« PreviousContinue »
course, from the necessity of the case, the men played the most prominent parts; still it was the inspiring patriotism of the women that gained for us the blessed inheritance which we enjoy. They cheerfully endured the hardships, and patiently hoped in the discouragements and darkness, when it seemed that the light would never appear. Lady Washington and the wives of several officers were at Valley Forge during that hardest period of the struggle, and by their cheerfulness and uncomplaining endurance of the privations, inspired hope, and gave confidence to the discouraged. They provided comforts for the sick, made garments by patching and using what material they could obtain
for the poor
soldiers, sympathized with and soothed the dying, and used every effort to encourage the officers and men. And yet they suffereil as well as the men, for provisions were scantily served, and the cold and privations made that winter of 1777-78 one of the most dreadful of the contest. It has been well said that if ever women had earned the right to share in the triumphs of their husbands, it was such wives as those who had borne with them the trials at Valley Forge.
When affairs were at their worst, the women of Pennsylvania and New Jersey came to the rescue. With earnestness and toil, Mrs. Reed, the President of the Association for Relief in Philadelphia, raised large sums of money, so that garments were made and provisions provided for the soldiers who were in great distress and destitution. General Washington wrote a letter of thanks to the committee, saying, “The army ought not to regret its sacrifices or its sufferings, when they meet with so flattering a reward as in the sympathy of your sex; nor can it fear that its interests will be neglected when espoused by advocates as powerful as they are amiable.”
The women prepared bandages and lint for the use of the soldiers before the battle, and many times after a battle the burial of the dead and caring for the wounded would have been omitted if it were not for the women. Homes were opened for hospitals, and the women took care of the sick, although sometimes at the peril of their lives and the destruction of their homes. Many times the enemy passing through laid
waste their property, or took it as quarters for the officers, who oftentimes slaughtered the cattle and used up all the supplies, leaving the families destitute. But even this did not crush the spirit of patriotism.
Most of the women were ready to show compassion even on the enemy when they were suffering from starvation or other distress and sought their aid. Mrs. Beekman, of New York, showed her magnanimity when, one morning, an officer of the British Army rode up to the house and asked her for something to eat. She went out of the room and brought back a loaf of bread. This was all she had in the house for the British soldiers had taken away everything else. But she said she would give him half and keep the other for her family. The officer was so touched at her kindness that he promised his soldiers should not molest her again.
We have seen how the women used their influence before the war, how they spurred on their loved ones to take part in the fray, how they shared the dangers and privations, and how they sacrificed even their property, when it was necessary. Now, let us learn whether any of the women used their literary ability. Yes, there are several of the leading women of that time who accomplished much by their writings. Mercy Warren was especially influential during the war. She wrote poetry and tragedies and kept up a correspondence with many of the foremost men of the era. John Adams, Henry Knox, and others wrote to her and asked her advice in regard to many important affairs. She also wrote a "History of the Revolution,” in which she showed that she could sketch character truly, and proved herself, as a writer, far in advance of the age. But whatever power of influence she possessed, either literary or social, she wielded it for liberty, for freedom, for her country.
Although Mercy Warren was, indeed, proficient in poetry, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, surpassed her in prose. "Indeed, she stood at the head of her countrywomen in respect to her letters. She wrote concerning the state of the country, the outlook for the future and concerning the public affairs, discussing them with the keen insight of an observant mind." She kept her husband well posted about the home details, advised him in weighty matters in which he always sought her counsel, and by her cheerfulness and sympathy sustained him in the hardest duties which he had to perform. Others less eminent than these two used their literary powers which, while perhaps they were employed indirectly, helped spur on the actors in the strife.
Martha Washington, Mary Morris, Margaret Schuyler, Mrs. Henry Knox, Mrs. Greene, and many others were prominent during the Revolution, and they accomplished much for their country; but if the saying is true, "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” how much we owe the mother of Washington! Does she not deserve especial attention?
Mary Washington was one of the finest characters of the Revolutionary period. But little is known of her in comparison with the wife of Washington, on account of her separation from her son in his later years, and also on account of her lack of personal ambition. George Washington inherited her reserve and dignity, determination and strength of will.
