Lydia Darragh

Heroine of the Battle of Whitemarsh

Lydia Darragh was a Quaker woman who crossed enemy lines during the British occupation of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her mission was to pass information to General George Washington and the Continental Army, warning them of an impending British attack.

Lydia Barrington was born in 1729 in Dublin, Ireland. On November 2, 1753, she married the family tutor, William Darragh, the son of a clergyman. After a few years of marriage, they immigrated to the American colonies. Members of the Quaker faith, the couple settled in Philadelphia where there was a large Quaker community.

William worked as a tutor, and Lydia was a midwife. She gave birth to and raised five children: Charles, Ann, John, William, and Susannah; four others died in infancy.

Although Quakers are pacifists and against war and most were neutral during the Revolutionary War, the Darraghs were secretly in favor of the colonists’ cause, and their eldest son Charles was serving in the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Army.

On September 26, 1777, after several victories over General Washington and his army, the British occupied Philadelphia. In October, Washington led an unsuccessful attempt to retake Philadelphia, and then he and his troops retreated to Whitemarsh.

Nearly one-third of Philadelphia’s population evacuated the city, and the majority of those remaining were British loyalists or were neutral in the conflict. As well-known Quakers, the Darraghs felt relatively safe remaining at their home.

Then British General Sir William Howe set up his headquarters across the street. From her vantage point, Lydia Darragh began to spy for General Washington’s army.

The following account is based on what Lydia Darragh later told to her daughter Ann.

In late fall 1777, British officers arrived on the Darraghs’ doorstep, demanding to use their large parlor for meetings. With nowhere to go, Lydia asked the soldiers if her family could stay in their home. Most of the family was allowed to remain at home; the two youngest children were sent to live with relatives outside the city. Quakers were known to be unsupportive of the war, and therefore posed no risk to the British.

On December 2, 1777, the British officers ordered the family to retire by 8 o’clock and stay in their bedrooms all evening while the British held a meeting. Darragh crept out of her room and hid in the closet of an adjoining room and listened.

She learned that British troops were to leave the city on the evening of December 4, 1777, and make a surprise attack on the Continental Army at Whitemarsh the following morning. Among those at Whitemarsh was Lydia’s son Charles.

As the meeting was breaking up, Lydia crept back to bed. One of the officers knocked on her door at two different intervals, but she did not respond. On his third knock, she opened the door, pretending to have been asleep. She followed the officers out, latched the door and blew out the candles.

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Mary Byrd

Loyalist Woman of Westover Plantation in Virginia

Mary Willing Byrd Portrait
John Wollaston, 1758
This portrait was painted in Philadelphia three years before she met and married the older William Byrd III (1728–1777).

Mary Willing was born on September 10, 1740, the daughter of Charles and Anne (Shippen) Willing. Her father was the mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1748 to 1754, and her great-grandfather, Edward Shippen, was the second mayor of Philadelphia from 1701 to 1703. Benjamin Franklin was one of Mary’s godfathers, and when she was a child, he sent her books from Europe.

William Byrd III was born September 6, 1729, the son of Colonel William Byrd II and his second wife, Maria Taylor. He was raised at Westover, the family estate in Charles City County, Virginia. In 1744, Byrd went to London to study law at the Middle Temple. This is likely where he started gambling, a weakness that plagued him the rest of his life.

Byrd III returned to Virginia, and on April 14, 1748, married Elizabeth Hill Carter, the only daughter of John Carter of nearby Shirley Plantation. Not yet 21 when he married, Byrd gained full control of an estate that included more than 179,000 acres, hundreds of slaves, mills, fisheries, vessels, warehouses, and a store. Byrd also assumed all of the other roles an upper class Virginian was expected to fill.

Byrd could not live within his means, and as early as 1755 he was in dire financial straits. He conveyed his estate in 1756 to seven trustees, who sold land and slaves worth £40,000, a huge sum that still did not pay off his debts. In 1768, Byrd resorted to a lottery, the prizes for which were to come from his estate at the falls of the James River. Even these efforts did not cover his debts.

