He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met. — Abraham Lincoln

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The "Swamp Fox"

The British had failed not only in their first attempt, against Boston, but also in their second,—to seize the Hudson valley and thus separate the southern colonies from New England. But as they were not yet ready to give up the struggle, they decided to try a third plan. That was to begin a new campaign in the far south, and march up the Atlantic coast, leaving nothing but conquered people behind them.

In 1778, therefore, they began their operations by besieging and taking Savannah. Soon after, they became masters of Augusta and of nearly all Georgia. These successes delighted them, for, with one province won, they fancied they would soon be masters of all the rest. Still, before they could do much more, the French fleet under D'Estaing, and an American army under Lincoln, came to recover Savannah. While the French were bombarding that city from their ships, the Americans, led by Pulaski, tried to storm it (1777).

Pulaski's Monument in Savannah

But in spite of a most gallant charge, the patriots were driven back with great loss. Among the dead was Sergeant Jasper, still holding the flag given him at Fort Moultrie, and Count Pulaski, the generous Pole who had joined the army and served under Washington in the battle of the Brandywine. Both of these men were so brave that their names will never be forgotten, and in Savannah fine monuments have been erected in their honor.

The first attempt to take Savannah having failed, the French admiral refused to lend any more aid to the Americans in the South. So Lincoln, after defending Charleston alone for forty days, was forced to surrender. The British, coming to the city, exacted such hard conditions from him that they roused the indignation of all true Americans. But when the British minister heard that the city was taken, he proudly cried: "We look on America as at our feet!"

The British now overran the state, behaving most cruelly everywhere. An officer named Tarleton not only burned houses, and beat women and children, but when some Americans asked for quarter, that is, vowed not to fight any more if he would spare their lives, he broke his promise and had them all killed. Because he did not keep his word, the expression "Tarleton's quarter" was used in the South as a term for immediate death.

Although by Lincoln's surrender one American army was lost, the patriots were not ready to give up yet, and as soon as another force was raised, Gates was sent southward to command it. He was so proud of his victory at Saratoga that he started out full of confidence. When he stopped, on his way, to visit Lee, the latter, hearing him boast, quietly remarked: "Take care your northern laurels do not turn to southern willows."

Unfortunately, however, Gates paid no heed to this warning. Thinking he would soon force Cornwallis to surrender, he was very imprudent, and when he met the British at Camden, a few months later (1780), he suffered a defeat instead of winning a victory. We are told that when he saw the day was lost, Gates turned and fled, never daring to stop until he had put about eighty miles between himself and his foes. The German officer De Kalb, who had so generously come to help the Americans, fought in this battle with great courage, and died from the eleven wounds he received there. He is buried at Camden, where a monument marks his resting place. This was the worst battle for the Americans during the whole war, and it was speedily followed by the loss of nearly all South Carolina. The only people who still had courage to fight were a few patriots led by such heroes as Marion, Sumter, and Pickens.

The first of these three men was so upright, brave, and gentlemanly that he has often been compared to a brave French knight, and is therefore known as the "Bayard of the South." Marion and his men had retreats in the woods and swamps, whence they made sudden raids upon the British. It seems that the latter, wishing to exchange prisoners, once sent an officer into one of these hiding places under a flag of truce. As Marion did not wish the British to learn the way to his retreat, this officer was blindfolded and led a long distance. When his bandage was removed, he was surprised to find himself, not in a fort or house, as he had expected, but in a lonely spot in the woods. Marion stepped forward, politely offered him a seat on a log, and, when business was over, cordially invited him to share his dinner.

The officer was just wondering where his dining room could be, when one of the ragged soldiers appeared, carrying a piece of bark on which smoked some sweet potatoes, roasted in the camp fire. Marion helped his guest to a potato on a chip, and began to eat one himself with a relish. Of course the British officer immediately followed his example; but he soon asked whether the American officers often dined so simply. Marion, the "Swamp Fox," answered, "Yes; "and then gayly added, "but we are fortunate on this occasion, having company to entertain, to have more than our usual allowance."

Marion's Dinner

The officer, hearing this, suggested that the Americans probably gave their soldiers big pay to make up for such poor fare and uncomfortable quarters. But Marion truthfully answered that he received no salary at all. The astonished officer then asked why he served such a mean country at all; and the brave young Southerner, looking him full in the face, proudly remarked that a man was always ready to do anything for the lady he loved, and that the name of his sweetheart was Liberty.

The British officer could not but admire such a man and such an answer. On returning to camp, we are told, he left the service, saying he would have no share in depriving such brave men as Marion of the rights due them.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell