A Story Bite of “The Swamp Fox”

Dear Reader:

Story Bites are defined as:

Story bites are a tiny but important piece of a story—a starting point, a detail, an action, or a character—written as short and fun pieces of writing.

Teaching history through story bites was my favorite source of instruction. It took cold, boring facts and turned them into tiny individual stories of interest.

I remember when I taught South Carolina’s favorite son in the American Revolution- Francis Marion (“Swamp Fox”) I would take ten items in a bag and display them on a table in front of me. These ten items were also written on the board with a -(dash) beside them so the students could write in the connection between the object and the person we were studying.

By spreading out the connective artifacts over the entire chronological life of the historical person…by the time the lesson was over the students had ten wonderful stories to remember about Francis Marion /Swamp Fox!

The students never knew when they might be asked to come to the board and fill in the connection so everyone had to be listening to the story bites. (Teachers are sly that way!)

One item I always brought for the study of Swamp Fox was a sweet potato.  I would tell the story of the connection between it, Swamp Fox, guerrilla fighting, and the revolution.

Francis Marion was one of the first Americans to use guerrilla fighting (hit and run) tactics… since his men were always outnumbered by the British troops. Marion and his rag-tag band of militia would use sneak attacks fleeing in and out of the swamps in the lowcounty of South Carolina. Usually the only food they had to eat were sweet potatoes so it became the mainstay of their diet during the war.

(Then I would zone in on this famous painting (title painting) about a remarkable incident involving General Marion, a British officer he invited to dinner, and sweet potatoes.) The story goes like this:

In early 1781, Revolutionary War militia leader Francis Marion and his men were camping on Snow’s Island, South Carolina, when a British officer arrived to discuss a prisoner exchange. As one militiaman recalled years later, a breakfast of sweet potatoes was roasting in the fire, and after the negotiations Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox,” invited the British soldier to share breakfast.

According to a legend that grew out of the much-repeated anecdote, the British officer was so inspired by the Americans’ resourcefulness and dedication to the cause—despite their lack of adequate provisions, supplies or proper uniforms—that he promptly switched sides and supported American independence.

Around 1820, John Blake White depicted the scene in an oil painting that now hangs in the United States Capitol. In his version, the primly attired Redcoat seems uncomfortable with Marion’s ragtag band, who glare at him suspiciously from the shadows of a South Carolina swamp.  (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

Today I would add another artifact to the list….a proclamation by President George Bush recognizing Oscar Marion, a slave and fellow soldier/aide to General Marion, for his outstanding patriotism and courage throughout the American Revolution in 2006.

*(Oscar Marion is depicted in the painting crouched down roasting the sweet potatoes for all the men and their special British guest for breakfast.) Oscar Marion is, also shown in many famous paintings of the American Revolution…fighting alongside Francis Marion.

Today in Summerton, SC there are two murals painted (one of Francis Marion and the other Oscar Marion) on the Detwiler and Gaters Buildings.

Today these lessons propel me to reflect back on my own personal story bites…the benchmarks in my life that forced me to change paths and re-direct my strengths in other directions… with the assistance of so many guardian angels sent to help me… find me.

Take a few minutes today and think of objects around your home that contain a good story about yourself. It is a great place to start sharing  stories with family and friends before the stories are lost in time and forgotten forever. Don’t wait too late…it took a health crisis to wake me up to this fact.

So until tomorrow “A day will come when the story inside you will want to breathe on it’s own. That’s when you’ll start writing.”
(Sarah Noffke)

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

More Garden “Show-offs” (My swamp maple is growing new additional leaves in pink and an example of life depicting art and vice versa with my morning glories.)


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to A Story Bite of “The Swamp Fox”

  1. bcparkison says:

    You are right about telling “our ” history; I keep meaning to write down a few things ….better get to it. Sweet potatoes….Once when our boys were young and we were farming on a very low budget we ate sweet potatoes every day for a week. We still enjoy them…just not every day. LOL


  2. Becky Dingle says:

    What goes around comes around….sweet potatoes have made such a comeback in the past few years…especially with sweet potato fries. I think Swamp Fox would have enjoyed these immensely hanging out in the swamps. Nutrition then and now. You had some healthy boys.


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