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Tag Archives: SC Revolutionary War heroines

Focus on the Family

I enjoy writing about families; my first books were about strong SC women and their families during the Revolutionary War. Researching that era made me realize the hard lives of two hundred years ago, and walking behind them at their home sites was a pleasure.

Then I wrote a piece about my dad’s years at the Citadel and how his junior class was sent to WW II. Interviewing him and his class mates taught me much about that Greatest Generation. Their tightness as friends in their 80’s was forged in their 20’s by their war experiences.

Next was an article on two audacious sisters in Greenville, SC who drove to ask Frank Lloyd Wright to draw the blueprints for their new house and he did. Being able to walk in that house and sit in the living room opened my eyes to an architecture that I had previously not appreciated. Having lunch with their contractor  and listening to him describe the materials he used gave an invisible depth to this home.

I have finished eight short stories about past generations of women in my husband’s family that worked in the cotton mills in SC. One will be published in the Savannah Anthology next month. Though I had met several of them, I had no idea of their challenges as mill workers; this was eye-opening.

After writing about John’s third great grandfather and three brothers who fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, I learned much about their Appalachian history. I now have a visual of those tall, lanky, bearded, and blue-eyed men who wore slouch hats and ran into that bloody battle. Last summer, we walked along the Sunken Road where this grandfather died.

Looking back on these past ten years of retirement, I can see that my focus continues to stay on the same page, as my muse works with me to keep writing family stories.

Whether it is my family, your family, or a stranger’s family, they are all going to be a mixed bag of personalities and characters. One of my ancestors is the most famous thief in America, Jessie James. My grandmother always proclaimed he was maligned and more like Robin Hood. I am ready to discover his back story and maybe prove Lulu accurate.

We need to share our stories with the next generation. Seven years ago, I found myself the matriarch on both sides of my family. It was not a position I chose or was ready for. When my cousin Bobby accurately dubbed me the matriarch, I refused the title. Now I am intentionally sharing our stories, and they are my gift to the next generations.

Today, as I answered in an author’s site about what drove me to write, I realized again that my writing is a tribute to my family and other families. Can I suggest you tell your stories, too?

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”– Mother Teresa

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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.”

Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson – the Mother of President Andrew Jackson

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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 Scots-Irish cou­ple worked hard, but life under the British rule was a hard-scrabble exis­tence. Dis­re­spect and prej­u­dice for their Pres­by­ter­ian reli­gion was also challenging.

A new life in a new land cap­tured their thoughts.

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, 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 eighteenth-century America.

Though small in stature, Eliz­a­beth was strong and resilient in spirit. She adapted to life’s changes and dis­ap­point­ments and put oth­ers’ 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.

Busy with the daily chores of plan­ning and prepar­ing meals for four­teen indi­vid­u­als in a fire­place, tend­ing to the needs of eleven 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 the cloth and was known for the qual­ity and exper­tise of her work.

Eliz­a­beth wanted her sons to have a for­mal edu­ca­tion. All three boys 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 she 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.

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 20 June 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 horrific Bat­tle of Wax­haws. She didn’t shy away from either the pain or wounds of the soldiers that were slaughtered by the British at this battle. Later, she hid with her fam­ily from the British, who 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 thir­teen, Andy served as a mes­sen­ger. Guer­rilla war­fare and destruc­tion was the aim of both sides, and enemy neigh­bors paid back old insults.

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 hell­hole. 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 dif­fer­ence between right and wrong, and free­dom and oppres­sion; the impor­tance of help­ing fam­ily and friends; rev­er­ence for truth, jus­tice, and free­dom; and a deep patri­otic devo­tion to coun­try.

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

*****