All types of women contributed to the American Revolution in multiple ways. Like men,
women participated on both sides of the war. Among women, Anglo-Americans, African
Americans, and Native Americans also divided between the patriot and loyalist causes.
While formal Revolutionary politics did not include women, ordinary domestic behaviors
became charged with political significance as Whig women confronted a war that
permeated all aspects of political, civil, and domestic life. Patriot women participated
by boycotting British goods, spying on the British, following armies as they marched,
washing, cooking, and tending for soldiers, delivering secret messages, and fighting
disguised as men. Above all, they continued the agricultural work at home to feed the
armies and their families.
The boycott of British goods involved the willing participation of American women; the
boycotted items were largely household items such as tea and cloth. Women had to
return to spinning and weaving—skills that had fallen into disuse. In 1769, the women
of Boston produced 40,000 skeins of yarn, and 180 women in Middletown, Massachusetts,
wove 20,522 yards of cloth.
A crisis of political loyalties could also disrupt the fabric of colonial America women’s
social worlds: whether a man did or did not renounce his allegiance to the king could
dissolve ties of class, family, and friendship, isolating women from former connections.
A woman’s loyalty to her husband, once a private commitment, could become a
political act, especially for women in America committed to men who remained loyal
to Great Britain.
African Americans, both men and women, understood Revolutionary rhetoric as
promising freedom and equality. These hopes were not realized. Although both
British and American governments made promises of freedom for service throughout
the war and many slaves attempted to better their lives by fighting in or assisting the
armies, the war ultimately brought few changes for African American women both
slave and free. After the Revolution, gradual abolition occurred in the North, but slavery
expanded in the South and racial prejudice was near universal in the new nation.
For Native Americans, the American Revolution was not a war of patriotism or
independence. Many Native Americans wished to remain neutral, seeing little value
in participating yet again in a European conflict, but most were forced to take sides.
During the war, Native American towns were often among the first to be attacked by
patriot militias, sometimes without regard to which side the inhabitants espoused.
One of the most fundamental effects of the war on Native American women was the
disruption of home, family, and agricultural life.
Adams, Abigail (1744-1818) Wife, Mother, Home-maker: Abigail Adams received
no formal education, but was taught at home. Although she was never a published
author, much of her private correspondence with her husband, John, and her many
friends survives to this day, and represents the thoughts, attitudes, and lifestyles of
at least some women during the Revolutionary Period. Like many women of her
time and socio-economic status, Adams was concerned about the social and
political issues of her day. Like her cousin, the historian Mercy Otis Warren, she
felt that women were not given sufficient status and rights. Adams felt that girls
should receive a formal education similar to boys, so that they could be prepared
for their vital role as republican women. She was also an opponent of chattel
slavery. Her husband. John Adams, was the first vice-president and the second
president of the United States. Her son, John Quincy Adams, was the fifth
president of the United States. Her grandson, Charles Francis Adams, published
her letters in 1840.
Anne Bailey, American Patriot (1742-1825)
Anne Warner Bailey born in October 1758 in Grotton, Conn. Anne was brought up
by her uncle Edward Mills. She was married to Elijah Bailey. The Battle at Grotton
Heights was one thing she is famous for. It happened in Fort Grizzwald on Sept.
6,1781. After the fighting, Anne walked three miles to the Fort in search of her
uncle. She found him heavily wounded. Her uncle asked to see his wife and child
before he died. Anne hurried home. When she got there, she had to catch and
saddle the family's horse. Anne got the wife and child. and then returned to her
uncle . The wife rode the horse while Anne walked and carried the baby. She
received the name "Mother Bailey" because of that trip. After she brought the
family to the dying uncle, Anne went around to help all others wounded.
There was a flannel shortage at Grotton. Flannel was used to make cartridges for
muzzle loader guns. On July 13, 1813, Anne went door to door, collecting flannel
for the soldiers. She even gave up her own flannel petticoat. It was this patriotic
act that gave her the name "Heroine of Grotton". The "Martial Petticoat" has
become celebrated in song and story. Anne died on January 10, 1851.
Anne Trotter Bailey was born in Liverpool, England as Anne Hennis in 1742. She
went to live with relatives when her parents passed away in 1761. Her relatives
lived in Virginia near Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley, U.S.A. She married
Richard Trotter in 1765. She had one son named William. When William was 7
his father passed away. Richard was killed in a battle on October 19, 1774. After
he died, Anne left William with a neighbor named Mrs. Moses Mann. Then Anne
dressed like a man and joined the army. She went to many militia meetings to tell
the men to fight the British or the Indians.
Anne had four nicknames. They were: "A Daughter of the Revolution", "The Pioneer
Heroine of the Great Kanawah shore", "Mad Anne" and "The White Squaw of
Kanawah". The most fascinating nickname she had was "Mad Anne".
The Indians named her that because they thought she was possessed by an evil
spirit and that she was insane. They thought that because she could ride through
Indian territory without harm. One time the Indians were chasing Anne. She knew
she couldn't out run them so, she jumped off her horse and hid in a hollow log.
