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Item 486 - Francis Marion Catalog 583 (May 2020)

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(we are no longer accepting bids on this item)
Estimate: $20,000.00 +
Sold Price: $30,198.75 (includes buyer's premium)


Military officer (1732-1795), known as the ‘Swamp Fox,’ who served during the Revolutionary War. Due to his irregular methods, he is considered one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare. Revolutionary War-dated ALS signed “Fran. Marion,” one page, 7.25 x 8.25, February 26, 1781. Letter to Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter, written between the battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House. In full: "Since I wrote you this morning I find by the Bearer, that you Desire I should make a Junction with you, on the L'r Santee—but Colo. Watson force is now on the high hills of Santee at Colo. Richardsons & have possession of that part of the country, & is too strong for me to remove—I shall however go as near him as possible & Indeavor to cut off any foraging parties & be in the way of hearing further from you—The Bearer tells me you have failed in your attack in the Post[green] & that you have come down [with] Co. Thomp[son]—I had forgot to acquaint you that [150] men left Geo'r Town last fryday crossed over Santee & I suppose it may be intended to reinforce Nelson's ferry or Colo. Thompsons—I wish to hear from you and I shall be the 29th at Scapmor on the head of Black River—Colo. Hasden was there is but one part of the So. Ward & that is at Pocotallage of 50 men." In very good condition, with trimmed edges, irregular overall toning, and repairs to folds, as well as a circular area of seal-related loss which affects several words of text.

Marion was renowned for ruthlessly terrorizing British troops throughout South Carolina, using his extensive knowledge of the Santee swamps to quickly attack and then disappear without a trace; he earned his nom de guerre when British commander Banastre Tarleton, after pursuing him for miles and miles through miserable terrain, observed: 'As for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.' Interestingly, Tarleton was also responsible for the famous nickname of this letter's recipient, Thomas Sumter—the 'Carolina Gamecock'—as he had complained that Sumter 'fought like a gamecock' in the Battle of Blackstock's Farm.

Rather than face the British head-on in frontal combat, Marion preferred to perform quick surprise attacks, followed by equally sudden withdrawal from the field. This strategy is evidenced in the present letter: rather than take on a stronger force in an attempt to meet with Sumter's force, he instead plans to pester and disrupt their smaller raiding parties. Marion's autograph is extremely rare in any form; as a battlefront letter with war-related content, this is a truly spectacular example.

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