Front Matter Our Country Long Ago The Barbarous Indians The Mounds Where the Northmen Went The Northmen in America Queer Ideas Prince Henry the Navigator Youth of Columbus Columbus and the Queen "Land! Land!" Columbus and the Savages Home Again Columbus Ill-treated Death of Columbus How America Got its Name The Fountain of Youth "The Father of Waters" The French in Canada French and Spanish Quarrels The Sky City Around the World Nothing but Smoke Smith's Adventures The Jamestown Men Smith Wounded Pocahontas Visits England Hudson and the Indians The Mayflower Plymouth Rock The First Thanksgiving Snake Skin and Bullets The Beginning of Boston Stories of Two Ministers Williams and the Indians The Quakers The King-Killers King Phillip's War The Beginning of New York Penn and the Indians The Catholics in Maryland The Old Dominion Bacon's Rebellion A Journey Inland The Carolina Pirates Charter Oak Salem Witches Down the Mississippi La Salle's Adventures Indians on the Warpath Two Wars with the French Washington's Boyhood Washington's Journey Washington's First Battle Stories of Franklin Braddock's Defeat Wolfe at Quebec England and her Colonies The Stamp Tax The Anger of the Colonies The Boston Tea Party The Minutemen The Battle of Lexington Bunker Hill The Boston Boys The British leave Boston Declaration of Independence A Lady's Way of Helping Christmas Eve The Fight at Bennington Burgoyne's Surrender Winter at Valley Forge The Quaker Woman Putnam's Adventures Indian Cruelty Boone in Kentucky Famous Sea Fights The "Swamp Fox" The Poor Soldiers The Spy A Traitor's Death Two Unselfish Women Surrender of Cornwallis British Flag hauled down Washington's Farewell

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Quaker Woman

The British quartered in Philadelphia were leading an easy and merry life; but several times during the winter Howe made plans to surprise Washington's troops. To his dismay, however, his plans always seemed known to the Americans, and therefore failed. Afraid that some spy might overhear him, Howe once held a secret meeting at night in the house of a Quaker woman, named Lydia Darrah. To make sure that he should not be overheard, he bade her go to bed, and see that all her family retired likewise.

Lydia obeyed, and the general, thinking all was safe, explained his plan to his officers. But the Quaker woman had noiselessly slipped out of her room again, and was now standing at the door listening to all that was said. As soon as the talk was over she crept back to her room, and when the officers had all gone, Howe called her, as agreed, to lock the door behind him. But she pretended to be sound asleep, and let him knock at her door three times before she rose, yawning, to show him out.

The next day, Lydia, who had not dared breathe a word of what she had heard to any one, said she was out of flour, and got a pass to go and buy some at a village near by. Meeting a patriot there, she quickly warned him of Washington's peril, and then quietly went home.

The next day Howe crossly said to her: "It is very strange; you, I know, were asleep, for I knocked at your door three times before you heard me; yet it is certain we were betrayed. On arriving, we found Washington so prepared at every point that we have been compelled to march back without injuring our enemy, like a parcel of fools." Lydia heard this without making a sign, and not till the war was over did it become known that it was she who had saved the army.

Besides the American patriots, foreigners were helping Washington with all their might. Among these was the Prussian officer, Baron Steuben, who knew no English, and therefore brought over an interpreter with him. According to one story, this interpreter made an idle bet to kiss the first Yankee girl he met. Landing at Portsmouth, this man won his wager by stepping up to a pretty girl, bowing politely, and begging permission to kiss her, saying: "Before leaving my native land to fight for American freedom, I made a vow to ask, in earnest of victory, a kiss from the first lady I should meet." The story adds that the young lady accepted the kiss, saying she could not refuse so small a favor to a man who had come to fight, and if necessary, to die, for her country.

Steuben joined Washington at Valley Forge, and there began to drill the troops, so they could meet the British on an equal footing. At first the German officer was shocked by their lack of discipline, and swore at them in every language he knew; sometimes he even called to his interpreter: "Come and swear for me in English; these fellows will not do what I bid them."

You see, soldiers in those days thought it manly to swear; and as Baron Steuben had been accustomed to European soldiers, who obeyed without a question, it took him some time to grow used to Americans, who, as he said, had to be told, "This is the reason why you ought to do that," before they would obey. Still, he soon taught our men to fight like old and trained soldiers.

The winter the troops spent at Valley Forge was one of the coldest ever seen, and therefore the soldiers' sufferings were very great. But with the spring, hope revived, for the news of the coming French fleet made the British leave Philadelphia to defend New York.

General Howe having gone back to England for his health, it was Clinton who conducted this retreat. Leaving the camp at Valley Forge, Washington pursued him across New Jersey, planning to engage him in a battle at Monmouth (1778).

Here Lee, who had been exchanged for Prescott, and was again in command, disobeyed orders, and bade his men retreat. Warned by Lafayette, Washington came up just in time to check this movement, and, dashing up to Lee, hotly asked what his disobedience meant. Lee answered: "These men cannot face the British grenadiers." But Washington exclaimed: "They can do it, and they shall!" He was right; the men could, and did, face the enemy bravely. But precious time had been lost, and instead of winning a victory, the Americans only managed to stand their ground.

Molly Pitcher


During the battle, Molly Pitcher, a gunner's wife, carrying a pail (of water to her husband, saw him fall. She immediately rushed forward, took his place, and, loading his cannon, fired it as quickly and well as he. In reward for filling her husband's place that day, Congress paid her a small pension, and the soldiers, who admired her pluck, ever after called her "Major Molly."

When darkness came on, the fight ceased, and Washington flung himself down to rest. During the night an officer drew softly near, and the general quickly bade him advance and deliver his message, saying: "I lie here to think, and not to sleep." Washington's thoughts were busy, for now he could no longer doubt that Charles Lee was a traitor. Indeed, he foresaw what soon happened—that Lee would be dismissed from the army in disgrace. In fact, Lee, who had tried to harm the American cause, was never allowed to serve his country again, and had to withdraw to Virginia. There he lived a loveless and solitary life, in a house whose only partitions were chalk lines across the floor.