REBECCA MOTTE: The life of a patriotic woman celebrated in Calhoun | Local
DONNA HOLMAN T&D Correspondent
On Sunday, May 15, guests, including members of the South Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution, joined the Luther B. Wannamaker family in celebrating the life of Rebecca Brewton Motte by living a day dedicated to her legacy.
Afternoon activities began at St. Matthews Episcopal Parish Church with an account of Motte’s role in the American Revolution by renowned author and historical biographer, Margaret “Peggy” Pickett of Charleston, soon to be published his last book which presents Motte. Following Pickett’s speech, attendees were escorted to the Rebecca Motte Monument and Fort Motte Battle Site located on the grounds of Mount Joseph Plantation near the Congaree River a few miles from St. Matthews.
In an invitation letter, LB Wannamaker wrote, “I am so proud of our State of South Carolina which is now recognized as central to the successful conclusion of our War of Independence…There are many facets of Rebecca Motte’s life for us. to celebrate. I’m sure Mrs Pickett will capture them in her writings and our guests will be able to see in real time what Rebecca Motte saw from the high cliffs overlooking Congaree National Park, untouched since Rebecca Motte’s time with views and unparalleled features. ”
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Wannamaker and his wife Doraine Flewelling have been married since 1957 and have two daughters and a son; the grandparents of seven children; and happily welcomed their first great-grandchild recently. The property comprising the Mount Joseph Plantation, including demarcated areas such as the Rebecca Motte Monument, Buckhead Hill, Devil’s Track Rock, Cannon Mound and Peterkin Overlook, has been under the management of Wannamaker for over a century.
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“May 12, 1781 is a notable date because it was the day Marion and Lee captured Fort Motte, but it is also notable because it marked the end of one of the most important years in Carolina history. South, the year after the fall of Charleston, those pivotal months when the fate of the American Revolution hung in the balance,” Pickett said.
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“On May 12, 1780, the patriots of South Carolina suffered a great shock; the unthinkable had happened, Charleston had fallen to the British. A few weeks later, they walked in the hinterland. They held Camden and other key positions in the state. Soon the British outposts stretched in a great semi-circle from Georgetown in the Lowcountry through the hinterland to Augusta on the Georgian side of the Savannah River. The future of the patriot cause indeed looked bleak, but 12 months later the situation had changed dramatically,” she continued.
“The Patriots, who after the fall of Charleston were filled with despair, 12 months later were filled with hope, for they had a realistic expectation of being able to drive the British out of South Carolina. However, to do this it was essential that they capture the British supply depots along the Congaree River route, for without their supply depots the British could not maintain their outposts in the hinterland Fort Motte was the main depot of supplies from Charleston destined for Camden, Fort Granby and Ninety-Six. Its capture was of paramount importance to the Americans, and it was a 43-year-old widow named Rebecca Motte who played a major role in its capture said Pickett.
The Mount Joseph Plantation in Fort Motte made history on May 12, 1781, as the site where American revolutionary heroine Rebecca Jacob Motte insisted that General Francis Marion and Colonel Henry Lee set her house on fire. newly built to force the surrender of the British forces who had made it a military post for nearly 200 soldiers. Shortly before this historic date, 241 years ago, Motte, a strong and steadfast woman who had recently lost her husband and a small child, retired with the rest of her family, which included five children, to a neighboring farm on Buckhead Hill for added security. .
It is reported that she supplied the arrows, known as musket or fire arrows, to the US Army to burn the British. Apparently, when the British saw the flaming arrows, they feared the ignition of the large stockpile of gunpowder inside the house and quickly abandoned their fortress. After the battle with the British and their relinquishment of ownership of the plantation, colonial soldiers quickly extinguished the fire on the roof of the house, saving it from destruction.
The 250-foot peak, where the house once stood more than two centuries ago, is now a monument to his bravery and patriotism. Stories told throughout the story portray Motte as the greatest lady in the South who provided dinner for the officers of both armies once the fort was reclaimed for her family.
“Rebecca Motte, along with General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, combined their efforts to have a virtually bloodless end to a very difficult hilltop siege there. We basically have the most beautiful battle site in South Carolina with fantastic views,” Wannamaker said.
Important dates, shared by the Wannamaker family in a brochure provided to celebration attendees, outline major events on South and North Carolina soil before and after this remarkable victory for Americans and, ultimately, the outcome. favor of the Revolutionary War for American independence.
- May 12, 1780: Charleston surrenders as the American army is captured and the entire state is occupied by British forces.
- August 16, 1780: The American Second Army is defeated near Camden.
- October 7, 1780: The South’s first major victory came when the Overmountain Men defeated Ferguson at the Battle of King’s Mountain.
- January 17, 1781: The Battle of Cowpens is won by Daniel Morgan.
- March 15, 1781: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse takes place near Greensboro, North Carolina, resulting in a stalemate.
- April 1781: General Greene returns to South Carolina and sends “Light Horse Harry” Lee to assist General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”, in taking key British posts.
- September 8, 1781: The Battle of Eutaw Springs leads to the withdrawal of the British to Charleston.
- September 28 – October 19, 1781: General Charles Cornwallis is besieged and surrenders at Yorktown, allowing American independence from the British.
“With Mother’s Day and Rebecca Motte’s Day, and my wife and I being together at the hip for 65 years, we just want to focus on strong women today,” said Wannamaker, who applauded Peggy Pickett for writing the biography on Eliza Lucas Pinckney and just completed the biography of Rebecca Brewton Motte. Other notable women who have left their mark on the famous peaks include Rachel Heatley Lloyd, a devout Christian; Eugenia Russell Thompson, wife of William “Danger” Thomson, hero of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in 1775; and Martha Motte Dart, Rebecca’s sister-in-law.
Kelly Hagens-Swart, regent of the DAR’s Old 96 District Chapter and associate member of the Rebecca Motte Chapter that meets in Charleston, expressed her gratitude for the chance to visit the well-preserved area.
“I am very excited. This is a golden opportunity to see the host site. DAR emphasizes patriotic women,” she said, adding that she was a member of DAR under the leadership of a patriotic woman, Rachel Quattlebaum.
“It’s really exciting to be here, to hear her story, because she was a true heroine of the American Revolution,” Hagens-Swart said.
Two specific enclosed display boards have been erected at the site of the battle to educate those privileged to walk the red clay in the footsteps of those brave men and women who lived here, some who fought and d others who died on this rich farmland. The property has a long history. The Wannamakers have facilitated over 20 years of battlefield archaeological work by Dr. Steve Smith of the University of South Carolina, which has confirmed and expanded the knowledge base of this historic site.
“We found a horseshoe from the American Revolution, and we found a stirrup that was left behind by ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee. There he was; he was 25 years old. Rebecca Motte was 44. Francis Marion was 49,” exclaimed Wannamaker, enthusiastically sharing his fascination with the history of his family’s long-standing property. Excavation teams even recovered one of the arrowheads used during of the decisive battle, as well as a cannonball, musket balls and nails.
“We love this kind of history, and Rebecca Motte is a heroine of our Revolutionary War. It is so wonderful to come to this celebration. We are so grateful to have been invited,” said Dianne Culbertson, State Regent. honorary from the SC DAR, who shared that the DAR is preparing to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in a few years.
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For more information on this and other historic battle sites in Palmetto State, research the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, which has dedicated nearly three decades to preserving battlefields and historical military sites here. A series of 79 sites have been delineated as Liberty Trail Sites along the South Carolina Liberty Trail, with Fort Motte being number 46.