Elizabeth Cornell Bayard
Elizabeth Cornell Bayard, helped to "make law" in
North Carolina. Her father, a wealthy merchant in New Bern, had deeded
some property to his daughter. But since he was a Loyalist, his property
was seized under the state’s laws that permitted the confiscation of
property to raise money to fight the Revolution. Some of his property
was sold at auction to a man named Spyers Singleton. Elizabeth Bayard
brought a lawsuit in the state court to get the property back from Singleton.
The state supreme court decided in 1787 that the laws under which the
property had been seized were not allowed by the state constitution of 1776.
The case of Bayard v. Singleton helped to establish the right of the courts to
consider whether an act of the legislature was permitted by a constitution.
There were many heroic Patriot women in North Carolina during the Revolution
as well. One North Carolinian led what has been called the "earliest known. . .
political activity on the part of women" in America. A few months after the Boston
Tea Party, a group of fifty-one women in Edenton signed a public proclamation
that they would not drink any tea or wear clothes made from British cloth. The
first reaction was to ridicule their action. A London newspaper published a
caricature of the "Edenton Tea Party." James Iredell, later a justice of the United
States Supreme Court, received a letter from his brother Arthur in London asking
a sarcastic question: "Is there a female Congress in Edenton too?" But this
public call for women to support the Revolution had an effect. The message
was heard. Women brought out their unused spinning wheels and looms and
made their own cloth instead of buying British-made goods. Women
collectively declared their independence from English imports.
BRATTON, Martha, patriot, born in Rowan County, North Carolina; died near Yorkville,
South Carolina, in 1816. Her husband, William Bratton, was a colonel in the revolutionary
army. In June, 1780, a party of British cavalry under Capt. Huck called at her house,
and vainly, though with threats of death, tried to obtain information as to her husband's
whereabouts. Even when a reaping-hook was held to her throat her mien was bold
and fearless. On that same evening Col. Bratton arrived with seventy-five men, and,
taking the royalists by surprise, totally defeated them. Mrs. Bratton received the
wounded of both sides, and showed them impartial attention. Just before the fall of
Charleston, Governor Rut-ledge intrusted to Mrs. Bratton's care a quantity of powder,
and she blew it up when it was in danger of being captured by the British.
Martha and her husband were entrusted with a precious commodity back then -
gun powder. With her husband away, Martha was left in charge. Hearing that the
British were planning to steal the gun powder, Martha set a trap, blowing up the
building as the British soldiers arrived. She even admitted doing the dastardly deed
when captured. She was let go, later questioned about her husband's whereabouts,
and spared by a British officer from severe punishment. She repaid the debt, when
the same officer was captured by Patriots and scheduled for hanging. Realizing the
cruelty of war, Martha set up a hospital and nursed both British and American soldiers.
"THE memory of Mrs. Martha Bratton.-In the hands of an infuriated monster, with the
instrument of death around her neck, she nobly refused to betray her husband; in the
hour of victory she remembered mercy, and as a guardian angel, interposed in behalf
of her inhuman enemies. Throughout the Revolution she encouraged the whigs to fight
on to the last; to hope on to the end. Honor and gratitude to the woman and heroine,
who proved herself so faithful a wIfe-so firm a friend to liberty!"
The above toast was drunk at a celebration of Huck's Defeat, given at Brattonsville,
York District, South Carolina, on the twelfth of July, 1839. The ground of the battle that
had taken place fifty-nine years before, was within a few hundred yards of Dr. Bratton's
residence, inherited from his father, one of the heroes of that day. He celebrated the
anniversary of this triumph of the whigs. The cool spring of the battle-field, it is said,
furnished the only beverage used on the occasion.
The victory gained at this spot had the most important effect on the destinies of the State.
It was the first check given to the British troops-the first time after the fall of Charleston,
that the hitherto victorious enemy had been met. It brought confidence to the drooping
spirits of the patriots, and taught the invaders that freemen are not conquered while the
mind is free. The whigs, inspired with new life and buoyant hopes, began to throng;
together; the British were again attacked and defeated; a band of resolute and determined
spirits took the field, and kept it till victory perched upon their banners, and South Carolina
became an independent State.
The year 1780 was a dark period for the patriots of Carolina. Charleston surrendered on the
twelfth of May; and General Lincoln and the American army became prisoners of war.
This success was followed up by vigorous movements. One expedition secured the
important post of Ninety-Six; another scoured the country bordering on the Savannah;
and Lord Cornwallis passed the Santee and took Georgetown. Armed garrisons were
posted throughout the State, which lay at the mercy of the conqueror, to overawe the
inhabitants, and secure a return to their allegiance. For several weeks all military
opposition ceased; and it was the boast of Sir Henry Clinton, that here, at least, the
American Revolution was ended. A proclamation was issued, denouncing vengeance
on all who should dare appear in arms, save under the royal authority, and offering pardon,
with a few exceptions, to those who would acknowledge it, and accept British protection.
The great body of the people, believing resistance unavailing and hopeless, took the
offered protection, while those who refused absolute submission were exiled or imprisoned.
