Kaufman discusses the real Gen. Francis Marion


Photo by: Dani Isgett

Dr. Scott Kaufman debunks myths about Francis Marion that shows such as “The Patriot” and “The Swamp Fox” started.

Scott Kaufman, professor of political science at FMU, spoke on Francis Marion Day to expose the myths that onscreen interpretations of the Swamp Fox have created.

According to Kaufman, Francis Marion was a thin, frail bachelor who walked with a limp. In movies like “The Patriot” and shows like Disney’s “The Swamp Fox,” Francis Marion is portrayed as a strong family man with no limp. The simple details of his appearance are greatly changed in each different interpretation of Marion, and most people are surprised to hear that Francis Marion was so small in height and build. The myth of Francis Marion as a powerful, muscular warrior has permeated the minds of many when imagining the General, Kaufman said.

The story behind Francis Marion’s limp is inaccurately told in Disney’s The Swamp Fox. According to Kaufman, Francis Marion sustained the injury by jumping out of the window at a party to avoid the pressure to drink alcohol. “The Swamp Fox” portrayed Francis Marion jumping out of the window to escape a swordfight at the party, but the limp quickly goes away.

Francis Marion’s marital status and parenthood were discussed at length as a popular myth. Marion actually never had children, but as Kaufman pointed out, “The Patriot” showed Francis Marion as a loving father and family man. In reality, Francis Marion married late in life, after the war. He wed his first cousin out of the need for financial stability and the desire for a companion. In “The Patriot,” however, Mel Gibson, who played Francis Marion, married before the war.

Kaufman said some other interesting details about Francis Marion that are not included in the on-screen representations of his life include his health concerns and clean lifestyle. Kaufman discussed Francis Marion’s obsession with drinking vinegar in his water. Francis Marion encouraged his soldiers to follow this healthy practice as well as other hygienic processes. Francis Marion also had an extreme dislike for uncleanliness, especially to the point where he thought the dirt on his men’s skin endangered their health. According to Kaufman, Francis Marion and his men bathed as much as possible to avoid getting sick or contacting infections in battle wounds.

Kaufman’s evidence of myths in the interpretations of Francis Marion went much further than just personality traits and basic physical appearance. In “The Patriot,” Mel Gibson fights in a battle that Francis Marion did not even attend. However, the guerilla warfare tactics in the film, as well as the swampy setting, were as similar as possible to the real life events in Marion’s time as a soldier.

Freshman history major Zachary Blankenship attended the lecture and learned facts about Francis Marion that he had never known before.

“I didn’t know that he walked with a limp, or that there was so much history behind him,” Blankenship said.

Sophomore history major Troy Tanner also attended the event, but he had heard the lecture before from Kaufman. He introduced the speaker before the lecture. Tanner is a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors fraternity, which is why he was chosen to introduce the speaker. Although he had heard the lecture before, he still learned new information about Marion.

“I didn’t know Disney made a show about ‘The Swamp Fox’,” Tanner said.

The library, in conjunction with Phi Alpha Theta and the history department, displayed several books on the life of Francis Marion. They were displayed at the front of the auditorium before, during, and after Kaufman’s lecture, and several guests perused the books in the display after listening to the speaker.