Lesson Plan: Overview

General Greene to General Marion: Your State is Invaded, Your All is at Stake

Grade Level: 3rd
Francis Marion

Academic Standards

Standard 3-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution and South Carolina’s role in the development of the new American nation.

3-3.2 Summarize the key conflicts and key leaders of the American Revolution in South Carolina and their effects on the state, including the occupation of Charleston by the British; the partisan warfare of Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion; and the battles of Cowpens and King’s Mountain.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

L.  Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts.

O.  Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories (introduced in third grade)

Essential Questions

1. How are Francis Marion and his militia remembered?

2. How does the letter from Nathanael Greene portray Marion and his men?

Historical Background Notes

As a key figure in the American Revolution, General Francis Marion, best known as the “Swamp Fox,” surprise attacked the British forces in South Carolina, destroying communication and supply lines.  Born in 1732 at Goatfield Plantation in St. John’s Parish, Berkley, he grew up in the swampland of South Carolina (Palmer, 6).  This knowledge of the land would become a great benefit to him as the leader of a militia who hid in the swamps and lived off of the land.

Marion’s fighting career began when he fought the Cherokee in the Blue Ridge region of the state.  Later, when the American Revolution began, Marion served as captain in the Second South Carolina Regiment.  He and his men fought in the famous battle of Sullivan’s Island or “The Battle of Fort Moultrie” as it became named for Colonel William Moultrie (Palmer, 8-11).

By 1780, Marion was promoted to Lt. Colonel Francis Marion, Commandment of the Second Regiment.  Due to a broken ankle, he left Charleston shortly before it fell into the hands of the British (Palmer, 12-13).  Back home near the Santee River, Marion led a small militia made up mostly of farmers.  There they would hide in the swamps of the Peedee during the day, surprise attack the British as they traveled between Charleston and Camden which were both conquered by the British, and retreated back to the swamps.  The terrain of the swamps was unfamiliar to the British troops, thus giving Marion and his men an advantage.  As Marion’s brigade attacked, they would steal goods and arms from the British and free American prisoners.  It was at this time that British general Tarleton, is credited for giving Marion his nickname, Swamp Fox (Heider, 11). After chasing Marion and his men for some twenty-six miles and arriving at Ox Swamp, he stopped and said “Come boys!  Let’s go back and we will catch the Gamecock.  But as for this d—d swamp fox, the Devil himself could not catch him!” (Heider, 11).   

In 1781, Governor Rutledge promoted Francis Marion to Brigadier General.  Nathanael Green had replaced Horatio Gates as commander of the forces in the south.  Greene sent Light Horse Harry Lee and his cavalry to help Marion.  The two men captured Fort Watson (Palmer, 32)

The British finally left Charleston on December 14, 1782.  He returned home to Pond Bluff to find it in ruins.  He rebuilt his life and later served in the State Senate.  He died in 1795 (Palmer 45-49). 

There are many men and women who helped fight the American Revolution who are “unsung heroes.” However, Francis Marion is one that has received much of the glory for his partisan battle tactics (Edgar, 241).  Much of what is said about Francis Marion is folklore.  The poem “Song of Marion’s Men” is an example of the folklore written about him, though loosely based on fact.  Marion has become a historical hero for his bravery and commitment to the birth of our nation. 


Primary Sources
Letter from General Nathanael Greene to Francis Marion.  Camp Colonel’s Creek.  9 May 1781.  S213089.  Robert W. Gibbes Collection of Revolutionary War Manuscripts.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History.  Columbia, South Carolina.
Secondary Sources

Bryan, William C.  “Song of Marion’s Men.”  Available from South Carolina Information Highway, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark.

Edgar, Walter.  South Carolina: A History.  Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998

Heider, Karl G.  “The Gamecock, the Swamp Fox, and the Wizard Owl: The Development of Good Form in an American Totemic Set” (Academic Paper)

Palmer, Kate Salley.  Francis Marion and the Legend of The Swamp Fox.  Anderson: Warbranch Press, 2005.