But the fact is recorded that the inhabitants of York District never gave their paroles, nor
accepted protection as British subjects; preferring resistance and exile to subjection and
inglorious peace.* A few individuals, who were excepted from the benefits of the
proclamation, with others in whose breasts the love of liberty was unconquerable,
sought refuge in North Carolina. They were followed by the whigs of York, Chester,
and some other districts bordering on that State, who fled from the British troops
as they marched into the upper country to compel the entire submission of the
conquered province. These patriot exiles soon organized themselves in companies,
and under their gallant leaders, Sumter, Bratton, Wynn, Moffit and others, began to
collect on the frontier, and to harass the victorious enemy by sudden and desultory
attacks. At the time when this noble daring was displayed, the State was unable to
feed or clothe or arm the soldiers. They depended on their own exertions for every
thing necessary to carryon the warfare. They tabernacled in the woods and swamps,
with wolves and other beasts of the forest; and frequently wanted both for food and clothing.
To crush this bold and determined spirit, British officers and troops were despatched,
in marauding parties, to every nook and corner of South Carolina, authorised to punish
every whig with the utmost rigor, and to call upon the loyalists to aid in the work of
carnage. A body of these marauders, assembled at Mobley's Meeting-house in Fairfield
District, were attacked and defeated in June by a party of whigs under the command
of Colonel Bratton, Major Wynn, and Captain McClure. The report of this disaster
being conveyed to Rocky Mount in Chester District, Colonel Turnbull, the commander
of a strong detachment of British troops at that point, determined on summary
vengeance, and for that purpose sent Captain Huck, at the head of four hundred
cavalry, and a considerable body of tories, all well mounted, with the following order:
" To CAPTAIN HUYCK--
" You are hereby ordered, with the cavalry under your command, to proceed to the
frontier of the province, collecting all the royal militia with you on your march, and
with said force to push the rebels as far as you may deem convenient."*
It was at this time that the heroism of the wife of Colonel Bratton was so nobly
displayed. The evening preceding the battle, Huck arrived at Colonel Bratton's house.
He entered rudely, and demanded where her husband was.
"He is in Sumter's army," was the undaunted reply.
The officer then essayed persuasion, and proposed to Mrs. Bratton. to induce her
husband to come in and join the royalists, promising that he should have a
commission in the royal service. It may well be believed that arguments were
used, which must have had a show of reason at the time, when the people
generally had given up all hopes and notions of independence. But Mrs. Bratton
answered with heroic firmness, that she would rather see him remain true to his
duty to his country, even if he perished in Sumter's army.
The son of Mrs. Bratton, Dr. John S. Bratton, who was then a child, remembers
that Huck was caressing him on his knee while speaking to his mother. On
receiving her answer, he pushed the boy off so suddenly, that his face was b
ruised by the fall. At the same time, one of Huck's soldiers, infuriated at her
boldness, and animated by the spirit of deadly animosity towards the whigs
which then raged in its greatest violence, seized a reaping-hook that hung near
them in the piazza, and brought it to her throat, with intention to kill her. Still she
refused to give information that might endanger her husband's safety. There is no
mention made of any interference on the part of Captain Huck to save her from the
hands of his murderous ruffian. But the officer second in command interposed,
and compelled the soldier to release her. They took prisoners three old men,
whom, with another they had captured during the day, they confined in a corncrib.
Huck then ordered Mrs. Bratton to have supper prepared for him and his troopers.
It may be conceived with what feelings she saw her house occupied by the enemies
of her husband and her country, and found herself compelled to minister to their
wants. What wild and gloomy thoughts had possession of her soul, is evident
from the desperate idea that occurred to her of playing a Roman's part, and
mingling poison, which she had in the house, with the food they were to eat;
thus delivering her neighbors from the impending danger. But her noble nature
shrank from such an expedient, even to punish the invaders of her home. She
well knew, too, the brave spirit that animated her husband and his comrades.
They might even now be dogging the footsteps of the enemy; they might be
watching the opportunity for an attack. They might come to the house also.
She would not have them owe to a cowardly stratagem the victory they should
win in the field of battle. Having prepared the repast, she retired with her children
to an upper apartment.
After they had supped, Huck and his officers went to another house about half a
mile off, owned by James Williamson, to pass the night. His troops lay encamped
around it. A fenced road passed the door, and sentinels were posted along the
road. The soldiers slept in fancied security, and the guard kept negligent watch;
they dreamed not of the scene that awaited them; they knew not that defeat and
death were impending. Colonel Bratton, with a party chiefly composed of his
neighbors, had that day left Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, under the
conviction that the royalists would shortly send forces into the neighborhood of
their homes, to revenge the defeat of the tories at Mobley's Meeting-House. With,
a force of only seventy-five men-for about fifty had dropped off on the way. Colonel
Bratton and Captain McClure, having received intelligence of the position and
numbers of the enemy, marched to within a short distance of their encampment.
The whigs arrived at night, and after concealing their horses in a swamp, Bratton
himself reconnoitered the encampment, advancing within the line of sentinels.
The party of Americans divided to enclose the enemy; one-half coming up the lane,
the other being sent round to take the opposite direction. Huck and his officers
were still sleeping when the attack commenced, and were aroused by the roar of
the American guns. Huck made all speed to mount his horse, and several times
rallied his men; but his efforts were unavailing: the spirit and determined bravery of
the patriots carried all before them. The rout was complete. As soon as Huck and
another officer fell, his men threw down their arms and fled.