George Washington Parke Custis said of her, "The mother of Washington in forming him for those distinguished parts he was destined to perform, first taught him the duties of obedience the better to prepare him for those of command.” Mrs. Washington was a praying woman, as indeed all mothers of truly great men are. She was unwavering in purpose, while gentle in manner, well-balanced, and possessed of good common sense. Lafayette, who held sincere reverence toward the mother of his friend, said that she belonged rather to the age of Sparta or Rome, so courageous was she. In a word, she was a grand woman, well fitted to have the training of one who was destined to become the head of a nation.
The lives of most of the women are well nigh ignored in the records of history. Yet there is no doubt that their hearts beat just as warmly for their country's cause, their hands toiled just as willingly, their sacrifices were made as heartily and cheerfully as those whose deeds we know, and whose merits we praise. All honor be to the memory of those who had the courage, trusting in the power of God's might to "dash to earth the oppressor's rod," and then, still trusting in God, lay the foundations of a nation that should become the structure which we see to-day.
OLIVE A. LINCOLN.
MRS. SARAH WAYNE GARDINER MCCALLA.
In perfacing his "Strange True Stories of Louisiana,” Mr. Cable wrote:
"True stories are not often art. The relations and experiences of real men and women rarely fall into such symmetrical order as to make an artistic whole. Until they have such treatment as we give stone in the quarry or gems in the rough, they seldom group themselves with that harmony of values and brilliant unity of interest that result when art comes in—not so much to transcend nature as to make nature transcend herself."
There is just such need of the artist's hand in setting forth the eventful lives of the patriotic folk, who, in the face of great dangers and discouragements assisted in securing American Independence. None are more worthy of artistic treatment than the noble women of South Carolina, one of whom was Mrs. Sarah Wayne Gardiner McCalla.
Sarah Wayne Gardiner was the daughter of Mr. John Gardiner and his wife, Mrs. Hannah Wayne Gardiner (nee Wayne). She was born near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her mother was a first cousin of that distinguished patriot, General Anthony Wayne, and no doubt Sarah's heroic nature was an inheritance from the Waynes. Unfortunately she lived before the age of photography. A pen picture reflected from the loving memory of a proud son is the only portrait known to her descendants.
Although but of medium height she was of commanding appearance. Perhaps it was her invincible spirit that intensified her whole being. Under the matron's snowy cap her smooth auburn hair was put primly back from a fair face lighted by deep brown eyes. The same loving son has said, often, that his mother's face was in the face of his daughter, Sarah, who is also my sainted mother, and that her spirit looked out
of my mother's eyes. In the brown depths of the eyes of both Sarahs dwelt gentleness and all the kindred virtues, and there, too, was the spirit for the defense of a righteous cause; a spirit impulsive, yet not rash, quick to respond to good fellowship but ready to resent wrong and injustice.
In 1775 Sarah was married to Thomas McCalla, who, unfortunately, was a poor man. On account of his poverty the marriage was strenuously opposed by the Gardiner family, and so bitter were they in their opposition, that Sarah, in turn, refused to recognize her connection with them and in after years never alluded to them. So they drifted apart; their independent spirits would not permit reconciliation. Sarah's remote ancestor on the Gardiner side came over in the "Mayflower."
Sarah, and her husband, Thomas, left Lancaster in 1778 for the new country of Carolina, that was then being peopled by emigrants from Virginia and Pennsylvania. Many of their friends had previously gone there and in honor of the old home in Pennsylvania had called the newly settled district Chester.
The McCallas made their home in Chester District during the rest of their lives. Their neighbors were few and remote; their means scanty. It was pioneer life to them; but it was made happy by the home life, which meant so much to them.
While they were yet living in Pennsylvania, the young husband was a member of the Colonial militia and was often absent from home on duty. He had been stationed at Paulus Hook when the British were in New York and was there on the day of the battle of Long Island. He was also present at the battle of Brandywine. At this time Sarah displayed the heroic spirit which in later days was so often tested. While many women were stricken with fear for the safety of their husbands, Sarah's courage rose with the occasion and she hastened to inspire with her words and to alleviate suffering by every means in her power. When the McCallas went to South Carolina to live, she continued to minister to the distressed and needy. In 1780 the war was prosecuted with greater vigor in the South. On the McCalla farm grew a large mulberry tree under which the volunteer company of the Twenty-seventh Regiment used to muster. The company was