The Women of the American Revolution/Mary Slocumb, Ester Wake
THE first expedition into North Carolina projected by Lord Cornwallis, was baffled by the fall of Colonel Ferguson at King's Mountain. The disaster at the Cowpens forbade perseverance in the second attempt, and was followed by the memorable retreat of Greene. The battle of Guilford took place in March, 1781 ; and towards the end of April, while Lord Rawdon encountered Greene at Hobkirk's Hill, Cornwallis set out on his march from Wilmington, bent on his avowed purpose of achieving the conquest of Virginia. On his march. towards Halifax, he encamped for several days on the river Neuse, in what is now called Wayne County, North Carolina. His head-quarters were at Springbank, while Colonel Tarleton, with his renowned legion, encamped on the plantation of Lieutenant Slocumb. This consisted of level and extensive fields, which at that season presented a most inviting-view of fresh verdure from the mansion-house. Lord Cornwallis himself gave it the name of " Pleasant Green," which it ever afterwards retained. The owner of this fine estate held a subaltern's commission in the State line under Colonel Washington, and was in command of a troop of light horse, raised in his own neighborhood, whose general duty it was to act as Rangers, scouring the country for many miles around, watching the movements of the enemy, and puniShing the loyalists when detected in their vocation of pillage and murder.' These excursions had been frequent for two or three years, and were often of several weeks' duration. At the present time Slocumb had returned to the vicinity, and had been sent with twelve or fifteen recruits to act as scouts in the neighborhood of the British General. The morning of the day on which Tarleton took possession of his plantation, he was near Springbank, and reconnoitered the encampment of Cornwallis, which he supposed to be his whole force. He then, with his party, pursued his way slowly along the south bank of the Neuse, in the direction of his own house, little dreaming that his beautiful and peaceful home, where, some time before, he had left his wife and child, was then in the possession of the terrible Tarleton.
During these frequent excursions of the Rangers, and the necessary absence of her husband, the superintendence of the plantation had always devolved upon.
Mrs. Slocumb. She depended for protection upon her slaves, whose fidelity she had proved, and upon her own fearless and intrepid spirit. The scene of the occupation of her house, and Tarleton's residence with her, remained through life indelibly impressed on her memory, and were described by her to one who enjoyed the honor of her intimate friendship. I am permitted to give his account, copied almost verbatim from notes taken at the time the occurrences were related by Mrs. Slocumb.
It was about ten o'clock on a beautiful spring morning, that a splendidly-dressed officer, accompanied by two aids, and followed at a short distance by a guard of some twenty troopers, dashed up to the piazza in front of the ancient-looking mansion. Mrs. Slocumb was sitting there, with her child and a near relative, a young lady, who afterwards became the wife of Major Williams. A few house servants were also on the piazza.
The officer raised his cap, and bowing to his horse's neck, addressed the lady, with the question--
"Have I the pleasure of seeing the mistress of this house and plantation!"
"It belongs to my husband."
"Is he at home?" "He is not." "Is he a rebel?"
"No sir. He is in the army of his country, and fighting against our invaders; therefore not a rebe1." It is not a little singular, that although the people of that day gloried in their rebellion, they al ways took offence at being called rebels.
"I fear, madam," said the officer, "we differ in opinion." A friend to his country will be the friend of the king, our master."
" Slaves only acknowledge a master in this country," replied the lady.
A deep flush crossed the florid cheeks of Tarleton, for he was the speaker; and turning to one of his aids, he ordered him to pitch the tents and form the encampment in the orchard and field on their right. To the other aid his orders were to detach a quarter guard and station piquets on each road. Then bowing very low, he added: "Madam, the service of his Majesty requires the temporary occupation of your property; and if it would not be too great an inconvenience, I will take up my quarters in your house."
The tone admitted no controversy. Mrs. Slocumb answered: "My family consists of only myself, my sister and child, and a few negroes. We are your prisoners."
From the piazza where he seated himself, Tarleton commanded a view of the ground on which his troops were arranging their camp. The mansion fronted the east, and an avenue one hundred and fifty feet wide, and about half a mile in length, stretched to the eastern side of the plantation, where was a highway, with open grounds beyond it, partly dry meadow and partly sand barren. This avenue was lined on the south side by a high fence, and a thick hedge-row of forest trees. These are now removed, and replaced by the Pride of India and other ornamental trees. On the north side extended the common rail-fence seven or eight feet high, such as is usually seen on plantations in the low country. The encampment of the British troops being on that part of the plantation lying south of the avenue, it was completely screened by the fences and hedge-row from the view of anyone approaching from down the country.
