Tag Archives: women in the revolutionary war

Betty Zane– the Way Kids Used to be

Kids these days…are they really that different than previous generations? If Jerod Lee Loughner, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are examples, I’m thinkin, “Yup.” Something diabolic is destroying their minds. Perhaps it is just the conspiracy theorist in me, but it seems the more we rag on America, the more we get kicked in the gut. There was a time when the good ol’ US of A was a country worth fighting for; now she only seems good for target practice. When I think back on the patriots, especially the women patriots, who risked everything for the mere idea of America, I want to hang my head in shame…or throttle someone. There are a few patriots in our past I wish I could bring forth to chastise us.

Take, for example, Betty Zane. In September of 1872, the Zane family and their neighbors were pinned down in Fort Henry by British and American Indians sympathetic to the British. 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 Wheeling, [WV] surrounded by a stockade fence twelve feet high, and framed by a three-foot walkway running around the inside. It was practically impregnable so long as supplies lasted.1 When the fort commander, David Shepherd (ironically the name of my literary agent), yelled out that gunpowder was running dangerously low, three men volunteered to slip outside the fort and hunt for some. An argument quickly developed, however, as each man asserted he was more expendable than the others. Betty Zane, a mere girl of only 13, said firmly, “I will go,” and volunteered to retrieve a hidden cache of gunpowder from her brother’s home a hundred yards outside the fort. This was an amazing offer as Betty had been awake for nearly 40 hours, making lead balls. Still, she was the only person who knew where her brother had hidden the gunpowder. She further argued that the enemy outside the gate would let her pass, since a twig of a girl certainly could pose no threat to them.

She snuck outside the fort but was spotted almost immediately by Indians…who—strangely—let her pass. She went home, found the keg of powder, poured as much of it as possible into her apron (some say a tablecloth) and returned to the fort—unmolested. Thanks to Betty’s courage, the folks in the fort outlasted the attack and won the battle.

No matter upon what side of the political fence you fall, you have to admit that stunt took courage. If today’s generation can’t get their heads out of the Prozac and video games long enough to find their own courage within, I dare say America doesn’t stand a fighting chance. The kids don’t shoulder the blame alone, though. As parents, it is clearly our responsibility to shape minds, limit TV time, pull the plug on FB and Youtube, engage with our children, and get them involved in nation-building—ours! Come on, I know there’s a Betty Zane out there somewhere.

1 http://www.wvdar.org/ElizabethZane/zane-bio.htm


SC GRITS Beat the Brits Every Time…

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).