Rachel and Grace Martin — How the Girls With Guns Sent ’em Running!

The painting would imply the waylay was more exciting than it actually was.

When it comes to South Carolina’s Revolutionary War history, the men get all the credit. The most famous patriot of them all is, of course, Frances Marion, known as the Swamp Fox, the inspiration behind Mel Gibson’s movie The Patriot.  But as I so often point out, a lot of women during this time didn’t just sit around doing needlepoint while Rome burned, so to speak. On numerous occasions, they took matters into their own hands.

The Martin family of upstate South Carolina was made up of nine children, seven of whom were old enough to enlist in the war in the late 1770’s. Their mother was an ardent supporter of the patriotic cause and must have been beside herself with joy when William and Barkly Martin married Rachel and Grace. These two young ladies were raised with a love of liberty and a hate for the monarchy. British troops had on numerous occasions worked to earn the ladies’ ire.

With their husbands off fighting tyranny, the women kept their ears to the ground for news. And having earned a reputation as steadfast patriots, they often accumulated information that was relevant to the Colonial Army. One evening, they were alerted that a British messenger with dispatches and two guards would be passing nearby. The girls’ husbands were off fighting with Maj. Nathanael Greene, who along with his troops, had 1000 loyalists under siege. There were no men available, therefore, to stop the courier.

Rachel and Grace were having none of that. Those dispatches could well result in the deaths of husbands and brothers. Without delay, they donned their husbands’ clothes, loaded their pistols and waited beside the road. The story goes that the British soldiers were so completely taken by surprise, they never even had a chance to draw their weapons. Without any argument, they surrendered their dispatches and rode off at a gallop, perhaps trying to outrun their humiliation.

Rachel and Grace then delivered the classified papers to a trusted courier who carried them to Major Greene. All in a patriot girl’s day. Feeling pretty satisfied with themselves, as well they should, they changed clothes in the barn and entered their mother-in-law’s home…only to find the three British soldiers sitting around the kitchen table licking their emotional wounds.

But a pretty patriot gal in a well-lit kitchen looks a lot different than a scruffy rebel in a dark forest. The girls weren’t recognized and the soldiers left the next morning.

As always, there is so much more to the story of these girls and their husbands, but they fought hard for the cause, sacrificed much, and lived to see Independence. I thank them both and wonder if I would have the cajones to do the same…

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, I’d love to have you join me on Facebook. Sounds like we might have a lot in common! Also, please leave me a comment below and let me know what you think about Grace and Rachel.


About Heather Frey Blanton

"I believe Christian fiction should be messy and gritty, because the human condition is ... and God loves us anyway." -- Heather Blanton

Posted on November 5, 2012, in Heather Blanton, Ladies in Defiance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I often wonder if I’d have the cajones to do something like that! I’m a fighter, so I’d like to think I would….loved the strop of Grace and Rachel!

  2. Oops! * story*

  3. Did you that the church which Mel Gibson’s movie ‘The Patriot’ depicts the British as having burned, was really burned by none other than the Americans?

    Not surprising really, if that movie is anything like Braveheart, then it certainly is going to be rather dubious where historical accuracy is concerned.

  4. Lady of Winchester

    Did you know that the church which Mel Gibson’s movie ‘The Patriot’ depicts the British as having burned, was really burned by none other than the Americans?

    Not surprising really, if that movie is anything like Braveheart, then it certainly is going to be rather dubious where historical accuracy is concerned.

  5. Lady of Winchester

    I did check this with hindsight (at least with a Google search). All I heard was that this was something the movie depicted which allegedly did not happen. Not so unusual for a Mel Gibson movie (like the myth of Prima Nocti?).
    The 18 and 19th century is not ‘my period’ at all really, so I am not familiar with it.

    However, I do have something of an issue with the version of American Patriotism that essentially involves what I call ‘Brit Bashing’.
    There is more than one side to a story, and history is rarely ‘black and white’. Dare I say that not all Americans were Lily white and non all British evil incarnate in the Revolutionary War.

  6. I know this story is a little old but I just ran across in doing some research. I appreciate you telling the story of these two courageous women. Grace and Rachel were my 6th great aunts being married to my 6th great uncles William and Barclay Martin. These stories are very true and it just shows that the women of that time knew what it took to survive. As to the comment that a lot of the stories are Brit bashing, you have to understand that the American colonists were being very defiant and were looked down upon by the British. I am sure that not all Brits were terrible but there were plenty in charge that were. There is a story in my family that my 7th great grandmother was sitting on her porch when a British officer rode out to her home. He asked her if she had a son killed in the Battle of Augusta. She said she did (William, Grace’s husband). The British officer replied with a smirk on his face “Well I saw his head shot off”. She replied “He could not have died in a better cause”.

    • Mark, thank you so much for sharing those stories! You have some great genes in your family. I truly enjoyed getting to know these gals. And, as you can tell, I don’t apologize for the Brit Bashing. It was a different time, a different world. Gee, I might have to use that exchange there at the end. Talk about some killer dialogue!

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