Walker, Joel and Donald O. Stewart.  The South Carolina Adventure.  Layton: Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2005


Lesson Plans

Day 1:  Paper Ball Battle and Francis Marion and the Legend of The Swamp Fox

  1. Activate interest and construct prior knowledge by holding a “paper ball battle.”  Students will line up in rows on opposing sides with paper balls in hand.  Allow them to “battle” with the paper balls.  Then, have another battle.  This time one side will be led by Francis Marion and they will hide in the “swamp” (under desks).  Discuss the two battle tactics and which was more successful.  Discuss which was considered nobler.
  2. Read Francis Marion and the Legend of The Swamp Fox.  Discuss the author as a secondary source.  Discuss the term legend and folklore.

Day 2:  Song of Marion’s Men

  1. Have students work in pairs or in groups to complete the “Before Reading” portion of the examination guide.
  2. Read the poem, see Song of Marion’s Men, aloud together.  Discuss any vocabulary that students may have difficulty understanding. 
  3. Have students read questions 6-9 of the document examination guide to guide them as they read and discuss.  Have students reread “Song of Marion’s Men” in pairs or groups and answer questions 6-9. 
  4. Discuss how Marion and his men are portrayed in the poem.  How does this compare to the book read on day 1, Francis Marion and the Legend of the Swamp Fox?  Discuss when the poem was written and by whom.  Ask students, “Did this person experience this?  Is this a secondary or primary source?”

Day 3: (observed lesson)

  1. Explain to students that many of the stories told about Francis Marion have been passed down by word of mouth, like folklore.  Therefore, many facts about Francis Marion have been exaggerated and changed.  Today, they will examine a primary source to try to find some facts from the folklore.
  2. Before reading the letter from General Greene to General Marion, have students use the document examination guide to “preview” the letter in pairs or small groups.  Discuss the author and date of the letter.  Ask, “Did this person experience the Revolutionary War?  Is this a primary or a secondary source? Which source is more reliable?” 
  3. Introduce new vocabulary to help students understand the letter as they read:  deserting, task, leave, disagreeable, commencement, invaded, distress, render, amusements, and besieging. 
  4. Read the letter aloud to students.
  5. Have students read questions 6-10 from the document examination guide before reading the letter again.  In pairs or groups, have students reread the letter and answer the questions.
  6. Discuss how the letter portrays Francis Marion?  His men?  Have students share questions they have about the letter.
  7. Have students complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the primary source to the secondary source. 

Teacher Reflections

Bacon’s Rebellion?  City on a Hill?  Honestly, I had no idea what these terms meant or how they were connected.  Surely, at some point in time, a well-meaning teacher in an A.P. U.S. History class long, long ago attempted to drill these important terms into my head.  However, to coin the cliché, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  And, boy, did I lose it!  Without a doubt, the pretest would support this!  My first day at the Institute was filled with a bit of anxiety.  When I entered the class, I was confident about my instruction in social studies.  I felt like I had a great understanding of history and did an excellent job using various strategies to teach social studies.  However, to my shame, I did not use primary sources as the cornerstone of my instruction.  I learned quickly that my content needed some refreshing and my instruction needed polishing. 

The content sessions taught by Dr. Paul Anderson were not only informative, but energizing.  Every day I came home from the sessions with facts and tidbits of information to share with my husband and friends.  The primary reason I felt so excited about history was due to the teaching methods used by Dr. Anderson.  For example, he had us work in small groups and pairs to define terms that were then linked together.  He had us examine grocery receipts to illustrate that for most students historical events were just a long list of events, one after another.  More importantly, he modeled through the content sessions, ways to use primary source documents to teach content.  I have used several of these strategies when developing my own lessons this year. 

For example, during the summer institute we read the “Letter from Mayor Goodwyn to Governor Andrew Magrath,” and examined the tone of the letter; but, more importantly we developed questions about the document.  This questioning is something I have had my students do as they examine primary sources.  During my lesson about Francis Marion, my students examined a letter written by General Greene to General Marion.  As students examined the primary source, they were instructed to develop questions about the document.  This sparked some really great questioning.  Some questions were: “Did they care about the militia?” (student work 5), “How far were they apart and did it take long to send the note?” (student work 6), “Why did he use big words in this letter?” and “Who is Lord Rawdon?” (student work 7). 

