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For the Cause of Liberty, I Would Tie ALL My Children to the Bed…

Of the many heoroines of the American Revolution, I am most fascinated by Kate Barry. She played a simple yet pivotal role in a battle that, as it turned out, was pivotal in the war for Independence.

Kate, the daughter of a South Carolina farmer, was the oldest of ten children. I’m thinking she was also a head-strong girl with a mind of her own; why else would her father give up her baby-sitting services and marry her off to an older man at the tender age of 15? Before marriage, Kate, either in an attempt to get away from her siblings or unbridle her wild streak, spent hours roaming the country-side on horseback. Consequently, she knew all the trails, short-cuts, landmarks and neighbors in Spartanburg County. Clearly, Kate was the stuff ALL romance novels are made of…

Evidence is there that her husband, Andrew Barry, didn’t try to tame her, either. Her wandering ways continued, apparently with his blessing, and when war broke out with England, Kate and her husband were among the first to step up. In fact, her husband captained one of the first militias in the state. Kate routinely acted as a scout and a messenger for the Colonials and was widely respected for her services.

Have you seen the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson? Much of the movie is factually correct, especially in regards to the ruthlessness of Banistre Tarleton. He and his men raped, pillaged, burned and murdered their way across South Carolina. In January of 1781, Tarleton was confident his 1100 dragoons, highlanders and lancers were about to finish off Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and his unskilled, country-bumpkin soldiers. After all, he’d whipped them several times before.

But not this time.

Morgan knew Tarleton was coming and decided to stand and fight rather than risk getting stuck between Tarleton and Lord Cornwallis. Tarleton, sensing that a final victory was within his grasp, marched his men hard on very little food and less sleep to get to Morgan.

Accounts vary as to how Kate played her part, but the most reliable version goes something like this: She looked out the window of her daughter’s room and saw Tarleton and his men marching hell-bent–for-leather in the direction of Morgan’s men and her husband. Thinking fast, Kate tied her angel to the bed, flew to the barn and jumped on a horse, not even taking time to saddle him. Kicking up gravel, the steed tore off through the woods at a full gallop, Kate hanging on with a fierce grip.

(I’m still trying to get the image of a toddler tied to a bed out of my head. Did she tie her foot? What did she use? And what would have been going through Kate’s mind? I know what I would have been thinking: Hurry up and warn the Colonials so I can get back and untie my kid before she strangles herself…. Clearly Kate wasn’t born a by-stander. Women who act sometimes have to make desperate decisions. This was one of those.)

Needless to say, Morgan, who had a plan in place, had ample time to position his men, thanks to Kate. Tarleton, in his usual bravado fashion, charged right up the middle. The battle was a route and a huge psychological victory for the Colonial army. Tarleton escaped, but with only 260 men. Lord Cornwallis was shocked by the skill and determination exhibited by the Americans in the battle.

One can’t help but wonder how things may have turned out if Kate hadn’t been such a patriot. I don’t advocate tying your child to a bed, but, hey, I wasn’t at the battle either. I’m sure she did the best she could with the time she had. Kate and Andrew were married for many, many years and their family grew to ten children total. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they were all girls.

There are other, equally impressive stories about Kate. She was a fire-brand, the kind of American woman Cornwallis had nightmares about. Learn more about her at

We’ve got a heritage, ladies, let’s not forget it!

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