Although the Indians looked everywhere, they couldn't find her so they took her
horse. Later that night, Anne snuck into their camp and stole her horse back.
She rode away and at a safe distance, she screamed and yelled like a wild woman.
The ride in 1791 was what Anne is most famous for. A runner was sent from Point
Pleasant to Ft. Lee to say Indians were going to attack with a large army force
within a few days. The ammunition was low in Ft. Lee at the time. They needed
ammunition so they could fight off the Indians. Anne rode a very dangerous trail
alone. She rode 100 miles to Lewisburg across wilderness without roads to get
the gun powder. She returned with the much needed supply of ammunition. Anne
died in November 1825 of old age. A poem was written in 1861 by Charles Robb
about this ride. It was called " Anne Bailey's Ride".
Anne Bailey, "the white Squaw of the Kanawha", is the heroine of border warfare
days in the Kanawha Valley. She is said to have been born in Liverpool, England.
She came to America about 1761 and settled near Staunton, Va. Here she married
Richard Trotter, who was killed in the Battle of Point Pleasant. Immediately upon
learning of her husband's death, Anne became "Mad Anne" and, clothing herself
in the garb of a frontiersman, set out to avenge her loss.
She became a scout and as such did her bit in the region of present Charleston
during the American Revolution and the Indian wars that followed. After they
ended she resumed her civilian life and customs, having meanwhile married
John Bailey. Her remaining years were spent at Gallipolis, Ohio, where she died.
Sarah Franklin Bache (1743-1808)
Sarah Franklin Bache, a revolutionary war Patriot and daughter of Benjamin
Franklin led an active public life according to the standards of womanhood in the
late eighteenth century. As the daughter of Benjamin Franklin she had an unusual
access, for a woman, to the political life in revolutionary Philadelphia. Although her
primary role was of caretaker of her family and home, Bache played an active role
in the Revolution through her relief work and as her father's political hostess.
Sarah Franklin Bache was born in Philadelphia on 11 September 1743 to Benjamin
Franklin and Deborah Read. Sarah, know as Sally throughout her life, had a typical
education for a girl of her status in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. She had a great
love of reading and music and was considered a skilled harpsichordist.
On 29 October 1767 Sally married Richard Bache in spite of her family's misgivings
about his financial situation. It was Franklin's wish that Sally not marry Bache until
his financial situation stabilized out of fear that Bache was only marring for money.
Nevertheless, Sally was devastated and Deborah Franklin allowed the wedding to
take place against Franklin's wishes. I was not until Sally gave birth to her first child
and Franklin met Bache that he truly accepted the marriage. Bache never became
a successful businessman even though Franklin gave the couple several loans and
helped them set up several stores in Philadelphia. Franklin was forced to support
Sally and her family that included eight children (Benjamin, William, Betsy, Louis,
Deborah, Richard and Sarah) for the rest of his life.
Throughout her life, Sally was interested in political matters and thought of herself
as a committed Whig. She closely followed the events leading up to the revolution
and through her relief work supported the war by helping to raise money for the
Continental army. She is best known for her involvement in the Ladies Association
of Philadelphia. She took over leadership of the association in 1780 and supervised
the sewing of 2,200 shirts or the American soldiers.
In 1785 Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia and spent his remaining years
in the care of Sally and her family. When Franklin died he left most of his estate to
Sally and her husband, including a miniature portrait of Louis XVI surrounded by
diamonds, which she sold, against his wishes, to finance a trip to London. In 1794
the family moved to a farm outside of Philadelphia on the Delaware River, but Sally
missed the city and returned in 1807 for medical treatment. She died the following
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.
Margaret Cochran Corbin
Margaret Cochran Corbin fought alongside her husband in the American Revolutionary
War and was the first woman to receive pension from the United States government
as a disabled soldier. She was born Nov. 12, 1751 near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania,
U.S.A., orphaned at the age of five and was raised by relatives. When she was twenty-one
she married John Corbin. John joined the Continental Army when the American
Revolution started four years later and Margaret accompanied her husband.
Wives of the soldiers often cooked for the men, washed their laundry and nursed
wounded soldiers. They also watched the men do their drills and, no doubt, learned
those drills, too.
On November 16,1776, while they were stationed in Fort Washington, New York, the
fort was attacked by British and Hessian troops. John was assisting a gunner until the
gunner was killed. At this point John took charge of the cannon and Margaret assisted
him. Sometime later, John was killed also. With no time to grieve, Margaret continued
loading and firing the cannon by herself until she was wounded by grapeshot which
tore her shoulder, mangled her chest and lacerated her jaw. Other soldiers moved her
to the rear where she received first aid. The fort was captured by the British, but the
wounded American soldiers were paroled. They were ferried across the river to Fort
Lee. Margaret was then transported further in a jolting wagon all the way to
Philadelphia. She never recovered fully from her wounds and was left without
use of her left arm for the rest of her life.
In 1779, the Continental Congress granted her a pension ("half the pay and
allowances of a soldier in service") due to her distinguished bravery. She continued
to be included on regimental muster lists until the end of the war in 1783. Margaret
Cochran Corbin died near West Point, New York prior to her fiftieth birthday.
