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After the fall of Charleston during the American Revolution, South Carolina was devoid of any organized resistance to the British army. It was under these circumstances that Francis Marion organized his famous band of partisans. They resorted to hit-and-run tactics, operating out of the impenetrable swamps of the region. Every man and boy who joined Marion's force was a volunteer. Everyone furnished his own clothing and weapons. When Marion issued a call, his men left their farms and reported with arms in hand. Under Marion's clever direction, the band eluded British general Banastre Tarleton so frequently that he was recalled by Cornwallis. As Tarleton left, he remarked, "As for this damned old fox, the devil himself could not catch him." The nickname "Swamp Fox" stuck with Marion from then on. After the war, those who knew of Marion's exploits pressured Peter Horry, one of Marion's closest friends and an officer in his brigade, to write a biography of the hero. Horry later sent his manuscript to Mason L. "Parson" Weems, who had gained fame for his publication of The Life of Washington. Just as he had evoked poetic license with the story of young Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Weems took liberties to spice up Marion's story. Horry therefore disassociated himself from the book when it was published in 1824. William Gilmore Simms, who wrote a later biography of Marion, described Weems's efforts: "Weems had rather loose notions of the privileges of the biographer, though in reality, he has transgressed much less in his Life of Marion than I generally supposed. But the untamed, and sometimes extravagant exuberance, of his style might well subject his narrative to suspicion." Recently, Hollywood has shown renewed interest in the life of the Swamp Fox, so it seems only appropriate that the first biography of this true American hero be made easily accessible once again. Marion's daring, cunning, and adventuresome spirit still inspire admiration over 200 years later. And although Weems may have taken some liberties with the facts, he sure tells a whopping good story.
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