The Women of the American Revolution/Susannah Elliott, Sabina Elliott, Mrs. Lewis Morris, Jane Washington, Anna Elliott, Sarah Hopton
THE presentation of a pair of colors, by the wife of Colonel Barnard Elliott, is mentioned in several historical works. They were presented to the second South Carolina regiment of infantry, commanded by Colonel Moultrie,-on the third day after the attack on Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, which took place June 28th, 1776. These colors were very elegant, and both richly embroidered by Mrs. Elliott's own hand. One was of fine blue, the other of red silk. They were presented with these words: " Your gallant behavior in defence of liberty and your country, entitles you to the highest honors; accept these two standards as a reward justly due to your regiment; and I make not the least doubt, under Heaven's protection, you will stand by them as long as they can wave in the air of liberty."*
The colors having been received from the lady's hands by the Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel, she was thanked for the gift-and a promise was made by the Colonel in the name of the soldiers-that they should be
- Moultrie's Memoirs; Ramsay's History of South Carolina; McCall's History of Georgia.
honorably supported, and never tarnished by the second regiment. Never was pledge marc nobly fulfilled. Three years afterwards, they were planted on the British lines at Savannah. Two officers, who bore them, lost their lives; and just before the retreat was ordered, the gallant Sergeant Jasper, in planting them on the works, received a mortal wound and fell into the ditch. One of the standards was brought off in the retreat; and Jasper succeeded in regaining the American camp. In his last moments he said to Major Harry, who had called to see him-" Tell Mrs. Elliott I lost my life supporting the colors she presented to our regiment." The colors were afterwards taken at the fall of Charleston, and were deposited in the Tower of London.
The maiden name of Mrs. Barnard Elliott was Susannah Smith. She was a native of South Carolina, and the daughter of Benjamin Smith, for many years Speaker of the Assembly of the province. Left young an orphan and an heiress, she was brought up by her aunt, Mrs. Rebecca Motte, with whom she lived till her marriage. Mrs. Daniel Hall used to say she was one of the most busy among the Revolutionary women, and always active among the soldiers. It is known that her husband raised and maintained a regiment at his own expense. Among the papers in the possession of the family is a letter from General Greene to Mrs. Elliott, expressive of high respect and regard, offering her a safe escort through the camp, and to any part of the country to which she might desire to travel.
While at her plantation called "The Hut," she had three American gentlemen as guests in the house. Surprised one day by the sudden approach of the British, she hurried them into a closet, and opening a secret door, disclosed a large opening back of the chimney, known only to herself, and contrived for a hiding-place. Two entered but the third determined to trust to the fleetness of his horse, and his knowledge of the woods. In leaping a fence he was overtaken, and cut down within sight of the house.
This was searched thoroughly for the others; but no threats could induce Mrs. Elliott to reveal th6ir place of retreat. The officers then demanded, her silver; and pointing to some mounds of earth not far off, asked if the plate was buried there. Mrs. Elliott replied that those mounds were the graves of British soldiers who had died at her house. Not believing her, they ordered two of the soldiers to dig and see. The coffin in one of the graves was soon disinterred; and on opening it the truth was at once made manifest. After the men had taken their departure, Mrs. Elliott released her two guests. The silver had been put in a trunk and buried in the marsh by a faithful servant, who after the close of the war came to Mrs. Elliott's son, requested assistance to dig for it, and brought it out safe, though perfectly blackened.
Mrs. Elliott was beautiful in person, with a countenance inexpressibly soft and sweet. Her portrait is in the possession of the family, defaced by the act of a British soldier- a small sword having been run through one eye. Her descendants reside in Charleston, and in other parts of the State.
A Revolutionary jeu d'esprit sent me by a friend. in Charleston, containing allusions to some of the prominent whig ladies, mentions the name of Mrs. Elliott. It is a letter from Major Barry to "Mrs. G." and was found copied in the hand-writing of Bishop Smith. It. appears to be a burlesque dedication of a poem, which unfortunately has not descended to posterity. It is somewhat curious to observe how the writer, with playful sarcasm, characterizes women of the opposite party, while seeking one who might fitly matronize his offspring.
" The feathers which bedeck the head of Mrs. Ferguson for a moment attracted my attention, but right fearful was I lest the critics and poetasters of this age might infer a light foundation from so airy a superstructure ; which most sorrowful event might at once overthrow both the patronized and patronizer.