In 1926, the Daughters of the American Revolution had her remains moved from an
obscure grave and re-interred with other soldiers behind the Old Cadet Chapel at West
Point where they also erected a monument to her. Near the place of the battle, in Fort
Tryon Park in New York City, a bronze plaque commemorates Margaret Corbin "the
first American woman to take a soldier's part in the War for Liberty".
The Polly Cooper Shawl is one of the greatest relics of the Oneida People.
Linked to it is the story of George Washington's sick and starving army wintering
at Valley Forge in 1777-78. The suffering was relieved by an Oneida gift of corn
organized by Chief Skenandoah. An Oneida woman, Polly Cooper, stayed to help
the soldiers and to teach them how to prepare the nutritional and medicinal food.
Refusing to take money in payment, Cooper did accept this shawl in token of
This story is at the heart of Oneida oral tradition passed down through the generations.
It expresses the unswerving friendship and timely aid offered by the Oneidas in the
most perilous hour of the United States.
It also symbolizes the relationship between the Oneidas and the United States. In
times past, any agreement of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) was accompanied by
a gift; usually it was wampum but it might be an animal skin or textile also. The gift
was tied to the words of the message and the object underlined the truth and
importance of the words. so it is with the shawl. As memorial to the American
acknowledgment of Oneida help and sacrifice, the Polly cooper Shawl testifies to a
pact of the Revolutionary War in the traditional Haudenosaunee way.
The Shawl is also an icon of neglected and little known history. From non-Native
documentary sources it is clear that the Oneidas contributed greatly to the birth
of the American nation. Oneidas played a key role in the most important American
victory of the war, the repulse of British invasions at Fort Stanwix and Saratoga in
1777. they certainly aided Washington's army at Valley forge.
To date, non-Native written sources neither confirm nor deny the Polly Cooper story.
However, we do know that an Oneida woman called Polly Cooper by English speakers
was alive during the Revolution and did serve again as a cook in the American cause
during the War of 1812. Later, they fought beside New York soldiers in several battles
of the Mohawk Valley. The sacrifices they made in the American cause of liberty
They lost the lives of perhaps a third or more of their people. After losing their homes,
they lived as refugees for four years enduring hunger, smallpox, and lack of adequate
clothing and shelter. We also know that the tradition of Polly Cooper is
very old locally and goes back to those with living memory of those times.
William Honyost Rockwell (1870-1960), an important Oneida leader earlier in this
century, heard the story of his ancestor Polly Cooper when he was a small child.
Chief Rockwell knew the tradition of Skenandoah, corn, and Valley Forge but he
emphasized parts of the story which held the richest meaning for him. He stressed
Cooper's bravery and selflessness in a righteous cause. Above all, he understood
it as a parable for the traditional matriarchal wisdom of his people.
Chief Rockwell wrote about his ancestor Polly Cooper several times between the
1930's and 1950's. The following account has been compiled from his two longest
passages on the subject. The unpublished Rockwell Papers are owned by the
Oneida Indian Nation.
George Washington is called the father of this country; an Indian woman of the
Oneida Nation should be called the mother of this country. Her name was Polly
Cooper. She cooked for George Washington and his staff of officers when they
were located in Philadelphia. Polly Cooper would not accept cash payment for her
part in the Revolutionary War.
So the wives of the officers invited Polly Cooper to take a walk downtown with
them. As they were looking in the store windows, Polly saw a black shawl on
display that she thought was the best article. When the women returned to
their homes, they told their husbands what Polly saw that she liked so well.
Money was appropriated by congress for the purpose of the shawl, and it was
given to Polly Cooper for her services as a cook for the officers of the continental
Whenever she had a chance between the hours of cooking duty, Polly would
roll up her sleeves and take two pails of water, one container in each hand,
and go into the battlefield. She would give water to quench the dry throats of
the soldiers on either side and she walked on both sides of the firing line
without fear of harm. Polly Cooper gave water to the enemy soldiers as well
as to the men in the colonial army because she believed the war was not over
water or food. She knew that, when the war was over, people would continue to
have all the water and food they needed no matter which side won. Polly knew
the war was about freedom in thought, to develop principles for the good of all
living and the coming generations.
Polly Cooper's thoughts were that all men, no matter what country they were
fighting for, they all had mothers. And the mothers didn't send their sons out to
kill other mothers' sons. Mothers carried the child before it was born. They
nursed and cared for it in every way so that the infant knew the hands that
held it were a dependable love.
Before the Europeans came into the country, the Iroquois women were the heads
of domestic affairs. Since they took upon themselves the responsibilities of the
home, it was therefore very natural they should have the right to govern home affairs.
Nancy Morgan Hart
Nancy Morgan Hart is the only woman to have a Georgia county named for her.
Hart County was carved from Elbert, Franklin and Wilkes counties in 1853 to honor
the legendary frontierswoman.
Nancy was born in North Carolina some time around 1735. She is said to be related
to pioneer Daniel Boone, Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan and, by marriage,
to Senators Henry Clay and Thomas Hart Benton. Her physical appearance was
both dramatic and imposing: She had red hair and freckles, was six foot tall and
cross-eyed with scars of small pox evident on her face. She was a hard swearer
and a sharpshooter who could handle a rifle as well as any man.
