Military archaeologist brings new views to story of Francis Marion

Director of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology Steven D. Smith has published a groundbreaking study of Revolutionary War general Francis Marion, focusing not only on Marion, but on the communities of support he organized and utilized in his partisan campaigns. “Francis Marion and the Snow’s Island Community: Myth, History and Archaeology” explores the most famous aspect of Marion’s storied career — the partisan campaigns of 1780-81 — with an emphasis on the individuals and communities that made up his successful and revolutionary fighting force. The book also highlights recent archaeological research and discoveries that have helped scholars better understand Marion’s campaigns and the people who fought in them. “[Loyalist Col. Robert Gray] described South Carolina as ‘a piece of patchwork, the inhabitants of every settlement, when united in sentiment being in arms for the side they liked best and making continual inroads into one another’s settlements.’ One of those pieces of patchwork, the people living on and surrounding Snow’s Island, were ‘united in sentiment’ against the British crown. This community of partisans had joined the rebellion as early as 1775 and had stubbornly refused to surrender, even when Charleston fell in 1780. They had supplied food, forage, and blood to the rebellion and, under the leadership of Gen. Francis Marion, had become an obstacle to British control of the southern colonies,” writes Smith. “This book is their story.” “Francis Marion and the Snow’s Island Community” is the first book to focus on this aspect of Marion, and utilizes archaeology to build a picture of the social and strategic context in which he campaigned. What emerges is a picture of the Francis Marion story that is as complete as the available record allows — one that is at the same time objective, detailed and intimate,” writes Florence County Historical Society President and former Francis Marion Trail Commission Chairman Ben Zeigler in a foreword to the book. Smith served as lead investigator for the Francis Marion Trail Commission’s work on Francis Marion sites, and is among the preeminent battlefield archaeologists in America. He has over 40 years’ experience in historic archaeology with a focus on battlefields of the American Revolution and Civil War. He is also a Research Professor at the University of South Carolina and teaches Conflict Archaeology. His latest co-edited volume looks at the archaeology of warfare entitled “Partisans, Guerillas and Irregulars: Historical Archaeology of Asymmetrical Warfare,” University of Alabama Press (2019). Publication of “Francis Marion and the Snow’s Island Community: Myth, History, and Archaeology” is underwritten by the Florence County Historical Society and the Snow’s Island Research Fund of the South Carolina Archaeological Trust. “Francis Marion and the Snow’s Island Community: Myth, History, and Archaeology” will be available for shipment Feb. 1 for $40 in hardback and $30 in softcover, both available through the Florence County Historical Society, 135 S. Dargan Street, Suite 300, Florence, SC 29506. Shipping and handling charges are $5 per copy.

Author: Stephan Drew

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