A small piece of Dr. Anderson also leaked into my lessons on the events leading to the Revolutionary War.  As we studied the causes of the American Revolution, I did not want my students to view the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, the Intolerable Acts, and the Declaration of Independence as a “grocery list of items – one thing after another.”    Through the use of a graphic organizer, I had my students examine how the events created a “chain reaction” that led to the American Revolution.

Likewise, I found several ways to use the strategies modeled and shared by master teacher, Davis Bowling who led the methods instruction portion of the summer institute.  I used his Daniel Freeman Document Analysis as a model for the development of my lesson on Francis Marion.  Having a handout to guide students as they read a document was very effective (student work samples 1-7). 

One of my favorite activities shared by Bowling was the “dialogue bubbles.”  This was also a hit with my students!  Before introducing the Declaration of Independence, I gave students a copy of the Declaration of Independence and a copy of John Trumbull’s painting, “The Declaration of Independence” with dialogue bubbles.  I told students that the two were related and that they needed to determine the relationship and express that connection through the dialogue bubbles.  This really peaked their interest and they were more focused during the instructional part of the lesson because they wanted to find out it they were right. 

During the fall meeting, Bowling shared a lesson in which he provided students with a “glossary” before examining a document.  I found it particularly difficult using many written documents with my third graders because of the complex vocabulary used in the documents.  I worried that they wouldn’t derive meaning from them due to the students’ lack of vocabulary.  The use of the “glossary” alleviated this problem for me.  Before having my students examine a letter from General Greene to General Marion, I introduced vocabulary that they wouldn’t be familiar with.  This better equipped them for the analysis.  I am grateful to Bowling for sharing this with me!

Finally, I found my experiences at the various cultural institutions very beneficial.  When I met with my team of third grade teachers just days after the institute I was so excited to plan field studies with them.  The students in my class and the other third grade classes visited the Lexington Museum in November as we were learning about colonial times.  We have visited the Lexington Museum in years before.  However, the summer institute allowed me to see more of what the museum had to offer, so we changed the programs our students attended to better address our standards.   Also, I have made arrangements for my grade level to visit the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum and the State Museum in April.  I have never taken students to these museums before and did not know all the wonderful connections that could be made there before the institute. After visiting the institute, I have developed such an appreciation for artifacts and I cannot wait for my students to visit the museums. I hope that they will appreciate them as much as me!

My participation in the Teaching American History in South Carolina program has been a quite a journey. I look forward to continuing the journey. In March, I plan to use the “Quickie Lesson,” I developed during the summer institute using primary sources about the cotton gin. Other future plans include the use of the “Letters Between James and Alexander Campbell,” “View of main Street from the Statehouse in Columbia after Sherman’s March,” and the “Letter from Mayor Goodwyn of Columbia to Governor Andrew Magrath” during my unit of study on the Civil War.

Though it has been challenging locating primary sources that address the standards I am responsible for teaching and finding the instructional time it takes to examine these sources, it has been very rewarding. My students have been more engaged in social studies this year than ever before. Without prompting, they are seeking out books from the library on slavery and the Revolutionary War, topics we have studied. They are finding letters and photographs in those books and sharing them with me and their classmates as “primary sources.” With great hope, my students won’t “lose” all the content I have attempted to teach them this year. Hopefully, they will become life-long learners of history. They shouldn’t “lose it” because they have “used it” through examining primary sources.  

Student Assessment

The student will complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the information gained from a secondary source, the “Song of Marion’s Men,” to a primary source, General Greene to General Marion.  A rubric will be used to score this assignment, see Venn diagram

Examples of Students Work

Student Document Examination Guide

Student Document Examination Guide 2

Student Document Examination Guide 3

Student Document Examination Guide 4

Student Document Examination Guide 5

Student Document Examination Guide 6

Student Venn Diagram

Student Venn Diagram 2

Student Venn Diagram 3


Ashly Haigh
North Springs Elementary, Columbia, South Carolina