Accounts of the events and the heroes of the American Revolution have been retold through the generations to attain the status of folklore. Any student of American history knows the story of Paul RevereÆs midnight ride, the famous words of Patrick Henry, ôGive me liberty or give me death,ö and Nathan Hale, ôI regret that I have but one life to give for my country,ö the privations suffered by George WashingtonÆs troops at Valley Forge, and the revolutionary defiance inherent in the Declaration of Independence. Of this extensive body of stories, one of the most romanticized is that of Francis Marion. Through his stealth, cunning and innovative mastery of military tactics, Marion became a hero whose status was second only to that of George Washington (Bass 4).
In the retelling of his bold exploits, MarionÆs legend grew into that of a modern-day Robin Hood who emerged from the wilderness to administer justice. Mason Locke ôParsonö Weems enhanced MarionÆs status through a somewhat embellished military romance based on his life and achievements. The poet William Cullen Bryant sang, öThe British soldier trembles when MarionÆs name is toldö (Bass 4). Generations of parents named their sons after him. And his name was evoked in the naming of new settlements to the extent that there are now, scattered across the United States, some 29 towns and 17 counties named Marion (Rankin 1).
Although MarionÆs legend would grow to gigantic proportions in the retelling of his accomplishments, his mythic position in the folklore of America was firmly based on historical facts. That his stature as a heroic figure of the revolution was based on his actions spanning a mere two and a half years is perhaps surprising.
The real Francis Marion was a complex character. He was moody and introverted but genuinely humane, kind and gentle. He was poorly educated to the extent that he was barely literate, but he had an intuitive grasp o...