Some were killed, or mortally wounded; some perished in the woods; the rest
escaped, or were made prisoners. In the pursuit the conflict raged around Bratton's
house; and Mrs. Bratton and her children, anxious to look out, Were in some
danger from the shots. She made her little son, much against his will, sit within
the chimney. While he was there, a ball struck against the opposite jam, and
was taken up by him as a trophy. The battle lasted about an hour; it was bloody,
though brief; and it is stated that the waters of the spring, which now gush forth
so bright and transparent, on that memorable spot, were then crimsoned with the
tide of human life. About daylight, when the firing had ceased, Mrs. Bratton
ventured out, anxious, and fearful of finding her nearest and dearest relatives
among the dead and wounded lying around her dwelling. But none of her loved
ones had fallen. Her house was opened alike to the wounded on both sides;
and she humanely attended the sufferers in person, affording them, indiscriminately,
every relief and comfort in her power to bestow; feeding and nursing them, and
supplying their wants with the kindest and most assiduous attention. Thus her
lofty spirit was displayed no less by her humanity to the vanquished, than by her
courage and resolution in the hour of danger. After the death of Huck in battle, the
officer next in command became the leader of the troops. He was among the
prisoners who surrendered to the whigs, and they were determined to put him to
death. He entreated, as a last favor, to be conducted to the presence of Mrs.
Bratton. She instantly recognized him as the officer who had interfered in her
behalf and saved her life. Gratitude, as well as the mercy natural to woman's heart,
prompted her now to intercede for him. She pleaded with an eloquence which,
considering the share she had borne in the common distress and danger, could
not be withstood. Her petition was granted; she procured his deliverance from the
death that awaited him, and kindly entertained him till he was exchanged. There is
hardly a situation in romance or dramatic fiction, which can surpass the interest
and pathos of this simple incident.
The evening before the battle, Huck and his troops had stopped on their way at the
house of Mrs. Adair, on South Fishing Creek, at the place where the road from
Yorkville to Chester court-house now crosses that stream. They helped themselves
to every thing eatable on the premises, and one Captain Anderson laid a strict
injunction on the old lady, to bring her sons under the royal banner. After the battle
had been fought, Mrs. Adair and her husband were sent for by their sons and
Colonel Edward Lacy, whom they had brought up, for the purpose of sending them
into North Carolina for safety. When Mrs. Adair reached the battle-ground, she
dismounted from her horse, and passed round among her friends. Presently she
came with her sons to a tent where several wounded men were lying-Anderson
among them. She said to him, "Well, Captain, you ordered me last night to bring in
my rebel sons. Here are two of them; and if the third had been within a day's ride,
he would have been here also." The chagrined officer replied, "Yes, madam, I have
seen them." Mrs. Adair was the mother of the late Governor John Adair of Kentucky.
Instances of the noble daring of the women of that day, thus thrown "into the circle
of mishap," and compelled to witness so many horrors, and share so many dangers,
were doubtless of almost hourly occurrence. But of the individuals whose faithful
memory retained the impression of those scenes, how few survive throughout the
land! Enquiries made on this subject are continually met by expressions of regret
that some relative who has within a few years descended to the grave, was not alive
to describe events of those trying times. "If you could only have heard - or talk of
Revolutionary scenes, volumes might have been filled with the anecdotes they
remembered!" is the oft-repeated exclamation, which causes regret that the tribute
due has been so long withheld from the memory of those heroines.
The defeat of Huck had the immediate effect of bringing the whigs together; and in a
few days a large accession of troops joined the army of Sumter. The attack on the
British at Rocky Mount was shortly followed by a complete victory over them at
Another anecdote is related of Mrs. Bratton. Before the fall of Charleston, when
effectual resistance through. out the State was in a great measure rendered
impossible by the want of ammunition, Governor Rutledge had sent a supply to all
the regiments, to enable them to harass the invading army. Many of these supplies
were secured by the patriots in the back country, by secreting them in hollow trees
and the like hiding-places; others fell into the hands of the enemy or were destroyed.
The portion given to Colonel Bratton was in his occasional absence from home
confided to the care of his wife. Some loyalists who heard of this, informed the British
officer in command of the nearest station, and a detachment was immediately sent
forward to secure the valuable prize. Mrs. Bratton was informed of their near approach,
and was aware that there could be no chance of saving her charge. She resolved that
the enemy should not have the benefit of it. She therefore immediately laid a train of
powder from the depot to the spot where she stood, and, when the detachment came
in sight, set fire to the train, and blew it up. The explosion that greeted the ears of the
foe, informed them that the object of their expedition was frustrated. The officer in
command, irritated to fury, demanded who had dared to perpetrate such an act, and
threatened instant and severe vengeance upon the culprit. The intrepid woman to
whom he owed his disappointment answered for herself. "It was I who did it," she
replied. "Let the consequence be what it will, I glory in having prevented the mischief
contemplated by the cruel enemies of my country."