While the men were busied, different officers came up at intervals, making their reports and receiving orders. Among others, a tory captain, whom Mrs. Slocumb immediately recognized-for before joining the royal army, he had lived fifteen or twenty miles below-received orders in her hearing to take his troop and scour the country for two or three miles round.
In an hour every thing was quiet, and the plantation presented the romantic spectacle of a regular encampment of some ten or eleven hundred of the choicest cavalry of the British monarch.
Mrs. Slocumb now addressed herself to the duty of preparing for her uninvited guests. The dinner set before the king's officers was, in her own words to her friend, "as a good dinner as you have now before you, and of much the same materials." A description of what then constituted a good dinner in that region may not be inappropriate. "The first dish, was, of course, the boiled ham, flanked with the plate of greens. Opposite was the turkey, supported by the laughing baked sweet potatoes; a plate Of boiled beef, another of sausages, and a third with a pair of baked fowls, formed a line across the centre of the table; half a dozen dishes of different pickles, stewed fruit, and other condiments filled up the interstices of the board." The dessert, too, was abundant and various. Such a dinner, it may well be supposed, met the particular approbation of the royal officers, especially as the fashion of that day introduced stimulating drinks to the table, and the peach brandy prepared under Lieutenant Slocumb's own supervision, was of the most excellent sort. It received the unqualified praise of the party; and its merits were freely discussed. A Scotch officer, praising it by the name of whiskey, protested that he had never drunk as good out of Scotland. An officer speaking with a slight brogue, insisted it was not whiskey, and that no Scotch drink ever equalled it. "To my mind," said he, "it tastes as yonder orchard smells."
"Allow me, madam," said Colonel Tarleton, to inquire where the spirits we are drinking is procured."
"From the orchard where your tents stand," answered Mrs. Slocumb.
"Colonel," said the Irish captain, "when we conquer this country, is it not to be divided out among us ?"
"The officers of this army," replied the Colonel, "wiIl undoubtedly receive large possessions of the conquered American provinces."
Mrs. Slocumb here interposed. "Allow me to observe and prophesy," said she, "the only land in these United States which will ever remain in possession of a British officer, will measure but six feet by two."
"Excuse me, madam," remarked Tarleton. "For your sake I regret to say-this beautiful plantation will .be the ducal seat of some of us."
"Don't trouble yourself about me," retorted the spirited lady. "My husband is not a man who would allow a duke, or even a king, to have a quiet seat upon his ground."
At this point the conversation was interrupted by rapid volleys of fire-arms. appearing to proceed from the wood a short distance to the eastward. One of the aids pronounced it some straggling scout, running from the picket-guard; but the experience of Colonel Tarletan could nat be easily deceived.
"There are rifles and muskets," said he, "as well as pistols; and too many to pass unnoticed. Order boats and saddles, and you--Captain, take your troop in the direction of the firing."
The officer rushed out to execute his orders, while the Colonel walked into the piazza, whither he was immediately followed by the anxious ladies. Mrs. Slocumb's agitation and alarm may be imagined; far she guessed but tao well the cause of the interruption. On the first arrival of the officers she had been importuned, even with harsh threats-not, however, by Tarletan-to tell where her husband, when absent on duty, was likely to be found; but after her repeated and peremptory refusals, had escaped further molestation an the subject. She feared now that he had returned unexpectedly, and might fall into the enemy's hands before he was aware of their presence.
Her sole hope was in a precaution she had adapted soon after the coming of her unwelcome guests. Having heard Tarletan give the order to the tory captain as before-mentioned, to patrol the country, she immediately sent for an old negro, and gave him directions to take a bag of corn to the mill about four miles distant, on the road she knew her husband must travel if he returned that day. "Big George" was instructed to warn his master of the danger of approaching his home. With the indolence and curiosity natural to his race, however, the old fellow remained loitering about the premises, and was at this time lurking under the hedge-row, admiring the red coats, dashing plumes, and shining helmets of the British troopers.
The Colonel and the ladies continued on the look-out from the piazza. "May I be allowed, madam," at length said Tarleton, "without offence, to inquire if any part of Washington's army is in this neighborhood.
