Free lecture to tell about the upcoming publication of Francis Marion’s papers – April 12

March 28, 2024

A lot of people think the Swamp Fox let the Fighting Gamecock down at a critical moment in the American Revolution. But his letters don’t reflect that.

“I have learned that a lot of historians and biographers have gotten Marion wrong in some respects,” says Rick Wise, interim director of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. He has learned that from his work the last few years preparing the letters and personal papers of Francis Marion – the “Swamp Fox.”

Wise will talk about what he and several other military historians have learned from preparing “The Francis Marion Papers” for publication in a free lecture at noon on Friday, April 12, at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia.

The program is part of the museum’s regular Noon Debriefs series.

The Marion papers are a project that has been some years in the making. Dave Neilan, a serious amateur historian, got the project started in about 2005. “He did all the research, pulled together all the letters and wrote the manuscript,” said Wise.

“This guy’s a Columbo,” he added. Neilan started out wondering, “Where’s this letter and where’s that letter?,” and ended up “finding Francis Marion letters all over the place,” including places others might not have looked, including the University of Michigan and Harvard. He eventually collected more than 600 items. “He did a fantastic job of putting all this together.”

Then, said Wise, “He took all these documents that were handwritten, and tried to interpret what they were saying.” The whole time, he worked to place them in a meaningful historical context, asking “If this was going on with Marion here, what else was going on?” said Wise.

The project was still unfinished when health problems prevented him from continuing in 2013. That cause Charles Baxley, chairman of the South Carolina American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission, to step in to help. “He contacted Dave and said, ‘Would you give us the right to edit and publish?’”

Baxley pulled in Doug Bostick, then director of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust. Then, he “asked me to be the managing editor,” and fellow military historian Ben Rubin to serve as the senior editor. When Bostick died in October 2023, Wise was named as interim director of the Battleground Preservation Trust, leaving most of the final work on the Marion papers to Rubin.

Rubin and Wise have added biographies of key figures, and otherwise fleshed out details. They also added maps and illustrations. The final product will be presented digitally, free and “accessible to everyone.”

Come learn more on April 12 about what Wise and the others have learned along the way.

Rick Wise is a native of Johnsonville and a graduate of the University of South Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s in secondary education, and a master’s in military history. He served more that 23 years in the U.S. Army, and is a veteran of Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Southern Watch, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his wife, Paula, live in Camden and have two adult children and four grandchildren.


About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It recently opened a major new exhibit, “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” The museum is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to