When I research stories on patriot women who have changed or are changing history, it’s never a surprise to find multiple versions of the same tale. Wherein lies the truth? Well, that’s pretty hard to distinguish sometimes, but where the stories overlap is a pretty good indication you’re on the right track. The other thing I’ve noticed: those gals from the South were pretty saucy wenches! They were constantly a burr under the English saddle…
Take the story of Emily Geiger, for example. In 1781, Nathanael Green, commander of the Colonial forces in the South, besieged South Carolina’s Fort Ninety-Six. The action drew the British forces of Francis Lord Rawdon into the area and Greene knew he would need reinforcements to hold the fort. General Thomas Sumpter was nearby, but Greene needed a courier willing to traverse the Tory-infested countryside and deliver the message. There was not exactly a rush to volunteer for the high-risk assignment. This is evident from the fact that a woman stepped up.
We don’t know how it came about, but an eighteen-year-old girl living on a nearby farm offered to carry the message to Sumpter. Many accounts say that Emily Geiger took this perilous journey alone; other legends say she had a friend–a young girl named Rebecca Starke. I’m inclined to believe that two girls traveling together would have drawn less attention than one; after all, what father would let his daughter travel alone in the middle of a war?
Whether Emily was alone or not is irrelevant to the fact that she was intercepted the first day by British forces. Unable to tell a lie without blushing, the soldiers’ suspicions were raised by her red cheeks and sent for an “old Tory matron” to search her. Obviously these guards were straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean as they left Emily alone whilst they all waited on the interrogator. Emily, who had already committed the message to memory, simply ate the paper, disposing of the evidence. Well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
She, and possibly her friend, were released, and continued on their two-day route to Sumpter, delivering the critical message orally. Sumpter came to Green’s aid and the two held the fort. Squeezed between two hostile forces, the British were pushed grudgingly toward the coast, and the rest is history. Emily had played her brief-but-pivotal role in the war and lives now in the loving arms of South Carolina’s devoted historical societies.
Gotta love those GRITS (for you non-Southerners, that’s Girls Raised in the South).