Byrd was an avid gambler. His favorite vice was high-stakes gambling on horse racing. He owned some of the most celebrated race horses of his day. He also won and lost large amounts at cards. As a result of his financial straits, he sold by lottery his lots in Richmond and Manchester. The vast estate built up by his father and grandfathers was nearly lost during his lifetime.

After turning his estate over to his trustees and sending his three eldest children to England in the care of an uncle and aunt, Byrd volunteered for service in the British forces in North America during the French and Indian War.

A report circulated that he had entered the military as a less than subtle way of abandoning his first wife Elizabeth, who was said to be even more immature and spoiled than he was. Byrd did not see his wife again. After writing him affectionate letters that begged him to return, Elizabeth Carter Byrd died on July 25, 1760, a probable suicide.

Byrd was in military service from 1756 until 1761. He served in Nova Scotia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. In 1758 he became colonel of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, and the following year he succeeded George Washington as commander of the 1st Virginia Regiment. After an abortive campaign against the Cherokee, Byrd resigned his command in September 1761. While in winter quarters in Philadelphia in 1760, Byrd met Mary Willing.

On January 29, 1761, William Byrd III married Mary Willing, within six months of his first wife’s death. Byrd had five children from his first marriage, and he and Mary had four sons and six daughters.

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Sybil Ludington

New York Heroine of the Revolutionary War

Sybil Ludington Equestrian Statue
This bronze statue of Sibyl on her horse Star, sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington, was dedicated in 1961 on the shore of Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York with smaller replicas in Danbury and at the Washington, DC headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Sybil Ludington was the daughter of Abigail and Henry Ludington, born April 5, 1761, in what was then known as Fredericksburg, and is now known as the Ludingtonville section of the town of Kent, New York. Sybil’s parents met when he was on his way to Quebec with Connecticut troops during the French and Indian War. On May 1, 1760, Henry and Abigail were married.

On April 16, 1761, Sybil was born – there is confusion concerning the spelling of her first name. Although it is mostly spelled Sybil, her tombstone displays her name as Sibbell. Soon after the young family moved to Dutchess County, New York, and settled on 229 acres of undeveloped land in the Philipse Patent. There Abigail gave birth to eleven more children.

Henry Ludington was a prominent figure, a husky man with military bearing. In spite of the demands of his mill, his farm, and his family, he was diligent in fulfilling his civic and military duties. He was a member of the New York Assembly from 1777 to 1781, and again in 1786. He also served as a member of the Committee of Safety, which was considered the law in many places.

On April 25, 1777, a 2000-man British force commanded by General William Tryon, the governor of the Province of New York. Tryon landed at Fairfield with twenty transports and six warships. The next day the force moved north into Danbury, Connecticut, where they began to search for stores of Continental Army supplies. The British soldiers also began leaving chalk marks on the properties of British loyalists and informers. Properties without chalk marks were to be destroyed.

By 4:00 pm, several Continental Army storehouses and three private homes were in flames. For security reasons, the Continental Army had recently transferred its supplies from Peekskill to Danbury, where they were thought to be safe, and were consequently poorly guarded. The stores included foodstuffs such as flour, beef, pork, sugar, molasses, coffee, rice, wheat, corn, and several hundred cases of wine and rum.

The British soldiers found rum and decided to consume it rather than destroy it. More fires were started by drunken soldiers, as military discipline broke down. Messengers were dispatched in all directions to announce the British arrival and news of the fires.

Colonel Henry Ludington was a respected militia officer who commanded the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia, a volunteer regiment of local men during the Revolutionary War. He was in charge of the local militia, and later became an aide to General George Washington during the Battle of White Plains. At the time of the Danbury attack, Ludington’s militia numbered about 400 men.

Sybil’s Ride
An exhausted messenger was dispatched from Danbury with the news of the attack, and he reached the Ludington home at approximately 9:00 pm. Colonel Ludington began to organize the militia, but his men had returned to their homes for spring planting and were scattered throughout the area. The messenger was exhausted and not familiar with the area.

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Mary Lindley Murray

Heroine of the Revolutionary War

Pewter Medallion of Mary Lindley Murray
Reverse has this inscription: “After the British had captured Manhattan Island, she delayed the enemy officers at her home. Her clever diversion permitted American troops to escape.”

