Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Susannah Smith Elliott 1747 ~ 1808

 

Closely connected with the better-known name and personality of Rebecca Motte there lies in the memory of South Carolina history a proud recollection of Susannah Elliott. She was the daughter of Benjamin Smith, for many years Speaker of the Assembly of the province, but left young an orphan and an heiress, she was brought up by her aunt, Mrs. Rebecca Motte, with whom she lived until her marriage. She seems to have absorbed much of Mrs. Motte's spirit of patriotism, and to history she is known principally through an incident that illustrates the effects of this inspiration.

This was after her marriage to Colonel Barnard Elliott, when she presented a pair of colors embroidered by her own hand to the second South Carolina regiment of infantry, commanded by Colonel Moultrie, in commemoration of their illustrious bravery during the attack on Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, which took place June 28, 1776. The colors, one of fine blue and the other of red silk, were received from Mrs. Elliott by the Colonel and Lieutenant-Colonel, and a solemn vow registered by the Colonel in the name of the soldiers that they should be honorably supported and never tarnished by a discreditable record of the second regiment. And this pledge was nobly fulfilled. Three years afterwards they were planted on the British lines at Savannah and the two officers who bore them having lost their lives just before the retreat was ordered, the gallant Sergeant Jasper in planting them on the works received a mortal wound and fell into the ditch. One of the standards was brought off in the retreat, and Jasper, having succeeded in regaining the American camp, said in his last moments: ''Tell Mrs. Elliott I lost my life supporting the colors she presented to our regiment." The colors were afterwards taken at the fall of Charleston and were deposited in the Tower of London.

Mrs. Elliott was, moreover, most resourceful in her patriotism. While at her plantation called "The Hut," she had at one time some American officers as guests in the house, and when surprised by the sudden approach of the British, she calmly showed them into a closet, and opening a secret door disclosed a large opening back of the chimney known only to herself and contrived for a hiding place. The enemy, convinced that they had cornered their quarry, searched the house thoroughly but unsuccessfully, and failing further in all their attempts to induce Mrs. Elliott to reveal their place of retreat, the officers then demanded her silver. They discovered some mounds of earth not far off and began excavation, although the woman protested against the desecration. To their great chagrin, a coffin was disinterred from the first mound and Mrs. Elliott remarked that it was the grave of one of their countrymen, to whom she had endeavored to give decent burial. On opening the coffin the truth was at once made manifest, and the British soldiers then departed in extreme mortification, so that the silver which was buried close at hand escaped discovery.

Mrs. Elliott was beautiful in person, a fact attested to in her portrait which was, however, defaced by the act of a British soldier, a small sword having been run through one eye, and her face, inexpressibly soft and sweet-looking, yet gives witness to the strength and determination that marked the deeds of her life. The great men fighting for the nation at that time appreciated her worth, and among the papers in the possession of the family is a letter from General Greene to Mrs. Elliott expressive of high respect and regard and offering her a safe escort through the camp and to any part of the country to which she desired to travel.

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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