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Hampton Plantation, Banastre Tarleton, and Francis Marion

On my recent visit to Cowpens, during a discussion of Banastre Tarleton, I was reminded of a tale that was shared on a visit to Hampton Plantation. Although South Carolina is a large state in area, it was truly a “small world” during the American Revolution.

This excerpt is from Home by the River, by Archibald Rutledge*, recounting a traditional family story. I can almost see the twinkle in his eye when reading the first passage!

“Hampton has always been the mother plantation of this old plantation country. From this house the British Colonel Banastre Tarleton stole the parish Bible and prayer book. Later they were recovered from a book stall in London. He likewise lifted an ornate volume of a two-volume Baskerville edition of Milton, printed from silver type and bound in scarlet buckram. I still have the second volume, and I hope that some member of the Tarleton family now in England may read these words and return to me the first volume.”

The chapter continues with a story of Francis Marion, an armchair, and a dramatic exit:

“This home served as the headquarters of General Francis Marion, the darling partisan leader, the renowned Swamp Fox of the Revolution. By the fireplace in the living room stood a Chippendale armchair, wrought of ebony. The left arm, until a few years ago when I had it replaced, reposed in a closet in the room. Once when I asked my father why the arm had never been replaced, he told me that General Marion, after one of his exhausting forays, had been asleep in the chair when the Redcoat, Tarleton, surprised him. In springing up, Marion broke off the arm. He ran through a secret passageway to the back of the house, jumped on his horse tethered there, swam the river and escape into the great and gloomy wilds of the Santee delta.

“You see, son,” my father said, “we always thought it would be sacrilegious to replace what Marion had broken.””

*Rutledge, Archibald. “Chapter 4 – The House and Buried Treasure”. Home by the River, Bobbs-Merrill, 1941, p 52-53

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