"I detest to Distress poor Women & Children": Francis Marion to Horatio Gates, October 1780

This is a sketch of three soldiers operating a cannon.
General Francis Marion wrote to General Horatio Gates on October 4, 1780, describing the guerrilla warfare he engaged in. Marion noted difficulties for his soldiers' families and also his own commitment to trying to avoid attacking or harming civilians. 

Drowning Creek, So. C., 4 October, 1780.


I set out from the White marsh a Sundary evening & took a tour to Kingston; from thence I turned & crossed Little Pede at Woodberry's & made a force march a Cross big P. D. to Black mingo, where was a guard of forty Seven men of the Militia of St. James, Santee & St. Stephens, Commanded by Captn. Cummin Ball, which I immediately attackt about 12 OC: P. M., the 28th Sept. They had intelligence of our coming & Drew, up near a Swamp, & recd. our fire within thirty Yards, which they returned twice, & then took into their swamp. We killed three Dead on the Spot, & wounded & took thirteen prisoners. My Loss was Captn. Logan of the Continentals & one private killed, one Captn. & one Lt. & Six privates wounded. I have since heard that several of their men has been found Dead & wd. in the Swamp and adjoining woods. All their horses and Baggage fell in our hands. It was my Intention to broke up another Guard at Black river Church of fifty men, but so many of my followers was so Desirous to see their wifes & family, which have been burnt out, that I found it Necessary to retreat the next morning across Big P. D. at Britton's ferry to this Place, & have Delivered Col. Brown Nine of the prisoners taken at B. Mingo & three of the 63d Regt. taken at the Great Savanna some time ago, which I paroled to a house on Account of their being Sick & incapable of marching.

The prisoners taken are men of family & fortune, which I hope may be a Check to the militia taking arms against us. I must beg that those men who have Cross before their names in the Ireland List may be shew'd as much favor as possible, as they had showed themselves, before this Last Action, to be Good Men. I would not Give them Paroles, as I thought it would be Acknowledging them to be British Subjects, and woud give my followers Great Discontent, for the British Imprison all those who are our frie'ds & have hanged one Cusey for Braking his Parole. I am Sorry to Acquaint you that Captn. Murphy's Party have burnt a Great Number of houses on Little Peedee, & intend to go on in that Abominable work, which I am Apprehensive may be Laid to me; but, I assure you, there is not one house Burnt by my Orders, or by any of my People. It is what I detest to Distress poor Women & Children.

The British marched from George town for Camden the 22nd Sept., it is Sd. 220 men, part of them marines. Majr. Whymes is at the Cheraw with about 90 men of the 63d Regt., Burning & plundering Negroes & every thing in their way. The Toreys are so Affrighted with my Little Excursions that many is moving off to Georgia with their Effects others are rund into Swamps. If I could raise one hundred men, I Shou'd Certainly pay a Visit to George town. My whole party has not been nor is more than Sixty men of all ranks. I Expect Genl. Harrington will be by this near the Cheraws, which I mean to Join him with Col. Brown, (abt. 100,) who is within Eight miles of me, & remove Majr. Whymes from his Post. I have had great fatigues, but I surmount every Difficulty & am happy with the assistance of Majr. Henry & Captn. Milton who are Excellent Officers. Majr. Vanderhorst I have recd. also great assistance from the Little time he has been with me. I have sent him with a flag to Santee to get Cloaths & Necessarys for the prisoners, by whom I hope to gain Some Intelligence.

Please Present my Compliments to Genl. Huger & Major Richmond, And am, with respect,

Yr. Honour's most Obt. Servt.,