Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let's Hear It for the Girls!

Before leaving the topic of America's celebration of its independence from Britain, let's hear it for the girls. In very different ways, two women, Martha Washington and Betsey Loring, performed well in advancing the cause of liberty. Let's begin with our first First Lady. Every winter, while the armies ceased fighting, Martha would join George Washington at his winter camp, wherever that might be, including Morristown, New Jersey (1779-80) where the Americans were experiencing an even more wretched winter than the infamous winter of Valley Forge (1777-78). In addition to proving to be a morale booster for her husband, she provided the same service to the common solider. She visited with them, talked with them, sewed for them, prayed with them, and encouraged them to remain in the Army. (Desertions were mounting.) Wherever Martha went, she was roundly cheered for her services to her country.

On the other hand, Mrs. Joshua Loring's contribution was inadvertent, but very possibly, critical. Betsey Loring (see picture*) was the daughter of a Loyalist family living in the Boston area, who became the mistress of General William Howe during the British occupation of that city. In return for her favors, the general placed Betsey's husband, Joshua Loring, Jr., in charge of commissary for prisoners. As long as the money kept rolling in, everyone was content with the arrangement.

Wherever Howe went, Betsey followed, including Philadelphia, where she kept the general so happy that it was suggested by his critics that he had passed up an opportunity to wipe out the Continentals then encamped nearby at Valley Forge in order to more fully enjoy Mrs. Loring's company. Their conduct merited the following doggerel:

Awake, awake, Sir Billy, There's forage in the plain.
Ah, leave your little Filly, and open the campaign.
Sir William he, snug as a flea, Lay all this time a-snoring,
Nor dreamed of harm as he lay warm, In bed with Mrs. Loring.

If Howe had marched on Washington's army at Valley Forge, there is an excellent chance that the war would have ended in a devastating defeat for the Americans and could have decided the war in Britain's favor. Mrs. Loring's contribution to the cause of liberty is another one of history's "what ifs." However, as an American, I'd like to thank both ladies for their service.

*This is actually a picture of Peggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold, but it gives you an idea of what a pretty lass would have looked like in 1777 Philadelphia.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mary! I didn't know about Betsey Loring, that was very interesting for me to read. Yes, let's hear it for the girls! Women tend to be forgotten in history, but it's great when they're pointed out.