Sampit Bridge, South Carolina
28 March 1781
Marion’s Brigade had laid siege to the British soldiers at Blakely Plantation since the 15th of March. By March 28th Colonel Watson had enough. He sank his dead in an abandoned rock quarry to conceal their loss, loaded his wounded on wagons, and marched his troops off at the double time on the road to Georgetown. At Ox swamp he found the bridge destroyed and the causeway was blocked by trees dropped by Marion’s men. Marion was closing fast onto his rear, so Watson sent his troops racing across fifteen miles of forest and swamps to the Santee Road.
Marion’s men followed close behind them, firing on them from every vantage point. Occasionally the Loyalists would stop and fire a volley at the pursuing partisans. Marion sent Horry’s Continental horsemen to the bridge leading to Georgetown in order to throw the planks from the bridge. Horry posted Lieutenant Scott and his riflemen at the river to shoot any enemy that came within range. The Loyalists wanted to end the nightmarish pursuit and never slowed down. Upon reaching the Sampit River they formed column and plunged into the river, crossing as quickly as they could. Scott’s men saw the approaching glittering bayonets, became frightened and did not fire.
Marion fell upon the rear guard with a fury as they crossed the river. Watson rallied his men, but a rifleman killed his horse. He mounted another horse and ordered the cannon to fire grapeshot into Horry’s horsemen, driving Marion’s men back. Twenty of the British were killed, and almost twice that number was wounded. Watson loaded his wounded into two wagons, and left his dead where they lay. That evening the British camped at the Trapier Plantation.
When Marion learned that his base at Snow’s Island was in danger of being attacked by Lieutenant Colonel Doyle he abandoned the pursuit of Watson. He did not feel threatened that he had both Watson and Doyle trying to trap him between the two forces. Marion told Horry that if “the enemy did drive him out of the country, he was determined to retire over the mountains, with as many as would follow him, and from time to time would gather a party and sally down the country, and do them as much injury as he could, until he was killed or they had left the country, he would not leave off warring against them.”[i]
[i] Francis Marion’s Orderly Book; Simms, Life of Francis Marion, p. 128; Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign, Volume III, pp. 101, 255-265; Moultrie, Memoirs, Vol. II, pp. 227-228; Moss, Roster of the South Carolina Patriots, p. 850; Bass, Swamp Fox, pp. 153-155; Hayes, Saddlebag Almanac, January 2001, Volume IX, pp. 62-63