When Nancy married Benjamin Hart, the couple migrated first to South Carolina
and then to the Georgia back country where they settled along the banks of the
Broad River in Wilkes County in 1771. A mother of eight children, Nancy’s
knowledge of frontier medicine made her a sought-after midwife.
In the years of the Revolutionary War, most women and children were relocated
for their safety. Nancy, however, chose to remain with her husband. According to
legend, one day while Benjamin was working in fields some distance from their
house, five or six Tories appeared and demanded that Nancy prepare a meal for
them. In the course of preparing the meal she managed to seize the men’s rifles,
having made them tipsy on corn whiskey. When the men attempted to reclaim
their rifles, she killed one man and quickly picked up a second gun and wounded
another. Her husband and a few neighbors, who had rushed to the cabin upon
being summoned by one of the children, suggested shooting the remaining captives.
His wife, however, is reported to have said that shooting was too good for Tories.
They were taken to the woods and hanged. In 1912 a gang of workers grading a
railroad bed about half a mile from the site of the Hart cabin discovered what may
have been the remains of the hapless fellows when they dug up six skeletons.
Nancy also acted as a spy for the local militia, boldly entering the British camp
disguised as a man to get information that helped General Elijah Clarke win the
Battle of Kettle Creek. According to one account, in order to get the location of
an enemy camp in Carolina for Georgia troops, Nancy crossed and then
re-crossed the Savannah River on a raft made of four logs tied together with
grapevines. Another famous story tells of her response to being spied on while
she was boiling lye soap in her cabin: when she caught sight of a Tory peering
through the chinks in the cabin wall, she threw the soap through the holes, blinding him.
Nancy’s boldness was well-known to her neighbors. Even the Cherokees knew her,
and gave her the name of “Wahatchee”—or War Woman. They also named a
creek after her.
After the Revolution, the Harts moved to Brunswick, where Benjamin died. Nancy
then moved to Clarke County, Georgia, and finally to Kentucky, where she died in
1830. It was courage, steadfastness and a pioneering spirit such as Nancy’s that
helped turn a raw wilderness into a country.
Sybil Ludington was the eldest of twelve children. Her father, Col. Ludington, had
served in the French and Indian war. As a mill owner in Patterson, New York, he
was a community leader, and he volunteered to serve as the local militia commander
as war with the British loomed.
When he received word late on April 26, 1777, that the British were attacking Danbury,
Connecticut, Colonel Ludington knew that they would move from there into further
attacks in New York. As head of the local militia, he needed to muster his troops
from their farmhouses around the distict, and to warn the people of the countryside
of possible British attack.
Sybil Ludington, 16 years old, volunteered to warn the countryside of the attack and
to alert the militia troops to muster at Ludington's. The glow of the flames would have
been visible for miles.
She traveled some 40 miles through the towns of Carmel, Mahopac, and Stormville,
in the middle of the night, in a rainstorm, on muddy roads, shouting that the British
were burning Danbury and calling out the militia to assemble at Ludington's. When
Sybil Ludington returned home, most of the militia troops were ready to march to
confront the British.
The 400-some troops were not able to save the supplies and the town at Danbury --
the British seized or destroyed food and munitions and burned the town -- but
they were able to stop the British advance and push them back to their boats, in the
Battle of Ridgefield.
Sybil Ludington's contribution to the war was to help stop the advance of the British,
and thus give the American militia more time to organize and resist. She was
recognized for her midnight ride by those in the neighborhood, and was also recognized
by General George Washington.
Sybil Ludington continued to help as she could with the Revolutionary War effort, in
one of the typical roles that women were able to play in that war: as a messenger.
In October, 1784, Sybil Ludington married lawyer Edward Ogden and lived the rest of
her life in Unadilla, New York.
Her hometown was renamed Ludingtonville in honor of her heroic ride. There is a
statue of Sybil Ludington, by sculptor Anna Wyatt Huntington, outside the Danbury
Jane McCrea, Revolutionary War Heroine 1752?-1777)
Jane McCrea was born about 1752 in Bedminster (now Lamington), New Jersey.
Jane McCrea, the daughter of the Rev. James McCrea, was born in 1751. Jane
had eight brothers and sisters: John, William, Samuel, Stephen, Philip, Catherine,
Creighton, James and Robert. She grew to be a tall, attractive woman with long
blonde hair, and she was courted by David Jones. In 1776 Jones was one of
several Tories in the area to join the British army. In the summer of 1777 the
approach of a large British force under General John Burgoyne down Lake
Champlain and the Hudson River valley and the consequent abandonment of
Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Edward by colonial defenders caused a panic among
the remaining settlers, who quickly began to evacuate southward. McCrea
declined to leave, however, because she had received a letter from Jones, by
then a lieutenant with Burgoyne, saying that he hoped soon to see her at Fort
Edward. Later legend has it that they were to be married at that time.
