Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mrs. Martha Bratton

A toast, during an 1839 celebration commemorating Huck's Defeat in Brattonsville, South Carolina:
"The memory of Mrs. Martha Bratton. In the hands of an infuriated monster, with the instrument of death around her neck, she nobly refused to betray her husband; in the hour of victory she remembered mercy, and as a guardian angel, interposed on behalf of her inhuman enemies. Throughout the Revolution she encouraged the Whigs to fight on to the last; to hope on to the end. Honor and gratitude to the woman and heroine, who proved herself so faithful a wife–so firm a friend to liberty!"
Martha Bratton is known for two heroic acts in which she bravely defied demands from British Officers.
Her husband Colonel William Bratton was away fighting for General Thomas Sumter's army, and Martha Bratton was left in charge of the gunpowder hidden on their property in North Carolina. The British were given a tip about the gunpowder and immediately left to seize the commodity. Martha was alerted they were coming, but did not have enough time to move the gunpowder. Not wanting the British to seize the ammunition, she devised another plan. She poured a trail of powder far away from its location, and, when she heard the British approaching, lit the trail. The British were furious, and demanded to know who had blown up the ammunition. Even with the threat of severe punishment Bratton willfully replied, “It was I who did it…Let the consequence be what it will, I glory in having prevented the mischief contemplated by the cruel enemies of my country.”
On 11 July 1780 Martha Bratton had another encounter with the British where she bravely stood up to their demands. British Captain Christian Huck visited Martha Bratton’s house ask about her husband’s location. Martha told the truth, defiantly saying that he was with Sumter’s army. Huck replied that Colonel Bratton should instead join the loyalists. Martha answered that “she would rather see him remain true to his duty to his country, even if he perished in Sumter’s army." Huck was enraged by this answer and threw her son, who had been sitting on his lap, to the floor. One of Huck’s soldiers held a reaping hook to her throat and threatened to kill her, but Martha still did not tell them of her husband’s location. Another officer persuaded the soldier to let her go.
Captain Huck demanded that Martha prepare and serve dinner. She considered poisoning the food, but knew her husband was close, and instead sent word to his troops that the British were there. After preparing the dinner, she and her children went upstairs and left the British to finish eating. After dinner the British went to neighbor James Williamson’s house to sleep. With about 75 men, Colonel Bratton and Captain McClure executed a surprise attack on the sleeping soldiers. The battle spread towards the Bratton house and Martha Bratton and her children were endangered. Martha hid her son in the chimney where he would be safe from stray shots. After the battle was over, she went outside and found that all of her relatives had survived. The Patriots were victorious and many of the British soldiers, including Captain Huck, were killed while others retreated into the surrounding woods. In the aftermath, Martha Bratton opened her house to care for wounded soldiers of both sides. Many British soldiers taken hostage were also held at her house, including the officer that had saved her life. She returned his favor by persuading the Patriots not to hang him, but instead to include him in a prisoner exchange.
(info: National Women's History Museum,