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Tag Archives: Brave Elizabeth

One Look at Bravery

One of my choices for the new year is to read and write more. In looking at our home with a modicum of reality, we might be called “book poor.” I tend to describe it as “book rich.”

Yes, there are stacks of books in every room of our home, as well as in attic boxes. Five book shelves are packed two deep with others on layered on top. Baskets of books are in all the rooms, including the kitchen with my well-loved recipe books. (I treasure those that my grandmothers used.)

I am in total agreement with Erasmus when he said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

Two new books were part of my Christmas, and I am halfway through Louise Penny’s new book,  Kingdom of the Blind. And, as usual, this Canadian author had me hooked in only a few pages.

I believe I have to agree with Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice, “I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Many eighteenth century women lived on the fringes of written records. Their exploits of tending hearth and home were not the tales of warriors on the battlefield or politicians changing America. Few letters or diaries recount their daily lives of survival, and portraits are even more rare.

My first four books were about Revolutionary War heroines in South Carolina. I immersed myself in that period of history. The role of women, as not only homemakers but vigilant defenders of their turfs themselves, continues to amaze me.

Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson left her home and parents for the colonies, survived early widowhood, and successfully raised three sons. Life-altering events raised havoc in her life, but she refused to be defeated.

With her two youngest sons, Robert and Andrew, confined in the filthy Camden jail by the British, Elizabeth demanded a prisoner exchange.

Read how this might have worked out in the spring of 1780….

“My Lord, I beseech your pardon for my two sons, Robert and Andy Jackson. Word has it that a prisoner exchange is being discussed, and I beg you to add their names to the list. The youngest has only turned fourteen, and Robert is sixteen. I will take responsibility for their future actions,” spoke the seemingly composed, though bedraggled, mother.

Her lilting Irish accent caught Lord Rawdon unawares. Yes, the men in his regiment from Ireland still spoke with their Irish brogue, but the soft and feminine inflections of Elizabeth’s speech obliged him to think of home and his family.

Rawdon did not immediately reply. Looking through the stack of papers on his desk, Rawdon found the list he sought. It was this morning’s registry of those prisoners afflicted with smallpox. Quickly scanning the record, he saw both Robert and Andy Jackson’s names.

A glint in his eye appeared, as he thought how to satisfy the Patriot mother and also protect his men. Allowing the exchange of these sick boys would take the dreaded disease to their home and community and also rid his prison of two with the revolting disease.

Looking up into Elizabeth’s expectant eyes, Rawdon finally answered the silent mother.

“It appears that both your sons have contracted smallpox. I believe it will be best for them to be part of our trade for prisoners. You may pick them up tomorrow.”

I can imagine her quaking heart as she walked in where angels feared to tread, but I admire her bravery and resolve to achieve her sons’ freedom that day and the way she faced all her trials and ordeals. After you have read her story, I believe you will agree.

Brave Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

Do you agree?

 

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A Letter to My Fifth Great Grandfather

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Dear Granddaddy Thomas Davis,

As I have been getting more involved in lineage societies over the past fifteen years, I have thought more and more about you.

Thank you for your service, Granddaddy, during the American Revolution. I am proud of you for fighting for our freedom. It makes sense that you enlisted in the Virginia line, where you were born and raised. When I read your pension record, I saw you served your promised 18 months. You were committed to our independence from England.

 

It is 96 miles from where I live in Spartanburg, SC to where you fought in the Battle of the Waxhaws. From what I read, this was a bloody battle, and I am glad you were one of the 53 prisoners. After you escaped, you were able to join the war again and be at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown; that must have been quite the celebration.

Along with the other men under Colonel Abraham Buford in the Virginia Continentals and Virginia Regiment, the normal rules of war weren’t adhered to in this battle. Most people today consider it a slaughter.

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I wrote about this battle in a book about Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, the mother of President Andrew Jackson, called Brave Elizabeth. Here is the introduction to the chapter titled “The Fog of War.”

Ordinary sights and sounds of the forest flooded the Camden-Salisbury Road, and the air was filled with darting birds and their songs.  A menagerie of spring wildlife made their afternoon excursions.  A doe followed by her fawn leapt over the fallen tree. A red-tailed hawk silently swooped toward the uneven red clay to grab an unsuspecting field mouse. Young squirrels easily jumped from limb to limb, and  bunnies hopped awkwardly around their mother.      

     It was Monday, May 29, 1780, when military sounds interrupted this warm and sultry spring day.

