How do I write about women in history and have a fascination about the man of history? It goes to facts leading to George Washington. In general text and non-fiction books and documents on the American Revolution George Washington was the curator of all that happened.
Authors who research the American Revolution feel they confirm what has already been written and claim to be experts on the subject. In usual fashion they forget about the ladies. George Washington has many stories and they all lead to his great leadership abilities, intelligence and driven ambition. The man holds the honorary title as the father of our country. If it wasn’t for Washington what might have happened? Would we be the independent country of America? Would we have the freedom today if it weren’t for him? It is quite mind boggling to try and work through all of the what ifs, it’s best to say Thank You and praise him for all that he did.
You cannot give credit to one person, he obviously didn’t do it alone. A soldier of war, a prisoner of war, a surveyor, a business owner, a land owner, a man of dignity and honor, he had all the requirements to lead the army for the patriots. His record of accomplishments surpassed all at the time and was unanimously voted to be the leader of the Continental Army and fight for the independence of America.
The one myth of Washington I relish squashing whenever I can, is that he hated women. HOGWASH! The independence of America didn’t happen by men alone. The ladies played a very methodical part in American history and we must give thanks to George Washington for realizing our abilities. During these days several women followed their husbands, known as camp followers, and were just as close to the frontline action. It is noted that Washington hated this, the women were a burden and a distraction to the men and the task at hand. Well, maybe at first then he figured out the women cooked, aided the wounded, and kept up camps. He got over it.
In the days of the American Revolution we didn’t have highly protected bases, store front offices where you could go in and get the sales pitch of a lifetime to join. If you could hold a musket, had the honor to fight for the Americans you went to the closest tavern or walked directly to a base camp and spoke to the Captain in charge and signed up. They didn’t ask if you were married, gay or born in the United States. They didn’t even ask if you were male or female. Four hundred and five women dressed and disguised as manly as possible signed up as foot soldiers for the Continental Army. These women were also discovered and hanged for treason and fraudulent acts against their country. There were no medical exams or boot camp you went to first. You signed a piece of paper, handed a bounty (money for signing up),a uniform and a musket and told where to go and who to report to. From there you fought in the war on the frontlines.
George Washington also figured out women who elected to stay and protect the home could be utilized as well. They became messengers for the Washington founded Culper Spy Ring. This would be the original name for what we now know as the CIA. In the time of the war if the British happened to be marching down your road and come upon your home they took up camp in your house. You had one of two options: you could go ballistic on them, try and stand alone and fight, then they would steal all your worldly possessions, possibly kill you and burn your house down. OR you could welcome them, feed them, serve them tea and let them squat on your property for a few days. In the meantime eavesdrop on their conversations and make notes and secretly send them onto the American Army via signals or messages dropped in noted locations. Many smart women chose the latter and were known as secret operatives for the Culper Spy Ring. What many people don’t know is the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s treason was founded and foiled by a woman. Known only as Agent 355 (Culper code for Lady). She reported directly to General Washington, and was the facilitator in the arrest of Major John André and played a key part in the counterintelligence of Benedict Arnold.
One notable gal who made it past all the discovery was none other than my gal Deborah Sampson. The clever hiding of her secret astonishes people to this day. The untold and undocumented details of her enlistment, in my opinion, are quite clear. She was appointed by those who held power in high circles. A close friendship with Paul Revere, who was close to those higher circles was really a messenger in the Revolution. Yes, most notably known for the “midnight ride” but how he came to know this information was his place as the “middle man”. He received messages from the Culper Spy Ring and relayed them to the army. Deborah Sampson was placed as a foot soldier in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment for the Continental Army, the regiment was a scouting party, and served a noted eighteen months of a three year term in the military service. She didn’t complete the three year term because the war ended, it’s that simple. In my findings, she was placed by Paul Revere and reported to generals and a few times even to George Washington himself as a secretive operative. She greatly admired the commander and had a tremendous amount of respect for his intelligence and dedication to the independence of our country. A driven individual herself she knew who to befriend and where she needed to be to do it.
Today is February 22, 2012. In 1732, two hundred and eighty years ago today George Washington was born. He served as a leader of not only an army but as the first and most notable president of the United States. We recognize him and many other leaders this month with President’s Day. George Washington didn’t taut his ‘celebrity’ status and in his last will and testament signed George Washington, a citizen of the United States. He died on December 14th of 1799 at Mount Vernon his home he shared with our nations first lady Martha Washington, a notable and driven woman in her own right.
Teresa L. Watts
Author of women in US History