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HISTORY has rendered but partial justice to the efforts of Rhode Island during our Revolutionary struggle. No state made greater sacrifices—no state furnished more men in proportion to its population-none more money in proportion to its wealth ; and she had the honor of furnishing a General, second only to the immortal Commander-in-Chief. Next to Washington stood General Greene, in all those traits of character deemed so essential in a commander of an army.
This little state was the seat of war for nearly three years. From December, 1776, to November, 1779, the enemy held possession of Newport and the greater part of the island of Rhode Island; and during all that time his ships-of-war had the command of our beautiful bay, and he landed his men on its shores whenever plunder and devastation was an object. Night and day incursions were made from the ships—towns near the shores were bombarded and burnt, and on one night alone, as the writer was told by an old soldier, when on guard on an eminence near “Updikes Newtown,” he counted five fires in various directions, which afterwards were ascertained to have been the burning of houses and barns by the enemy. Nor was this the worst part of the picture. The tories would furnish the necessary information where there was a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep, and in many cases act as guides to the enemy in their marauding excursions. With such an enemy had the men of Rhode Island to contend !
From December, 1776, to the summer of 1777, almost every man liable by law, or not liable, to perform military duty, was called out to guard the shores until troops from other states
could come to their relief, when their duty became less ardu
Permanent regiments were also raised in this state for the defence of “Rhode Island in particular.”
The women also of Rhode Island, with all the sympathies peculiar to their sex, took an active part in sustaining the “great cause," and a more noble race of women never existed. History can furnish but few instances of greater sacrifices and efforts than were made by them to aid their country. Mothers and daughters not only performed all the necessary work in-doors, but much of the out-door labor on the farms was done by them while their husbands and brothers were at the camp.
We could fill a volume with what we have been told by them of their efforts, their sacrifices, their anxieties, their feelings and sufferings, in the great struggle for Independence, since the first act of Congress was passed, granting pensions to the widows of officers and soldiers of the Revolution. We will mention a few specimens of female efforts, and add their names as a tribute to their memory.
Dorcas Marteson, of Coventry, widow of David, was the mother of nineteen children, was married in 1770, and, at the time she made an application for a pension, was ninety-one years of age, yet her mind and memory were as bright as if she had been only thirty. This lady informed the writer of some of the efforts she made, and privations she endured, to sustain the "glorious cause." Among other things, she said: In Sullivan's memorable expedition in 1778, in “hay time,” she went into the meadow, pillowed her baby on some hay in the shade, and went to work; and, with the help of a lad not old enough to bear arms, raked together and loaded hay, and put it in the barn, while her husband was at the “camp,' and this business she followed for some days. But this was nothing in comparison with her suffering and anxieties during the battle on Rhode Island in August following. She could distinctly hear the roar of the cannon, and could
almost fancy she saw the clashing of swords; and, knowing her husband to be such a “liberty man,” could almost see him falling a victim to British bayonets in the contest. But he returned in a few days after his time expired, safe and sound, with only one bullet hole about him, made in retreating from the Island. Fortunately that bullet was arrested by a small cheese she had a few days before sent him, and which he had crowded into his knapsack.
A BIGAL SALISBURY.
A bigal Salisbury, of Barrington, widow of George, who was Sergeant of a guard stationed at Rumstick Point, was another choice specimen of female patriotism. She was ONE HUNDRED YEARS of age when she applied for a pension, was married fifteen years before the war, and she, too, took an active part in the struggle for Independence, and knit stockings for the whole guard. Indeed, she was so fond of knitting that she continued it until her death. She showed the writer a pair of stockings she knit after she was one hundred years
Sarah Dyer, widow of Anthony Dyer, of Glocester, was another heroine of the Revolution. Her husband was a subaltern in a corps called the “Captain General's Cavaliers," an independent corps, chartered in 1775 expressly to fight the British ; and it had as much fight in it as if it had been composed of Cossacks. She was ninety-three years old when she made an application for a pension, was married in 1763, and her descendants are now among the most wealthy and respectable citizens of Providence.
She informed the writer of many incidents which took place, and the efforts she made to sustain the “ glorious cause." She, too, like Mrs. Matteson, went into the meadow in “hay time,” raked and loaded hay, hoed and gathered in potatoes, and harvested corn; and she said she did it "cheer
fully," although it was rather laborious to do both “men and women's work at the same time, or on the same day. Although' ninety-three years of age when the writer was acquainted with her, yet her mind was active and her memory good, and she could go into the details of many of the most memorable events of the war.
Anna Aldrich, widow of Israel Aldrich, of Smithfield, was another of our Revolutionary mothers. Her efforts were marked by a zeal and perseverance which would do honor to a Roman matron. She was eighty-nine years of age
when she applied for a pension, and was married in 1773. She gave the writer a sketch of her Revolutionary history; and if the women of the present day had to endure the hardships, in the absence of their husbands, she endured, very few would arrive to the great age she did, and with a mind and memory so little impaired even at the time she claimed the benefit of the pension Acts. She carried her baby into the field-cradled it in the boughs of a tree, secured in a blanket from reptiles-so that literally, in the words of an old nursery song, “When the wind blew, the cradle would rock;" and during the summer of 1777 she hoed corn and potatoes, raked hay, pulled flax, milked cows, made butter and cheese, mended the fences on the farm, raised three or four hundred weight of pork, fatted a “beef creature," and did the work on the farm generally-whatever her husband would have done had he been at home. Such was one of our Revolutionary mothers. Can it be thought strange that our Revolutionary fathers succeeded, when they were thus seconded by such wives?
There is one fact, which we will mention in this connection, respecting the mothers of the Revolution. We have generally found that they preferred to bear the names of their patriotic husbands, after they became widows, to a second marriage.Our professional acquaintance with them has been such, that we can vouch for the truth of this fact, and, among others, we
will mention one instance. Molly Bowers was ninety-six years of age when she applied for a pension, and was married in 1771. She was the widow of Asa Bowers, who died with the small pox on his march from Providence to Ticonderoga, in 1776. She had been a widow sixTY YEARS when she applied for a pension in 1836! Few, perhaps, had been in widowhood so long as Molly, but it was common to notice they had been widows from twenty to thirty years.
It is true, however, that some widows of the Revolution married a second time, but it is equally true that the memory of their first husbands was the most tenderly respected. We will mention one instance of this kind. Whoever has visited “ Diamond Hill," in Cumberland, must have noticed a hill of almost equal height directly opposite, on the west side of the road. Up this hill led a winding, rough and rocky path, hardly passable for a carriage, and quite on the summit lived Hannah Tower, formerly the widow of William Emerson, Sergeant in the war of the Revolution. She was ninety-two years of age when the writer climbed up this hill to her house, to take her declaration on her claim for a pension, it being necessary, by the rules of the War Department, that such declarations should be made in Court or before a Judge. She was married to William in 1778, when he was in service.After the war was over, here William lived and here he died, and in a sacred spot near her house was his grave. She took the writer to the spot, and, with all the warmth of youthful affection, observed, “Here lies my William: a nobler and better man never lived, and by his side I intend to be buried. He was my guardian protector in the hour of danger.” On his grave-stone was a suitable inscription to his memory, his marriage, his death, his "deeds of daring" in battle, &c. The old lady could never be persuaded to quit this spot, and it is presumed never did until her death. Here was the true spirit of a Rhode Island wife in the days of the Revolution !
As was before observed, the writer could fill a volume of these reminiscences of Rhode Island women during the war; and the above are specimens merely of that female energy ex