The storm grew more imposing in its terrors, when, promising himself confidently a march of triumph through the country, Gates, in a swelling proclamation, announced his assumption of command over the southern army. It was a promise sadly disappointed in the end — yet the effect was instantaneous; and, with the knowledge of his approach, the entire Black river country was in insurrection.
This was the province of Marion, and to his active persuasion and influence the outbreak must chiefly be ascribed. But the influence of events upon other sections was not loss immediate, though less overt and important in their development. The fermenting excitement, which, in men's minds, usually precedes the action of powerful, because long suppressed, elements of mischief, had reached its highest point of forbearance. The immediately impelling power was alone wanting, and this is always to be found in that restless love of change, growing with its facilities, which forms so legitimate a portion of our proper nature. There is a wholesome stir in strife itself, which, like the thunderstorm in the sluggish atmosphere, imparts a renewed energy, and a better condition of health and exercise, to the attributes and agents of the moral man.
Let us turn once more to the region already somewhat familiar through these pages. We are again in the precincts of the Ashley. These old woods about Dorchester deserve to be famous. There is not a wagon track — not a defile — not a clearing — not a traverse of these plains, which has not been consecrated by the strife for liberty; the close strife — the desperate struggle; the contest, unrelaxing, unyielding to the last, save only with death or conquest. These old trees have looked down upon blood and battles; the thick array and the solitary combat between single foes, needing no other witnesses. What tales might they not tell us! The sands have drunk deeply of holy and hallowed blood — blood that gave them value and a name, and made for them a place in all human recollection. The grass here has been beaten down, in successive seasons, by heavy feet — by conflicting horsemen — by driving and recoiling artillery. Its deep green has been dyed with a