Mary Lindley, born in 1726, was the daughter of Thomas Lindley, a Quaker and blacksmith who had arrived in Philadelphia from Ireland in 1719. In 1727, with a group of other Quakers, including some of the most prominent merchants of the colony, Thomas Lindley became a founding owner of the Durham Furnace on the Delaware River in Bucks County, a 6000-acre iron ore site and one of the leading forges in the colonies.

Robert Murray (1721-1786) was born to a Presbyterian family in County Armagh, Ireland, and his family emigrated to America in 1732. While still in his teens, Robert became the operator of a mill in Swatara, Pennsylvania.

In 1733, Thomas Lindley bought 480 acres of land in Paxtang Township, from Robert Murray’s residence in Swatara, and moved the family to Lancaster County. Lindley, already a man of some importance, quickly became a member of the local elite. In 1738, he became a Justice of the Peace and served in the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1739 through 1743, the year he died.

In Lancaster County, Mary Lindley met Robert Murray, a local merchant who lived a few miles away. Originally a Presbyterian, Robert became a Quaker when they were married in 1744. Robert and Mary moved to Swatara after their marriage, and their son Lindley Murray was born the following year, and he would become the second largest-selling author of the first half of the 19th century.

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Lydia Mulliken

Sweetheart of Patriot Dr. Samuel Prescott

Lydia Mulliken was born sometime in 1753. Samuel Prescott was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on August 19, 1751. He had an older brother, Abel, Jr., and a sister, Lucy. In those days, there was no medical school, so young Samuel apprenticed with his father, Dr. Abel Prescott, for seven years. He opened his medical practice in Concord shortly before the Revolution.

Sometime during his apprenticeship, Prescott became an active member in the patriot movement and joined the Sons of Liberty. As a physician, he was exempt from serving in the militia, but he volunteered as a courier and delivered messages for the Committee of Correspondence.

On April 18, 1775, British General Thomas Gage sent 700 British soldiers to seize colonial arms stored at the town of Concord, some twenty miles outside Boston. On the way they would march through Lexington. The Patriot spies soon got the word out.

On the evening of April 18, twenty-three-year-old Dr. Prescott rode to Lexington to report to John Hancock and Samuel Adams on Concord’s readiness, its status in hiding supplies and munitions from the British, and its success in moving cannon to Groton to keep it from falling into British hands.

Wary of returning to Boston after a meeting of the Provincial Congress, which had met in Concord in defiance of royal bans on such meetings, Hancock and Adams were staying in Lexington at the Hancock-Clarke house. The British wanted not only the military stores at Concord, they hoped to arrest Adams and Hancock along the way.

After leaving the patriots, Prescott visited at the home of Miss Lydia Mulliken in Lexington. She had many suitors, reportedly being a woman of grace and beauty, but had recently accepted Samuel’s marriage proposal. They would soon be caught up in the beginning of the fight for the independence of the American colonies from Great Britain.

Lydia was the daughter of a well-respected Lexington clockmaker who had died in 1767, and she lived with her widowed mother, four brothers and two sisters in a home across road from Munroe’s Tavern. Her older brother, Nathaniel, worked their late father’s clock shop and was a member of the local militia.

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Margaret Corbin

Heroine of the Battle of Fort Washington

Margaret Corbin
In a sketch by Herbert Knotel
West Point Museum Art Collection
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York

Margaret Cochran was born on November 12, 1751, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1756, five year old Margaret and her older brother were visiting their uncle when an Indian raiding party attacked her parent’s homestead, killing their father and capturing their mother. The children were then raised by their uncle.

In 1772, Margaret Cochran married John Corbin, a Virginia farmer.

When the Revolutionary War began, John joined the Continental Army, and Margaret went with him. 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.

John’s company was ordered to New York. On November 16,1776, while they were stationed at Fort Washington in upper Manhattan, 4000 British soldiers and Hessian mercenaries attacked the outnumbered Maryland and Virginia riflemen who were defending the position. Corbin’s artillery was ordered to hold off the attackers with what few cannons they had.

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Molly Pitcher

Mary McCauley

Heroine of the American Revolution

Battle of Monmouth 1778
Don Troiani, Artist
On a blistering hot day during the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, young Mary Hays McCauley became Molly Pitcher in American Legend.