"Mrs. Savage and Mrs. Parsons called vociferously for notice; but their zeal so shook the dagger and the bowl in their hands, that I deemed them unfit for the calm dignity of the tragic scene. Too much mildness, on the other hand, superseded the veteran Mrs. Pinckney, when I beheld her smiling, sliding, gliding advance to meet the commissioners of sequestration. As for Mrs. Charles Elliott, she is only allied to such exalted spirits by the zeal of party-perhaps in her case the too exuberant emanation of a delicate and susceptible mind. And as the banners in the hand of Mrs. Barnard Elliott waved but for a moment, flimsy as the words that presented them, so slight a triumph could not entitle her to fame so pre-eminent as this. 'Tis in you alone, madam, we view united every concomitant for this most eminent distinction-qualities which receive addition, if addition they can have, from the veteran and rooted honors of that exalted character, the General -a character allied to you by all the warm as well as tender ties. It is with pleasure I ever view the Wharf and Bridge, those works of his hands, which stand, like the boasted independence of your country, the crumbling monuments of his august repute. With what rapture do I behold him, in the obscure recesses of St. Augustine, attracting the notice of all mankind, and, as he traverses the promised land, planting deep in Hebrew ground the roots of everlasting fame, etc."
Although not active in political affairs, the patriotic feeling and secluded, yet picturesque life of SABINA ELLIOTT, passed in the exercise of the domestic and Christian virtues, was not without its influence. By the early death of her parents, she was left in her eighth year, the eldest of several daughters, dependent on their relatives; and was brought up by an aunt. Her personal beauty was remarkable; and when she was about fourteen, arrested the attention of William Elliott, a wealthy Widower, who had been twice married, but had no children. He saw her accidentally in the street, dressed in coarse apparel, and carrying a pitcher of water into the house; and deeply impressed by her appearance, sought an early introduction to the aunt, and soon after married the object of his admiration. He then procured masters for her and her sisters, whom he took home and educated. All, except one, married from his house.
When Mrs. Elliott was about twenty-eight, the sad event took place which cast a blight on her life. Her husband riding one day over his rice fields, on a low horse he commonly used, struck with his whip a dog lying by the roadside. The animal sprang upon him and tore his cheek. It was discovered soon after to be mad; and Mr. Elliott calmly made preparations to meet his terrible and inevitable fate. So fearful was he that in the paroxysms of the disease he might injure some of his family, that he strictly commanded two of his stoutest men servants to bind him hand and foot upon the first symptom. At the end of forty days he died of hydrophobia.
The grief caused by this misfortune, and the loss of three children, permanently impaired Mrs. Elliott's health. Two daughters remained to her; the eldest married Daniel Huger; Ann, the youngest, was united, at the close of the war, to Colonel Lewis Morris, aid-decamp to General Greene, and eldest son of Lewis Morris, of Morrisania, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Mrs. Elliott employed herself constantly in useful domestic occupations; and was remarkable for industry and economy of time. She superintended the manufacture of the wool and cotton worn by her slaves, to whom she was most kind and indulgent; and made salt on her plantation during the war. Some of the stockings knit by her are still extant-having the date, 1776, knit in the threads.
Garden relates a pleasant anecdote of her wit. A British officer having ordered the plundering of her poultry houses. she afterwards observed, straying about the premises, an old muscovy drake, which had escaped the general search. She had him caught, and mounting a servant on horseback, ordered him to follow and deliver the bird to the officer with her compliments; as she concluded that in the hurry of departure, it had been left altogether by accident.
She took particular delight in improving the family seat, Accabee, seven miles from Charleston. This place, mentioned in history, was noted during the war as a place of refuge; being unmolested because its mistress had no male relative to be obnoxious to the British. The mansion was of brick, solidly built; with a piazza in front, and a garden and lawn extending to the Ashley river. The grounds were covered with grass, on which the sheep owned by Mrs. Elliott might be seen lying under the magnificent live oaks decorated with the floating, silvery moss so beautiful in the low country. The graceful fringe tree and magnolia grandiflora, with other ornamental trees, grew in clumps in front and on either side. In the rear, a portico looked on an avenue of flowering locusts, nearly a mile in length. A circular stairs ascended from the spacious hall to Mrs. Elliott's study. This beautiful country seat, now in ruins, was the usual residence of Mrs. Elliott in the spring months; the summers being spent at Johnson's Fort, on John's Island. It was there that she died.
