History raves about the heroics of men in the Revolutionary War, but few instances are mentioned of women. Yet during every step of the passage to Freedom, women were there. They helped in ways as courageous as fighting beside men on the battlefield like Deborah Samson, being the ultimate Patriot, doing things like spying, to marching Tories (people who remained loyal the English King) to the gallows like Nancy Morgan Hart, and even saving her master from the Redcoats as slave Mammy Kate did.
Deborah Samson Gannett was one of the bravest and most interesting women of the American Revolution.
She was five foot eight inches, which is almost a foot taller than the average woman of her day, and taller than the average man. Hard farm work from when she was younger broadened her shoulders and toughened her muscles. She was not a beauty (all the woman that fought or helped in the American Revolution were described as ugly). The same as the typical farm girl in her day, Deborah had no official schooling, but instead was taught by two farm boys. Deborah was a fine Patriot and did not fear anything. One day those qualities took the best of her when in early 1782, she dressed up in men's clothing and signed up to be in the army with the name "Timothy Thayer of Carver." She must have changed her mind overnight because she didn't report for duty the next day.
Someone in the tavern recognized her and a rumor erupted. The Baptist Church that she belonged to, interrogated her on these accusations and she would not admit to the 'scandalous behavior'. The town and church began to shun Deborah and she moved in with her distant cousin Reverend Noah Alden. Noah's house was near to a tavern where militiamen often gathered.
At that tavern on May 20, 1782, Deborah signed up for the army again. She called herself Robert Shurtliff. The recruiter didn't recognize Deborah disguised as a Shurtliff, and gave her 60 pounds for payment. The signature of Robert Shurtliff still remains in Massachusetts history today. At Worcester three days later, Captain Eliphalet Thorp scrounged up Shurtliff and 49 other recruits to put into Captain George Webb's army. The men were given their uniforms and equipment at West Point; there were no physical examinations in those days.
The last battle of the American Revolution was already fought by then, but the Loyalists, people who remained loyal the English King, still held New York City and other strong forts. These final battles were fought in savage guerrilla warfare. Colonel James DeLancy, who Shurtliff and the other members of his troops fought in many vicious skirmishes, directed the most feared of the Loyalist units to endure defeat and keep on fighting. Shurtliff demonstrated his extreme courage, power, devotion, and fighting skills in every battle against DeLancy. His troops were trapped by a surprise attack by DeLancy's troops and Shurtliff experienced a gash on her forehead and then got shot by a musket ball in the upper front thigh or arm ( Some articles says she was shot in the thigh and others say the arm). Shurliff's troops were completely defeated, then Colonel Ebenezer Sproat and his troops arrived and forced DeLancy's troops retreat.
Sproat knew Deborah from home but in the heat of the rescue did not recognize her. A French doctor wrapped up the head wound but was not notified of the musket ball in her thigh . She limped out of the hospital and extracted the musket ball out of her thigh by herself with a knife. The doctor discovered the half dead soldier on the ground and also learned of her secret that she was a woman. Instead of notifying authorities like he should have, he brought her home so she could get well and be safe.
Robert Shurtliff's true identity was discovered on October 23, 1783, and because of 'his' heroic services, an Honorable Discharge was awarded to "Robert Shurtliff", Deborah Samson. Deborah tried to return to her mother in Plymouth but her mother was disgusted and disappointed with her army adventures. Deborah then decided to move to her Aunt Alice Walters' house. When she arrived dressed in man's clothing, her aunt thought that she was one of Deborah's brothers, Ephraim Samson. She met her future husband, Benjamin Gannett, at the Walters house. Benjamin and Deborah had three children, but were cursed with a life of poverty.
Deborah was a friend to the famous Paul Revere. When Paul learned how Deborah fought in the war and had not received a pension, he went to George Washington and told him the problem. As a result of his efforts, on January 19, 1792, Deborah became the only woman to receive a pension from the Revolutionary War. Another female Revolutionary War hero, Nancy Morgan Hart was an astounding female. She was absolutely fearless and would do utterly anything for her country. She once again was described as being ugly, but in this case she certainly was.
She was six feet tall, very masculine, red-haired, and had an extremely bad temper. When she was younger she caught smallpox and it took its toll on her face, and sources say she was cross-eyed. Although she lacked beauty, she had a husband named Benjamin Hart and eight children. One of the children, Sukey, helped her spy and carried messages to the local militia for her.
