FRANCIS MARION: The Swamp Fox by Hugh F. Rankin


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The American Revolution was four years old before Francis Marion, a Tidewater planter of Huguenot descent, became a rebel commander. He plunged into guerrilla war, harassing, mauling and diverting the British and Loyalist detachments -- a stirring three years' worth of glory achieved well into middle age. Rankin tells it in a dry way that conveys the particulars of Revolutionary battle in the South but without sufficient appreciation of strategic overviews. Marion's forces -- small planters like himself who had been ruined by British depredations -- were of course voluntary, hence never stable in size or composition, but they possessed superior morale. His victories prompted a British officer to declare, ""As for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him."" Rankin's scholarship extends to the long pauses between battles and the day-to-day concerns of maintaining battle-readiness, especially procurement of horses and intelligence, as well as the tactical thinking of commanders on both sides. A somewhat lackluster narrative with a less than satisfying feel for Marion's character, this is nonetheless a creditable academic study.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1973
Publisher: Crowell