Susan F. Craft
Historical Fiction Author
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Tearcoat Swamp, South Carolina: October 26, 1780

Even though he had been defeated at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina in August 1780 and had undertaken no major offensive operations since, Maj. General Horatio Gates had instructed Marion to continue harassing the British rear. On October 24, Marion learned that Colonel Samuel Tynes was assembling Tory militia near Tearcoat Swamp (also known as Tarcoat Swamp), South Carolina. He left his base at Port's Ferry with the 152 men that he now had raised and surprised Tynes just after midnight. He routed the Tories, captured 80 muskets and horses with bridles and saddles, and many of the Tories even joined him. It ended the Tory uprising in the area.

Colonel Lee and Lee's Legion joined General Marion and Marion's Brigade on the Santee River. They elected to capture British-held Fort Watson to get supplies. General Thomas Sumter had attacked Fort Watson unsuccessfully on February 28, 1781. Marion's men laid siege to Fort Watson for many days starting April 16, 1781. While waiting for a cannon to arrive, Major Maham suggested building a tower to have sharpshooters pick off the Redcoats inside the fort. The Patriots gathered saplings for several days and constructed the tower overnight. The use of the tower led to the capture of Fort Watson on April 23rd, 1781, and was the final Battle of Fort Watson.

As Greene advanced toward Camden, Marion, joined by the splendid legion of young Light Horse Harry Lee, moved against the inner chain of British posts on the Santee and Congaree. Fort Watson, their first objective, was a tremendous, stockaded work crowning an ancient Indian mound that rose almost forty feet above the surrounding plain, north of Nelson's Ferry on the Santee. When Marion and Lee tailed after a week to starve out the garrison by siege, they managed to effect a surrender by firing down on the fort from a log tower, devised by a country major of Marion's brigade who probably had never heard of the warring Romans.

By May 6 when they reached Fort Motte on the Congaree, Marion and Lee had a light fieldpiece, begged from Greene's army, but it did them no good. Fort Motte consisted of a strong stockade with outer trenches and an abatis built about a handsome brick mansion on a commanding piece of ground. They spent six days digging parallels and trenches and mounting their gun, but the fieldpiece failed to make a tient in the heavy timbers of the stockade or the walls of the house. Again the attackers resorted to primitive methods. Getting up close under cover of the siege lines, a man of Marion's brigade Hung ignited pitch balls on the roof, set it afire, and smoked the enemy out. That night Mrs. Rebecca Motte, who had taken residence in her overseer's cottage when the British confiscated her house, entertained both the victors and the vanquished at what Colonel Lee called "a sumptous dinner."



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