Mrs. Bratton was a native of Rowan County, North Carolina, where she married
William Bratton, a Pennsylvanian of Irish parentage, who resided in York District in
the State of South Carolina. The grant of his land, which is still held by his
descendants, was taken out under George the Third. In the troubled times that
preceded the commencement of hostilities, the decision of character exhibited by
Mr. and Mrs. Bratton, and their exemplary deportment, gave them great influence
among their neighbors. Colonel Bratton continued in active service during the war,
and was prominent in the battles of Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, Guilford, etc.,
and in most of the skirmishes incident to the partisan warfare under General Sumter.
During his lengthened absences from home, he was seldom able to see or
communicate with his family. A soldier's perils add lustre to his deeds; but the
heart of the deeply anxious wife must have throbbed painfully when she heard of
them. She, however, never complained, though herself a sufferer from the ravages of
war; but devoted herself to the care of her family, striving at the same time to aid and
encourage her neighbors. On the return of peace, her husband resumed the
cultivation of his farm. Grateful for the preservation of their lives and property, they
continued industriously occupied in agricultural pursuits to a ripe old age, enjoying
to the full
"That which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends."
Colonel Bratton died at his residence two miles south of Yorkville, now the seat of Mrs.
Harriet Bratton; and his wife, having survived him Jess than a year, died at the same
place in January, 1816. They were buried by the side of each other.
Another Loyalist who lost her home and land was Mary Dowd. Mary Dowd was
as strong a Loyalist as her husband, Connor Dowd. The wealthy Connor Dowd
continued his Loyalist activities after the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge,
organizing a small, mounted army to join British general Charles Cornwallis,
who was on his way to North Carolina. Although it did not fight with Cornwallis,
Dowd’s army did fight the Patriots. The Dowds’ son was killed, and Connor
fled to the British forces at Wilmington.
The revolutionaries then seized and sold his property in Cumberland County.
Dowd went to England in August 1782, leaving his wife and ten children behind
on their property in Chatham County. Within three months, the Revolutionary
court seized the Dowd property in Chatham County as well. The General
Assembly passed a special law that permitted Mary Dowd to bring legal action
in her own name to collect some of the money owed to her husband. At the
same time, she was actively trying to arrange for her husband’s return. Connor
Dowd returned in 1783, and he made a number of trips across the ocean in the
years following. For the rest of her life, Mary Dowd saw the steady loss of all the
land her husband had owned before the Revolution, land that was seized or sold
to satisfy the debts Connor Dowd had made in support of the Loyalist side.
The history of the Rev. David Caldwell is in many ways identified with that of
North Carolina. He was for almost sixty years the pastor of the two oldest and largest
Presbyterian congregations in the county of Guilford, and kept a celebrated classical
school, for a long time the only one of note in the State, in which for forty years nearly
all its professional men, and many from adjoining States, were educated. Not only was
he thus the father of education in North Carolina, but before and during the Revolutionary
struggle, he exerted a strong influence in favor of the promotion of national independence,
and bore an active part in the prominent events of that period.
The influence of Mrs. Caldwell in his school was great and beneficial, increasing the
respect of the students towards him, and disposing their minds to religious impressions.
They bore uniform testimony to her intelligence and zeal, and to the value of her counsels,
while her kindness won their regard and confidence. The success with which she labored
to inculcate the lessons of practical piety gave currency to the saying throughout the
country - "Dr. Caldwell makes the scholars, and Mrs. Caldwell makes the preachers."
She was the third daughter of Rev. Alexander Craighead, the pastor of the Sugar
Creek congregation, and a man of eminent piety and usefulness. In early life she had
a share in many of the perils and hardships of the Indian war - the inroads of the savages
being frequent and murderous, and her home in an exposed situation. She often said,
describing these incursions, that as the family would escape out of one door, the
Indians would come in at another. When Braddock's defeat left the Virginia frontier
at the mercy of the savages, Mr. Craighead fled, with some of his people, and crossing
the Blue Ridge, passed to the more quiet regions of Carolina, where he remained till
the close of his life. Rachel married Dr. Caldwell in 1766.
For some days before the battle at Guilford Courthouse, the army of Cornwallis was
encamped within the bounds of Dr. Caldwell's congregations; and most of the men
being with General Greene, the distress fell on the defenceless women and children.
In the detail of spoliation and outrage, their pastor suffered his share. He had been
repeatedly harassed by the British and tories, who bore him special enmity; a price
had been set upon his head, and a reward of two hundred pounds offered for his
apprehension. On the 11th of March, while he was in Greene's camp, the army was
marched to his plantation and encamped there, the officers taking possession of his
house. Mrs. Caldwell was at home with her children when they arrived. They at first
announced themselves as Americans, and asked to see the landlady; but a female
domestic who had ascertained by standing on the fence and seeing red coats at a
distance, that they belonged to the army of Cornwallis, quickly communicated her
discovery to her mistress. Excusing herself by saying that she must attend to her
child, Mrs. Caldwell retired within the house, and immediately gave warning to two of
her neighbors who happened to be there, that they might escape through the other
door and conceal themselves. She then returned to the gate. The party in front when
charged with being British soldiers, avowed themselves such, and said they must
have the use of the dwelling for a day or two. They immediately established themselves
in their quarters, turning out Mrs. Caldwell, who with her children retired to the smoke
house, and there passed a day with no other food than a few dried peaches and
apples, till a physician interposed, and procured for her a bed, some provisions, and
a few cooking utensils. The family remained in the smoke house two days and nights -
their distress being frequently insulted by profane and brutal language. To a young
officer who came to the door for the purpose of taunting the helpless mother, by
ridiculing her countrymen, whom he termed rebels and cowards, Mrs. Caldwell
replied, "Wait and see what the Lord will do for us." "If he intends to do anything,"
pertly rejoined the military fop, "'tis time he had begun." In reply to Mrs. Caldwell's
application to one of the soldiers for protection, she was told she could expect no
favors, for that the women were as great rebels as the men.