"I presume it is known to you," replied Mrs. Slocumb, "that the Marquis and Greene are in this State. And you would not of course," she added, after a slight pause, "be surprised at a call from Lee, or your old friend Colonel Washington, who, although a perfect gentleman, it is said shook your hand (pointing to the scar left by Washington's sabre) very rudely, when you last met."*
This spirited answer inspired Tarleton with apprehensions that the skirmish in the woods was only the prelude to a concerted attack on his camp. His only reply was a loud order to form the troops on the right; and springing on his charger, he dashed down the avenue a few hundred feet, to a breach in the, hedgerow,
- As I cannot distrust the authority on which I have received this anecdote, it proves that on more than one occasion the British colonel was made to feel the shaft of female wit, in allusion to the unfortunate battle of the Cowpens. It is said that in a close encounter between Washington and Tarleton during that action, the latter was wounded by a sabre cut on the hand. Colonel Washington, as is well known. figured in some of the skirmishes in North Carolina.
leaped the fence, and in a moment was at the head of his regiment, which was already in line.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Slocumb, with John Howell, a private in his band, Henry Williams, and the brother of Mrs. Slocumb, Charles Hooks, a boy of about thirteen years of age, was leading a hot pursuit of the tory captain who had been sent to reconnoitre the country, and some of his routed troop. These were first discerned in the open grounds east and northeast of the plantation, closely pursued by a body of American mounted militia; while a running fight was kept up with different weapons, in which four or five broad swords gleamed conspicuous. The foremost of the pursuing party appeared too busy with the tories to see any thing else; and they entered the avenue at the same moment with the party pursued. With what horror and consternation did Mrs. Slocumb recognize her husband, her brother, and two of her neighbors, in chase of the tory captain and four of his band, already half-way down the avenue, and unconscious that they were rushing into the enemy's midst!
About the middle of the avenue one of the tories fell; and the course of the brave and imprudent young officers was suddenly arrested by "Big George," who sprang directly in front of their horses, crying, " Hold on, massa! de debbil here! Look yon !"* A glance to the left showed the young men their danger: they were within pistol shot of a thousand men drawn up in order of battle. Wheeling their horses, they discovered a
- Yon, for yonder.
troop already leaping the fence into the avenue in their rear. Quick as thought they again wheeled their horses, and dashed down the avenue directly towards - the house, where stood the quarter-guard to receive them. On reaching the garden fence-a rude structure formed of a kind of lath, and called a wattled fence--they leaped that and the next, amid a shower of balls from the guard, cleared the canal at one tremendous leap, and scouring across the open field to the northwest, were in the shelter of the wood before their pursuers could clear the fences of the enclosure. The whole ground of this adventure may be seen as the traveller passes over the Wilmington railroad, a mile and a half south of Dudley depot.
A platoon had commenced the pursuit; but the trumpets sounded the recall before the flying Americans had crossed the canal. The presence of mind and lofty language of the heroic wife, had convinced the British Colonel that the daring men who so fearlessly dashed into his camp were supported by a formidable force at hand. Had the truth been known, and the fugitives pursued, nothing could have prevented the destruction not only of the four who fled, but of the rest of the company on the east side of the plantation.
Tarleton had rode back to the front of the house, where he remained eagerly looking after the fugitives till they disappeared in the wood. He called for the tory captain, who presently came forward, questioned him about the attack in the woods, asked the names of the American officers, and dismissed him to have his wounds dressed, and see after his men. The last part of the order was needless; for nearly one-half of his troop had fallen. The ground is known to this day as the Dead Men's Field.
As Tarleton walked into the house he observed to Mrs. Slocumb, "Your husband made us a short visit, madam. I should have been happy to make his acquaintance, and that of his friend, Mr. Williams."
"I have little doubt," replied the wife, "that you will meet the gentlemen, and they will thank you for the polite manner in which you treat their friends."
The Colonel observed apologetically, that necessity compelled them to occupy her property; that they took only such things as were necessary to their support, for which they were instructed to offer proper remuneration; and that every thing should be done to render their stay as little disagreeable as possible. The lady expressed her thankfulness for his kindness, and withdrew to her room, while the officers returned to their peach-brandy and coffee, and. closed the day with a merry night.
Slocumb and his companions passed rapidly round the plantation, and returned to the ground where the encounter had taken place, collecting on the way the stragglers of his troop. Near their bivouac he saw the tory captain's brother, who had been captured by the Americans, hanging by a bridal rein from the top of a sapling bent down for the purpose, and struggling In the agonies of death. Hastening to the spot, he severed the rein with a stroke of his sword, and with much difficulty restored him to life. Many in the lower part of North Carolina can remember an old man whose protruded eyes and suffused countenance presented the appearance of one half strangled. He it was who thus owed his life and liberty to the humanity of his generous foe.