ANN ELLIOTT, the wife of Lewis Morris, was born at Accabee. In Charleston, while the city was occupied by the British, she wore a bonnet decorated with thirteen small plumes, as a token of her attachment to republican principles; and for her patriotic spirit, was called " the beautiful rebel." Kosciusko was her admirer and correspondent. An English officer-the second son of a noble family-who was billeted upon her mother, became so enamored of her that he sought the good offices of one of her female friends to intercede in his behalf; and even offered, if she would favor him, to join the Americans. Miss Elliott bade her friend say to him in reply, that to her former want of esteem, was added scorn for a man capable of betraying his sovereign for selfish interest. She had before declined the gift of a splendid English saddle-horse, of which he wished her acceptance. She would not attend church, as she had been accustomed, in Charleston, while prayers were offered there for the success of the British arms; preferring to join in the service read at her mother's house, where petitions were put up for the downfall of the invaders.
At one time, while Colonel Morris, to whom she was then engaged, was on a visit to. her at Accabee, the attention of the family was drawn to the windows by an unusual noise, and they perceived that the house was surrounded by the Black Dragoons, in search of the young officer, who had no time to escape. Ann went to one of the windows, opened it, and presenting herself to the view of the dragoons, demanded what they wanted. " We want the rebel!" was the reply. "Go and look for him in the American army" answered the young girl. "How dare you disturb a family under the protection of both armies?" Her firmness and resolution conquered; and the enemy departed without further molestation.
Colonel and Mrs. Morris owned, among other possessions, a cotton plantation on the Edisto River, about four miles from Charleston, called the Round O, which is mentioned in Lee's Southern War. They had also a residence upon Sullivan's Island. In September of one year there was so severe a gale that several houses were blown down. The house of Colonel Morris, which stood on a narrow part of the island, was undermined by the advance of the tide. There was only time to remove the family to a neighbor's, when the house fell, overthrown by the assault of wind and waves.
Mrs. Lewis Morris was one of the belles distinguished at the levees of the first President. Her residence during the last years of her life, was in Morrisania. She died in New York the 29th of April, 1848, at the age of eighty-six.
THE incident of Jane Elliott's first acquaintance with her husband might adorn a chapter in the romance of the real. She was the only child of Charles Elliott, of St. Paul's parish-a staunch whig in principle, who exhibited his devotion to the cause by equipping a considerable body of troops at his own expense; but fell a victim to disease ere the war had been waged in Carolina. His daughter having imbibed his opinions, endeavored to serve the cause he had espoused, by the bestowal of a portion of her wealth for the relief of the wounded American soldiers, and to contribute to the establishment of hospitals for that purpose. Not satisfied with this substantial aid, Miss Elliott gave her personal supervision to certain wards in the hospital, which she visited to attend to the sufferers. It was on one of these ministering visits that she first saw Colonel Washington, who had been wounded and taken prisoner in the cavalry charge at Eutaw Springs, and sent to Charleston for surgical aid, and for safe keeping. The interest with which the young girl heard the story of his perils, the sympathy given to his misfortunes, and the gratitude and admiration of the brave young soldier, may all be imagined, as leading to the reciprocal sentiment that soon grew up between them. Miss Elliott was then in the early bloom of youth, and surpassingly beautiful. Her manners were dignified, yet gentle and winning; her perceptions quick, and her nature frank and generous. Homage had been paid to her charms by the conquerors, from which she turned to succor the defenders of her country. Major Barry, whose pen seems to have celebrated the charms of many rebel fair ones, addressed a poem "to Jane Elliott playing the guitar," which was lately found in the ruins of Accabee by a daughter of Mrs. Lewis Morris. These lines may serve as a specimen:
"Sweet harmonist! whom nature triply arms With virtue, beauty, music's powerful charms, Say, why combin'd, when each resistless power Might mark its conquest to the fleeting hour"
Colonel Washington was a gallant officer, imbued with the chivalric feeling of that period, ardent in patriotism, and covered with the brilliant renown of a successful soldier. It was not strange that two so congenial should love each other, and become bound by a mutual pledge to unite their fortunes; but the marriage did not take place till the spring of 1782. With the return of peace the soldier exchanged the fatigues of the camp for the quiet avocations of the planter, establishing himself at the family-seat of his wife, at Sandy Hill, South Carolina. They had two children; one of whom a daughter, is yet living. Mrs. Washington survived her husband about twenty years, and died in 1830, at the age of sixty-six.
