Ladies of the Revolutionary Period

It has been well said that “patriotic mothers nursed the infancy of the Republic.” During the progress of British encroachment and arbitrary power, producing great colonial discontent, every sagacious politician could discern in the distant future the portentous shadow of the approaching conflict. In the domestic circle was then nurtured and imparted that love of civil liberty which afterwards kindled into a flame, and shed its genial and transforming light upon the world. The conversation of matrons in their homes, or among their neighbors, was of the people’s wrongs and of the tyranny that oppressed them. Under such early training their sons, when grown to manhood, deeply imbued with proper notions of their just rights, stood up in the hour of trial prepared to defend them to the last. The counsels and the prayers of mothers mingled with their deliberations, and added sanctity to all their patriotic efforts for American independence. They animated the courage, confirmed the self-devotion, and shared in the sacrifices of those who, in the common defense, “pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.”

Among the widowed mothers who early instilled into their rising generation a deep love of their country, and a manful determination to defend their firesides and their homes, might be named Mrs. Steele, Mrs. Flinn, Mrs. Sharpe, Mrs. Graham, Mrs. Hunter, Mrs. Jackson and many others, as bright examples in Mecklenburg, Rowan and adjoining counties. In the hour of deepest gloom they frowned upon apathy in the common cause, materially assisted by their benefactions, and urged on the desponding in the path of patriotic duty.

General Moultrie, in his “Memoirs of the American Revolution,” pays a handsome compliment to the ladies of that section of country in which his military services were performed. He says:

“Before I conclude my memoirs I must make my last tribute of thanks to the patriotic fair of South Carolina and Georgia for their heroism and virtue in those dreadful and dangerous times whilst we were struggling for our liberties. Their conduct deserves the highest applause, and a pillar ought to be raised to their memory. Their conduct was such as gave examples even to the men to stand firm; and they despised those who were not enthusiasts in their country’s cause. The hardships and difficulties they experienced were too much for their delicate frames to bear; yet they submitted to them with a heroism and virtue that has never been excelled by the ladies of any country; and I can with safety say that their conduct during the war contributed much to the independence of America.”

Nor were the young ladies of that period less patriotic than their venerable mothers. Their kind sympathies and voluntary contributions were exhibited on every occasion, calling for prompt and beneficent action for the gallant soldier. With fair and willing hands they embroidered colors for military companies, and presented them with the animating charge, “never to desert them”. They formed themselves into associations throughout the colonies, renouncing the use of teas and other imported luxuries, and engaged to card, spin and weave their own clothing. And still further, to arouse a patriotic spirit in every hesitating or laggard bosom, we find in the “South Carolina and American General Gazette,” of February 9th, 1776, the following paragraph, illustrative of female patriotism under a manly and “singular” incentive:

“The young ladies of the best families of Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, have entered into a voluntary association that they will not receive the addresses of any young gentlemen of that place, except the brave volunteers who served in the expedition to South Carolina, and assisted in subduing the Scovillite insurgents. The ladies being of opinion that such persons as stay loitering at home, when the important calls of their country demand their military services abroad, must certainly be destitute of that nobleness of sentiment, that brave, manly spirit, which would qualify them to be the defenders and guardians of the fair sex. The ladies of the adjoining county of Rowan have desired the plan of a similar association to be drawn up and prepared for signature.”

Accordingly, at a meeting of the Committee of Safety, held in Salisbury, May 8th, 1776, we find the following entry in their minutes:

“A letter from a number of young ladies in the county, directed to the chairman, requesting the approbation of the committee to a number of resolutions enclosed, entered into, and signed by the same young ladies being read,

“”Resolved”, That this committee present their cordial thanks to the said young ladies for so spirited a performance; look upon these resolutions to be sensible and polite; that they merit the honor, and are worthy the imitation of every young lady in America.”

And who were the young ladies of Mecklenburg and Rowan counties then prepared to sign such an association, and willing to bestow their fair hands, and pledge their loving hearts “only to those brave soldiers”, who, on the calls of duty, fought the battles of their country? Imagination carries us back to that eventful period, and pictures to our admiring view, among others, the following daughters of Western Carolina, as actuated by such patriotic motives:

Miss Elizabeth Alexander, daughter of Abraham Alexander, Chairman of the Mecklenburg Convention of the 20th of May, 1775, who married William Alexander, son of Hezekiah Alexander, one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration.

Miss Mary Wilson, daughter of Samuel Wilson, Sen., who married Ezekiel Polk, grandfather of James K. Polk, one of our best Presidents, who consented to serve “only for one term”.

Miss Violet Wilson, sister of the above, who married Major John Davidson, one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration.

Miss Jane Morrison, daughter of Neill Morrison, one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration, who married Major Thomas Alexander.

Miss Polk, daughter of Colonel Thomas Polk, who married Dr. Ephraim Brevard, one of the secretaries and signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration.

Miss Margaret Polk, sister of the above, who married Nathaniel Alexander, Representative to Congress from 1803 to 1805, and in the latter year, elected Governor of the State.

Miss Jane Brevard, daughter of John Brevard, and sister of the “seven brothers in the rebel army,” who married General Ephraim Davidson.

Miss Mary Brevard, sister of the above, who married General William Davidson, killed at Cowan’s Ford, on February 1st, 1781.

Miss Charity Jack, sister of Captain James Jack, the bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration to Philadelphia, who married Dr. Cornelius Dysart, a distinguished surgeon of the Revolutionary army.

Miss Lillis Wilson, daughter of Samuel Wilson, Sen., by the third wife (Margaret Jack), who married James Connor, a native of Ireland, who came to America when 21 years old, volunteered in the army, and fought all through the Revolutionary war.

Miss Hannah Knox, daughter of Captain Patrick Knox, killed at the battle of Ramsour’s Mill, who married Samuel Wilson, a soldier of the Revolution.

These are the names of a few of the patriotic young ladies, then on the theater of action, who would be willing to sign such an association, stimulate the “loitering young men” to a proper sense of their duty, and promote the cause of freedom by all “fair means”.

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