Mr. Slocumb, by the aid of Major Williams, raised about two hundred men in the neighborhood, and with this force continued to harass the rear of the royal army, frequently cutting off foraging parties, till they crossed the Roanoke, when they joined the army of La Fayette at Warrenton. He remained with the army till the surrender at Yorktown.
It need hardly be mentioned that "Big George" received his reward for this and other services. His life with his master was one of ease and indulgence. On the division of Colonel Slocumb's estate some years since, a considerable amount was paid to enable the faithful slave to spend the remnant of his days with his wife, who belonged to another person.
Another anecdote, communicated by the same friend of Mrs. Slocumb, is strikingly illustrative of her resolution and strength of will. The occurrence took place at a time when the whole country was roused by the march of the British and loyalists from the Cape Fear country, to join the royal standard at Wilmington. The veteran Donald McDonald issued his proclamation at Cross Creek, in February, 1776, and having assembled his Highlanders, marched across rivers and through forests, in haste to join Governor Martin and Sir Henry Clinton, who were already at Cape Fear. But while he had eluded the pursuit of Moore, the patriots of Newbern and Wilmington Districts were not idle. It was a time of noble enterprise, and gloriously did leaders and people come forward to meet the emergency. The gallant Richard Caswell called his neighbors hastily together; and they came at his call as readily as the clans of the Scotch mountains mustered at the signal of the burning cross. The whole county rose in mass; scarce a man able to walk was left in the Neuse region. The united regiments of Colonels Lillington and Caswell.,encountered McDonald at Moore's Creek;* where, on the twenty-seventh, was fought one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution. Colonel Slocumb's recollections of this bravely-contested field were too vivid to he dimmed by the lapse of years. He was accustomed to dwell but lightly on the gallant part borne by himself in that memorable action; but he gave abundant praise to his associates; and well did -they deserve the tribute. "And," he would say-"my wife was there!" She was indeed; but the story is best told in her own words:
"The men all left on Sunday morning. More than eighty went from this house with my husband; I looked at them well, and I could see that every man had mischief in him. I know a coward as soon as I set my eyes upon him. The tories more than once tried
- Moore's Creek; running from north to south, empties into the South River, about twenty miles above Wilmington. See sketch of Flora McDonald.
to frighten me, but they always showed coward at the bare insinuation that our troops were about.
"Well, they got off in high spirits; every man stepping high and light. And I slept soundly and quietly that night, and worked hard all the next day; but I kept thinking where they had got to-how far; where and how many of the regulars and tories they would meet; and I could not keep myself from the study. I went to bed at the usual time, but still continued to study. As I lay-whether waking or sleeping I know not-I had a dream; yet it was not all a dream. (She used the words, unconsciously, of the poet who was not then in being.) I saw distinctly a body wrapped in my husband's guard-cloak-bloody-dead; and others dead and wounded on the ground about him. I saw them plainly and distinctly. I uttered a cry, and sprang to my feet on the floor; and so strong was the impression on my mind, that I rushed in the direction the vision appeared, and came up against the side of the house. The fire in the room gave little light, and I gazed in every direction to catch another glimpse of the scene. I raised the light; every thing was still and quiet. My child was sleeping, but my woman was awakened by my crying out or jumping on the floor. If ever I felt fear it was at that moment. Seated on the bed, I reflected a few moments-and said aloud: 'I must go to him.' I told the woman I could not sleep and would ride down the road. She appeared in great alarm; but I merely told her to lock the door after me, and look after the child. I went to the stable, saddled my mare-as fleet and easy a nag as ever travelled; and in one minute we were tearing down the road at full speed. The cool night seemed after a mile or two's gallop to bring reflection with it; and I asked myself where I was going, and for what purpose. Again and again I was tempted to turn back; but I was soon ten miles from home, and my mind became stronger every mile I rode. I should find my husband dead or dying-was as firmly my presentiment and conviction as any fact of my life. When day broke I was some thirty miles from home. I knew the general route our little army expected to take, and had followed them without hesitation. About sunrise I came upon a group of women and children, standing and sitting by the road-side, each one of them showing the same ,anxiety of mind I felt. Stopping a few minutes I inquired if the battle had been fought. They knew nothing, but were assembled on the road to catch intelligence. They thought Caswell had taken the. right of the Wilmington road, and gone towards the northwest (Cape Fear). Again as I skimming over the ground through a country thinly settled, and very poor and swampy; but neither my own spirits nor my beautiful nag's failed in the least. We followed the well marked trail of the troops.
