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Susan Livingston


Susan, the eldest daughter of William Livingston, Governor of New Jersey at the time of the Revolution, is accredited with two strategic moves against the enemy, which were distinctly clever and which could have been effected only by a woman.

On the 28th of February, 1779, a party of British troops from New York landed at Elizabethtown Point for the purpose of capturing the Governor of New Jersey and annihilating the force stationed in that village. One detachment marched at night to "Liberty Hall," the executive mansion, and forced an entrance. Governor Livingston, however, happened to have left home some hours previously, hence they were disappointed in not securing their prisoner. The British officer demanded the Governor's papers. Miss Livingston, the embodiment of modest and charming young womanhood, readily assented to the demand, but, appealing to him as a gentleman, requested that a box standing in the parlor which she claimed contained her private belongings, should be unmolested. The gallant young British officer, flattered by her appeal, stationed a guard over it, while the library was given over to the soldiers for sacking. They forthwith filled their foraging bags with worthless papers and departed, little suspecting that the box which had been so sedulously guarded contained all the Governor's correspondence with Congress, with the commander-in-chief and the state officers, and that the strategy of Susan Livingston had thus preserved what would have proved a most valuable prize to the plunderers.

Again, when New Jersey was once more invaded by the British, and all the neighboring villages were seen in flames, the Governor's house, the historic "Liberty Hall" in Elizabethtown, was left untouched, and its inmates, the women of the family, the Governor being absent, were treated with the greatest courtesy. The explanation lies in the romantic fact that just as the soldiers were advancing upon the house, one of the British officers received a rose from Miss Susan Livingston as a memento of a promise of protection he had made the fascinating young woman at the time when hostilities merely hung fire.

It was a younger sister of Miss Livingston who figures in the national tapestry as the recipient of the favor of General Washington, as expressed in the following very human note written amid the hardships of that most desolate of all American camps in the Revolution.

"General Washington having been informed lately of the honor done him by Miss Kitty Livingston in wishing for a lock of his hair, takes the liberty of inclosing one, accompanied by his most respectful compliments.

"Camp Valley Forge, March 18th, 1778."

All the letters of Governor Livingston to his daughters show the sympathy that existed between them, and his confidence in the strength of their Republican principles. His opinions and wishes on all subjects are openly expressed to them, showing how thoroughly women of this period of struggle and stress were taken into partnership, not only, as was necessary, in the dangers, but in sharing the ambition and confidences of the men, when the exigencies of the times demanded that they should know how to fight as well as to pray.

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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