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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.

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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!

 

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What a Day to Celebrate South Carolina in Virginia!

Thursday, March 30, was the day to celebrate South Carolina during the Revolutionary War at the American Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown. For their grand opening, each day for thirteen days, they celebrated one of our Thirteen Colonies.

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It was a privilege to honor SC with our SCDAR State Regent Dianne Culbertson. Kim Claytor,  Past Regent Comte de Grasse Chapter, NSDAR, made us feel most welcome.

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She had a table ready for us to set up a display of colonial toys, a picture of Kings Mountain, and a pastel John painted of a colonial woman on a horse. There were classes visiting that day, and they enjoyed playing with the toys.

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It was a dream to sign my books for the book store and to be part of a panel that talked about our SC Rev war history for four hours that afternoon. Believe it or not, some of our audience stayed for the whole program. South Carolina historians David Reuwer, Tray Dunaway, Doug McIntyre, Robert Dunkerly, and I tried our best to cover eight years in this limited time. and the evening speaker was author John “Jack” Buchanan.

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There were about 50 South Carolinians that attended the flag raising ceremony. What a delight to see it proudly waving over the encampment! The fife and drums opened this part of the day, and a cannon salute closed it.

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The exhibits inside and outside are designed to educate and entertain.

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I will look forward to another day honoring SC’s part in winning the Revolutionary War at Yorktown.

 

President Herbert Hoover and the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain

Image result for Battle of King's MountainThis past Friday, October 7, 2016, about 500 men, women, and children met on the top of Kings Mountain, SC. It was a rainy day, and the celebration of the 236 Anniversary was under tents. Some were dressed in Revolutionary War attire, and others were in their Sunday clothes.

On the 150th Celebration of this pivotal battle in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, President Herbert Hoover spoke. His words plainly tell us the significance of this battle to our country.

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“My fellow countrymen:

This is a place of inspiring memories. Here less than a thousand men, inspired by the urge of freedom, defeated a superior force entrenched in this strategic position. This small band of patriots turned back a dangerous invasion well designed to separate and dismember the united Colonies. It was a little army and a little battle, but it was of mighty portent. History has done scant justice to its significance, which rightly should place it beside Lexington and Bunker Hill, Trenton and Yorktown, as one of the crucial engagements in our long struggle for independence.

The Battle of Kings Mountain stands out in our national memory not only because of the valor of the men of the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, who trod here 150 years ago, and because of the brilliant leadership of Colonel [William] Campbell, but also because the devotion of those men revived the courage of the despondent Colonies and set a nation upon the road of final triumph in American independence.

No American can review the vast pageant of human progress so mightily contributed to by these men without renewed faith in humanity, new courage, and strengthened resolution.

My friends, I have lived among many peoples and have observed many governments. Each has its own institutions and its own ideals, its own spirit. Many of them I have learned to respect and to admire. It is from these contrasts and these experiences that I wish to speak today-to speak upon the institutions, the ideals, upon the spirit of America.

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In the time since the Battle of Kings Mountain was fought our country has marched from those struggling Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard to the full sweep of the Pacific. It has grown from fewer than 3 million people to more than 120 million. But far more inspiring than its growth of numbers has been the unfolding of a great experiment in human society. Within this land there have been build up new and powerful institutions designed of new ideas and new ideals in a new vision of human relations. Through them we have attained a wider diffusion of liberty and of happiness and of material things than humanity has ever known before. Our people live in a stronger security from enemies abroad and in greater comfort at home than has ever before been the fortune of a nation. We are filled with justifiable pride in the valor, the inventions, the contributions to art and literature, the moral influence of our people. We glow with satisfaction at the multitude of activities in the Nation, the State, the local community, which spread benefits and blessings amongst us. We may be proud of our vast economic development over these 150 years, which has secured to the common man greater returns for his effort and greater opportunity for his future than exist in any offer place on the Earth.