In addition to all the astounding things she did for her county, she was also a midwife, a hunter, a doctor, and a farmer. It's hard to believe that a woman with such a horrible temper could be such a remarkable spy, but Nancy, she did it all. Tories were ruthless; If they found out that someone was a Patriot, then their family would be murdered and their house taken over by the Tories. Nancy made herself a target by openly supporting the Patriot cause.
She crossed the Broad River in a raft of logs tied together with grapevines in 1781. Nancy infiltrated a British camp, posed as an uneducated man, and gathered valuable information about where the troops were heading. On another spying mission, Nancy went to learn the location of the Loyalists and their weapons. She infiltrated a British Camp again, supposedly selling eggs and housewares, so she was not suspected of spying, and gathered information for the General.
Nancy's most famous deed occurred when five Tories arrived at her cabin demanding that she cook them food sometime in 1780. She prepared the meal unwillingly and listened to them talk of their plans and how they had just killed her neighbor, Colonel John Dooley. After hearing this she came up with a plan. She brought out all the food and plenty of whisky with a cheerful and talky attitude; the Tories immediately brought their guard down.
Nancy then sent her daughter Sukey for spring water, but whispered additional plans in her ear. She told Sukey to set the alarm to let the men in the field know that there was danger near. While the redcoats were talking jubilantly and slowly drinking more and more whiskey, each time she passed the muskets she slipped one through a hole in the cabin. She had slipped about three muskets through the hole before a Tory saw her.
She loaded her gun and dared any of them to move. Since she was cross-eyed one Tory thought she wasn't looking at him, so she shot him. A second man made a move and she wounded him. About that time, the militia arrived at her house and began taking them out to be shot. Nancy said, "Shootin's too good fer 'em. Hang 'em!" (Nancy Hart Historical Park pg.
2) While the Tories were being hanged Nancy sang Yankee Doodle Dandy. Nancy also had countless encounters with Tories on different occasions where she did something extreme. One incident there was a young Patriot running from two Tories and she opened her door, rushed him inside. When the Tories knocked on her door to see if she knew where he was, she told them, "No horse rider came by my cabin." (Nancy Hart Revolutionary Heroine pg. 2) Nancy knew she had fooled them and later commented, "Drat them high-minded Tories, if they hadn't had their noses so high and mighty, they could " ve looked down and seen the tracks going right in and out of the cabin. And I didn't lie neither! He didn't go past my house.
He went right through it!" (Nancy Hart Revolutionary Heroine pg. 2) She captured another Tory spy one evening when he was listening outside her window. Sukey alerted her of the spy, so Nancy made it a point to talk loudly and stir the boiling soup on the fire. Suddenly she reached the ladle into the boiling soup and threw it out the window and onto the Tory's face. Almost all of the events mentioned that involved Nancy Morgan Hart had no exact dates. These are just two examples of many.
A third heroine of the war was an amazing black woman named Mammy Kate. She was one of the few slaves in Georgia ever freed and given land by her master. Mammy Kate was over six feet tall, very strong, and absolutely fearless. Kate was of pure African blood and declared she was the daughter of a great African King. She served Stephen Heard, who briefly served as a temporary Governor and Council President in the early colonial days of Georgia. On February 14, 1779, Governor Heard was one of the twenty-three Americans wounded and / or captured by Tories in the Battle of Kettle Creek.
When Mammy Kate heard that her master was captured, she knew that she needed to free him. She traveled fifty miles on horseback to Augusta, Georgia, so she could save her master. She made a clothesbasket and was off to the fort. She told the guards that she was collecting dirty laundry and insisted that (her owner) Stephen Heard die tomorrow in clean clothes. Instead of taking his laundry from him, she put him in the laundry basket, and carried him out. Stephen raced to the horse she brought, Lightfoot, while Kate stole the General's horse and they rode back home.
As a payment for her dedication and love for her master Stephen, he offered her freedom and gave her a piece of his land to make a decent house. She refused and said, "Na, Marie Stephen, you may set me free, but I ain't gwine r set you free." (Women's History Month pg. 2) Before she died she made a will and left everyone of her nine children to one of Stephen's nine children. Mammy Kate and Daddy Jack (her husband) are buried in the cemetery at the foot of Stephen and his wife's graves in unmarked graves. Clearly women played a major role in the fight for Freedom. These women, especially Deborah Samson, Nancy Morgan Hart, and Mammy Kate are just three of the many women who contributed greatly to the success of the American Revolution..