September Tea Party Winners: Janet Grunst's -- A Heart For Freedom for Chappy Debbie
audible of A Heart Set Free for Lucy Reynolds Roseanna White's is Wilani Wahl -- Debra E. Marvin's -- Kailey Behrendt paperback of Dangerous Deception, Carrie Fancett Pagels' -- The Victorian Christmas Brides collection goes to Nancy McLeroy!
October Tea Party winner for The Cumberland Bride goes to Teri DiVincenzo!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Women Soldiers, Combatants, and Spies in the American Revolution

When I began writing my American Patriot Series, I realized that the storyline I envisioned would require my heroine, Elizabeth Howard, to do many things one doesn’t usually associate with 18th century women at the time of the American Revolution. I wanted the story to be as authentic as possible—no modern-day women in historical clothing! When I started doing research, I discovered that, in fact, women were involved in a whole lot of activities during the Revolutionary War that most of us have never heard about. So here are a few brief accounts of some of the ways women became directly involved in fighting for our independence.

Sybil Ludington Statue
On April 26, 1777, two years and eight days after Paul Revere made his famous ride, Sybil Ludington, the daughter of Col. Henry Ludington, a New York militia officer and later an aide to General George Washington, did essentially the same thing. Except that she was 16, a girl, and she rode more than twice the distance Revere did. Not to mention that her route was a whole lot more daunting, and much of the way it rained hard. Learning that Governor William Tryon’s troops were marching on Danbury, Connecticut, 15 miles away, to carry off the militia’s munitions and stores, Sybil immediately jumped on her horse and took a 40-mile jaunt to rouse the countryside, while her father mobilized the locals. She left her home at Fredericksburgh, NY, at 9:00 p.m. and arrived back home at dawn. By then almost the whole regiment of 400 soldiers had mustered due to her warning. They were on the march within a couple of hours and engaged the British at the Battle of Ridgefield. Although they arrived too late to stop the sack of Danbury, they drove Tryon’s forces back to Long Island. After the war, in 1784, then twenty-three year-old Sybil married Edmund Ogden, a farmer and innkeeper. They had six children and in 1792 settled in Catskill, NY, where they lived until Sybil’s death on February 26, 1839, at the age of 77. She is buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, NY.

Frontispiece of The Female Review: Life of Deborah
Sampson, the Female Soldier in the War of Revolution
There’s no way to know how many women actually served as soldiers during the war by disguising themselves as men, but we do know about 4 who did. Probably the most well-known is Deborah Sampson. Born in 1760, in Plympton, Massachusetts, she enlisted in Captain George Webb’s Company of the 4th Massachusetts in 1782, calling herself Robert Shurtleff. By all accounts she performed her duties admirably and  achieved the rank of corporal. During her first battle, on July 3, 1782, outside Tarrytown, NY, she took two musket balls in her thigh and suffered a cut on her forehead. She managed to avoid detection then, but later was discovered to be a woman. Honorably discharged, she was later granted a pension for her services. The Massachusetts legislature issued a declaration stating that she “exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier.” Sampson later talked about her experiences in the war as a lecturer, saying that she enlisted because of the unjust deaths of colonists at the hands of British soldiers.

Detail of Battle of Germantown by Christian Schussele
Anna Maria Lane probably married her husband, John, before he enlisted in the Connecticut line in 1776 under General Israel Putnam. It isn’t clear if she also disguised herself as a man or just accompanied him as a camp follower. We do know that by the Battle of Germantown she was wearing men’s clothing, though that may have been for convenience. The records of Virginia’s General Assembly state that she “with the courage of a soldier, performed extraordinary military services, and received a severe wound at the battle of Germantown.” Following the war, the Lanes moved to Virginia, and both drew pensions for their service.

Two other women are known to have fought in the Revolution. Sally St. Clare was a Creole girl who lost her life in the war. Another known only as “Samuel Gay,” was discovered to be a woman and discharged. It’s likely others also served in the army as men but were never detected.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth,
engraving by J.C. Armytage, c. 1859
Still other women became combatants when need arose. You’ve undoubtedly heard the name “Molly Pitcher,” which was attached to a woman who stepped in to service her husband cannon after he fell. There’s some evidence that at least two women performed such duties. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley accompanied her husband, John, who served with the Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment. During the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, on June 28, 1778—which will be portrayed in book 6 of my series, Refiner’s Fire—she was hauling water to her husband’s cannon for the sponger to swab out the barrel, when John collapsed, either because of a wound or the day’s extreme heat. Mary immediately stepped up and took his place, assisting the gun crew for the rest of the battle.