In the large sense we have maintained open the channels of opportunity, constantly refreshing the leadership of the Nation by men of lowly beginnings. We have no class or caste or aristocracy whose privilege limits the hopes and opportunities of our people. Science and education have been spread until they are the universal tools of the common man. They have brought to him the touch of a thousand finer things of life. They have enlarged the horizon of our vision into the inspiring works of God.

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This unparalleled rise of the American man and woman was not alone the result of riches in lands or forests or mines; it sprang from ideas and ideals, which liberated the mind and stimulated the exertion of a people. There were other parts of the world even more easily accessible to new invasion by man, whose natural resources were as great as those of the United States, yet their history over this 150 years presents no achievement parallel to the mighty march of the United States. But the deadening poverty of other lands was in the absence of the stirring ideas and ideals which have lightened the path of the whole American people. A score of nations have borrowed our philosophy from us, and they have tempered the course of history in yet a score of others. All have prospered under them.

These ideas and these ideals were in the hearts and inspired the souls of the men who fought the Battle of Kings Mountain. They had spurred the migration of their fathers from the persecutions and restricted opportunities of Europe, had been sustained by their religious faith, had been developed in their conflict with the wilderness, and had become the spirit of the American people, demanding for man a larger mastership of his own destiny. Our forefathers formulated them through the Declaration and the Constitution into a new and practical political and social system unique in the world. Devoted generations have secured them to us.

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It is never amiss for us to review these principles, that we uphold our faith in them, that we search our fidelity to them, that by stretch of our vision over the vast pageant of our accomplishment we should gain courage to meet the difficulties of the day.

Our political system was a revolt from dictatorship, whether by individuals or classes. It was rounded upon the conception that freedom was inalienable, and that liberty and freedom should rest upon law, and that law should spring from the expressed wisdom of the representatives of the majority of the people themselves. This self-government was not in itself a new human ideal, but the Constitution which provided its framework, with the checks and balances which gave it stability, was of marvelous genius. Yet of vastly more importance than even the machinery of government was the inspired charter of the rights of men which it guaranteed. Under them we hold that all men are created equal, that they are equal before the law, and that they should be safeguarded in liberty and, as we express it latterly, in equality of opportunity to every individual that he may achieve for himself and for the community the best to which his character, his ability, and his ambition entitle him.

No student of American history can fail to realize that these principles and ideals grew largely out of the religious origins and spiritual aspirations of our people. From them spring at once the demand for free and universal education, that the door of opportunity and the ladder to leadership should be free for every new generation, to every boy and girl. It is these human rights and the success of government which has maintained them that have stimulated the initiative and effort in each individual, the sum of which has been the gigantic achievement of the Nation. They are the precious heritage of America, far more important, far more valuable, than all the riches in land and mines and factories that we possess. Never had these principles and ideals been assembled elsewhere and combined into government. This is the American system.

We have lived and breathed it. We have seldom tried even to name it. Perhaps we might well abandon efforts to define it–for things of the spirit can be little defined. Some have called it liberalism, but that term has become corrupted by political use. Some have called it individualism, but it is not an individualism which permits men to override the equal opportunity of others. By its enemies it has been called capitalism, and yet under its ideals capital is but an instrument, not a master. Some have called it democracy, yet democracy exists elsewhere under social ideals which do not embrace equality of opportunity.

Ours is a system unique with America–an expression of the spirit and environment of our people–it is just American.

Parallel with us, other philosophies of society and government have continued or developed and new ones have come into the world, born of the spirit of other peoples and other environments. It is a function of freedom that we should search their claims with open mind, but it is a function of common sense that we should reject them the moment they fail in the test. From experiences in many lands I have sometimes compared some of these systems to a race. In the American system, through free and universal education, we train the runners, we strive to give to them an equal start, our Government is the umpire of its fairness. The winner is he who shows the most conscientious training, the greatest ability, the strongest character. Socialism or its violent brother, Bolshevism, would compel all the runners to end the race equally; it would hold the swiftest to the speed of the most backward. Anarchy would provide neither training nor umpire. Despotism or class government picks those who run and also those who win.

