Late in the summer of 1780, Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates led a Continental army toward South Carolina to attempt to roll back the British conquest of the province. As Gates prepared to meet the British at Camden, he sent Col. Francis Marion ~ a Continental officer who had only escaped the fall of Charleston because of a broken ankle ~ south towards the Santee River to gather the local militia forces and prevent a British retreat.
On August 17, 1780, leading a ragtag band of fewer than twenty men, "some white, some black, and all mounted, but most of them miserably equipped," Col. Marion entered the camp of the Williamsburg Militia here at Witherspoon's Ferry (probably at a site a few yards downstream, just ahead of you) and took command. William Dobein James, then a fifteen-year-old militiaman, recalled his first sight of Marion:
He was below the middle stature of men. His body was well set, but his knees and ankles were badly formed; and he still limped upon one leg. He had a countenance remarkably steady; his nose was aquiline, his chin projecting; his forehead was large and high. And his eyes black and piercing?. He was dressed in a close round-bodied crimson jacket, of a coarse texture, and wore a leather cap, part of the uniform of the second regiment, with a silver crescent in front, inscribed with the words, "Liberty or Death."