American History Stories—Volume II - Mara L. Pratt

The Women of South Carolina

The women of South Carolina were not one step behind the men in bravery and patriotic spirit.

In a certain battle at Cowpens—not a very romantic name—a certain General Tarleton was totally defeated by an American officer, Colonel Washington. General Tarleton, who was, I think, not much of a gentleman, used to seize every opportunity to sneer at Colonel William Washington whenever a certain patriotic woman, a great admirer of the brave young Washington, was present.

Now, as Tarleton bore a wound which young Washington had given him, and had, moreover, been chased like a puppy from the battlefield, one would think that Tarleton’s good taste would have prevented him from saying much about it; but Tarleton had not very exquisite taste, I think.

"I should like to see this young friend of yours," said Tarleton one day to this lady; "I hear he is a very common, mean-looking man."

"If you had taken time to look behind  you at Cowpens, General Tarleton, you would have been sure to see him," returned the lady quickly.

One would suppose, after this sharp reply, that General Tarleton would have said no more against Colonel Washington, but only a few days later, at a large dinner, at which this same lady was present, General Tarleton again said, "I understand that this young Washington is a very ignorant man. I am told that he cannot even write his name."

"Possibly he cannot," said the lady, quick-witted as before; "but," continued she, pointing to General Tarleton’s wounded arm, "he can make his mark as you yourself can testify."

Another story is told of a South Carolina woman who had seven sons in the patriotic army. One day, a British general stopped at her house, and tried to show her how much better it would be for her sons if they would only join the British army.

"Join the British army!" cried she. "Sooner than see one of my boys turn against his own country, would I go, this baby in my arms, and enlist under Marion’s banner, and show my sons how to fight, and, if need be, die, for the freedom of this land of ours."

And these brave women of South Carolina not only encouraged their husbands and sons by brave words, but often acted the part of messengers in expeditions of trust and secrecy. Two brave women, whose husbands were in the army, disguised themselves in the dress of men, and captured two British soldiers, compelled them to give up the messages they were carrying, and bore them to General Greene, whose camp was not far distant.