The 4th of July is a time for looking back and celebrating our independence. We commemorate the people who have fought to make it possible. We remember the contributions of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the other founding fathers, but what of the women who, just as valiantly, fought to ensure our independence?
Their names may not be in the Declaration of Independence, but these women have contributed their skills, passion, and lives for the common good. These women ran the homesteads, worked the farms, did chores for the camps, and some even bore arms to continue the fight their menfolk began, without receiving the recognition extended to their male counterparts.
Margaret Corbin, American Soldier
In the beginning, Margaret Corbin was a regular soldier’s wife. She, along with many other wives, became a camp follower, accompanying her husband John during his enlistment. Like the other camp followers, she did the cooking, washing, and even caring for wounded soldiers. That in itself was an important contribution to the side of the freedom fighters, but her biggest contribution was during the Battle of Fort Washington. Her husband perished during the attack. Seeing her husband fall, she took his place behind the cannon, firing at the attacking Hessians until she was hit in the arm, chest, and jaw by the enemy fire.
The injuries she sustained stayed with her for the rest of her life. Recognizing her bravery, Congress eventually given a military pension after the war, the first woman to be awarded such.
Lydia Darragh, American Spy
Lydia Darragh’s story starts simply enough. A housewife in British-occupied Philadelphia, Darragh was ordered to leave her house so that the British soldiers could use it. She requested the British General Howe permission to stay, saying that she and her two children had no place to go. She was allowed to stay with the agreement that she would keep a room in her home free for British soldiers to hold their meetings.
Darragh did more than just allow the British to plan in her house. She eavesdropped on their plans, hearing among others, plans to attack the revolutionary army at Whitemarsh. With her oldest son Charles stationed at Whitemarsh, she recognized the importance of warning the troops. Armed with an empty flour sack, she requested for a pass to visit the a flour mill in Frankford to purchase flour. It was not an unheard of request during the time, so it was granted. She then walked miles in the snow to the Rising Sun Tavern where she handed an old needle book to a soldier. Upon closer look, the needle book held a piece of rolled up paper that warned them of the impending attack. It was relayed to the revolutionary headquarters, allowing them to prepare for the surprise attack.
Sybil Ludington, American Rider
Paul Revere’s midnight ride strikes everyone as significant to the revolution, but what of Sybil Ludington’s? The 16-year old daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington had to ride through Kent, Mahopac, and Stormville before returning home, a distance spanning over 40 miles, more twice the distance of Revere’s historic ride.
The teenager, along with her horse, Star, rode from 9pm to the break of dawn, so she could warn the militia that the British were torching Danbury, Connecticut. While the reinforcements arrived too late to save Danbury, they were still able to fight General William Tryon’s armies off, driving him and his men to Long Island Sound.
Prudence Wright, American Captain
One would think that a town bereft of menfolk would’ve been left defenseless, but in the case of Groton, Massachusetts, it was the women who bore arms to guard their homes. Because of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the town’s able-bodied men left to fight, leaving the townspeople left behind in a pinch when it was heard that British messengers were coming to town.
Prudence Wright gathered up the womenfolk, armed them with whatever they could scrounge up, and disguised themselves in the clothes left behind by their husbands and brothers. The women appointed Prudence their commander, christened themselves Mrs. David Wright’s Guard, then lay in wait at the Jewett Bridge for the British. Their efforts rewarded them with the capture of loyalist spies, one of whom was Prudence’s own brother, Samuel Cummings. They stripped them of the messages they carried, and held them prisoner until they could be turned over to the local committee of safety.
As we raise our glasses to freedom, let us remember that our independence is built on the backs of men and women, who shed blood, sweat and tears, to create the land of the free and the home of the brave.