Whatever the merits or demerits of these other systems may be, they all mean the destruction of the driving force of equal opportunity, and they mean the destruction of our Constitution, for our political framework would serve none of them and many of its fundamental provisions are the negation of them. They mean the abandonment of the Nation’s spiritual heritage.

It is significant that some of these systems deny religion and seek to expel it. I cannot conceive of a wholesome social order or a sound economic system that does not have its roots in religious faith. No blind materialism can for long engage the loyalties of mankind. Economic aspiration, though it strongly marks the American system, is not an end in itself, but is only one of many instruments to accomplish the profound purposes of the American people, which are largely religious in origin. This country is supremely dedicated, not to the pursuit of material riches, but to pursuit of a richer life for the individual.

It would be foolish for me to stand here and say that our political and social system works perfectly. It does not. The human race is not perfect yet. There are disheartening occurrences every hour of the day. There are always malevolent or selfish forces at work which, unchecked, would destroy the very basis of our American life. These forces of destruction vary from generation to generation; and if we would hand on our great inheritance to our children, we must successfully contend with them.

While we cannot permit any foreign person or agency to undermine our institutions, yet we must look to our own conduct that we do not, by our own failure to uphold and safeguard the true spirit of America, weaken our own institutions and destroy the very forces which upbuild our national greatness. It is in our own house that our real dangers lie, and it is there that we have need to summon our highest wisdom and our highest sense of public service.

We must keep corruptive influences from the Nation and its ideals as we would keep them from our homes. Crime and disobedience of law are the very incarnation of destruction to a system whose basis is law. Both pacifism and militarism court danger from abroad, the one by promoting weakness, the other by promoting arrogance. Failure of many of our citizens to express their opinions at the ballot box is at once their abandonment of the whole basis of self-government. Manipulation of the ballot is a denial of government by the people. Corruption or even failure of moral perceptions in public office defiles the whole spirit of America. Mere destructive criticism destroys leadership and substitutes weaklings.

Any practice of business which would dominate the country by its own selfish interests is a destruction of equality of opportunity. Government in business, except in emergency, is also a destruction of equal opportunity and the incarnation of tyranny through bureaucracy. Tendencies of communities and States to shirk their own responsibilities or to unload them upon the Federal Government, or of the Federal Government to encroach upon the responsibilities of the States, are destructive of our whole pattern of self-government. But these evils cannot shatter our ideals or subvert our institutions if we hold the faith. The knowledge of danger is a large part of its conquest.

It is the first duty of those of us who believe in the American system to maintain a knowledge of and a pride in it, not particularly because we need fear those foreign systems, but because we have need to sustain ours in purity and in strength.

The test of our system of government and of our social principles and ideals as compared to others may in part be interpreted by the practical results of the 150 years of growth that have brought to us the richness of life which spreads through this great Nation. I can give you some measurement both of our standards and of our social progress. In proportion to our population, we have one-fourth more of our children in grade schools than the most advanced other country in Europe, and for every thousand of our young people we have six and one-half times as many in colleges and universities. And I may add that today we have more of our youth in institutions of higher learning than all the rest of the 1,500 million people of the world put together.

Compared with even the most advanced other country in Europe, we shall find an incomparably greater diffusion of material well-being. We have twice the number of homes owned among every thousand people that they have; we consume four times as much electricity and we have seven times as many automobiles; for each thousand people we have more than four times as many telephones and radio sets; our use of food and clothing is far greater; we have proportionately only one-twentieth as many people in the poorhouse or upon public charity.

There is a profound proof, moreover, that the doors of opportunity have indeed been kept open. The posts of leadership in our country, both in government and in other activities, are held by men who have risen to command. A canvass of the leading administrative officials of our Federal Government, of our industries, and of our professions, shows that 90 percent of them started life with no financial inheritance. Despite the misrepresentations of demagoguery, there are today more chances for young men to rise, and for young women too, than there were 30 years ago.

