"I am certain they will desert:" Francis Marion on the Battle of Great Savannah

Lt. Col. Francis Marion's Report to Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates on the Battle of Great Savannah. Ports Ferry, N. Side Pedee, 29th August 1780
Great Savannah
The Battle of Great Savannah Dale Watson

The following text is a letter from Francis Marion to Maj. General Horatio Gates on his actions at the Battle of Great Savannah and its aftermath. With rescued prisoners of war now in his care, Marion laments their loss of command and his struggles with keeping them in the ranks of the American forces in the wake of the Battle of Camden:


       I wrote you on the 22d. instant from Williamsburg township by Mr. Perkins; but I suppose he is taken as I have heard nothing of him.

       I have destroyed all the boats at the ferries, from Murray's to the mouth of the Santee, and drove the guards placed at each ferry. Hearing of some prisoners, which the enemy were carrying down the Charlestown by the way of Nelson's Ferry, I marched my party of seventy men and surprised them the 25th. Instant, at the Great Savanna [sic], at Colonel Sumpter's house, near Nelson's ferry - killed two, wounded five, and took prisoners on Captain of the 63d, one Lieutenant of the Prince of Wales' regiment, and sixteen privates, and two tories doing duty with them. The whole guard, as the Captain informed me, consisted of forty regulars and twenty tories. Our loss was one man killed, and Captain benson wounded slightly; and I have retaken one hundred and fifty soldiers of the Maryland line1, all of which I have brought to this place.---I heard of two other divisions with prisoners coming down, and could have taken them, but the report of our army being defeated struck such a damp on my men, with a report of the enemys [sic] coming in my rear to cut off my retreat and take post here, where I shall use my utmost endeavours to collect some men, till I can hear from you. But, if I do not hear from you in a few days, I shall retreat to Cross-creek. The prisoners I will send to Halifax, after a day or two of rest. I have given to the two officers their servants, and to the wounded their parole, as I could not well bring them off with safety.

       I should be glad to hear from you and what I shall do with the Continentals I retook. I could wish you could send dome officers to take charge of them, as they are much dissatisfied to be commanded by any Officers of their own, and I am certain that they will desert, to a man, without it. Several have already gone off, and it was not in my power to prevent it, as the militia are not under any command and some days I have not more than a dozen with me; but, if they were once assured that you were in a condition to act again, I am certain I should get a number to enable me to intercept any parties, which my be going to or from Charlestown to Camden.

I have the honor to be &c [sic]
Frans. Marion [sic]

1 These men of the Maryland line had been captured several days prior at the disastrous American defeat at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780.