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Emily Geiger

 

In South Carolina, Emily Geiger's ride, though not as dramatic, is accorded all the eulogy of that of Paul Revere, as wrung from New England. It occurred when General Nathaniel Greene was moving his army toward Ninety-six, the most important post in the interior of South Carolina, it being his intention to capture this place if possible. Pursued by the British army under Lord Rawdon, he with-drew northward across the Saluda river. Here he heard that Rawdon's force had been divided and therefore immediately determined to send for General Sumter a hundred miles away, so that together they might make an attack upon the General. But in order to do this a courier must be dispatched quickly, and the journey was a difficult one through forests and across many rivers. By far the greatest hazard, however, lay in the fact that British soldiers guarded all the roads and that a large portion of the people living in that region were Tories. Indeed the difficulty was so great that no man would undertake the mission.

At last a girl eighteen years old came to General Greene and offered her services for the desperate enterprise. This was Emily, daughter of John Geiger. The father was a true patriot, but being a cripple, was unable to serve as a soldier, and the daughter was anxious for a chance to have the family do something for the country. She was an expert horseback rider and familiar with the roads for many miles around. At first General Greene refused to send a defenseless girl on such a journey. But she insisted that being a woman she could do it with less peril than any man, and at length the General consented, giving her a letter to General Sumter. The first thing she did was to commit to memory the entire letter. Then she made ready for her journey. Unarmed, without provisions, this young girl bade the General and her friends good-bye and sped away.

She had crossed the Saluda River and was nearing Columbia when she was halted by three of Rawdon's scouts. To their questions she gave evasive answers, and observing that she came from the direction of the American army the scouts arrested her and took her directly to Lord Rawdon. She was not skilled in the art of concealing the truth and the British General became suspicious. Yet having the modesty not to search her himself, he sent for an old Tory matron who lived some distance away, as being more fitted for the purpose. Emily was not wanting in resource. As soon as the door was closed she tore the letter into bits, and one after another she chewed and swallowed the fragments. After a while the matron arrived. But although she ripped open every seam in the girl's garments she could find nothing contraband, and without further questioning Lord Rawdon permitted the girl to continue on her way. He even furnished her a guide to the house of one of her friends several miles distant. When the guide had left her she obtained a fresh horse from her patriot friend and continued her journey through swamp and forest by a circuitous road. The whole night long she rode until daylight, having been fully forty-eight hours in the saddle with the exception of the time lost at Rawdon's headquarters. After a short rest until early morning at the house of another patriot she pushed on.

At three o'clock in the afternoon she rode into Sumter's camp, where almost fainting from fatigue and hunger, she delivered the message sent by General Greene. She had not forgotten one word of the letter and recited it from beginning to end as though she were reading it from the written sheet. Scarcely an hour passed before Sumter's army was ready for the march.

Two weeks after her ride of a hundred miles Emily Geiger returned home. She afterwards married a wealthy planter, and it is said that her descendants cherish a pair of earrings and a brooch given her by General Greene as well as a beautiful silk shawl presented to her by General Lafayette, when he was in this country in 1825.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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