Corbin Memorial, West Point Cemetery,
United States Military Academy
Margaret Cochran Corbin was married to John Corbin, another artilleryman, who was killed in the Battle of Fort Washington in November 1776. She also filled her husband’s place at the cannon, assisting in sponging and loading, and received grape shot wounds in the arm and chest. Disabled for the rest of her life, she was an original member of the Invalid Regiment that Congress created in 1777 to care for disabled soldiers. In 1779 Corbin was granted a stipend of $30 and a lifelong pension of half a soldier's pay. She was the first American woman to receive a disabled veteran's pension.

Women also served as spies during the Revolution. A laundress at British headquarters in Philadelphia alerted Washington to British General Henry Clinton’s withdrawal from the city, and many others served in the shadows, like Lydia Darragh. British officers occupying her house in Philadelphia used a large upstairs room for their secret conferences. Lydia would slip into an adjoining closet and take notes on their plans, and after her husband transcribed the intelligence in a form of shorthand on tiny slips of paper, she enclosed them in fabric-covered buttons, which she sewed onto the coat of her fourteen-year-old son, John. When he visited his elder brother, Lieutenant Charles Darragh, serving with the Continental Army outside the city, Charles would snip off the buttons, write out the notes, and send them to his superior. Lydia also supposedly concealed other intelligence in a sewing-needle packet she carried in her purse when passing through British lines.

Major John André
One of the most well-known female spies today was a member of the famous Culper Ring in the New York City area, who was known only by her codename “355,” which stood for “lady” in the Culper code. Her background is unknown, but it’s speculated that she may have come from a prominent Tory family with access to British commanders. She was one of several young, attractive, and intelligent women surrounding dashing British Major John André. When he was arrested by the Americans and executed as a spy in October 1780, Benedict Arnold, one of Washington’s officers who had defected to the British, questioned everyone associated with him. Agent 355 was pregnant at the time and refused to identify the child’s father, arousing Arnold’s suspicions. He had her arrested, and she was held on the infamous prison ship Jersey, moored in the East River. She bore a son there and died shortly thereafter, never identifying the child’s father. But, tellingly, she named him after Robert Townsend, another member of the Culper Ring.

Yet other women followed Washington's army for safety and subsistence. Many provided services such as cooking, washing and mending clothing, and nursing, and consequently received rations and sometimes pay. In my next post, we’ll take a look at the life of camp followers.

How many of these women have you heard of? Which one do you find most interesting or appealing?
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, releases in April 2019. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Moravian Church During Colonial Times – Living in a Choir

by Denise Weimer 
Germanic-built Single Brothers' House
In my last post, we focused on the origins of the Moravian Church (The Unity of the Brethren). Moravians followed the convictions of Protestant reformer John Hus and expanded from the Saxon Herrnhut estate of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf to missions around the world. They also established trade towns in America—especially Pennsylvania and North Carolina—to support missionaries to the American Indians.

A Moravian sister on baking day

While Moravians embraced many traditional Protestant beliefs, during the mid-1700s, they engaged in some unique practices. One of these involved the choir system. 

The practice started when a group of single men moved into their own dormitory in 1728 Herrnhut. Some unmarried women did likewise a couple of years later. Soon, even married couples lived separately, only meeting occasionally in “special sleeping quarters.” Children were sent to the “nurserie” as soon as they were weaned. They entered the dorm for older boys and girls around age twelve.

Single Sisters' House in Salem
Count Zinzendorf believed each group of people could best minister to its own kind. Each choir possessed its own liturgy, hymn book, and services, in addition to the community worship services.

The choir system served as part of the communal “General Economy” meant to provide for the financial needs of the community and the missionaries in the field. Each person had the freedom to apply themselves to specific industry. Single sisters devoted time to washing, nursing, teaching, sewing, cooking, gardening, and livestock care. The choir system also allowed them to hold church offices like eldress, choir helper (spiritual overseer for other sisters), and deaconess. The deaconesses helped the priests and held the bread baskets during Moravian love feasts. 

