The Patriot: Benjamin Martin is based on a combination of real historical figures: 1

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he Patriot
Film Fact or Fiction: People

Benjamin Martin In The Patriot:

Benjamin Martin is based on a combination of real historical figures:

1. Francis Marion: Marion was originally the lead character in the script, but because of controversy and to allow for more dramatic storytelling (more fiction), Martin was introduced.

Click here for Martin/Marion comparison.

2. Daniel Morgan: Continental officer; Morgan was a colorful character and by no means the religious person that Martin is portrayed as. Morgan's one contribution to the Martin character seems to be that it was his idea at the Battle of Cowpens to use the militia as a decoy.
3. Andrew Pickens: another militia fighter who operated in the Carolina region. He is known for his large family and strict Presbyterian background.
4. Thomas Sumter: Sumter was an independent, stubborn fighter who refused to cooperate with Continental operations, but at one time, he led the only organized resistance in the Carolinas.

Francis Marion was the lead character in early drafts of the movie script, but because to avoid some controversy and to allow for more dramatic storytelling, the fictional character of Benjamin Martin was introduced.
Francis Marion was a known Indian fighter from the French and Indian War, however his most famous brush with Indians was leading his 30-man scouting party into a known Indian ambush to clear the way for the main force. Only ten men including himself survived. It was a massacre, but not of Indians.
Francis Marion was known as the "Swamp Fox" and operated in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. His base of operations was Snow's Island, which was located in the middle of the South Carolina swamps, not unlike how Benjamin Martin operated from the old Spanish mission located in the swamp. But unlike Martin, Marion was childless and did not even marry until after the war.
General Charles Cornwallis sent Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton (inspiration for Colonel Tavington) after Marion. Tarleton was unable to capture Marion, just as Tavington was unable to capture Martin in the movie. Martin was already actively raiding on his own when Maj. General Nathanael Greene arrived in the South in 1781. After Greene's arrival, Marion began to coordinate his efforts with the Continental Army general's strategy for retaking the South.

Andrew Pickens was a militia fighter who operated in Georgia and South Carolina. He often was joined in his campaigns by Elijah Clarke. He is known for his large family and strict Presbyterian background. Andrew Pickens married in 1765 and would go on to father 12 children by his wife. Unlike Martin, he was not widowed at the start of the war.
His home was burned by Tories in 1780 and he informed the British that they had broken his parole and he rejoined the Patriot effort. It was Pickens and his militia who were present at the Battle of Cowpens. During his time fighting in Georgia with Elijah Clarke, he participated in the Battle of Kettle Creek and the Siege of Augusta.


Thomas Sumter was an independent, stubborn fighter who refused to cooperate with Continental operations, but following the Battle of Camden, he led the only organized resistance in South Carolina.
Thomas Sumter was known as the "Gamecock" or "Carolina Gamecock." He was married with one son. Following the capture of Charleston by the British and the surrender of all opposing forces and taking an oath that he would not fight. He went back on his pledge, much like Andrew Pickens, when Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton's British Legion burned the home that his wife and son were staying in, forcing her to sit and watch it burn.
Following Sumter's taking up arms again, Tarleton pursued him, catching him by surprise the day after the Battle of Camden where his militia was dispersed and Sumter himself narrowly escaped. He stubbornly refused to coordinate his efforts with Continental Maj. General Nathanael Greene and colored Greene's opinion of him. That led to Sumter's harshness toward legislative efforts to assist Greene's widow in later years.
Sumter ended up disbanding his militia and retiring from the war in mid-1781, because his influence had declined following a disastrous attack on the British at Quinby Bridge. He did serve for years in the state legislature where he encouraged the passage of a bill of amnesty for wartime actions.
Sumter served in the militia in the Cherokee War, but did not see any action, let alone lead an Indian massacre.


Colonel William Tavington is based on Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton first made a name for himself in December 1776, when he was part of a patrol that captured former Continental Southern Commander Maj. General Charles Lee. He would go to make a name for himself in his exploits in the South, starting with Monck's Corner. He believed in total war, which meant that civilians who helped the enemy were the enemy.

Tarleton's force of Northern Tories was called the British Legion. They also became known as the Green Dragoons because their uniform was predominantly green with red trim, rather than the recognizable red uniform with the addition of green trim as in the movie. Actually, many regiments had varied uniforms, such as the Scottish regiments, who wore tartars and kilts, rather than the one standard "redcoat" uniform that Hollywood has adopted.
Though Tarleton was unable to catch Francis Marion, he was successful in some of his efforts against Thomas Sumter. Because of this, it is unlikely that tensions between General Cornwallis and Tarleton were as bad as depicted in the movie between Cornwallis and Tavington. In fact, Tarleton considered Cornwallis his mentor and they stayed in touch for many years. They only broke off contact when he wrote his memoirs in which he blamed General Cornwallis for the loss of the South.
Tarleton never had a face-to-face with any of the militia leaders as he does with Martin in the movie. The closest he came was when he surprised Thomas Sumter the day after Battle of Camden, but Sumter wasn't dressed and escaped in the confused, unrecognized. Tarleton was not captured or killed at either the Battle of Cowpens or Guilford Courthouse. It was he, not Cornwallis, that commanded at Cowpens. Nonetheless, he returned to Britain to be hailed as a hero for a time. He even made it to the Prince of Wales' inner circle of friends, before he wore out his welcome.

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