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Cover image via Library of Congress.
I am certain that you, like me, have never really given much thought to the role women played in bringing about a victorious ending to the brutal and hard fought American Revolutionary War. But without these courageous women, mostly behind the scenes, I am afraid that the end result could have been considerably different.
One such woman was Martha Bratton. The story goes that Martha and her husband, Colonel William Bratton, stashed and concealed, on their property in North Carolina, a large store of gunpowder for the Revolutionary cause.
One day, with her husband away fighting for General Sumter’s army, Martha found herself in a very precarious situation. She had received word that the British were marching towards their farm, with plans to find and confiscate the hidden stash of ammunition. Martha acted quickly and set up a trap that blew up the entire building and all of the ammunition, just as the British arrived.
She was captured by the British and accused of the awful deed, which she never denied having done. “It was I who did it . . . Let the consequence be what it will, I glory in having prevented the mischief contemplated by the cruel enemies of my country.” (Martha Bratton, National Women’s History Museum)
On the verge of receiving severe punishment for her act of being a traitor to the King of England, and for aiding the revolutionaries, a British officer took pity on her, never having executed a woman for treason before, and spared her life.
But as fate would have it, an odd turn of events took place when that same officer was captured by the Patriots and sentenced to death by hanging.
Martha, deeply saddened by the cruelty of war, decided that she needed to repay the debt owed to this British officer for saving her life.
She was so revered for her assistance to the cause of the war, and for her bravery, that she was able to persuade the Patriots not to hang the officer, and arranged for an exchange of prisoners instead.
Martha Bratton was also responsible for executing the surprise attack that defeated the notorious Captain Huck’s army.
While being forced to feed British troops in her home, she was threatened at the throat with a reaping hook if she did not reveal her husbands whereabouts. But at the peril of her own life, she still did not tell them.
Later, as the British soldiers slept, she was able to get word to her husband, who was camped close by, that the British were there. The Patriots orchestrated a sneak attack that very night, which led to a needed victory over the British.
The defeat of the ruthless Captain Huck, and his army, encouraged many men in the area to join the armed struggle against the British and was a turning point for the war in North Carolina.
Later on, Martha opened her home to the care of the wounded, both British and American soldiers.
She was honored all of the days of her life. Upon her death, in 1816, she was toasted – “The memory of Mrs. Bratton -…Honor and gratitude to the woman and heroine, who proved herself so faithful a wife – so firm a friend to liberty!” (Martha Bratton, National Women’s History Museum)
The reality is, there were lots of Martha Bratton’s back then, and there are lots now. There are many sterling women today, given the opportunity, who would act, and have acted, in the same courageous manner. We just don’t hear about, or speak of them very often.
Courageous and committed women, all over this country, are willing to sacrifice and give of their time, talents, abilities, resources, and in some cases their very lives, to bless and strengthen this great nation of ours, whether it be on the battlefront, in a school classroom, the political arena, a hospital room, the work place, or in their own homes.
This 4th of July as you celebrate with family and friends, participate in picnics, patriotic parades, cookout sand dazzling fireworks displays, don’t forget to take a minute and give thanks for all of those who have served and fought, lived and died for us, and this beloved land of ours -these United States of America!
And don’t forget the unsung heroine – “Honor and gratitude to the woman and heroine, who proved herself so faithful a wife – so firm a friend to liberty!”
Odds are, today, she’s probably the one doing lots of the holiday cooking, so kiss the cook!
Happy 4th of July!