The Marrs Bluff affair grew out of an incident involving Lieutenant Joseph Holland of the Peedee militia. Holland had been taken into custody by a band of Regulators headed by Gideon Gibson. As a result, Gibson soon ran afoul of an anti-Regulator justice of the peace, Robert Weaver, a Mars Bluff merchant and magistrate. Weaver had incurred the detestation of the Regulators by declaring his disapprobation of their activities and, as magistrate, had compounded that offense by issuing a warrant for the distraint of property belonging to some of the Peedee Regulators.
Robert Weaver moved swiftly when confronted by the forced detention of Joseph Holland. He issued a warrant ordering Regulators to release Holland and entrusted its execution to a constable, George Thompson. Thompson was a militia captain as well as a constable, and he summoned a small party of militiamen to his assistance, among them William White, a cooper; his father, James Taylor White; and his brother, Reuben White. On Monday, July 25 , Captain Thompson and the militiamen fourteen in all marched to Marrs Bluff, where Holland was sequestered. Outside the house they met Gideon Gibson and his Regulators drawn up in two lines, a melee broke out.
Gideon Gibson shouted, "Shoot down Billey White, for I have got Reubin, and if you kill Billey we will manage the rest easy enough." William White drew his cutlass and prepared to fight but was quickly knocked down. His father helped him to his feet and the two tried to escape, but the Regulators wounded William, who thereupon fainted. When he regained his senses, some Regulators were standing over him. "Shoot him through the head!" cried one. The rejoinder, "No damn him! He can't live long. Let him feel himself die!" saved White. He was then carried into the house and dumped on the floor where he lay "weltering in his own blood." Outside, Regulators administered fifty lashes to each of the militiamen.
This outrage against law
and order at Marrs Bluff caused a sensation in the province, but the worst was yet
to come. Three weeks later the Peedee Regulators defied no less a personage than
the Provost Marshal of the province. The Charleston authorities realized that
they could not allow the abuse of Captain Thompson, the Whites, and the others
to go unpunished, or the government's authority in the Back Country would become
a nullity. The seriousness of the situation impelled Provost Marshal Roger Pinckney
to go to Marrs Bluff to arrest Gideon Gibson...
The Provost Marshal was accompanied to Marrs Bluff by George Gabriel Powell, one of the leading planters and politicians of South Carolina. Powell, who lived near Georgetown, was a prominent member of the Assembly and colonel of the Peedee militia.
Powell and Pinckney with about twenty-five men arrived at Marrs Bluff on August 10 and established headquarters at Robert Weaver's house. Fifteen men from Weaver's company were waiting for them, and the next day twenty men from Captain Thompson's company swelled their number to about sixty. It was a puny band, however, for Powell and Pinckney soon learned that Gibson was guarded by a "large Body" of Regulators and could raise three hundred more in an hour's time. It was prudent, therefore, to ask for reinforcements from the companies of Lieutenants Clary and Michael.
In the meantime, Pinckney got word that Gideon Gibson was willing to surrender. Powell and Pinckney were still apprehensive since they were deep in Regulator territory. They agreed that Powell should invite Gibson to a private interview in the woods where the two might calmly discuss the situation. Gibson accepted the invitation and talked with Powell for an hour and a half on Sunday, August 14. The parley went well, and Powell was impressed with the sincerity of Gibson, who promised to give himself up at eight o'clock the next morning. But Powell was "Egregiously mistaken" in his opinion of Gibson, who did not appear at the appointed time. Instead, Gibson sent a letter saying that he had changed his mind and would not surrender. An hour or so later, about ten o'clock, Claudius Pegues came to Marrs Bluff and assured Powell that he "would render all the services in his power."
Powell and Pinckney were cheered by this offer of help. Claudius came from the Cheraws, thirty five miles north of Marrs Bluff; he was a magistrate and a man of high standing through all the Peedee region. Powell, Pinckney, and Pegues went to confer with the five militia commanders, ... who had drawn their men up in formation about half a mile from Weaver's house. To their surprise, Powell and Pinckney were confronted by three hundred militiamen rather than the expected one hundred.
It soon became clear that the militiamen were themselves ardent Regulators!... The men refused to aid Pinckney, "as Gibson they said was one of them (Regulators) and had applied to them for protection." The militiamen seized the opportunity to launch into a tirade about their grievances the lack of Back Country courts and the "Exhorbitant expence" of the law...
At this stage the good
offices of Charles Pegues proved useless. Pegues turned out to be an "active
man" among the Regulators, in fact, their candidate to represent St. David's
Parish (two new Back Country parishes Saint David on the Peedee, and
Saint Matthew, west of the Santee were created in 1768) in the next
session of the Assembly. So Powell and Pinckney labored alone, taking "great
Pains" to point out to the militiamen "the mistakes they were running into,"
but all in vain. The meeting broke up, and the mortified, half-frightened
Powell and Pinckney were forced to trail back to Georgetown without Gideon
Gibson, their expedition a total failure.