"The sun must have been well up, say eight or nine o'clock, when J heard a sound like thunder, which I knew must be cannon. It was the first time I ever heard a cannon. I stopped still; when presently the cannon thundered again. The battle was then fighting. What a fool! my husband could not be dead last night, a nag as ever travelled; and in one minute we were tearing down the road at full speed. The cool night seemed after a mile or two's gallop to bring reflection with it; and I asked myself where I was going, and for what purpose. Again and again I was tempted to turn back; but I was soon ten miles from home, and my mind became stronger every mile I rode. I should find my husband dead or dying-was as firmly my presentiment and conviction as any fact of my life. When day broke I was some thirty miles from home. I knew the general route our little army expected to take, and had followed them without hesitation. About sunrise I came upon a group of women and children, standing and sitting by the road-side, each one of them showing the same ,anxiety of mind I felt. Stopping a few minutes I inquired if the battle had been fought. They knew nothing, but were assembled on the road to catch intelligence. They thought Caswell had taken the right of the Wilmington road, and gone towards the northwest (Cape Fear). Again ;-as I skimming over the ground through a country thinly settled, and very poor and swampy; but neither my own spirits nor my beautiful nag's failed in the least. We followed the well marked trail of the troops.
"The sun must have been well up, say eight or nine o'clock, when I heard a sound like thunder, which I knew must be cannon. It was the first time I ever heard a cannon. I stopped still; when presently- the cannon thundered again. The battle was then fighting. What a fool! my husband could not be dead last night, and the battle only fighting now! Still, as I am so near, I will go on and see how they come out. So away we went again, faster than ever; and I soon found by the noise of guns that I was near the fight. Again I stopped. I could hear muskets, I could hear rifles, and I could hear shouting. I spoke to my mare and dashed on in the direction of the firing and the shouts, now louder than ever. The blind path I had been following brought me into the Wilmington road leading to Moore's Creek Bridge, a few hundred yards below the bridge. A few yards from the road, under a cluster of trees were lying perhaps twenty men. They were the wounded. I knew the spot; the very trees; and the position of the men I knew as if I had seen it a thousand times. I had seen it all night! I saw all at once; but in an instant my whole soul was centred in one spot; for there, wrapped in his bloody guard cloak, was my husband's body! How I passed the few yards from my saddle to the place I never knew. I remember uncovering his head and seeing a face clothed with gore from a dreadful wound across the temple. I put my hand on the bloody face; 'twas warm; and an unknown voice begged for water. A small camp-kettle was lying near, and a stream of water was close by. I brought it; poured some in his mouth; washed his face; and behold-it was Frank Cogdell. He soon revived and could speak. I was washing the wound in his head. Said he, 'It is not that; it is that hole in my leg that is killing me.' A puddle of blood was standing on the ground about his feet. I took his knife, cut away his trousers and stocking, and found the blood came from a shot-hole through and through the fleshy part of his leg. I looked about and could see nothing that looked as if it would do for dressing wounds but some heart-leaves. I gathered a handful and bound them tight to the holes; and the bleeding stopped. I then went to the others; and-Doctor! I dressed the wounds of many a brave fellow who did good fighting long after that day! I had not inquired for my husband; but while I was busy Caswell came up. He appeared very much surprised to see me; and was with his hat in hand about to pay some compliment: but I interrupted him by asking-' Where is my husband ?'
" 'Where he ought to be, madam; in pursuit of the enemy. But pray,' said he, 'how came you here ?'
" 'Oh, I thought,' replied I, 'you would need nurses as well as soldiers. See! I have already dressed many of these good fellows; and here is one'-going to Frank and lifting him up with my arm under his head so that he could drink some more water-' would have died before any of you men could have helped him.'
" 'I believe you,' said Frank. Just' then I looked up, and my husband, as bloody as a butcher, and as muddy as a ditcher,* stood before me.
"Why, Mary!" he exclaimed, 'What are you doing there? Hugging Frank Cogdell, the greatest reprobate in the army.'
- It was his company that forded the creek, and penetrating the swamp, made the furious charge on the British left and rear, which decided the fate of the day.
" I don't care,' I cried. ' Frank is a brave fellow, a good soldier, and a true friend to Congress.'
" 'True, true! every word of it!' said Caswell. 'You are right, madam I with the lowest possible bow.