     First along the road trekked a caravan of supply wagons and field artillery. Some wagons were drawn by four horses and others by two. Strapped down in the covered baggage wagons were medicine chests, tents, and officers’ gear. Foodstuffs were also in covered wagons, and the various barrels of hard- tack, potatoes, corn, and dried and salted beef were tightly packed. In between the casks were iron cooking pots and skillets, tin kettles, axes, and wooden cooking utensils. Another set of wagons carried extra rifles and muskets, sturdy barrels of gunpowder, and lead bricks to make bullets. Two, six-pounder cannons on caissons brought up the rear.

     Shouts from the wagoners and the crack of whips encouraged the horses forward.

     In the midst of the wagons rode the advanced guard. When a Continental Army force marched, it carried its own supplies. All these accouterments and provisions were essential to the livelihood of the 3rd Virginia Regiment of Colonel Abraham Buford. Since the fall of Charlestown to the British on May 12, his men were the last Continental troops in the South. They had been ordered to retreat to Hillsborough, North Carolina and await orders.

      It was barely three o’clock when the military sounds of wagons and horses turned into the sounds of battle and bloodshed.

I wonder if the scene around that dirt road was similar to what I wrote?

One of the memorials to those who fought in this battle is at the site of the common grave.

Image result for new battle of waxhaws monument

There is a new one closer to the street that has a list of those Americans who fought in the Battle of the Waxhaws, and your name is there. I was so proud to let those know to be sure your name was there, but I am delighted that my five greats grandfather, Private Thomas Davis, stood tall during the Revolutionary War.

My grandmother, Lucile Hitt Collins, did an enormous amount of research of our family. She was your third great granddaughter, and she savored history, especially family history. Like you, she was a schoolteacher. You must have passed down that gene for education.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love it that your parents, James Davis and Mary Elizabeth Carter, were married on Christmas day. She was sixteen, and your father was eighteen.

Two years later, they moved into a large home on the plantation called Broadfield in Spotsylvania. I can picture the interior where you grew up with its great inside chimneys, large rooms, and dormer windows. With 600 acres to choose from, was that brick, story and a half home on a hill perhaps?

I found this sketch you did of the house before you moved to Kentucky. With you and your nine siblings, I guess it was a bit crowded at times. Thank you for taking time to make the sketch to take the memory with you.

Broadfield Drawing

With you father dying when you were only four, that must have been a loss to your whole family.

I am glad you kept an account book. In February, 1783, you wrote, “Paid for & brought home for Fred’ks’b’g my wedding clothes – 18.3 pounds. 1 Black Velvet Coat, 1 Green Silk Waistcoast, 1 pr Black Cloath Breeches, 1 pr Silk Stockings and one Hat.” You must have been quite dashing! I am sure your bride, Susannah Hyatt, was impressed.

Since you were the youngest child, your inheritance was not linked to your father’s estate. I wonder where you found the money to buy the 400 acres in Orange County? And why on earth did you decide to leave one of the loveliest parts of Virginia to live in unsettled and untamed Kentucky? Were there some heated discussions between you and Susannah? To leave family and friends for a new home beyond the mountains must have been hard.

But you did leave. Selling most of your household goods, because all had to be carried on horseback. There was no room on the trails for wagons; the trek was six weeks. This tedious journey was around 325 miles.

A warm welcome awaited you, as neighbors from miles around arrived to rear a cabin. The day was appointed, and a multitude of capable and willing hands arrived. This helping newcomers was considered a duty of every able-bodied man.

That little account book must have been important to you, since you continued to write about your business. Lists of the servants you took with you to Kentucky and the new furniture you bought for your home upon arrival are there. There are amazing details, e.g. the dozen silver teaspoons, half a dozen tablespoons, and a small silver ladle you bought on July 2, 1783 to take to Kentucky. The story goes that these were the first silver spoons in the state.

Then you have your book purchases listed, too. The Art of SurveyingBailes Dictionary, The Surveyor, in 4 Vols., History of Europe, in  Vols., Robertson’s History of Scotland, Shakespeare’s Works in 6 Vols, Blackwell’s Classics, in 2 Vols., Malvern Dale, a novel, Common Prayer Book, and Domestic Medicine. (It appears that my love of history and its stories goes back to you!)

When you advertised in the Kentucky Gazette for a job in 1788, you mentioned your qualifications to teach “reading, writing and arithmetic, its various branches, bookkeeping, surveying and navigation, geography or the use of the globes, etc.” Your tutor must have instilled in you a curiosity for many things. Compared to the teaching you did, did you, also, enjoy the land surveys you did on the side?

Amazing that you and Susannah raised thirteen children there on Sinking Creek in Woodford County, and I am glad you received your pension for your service. Your granddaughter Sallie said you always enjoyed company dropping by, were quite the tease, and a good story teller.