We shall not have full equality of opportunity until we have attained that ultimate goal of every right-thinking citizen–the abolition of poverty of mind and home. Happily for us we have gone further than others on this road and we make new gains every decade.

But these tangible things which we can reduce to statistics and comparisons are but a part of America. The great intangibles of the spirit of a people are immeasurable–our sense of freedom, of liberty, of security, our confidence of future progress, our traditions of past glory and sacrifice, the example of our heroes, the spiritual enrichment of our people these are the true glories of America.

The world about us is tormented with the spiritual and economic struggles that attend changing ideals and systems. Old faiths are being shaken. But we must follow our own destiny. Our institutions are a growth. They come out of our history as a people. Our ideals are a binding spiritual heritage. We cannot abandon them without chaos. We can follow them with confidence.

Our problems are the problems of growth. They are not the problems of decay. They are less difficult than those which confronted generations before us. The forces of righteousness and wisdom work as powerfully in our generation as in theirs. The flame of freedom burns as brightly in every American heart. There need be no fear for the future of a Republic that seeks inspiration from the spirit of the men who fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain.”

The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. to an estimated crowd of 30,000 assembled at the battlefield site in Kings Mountain, S.C. The National Broadcasting Company and Columbia Broadcasting System radio networks carried his message.

Before the Overmountain men left their homes to stop Major Patrick Ferguson from attacking their homes and land, as he threatened to do. Reverend Samuel Doak prayed over those frontiersmen and ended his prayer with,” Oh, God of Battle, arise in Thy might. Avenge the slaughter of Thy people. Confound those who plot for our destruction. Crown this mighty effort with victory, and smite those who exalt themselves against liberty and justice and truth. Help us as good soldiers to wield the SWORD OF THE LORD AND GIDEON. AMEN.

Image result for Battle of King's MountainMajor Patrick Ferguson

The citizen soldiers in the Patriot militia from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia fought against a group of Tory militia led by Major Patrick Ferguson. It was Americans fighting Americans. In a one hour battle, the Patriots drew a line in the sand to the British army and King George.

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The Patriots meant business. The sovereignty of England was not a sure thing. Civil liberty, freedom to worship, owning land were worth fighting four. These first settlers, after months of fighting proved they could defeat the strongest army in the world. This decisive victory gave new heart and pride to the Patriots; this was the first major defeat in the south.

The Overmountain men made sure their 250 mile walk was worth each step.

As Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s soul’s. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and women.”

Yes, thank you, for your service to our country!

 

The Battle of Huck’s Defeat, July 12, 1780

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At Brattonsville, SC, this Saturday, July 11, will be an all-day celebration of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat.

You can find more information at http://www.chmuseums.org/battle-o.. Visit the original house, and walk where this family worked and lived.

I thought you might enjoy some of the back story of the Revolutionary War heroine, Martha Bratton, who made sure this battle happened. You can read more of her story in my biography about her called Fearless Martha.

In 1765, William, his four brothers and their families, and his sister and her family moved to Upcountry South Carolina from Rowan County, North Carolina. They purchased land grants and moved as a clan. Settling side-by-side, they soon became part of the community. They chopped down trees to build cabins and plant fields and joined the Bethesda Presbyterian Meeting House.

At the time of the Revolution, a woman’s role in society was limited. Most devoted themselves to taking care of home and family, and the men dealt with the political arena.

Still, many women became involved in events because they war came into their front yards. Some were Whigs – believers in independence for the colonies. Others were Loyalists – supporters of Britain’s king. All of the Bratton family, both men and women, were staunch Whigs.

Life wasn’t easy on the home front. With the men away at war, women had to protect their families, see to the crops, and defend family property. This was in addition to their normal every day routine that started before sun rise and ended long after dark. I believe the saying, “a woman’s work is never done” might be used to describe their daily lives. There were constant demands.