Molly Pitcher was a nickname given to a woman said to have fought in the Revolutionary War. The story of Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley is considered folklore by historians, or they suggest that Molly Pitcher is probably a composite of a number of real women. The name itself may have originated as a nickname for women who carried water to men on the battlefield. It has also been suggested that the story of the cannon also applies to another brave woman named Margaret Corbin, but both accounts could be true.

Mary Ludwig was born on October 13, 1744, on a small farm near Trenton, New Jersey, to a German family. She grew up there and helped her father, who was a dairy farmer. She was raised to be a hard worker, and as typical hardworking farm girl—heavy-set, strong, and sturdy—she could do all the chores and tasks that a small farm requires.

At the age of thirteen, Mary Ludwig was hired by a Mrs. Irvine of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who wanted a young girl to help with the housework. Mary lived with Dr. and Mrs. Irvine for many years, and it was there that she met her future husband, John Casper Hays, a young barber who lived in the village.

On July 24, 1769, Mary Ludwig married John Casper Hays. Their only child, Johanes Ludwig Hays, was born in 1783.

In 1775, John Hays enlisted in the First Pennsylvania Artillery as a gunner. Mary, not wanting to be separated from her beloved John, went with her husband to war, which was not unusual at the time. Mary was probably with him through his entire military experience, since records show that she was at Valley Forge from December 1777 through June 1778. Mary nursed the sick and helped by cooking, washing and sewing.

On Sunday, June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, was fought on a very hot day, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. To help the soldiers, Mary carried water from a nearby spring to the thirsty men on that hot and smoky battlefield. The water was also used to cool the blazing cannons. She soon gained the nickname Molly Pitcher.

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Elizabeth Zane

Revolutionary War Heroine

<Betty Zane Monument
Walnut Grove Cemetery
Martins Ferry, Ohio
The school children of the area collected money
to have a large statue of Betty Zane placed at
the entrance to the cemetery.

Elizabeth Zane, better known as Betty, was born on July 19, 1759, in Moorefield, Virginia. She was the daughter of William and Nancy Nolan Zane. Betty moved with her family at an early age to the area that now is Wheeling, West Virginia. Betty’s older brother, Ebenezer Zane, pioneered this area in the turbulent Ohio Valley, which was the home of Native Americans who became increasingly hostile because of encroachment on their lands.

These colonists were defying a royal order that reserved land west of the Appalachian Mountains for Native Americans. The threat of attack increased as the American Revolution began back East: the tribes who lived beyond the Appalachians understandably wanted the British to put down the rebellion, and almost all of them allied themselves with the British.

The Zane family and a few others established Fort Henry, named for Patriot Patrick Henry, in 1774. Fort Henry was a parallelogram, 356 feet long and 150 feet wide, on a hillside overlooking the Ohio River, standing at what is now Tenth and Main streets in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia. The fort was surrounded by a stockade fence twelve feet high, and had a three-foot walkway running around the inside. It was practically impregnable as long as supplies lasted.

The fort covered about three quarters of an acre of ground, and had a block house at each corner, with lines of stout pickets about eight feet high, extending from one to the other. Within the enclosure were a number of cabins for the use of families, and the principal entrance was through a gateway on the side next to the straggling village.

While living with the daily reality of a terrifying attack, the women of Wheeling also were busy with cooking, washing, sewing, weaving, and other household tasks without the supplies that most housewives could take for granted. While men hunted and fished for food, frontier women grew vegetables, tended to livestock and poultry, and often did other farm work.

Betty’s family sent her to school in Philadelphia, but she returned to Wheeling in 1781, the year that Americans won the important Battle of Yorktown. The war was not yet formally over though, and especially on the frontier, an alliance of British Canadians and Native Americans would continue to fight settlers until after the War of 1812.

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Deborah Sampson

Deborah Sampson in Uniform

Female Soldier in the Revolutionary War

Deborah Sampson was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, on December 17, 1760. Although her family name was originally spelled without the p, it is under this spelling that she is most commonly remembered. She was the oldest of seven children of Jonathan and Deborah Bradford Sampson, both of old Colonial stock. Mrs. Sampson was a descendant of William Bradford, once Governor of Plymouth Colony.