I truly wish I could have known you! Would you have caught me around the waist, as you did Grandmother Susanna, and dance me around the room?

Winston Churchill said, “We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.”

Thank you for being my hero.

Happy birthday, America!

 

“Brave Elizabeth”

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Brave Elizabeth is a biography of Elizabeth Jackson, the mother of President Andrew Jackson.

I believe that environment and heredity influence a person, and it was fascinating to me to research the mother of one of our Presidents; here is a snippet of her life.

Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson were living in Boneybefore, Ireland, in 1764. They were tenant farmers and not making enough money from their crops and sheep to make ends meet. Taxes continued to go up, and the weather continued to cast blights on their harvests. The Scotch-Irish couple worked hard, but life under the British rule was a hard-scrabbble existence. Disrespect and prejudice for their Presbyterian religion was also challenging.

A new life in a new land captured their thoughts.

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In April, 1765, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies with their two children. Hugh was two, and Robert only a babe. The eight week voyage from Larne, Ireland, was uneventful.

They bought land close to Elizabeth’s family and erected a small one-room cabin. They planted crops and started over. Happily for two years, the Jacksons worked hard and struggled to eke out a living in this red clay, but in March, 1767, an accident occurred.

While chopping wood on a cold, spring day, Andrew Jackson had an accident and died shortly thereafter. Elizabeth, nine months pregnant with their third son, was a widow at thirty with all the responsibilities of a single mother in 18th Century America.

Waxhaw-Presbyterian-Church-Cemetery

Though small in stature, Elizabeth was strong and resilient in spirit. She adapted to life’s changes and disappointments and put other’s needs before herself. Working hard and pushing forward through challenges was the model she set for her sons.

After Andrew’s death, her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and James Crawford, asked Elizabeth to move in with their family. Jane had been sick for several years and needed help with the housekeeping. Their eight children needed more supervision than she could give, so the Jacksons joined the Crawford household.

“I was born in South Carolina, as I have been told at the plantation whereon James Crawford lived about one mile from the Carolina road of the Waxhaw Creek……”
— Andrew Jackson, 1824

Busy with the daily chores of planning and preparing meals for 14 individuals in a fireplace, tending to the needs of 11 children and her ailing sister, mending, spinning, managing a garden, churning, etc., Elizabeth continued to weave cloth for the community. She earned money from the neighbors by selling it and was known for the quality and expertise of her work.

Elizabeth wanted her sons to have a formal education. All three attended the church and community schools, but Hugh and Robert had more aptitude for outdoor activities, and they wanted to farm. Andy learned to read at an early age, and his mother thought he might become a minister. His personality was not for a scholar’s life though, and the Revolutionary War interrupted his education.

Elizabeth’s faith in God and His Providence was a major ingredient in her character. She had a small Bible that she carried in her pocket and prayed often.  She taught her sons the importance of obedience to the Bible’s teachings and encouraged them in their loyalty to each other and the rest of their family. Elizabeth urged deeds and words honoring God, family, and country. She and her family attended the Waxhaws Presbyterian Church.

The Waxhaws settlement was connected to Charleston via the Catawba Path, also known as the Camden Salisbury Road, with many travelers. Merchants and Indian traders carried their wares to markets. Farmers drove their cattle to sale. New settlers in the Conestoga wagons or on foot were daily visitors. All of these travelers kept trade, culture, and news flowing into the upcountry where the Jackson family lived. Because of the proximity of the Crawford home, visitors kept them in the know with information and intelligence.

On June, 20, 1779, sixteen-year-old Hugh died after the Battle of Stono Ferry near Charlestown. The two hour battle was not a win for the Patriots, but the militia fought bravely. Hugh was not wounded but died of heat exhaustion.

Elizabeth nursed the dying and wounded after the Battle of Waxhaws. She hid with her family from the British, as they stole and burned the patriots’ farms.

Robert and Andy were under the command of the experienced Major William Richardson Davie. Because of his youth, only 13, Andy served as a messenger. Guerrilla warfare and destruction was the aim of both sides, and enemy neighbors paid back old insults.

William Richardson Davie.jpg

Then in the spring of 1781 both Robert and Andy were captured by the British, along with others in the Waxhaws militia. They were taken to the Camden Jail. Smallpox was in every cell, and before long both boys were afflicted.

Elizabeth Jackson was determined to rescue her sons from this hell hole. She audaciously went to see Lord Rawdon and asked for him to add her sons’ names to a prisoner exchange that was in the works. He was not unhappy to release two sick prisoners.

