Francis Marion

“We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
His friends and merry men are we;
And when the troop of Tarleton rides,
We burrow in the cypress tree.
The turfy hammock is our bed,
Our home is in the red-deer’s den,
Our roof, the tree-top overhead,
For we are wild and hunted men.

“We fly by day, and shun its light,
But, prompt to strike the sudden blow,
We mount and start with early night,
And through the forest track our foe.
And soon he hears our chargers leap,
The flashing sabre blinds his eyes,
And ere he drives away his sleep,
And rushes from his camp, he dies.

“Free bridle-bit, good gallant steed,
That will not ask a kind caress,
To swim the Santee at our need,
When on his heels the foemen press—
The true heart and the ready hand,
The spirit, stubborn to be free—
The twisted bore, the smiting brand—
And we are Marion’s men, you see.

“Now light the fire, and cook the meal,
The last, perhaps, that we shall taste;
I hear the Swamp Fox round us steal,
And that’s a sign we move in haste.
He whistles to the scouts, and hark!
You hear his order calm and low—
Come, wave your torch across the dark,
And let us see the boys that go.

“We may not see their forms again,
God help ’em, should they find the strife!
For they are strong and fearless men,
And make no coward terms for life;
They’ll fight as long as Marion bids,
And when he speaks the word to shy,
Then—not till then—they turn their steeds,
Through thickening shade and swamp to fly.

“Now stir the fire, and lie at ease,
The scouts are gone, and on the brush
I see the colonel bend his knees,
To take his slumbers too—but hush!
He’s praying, comrades; ’tis not strange;
The man that’s fighting day by day,
May well, when night comes, take a change,
And down upon his knees to pray.

“Break up that hoecake, boys, and hand
The sly and silent jug that’s there;
I love not it should idly stand,
When Marion’s men have need of cheer.
’Tis seldom that our luck affords
A stuff like this we just have quaffed,
And dry potatoes on our boards
May always call for such a draught.

“Now pile the brush and roll the log;
Hard pillow, but a soldier’s head,
That’s half the time in brake and bog
Must never think of softer bed.
The owl is hooting to the night,
The cooter crawling o’er the bank,
And in that pond the flashing light
Tells where the alligator sank.

What!—’tis the signal! start so soon,
And through the Santee swamp so deep,
Without the aid of friendly moon,
And we, Heaven help us, half asleep!
But courage, comrades! Marion leads,
The Swamp Fox takes us out to-night;
So clear your swords and spur your steeds,
There’s goodly chance, I think, of fight.

“We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
We leave the swamp and cypress tree,
Our spurs are in our coursers’ sides,
And ready for the strife are we—
The Tory camp is now in sight,
And there he cowers within his den—
He hears our shouts, he dreads the fight,
He fears, and flies from Marion’s men.”

William Gilmore Simms

William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) was the leading man of letters in the antebellum South.

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