The Women of the American Revolution/Anna Bailey, Mrs. Wright -- Mrs. Shattuck, Rebecca Barlow

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Third Edition - 1849

at the time of the burning of New London, in Connecticut, a detachment of the army of the traitor Arnold was directed to attack Fort Griswold, at Groton, on the opposite side of the river. This fort was little more than a rude embankment of earth, thrown up as a breast-work for the handful of troops it surrounded, with a strong loghouse in the centre. The garrison defending it, under the command of the brave Colonel Ledyard, was far inferior to the force of the assailants; but the gallant spirits of the commander and his men could not brook the thought of retreat before a marauding enemy, without an effort at resistance. They refused to yield, and stood their ground, till, overwhelmed by numbers, after a fierce and bloody encounter, hand to hand, with the foe, it was found to be impossible to maintain the post. No mercy was shown by the conquerors-the noble Ledyard was slain in the act of surrender, with the sword he had placed in the hand of the commander of the assailants-and after an indiscriminate butchery, such of the prisoners as showed signs of life, were thrown into a cart, which heaped with mangled bodies, was started down a steep and rugged hill towards the river.

The course of the cart being interrupted by stones and logs, the victims were not precipitated into the water; and, after the enemy had been driven off by the roused inhabitants of the country, friends came to the aid of the wounded, and several lives were preserved. Their sufferings before relief could be obtained, were indescribable. Thirty-five men, covered with wounds and blood, trembling with cold, and parched with thirst, lay all night upon the bare floor, almost hopeless of succor, and looking to death as a deliverance from intolerable anguish. With the first ray of morning came a ministering angel to their aid-one who bore a name imperishably connected with the event-Miss Fanny Ledyard-a near relative of the commander who had been so barbarously murdered. She brought warm chocolate, wine, and other refreshments; and while Dr. Downer of Preston was dressing their wounds, she went from one to another, administering her cordials, and breathing into their ears gentle words of sympathy and encouragement. In these labors of kindness she was assisted by another relative of the lamented Colonel Ledyard-Mrs. John Ledyard-who had also brought her household stores to refresh the sufferers, and lavished on them the most soothing personal attentions. The soldiers who recovered from their wounds were accustomed, to the day of their death, to speak of these ladies in terms of fervent gratitude and praise.

The morning after the massacre at Fort Griswold, a young woman, now Mrs. Anna Bailey, left her home, three miles distant, and came in search of her uncle, who had joined the volunteers on the first alarm of invasion, and was known to have been engaged in the disastrous conflict. He was among those wounded unto death. His niece found him in a house near the scene of slaughter, where he had shared the attention bestowed on the rest. His wounds had been dressed, but it was evident that he could bear no further removal, and that life was fast departing. Still perfect consciousness remained, and with dying energy he entreated that he might once more behold his wife and child.

Such a request was sacred to the affectionate and sympathizing girl. She lost no time in hastening home, where she caught and saddled the horse used by the family, placed upon the animal the delicate wife, whose strength could not have accomplished so long a walk; and taking the child herself, bore it in her arms the whole distance, and presented it to receive the blessing of its expiring father.

With pictures of cruelty like the scene at Groton fresh in her recollection, it is not surprising that Mrs. Bailey, during the subsequent years of her life, has been noted for bitterness of feeling towards. the ancient enemies of her country. She was emphatically a daughter of the Revolution, and in those ti0es of trial was nourished the ardent love of her native land for which she has ever been distinguished, and the energy and resolution which in later days prompted the patriotic act that has made her name so celebrated as "the heroine of Groton." This act was performed in the last war with Great Britain. On the 13th July, 1813, a British squadron appearing off New London harbor, an attack, evidently the enemy's object, was momentarily expected. The most intense excitement prevailed among the crowds assembled on both sides of the river, and the ancient fort was again manned for a desperate defence. In the midst of the preparations for resistance, it was discovered that there was a want of flannel to make the cartridges. There being no time to cross the ferry to New London, Mrs. Bailey proposed appealing to the people living in the neighborhood-went herself from house to house to make the collections, and took even a garment from her own person to contribute to the stock.* This characteristic instance of enthusiasm in the cause of her country, with the impression her remarkable character has produced, has acquired for her a degree of popularity, which brings many curious visitors, from time to time, to see and converse with the heroine of whom they have heard so much, and to look at her museum of Revolutionary relics.

Her maiden name was Anna Warner, and she

  • A graphic account of this incident, and of "Mother Bailey," appeared in the Democratic Review for January, 1847. But as a piece of historical justice, it is due to this heroine to state that she denies having used the coarse and profane expression there attributed to her. The highly intelligent lady residing in New London, who received the particulars I have mentioned from Mrs. Bailey's own lips, also says that she has never claimed the credit of being among those who ministered to the wants of the wounded, after the massacre at Fort Griswold.

married Captain Elijah Bailey, of Groton. She is still living, in her eighty-ninth year, in the possession of her mental faculties, able to describe the scenes of hardship and peril in which she shared in the nation's infancy, and still glowing with the ardent feelings. of love to America and hatred to America's foes, which have given a coloring to her life.

The fol1owing extract from Butler's "History of Groton," may show that the women of Massachusetts were not behind their sisters of other States in patriotic daring.

"The patriotism of the women in those times 'which tried men's souls,' must not be passed over in silence. After the departure of Colonel Prescott's regiment of 'minute-men,'. Mrs. David Wright of Pepperell, Mrs. Job Shattuck of Groton, and the neighboring women, collected at what is now Jewett's Bridge, over the Nashua, between Pepperell and Groton, clothed in their absent husbands' apparel, and armed with muskets, pitchforks, and such other weapons as they could find; and having elected Mrs. Wright their commander, resolutely determined that no foe to freedom, foreign or domestic, should pass that bridge. For rumors were rife, that the regulars were approaching, and frightful stories of slaughter flew rapidly from place to place,. and from house to house.