"I would not tell my husband what brought me there. I was so happy; and so were all! It was a glorious victory; I came just at the height of the enjoyment. I knew my husband was surprised, but I could see he was not displeased with me. It was night again before our excitement had at all subsided. Many prisoners were brought in, and among them some very obnoxious; but the worst of tories were not taken prisoners. They were, for the most part, left in the woods and swamps wherever they were overtaken. I begged for some of the poor prisoners, and Caswell readily told me none should be hurt but such as had been guilty of murder and house-burning. In the middle of the night I again mounted my mare and started for home. Caswell and my husband wanted me to stay till next morning and they would send a party with me; but no! I wanted to see my child, and I told them they could send no party who could keep up with me. What a happy ride I had back! and with what joy did I embrace my child as he ran to meet me!"
What fiction could be stranger than such truth! And would not a plain unvarnished narrative of the sayings and doings of the actors in Revolutionary times, unknown by name, save in the neighborhood where they lived, and now almost forgotten even by their descendants, surpass in thrilling interest any romance ever written! In these days of railroads and steam, it can scarcely be credited that a woman actually rode alone, in the night, through a wild unsettled country, a distance-going and returning-of a hundred and twenty-five miles; and that in less than forty hours, and without any interval of rest ! Yet even this fair equestrian, whose feats would astonish the modern world, admitted that one of her acquaintances was a better horsewoman than herself. This was Miss Esther Wake, the beautiful sister-in-law of Governor Tryon, after whom Wake County was named. She is said to have rode eighty miles-the distance between Raleigh and the Governor's head-quarters in the neighborhood of Colonel Slocumb's residence-to pay a visit; returning the next day. Governor Tryon was here several days, at the time he made the famous foray against the Regulators. What would these women have said to the delicacy of modern refinement in the southern country, fatigued with a moderate drive in a close carriage, and looking out on woods and fields from the windows!
The physiologist may explain the vision that produced an impression so powerful as to determine this resolute wife upon her nocturnal expedition to Moore's Creek. The idea of danger to her husband, which banished sleep, was sufficient to call up the illusion to her excited imagination; and her actions were decided by the impulse of the moment, prompting her to hasten at once to his assistance.
This is not the place to record the Revolutionary services of Colonel Slocumb. The aid of one of his descendants enables me to add some notice of the personal history of his wife to the foregoing anecdotes. Her maiden name was Hooks. She was born in the county of Bertie, North Carolina, in 1760. When she was about ten years of age, her father, after a tour of exploration in search of a portion of country which combined the advantages of fertility and healthful air, removed his family to the county of Duplin. He was an open-hearted, hospitable man; and was one of a number bearing the same character, who settled a region of country called Goshen, still famous in North Carolina for the frank simplicity of the manners of its inhabitants, and for their profuse and generous hospitality. Here were nurtured some of the noblest spirits of the Revolution. The names of Renau, Hill, Wright, Pearsall, Hooks, and Slocumb, among others, are remembered with pride. The constant presence of the loyalists or tories in the neighborhood, and their frequent depredations, called for vigilance as well as bravery. Many a tale of treachery and cruelty, enough to freeze the blood with horror, is this day told at the fireside. Sometimes the barn or dwelling of the doomed whig, wrapped in lurid flames, lighted up the darkness of the night; sometimes his fate was to be hung to a sapling; and not unfrequently these atrocities were in like manner avenged upon the aggressors. Accustomed to hear of such things, and inured to scenes of danger, it cannot be wondered, that the gay and sprightly Mary Hooks should acquire a degree of masculine energy and independence, with many of the accomplishments of the bolder sex. She was at this time in the early bloom of youth, with slender and symmetrical form and pleasing features, animated by blue, expressive, laughing eyes. If not absolutely beautiful, her face could not fail to charm; for it beamed with the bright soul that knew not what it was to fear. Her playful wit and repartee, rendered piquant by her powers of sarcasm, were rarely equalled.
