Winter Tea Party winners: Angela's book,THE SCARLET COAT, will go to: Print copy- Andrea Stephens; e-book copy - Catherine Wight!

LUCY REYNOLDS has a table topper quilt on the way, and winners of the Valentine Ebook Collection are: Deanna Stevens, Caryl Kane, Anne Payne and Winnie Thomas. With thanks to all who joined in!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rebecca Motte, A Revolutionary War Heroine

Susan F. Craft

Rebecca Brewton Motte

     During their occupation of Charlestown (now Charleston), SC, the British under Sir Henry Clinton chose the home of Rebecca Motte as their headquarters. Imprisoned in her home, Mrs. Motte found a clever way to hide her daughters in the attic from the soldiers for seven months. In January 1781, after her husband died, Mrs. Motte was granted permission to leave Charleston to go with her daughters to her Mount Joseph Plantation in Calhoun County, near the Congaree River.
     Ironically, the British took over the plantation, which became a principal supply depot for the British campaign in the South. Known as Fort Motte, it garrisoned about 200 soldiers under the command of Lt. Donald McPherson.
     American forces sought to destroy the British interior chain of military posts, including Fort Motte, to gain control of everything within thirty miles of the sea. Before General Francis Marion and Lt. Colonel Lighthorse Harry Lee attacked the plantation on May 8, 1781, the Motte family was asked to retreat to a farmhouse nearby. When American forces failed to take the fort, they decided to burn the British out.
Mrs. Motte encouraged the Americans to set the main house afire in order to dislodge the British. She herself is said to have provided the arrows used to ignite the roof. (One firsthand account of the siege says that Nathan Savage, a private in Marion's brigade, made up a ball of rosin and brimstone, to which he set fire and slung it on the roof of the house.) The British surrendered when the fire broke out, and tradition has it that both sides assisted in putting out the fire, saving the house.
The Capture of Fort Motte
Mort Kunstler, Artist
Brigadier General Francis Marion
      Following the successful American siege, Mrs. Motte graciously hosted a dinner for officers of both armies. Their dinner was interrupted with such a noise that General Marion raced outside to find his men mistreating and threatening to hang British soldiers. Marion became enraged that his men would treat their prisoners in such a manner and ordered his men to desist.




Rebecca and The Fox
Chris Weatherhead as Rebecca Motte

     Chris Weatherhead, film/TV/stage star, film director and author, was so taken with Rebecca’s story that she created a one-woman, one-act play, Rebecca and The Fox.

     Chris, what was it about Rebecca that drew you to her story?
Rebecca Brewton Motte embodied the greatest attributes a person can have; extraordinary courage, uncanny wit, wisdom, kindness, generosity, humility and amazing patience.  Her contributions to the cause of freedom as well as those of her husband, Jacob, are difficult to measure as they were supporting liberty in so many ways prior to and during the war. 
During the occupation in Charleston, Rebecca was aware the British were notorious for raping women at their whim, and having three daughters, she found a clever way to hide them – she courteously kept telling the British leaders that the back stairway was “under repair” and could not be used. These “repairs” went on for seven months while she had servants and herself, sneaking up to the attic room with food and supplies for the girls! I have such respect for Rebecca Motte and I long to have such a resourceful mind and diplomatic ability if I ever had to handle such a crisis!!
     The idea for a play about Rebecca sprang from the feature film I directed and co-starred in, All for Liberty, about a little known extraordinary hero of the backcountry of South Carolina, Captain Henry Felder, who happens to be the sixth-great grandfather of my nationally recognized actor/writer/producer husband, Clarence Felder. We spent years on the project and so much research that we have enough to do various projects on the American Revolution for the rest of our lives!
What research did you do for the play?
I read a ton of books – the bibliography is as long as my arm! Also, Tony Youmans, the wonderful director of the Old Exchange Building was extremely helpful as an Historical Advisor and steered us to uncover surprising connections between Mrs. Motte, her husband, and many heroes of that dangerous time. She was a friend and great supporter to many military leaders during the war years. The show includes Rebecca’s experiences with General ‘Swamp Fox’ Francis Marion, Isaac Hayne, William Moultrie, “Lighthorse” Harry Lee, and Lt. Colonel John Laurens, who were dedicated patriots, fighting the British in South Carolina, using every resource, even some mysterious, deadly arrows. It’s a great way to truly entertain our audiences as well as illuminate our rich heritage and the cost of freedom.
Who designed your costume for the play?
(right) Chris Weatherhead as Rebecca Motte
and assistant Erica Magtira
The costume was conceived in a meeting with long-time designer and historical living historian, Jean Robertson Hutchinson, who has designed and built exceptionally beautiful period clothing for Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina for 16 years – she creates in many periods of female dress and is a member of the Colonial Ladies Society as well. Because I can only wear one outfit for a whole show – I am the only one onstage – we had to find an iconic gown and shoes and make it so lovely people could enjoy it throughout the show as I moved about the stage. We love getting a great idea and then going shopping to find exactly the right fabrics. As we laughed and got a chance to talk as we looked at every piece of fabric in about three stores – touching them all several times - we finally found an exceptional cotton of an intense blue for the skirt that is a type of Indigo color, for which South Carolina was so famous! And a cotton Colonial printed Chintz with a very complimentary and popular pattern typical of the times for a lady of Rebecca’s social status – we were so happy! The audience raves about the gown with its delightful bright blue and bows, and the red leather period shoes with bows too!
Tell us about yourself.
I had a lot of classical training in England, California, and New York as I had become an actress originally to be as versatile as I could. So, I’ve performed many periods of history and modern characters as a professional actress for decades on stage, TV and film.  And now I can say I’ve gone from a daytime series star to American Revolutionary War Heroine! In my New York City years, I played a super evil and power-hungry vixen, Alicia Van Dine, on location in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for “THE EDGE OF NIGHT” for ABC. I co-starred on the daytime TV series for 2 years, before realizing I was getting too much fan mail from inmates in prisons across the country who seemed to want to be like me. I was becoming a committed Christian and did not want to glorify criminal behavior, so I soon left the show. I moved to California where in between acting on TV, films and stage in LA, I began seven years of writing, producing and visiting in the prison system there for Match-Two Prisoner Outreach. [For movie listings visit IMDB Movie Data Base and type in name.]
Moving to South Carolina to help care for a family member, I co-founded Actors' Theatre of South Carolina with my husband, Clarence Felder, producing 70 productions and performing many roles including Mary Chesnut’s War For Independence! and portrayed Mary Chesnut for C-SPAN's American Writer’s Series.  I co-starred, co-wrote and directed the feature film, All for Liberty, which has won nine international film festival awards and three national historical awards [from Sons & Daughters of the American Revolution]. It is now distributed worldwide to buy or rent from Bridgestone Multimedia Group. (www.gobmg.com)



