Capture of Fort Motte, The - by Mort Kunstler
Logically the British should have put down the American rebellion with comparative ease. Britain was, after all, the most powerful of Western powers: After the defeat of France in 1763, she bestrode the world like a colossus. In comparison, the Americans were few, feeble, and divided – one-third of them still loyal to the mother country, perhaps, and another third indifferent. Britain controlled the seas, and her armies were far larger and better equipped then the American. Indeed, Washington scarcely commanded a “regular” army; the American soldiers were mostly Minutemen, or Green Mountain Boys, or the followers of such men as Francis Marion – men who would rally to a fight, and then go home.
At the very outset of the war Britain captured New York and held it to the end. By 1779, the British had shifted their major military energies to the South, where they counted on strong loyalist support. The capture of Charleston, with a bag of 5500 prisoners, was the heaviest blow the Americans suffered during the war. Thereafter things seemed to go from bad to worse for the stricken patriots. Following the Battle of Camden—in which Cornwallis soundly defeated Gates—the only effective resistance came from irregulars, such as those commanded by Francis Marion, famous as the “Swamp Fox.” It was the name given him by his most determined opponent, Colonel Tarleton, who had fought so bravely at Camden. “The damned old fox,” he said, “the devil himself could not catch him.” Indeed, he could not. Marion and his tatterdemalion followers, black and white, fought on by hit-and-run tactics just as had the Green Mountain boys under John Stark. We have here one episode of that kind of guerrilla warfare – the taking of Fort Motte. Hardly a fort at all, but rather the commandeered house Rebecca Motte (pictured as being comforted by the attacking Marion and his fellow rebel, “Light Horse” Harry Lee), such an outpost of British control proved particularly vulnerable to guerrilla tactics.
Legend made Francis Marion into a kind of Southern Robin Hood; he was, in fact, a substantial citizen—member of the Provincial Congress and veteran of five years of campaigning – who emerged from the war as a Brigadier General.
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