On the morning of July 27, 1777, McCrea visited a friend, Sarah McNeil, who
was preparing to leave Fort Edward for safety. About noon the two women
were captured by some Native American scouts whom Burgoyne had employed
as an advance force. McNeil was delivered safely to British hands, but McCrea
was later discovered dead, several bullet wounds in her body, and scalped. Her
captors claimed she had been killed by a stray bullet from a colonial
detachment, but it was generally accepted that one of the scouts had killed
her. The murder and scalping sent a shock of horror through the colonies; it
was even felt in England, where in the House of Commons Edmund Burke
denounced the use of Indian allies. In America the deed galvanized patriotic
sentiment, swung waverers against the British, and encouraged a tide of
enlistments that helped end Burgoyne's invasion three months later. Tory
sympathizer Jane McCrea and a local family were massacred by Indians
during the British army's advance south from Canada. Patriot militia, outraged
that "Burgoyne's Indians" were allowed to rampage through the countryside,
swarmed to Saratoga in anger -- defeating Burgoyne and resulting in the turning
point of the American Revolution. Jane McCrea, though a Tory, inspired patriots
to fight because of her tragic death. The incident continued to be used as
propaganda against the English and the story was immortalized by John
Vanderlyn's painting, The Death of Jane McCrea, in 1804. The tale of Jane
McCrea became a favorite and was much romanticized in popular versions by
such authors as Philip Freneau, Joel Barlow, and Delia S. Bacon.
"Molly Pitcher" was a nickname given to the women who brought water to the
artillery soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Two women have been identified
with the name, both with Pennsylvania connections. Margaret Cochran Corbin
followed her husband, John Corbin, into the Pennsylvania Artillery, where he
taught her the complex maneuvers necessary for firing heavy cannon. At Fort
Washington, New York, in November of 1776, John Corbin was killed by British
fire. Molly, as she was known, grabbed the pole and sponged the cannon in his
place. The British were victorious and found Molly lying by the cannon, wounded
with a mangled arm and damaged breast, when they overran the fort. She was
released by the British when she recovered, having no value in a prisoner of war
exchange. The Executive Council of Pennsylvania granted Molly a pension and
she died in 1789 and is buried near West Point. She insisted on being addressed
as "Captain Molly" and receiving her allotment of rum rations, her due as an
Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, born in New Jersey in 1754, married a man
named John Hays, who enlisted in the army in 1775. They spent a hard
winter at Valley Forge. When her husband collapsed by his cannon at the
Battle of Monmouth in 1778, Molly loaded and fired the cannon throughout
the battle and is often depicted holding the large rammer. She is also credited
with nursing wounded soldiers, even carrying one from the battlefield. George
Washington made her a sergeant and she was later pensioned by the
Continental Army. "Sergeant Molly" died in 1832 and is buried in Carlisle,
Pennsylvania, where a flagstaff and cannon honor her gravesite.
An Artillery wife, Mary Hays McCauly (better known as Molly Pitcher) shared the
rigors of Valley Forge with her husband, William Hays. Her actions during the
battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778 became legendary. That day at Monmouth
was as hot as Valley Forge was cold. Someone had to cool the hot guns and
bathe parched throats with water.
Across that bullet-swept ground, a striped skirt fluttered. Mary Hays McCauly
was earning her nickname "Molly Pitcher" by bringing pitcher after pitcher of cool
spring water to the exhausted and thirsty men. She also tended to the wounded
and once, heaving a crippled Continental soldier up on her strong young back,
carried him out of reach of hard-charging Britishers. On her next trip with water,
she found her artilleryman husband back with the guns again, replacing a casualty.
While she watched, Hays fell wounded. The piece, its crew too depleted to serve
it, was about to be withdrawn. Without hesitation, Molly stepped forward and took
the rammer staff from her fallen husband’s hands. For the second time on an
American battlefield, a woman manned a gun. (The first was Margaret Corbin
during the defense of Fort Washington in 1776.) Resolutely, she stayed at her
post in the face of heavy enemy fire, ably acting as a matross (gunner).
For her heroic role, General Washington himself issued her a warrant as a
noncommissioned officer. Thereafter, she was widely hailed as "Sergeant Molly."
A flagstaff and cannon stand at her gravesite at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A sculpture
on the battle monument commemorates her courageous deed.
Deborah Samson Gannett, American Patriot (1760-1827)
Deborah Samson was born on Dec 17, 1760 to John and Deborah Samson in
Plympton, Massachusetts. The family could trace their lineage to the Mayflower
on both sides including such notables as Priscilla Alden and Myles Standish.
