"Disneyland" The Birth of the Swamp Fox  (1959, 1960)




Director:      Harry Keller. 

Starring:      Leslie Nielsen (Colonel Francis Marion),  John Sutton (Colonel Tarlton),  Joy Page (Mary Videau),  Tim Considine (Young Gabe Marion),  Dick Foran (Gabriel Marion),  Richard Erdman (Sergeant Jasper),  Myron Healey (Major Peter Horry),  Smoki Whitfield (Oscar),  John Alderson (Sergeant McDonald),  Mary Field (Cathy Marion),  Louise Beavers (Delia),  Chuck Roberson (American Soldier),  Patrick Macnee (British Captain). 

South Carolina revolutionary guerrilla leader


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the first episode. 


Episode 1.  The Birth of the Swamp Fox (1959). 

Walt Disney says:  "In the spring of 1780 when Colonel Francis Marion was coming to prominence, America's War for Independence seemed all but lost.  Washington's hard-pressed army was deteriorating in New Jersey waiting for reinforcements from Gen. Lafayette.  Bu the French were bottled up by a British fleet standing off the mouth of Narragansett Bay.  Down at Charleston, Gen. Lincoln and his colonial army faced eminent attack by land and by sea.  And royal garrisons had already been established along the Carolina frontier from Rocky Mount to the Atlantic.  Along this line it was the enemy's plan to divide the colonies and conquer them one part at a time.   Suddenly to the surprise of Cornwallis, his communications were cut, his supply trains were intercepted and isolated outpost garrisons were destroyed.  In this darkest hour of his country's needs, the Swamp Fox had been born.  And he and his hearty band of freedom fighters were on the move.  To the American patriots who lived and fought throughout those uncertain days, Col. Marion was a hero second only to George Washington.  Even after the fighting ended and our new nation began to expand westward,the legend of the Swamp Fox was told and retold around a thousand campfires. The result today is that there are 17 counties and 29 cities and towns scattered throughout the United States that proudly bear the name of Marion.  Now this is the first of several stories of the Robin Hood of the Revolution. . . ."

Col. Francis Marion and his staff watch the British move inland in South Carolina.  The British fleet in Charleston Harbor distracted the attention of the Americans and the British were able to launch a land attack.  They are twelve or less hours of marching between where they are and Charleston.  Marion has his small band turn around and ride toward Charleston.  It is night time before they reach Charleston and Gen. Lincoln.  They have to wake up the general who is sleeping.  Marion says a large enemy force is only five hours march away from them.  He suggests they evacuate Charleston immediate, but most of the men are at a fancy party thrown by the local McKellar, who now the Americans suspect of collaboration with the British.  Marion asks for permission to break up the party and it is granted. 

Col. Marion bangs on the door.  The door does not open.  Orders are that no one be let into the party after it has started. Marion gets on top of the saddle and starts climbing to an open window on the second floor.  He tells the men to return to base, but many are too drunk to comply and others don't see the urgency.  McKellar tells Marion to get out  -- he wasn't invited.  Marion tells the men that McKellar has deliberately planned this party to delay an American response to a large force of British soldiers headed their way.  McKellar says he has been insulted and demands satisfaction.  Marion decides it useless to reason with drunken men and he leaves the way he came in. 

He jumps down to the ground and sprains his right ankle.  A black servant helps the Colonel get on his horse.  Meanwhile, the general is telling Governor Rutledge that he must evacuate Charleston, because he cannot guarantee that he can hold the city.  Marion arrives with the bad news that the American officers were just too drunk to listen to him.  The general wants to hold the city against the advice of Marion.  He says he has a job for Marion and one of his officers.  They will escort the Governor, Mrs. Rutledge and Mrs. Lincoln to safety.  

On the way out of Charleston the small convoy with Marion at the lead runs into a British encampment.  Marion decides to ride right past the encampment.  A group of British soldiers go after the American officer.  The rest of the convoy now races to the bridge.  Several American soldiers fall from their horses, as do several British soldiers, but the convoy is able to cross the bridge.  Meanwhile, Marion is able to get away from the British. 

