Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bits & Pieces of History "Unsung Heroines"

In the fall of 1775 the first major military campaign of the Revolutionary War began, a campaign to capture Quebec Canada in hopes the French-speaking Canadians would join with the colonists as allies against the British.  Two expeditions were to take different routes and meet at Quebec. One army under Richard Montgomery left from Fort Ticonderoga VT, the other from Cambridge, MA commanded by Benedict Arnold.  Studying maps drawn in 1759, Arnold was convinced he could move his 1,050 volunteers through the wilderness in three weeks. Among those volunteers was a rifle company from Cumberland Pennsylvania that included James Warner and Sergeant Joseph Grier.  Also traveling with them were their wives, 17-year-old Jemima Warner, and Susannah Grier.
One eye witness wrote the following
"There were two women attached to these companies. One was the wife of Sergeant Grier, of Hendricks's company, a large, virtuous and respectable woman. The other was Jemima Warner, wife of James Warner, a private of Smith's company, a man who lagged upon every occasion. These women having arrived, it was presumed that all the party were up. We were on the point of entering the marsh when someone cried out, "Warner is not here!" Another said he had "sat down under a tree a few miles back." His wife begging us to wait, with tears of affection in her eyes, ran back to her husband. We tarried an hour. They did not come. Entering the pond and breaking the ice here and there with the butts of our guns and our feet, we were soon waist-deep in mud and water. As is generally the case with youths, it came to my mind that a better path might be found than that of the more elderly guide. Attempting this in a trice the water, cooling my armpits, made me gladly return into file. Now Mrs. Grier had got before me. My mind was humbled, yet astonished, at the exertions of this good woman. Her clothes more than waist high, she waded before me to the firm ground. No one, so long as she was known to us, dared intimate a disrespectful idea of her. Arriving at firm ground and waiting again for our companions, we then set off and, in a march of several miles, over a scrubby and flat plain, arrived at a river flowing from the east into Chaudière Lake. This we passed in a bateau.”
Jemima stayed with her husband until he died, buried his body under leaves, gathered his equipment and caught up with the troops.
A supposed three week march turned into six with a loss of almost half of Arnolds’ troops. On November 8, Arnold arrived at Point Levis, opposite Québec on the St. Lawrence. When Montgomery approached Québec under a white flag of truce to negotiate, British cannon opened fire. From a nearby resident, Jemima Warner borrowed a formal gown and walked into the fort to deliver Montgomery's surrender terms to the British commander. He not only tore up the offer, he imprisoned Jemima.  Five days later he marched her out of the Fort between two rows of drummers, “drumming her out of the Empire.”
The battle continued for nearly a month and on December 11, 1775 the British destroyed a rebel artillery battery at St. Roch killing one man and the 17-year-old widow, Jemima Warner. Four months later Susannah Grier died in Quebec in an exchange of gunfire. 
The campaign ended in defeat in January 1776 with Montgomery dead, Arnold wounded and the Continental Army in retreat.  Jemima Warner was not the first casualty of the Revolutionary War but she may have been the first woman to die for our cause of independence.  Both Jemima and Susannah deserve to be remembered as heroines of the United States of America.

Sources: Wikipedia, history, Military History Magazine, internet sources
posted by Diane Price
A head and shoulders profile engraving of Benedict Arnold. He is facing left, wearing a uniform with two stars on the shoulder epaulet. His hair is tied back.
Benedict Arnold
Chappel Montgomery full length.jpg
Richard Montgomery

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