Deborah was the eldest of 3 daughters and 3 brothers. When Deborah was
about 5 yrs old, her father left to go to sea and was supposed to have died at
sea. Later day research shows that he simply walked out on his family and
created a new life in Maine. This left the Samson family with 6 mouths to feed
and Mrs. Samson was in poor health. She fostered the children for a while,
but at the tender age of 8 or 10 Deborah was placed in indentured servitude
with the kind, but large family of Jeremiah Thomas of Middlesborough. The
Thomas family had no girls, but lots of boys and Deborah was responsible for
taking care of them and getting them ready for school. She read the boys'
school books at night and succeeded in learning enough this way that when
she turned 18 and was freed she obtained a position as schoolteacher in
Middlesborough. All the time she spent with the Thomas Family and afterwards
was spent among the growing tension between the British and the Colonists. It
was during this time that the Stamp Act was placed into effect, and revolutionary
thinkers such as James Otis and Samuel Adams were starting to show the
colonists that they didn't need the British to protect them, that in fact the
colonies could protect themselves. Deborah watched as the British attempted
to halt the rebellious talk and acts by closing the port of Boston and quartering
troops in private homes. She watched as the "intolerable acts" were put into
effect and she heard the news of the stand in Lexington and Concord that fateful
April day. She heard the reading of the Declaration of Independence and she
watched the young colonists get their first real taste of war. She was not
frightened by this, her only question was "Why can I not fight for my country
too?". Deborah finally decided that to do her duty to her country she would
dress up as a man and enlist. Her first attempt was in 1782 but after signing
the enlistment papers to join the American Army, she had a change of heart
and did not show up the next day. A while later in 1782 she firmed her resolve
and attempted again to enlist in the military. She, on May 20, 1782, signed
up to join the company of Captain Nathan Thayer, which later became a part
of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment using the name Robert Shurtleff. Although
General Cornwallis had already surrendered at Yorktown, there was still fighting
in New York.. Her disguise worked and she was mustered into Captain George
Webbs Co. Her local church hearing rumors of her "Unchristian" like behavior
of wearing men's clothing and joining the army, decided shortly after her
company left the Boston area, to excommunicate her. Such was often the
price for individualist thinking. Deborah's company though was going to lower
New York where while Washington held the area, many small guerilla attacks
were still happening. Deborah's company was charged with assisting to halt
those attacks. During one of the particularly bloody engagements in Tarrytown,
NY, Deborah, while attempting to retreat, was wounded in the head and then
the thigh. She was escorted to a field hospital where her head wound was treated.
She did not tell the doctor about the musket shot in her leg for fear of discovery.
She tried to treat the wound herself, but lacking the strength to dig the musket
ball out, she left it there and as such her leg never healed properly. She, after
many weeks, healed enough to return to active duty. During this time though
she was to come down with a fever and the doctor while treating her, discovered
her secret. He had her removed to his house and personally oversaw her
treatment, all the while keeping her secret. After Deborah was healed he
secretly passed her secret on to a General at Fort Knox who then honorably
discharged her on October 23, 1783, while publicly keeping her secret.
Deborah when talked about as Robert, was thought of as a great soldier, with
endurance and courage, something much needed in the military at that time.
The war had been long and hard. After the war she met and married Benjamin
Gannet. Although a good marriage, it was a poor marriage. The Gannets often
had to borrow money. Paul Revere, a good friend of Deborah, upon hearing this,
petitioned the Massachusetts government to provide her with back pay and
interest to the sum of 37 pounds. This was not enough to ease their financial
woes, so Deborah took to the lecture circuit. She was the first female lectern.
She would travel from city to city and give lectures about her experience as a
soldier in the war, wearing her uniform and such. This while better still was not
enough, so in the early 1800's she was awarded a veterans pension of 4 dollars
a month. This pension was eventually awarded to her husband as a survivor
pension after Deborah died on April 19, 1827 in Sharon, Mass. She was 67
years old and had 3 children. Deborah is now the official Heroine of the State
of Massachusetts and there is even a chapter of DAR named after her. She
was a true American Hero.
Laodicea "Dicey" Langston Springfield
A courageous young girl of about 16 years, was a rebel for the cause of Freedom
during the Revolutionary War. In fact, her Patriotism to the American cause was so
great, it earned her the pseudonym "Daring Dicey". She provided valuable information
to the Whigs and harassed the enemy during the entire war. This was Dicey Langston,
the daughter of Solomon Langston of Laurens District, South Carolina.
The Langstons lived in area concentrated with loyalists, many of whom were their
relatives, so it was easy for Dicey to hear what the Whigs were up to. She would
then cross the Enoree River and report to the Whigs. Eventually, the Tories became
suspicious of her actions and threatened Solomon, Sr., saying that they would hold
him accountable for Dicey's action. Solomon scolded her and for awhile she
discontinued her reports.
Bloody Bill Cunningham and his Scouts were a company of loyalists, so called
because of their "ruthless cruelty". When Dicey heard by accident that the Bloody
Scouts were about to visit the "Elder settlement" (a.k.a. the Elder settlement, or
Little Eden, Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution) 20 miles
away where her brother James and some friends were living, she was determined
to warn them. She left home in the middle of the night and walked many miles,
crossing streams and marshes on foot, as there were no bridges. She crossed the
Tyger, which was swollen from the recent rains. She finally made it to her brother's
house and warned him of the Bloody Scout's intentions to destroy them. He and
his friends rushed to warn everyone, and the next day, when the 'scout' arrived,
they found the area deserted, no one was there for them to "wreak their vengeance."
This was posssibly the exploit that secured her place in history.
