Some women and girls took on the role of rescuers, defenders, and soldiers during the Revolutionary War, including Elizabeth Burgin, Rebecca Motte, Elizabeth Zane, and Deborah Sampson Gannet.
Elizabeth Burgin aided captured American soldiers, by bringing them baskets of food. This was a risky task, in light of the fact that these soldiers were located on a prison ship in the New York harbor (1). Also, she helped some of these soldiers escape from the prison ship. Her actions of aiding the soldiers caught up to her, Elizabeth was forced to live as a fugitive, along with her children (2).
Like Elizabeth Burgin, Rebecca Motte took on many different roles during the war. She sent food to continental soldiers that were fugitives, later helping them to escape from captivity (2). In 1781, the British took over Rebecca Motte’s plantation, and she was forced to live in a small house nearby. When more British soldiers were coming to reinforce troops, the continental soldiers wanted to burn down Rebecca’s plantation, so that they could attack the British who were escaping the burning plantation. Rebecca gave them permission, and her house went up in flames (1).
Similar to Rebecca Motte’s story, Elizabeth Zane had to leave her home and sacrificed a great deal for the American cause. She was just sixteen years old when she fled for the protection at Fort Henry (2). On September 12,1782, Fort Henry came under attack by the British and their Indian allies. Inside the fort, the supply of ammunition was running low, however there was a supply not that far away in a cabin. Elizabeth volunteered to go get the needed gunpowder at the cabin, she quickly retrieved the gunpowder carrying it back in her apron. The British and Indians were shocked to see someone come out of the fort, but when they realized what she was doing they opened fire on her. Elizabeth’s daring run, allowed the Americans to keep the fort, and the British and Indians left the next day without taking the fort (1).
Deborah Sampson Gannet took on an unusual role during the Revolutionary War, she enlisted in the Continental Army. Her first attempt to enlist was in December 17, 1781 under the name of Timothy Thayer, but was unsuccessful, she was recognized. She tried again, going further away so no one would recognize her. This time, May 23, 1782, Deborah signed up under the name of Robert Shurtliff, and had success (2). During her time as Robert Shurtliff, “she fought in the battles at White Plains, Tarrytown, and Yorktown (5). Deborah came down with a fever when they were encamped. Her secret was discovered by Dr. Barnabas Binney who was treating her, but he did not turn her in, instead he kept her secret. Dr. Binney encouraged her to keep fighting, but later Deborah told General Paterson about herself. The General did not get angry, but honorably discharged Robert Shurtliff from the army (2). Later the Congress praised Deborah for her actions, showing true heroism, loyalty, and courage (5).
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