After remaining two days, the army took their departure from the ravaged plantation,
on which they had destroyed every thing; but before leaving Dr. Caldwell's house,
the officer in command gave orders that his library and papers should be burned.
A fire was kindled in the large oven in the yard, and books which could not at that
time be replaced, and valuable manuscripts which had cost the study and labor
of years, were carried out by the soldiers, armful after armful, and ruthlessly
committed to the flames. Not even the family Bible was spared, and the house,
as well as plantation, was left pillaged and desolate.
On the fifteenth was heard the roar of that battle which was to compel the retreat
of the invaders, and achieve the deliverance of Carolina. The women of Dr.
Caldwell's congregation met, as has been mentioned, and while the conflict was
raging fiercely between man and man, wrestled in earnest prayer for their defenders.
After the cold, wet night which succeeded the action, the women wandered over the
field of battle to search for their friends, administer the last sad rites to the dead,
and bear away the wounded and expiring. One officer, who had lain thirty hours
undiscovered, was found in the woods by an old lady, and carried to his house,
where he survived long enough to relate how a loyalist of his acquaintance had
passed him the day after the battle, had recognized him, and bestowed a blow
and an execration, instead of the water he craved to quench his consuming thirst.
Conscience, however, sometimes avenged the insulted rights of nature; - the man
who had refused the dying request of a fellow creature, was found after the officer's
death, suspended on a tree before his own door.
The persecution of Dr. Caldwell continued while the British occupied that portion
of the State. His property was destroyed, and he was hunted as a felon; snares
were laid for him, and pretences used to draw him from his hiding-place; he was
compelled to pass nights in the woods, and ventured only at the most imminent
peril to see his family. Often he escaped captivity or death, as it were, by a miracle.
At one time when he had ventured home on a stolen visit, the house was suddenly
surrounded by armed men, who seized him before he could escape, designing to
carry him to the British camp. One or two were set to guard him, while the others
went to gather such articles of provisions and clothing as could be found worth
taking away. When they were nearly ready to depart, the plunder collected being
piled in the middle of the floor, and the prisoner standing beside it with his guard,
Mrs. Dunlap, who with Mrs. Caldwell had remained in an adjoining apartment,
came forward. With the promptitude and presence of mind for which women are
often remarkable in sudden emergencies, she stepped behind Dr. Caldwell,
leaned over his shoulder, and whispered to him, as if intending the question for his
ear alone, asking if it was not time for Gillespie and his men to be there. One of
the soldiers who stood nearest caught the words, and with evident alarm
demanded what men were meant. The lady replied that she was merely
speaking to her brother. In a moment all was confusion; the whole party was
panic-struck; exclamations and hurried questions followed; and in the
consternation produced by this ingenious though simple manuvre, the tories
fled precipitately, leaving their prisoner and their plunder. The name of Gillespie
was a scourge and terror to the loyalists, and this party knew themselves to be
within the limits of one of the strongest whig neighborhoods in the State.
Sometime in the fall of 1780, a stranger stopped at the house of Dr. Caldwell,
faint and worn with fatigue, to ask supper and lodging for the night. He announced
himself an express bearing despatches from Washington to General Greene,
then on the Pedee river. He had imagined that he would be free from danger
under the roof of a minister of the gospel; but Mrs. Caldwell soon undeceived him
on this point. She was alone; her husband was an object of peculiar hatred to
the tories, and she could not tell the day or hour when an attack might be
expected. Should they chance to hear of the traveller, and learn that he had
important papers in his possession, he would certainly be robbed before
morning. She said he should have something to eat immediately, but advised
him to seek some safer place of shelter for the night. This intelligence so
much alarmed the stranger that his agitation would not permit him to eat,
even when the repast was prepared and placed before him. But a short time
had passed before voices were heard without, with cries of "Surround the
house !" and the dwelling was presently assailed by a body of tories. With
admirable calmness, Mrs. Caldwell bade the stranger follow her, and led
him out at the opposite door. A large locust tree stood close by, and the
night was so dark that no object could be discerned amid its clustering
foliage. She bade him climb the tree, thorny as it was, and conceal himself
till the men should be engaged in plundering the house. He could then
descend on the other side, and trust to flight for his safety. The house was
pillaged as she had expected; but the express made his escape, to
remember with gratitude the woman whose prudence had saved him with
the loss of her property.