ANNA, the wife of Charles Elliott; was a patriot by inheritance, being the daughter of Thomas Ferguson, one of the bravest and most zealous among the friends of liberty. It was said of her that she " appeared to consecrate every thought and every hour of existence to the interests of America." She received under her hospitable roof the sick and wounded, and gave them her personal attention and sympathy; she divided of her substance among those who needed aid; she was the advocate and friend of such as were unjustly persecuted. The prisoners she visited at regular intervals received hope and strength from her presence, and were beguiled into forgetfulness of their sufferings by her conversation. To the afflicted she was indeed an angel of blessing; and even the enemies of her country were influenced by the remarkable power of fascination she possessed, which few, even the most harsh and unbending, could resist. This was acknowledged in the most satisfactory way-the granting of privileges and favors by many British officers. What she would not have condescended to ask for herself, she solicited for the benefit of her countrymen. Major Garden says: "I do not know an officer who did not owe to. her some essential increase of comfort." Yet her efforts in the cause of justice and clemency were not always successful; she is said to have drawn up the petition addressed to Lord Rawdon, and signed by the ladies of Charleston, in behalf of the gallant and unfortunate Colonel Isaac Hayne.
The following anecdote of Mrs. Elliott has been mentioned. An officer of- the royal army, noted for his cruelty and relentless persecution of those opposed to his political views, was one day walking with her in a garden where was a great variety of flowers. " What is this, madam?" he asked, pointing to the chamomile.
"The rebel flower," she replied. " And why is it called the rebel flower?" asked the 'officer. "Because," answered Mrs. Elliott, "it always flourishes most when trampled upon."
One day an officer, in the house of Mrs. Elliott in Charleston, pointed out to her a young French officer of the legion of Pulaski, passing by. "There, Mrs. Elliott," he cried, " is one of your illustrious allies! He has a fine form and martial appearance. What a pity the hero is minus his sword !" She answered promptly and with spirit, "Had two thousand such men been here to aid in the defence of our city, I should not at this moment, sir, have been subjected to the insolence of your observation."
Her impulsive and feeling nature is shown by another anecdote. When her father was arrested and put on board a transport ship to be sent into exile, Mrs. Elliott, who had received the intelligence in the country, hastened to Charleston and solicited permission to bid him farewell. Her request was granted. She went on board the vessel in which he was a prisoner, but had scarcely entered the cabin, when, oppressed with grief, she fainted, and was laid upon a couch. The captain, in alarm, recommended a variety of remedies, and at last said "A cordial would revive her; we have some fine French liqueur." On hearing this, Mrs. Elliott sprang from her couch in sudden excitement. "The French!" she exclaimed; "who speaks of the French? God bless the nation!" Then turning to her father, she strove by her touching eloquence, to sustain him under his misfortunes, and inspire him with hope for the future. "Let not oppression shake your fortitude," she said, "nor the hope of gentler treatment cause, you for a moment to swerve from strict duty. Better times are in store for us; the bravery of the Americans, and the friendly aid of France, will yet achieve the deliverance of our country from oppression. We shall meet again, my father, and meet with joy."
The historian Ramsay bears heart-warm testimony to the patriotism of the Carolinian women, who gloried in being called" rebels;" and did their utmost to support the fortitude of their relatives.
The wife of Isaac Holmes, one of the patriots sent into exile at St. Augustine, sustained his firmness by her own resolution, to the moment when the guard separated him from his family. Bidding him have no fears for those he left, her parting injunction was " Waver not in your principles, but be true to your country."
When the sons of Rebecca Edwards were arrested as objects of retaliation, she encouraged them to persevere in devotion to the cause they had espoused. Should they fall a sacrifice, a mother's blessing, and the approbation of their countrymen, would go with them to the last; but if fear of death ever prevailed on them to purchase safety by submission, they must forget she was their parent, for it would to her be misery to look on them again.
THE sufferings of the sick and wounded American prisoners after the fall of Charleston, appealed to female benevolence also among the loyalists. Though attached to the royal cause, Mrs. SARAH HOPTON and her daughters were indefatigable in their attentions to the sufferers, whom many feared to visit in consequence of the prevalence of a contagious fever in the hospitals. The English were well supplied with necessary stores; the Americans were destitute, and therefore experienced their kindness and bounty. Their servants were continually employed in carrying them nourishment and articles needed; and in some cases, they paid the hire of nurses, where personal services were indispensable. They soothed the death-bed of many with the consolations of religion, prayed with those who were in danger, and joined with the convalescent in returning thanks. These kind offices were rendered to men of whose political principles and acts they disapproved, while great bitterness of feeling existed between the opposing parties, but no prejudice could make these Christian women insensible to the claims of humanity.
The lessons of piety and charity, the great lessons of life-taught by Mrs. Hopton to her daughters, were afterwards neither forgotten nor neglected. They were prominent in promoting the diffusion of religious education, and devoted to such objects their energies and wealth. Two of them aided in the establishment of a charity. school for the education of female orphans. Mrs. Gregorie, the eldest daughter, appropriated a fund to aid in the support of this school, with many other bequests to different religious associations.