There is little known about the early life of this fearless woman, Martha Bratton. Traditions say that she was born onboard a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to America about 1750. She was taught how to heal with herbs and had a gift for home health. When she and William moved to this area, known as the New Acquisition in the 18th century, there were no doctors. Because of her expertise, she treated and cared for her family and her neighbors.
The Bratton family brought little in the way of earthy goods with them, but they brought a strong allegiance to God and family, as well as a fierce love of liberty. Their Scots-Irish heritage was a clannish one, and their loyalty to each other was real.

Most of the factual information we know about Martha is during the summer of 1780. Charlestown fell to the British in May, and British and Tory soldiers were ordered to quell any rebellion.

Martha’s husband William and his militia were away for much of that summer at General Thomas Sumter’s camp, so Martha was in charge of their children, their home, and their land. Elizabeth, young William, young Martha, Jane, and Elsie were their children.

Two specific stories are told about how Martha stood up to the enemies of her new country. Both were in the summer of 1780.

A British soldier, Captain Christian Huck, was constantly attacking homes, meeting houses, and people in the New Acquisition. He had a hatred for the Scotch-Irish and made it clear with his words and the violence of his attacks.

In June, Huck had burned Reverend John Simpson’s home and killed a young neighbor. William Hill’s Iron Works was the headquarters of the Whig militia, and Huck burned it and the Hill home. His house-to-house raids struck fear in the whole community.

Soon it was July and time to get the wheat crop in. The crop was necessary to their livelihood, and there were only three days to get the wheat in before it would go bad. Besides using the wheat for baking, the stalks were fed to the livestock.
Martha and her four oldest children, as well as some of the older men including her brother-in-law Robert, were hard at work in the Bratton fields on July 11. It was a back-breaking job. The adults, as well as Elsie and Jane, all leaned over and cut the stalks as close to the ground as they could. Young Martha and William bundled them together. They all worked hard, but kept a watchful eye out for any British troops.

Word had come to the family that Huck was on the move that day. Martha knew that William and the rest of the men of the New Acquisition militia needed to know about these new atrocities. William’s militia was with Brigadier General Thomas Sumter at a camp. She sent Watt, one of their slaves, on a mission to alert the men that their homes and families were in danger.

Captain Christian Huck, a thirty-two year old lawyer, had been given new orders that read he was to “push back the rebels as far as you deem convenient.” His goal was to do just that.

When Captain Huck, his British soldiers, and Tory militia of over a hundred men galloped up the road to her home, everyone in the field hurried to the comparative safety of the house.

Martha hung the sickle on the outside wall, and stood with her loaded musket awaiting the intruders. Her children were with her, along with her brother-in-law. The wait was not long; within minutes enemy soldiers were standing beside her.
“Where is your husband?” was the quick question.

Martha’s reply was just as speedy, “I do not know the exact whereabouts of my husband.”

As she finished speaking, an unknown Tory soldier grabbed the sickle and Martha. He put the sharp sickle to her throat and asked again about William. Once more, Martha refused to give any information. The angry man tightened his grip, but Lieutenant John Adamson, another Tory, knocked the sickle away with his sword. Within seconds, the lieutenant used his sword to make sure the unruly soldier was off the porch and on the ground.

That afternoon Captain Huck tried his hand at finding out where William Bratton was, but he was not successful either. Martha didn’t know where the camp was, but she made it clear she wouldn’t divulge it even if she knew. Huck was nice to young William for a few minutes and allowed him to sit on his knee and play with his watch, but Huck’s anger at Martha’s uncooperativeness landed William on the floor with a bloody nose.