One little incident is characteristic. Among such articles as the housewife
especially prizes, Mrs. Caldwell had an elegant tablecloth, which she valued
as the gift of her mother. While the tories on one occasion were in her house
collecting plunder, one of them broke open the chest of drawers which
contained it, and drew out the tablecloth. Mrs. Caldwell seized and held it
fast, determined not to give up her treasure. When she found that her
rapacious enemy would soon succeed in wresting it from her, unless she
could make use of some other than muscular force to prevent him, she
turned to the other men of the party, whose attention had been attracted by
the struggle, so that they had gathered around her. Still keeping her hold
on the tablecloth, she appealed to them with all a woman's eloquence,
asking if some of them had not wives or daughters for whose sake they
would interfere to cause her to be treated with more civility. A small man
who stood at the distance of a few feet presently stepped up, with tears
in his eyes, and said that he had a wife - a fine little woman she was, too,
and that he would not allow any rudeness to be practised towards Mrs
Caldwell. His interference compelled the depredator to restore the valued article.
It was not unfrequently that female prudence or intrepidity was successful in
disappointing the marauders. The plantations of Dr. Caldwell and his brother
Alexander were near each other. One evening, during Alexander's absence
from home, two soldiers entered his house, and began rudely to seize upon
every thing they saw worth carrying off, having ordered his wife to prepare
supper for them. They were supposed to belong to the army of Cornwallis,
at that time foraging in the neighborhood. Not knowing what to do, Mrs.
Caldwell sent to her brother-in-law for advice. He sent word in answer that
she must treat the men civilly, and have supper ready as soon as
practicable; but that she must observe where they placed their guns,
and set the table at the other end of the house. He promised to come
over in the meantime and conceal himself in a haystack close by; and
she was to inform him as soon as the men had sat down to supper. These
directions were implicitly followed. The house was a double cabin,
containing two rooms on the same floor. While the men were leisurely
discussing their repast, Dr. Caldwell quietly entered the other apartment,
took up one of the guns, and stepping to the door of the room where they
were so comfortably occupied, presented the weapon, and informed them
they were his prisoners, and their lives would be the forfeit, should they
make the least attempt to escape. They surrendered immediately, and Dr.
Caldwell marched them to his own house, where he kept them till morning,
and then suffered them to depart, after putting them on their parole by
causing them to take a solemn oath upon the family Bible, that they would
no longer bear arms against the United States, but would return to him upon
a day named. This pledge was faithfully kept.
After the war, Dr. Caldwell resumed his labors as a teacher and preacher -
his pastoral services being continued till within about four years of his death.
He died in the summer of 1824, in the hundredth year of his age. His wife,
who had accompanied him in the vicissitudes of his long pilgrimage, aiding
him in his useful work, followed him to the grave in 1825, at the age of eighty-six.
All who knew, regarded her as a woman of remarkable character and influence,
and she is remembered throughout the State with high respect.
ESTHER GASTON showed her bravery by mounting her horse, and, with her sister-in-law,
hastening to the battle of Rocky Mount. Meeting some cowardly runaways, they asked
them for their guns, and proposed to stand in their places, whereupon the men returned
to duty; and, while the fight was raging, Esther and her companion cared for the wounded
and the dying.
The most famous Loyalist was Flora MacDonald. She was known as a heroic woman in
Scotland before she ever came to North Carolina. When in Scotland, she had saved the
life of "Bonnie Prince Charlie"--Charles Stuart, whose grandfather had been king of
England and Scotland. Charles had started a rebellion in Scotland in an effort to regain
the throne. At the bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746, his army was defeated and he was
almost captured by the enemy British soldiers. Flora MacDonald helped him to escape.
In 1774, Flora MacDonald and her husband, Allan, came to North Carolina with their
family. Before they were allowed to make the voyage from Scotland, they had to take
an oath, along with all the other Highlanders from Scotland, that they would remain
forever loyal to the British Crown.
The MacDonald family settled on a plantation called Killiegray in Anson County.
In 1776, the royal governor, Josiah Martin, formed an army to fight the revolutionary
movement. Allan MacDonald became a major in that army. Along with his son and
son-in-law, he was part of the 1,600 North Carolina troops who marched off to the
coast to join British troops.
Before the army left, Flora MacDonald, riding a beautiful white horse, came to the
camp to cheer the men on. She called to them to fight bravely and remain loyal to
the king. She rode with them during their first day’s march and spent the night with
them before returning home.
On February 27, 1776, the Loyalists were soundly defeated by the Patriot militia at
Moore’s Creek Bridge near Wilmington. Major MacDonald, their son, and their
son-in-law were taken captive. Courageously, Flora MacDonald visited and comforted
the families of others whose men had been killed or captured.
The Revolutionary state government seized Killiegray, and Flora MacDonald was
left homeless and nearly penniless. She eventually returned to Scotland, where she
was reunited with her husband after a separation of nearly six years. When she died
in 1790, nearly 4,000 friends and neighbors came to honor the courageous
Scotswoman at her funeral.