Count Zinzendorf died in 1760. By 1762, an economic crisis threatened the church in Germany, and choir houses remained only for single men and women. A 1764 synod meeting prevented Moravian women from holding church offices with oversight over both men and women. The move toward the town structure had begun.

Salem Single Brothers Tailor Shop
Single Brothers Woodworking

Another unique practice of the Moravians involved taking major decisions—including marriage!—before the lot. Stay tuned for a future post about the lot—and for my novel, The Witness Tree, coming in September 2019 from Smitten Romance, about a marriage of convenience in Salem, North Carolina, that leads to an adventure in the Cherokee Nation.

See also: National Council on Public History, “Religion in Moravian Bethlehem” and Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820, Katherine Faull

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794

In my recent release, TheCumberland Bride, I reference some unrest taking place in the Ohio Valley at the same time, related to a tax that had been levied on the sale of whiskey.

Farmers in the westernmost states had discovered that due to the high cost of shipping things back east (there were no wagon roads west of the Appalachian Mountains, yet, so they had to use pack horses or mules), they could make more money selling whiskey (distilled from grain grown west of the mountains) than from shipping the grain itself east. Alexander Hamilton, looking for ways to fund the newly formed American government and to defray the lingering cost of the war for independence from Britain, decided to levy a tax on the whiskey.

The farmers didn’t appreciate this new tax and felt they’d just fought for independence from that kind of heavyhandedness, that government was ultimately up to the people and if the people didn’t approve of the tax, well then, they shouldn’t have to pay it. Violence broke out all along the Ohio Valley, from northeastern Kentucky up into western Pennsylvania. Protesters threatened to burn Pittsburg to the ground.

President Washington felt the supremacy of the United States government, and the Constitution itself, was at stake, and so in the face of some vigorous protests, rode out to western Pennsylvania himself with a strong show of force. General Daniel Morgan, the tough, hard-bitten hero of the Battle of Cowpens almost 14 years before (during the Southern Campaign of the Revolution), was chosen to lead one wing of that army, and the Whiskey Rebellion subsided without a shot being fired. (Interestingly, one member of his force, which stayed in western Pennsylvania through 1795, was Meriwether Lewis.)

Several of those who had led the violence were arrested, but only two men were tried and sentenced to hangings. Washington eventually pardoned even those two. He was apparently satisfied that he’d upheld the Constitution, but many farmers still felt the government had looked out more for its own interests than those of its citizens.

The excise tax remained difficult to collect, and many just plain refused to pay it. Hamilton was disappointed that his plan to help fund the new government had failed. Many feel that the events surrounding the Whiskey Rebellion directly led to the formation of two political parties, the Federalists who believed more power should lie with the government to protect and serve, and the Republicans who believed more power should lie with the people. A few years later, when Jefferson was elected president, he repealed the Whiskey Tax, despite the popular view of the day that Washington’s actions against the Whiskey Rebellion were necessary and successful.

Has anything really changed since then? It’s an interesting commentary on the history of our country’s politics, to be sure.

Friday, November 9, 2018


While World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, it was formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, when the Armistice with Germany took effect. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

A very small percentage of the American populace currently serve in the armed forces. I’ve seen percentages anywhere from .04% -- 1%.
According to 2016 data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were approximately 20.4 million U.S. veterans, less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population.

Since Veterans Day falls on a Sunday this year, some government offices, schools, and other businesses are closed either Friday or Monday.

On November 11th, let's acknowledge and express gratitude for all the men and women who have served or are serving our nation in the armed forces. We are the beneficiaries of liberty and freedom only because others were and are willing to sacrifice. Many service members spend vast amounts of time away from family and friends, work long hours under stressful conditions, and go in harm’s way. Their service has preserved our union and allows us to pursue our plans and dreams. Take some time today and thank them.

The Dates  the US Military Organizations Were Founded

US ARMY (USA)                               June 14, 1775
US NAVY (USN)                                October 13, 1775
US MARINES (USMC)                     November 10, 1775
US COAST GUARD (USCG)            August 4, 1790
WOMEN IN NAVY (WAVES)           July 30, 1942
WOMEN IN COAST GUARD (SPARS)    November 23, 1942
WOMEN MARINES                          February 13, 1943
WOMEN'S ARMY CORP (WAC)     July 1, 1943
US AIR FORCE (USAF)                   September 18, 1947
WOMEN IN USAF (WAF)                June 12, 1948

Department of Defense founded September 18, 1947