Soon after the removal of the family to Goshen, her mother died; and in 1777, her father married the widow of John Charles' Slocumb, who resided in the locality above described, on the Neuse. At the time of their marriage, the parties had each three children. Ezekiel Slocumb was the eldest son, and as the law then stood, inherited the whole of his father's real estate. Of the two plantations to which he was entitled, however, he gave one to his brother. Though but a youth of seventeen, the management of the property devolved on him; while the other children of the united family lived together at Goshen. In due time for a "course of love," Ezekiel Slocumb and Mary Hooks were married, both being about eighteen years of age. The lovely and spirited bride immediately entered upon her duties at her husband's home on the Neuse; but they were not allowed to remain long in untroubled security. To prevent or punish the frequent depredations of the tories, the boy-husband joined a troop of light-horse, who, acting on their own responsibility, performed the duty of scouts, scouring the country wherever they had notice of any necessity for their presence. In these prolonged absences, Mrs. Slocumb took the entire charge of the plantation, being obliged to perform many of the duties which usually fall to the lot of the rougher sex. She used to say, laughingly, that she had done in those perilous times all that a man ever did, except "mauling rails;" and to take away even that exception she went out one day and split a few. She was a graceful. and fearless rider; and Die Vernon herself never displayed more skillful horsemanship in scampering over the hills of Scotland, than did the subject of this memoir, in her excursions through the wild woods of Neuse. Not only was this southern accomplishment then in vogue among the women, but it was not thought unfeminine to chase the fox, Many a time and oft has our heroine been in at the death, and won the honor. Nor could the stag say confidently, 'this day he would not die,' if Mary Slocumb chanced to be mounted on "Old Roan," with her light unerring "Joe Manton" slung at her side!
But those were not days for sport and pleasure alone. In the knowledge how to spin, sew, and weave, our fair equestrian was perfect. She could also wash and cook; and it was her pride to excel in all she did. In those days matrons of condition disdained not labor with their hands; nor were affluent circumstances an excuse for idleness or extravagance. The results of her perservering industry and that of her domestics appeared at her death in curtains, quilts, and cloths of various sorts and patterns, sufficient in quantity to furnish a country store. Let our indolent fine ladies blush for themselves when they learn that a woman of mind and intelligence, whose rare powers of conversation charmed the social circle, actually carded, spun, wove, cut and made all the clothes worn by an officer of the army in active service during the southern campaign, including his guard-cloak; and that the material of her own dress was manufactured by her own hands !*
- The following picture of a housewife of the olden time is taken from the MS. "Remembrancer" of Christopher Marshall, Member of the Committee of Observation, &c., &c. These curious manuscript papers have been arranged by William Duane, jun., of Philadelphia:
" As I have in this memorandum taken scarcely any notice of my wife's employments, it might appear as if her engagements were very trifling; the which is not the case, but the reverse; and to do her that justice which her services deserved, by entering them minutely, would take up most of my time, for this genuine reason, how that from early in the morning till late at night, she is constantly employed in the affairs of the family, which for four months has been very large; for besides the addition to our family in the house, [is] a constant resort of comers and goers, which seldom go away with dry lips and hungry bellies. This calls for her constant attendance, not only to provide, but also to attend at getting prepared. in the kitchen, baking our bread and pies, meat, &c., and also on the table. Her cleanliness about the house, her attendance in the orchard, cutting and drying apples, of which several bushels have been procured; add to which, her making of cider without tools, for the constant drink of the family, her seeing all our washing done, and her fine clothes and my shirts, the which are all smoothed by her; add to this, her making of twenty large cheeses, and that from one cow, and daily using with milk and cream, besides her sewing, knitting, &c. Thus she looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness; yea, she also stretcheth out her hand, and she reacheth forth her hand to her needy friends and neighbors. I think she has not been above foul' times since her residence has been here, to visit her neighbors.
Mrs. Slocumb's was a happy girlhood and youth. She always recurred to its history with delight; and retained the fashion of dress then prevalent with a fond pertinacity amusing to others. She scorned ever to wear any other than the long tight-waisted habit worn in her youthful days; and however costly the material, it had to be cut in the good old way. For almost sixty years she never did, and never would, allow herself to vary one iota from the fashion of Seventy-Six. It was with her a matter of pride no less than taste; it was a relic of the Revolution; and it would have savored of ingratitude, if not of impiety, to cast it away.
The true dignity of an American matron was shown in Mrs. Slocumb's reception and entertainment of the British officers, as already related. Her deportment was uniformly calm and self-possessed; her lofty spirit gave to her s-lender and fragile form a majesty that secured the respect of all the officers, and protected her from the slightest approach towards insolent familiarity. She presided at her table with dignity and courtesy, extending open hospitality to all her unbidden guests. Her liberality was acknowledged by strict orders that 'no depredations should be committed on any thing belonging to the house or plantation. These orders were in general successfully enforced; but even military authority could not save the farm-yard poultry or stock from a hungry soldiery. Not a feather was left, and many a fine bullock was knocked in the head. But in other things the protection availed her. On the news of the army's approach, she had taken the precaution to bury in the edge of a marsh near at hand, her plate and other valuables. The soldiers suspected the place of deposit, and plunged their pike-staffs into the ground about the spot, until they discovered the treasure. They were compelled to restore it to the rightful owner.