Their mother nursed them for several weeks, but Robert was too weak and died. She never left Andy’s side until he could walk by himself.

     Horrific tales about how the Patriots were being treated on the British prison ships in the harbor of Charlestown began to circulate. Elizabeth found out that several of her nephews were on those ships suffering with cholera. Knowing their chances to survive were small without some kind of nursing, Elizabeth and a couple of women from the Waxhaws community decided they needed to go help the young men. In the fall of 1781, three women left home on a mission of mercy.

Elizabeth’s nephews survived, but she did not. She caught cholera and was buried in an unmarked grave in Charleston.

Elizabeth taught her sons the (1) difference between right and wrong, freedom and oppression (2) the importance of helping family and friends (2) reverence for truth, justice, and freedom, (3) a deep patriotic devotion to country.

      Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson was a Patriot, a SC Revolutionary War Heroine, and the mother of President Andrew Jackson. Her story is worth remembering.

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Toys and Stories


Last night I attended a Rocking with Reading event at an elementary school in Greenville. Community leaders like firemen, policemen, a mayor, and various authors read to the students, and all the students took home a free book.

The music was loud, and the students enthusiastic. It was not a normal school environment. Teachers opened their rooms for various readings and monitored the halls. Babies in strollers, as well as fifth graders who had hit a growth spurt, wandered the school. Parents, grandparents, and children sat around an open desk in the speech room where I was. And what fun we had!

Besides my four books about the American Revolution in South Carolina, I had taken a couple of toys with me to start conversations.

One of my first visitors was a first grader and her Poppy. I asked her what her favorite doll was (sounds like an innocent question). Her eyes became huge, and she backed away from me, emphatically saying, “I’m afraid of dolls.” In my hands was a church doll that I had made out of a cloth napkin. As I put my hand inside the doll and held it up, that sweet girl exclaimed, “It’s a puppet!” and moved back toward the table.

All smiles now, I talked about the “puppet.” Then she reached for it and placed it on her own hand. She felt the head and pulled the ribbons tied around the arms, as I told her how children used to take these “dolls” to church because they made no noise when dropped. Explaining that 200 years ago, the parents made the toys for the children. (I smothered my smile, as she looked at her Poppy with his long, gray beard that touched his chest. Perhaps in her eyes, he qualified!)

Another group of three siblings wandered in with their mother. They eyed the Jacob’s Ladder I had on the table and patiently listened to me read a couple of pages from Courageous Kate.

Finally, I picked up the Jacob’s Ladder and asked if they knew what it was. All three negatively shook their heads. (One even responded, “No, ma’am.”)

Showing off this folk toy crafted of wooden blocks held together by ribbons, I emphasize that the parents would have made this during colonial days. The blocks would have started as a tree; the father cut the blocks. Also called “tumbling blocks,” the mother would have spun the thread to make the ribbon. Once again, I shared that this would have been an allowed Sunday toy, since it was named after the Old Testament man who saw the ladder to heaven.

How fascinated the three were, as they quickly learned the ease of playing the Jacob’s ladder. They were ready to stay and play with this simple toy that had no batteries attached to it.

There are YouTube videos that show the tricks that can be played with the Jacob’s Ladder; here is one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqU2BX1bIc4

A fourth grader entered with both his parents. Showing John’s pictures in Brave Elizabeth, I shared some South Carolina history. Never having heard of a Marsh Tacky, he found out they were our state horse, the Carolina Parakeet was extinct, and President Andrew Jackson learned to read at an early age. As they left, his dad questioned him about the name of the horses and the Jacob’s Ladder he played with.

http://www.carolinamarshtacky.com/ shares some beautiful pictures of Marsh Tackies.

I loved to see how both the parents and children enjoyed the stories of how children used to entertain themselves with handmade toys and rode horses. Several even asked where a Jacob’s Ladder could be bought.

Living on a farm left little time for childhood play. Most of the time, they raced each other to complete the different chores they had. They also enjoyed tongue twisters that seem quite difficult like, “The skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.”

Charles Swindoll commented, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”

It was a fun evening at Armstrong Elementary, and I appreciated the invitation. There is something about spending time with children that is a blessing; it is better than a B 12 shot. They are inquisitive and open to learning. It shows in their eyes when they see or hear something new. We educators have called them sponges for years, and they are. Even though the world is a strange mystery, they are equal to the task of putting the puzzles together.

Perhaps we should volunteer more at schools or churches; it could help keep us young and engaged with the next generation.

As Nancy Reagan said, “To my young friends out there: Life can be great, but not when you can’t see it. So, open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us as a precious gift to His children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life.”