Patriot Mary Slocumb at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. One day in February
1776, she watched her husband, Ezekiel, ride off with a Patriot army toward certain
battle. The next night she dreamed she saw "a body wrapped in my husband’s
guard-cloak--bloody--dead." She left her bed, mounted her horse, and rode all
night. When daylight came, she had ridden more than thirty miles and had arrived
at Moores Creek, where she heard the thunder of cannon.
Riding blindly toward the sound of firing, she came to a cluster of trees where
about twenty wounded men were lying. One body was wrapped in her husband’s
cloak. She uncovered the head and saw a face "clothed with gore from a dreadful
wound across the temple." The bloody face was warm and "an unknown voice
begged for water." She brought him some water, washed his face, and discovered
it was not her husband! She cleaned and dressed the man’s terrible wounds,
then stayed for hours moving among the other wounded nursing them. Then she
related: "I looked up, and my husband, as bloody as a butcher. . . stood before
me." He had been in a company that had chased the enemy troops across the
creek and helped the Patriots win the battle. Knowing her husband was alive, she
continued caring for the wounded, and in the middle of the next night, she
mounted her horse and again rode alone through the night to reach her home
The North Carolina Museum of History has a gourd that, according to legend,
was used by Mary Slocumb to give water to the wounded when she nursed
them through the night at Moores Creek Bridge. At the battle site is a statue
that honors Mary Slocumb and the other women who bravely helped in the
ELIZABETH STEELE is worthy of note for her patriotic donation made to Gen. Greene
in an hour of need. She was the landlady of the hotel in Salisbury, N.C.; and the
wounded Americans were brought to her house. The general felt much discouraged;
for, added to the defeat at the battle of the Cowpens, he was penniless. Mrs. Steele
generously donated to the cause he represented two bags of specie, saying, "Take
these, for you will want them, and I can do without them." Gen. Greene's biographer
says, "Never did relief come at a more propitious moment; nor would it be straining
conjecture, to suppose that he resumed journey with his spirits cheered and brightened
by this touching proof of woman's devotion to the cause of her country."
The long, arduous, and eventful retreat of General Greene through the Carolinas, after the
battle of the Cowpens, that retreat on whose issue hung the fate of the South - with the
eager pursuit of Cornwallis, who well knew that the destruction of that army would secure
his conquests - is a twice-told tale to every reader. The line of march lay through
Salisbury, North Carolina; and while the British commander was crossing the
Catawba, Greene was approaching this village. With the American army were
conveyed the prisoners taken by Morgan in the late bloody and brilliant action, the
intention being to convey them to Virginia. Several of these were sick and wounded,
and among them were some British officers, unable, from loss of strength, to proceed
further on the route.
General Greene, aware of the objects of Cornwallis, knew his design, by a hurried
march to the ford, to cross the Catawba before opposition could be made; and had
stationed a body of militia there to dispute the passage. Most anxiously did the General
await their arrival, before he pursued his route. The day gradually wore away, and still
no signs appeared of the militia; and it was not till after midnight that the news
reached him of their defeat and dispersion by the British troops, and the death of
General Davidson, who had commanded them. His aids having been despatched to
different parts of the retreating army, he rode on with a heavy heart to Salisbury. It
had been raining during the day, and his soaked and soiled garments and appearance
of exhaustion as he wearily dismounted from his jaded horse at the door of the principal
hotel, showed that he had suffered much from exposure to the storm, sleepless fatigue,
and harassing anxiety of mind. Dr. Reed, who had charge of the sick and wounded
prisoners, while he waited for the General's arrival, was engaged in writing the paroles
with which it was necessary to furnish such officers as could not go on. From his
apartment overlooking the main street, he saw his friend, unaccompanied by his aids,
ride up and alight; and hastened to receive him as he entered the house. Seeing him
without a companion, and startled by his dispirited looks, the doctor could not refrain
from noticing them with anxious inquiries; to which the wearied soldier replied: "Yes -
fatigued - hungry - alone, and penniless! "
The melancholy reply was heard by one determined to prove, by the generous
assistance proffered in a time of need, that no reverse could dim the pure flame of
disinterested patriotism. General Greene had hardly taken his seat at the well-spread
table, when Mrs. Steele, the landlady of the hotel, entered the room, and carefully
closed the door behind her. Approaching her distinguished guest, she reminded him
of the despondent words he had uttered in her hearing, implying, as she thought, a
distrust of the devotion of his friends, through every calamity, to the cause. Money,
too, she declared he should have; and drew from under her apron two small bags full
of specie, probably the earnings of years. "Take these," said she, "for you will want
them, and I can do without them."
Words of kindness and encouragement accompanied this offering of a benevolent
heart, which General Greene accepted with thankfulness. "Never," says his
biographer, "did relief come at a more propitious moment; nor would it be
straining conjecture to suppose that he resumed his journey with his spirits cheered
and lightened by this touching proof of woman's devotion to the cause of her country."
General Greene did not remain long in Salisbury; but before his departure from the
house of Mrs. Steele, he left a memorial of his visit. He took from the wall of one
of the apartments a portrait of George Ill, which had come from England as a present
from a person at court to one of Mrs. Steele's connections attached to an embassy,
wrote with chalk on the back, "O, George, hide thy face and mourn;" and replaced it
with the face to the wall. The picture, with the writing uneffaced, is still in possession
of a granddaughter of Mrs. Steele, a daughter of Dr. McCorkle, and may be seen in
Elizabeth Steele was distinguished not only for attachment to the American cause
during the war, but for the piety that shone brightly in her useful life. Among her
papers was found after her death a written dedication of herself to her Creator,
and a prayer for support in the practice of Christian duty; with a letter, left as a
legacy to her children, enjoining it upon them to make religion the great work of life.