Mrs. Slocumb's little son, at this time two or three years old, became a pet with several of the officers. The little fellow was permitted to share with them the pleasure and pride of prancing about on their splendid chargers. Perhaps to some of them his childish glee recalled their own domestic circles, and awakened in their stern hearts the holy feelings of home. They seemed delighted when the infant equestrian thus playing dragoon, would c]ap his little hands and shout in his innocent mirth. This child was the Hon. Jesse Slocumb, member of Congress, who died full of honors in early manhood. His remains rest in the Congressional burial-ground at Washington. The brother of Mrs. Slocumb already mentioned, was at the same time a member from the Wilmington District. He died two or three years since in Alabama.
When the British army broke up their encampment at the plantation, a sergeant was ordered by Colonel Tarleton to stand in the door till the last soldier had gone out, to ensure protection to a lady whose noble bearing had inspired them all with the most profound respect. This order was obeyed; the guard brought up the rear of that army in their march northward Mrs. Slocumb saw them depart with tears of joy; and on her knees gave thanks, with a full heart, to the Divine Being who had protected her. A day or two afterwards, her husband returned to her arms and a happy home. They lived together for sixty years in unbroken harmony, the patriarchs of all that country, and looked up to by the inhabitants with unbounded love and respect. Many a traveller has been entertained at this hospitable mansion. A chapter might here be written on the subject of that ancient hospitality now so nearly obsolete in regions of country visited by the march of improvement. It was preserved in all its primitive exuberance in the house of Colonel Slocumb; there was always provision in his larder, and a place at his board for the chance guest, who was certain of a cordial welcome, and wine which a connoisseur would have pronounced of the choicest vintage of Europe. If it be asked how this unbounded hospitality was supported-the answer is, every thing used was of home manufacture; nothing being purchased except those few essentials which are not the produce of our country.
Mrs. Slocumb possessed a strong and original mind, a commanding intellect and clear judgment, which she retained unimpaired to the time of her death. Among her friends she was remarkable for vivid powers of conversation, while those less familiarly acquainted thought her reserved, and some fancied her severe and sarcastic. In this respect she was misjudged, for her severity was aimed only at folly or misconduct.
Her characteristic fortitude in the endurance of bodily pain-so great that it seemed absolute stoicism-should be noticed. In her seventy-second year she was afflicted with a cancer on her hand, which the surgeon informed her must be removed with the knife. At the time appointed for the operation she protested against being held by the assistants, telling the surgeon, "it was his business to cut out the cancer; she would take care of her arm." He insisted, however, on her submitting to be held. At the first incision, one of the assistants complained of faintness; Mrs. Slocumb bade him go away; and driving them off, braced her arm on the table, and never moved a muscle nor uttered a groan during the operation.
In her last years she was visited with a complication of disorders, enough to have broken the stoutest spirit; but bore all with Christian patience, and at the age of seventy-six sank quietly to rest. She died on the sixth of March, 1836. Her venerable husband survived her about five years. Both now slumber together near the home where they lived and loved so long. Pleasant Green has passed into the hands of other owners; the noble old oaks that surrounded the mansion and lined the avenue, have been girdled, and seem to lift their bare arms in lamentation for their ancient possessors. But the memory of those who dwelt there is linked with glorious recollections, which time can never efface from American hearts.
MENTION has been made of Esther Wake, the sister of Lady Tryon. These two lovely and accomplished women exercised great influence, according to tradition, in matters of state.* The gallantry of a warm-hearted people perhaps inclined them to estimate the character of their governor by the grace, beauty and accomplishment that adorned his domestic circle. The governor's dinners were princely, and the fascination of the ladies irresistible. In his attempt to obtain an appropriation from the assembly for building a splendid palace, female genius and influence rose superior to his official consequence and political maneuvers. Though the colony was poor, their management obtained a second grant. The admiration they commanded helped to sustain Governor Tryon's waning authority. When the royal government was annihilated, and the motion to change the name of Tryon County was under consideration, the resolution to alter that of Wake was rejected by acclamation. Thus the county in which the city of Raleigh is located, is consecrated to the memory of beauty and virtue.
- Sabine's American Loyalists. Jones' Defence of North Carolina.