"Soon there appeared one'" on horseback, supposed

  • "Captain Leonard Whiting, of Hollis, N. H., a noted tory. He was in reality the bearer of despatches from Canada to the British in Boston. An article was some time after inserted in a warrant for town meeting: 'To see what the town will vote or order to be paid to Mr. Solomon Rogers, for entertaining Leonard Whiting and his guard.' Not acted upon."

to be treasonably engaged in conveying intelligence to the enemy. By the implicit command of Sergeant Wright, he is immediately arrested, unhorsed, searched, and the treasonable correspondence found concealed in' his boots. He was detained prisoner, and sent to Oliver Prescott, Esq., of Groton, and his despatches were sent to the Committee of Safety."

The worthy author of the History of Groton has omitted, in his account of this transaction, one of the most important and characteristic particulars, which I cannot, as a faithful chronicler, neglect to notice, having received it on the authority of America's most distinguished historian. The officer thus taken prisoner, being a politic gentleman, and probably somewhat experienced in the tactics of gallantry, endeavored, when thus arrested and disarmed, to win his way by kissing his fair captors. But they were proof against his arts as well as his arms.

IT is not generally known that Joel Barlow-the poet, philosopher and politician, the author of the Columbiad and other works-owed much of the formation of his mind and character to the wife of his elder brother Aaron. Much of his time in early life was spent in the society of his sister-in-law, who was a - woman of strong mind, and united the qualities of gentleness and resolute firmness. Her residence was at Redding, Connecticut; in the south part of the town, called by the Indian name of "Umpawag," which it still retains. The country is much broken, and the ground almost entirely covered with stones; yet the soil was rich enough to reward the labor of the husbandman, and for some years after their marriage the young couple lived there in comfort. When the stirring scenes of the Revolution commenced, were called to act their part. The husband entered the army in the service of his country, and in a sport time was promoted to the rank of colonel. His military duties required long absences from home, and the young wife was left to take the entire charge of her helpless little ones. The courage and resolution she displayed, in the midst of many trials, moved the admiration of those who knew her, and presented an example which ought to be recorded for the benefit of her countrymen. No feminine fears were strong enough to prevent the calm discharge of her duty to her family. At one time a rumor came that the British army was approaching and would probably reach Umpawag that very night. The terrified inhabitants resolved on instant flight, and each family, gathering together such of their effects as they could take with them, quitted the vil1age, and were travelling nearly the whole night to reach a place of refuge from the enemy. Mrs. Barlow could not carry away her children, and to leave them was out of the question; she therefore remained to protect them, or share their fate, being deserted by all her neighbors. No enemy, however, was near; the groundless alarm having been caused by the firing of some guns below.

At one time during the war, a brigade of the American troops under the command of General Putnam, was quartered during the winter months at Redding. The head-quarters of the General were in an old-fashioned house, standing at some distance from the road, with a green lawn in front. A lane led from this to the public highway. Nearly a quarter of a mile distant, and parallel with this ancient mansion, stood the residence of Colonel Barlow.

The story of Mrs. Barlow's heroism, in remaining alone in the village when the attack from the British was apprehended, was of course told to the bluff General, and gained his admiration for the intrepid young mother. He also heard much of her fortitude amidst the privations to which she was obliged to submit, of her gentle and courteous, though retiring deportment, and her cheerful endurance of evils common to all, which she hoped might result in the accomplishment of great good to her country. It is said that, feeling a curiosity to make the acquaintance of one whose character met with his strong approbation, he took a stroll over the fields towards her house, on a frosty morning in February-wearing the simple dress of a countryman and made her a visit; his ostensible errand being a neighborly request that Mrs. Barlow would be kind enough to give or lend him a little yeast for a baking. *

  • This incident is related by a descendant of Mrs. Barlow.

He entered the kitchen without ceremony, where the matron was busily engaged in preparing breakfast, and stopping a moment to look at her, asked for the yeast. But she had none to give, and told him so, each time his request was repeated, without suspending her employment to look at her visitor. It was not till after his departure, that she was informed by her old black servant who it was, who had asked the favor with such importunity.

"I suppose"-was her remark- "had I known him, I should have treated him with rather more civility; but it is no matter now." And Putnam, who had observed her cheerful countenance, and attention to her domestic affairs, saw that she was of the proper material for the matrons of the infant nation.

The house in which General Putnam had his headquarters at this time, was long celebrated on that ac count. It was taken down a few years since, and a new and elegant mansion erected on the spot where it stood. The inhabitants of Umpawag saw with regret what they could not but deem the sacrilegious destruction of a dwelling so hallowed by association, and rich with reminiscences of the early and glorious struggle of our country for freedom-that a more costly edifice might be built on the ground it occupied.

Rebecca Barlow was the daughter of Elnathan Sanford, of Redding, and was born in the village where she resided after her marriage; A few years after the war ended, Colonel Barlow, with his family, removed to Norfolk in Virginia, where he subsequently fell a victim to the yellow fever. The whole family suffered with the disease; and after the burial of her husband and daughter, and the recovery of the others, the widow returned to her former home at Umpawag. She died at an advanced age. Some of her sons have rendered important services to their country as statesmen. The youngest, Thomas, accompanied his uncle Joel, the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of France, as his Secretary; and after the death of Joel at Paranoia, in the winter of 1812, escorted his wife, who had been left in Paris, to America. The remains of the minister were brought with them, and placed in the family vault at Washington.