General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Lydia Darragh

Lydia Darragh, one of the greatest women spies of the American Revolution, and heroine of the battle of White Marsh fought between December 5-7, 1777. Darragh was born in 1729 in Dublin Ireland. In 1753, Lydia married William Darragh. William and Lydia soon sailed to America to start a new life.
       On September 261777, five days after the battle of Brandywine, General William Howe, Commander of  the   British Army in North America marched his British troops into Philadelphia, PA, seat of   the Continental Congress. Howe had considered conquering Philadelphia since the beginning of  the year 1777, but kept changing his mind.  Howe became infactuated with Philadelphia after an American General named Chales Lee,who had recently been captured by the British in New Jersey, told Howe if Philadelphia was ever captured and occupied by the British that the rest of the American colonies would capitulate, and the war would soon end.
       In December 1777, Howe started making plans to attack Washington's army at White Marsh PA located about 13 miles outside the city of Philadelphia. Howe decided his headquarters were too small, so he dicided to make the house of Lydia Darragh his new headquarters since her house was much larger. Darragh was first told she must evacuate her house, but was later allowed to continue living in it after a cousin  of Darragh's on Howe staff talked Howe into letting her stay. Darragh was told all family members must be asleep during the meetings.
       On December 2, 1777, Darragh after pretending she was asleep, got up during the middle of the night to listen to what the British troops were discussing. Darragh overheard the British discussing plans to destroy Washington's troops at White Marsh. Later that night, Darragh wrote what she had overheard, and placed the plans in an old dirty needlebook, a colonial sewing kit.
      The next morning on December 3rd, Darragh requested a pass to go to Frankford Pa to buy flour. Darragh walked about 10 miles through deep snow, carrying her needlebook.  Darragh soon came to Rising Sun tavern where she found former Pa militia soldiers drinking and having a good time. Darragh ran up to a person named Elias Boudinot, who she knew had been with the PA militia in the past, and handed him the needlebook. After handing the needlebook to Boudinot, Darragh ran out of the tavern as fast as she could. Boudinot found the plans, and took them to Washington at White Marsh. Boudinot told Washington, a woman in dirty filthy clothes handed him this and ran away. Washington looked at the plans, and said 'This woman has just saved the army  from total destruction." Washington began making plans to defend himself against the British.
     The battle of Whitemarsh fought between December 5-7,1777,  is one of the forgotten battles of 1777, but one of the most important, because if Howe had destroyed the Continental.  army as he had planned, the war would have been over. On December 5, 1777, Howe marched 5000 british troops into White Marsh only to find Washington waiting for him.
     For thenext 3 days, Washington and Howe skirmished with with each other doing little damage to either army. On December 7, Howe almsot turned the left flank of Washington, but was soon repulsed. At th end of the 3 day battle, 90 Americans were either  killed or wounded, and 90 british troops were killed or wounded.
       On December 9,1777, Major John Andre, a member of Howe's staff, and  who would later be hanged as a spy for carrying plans of the defenses of West Point handed to him by Benedict Arnold, went to Darragh's house and questioned her intensively about whether anyone was awake in her house and overheard the plans  to attack Washington. Darragh  convinced Andre all were asleep and didnt hear anything. Andre belived her and said" All I know then, these walls must have ears. The enemy was waiting on us, and we were forced to march back to Philadelphia like a band of fools". Some speculate that the reason Andre didn't arrest Daragh because he may have been attracted to her since she was a beautiful woman.
    On December 11, 1777, Washington marched his troops to Valley Forge. It took Washington 8 days to march 13 miles to the winter headquarters at Valley forge . In June 1778, after the British troops left Philadelphia, Washington was informed of Darragh's heroic deed. Washington sent her a letter thanking Darragh for what she had done.
   In 1783, the Quaker church excommunicated Darragh from their church because of her involvement in the Revolutionary war. The Quakers belived that  none of heir members hsould be involved in war since it involves killing other soldiers. It wasnt until 1789, that Darragh was allowed to rejoin the Quaker. Later that year in 1789 Lydia Darragh died at 60 years old.  This week we celebrate the American victroy at  the battle of White Marsh.  Lydia Darragh, one of the forgotten heroines of the American Revolution would go down in history as one of the saviours of the American Revolution cause.


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