lost all relish for our revolutionary history, and its comparatively little conflicts. However, when Dr. RAMSAY announced that he was about to publish his history of South Carolina, I hastily sketched out from memory a short history of MARION’S brigade, for him; which he inserted in fifteen pages of his first volume. This brings it down no lower than the arrival of General GREENE in South Carolina. Fortunately the events of the late war revived the national spirit, and with that a taste for our own history; by it too, my inclination was renewed to communicate that of MARION’S brigade. However, I still wanted materials to confide in more certain than memory.

The last year I happened to mention my wish to Mr. RICHARD SINGELLTON, of Colleton, son-in-law of Major JOHN POSTELL, and he obligingly placed in my hands a bundle of original letters from General MARION to that distinguished officer. Not long after I heard that the late General PETER HORRY had preserved copies of General MARION’S correspondence with General GREENE and other officers; and I applied to his executor, Mr. JAMES GUIGNARD, who very politely placed five duodecimo volumes in my hands, closely written by the general. The originals were left by General HORRY with the Rev. M. L. WEEMS, but it appears he made no use of them in his life of MARION. The dates and facts stated in these copies agree pretty well with the account in the history of South Carolina by Dr. RAMSAY, and General MOULTRIE’S memoirs of the American revolution.

I have also taken the pains to consult several of MARION’S officers and men, who still survive. The Hon. THOMAS WATIES gave me considerable information respecting the first part of the general’s operations, which I did not witness; as, after MARION’S retreat to the White marsh, I was left sick in North Carolina. During MARION’S struggle with WATSON I had returned, but was confined to my bed with the small pox; and the greater part of that account was received from Captain GAVIN WITHERSPOON, ROBERT WITHERSPOON, Esq. and others. Respecting the affairs about Camden, General CANTEY and Dr. BROWNFIELD gave me much information; and the present sheriff of Charleston district, FRANCIS G. DELIESSELINE, Esq. and myself have compared notes ~generally~ on the subject.

Of all these sources of information I have availed myself; besides having recourse to every account of the events of that period which I had it in my power to consult. This, I hope, will account satisfactorily for any departures made from the statement I furnished Dr. RAMSAY.

There are no doubt many errors in my narrative, as nothing human is exempt from them; but it is believed there are not more than usually occur in what is considered accurate history. It may also need correction in other matters, and it may not be pregnant with great events; but still it is a kind of domestic history, which teaches lessons of patience and patriotism, not surpassed in modern, and seldom in ancient times.