Marion goes to see his family.  Gabe greets Uncle Fran first.  Then comes the black maid Delia.  She and Gabe help him limp into the house.  Then comes Katherine holding a baby to greet Marion.  When he is seated, he asks Gabe to go over to the Videau plantation and tells Mary that he would like to see her and tell her why he can't visit her at her place.  Young Gabe asks Marion to pleased talk to Aunt Katherine and Uncle Gabe to let him join the army.  Gabe leaves as Katherine comes to speak to Fran.  Katherine says she wants Fran to talk his brother Gabriel out of joining the army, but Fran says there are some things a man feels he must do out of a sense of duty and honor.

Gabriel comes in to greet brother Fran.  During the conversation Fran tells Gabriel that Charleston is under siege and can't hold on long.  At night Mary Videau arrives and she and Fran hug and kiss.  Fran is disturbed that she couldn't come until night time.  He know that her family are loyalists, but the one he is not sure of is Mary.  Mary says she's on Fran's side.

The next day the American officer called Peter, the one who helped lead the governor's convoy, rides up fast at the farm.  Tarlton and his troops are headed this way and they are arrested all the rebel leaders.  And Francis Marion is at the top of those people to be arrested.  Francis and the black slave Oscar take of with a third horse carrying supplies.  Tarlton arrives at the farm and sees the two men riding away.  The British chase after Marion.   Francis has to drop the pack horse as they come to a fence they have to jump. 

Francis and Oscar ride up a hill and Tarlton and a few of his men decide to give up the pursuit.  Tarlton says: "I've had enough of this.  Even bloodhounds couldn't catch that swamp fox in country like this." They turn around.  Oscar laughs about the nickname swamp fox.

At brother Gabe's house, they have to provide food for the soldiers watching them.  When Tarlton returns he is going to arrest Gabriel and Gabe, but Gabe has snuck off.  Tarlton learns that the boy is gone, so they leave with just Gabriel.  Gabe jumps on a horse and rides to tell Uncle Fran what happened.  He runs into a little part of the American army and is taken to his uncle.  The men eat lunch and Marion tells them that he will act like a swamp fox.  They will hit the British and night and sleep during the day.  When the British divides their forces they will attack one of the parts.  Meanwhile, Sgt. Jasper will go toe Charleston to find out what the British are doing with the American prisoners of war.

Gabriel and other American prisoners are brought to a temporary holding area.  Sgt. Jasper asks his brother what are they going to do with the prisoners?  They are being taken to Georgetown to stand trial.  The Swamp Fox is in that very area.  Jasper talks with a drunken guard and learns that the prisoners are being taken to Savannah, not Georgetown.  As soon as the sergeant leaves, his brother runs right over to tell Tarlton that the Swamp Fox is a swamp northeast of Georgetown.  Tarlton will be moving out to Georgetown.   

Jasper arrives to tell the Swamp Fox that Tarlton will be headed out to Georgetown, where Francis is supposed to be camped.  He told his brother a lie. 

The men gather around the Swamp Fox.  Francis tells the men that they will be outnumbered by the British, but they will have surprise and the will to win on their side.  Oscar puts a feather in Francis's hat and he sings a song about the Swamp Fox.  They mount up to free the American prisoners headed for Savannah.  Jasper is send out to tell the Redcoats to take a short cut that actually is a dead-end.  The sergeant rides out.  He convinces the British to take the "short-cut". 

The Swamp Fox sends a few men with extra pistols to give them to the prisoners to fight with.  Francis and his men open fire on the main column of soldiers.  The prisoners are lead to an embankment from which they can fire at the British.  The British decide to get into the open where they can fight, but Marion cuts them off and the prisoners come up on their rear.  The British surrender.  Francis has the Brits put in the prisoner chains and lets them walk back to their headquarters.  Meanwhile, he and his men head out to plan another attack on the British. 


Episode 2.  Brother against Brother (1959).


Episode 3.  Tory Vengeance (1960).


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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