An expert shot and rider, Dicey made the trip, by night, and the longer she travelled,
the darker it seemed to get. The road ahead was barely discernible. And the creeks
and swamps held unseen tangers. But her greatest threat came while submerging in
the dark, rain-swollen icy waters of the Enoree river. It was difficult to cross in
daylight. Almost impossible in darkness. At times she had to fight the threatening
currents but subsequently she arrived at the encampment. The spirits of the men
were so low that she had boards torn from a roof to make a fire: she then baked
hoecakes for each soldier. Spirits lifted, the Bloody Scouts' attack was thwarted.
The whole community was saved. A dripping wet Dicey returned home in time to
cook breakfast for her father, never telling him that she was gone all night long.
At a later period of the war, the father of Miss Langston incurred the displeasure of
the loyalists in consequence of the active services of his sons in their country's
cause. They were known to have imbibed their principles from him; and he was
marked out as an object of summary vengeance. A party came to his house with
the desperate design of putting to death all the men of the family.
The sons were absent; but the feeble old man, selected by their relentless hate as
a victim, was in their power. He could not escape or res ist ; and he scorned to
implore their mercy. One of the company drew a pistol and deliberately leveled it
at the breast of Langston. Suddenly a wild shriek was heard; and his young
daughter sprang between her aged parent and the fatal weapon. The brutal
soldier roughly ordered her to get out of the way, or the contents of the pistol
would be instantly lodged in her own heart. She heeded not the threat, which was
but too likely to be fulfilled the next moment. Clasping her arms tightly round the
old man's neck, she declared that her own body should first receive the ball aimed
at his heart! There are few human beings, even of the most depraved, entirely
insensible to all noble and generous impulses. On this occasion the conduct of
the daughter, so fearless, so determined to shield her father's life by the sacrifice
of her own, touched the heart even of a member of the "Bloody Scout. " Langston
was spared; and the party left the house filled with admiration at the filial affection
and devotion they had witnessed.
Dicey's disregard of personal danger, where service could be rendered was remarkable.
One day, returning from a Whig neighborhood in Spartanburg District, she was met
by a company of Loyalists, who ordered her to give them some intelligence they
desired respecting those she had just left. She refused; whereupon the captain of
the band held a pistol to her breast, and ordered her instantly to make the
disclosures, or she should "die in her tracks". Miss Langston only replied, with
the cool intrepidity of a veteran soldier: "Shoot me if you dare! I will not tell you,"
at the same time opening a long handkerchief which covered her neck and bosom,
as if offering a place to receive the contents of the weapon. Incensed by her
defiance, the officer was about to fire, when another threw up his hand, and
saved the courageous girl's life.
Another time, her brother James had left a rifle in her care, which she was to keep
hid till he sent for it. He did so, by a company of "Liberty Men", who were to return
by his father's dwelling. On arriving at the house, the leader asked the young girl
for the gun. She went immediately, and brought it; but as she came towards the
soldiers, the thought struck her that she had neglected to ask for the countersign
agreed upon between her brother and herself. Advancing more cautiously, she
observed them that their looks were suspicious; that for aught she knew they might
be a set of Tories; and demanded the countersign. The leader answered that it was
"Too late. We have the gun now, and its holder, too!"
"Do you think so?" Dicey turned the barrel to his head and said, "No you don't.
And you won't unless you give me the sign!" she cried, cocking it, and presenting
the muzzle at the leader. "If the gun is in your possession, take charge of her!"
Her look and attitude of defiance showed her in earnest; the countersign was
quickly given; and the men, laughing heartily, pronounced her worthy of being the
sister of James Langston. As the men left, the leader lingered and looked back at
Dicey and smiled. She returned the smile. The leader, Thomas Springfield,
would become her husband after the war.
After the struggle with the mohter county ended, Dicey married Thomas and
moved into the Greenville District of South Carolina near Traveler's Rest. Here
she lived and died near Enoree Church and there one can see a monument today
honoring a girl that dared to risk her life because of her love for liberty."
Laodicea "Dicey" Langston Springfield
Greenville (SC) Mountaineer
June 10, 1837
Died on Tuesday, the 23rd ult., Mrs. Laodicea Springfield, aged 71 years, wife of Thomas
Springfield. The deceased was the daughter of Solomon Langston of Revolutionary
memory, whose family perhaps suffered more from the ruthless ravages of the Tories
and Indians than almost any other, and the subject of this remark took an active part in
the struggle and performed many daring deeds on behalf of her suffering country and friends.
She was the mother of 22 children and has left about 140 grand and great grand children.
She was a kind and affectionate wife, mother, and neighbor, and has left a large circle of
acquaintances to deplore her loss.
The grave site of Dicey Langston Springfield is located off Tigerville Road. One mile off
US 25 near Travelers Rest, SC.
From US 25 turn onto Tigerville Road. Go one mile to Langston Road. Turn right and go
until the end of the road. The grave site is located in a Grove of trees just beyond the
end of the road to the right. It is on private property owned by a Mr. & Mrs. Charles Ivey.
There is a marker at the site erected by the D.A.R.
