We can make our lives sublime.

During the Revolutionary war, while Fort Motte, situated on Congaree river, in South Carolina, was in the hands of the British, in order to effect its surrender, it became necessary to burn a large mansion standing near the centre of the trench. The house was the property of Mrs. Motte. Lieut. Colonel Lee communicated to her the contemplated work of destruction with painful reluctance, but her smiles, half anticipating his proposal, showed, at once, that she was willing to sacrifice her property if she could thereby aid in the least degree towards the expulsion of the enemy and the salvation of the land. The reply she made to the proposal was that she was “gratified with the opportunity of contributing to the good of her country, and should view the approaching scene with delight!” *

The husband of this noble-hearted widow had so involved himself by securities for friends, that after the struggle for Independence was over, it was impossible for her to immediately meet all demands against the estate. She, however, resolved that they should some day be liquidated – that, life and health being continued long enough, all obligations of her husband’s contracting should be good against herself. She purchased a large tract of rice land on credit, and by industry and economy was able, in a short time, to pay the old demands, and lived to accumulate a handsome property. She re minds us of Solomon’s picture of the virtuous woman: “She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.’…”She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not of the bread of idleness.”

Mrs. Brewton, – since Foster – one of the most amiable and enlightened of the whig ladies, was an inmate of Mrs. Motte’s family at the time of the destruction of her house. Meeting with her shortly after the signing of the preliminary articles of peace at Philadelphia, I inquired – “How it had happened, that she, a helpless, unprotected widow, without any charge of improper conduct, had so far incurred the enmity of the British commanders, as to have been arrested without ceremony, and hurried unprepared, into exile.” She answered – “That she knew no act of hers which had merited such ungentlemanly and inhuman treatment.” Entering, however, into conversation relative to the siege and surrender of Fort Motte, she gave at once a clue to the transaction. While the American forces were at a distance, Major McPherson, the commander of the post, suffered Mrs. Motte and her family to remain, and an apartment was allowed for their accommodation. But when the post at Thompson’s, but a little removed from him, was attacked and carried, anticipating the fate which awaited him, immediate removal was not only advised, but insisted on. At the moment of departure, Mrs. Brewton seeing a quiver of arrows, which had been presented to Mr. Motte by a favorite African, said to her friend, “I will take these with me, to prevent their destruction by the soldiers.” With the quiver in her hands, she was passing the gate, when Major McPherson, drawing forth a shaft, and applying the point to his finger, said, “what have you here, Mrs. Brewton?” “For God’s sake be careful,” she replied “these arrows are poisoned.” The ladies immediately passed on to the out-house, which they were now to inhabit. In the siege which directly followed, when the destruction of the house was determined upon, and missiles eagerly sought for by Lieutenant Colonel Lee for conveying the fire to the shingles, these arrows being remembered, were presented by Mrs. Motte, with a wish for the happy accomplishment of the end proposed. It was afterwards known, that the first arrow missed its aim, and fell at the feet of the commander, who taking, it up, with strong expressions of anger, exclaimed, “I thank you, Mrs. Brewton.” The second arrow took effect, and set fire to the roof, when the brisk discharge of a six pounder being maintained by Captain Finley, in the direction of the stair-case, every effort to extinguish it proved fruitless, until, from the apprehension of the roof falling in, the garrison were compelled to surrender at discretion. General Greene arriving soon after, paid to Major McPherson the tribute of applause due to his excellent defence, declaring, “that such gallantry could not fail to procure for him a high increase of reputation.” This compliment, however, does not appear to have soothed the mortified soldier; for, walking immediately up to Mrs. Brewton, he said, “to you madam, I owe this disgrace; it would have been more charitable to have allowed me to perish by poison, than to be thus compelled to surrender my post to the enemy.” This speech alone, accounts for the enmity against Mrs. Brewton. – [Knapp’s American Anecdotes


Excerpted from Noble Deeds of American Women
(Patriotic Series for Boys and Girls)
Edited by J. Clement
With an Introduction by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney
BOSTON: Lee and Shepard, Publishers
Entered by Act of Congress, in the year of 1851,
by E. H. Derby and Co., in the Clerk’s Office of the Northern District of New York

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