Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Mary (Hooks) Slocumb 1760 ~ 1836


If a plain, unvarnished narrative of the sayings and doings of the actors in other Revolutionary times, those unknown by name save in the neighborhood where they lived, could by some miraculous means be gathered and published, it would surpass in thrilling interest any romance ever written. And one of the most remarkable chapters of such a volume undoubtedly would be the career of Mary Slocumb. Her maiden name was Hooks and she was born in North Carolina in 1760. When she was about ten years old, her father moved into a region called Goshen, famous for years in North Carolina for the frank simplicity of its inhabitants and for their profuse and generous hospitality. Here were nurtured some of the noblest spirits of the Revolution. The constant presence of the Loyalists and Tories in the neighborhood and their depredations called for vigilance as well as bravery. Sometimes the barn or dwelling of an unfortunate Whig wrapped in flames lighted up the darkness; sometimes his fate was to be hung to a sapling and not infrequently similar atrocities were in like manner avenged upon the aggressors.

Accustomed to hear of such things and inured to scenes of danger, it is not to be wondered at that the gay and sprightly Mary Hooks should acquire a degree of masculine energy and independence with many really manly accomplishments, all of which stood her in good stead in the days to follow when her strength as well as her spirit were tried as the wife of a fighting patriot. Soon after the removal of the family to Goshen, her mother died and in 1777 her father married the widow of John Charles Slocumb, whose eldest son, Ezekiel Slocumb, eventually took her as an eighteen-year-old bride to his large plantation on the Neuse. To prevent and punish the frequent incursions of the Tories, her husband joined a troop of light-horse who, acting on their own responsibility, performed the duty of scoots, scouring the country wherever they had notice of any necessity for their presence. In these prolonged absences, young Mary Slocumb took the entire charge of the plantation. She used to say laughingly that she had done in those perilous times all that a man ever did, except "mauling rails" and to take away even that exception she went out one day and split a few!

While her husband was away on one of his excursions. General Tarleton and a large division of the British army took possession of his plantation, and the young wife was torn with anxiety lest Lieutenant Slocumb, who was known to be somewhere in the vicinity, should return to his home all unsuspecting and walk into the enemy's ambush. Yet her conduct betrayed none of this; with splendid dignity, rare in one so young, she received these invaders of her home and she addressed herself immediately to preparing a dinner of much elaborateness for the uninvited guests, but dispatching in secret a messenger to warn the American scouts.

Before the messenger could discover Lieutenant Slocumb's whereabouts in the wood, a party of British soldiers, whom Tarleton had sent out to reconnoiter, blundered upon the American scouters and in the skirmish that ensued, the sounds of which were heard with sinking heart by Mrs. Slocumb, more than half the British company was shot down, and suddenly, before the astonished British officers and the terrified wife, the owner of the plantation dashed into sight in hot pursuit of the retreating Tory who had been in command of the British troop. Mrs. Slocumb's messenger, an old Negro, known as "Big George," sprang directly in front of his horse, shouting

"Hold on, massa, de debbil here. Look you!'

The imprudent young officer at once perceived the peril into which he had ridden. A gesture from his wife indicated the great encampment of some eleven hundred men in occupancy of his plantation and, quick as thought, he dashed down the avenue directly towards the house, calling the few Americans who were with him. On reaching the garden fence, a rude structure formed of a kind of lath and called a wattle fence, they leaped that and the next, amid a shower of balls, crossed a stream at one tremendous leap and scoured away across an open field and were in the shelter of the wood before their pursuers could clear the fence of the enclosure. A platoon had begun the pursuit but the trumpets sounded the recall before the flying Americans had crossed the stream, for the presence of mind and lofty language of the heroic wife had convinced the British Colonel that the daring men who so fearlessly dashed into his camp were supported by a formidable force near at hand. Had Mrs. Slocumb not so diplomatically concealed the truth, and the fugitives pursued, nothing could have prevented the destruction not only of the four who fled but the rest of the pitifully slender company of American scouts on the other side of the plantation.

As Tarleton walked into the house, he observed to the brave woman: "Your husband made us a short visit, madam, I should have been happy to make his acquaintance.''

"I have little doubt," replied the wife, "that you will meet again the gentleman and he will thank you for the polite treatment you have afforded his wife!"

The Colonel mumbled an apology that necessity compelled them to occupy her property, but it is worthy of remark that he removed his troops before long and when the British army broke up their encampment at her plantation, a sergeant was ordered by Colonel Tarleton to stand in the door till the last soldier had gone out, to insure protection to a woman whose noble spirit had inspired him with the most profound respect

The most remarkable occurrence in the career of this patriotic wife was the dream which led to her being the heroine of the battle at Moore's Creek, one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution. Her husband, now Colonel Slocumb, was accustomed to dwell lightly on the gallant part borne by himself in that memorable action but he would give abundant praise to his associates, and he would add:

"My wife was there" She was indeed; but the story is best told in her own words.