As a mother, Martha must have been angered by the man’s carelessness that caused injury to her son. But she knew she was not in a situation to aggravate him further. She had to protect her children, not put them in more jeopardy.
Huck demanded Martha cook a meal for him and his officers. I wonder how hard that was for her. If you have visited Brattonsville, you know how small the keeping room is. She cooked and served the enemies of her family and country at the same table where her family usually sat. It is said she considered poisoning the meal, but again that might have brought on more danger. Martha chose to protect her children by not taking this chance.

Finally Huck left. A guard was posted around the Bratton house. Doubtless, it was a long night.

Colonel Bratton did receive the news that Huck was wrecking havoc in his neighborhood and his family was in danger.
133 men under the leadership of William Bratton, John McClure, Andrew Neil, and Edward Lacy set out to protect their families and their land. There was a half moon that night of July 12, 1780, but the militia didn’t need it. They were in familiar territory, and anger drove them against the enemy.

Surprise was on the Whig side. The British forces were camped around the home of John Williamson. Huck had 35 British Legion Dragoons, 20 New York Volunteers, and 60 Loyalist militia. The four posted guards were shot quickly, and then the Whig militia marched in.

 Huck ran outside and was clearly seen in his white shirt. He mounted his horse and raised his sword to rally the troops. Seeing he was surrounded, he and several of his dragoons tried to escape. Huck was killed by a single rifle shot by John Carroll.

Within five minutes, the battle was over.

John Adamson was wounded.

Adamson feared for his life and asked someone to get Martha. He knew she would tell about how he saved her life. When she recognized John Adamson, she did not hesitate on telling her husband and the other soldiers about his actions on her front porch. She insisted that the wounded be taken to her home.

Besides nursing Captain Adamson back to health, Martha also nursed the wounded from both sides. She turned her home into a hospital. Martha demonstrated mercy to her enemies and the enemies of her country.

The winning of this battle encouraged the Whigs and gave hope to the Brattons and their neighbors that the enemy could be defeated. More volunteers joined the Whig cause, and these part time soldiers continued to taste victory. The defeat of the dreaded British Legion gave new heart to the Upcountry.

This battle could be called a turning point in South Carolina. During the rest of 1780 and early 1781, more than 35 more battles were fought in South Carolina. And the best part of that news is that 30 of them were Whig victories.

Besides her part in the Whig victory of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat, it is told that Martha stood up to another group of Tories the next month in August.

Before Charlestown fell to the British, Governor John Rutledge had sent around kegs of gunpowder to different citizens to hide until it was needed. The Brattons had a keg hidden on their farm.

Tory soldiers came to find the gunpowder to use for themselves, but Martha was warned ahead of time about their mission. She raced to the tree where it was hidden and blew it up just as the enemy arrived.

Of course, she was caught. There was nowhere to hide. Struggle against the arms that held her was as futile as escape. Angry voices asked her who had blown up the powder. The soldiers looked for a man, and they demanded the whereabouts of the traitor from Martha.

Martha boldly told them she was responsible with the words, “It was I who did it!” Though outnumbered once again by the enemy, she bravely announced her actions.

Martha was willing to pay the ultimate price for independence and freedom, but this was not required of her. Though she was threatened, Martha was fearless and never wavered in being a firm supporter of freedom. It is said that she encouraged her family and neighbors to stand tall.

William and Martha Bratton’s children obviously were proud of their parents.

On July 12, 1839, there was a celebration of Huck’s Defeat at Brattonsville. Dr. John Bratton, William and Martha’s youngest son, believed that the Whig victory should be celebrated. Many words of remembrance were spoken and toasts of spring water were offered to the Whig soldiers that were involved in this battle. I believe the toast made to Mrs. Martha Bratton on that day is worth noting.

“To the memory of Mrs. Martha Bratton – In the hands of an infuriated monster, with the instrument of death around her neck, she nobly refused to betray her husband; in the hour of victory, she remembered mercy, and as a guardian angel interposed in the behalf of her inhuman enemies. Throughout the American Revolution, she encouraged the Whigs to fight on to the last; to hope on to the end. Honor and gratitude to the woman and heroine, who proved herself so faithful a wife, so firm a friend to liberty.”

