J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

“One Instance of Courage”

I can’t resist quoting from Don Hagist’s British Soldiers, American Revolution blog, a report on an 8 June 1776 incident from Captain Sir Francis Carr Clerke, an aide-de-camp to Gen. John Burgoyne who died at the Battle of Saratoga:

Before I close my letter I must not omit telling your Lordship of one Instance of Courage that was shown at Trois Rivieres by a fair Country woman of ours, that deserves to be recorded. The wife of [Robert] Middleton Soldier in the 47th Regt. Quite alone took & disarmed six Provincial Soldiers, & was the means of two more being taken also.

The Circumstances are thus, which [she] related to Genl. Burgoyne in my Presence. She said she went to a House about a quarter of a Mile from the River near the Wood, for some Milk to carry to her Husband the 8th of June during the Engagemt.

That on opening the Door she saw six Rebel Soldiers armed, that this daunted her a little, however she took Courage, & rated them saying, “Ay’nt ye ashamed of yourselves ye villains to be fighting agst. Your King & Countrymen” that they looked sheepish, therefore she said, you are all Prisoners give me your Arms, that two more remained at the Outside of the back Door, which she was more afraid of than all the rest, that however standing between them, & their Arms, she called to some Sailors at the River Side, to whom she delivered the Prisoners, & who presently took the other two.

This is exactly true, & she is, contrary to what you wou’d imagine her, a very modest, decent well looking Woman.
Don tracked down paperwork revealing more about Pvt. Middleton, but it looks like we don’t even know the given name of his bold and “very modest, decent well looking” wife.

For more on British soldiers’ wives and sweethearts, here’s Don’s article on “The Women of the British Army in America.”

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