Reviews for Rebecca and The Fox
…elegantly and persuasively captures the essence of SC's Revolutionary heroine, Rebecca Motte, and her turbulent times.
Alexia Jones Helsley, Historian, Archivist & Author

…multi-talented Chris Weatherhead wrote and stars as the Revolutionary War heroine, Rebecca Motte, under the masterful direction of Clarence Felder…Weatherhead is gracious…full of the kind of theatrical chemistry which captures the audience on her historical adventure…fighting battles using charm, wit, kindness and extraordinary courage…willing to do anything to save her family…obviously much research went into the script…kudos also to Jean Robinson Hutchinson’s costuming talents…Bravo to Rebecca and the Fox! Sandy Katz, national entertainment journalist

     Theater at its best - plunks you in the maelstrom of the Revolutionary War in South Carolina…heroes come alive…brilliant acting…
provokes thought long after the curtain falls.
Susan F. Craft, Author of award winning Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile

“…a perfect performance…charming and realistic… Rebecca was proud, brave, clever and resilient… shares friendship with General Francis Marion, "The Swamp Fox," and other patriots around her… Brava!”     Diane Scher, entertainment journalist
 
(My thanks to Bridgestone Multimedia Group for permission to use the DVD cover for All for Liberty)
 
Susan F. Craft is the author of The Chamomile, a Revolutionary War romantic suspense. which won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Fall 2011 Okra Pick.







 

6 comments:

  1. Susan, what a fun and interesting post.Hiding her daughters in the attic while British soldiers were billeted below. Truly, truth can be stranger than fiction.

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  2. Thanks, Janet. You're right, you can't make up things like that. The courage that must have taken amazes me. She had to sit with the British at her dinner table and smile and be gracious while her husband was dying and her daughters were hidden upstairs.

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  3. Susan, the story was fascinating enough, but I loved how you introduced us to Chris! What a treat to hear about her dedication to this story and to learn more about this program.

    I can't imagine what she went through but it's sadly typical of so much of warfare. We have become so removed from what was part of life for so many generations of our ancestors in the U.S, and Europe and more. Thankfully!

    Great post!

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  4. Thank you, Debra. Rebecca and Chris are two extraordinary women. I was impressed with Chris' reason for leaving a starring role and a more-than-likely lucrative salary--because she was becoming a Christain and didn't want to glamorize an evil person.

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  5. Great post. Enjoyed reading it. Love our American Revolutionary heroines!

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  6. Thank you, Tammy. So glad you enjoyed the post. I hope to write a series of novels about South Carolina backcountry women during the Rev War. As a writer, I couldn't make up some of the things that happened to them.

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