The Bratton children also had inscribed on William and Martha’s stone, “This Marble is erected by the children of the deceased in mournful testimony of their affection and respect for their dear parents Col. William Bratton and Martha Bratton.”

Along with her children, I believe we owe Martha Bratton “respect” as we remember her valiant fight to give us the freedom and liberty we enjoy today. I salute her fearless courage and encourage you to do the same.

As Abigail Adams wrote in a letter to her husband, John Adams, “Remember the women.”

Colonial Prayer

Woman carrying water at the rear of a column of Redcoats. "Under the Redcoat" re-creation of the British Army's 1781 Occupation of Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area, Williamsburg Virginia. Photo by Barbara Temple Lombardi

“ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land our heritage;

We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will.

Bless our land with honourable industry sound learning, and pure manners.

Save us from violent discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way.

Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and

tongues.

 

Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Though our lives have changed in America, we still ask for continued blessings from God, just as the colonists did four hundred years ago.

 

A Living Link to the American Revolution: South Carolina’s Marsh Tacky

 

In June 2010, the Marsh Tacky horse, a breed now on the verge of extinction, became the official State Heritage Horse of South Carolina. If you’ve never heard of Marsh Tacky horses, you’re in good company. This horse is a living link to the history of South Carolina.

Most people haven’t, but I found out about them when researching Elizabeth Jackson. She and her sons rode Marsh Tackies, just like General Francis Marion and his troops did. Over and over the sure footedness of these horses kept the British from capturing Marion in the Low Country swamps during the Revolutionary War.

 

Listen to David Grant talk about his Marsh Tacky herd.

 

As Mr. Grant said, Marsh Tacky horses are descendants of the horses Spanish explorers left behind on the south Atlantic coast in the 1500s, which bred with the stock Spanish settlers later brought to the New World. They are native to our state.

They are beautiful animals. John and I visited a Marsh Tacky farm in the lower part of the state several years ago and watched them enjoying themselves in a field.


Marsh Tackies got their name from the fact that they live in marshy areas, and the term tacky, which means common. Feral herds adapted to the conditions of America’s southeastern coastal regions. Sturdy and smaller than many common breeds at only 13 to 15 hands high, Marsh Tackies adapted to swamps and wooded wetlands, surviving on marsh grass and other available forage that couldn’t sustain most breeds. Their distinctive gait provides a greater stability in the terrain, and when stuck in quagmires. This is called the “Swamp Fox Trot.” They learned to lie down on their sides, pull their feet free, and get up, instead of panicking as most horses would.

Marsh Tacky’s habitats originally ranged from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. They were widely used in the Gullah community for transportation, farming, and hunting until cars and trucks became prevalent.

During the Civil War, these horses became popular again. Because the Marsh Tacky was such a quality worker, he was seen in every yard in those days. They delivered the mail, plowed fields, brought people to visit and functioned in every way required of a horse in a community. During WWII the Tacky and his rider roamed the SC seacoast looking for German U-Boats.

But by the mid twentieth century they could be found only on outlying islands. Fewer than 300 Marsh Tackies remain today, none in the wild, and efforts are being made to save the breed from extinction.

For some beautiful pictures of these horses, visit http://www.carolinamarshtacky.com/.

The Carolina Marsh Tacky Association was formed in 2007 to preserve and promote the Marsh Tacky horse; check out their Facebook page for information about their work.

 

We need to pay attention to what we read and hear about these Carolina horses; the Marsh Tacky is ours.

“Meet Ben’s Sister Jane”

I am in the midst of reading this fascinating biography of Benjamin Franklin’s sister. Here is a review from NPR. Jane’s writings and comments on her life are poignant in their realism, and I want to recommend this book to you. What an inspiring woman!

