Dicey Langston


South Carolina Revolutionary War Patriot

Laodicea Langston, Dicey as her friends and family called her, was the daughter of Solomon and Sarah Bennett Langston of Laurens District, South Carolina. She was born May 14, 1766, on her father’s plantation. Dicey’s mother died when she was a little girl, and she was raised by her father and brothers. She was described as of below medium height, dark-eyed, proud, imperious, and high-spirited. She was also considered graceful and attractive in appearance and in manner.

When the Revolutionary War began, Dicey’s brothers left the plantation to fight with the Continental Army. They camped in the forest with a small band of Patriots, so the plantation wouldn’t suffer the consequences of their patriotism. To save the family from difficulties, they visited only infrequently in secret. Through it all, they managed to maintain communication with Dicey, who had become an outspoken patriot along with her brothers.

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By her 15th birthday in May 1781, Dicey was expert horsewoman and excellent shot. While doing her everyday chores, she noticed that the British Troops had set up a camp near her father’s farm, and made note of their activities. She passed on the information to her brothers’ camp on the other side of the Enoree River, some twenty miles away.

Dicey’s father was also an ardent Patriot who was a ready participant in the struggle. Although his active role was limited by his age and infirmities, he was generous with his resources and his influence. Many of their neighbors were loyal to King George of England (Tories), some of whom were their relatives, which made it easy for Dicey to gather information about the enemy.

The Tories began to question how so much information was getting to the rebels, and soon turned their suspicions toward Solomon Langston and his high-spirited daughter. They threatened her father, saying that he would be held accountable for Dicey’s actions if any more information leaked to the Patriots. Solomon scolded her and forbade her to visit her brother’s camp in the future. She reluctantly agreed, and for awhile she discontinued her reports.

The Bloody Scouts were a band of Tory outlaws, led by Bloody Bill Cunningham, who were known for their ruthless cruelty to families who sympathized with the rebel cause. When Dicey learned that they were planning to raid Little Eden, where her brother James and his compatriots were camping, she knew she had to warn her brother, regardless of her father’s orders. The Tories were incensed with her brother, and he would be killed if captured.

Dicey had no one to send, no contacts she could trust. It was evident that only she could deliver the warning, and it had to be done in secret to avoid retribution from the Tories. She started out on foot late that night, after the family and servants were asleep. She avoided the roads and kept to the fields and forests.

Making her way through woods, marshes, and creeks, she finally reached the icy waters of the Enoree River, which was swollen with the spring rains. The only way to cross was to wade through the deep rushing waters; there was no bridge. She bravely struggled toward the center of the stream, where the current was very strong and the water reached her shoulders.

Suddenly, she fell, and the swift water carried her downstream, turning her around and around. She regained her footing but had lost her sense of direction. She struggled toward the bank, although she wasn’t certain if it was the correct side of the stream. Falling and regaining her footing only to fall again, she was able to drag herself onto the bank, and lay half drowned and soaked, until she regained her strength.

Finally she continued, and eventually found the right path. After a great distance, she reached her brothers’ camp and warned him of the Bloody Scouts’ intentions. He and his men had just returned from an expedition and were hungry and exhausted. Dicey had them build a fire, while she quickly mixed up some cornbread and baked it in the embers. She broke it into pieces and thrust them into the men’s shot pouches, so they could eat as they ran to warn the settlers.

A dripping wet Dicey returned home in time to cook breakfast for her father, never telling him that she had been gone all night long. It was weeks before anyone learned of her twenty-mile tramp through the woods, streams, and marshes in the middle of the night.

Later that morning, when the Bloody Scouts descended upon the Little Eden settlement, they found it deserted. Their fruitless raid on the Little Eden settlement only added to their enmity toward the few Patriots in the Laurens District. Although they couldn’t connect the Langston family to the warning that must have been delivered, their hate and suspicion of Solomon and his family grew.

The Bloody Scouts decided that the old man must die. They went to his house to kill him and plunder his belongs. Solomon, physically unable to escape or hide, and too proud to beg for mercy, stood up to them, denying that he had anything to do with passing the message. He was declared a liar by the leader, who pointed his pistol at Solomon’s chest.

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Image: Dicey Protecting Her Father

Dicey jumped up and got between her father and the angry Tory, who told her to get out of the way or he would put a bullet through her heart. Almost blind with terror, she shouted that her father was an old man, as she clasped him closer yet, keeping her body between him and the gunman. Another of the Bloody Scouts must have marveled at the fearless devotion of the girl, because he interfered and Solomon was spared.

At another time, Dicey was riding a fleet young horse on her way home from a neighboring settlement in Spartanburg District, when she was met by a company of loyalists. They demanded that she tell them what was happening among the rebels. She claimed to know nothing. The leader had been an outlaw before the conflict, but the British had given him their protection for taking up arms against his rebel neighbors.

He drew his pistol as he told her that she did know, and that she would tell or be shot. 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!”

Again, she was ordered, and again she refused. Incensed by her defiance, the officer was about to fire, when another hit the pistol, causing it to fire into the air. As the men squabbled, Dicey, still mounted on her horse, made a speedy escape. Throughout the war, Dicey continued her patriotic work by standing up to the bands of Loyalists who terrorized her home.

After the war, Dicey Langston married Thomas Springfield, a local patriot leader, on January 9, 1783. They had a large prosperous family, and lived a long life. In later years, Dicey was known to boast that she had thirty-two sons and grandsons able to vote or fight for liberty.

Dicey Langston died on May 23, 1837, in Greenville County, SC, and was buried in the family cemetery behind their log cabin located just north of Traveler’s Rest, SC. Her obituary reports that she had 22 children. She died in 1837, , Greenville County, South Carolina.

SOURCES
Dicey Langston
Laodicea “Daring Dicey” Langston
Biography of Bloody Bill Cunningham


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