She was a tender mother, and beloved for her constant exercise of the virtues of
kindness and charity. She was twice married, and died in Salisbury, in 1791. Her son,
the Hon. John Steele, conspicuous in the councils of the State and Nation , was one
whose public services offer materials for an interesting biography. A collection of
his correspondence has lately been added to the treasures of the Historical Society
of the University of North Carolina; and it is to be hoped that under its auspices,
justice will be done to his memory at no distant period. Margaret, Mrs. Steele's
daughter, was the wife of the Rev. Samuel E. McCorkle.
It was in the same pursuit, of Greene and Morgan by Cornwallis, that the British
destroyed the property of the Widow Brevard, in Centre congregation. "She has
seven sons in the rebel army," was the reason given by the officer for permitting
her house to be burned and her farm plundered. One of her sons, Captain Alexander
Brevard, took part in nine battles, and the youngest was at seventeen first lieutenant
of a company of horse. Ephraim Brevard, another son, having graduated at Princeton
College, and completed a course of medical studies, fixed his residence at Charlotte.
Mr. Foote says, "His talents, patriotism, and education, united with his prudence
and practical sense, marked him as a leader in the councils that preceded the
convention held in Queen's Museum; and on the day of meeting designated him as
secretary and draughtsman of that singular and unrivalled DECLARATION, which
alone is a passport to the memory of posterity through all time." I
It will be borne in mind that it was in Charlotte, the county town of Mecklenburg County,
that the bold idea of National Independence was first proclaimed to the world. On the
19th May, 1775, an immense concourse of people was assembled in this frontier
settlement, all agitated with the excitement which had plunged the whole land into
commotion; on that day came the first intelligence of the commencement of hostilities
at Lexington; and when the convention and the people were addressed,, the universal
cry was, "Let us be independent! Let us declare our independence, and defend it with
our lives and fortunes !" The resolutions drawn up by Dr. Brevard were discussed; and
by their unanimous adoption, the day following, by the convention and the approving
multitude, the citizens of Mecklenburg County declared themselves a free and
independent people. Due honor is awarded to him who took so active a part in that
memorable transaction; but where is the tribute that should be paid to the widowed
mother who sowed the seeds which on that day yielded fruit - who implanted in her
son's mind those sterling principles, the guidance of which rendered his life one of
When the southern States became the arena of war, Dr. Brevard entered the army
as surgeon, and was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston. In that city he was
seized with a fatal disease, to which he fell a victim after being set at liberty, and
permitted to place himself under the care of friends.
The deplorable sufferings of the unfortunate prisoners in Charleston moved the
sympathy of the inhabitants of Western Carolina; for news came that many were
perishing in captivity of want and disease. The men could not go thither to visit their
friends and relatives, without insuring their own destruction; but the women gathered
clothing, medicines, and provisions, and travelled long journeys, encountering danger
as well as hardship, to minister in person to those who so sorely needed their succor.
Much relief was brought to the sufferers by these visits of mercy; although the lives
preserved were sometimes saved at the sacrifice of the noble benefactors. The mother
of Andrew Jackson, returning to the Waxhaw, after a journey to Charleston to carry
clothing and other necessaries to some friends on board the prison ship, was seized
with the prison-fever, and died in a tent, in the midst of the wide, sandy wilderness of
pines. Her lonely grave by the roadside, were the spot known, would speak mournfully
of woman's self-immolating heroism. Mrs. Jackson, with her children, had quitted their
home on the Waxhaw, where she had buried her husband, after the rout and
slaughter of Buford's regiment by the forces of Tarleton, when the women and
children fled from the ravages of the merciless enemy. They had found a place of
refuge in Sugar Creek congregation, where they remained during part of the summer.
Part of the foundations of the log meeting-house where the congregation met for
worship may still be seen.
Other widowed mothers were there in North Carolina, who trained their sons to
become zealous patriots and efficient statesmen. The names of Mrs. Flinn, Mrs.
Sharpe, Mrs. Graham, and Mrs. Hunter, are worthy of remembrance. The great
principles proclaimed at the Mecklenburg Convention were acted out in the noblest
efforts of patriotism by their sons.
Mr. Caruthers, the biographer of the Rev. David Caldwell, states, that while all the
active men in his congregations were engaged with the army at the battle of
Guilford Court-house, there were two collections of females, one in Buffalo, and
the other in Alamance, engaged in earnest prayer for their families and their country;
and that many others sought the divine aid in solitary places. One pious woman
sent her son frequently during the afternoon, to the summit of a little hill near which
she spent much time in prayer, to listen and bring her word which way the firing came -
from the southward or the northward. When he returned and said it was going northward,
"Then," exclaimed she, "all is lost! Greene is defeated." But all was not lost; the
God who hears prayer remembered his people.
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