The oil on canvas painting, General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His Meal, by South Carolina artist John Blake White, was presented to the Senate in 1899. According to the artist’s son, Octavius A. White: “the figure of Marion is a portrait from memory, as my father, when a boy, knew him well. Marion’s farm adjoined the plantation of my grandfather.”
The Senate accepted the work by resolution on February 17, 1899. At that time, Octavius White also presented two other paintings by his father: Sergeants Jasper and Newton Rescuing American Prisoners from the British and Mrs. Motte Directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. Two years later, Octavius White donated another work by his father, The Battle of Fort Moultrie. In a letter accompanying the first three pictures, he wrote that the series reflects “the heroic spirit which animated our fathers in the stormy days of the Revolution.”
The artist has painted the red-coated British officer and Marion at right center, with a horse. Marion wears a plumed shako. His soldiers present an amusingly motley crew. Of special interest is the African American man behind the table, holding a small pan and, with his right hand, roasting sweet potatoes in the fire. The figure has been recently identified as Oscar Marion, a slave of Francis Marion who accompanied the General into war. While Oscar Marion is seen cooking the meal, Samuel Weaver's pension application maintains that Weaver himself, a white soldier, was the one who cooked the meal. The makeshift table has a number of sweet potatoes on it, and Marion gestures toward them. During his lifetime, White executed several versions of the scene; similar paintings are held by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, and the Chicago Historical Society.
White’s portrayal of the sweet potato meal was made into a mezzotint print by John Sartain in 1840 for the Apollo Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in the United States, a group that listed as one of its goals “the cultivation and diffusion of correct taste in the fine arts.”  The print was the first in a series of engravings made from American paintings that were distributed to the nearly one thousand association members. The image also appeared on Confederate banknotes issued in 1861 by South Carolina. The painting was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1837 and at the Apollo Gallery in 1838 and 1839. The exhibition catalogue described it this way:
After the business has been arranged, Marion invited the visitor to take dinner with him. The moment chosen by the Artist is when they approach the table, which was composed of pieces of bark, bearing a dinner of sweet potatoes. The expression of surprise on the countenances of the stranger and Marion’s men is finely expressed. The scenery is said to be perfectly characteristic of a South Carolina swamp; and, altogether, it may safely be pronounced one of the best pictures of American history ever produced in this country. 
In a surprising piece of historical revisionism, James P. Truluck, Jr., a descendant of the alleged British officer, has raised doubts about this interpretation, as well as the officer’s identity. Truluck has proposed that the roles of Marion as host and the officer as guest were actually reversed. According to Truluck (in an 1989 article in Carologue, the journal of the South Carolina Historical Society), Captain John Brockington, Jr.–-a landowner, slave-owner, and Tory sympathizer, who had fought against the “Swamp Fox”–-was the legendary officer. Brockington was among those Tories to be banned to Nova Scotia, their properties seized after victories by the American forces in South Carolina.
Brockington returned to South Carolina to plead his case in person before the state senate, refuting his former life as a Tory and promising to repay claims against him. He was eventually pardoned. On his way home, he and his slaves traveled through swamps for safety. It was Captain Brockington, posits Truluck, who was cooking his dinner of sweet potatoes when the “Swamp Fox” found him. In this version of the story, Brockington then invited Marion to share his meal–-and Marion invited Brockington to join his army!
1. Anna Wells Rutledge, “Artists in the Life of Charleston through Colony and State from Restoration to Reconstruction,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 39, no. 2 (November 1949): 136.
2. Maybelle Mann, The American Art-Union (Jupiter, FL: ALM Associates, 1987), 4.