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. There’s lots of books about Ben Franklin but now, there’s a new book about his sister, Jane, called “Book of Ages.” It’s by New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill LePore. Our book critic Maureen Corrigan says it’s filled with revelations.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: Her days were days of flesh. That’s just one of a multitude of striking observations that Jill Lepore makes about Jane Franklin, the baby sister of Ben. What Lepore means by that line of near-poetry is that Jane Franklin’s life – beginning at age 17, when she gave birth to the first of her 12 children – was one of nursing, lugging pails of night soil, butchering chickens, cooking and scrubbing. “I am in the middle of a grate wash,” she once wrote in a letter. The crumbly, green and white soap Jane would have used for that grate wash was from an old Franklin family recipe.

When Ben was serving as America’s diplomat to France, he liked to present his aristocratic hosts with cakes of that homemade soap that his sister, Jane, sent him from her tiny house in Boston. Canny Ben felt that emphasizing his humble origins would trick his French counterparts into underestimating him. Jane Franklin never had to strategize to be underestimated. After all, she was an 18th century woman.

And yet she had a skill that set her apart: She could write. Lepore says that though girls in Massachusetts at the time were routinely taught to read, only gentlemens’ daughters could do more than scrawl their names, if that. It was big brother Ben who taught Jane to write and thus, enabled their lifelong animated correspondence.

Ben also stoked Jane’s thirst for intellectual and political reading material. “Benny” and “Jenny,” as they were called as children, were each other’s companions of the heart – though as Lepore puns, one ascended to the ranks of “Great Men,” while the other remained behind with the “Little Women.”

“Book of Ages” is the name of Lepore’s extraordinary, new book about Jane Franklin, but to call it simply a biography would be like calling Ben’s experiments with electricity mere kite flying. Lepore says that in addition to telling Jane’s story, she’s also meditating here on the limits of traditional genres like biography and history, which by necessity, still favor the lives of public figures.

Jane Franklin’s life was mostly lived in the shadows so to read its traces, Lepore augments her own training as a historian with literary criticism, archeology, sociology, and even some of the techniques of fiction. The end product is thrilling – an example of how a gifted scholar and writer can lift the obscure out of silence. In so doing, Lepore enriches our sense of everyday life and relationships and conversational styles in Colonial America.

Finally, a happy side-effect of this book about Jane is that it offers a fresh look at Ben Franklin and his writings, particularly those like the Silence Dogood essays, in which he posed as a woman; a pose that may have been prompted by his empathetic relationship with Jane.

In contrast to her brother’s voluminous output, Jane Franklin wrote but one book. It’s called “Book of Ages” – hence Lepore’s title – and it consists of 16 little pages of hand-stitched paper on which Jane recorded the births and deaths of her children. Lepore calls it a litany of grief. For Jane’s lighter voice, much more playful than her brother’s, Lepore turns to her surviving letters. In them, Jane confesses to a taste for gossip or, as it was called, trumpery, and agrees with Ben that their family suffers from a Miffy temper.

It’s something of a minor miracle that she had time to write any letters at all. Jane’s ne’er-do-well husband, Edward Mecom, was chronically broke, and so to generate some income, she eventually turned their overcrowded, four-room home into a boarding house.

By the time the Revolutionary War erupted in Boston, Jane was a 63-year-old widow. She fled before the ransacking British Army, carrying her “Book of Ages” and her brother Ben’s letters in a trunk. While Franklin devoted his intellectual and diplomatic skills to the Revolutionary cause, Jane spent years wandering, staying with friends and scattered family. I am grown such a vagrant, she wrote.

Lepore says that if Franklin – in his poses and writing – meant to be Everyman, Jane is everyone else. The brilliance of Lepore’s book is that plain Jane’s story becomes every bit as gripping – and, in its own way, important – as Big Ben’s public triumphs.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed “Book of Ages,” by Jill Lepore. You can read an excerpt on our website, freshair.npr.org.

Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews a bluegrass album by country star Alan Jackson, and a country album by bluegrass musician James King. This is FRESH AIR.

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