"The troop left from this house with my husband Sunday morning and they got off in high spirits; every man stepping high and light I slept soundly and quietly that night and worked hard all the next day, but I kept thinking where they got to, how far; when and how many Tories they would meet and all that, I could not keep myself from the study, and when I went to bed at the usual time I could not sleep for it. As I lay, whether waking or sleeping I know not, I had a dream; yet it was not all a dream. I saw distinctly a body wrapped in my husband's guard cloak, bloody dead; and other dead and wounded all about him. I uttered a cry and sprang to my feet, and so strong was the impression on my mind that I rushed in the direction in which the vision appeared and came up against the side of the house. Seated on the bed I reflected a few moments; then said aloud: I must go to him.' I told my woman that I could not sleep and would ride down the road, and although she appeared in great alarm, I reassured her, telling her merely to lock the door after me and look after my little child. I went to the stable, saddled my mare, and in one minute we were tearing down the road at full speed. Again and again I was tempted to turn back. I was soon ten miles from home and my mind became stronger every mile I rode. That I should find my husband dead or dying was as firmly my presentiment and conviction as any fact of my life. When day broke I was thirty miles from home. I knew the general route our little army was to take and followed them without hesitation. Again I was skimming over the ground through a country thinly settled but neither my spirit nor my beautiful nag's failed in the least. We followed the well-marked trail of the troops.

"The sun must have been well up, say eight or nine o'clock, when I heard a sound like thunder which I knew must be a cannon. I stopped still; when presently the cannon thundered again, I spoke to my mare and dashed on in the direction of the fighting, and the shots and shouts now grew louder than ever. The blind path I had been following brought me into the Wilmington road leading to Moore's Creek Bridge a few hundred yards below the bridge, and a little distance from the road were lying perhaps twenty men. They were all wounded.

Suddenly I knew the spot; the very trees and the position of the men I knew as if I had seen it a thousand times. I had seen it all night, it was my dream come true. In an instant my whole soul was centered upon one spot, for there, wrapped in his bloody guard-cloak, was, I was sure, my husband's body. I remember uncovering the head and seeing a face clothed with blood from a dreadful wound across the temple. I put my hand on the bloody face, and found it warm, but suddenly an unknown voice begged for water.

A small camp-kettle was lying near and a stream of water was nearby. I brought it; poured some in his mouth; washed his face and behold it was Frank Cogdell, not my husband. He soon revived and could speak, and as I washed the wound in his head he said: 'It is not that; it is that hole in my leg that is killing me.' I took his knife, cut away his trousers and stocking and found that the blood came from a shot-hole through and through the fleshy part of his leg. I looked about and could see nothing that looked as if it would do for dressing wounds but heart-leaves, so I gathered a handful and bound them tight to the holes, and the bleeding stopped.

I then went to the others and dressed the wounds of many a brave fellow who did good fighting long after that day. When the General appeared, he seemed very much surprised and was with his hat in his hand about to pay me some compliment when I interrupted him by asking: 'Where is my husband?' 'Where he ought to be, madam, in pursuit of the enemy. But pray,' said he, how came you here?'

"Oh, I thought,' replied I, 'you would need nurses as well as soldiers. See! I have already dressed many of these good fellows, and there is one' going to Frank Cogdell and lifting him up with my arm under his head so that he could drink some more water, 'who would have died before any of you men could have helped him.'

'"I believe you,' said Frank. Just then I looked up and, my husband as bloody as a butcher and as muddy as a ditcher, stood before me.

"Why Mary," he exclaimed. 'What are you doing there? Hugging Frank Cogdell, the greatest reprobate in the army?'

"I don't care,' I cried. 'Frank is a brave fellow, a good soldier and a true friend to Congress.'

"'True, true, every word of it,' said the General with the lowest kind of a bow.

"I would not tell my husband of my dream that had brought me; I was so happy, and so were all. It was a glorious victory. I knew my husband was surprised but I could see he was not displeased with me. It was night again before our excitement had at all subsided. But in the middle of the night I again mounted my mare and started for home. The General and my husband wanted me to stay until the next morning and they would send a party with me; but no, I wanted to see my child and I told them they could send no party that could keep up with me! What a happy ride I had back. And with what joy did I embrace my child as he ran to meet me."

In these days of railroads and steam, it can scarcely be credited that a woman actually rode alone in the night through a wild, unsettled country, a distance, going and coming of a hundred and twenty-five miles; and in less than forty hours and without any interval of rest. Yet such was the feat of Mary Slocumb, and such was the altogether natural manner of relating her heroic deed, that it is as a modern woman might speak of having attended a social function of a somewhat exciting nature.

Of course, there are various explanations to be offered for the vision that produced an impression so powerful as to determine this resolute wife upon her nocturnal expedition to the battlefield, but the idea of danger to her husband which banished sleep, was sufficient to call up the illusion to her excited imagination.

Mrs. Slocumb possessed a strong and original mind, a commanding intellect and clear judgment which she retained unimpaired to the time of her death. Her characteristic fortitude in the endurance of bodily pain, so great that it seemed absolute stoicism, should be noticed. In her seventy-second year she was afflicted with a cancer on her hand which the surgeon informed her must be removed with a knife. At the time appointed for the operation, she protested against being held by the assistants, telling the surgeon: "It was his business to cut out the cancer; she would take care of the arm," and bracing her arm on the table, she never moved a muscle nor uttered a groan during the operation.

At the age of seventy-six, on the sixth of March, 1836, she sank quietly to rest in the happy home on the plantation "Pleasant Green," where all these exciting scenes and stirring events of the Revolution had taken place.

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.


Please Come back Soon!!

This page was last updated Monday, 02-Feb-2015 20:11:44 EST

Copyright August 2011 - 2018The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work.