The Stillwell Sisters
Two stories are told of the Stillwell sisters, Rebecca and Sarah, daughters of Captain
Nicholas Stillwell of Beesley's Point, Cape May County, New Jersey. Rebecca prevented
a British raiding party from landing at Beesley's Point in the Upper Precinct by firing a
cannon filled with grapeshot at an approaching British sloop. Sarah was successful in
enlisting General Washington's aid in an exchange of prisoners, in order to rescue her
husband from a prisoner ship anchored at New York.
At the time of the Revolutionary War, Rebecca Stillwell Willets, the wife of James
Willets, lived at her fathers's Ferry House at Beesley's Point. The privateers had
captured British supplies which they had stored near the Ferry House for the
Continental Soldiers which consisted of mostly food and clothing. All men and boys of
15 years or older had been ordered into the Army and the women were alone. The
Tories had learned about the supplies, where they were stored and that the Ferry
House was unguarded and had notified the British. The British decided to raid this
One day, looking across the bay through her spy glass toward Somers Point,
Rebecca saw a British ship approaching. It anchored not far away and lowered a
boat filled with sailors who began to row toward the Ferry House. Rebecca knew that
they were up to no good and that she must act to protect the others. A cannon was
standing in the front yard, loaded and ready for action. The loaded boat came closer
and closer. When she thought they were within range she fired the cannon and the
load of grapeshot went its way just above the heads of the Redcoats. The sailors
stopped rowing. The leaders decided that they must be mistaken, the Ferry House
was not deserted. They turned around, rowed back to their ship and sailed away.
The store house was saved.
Capt. Moses Griffing was the husband of Sarah Stillwell. He and other Cape May
County maritime raiders fell into the hands of the British during the Revolutionary War.
Many of them, including Moses, were taken on board the prison ship Jersey, anchored
on the East River in New York. When Sally heard of his imprisonment, she reportedly
journeyed alone from Cape May County to Sir Henry Clinton's headquarters in New
York to win the release of her husband Moses Griffing. On the way to New York,
Sally visited General Washington's encampment and obtained from him the control
of a British officer of equal rank with her husband and proceeding in person to New
York, she exchanged him for her husband.
Mercy Otis Warren
"Warren, Mercy (1728-1814), American writer, sister of James Otis, was born at
Barnstable, Mass., and in 1754 married James Warren (1726-1808) of Plymouth,
Mass., a college friend of her brother. Her literary inclinations were fostered by
both these men, and she began early to write poems and prose essays. As
member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1766-1774) and its
speaker (1776-1777 and 1787-1788), member (1774 and 1775) and president
(1775) of the Provincial Congress, and paymaster-general in 1775, James
Warren took a leading part in the events of the American revolutionary period,
and his wife followed its progress with keen interest. Her gifts of satire were
utilized in her political dramas, The Adulator (1773) and The Group (1775);
and John Adams, whose wife Abigail was Mercy Warren's close friend,
encouraged her to further efforts. Her tragedies "The Sack of Rome" and
"The Ladies of Castile," were included in her Poems, Dramatic and
Miscellaneous (1790), dedicated to General Washington. Apart from their
historical interest among the beginnings of American literature, Mercy
Warren's poems have no permanent value. In 1805 she published a History
of the American Revolution, which was colored by somewhat outspoken
personal criticism and was bitterly resented by John Adams (see his
correspondence, published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1878).
James Warren died in 1808, and his wife followed him on the 19th of October
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 21, 1731 - May 22, 1802) was the
wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States, and therefore
is seen as the first First Lady of the United States (although that title was not
coined until after her death, she was simply known as "Lady Washington").
She was born in New Kent County, Virginia, the daughter of John Dandridge and
his wife Frances Jones. Frances Jones was the daughter of Orlando Jones, the
founder of the first church in New Kent County, in 1669, until his death in 1688.
Her first marriage was to Daniel Parke Custis, with whom she had four children,
two of whom survived to adulthood, John Parke Custis (1754-1781) and Martha
"Patsy" Custis. She also collected locks of hair from famous people instead of
She married George Washington on January 6, 1759, two years after the death
of her first husband. Content to live a private life on Washington's Mount Vernon
estate, she nevertheless followed him to the battlefield. She opposed his election
as president and refused to attend his inauguration, but fulfilled her duties as the
official state hostess graciously.
Martha and George Washington had no children together, but they raised Martha's
grandson, George Washington Parke Custis (April 30, 1781 - October 10, 1857)
after his father, John Parke Custis, was killed (while serving as an aide to Washington)
during the siege of Yorktown in 1781.
Martha Washington died at Mount Vernon, Virginia, and was buried on May 22,
1802 at Mount Vernon. Her remains were moved in 1831 from their original burial
site a few hundred feet to a brick tomb that overlooks the Potomac River.
The Custis estate was eventually confiscated from George Washington Parke
Custis's son-in-law, Robert E. Lee, during the Civil War, and became Arlington
National Cemetery. (In 1882, after many years in the lower courts, the matter
of the ownership of Arlington National Cemetery was brought before the Supreme
Court of United States. The Court affirmed a Circuit Court decision that the
property in question rightfully belonged to the Lee Family. The United States
Congress then appropriated the sum of $150,000 for the purchase of the property
from the Lee Family.)
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