Earliest historical data locates the Cherokees in a vast area of what is now the southeastern United States, with about 200 towns scattered throughout the present states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Cherokee oral tradition tells of a time when the Cherokees were ruled by a powerful priesthood called the ani-Kutani. When the priests took away a young man’s wife, he organized a revolt and all the priests were killed. Since then, according to the tale, the Cherokees have had a democratic government.
The mighty Cherokee Indians named the area “Eutaw” for the tall pine trees on the mound in the great bend of the Santee River. Early pioneers, such as Gabriel and Esther Marion, moved up the river from Charleston and created homesteads on the fertile land. During the French and Indian War, 25-year-old Francis Marion serving under Capt. William Moultrie chased the Indians into the mountains. He settled down, claimed his own land, and married Mary Esther Videau.
After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Marion joined the War for Independence, became an officer, attacked the British in Charleston, then fled to his familiar swamp becoming “The Swamp Fox,” the world’s first guerrilla fighter.
The last battle of the war was at Eutaw Springs near Marion’s home. Neither army claimed victory, but the British lost strategically and retreated to Charleston.
The State Song of South Carolina contains the line “Point to Eutaw’s Battle Bed” in reference to this battle at what would become Eutawville. The Eutaw Springs Battleground Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Philip Freneau, a Huguenot friend of President James Madison wrote the following poem:
At Eutaw Springs the valiant died: Their limbs with dust are covered o’er; Weep on, ye springs, your tearful tide; How many heroes are no more! If in this wreck of ruin they Can yet be thought to claim a tear, O smite thy gentle breast, and say The friends of freedom slumber here!
When the war ended, Marion returned to his home, which had been burned by the evil Redcoats. He and his brother bought slaves and built successful plantations along the Santee River.
Oscar Marion, one of Francis Marion’s 200 slaves, appeared in a portrait by John Blake White entitled General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His Meal. The painting appeared on Confederate banknotes issued in South Carolina, was presented to the U.S. Senate in 1899, and currently hangs in the Senate Wing of the U.S. Capitol.
In a 2006 ceremony, a proclamation signed by President George W. Bush expressed the appreciation of a grateful nation for Oscar Marion’s “devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Historians believe Francis Marion trusted his slave, Oscar Marion, with his life and relied on him. Like other slaves, Marion took his master’s surname. Francis Marion’s documents mention Oscar’s faithfulness and loyalty. Oscar Marion was the first slave who fought in the Revolutionary War to receive military honors.
Continued next week
Love learning more SC history.
Love history about my hometown! ❤