Jonathan Sampson abandoned his family and moved to Maine, where he continued to live in poverty. Her mother was of poor health and could not support the children, so she sent them off to live with various friends and relatives. Deborah, aged five, was taken by a spinster, and she was then sent to work in the home of the elderly widow of the Reverend Peter Thatcher.

At the young age of eight, Deborah became an indentured servant in the household of Jeremiah Thomas – the proud father of ten sons – in Middleborough, Massachusetts. For ten years, she helped with the housework and worked on the farm, growing to be almost five feet eight inches tall, almost a foot taller than the average woman of her day, and taller than the average man. Hard labor developed her physical strength.

As was customary with farm girls of the era in her circumstances, she received no formal schooling, but she learned by having the Thomas boys review their studies with her each evening after they returned from school and chores were done for the night. In winter, when there wasn’t as much farm work to be done, she was able to attend school.

When she turned eighteen and was released from her indentured servitude, Deborah took a position as schoolteacher, rejecting the suggestion that she should marry. She supplemented her income by spinning and weaving at various homes and at Sproats Tavern, a gathering place for men who discussed the battles of the Revolutionary War and the heroic exploits of the local young men.

In the Continental Army
At the age of 21, Deborah wanted to do her part in the War for Independence. Since women were not allowed to enlist, she disguised herself as a man. Her physical attributes helped her disguise her sex. She had a muscular build, and her limbs were strong and well proportioned. Her breasts were small, and she could easily bind them with a cloth.

The local recruiting office enlisted Deborah Sampson under the name of “Thomas Thayer” of Carver. Her lack of facial hair did not give her away, since recruiters were signing up adolescents who were too young to grow beards. Because someone had remarked about the manner in which she held a quill pen, she feared that she might have been recognized and did not report for duty the following day.

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Betsy Ross

Maker of the First American Flag

Birth of Our Nation’s Flag
Charles Weisgerber, Artist
9′ x 12′ painting depicts Betsy Ross presenting the first American Flag to George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross

Betsy Ross was born Elizabeth Griscom to parents Samuel Griscom and Rebecca James in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 1, 1752, the eighth of 17 children. She grew up in a household where the plain dress and strict discipline of the Society of Friends (Quakers) dominated her life.

One year before William Penn founded Philadelphia in 1681, Betsy Ross’s great-grandfather, Andrew Griscom, a Quaker carpenter, had already emigrated from England to New Jersey. Andrew was of firm Quaker belief, and he was inspired to move to Philadelphia to become an early participant in William Penn’s holy experiment. He purchased 495 acres of land in the Spring Garden section north of the city of Philadelphia, and received a plot of land within the city limits.

Betsy went to a Quaker public school. For eight hours a day she was taught reading, writing, and received instruction in a trade – probably sewing. After completing her schooling, Betsy’s father apprenticed her to an upholsterer, John Webster. She spent several years under Webster, learning to make and repair curtains, bedcovers, tablecloths, rugs, umbrellas and Venetian blinds, as well as working on other projects that involved sewing.

Betsy fell in love with fellow apprentice, John Ross, who was the son of an Episcopal assistant rector at Christ Church. Quakers frowned on inter-denominational marriages. The penalty for such unions was severe — the guilty party being “read out” of the Quaker meeting house, which meant an irrevocable split from her family and her church. One’s entire history and community would be instantly dissolved.

On a November night in 1773, 21-year-old Betsy eloped with John Ross, regardless of the consequences They ferried across the Delaware River to Hugg’s Tavern in New Jersey, where they were married. When the news of the marriage reached her parents, the Griscoms disowned Betsy.

Despite all this, they were happy and found a spiritual home at Christ Church. George Washington, America’s new commander-in-chief, and his wife Martha Washington sat in an adjacent pew. Less than two years after their wedding, they started their own upholstery business. Betsy and John had no children.

The Revolutionary War
Philadelphia was divided in its loyalties during the American Revolution – many felt they were still citizens of Britain; others were ardent revolutionaries. Betsy and John Ross keenly felt the impact of the war. Business was slow and fabrics were becoming scarce.

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