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Sally Wister: A Girl Of The American Revolution
by [?]

That was only one of the exciting events of those stirring days in which Sally was living, for Philadelphia was then a war centre, and little else was talked about except the movements of the armies and the battles being fought. After the battle of Brandywine, when General Washington made a brave fight to save Philadelphia, but was defeated by the British general, Lord Howe, Sally Wister’s father, feeling sure that the British would now occupy Philadelphia, thought the time had come to send his family out of the city. He at once despatched them to the Foulke farm, on the Wissahickon creek, among the hills of Gwynedd, some fifteen miles away from the storm centre of the city. The owner of the farm, Hannah Foulke, was a relation by marriage of the Wisters, and evidently gave up half of her home to them, retaining the other half for her own use, and there the two families lived harmoniously during the following nine months.

But to Mistress Sally the change of residence and the separation from all her friends was not a happy one, and to while away some of its lonely hours she began a series of letters in the form of a diary, for Debby Norris’s benefit, and that journal tells us much about the happenings of that memorable epoch in American history, from a young girl’s point of view. Soon after the arrival of the Wisters at the farm the peaceful quiet of the place was broken up, for the sights and sounds of war began to be heard even in that remote location, as both armies were marching towards Philadelphia. In the first letter to Debby Sally informs us that on the 24th of September, two Virginia officers stopped at the house, and informed them that the British army had crossed the Schuylkill, and later another person called and said that General Washington and Army were near Potsgrove, and Sally writes to Debby:

“Well, thee may be sure we were sufficiently scared; however, the road was very still till evening. About seven o’clock we heard a great noise. To the door we all went. A large number of waggons with about three hundred of the Philadelphia Militia. They begged for drink and several pushed into the house. One of those that entered was a little tipsy and had a mind to be saucy. I then thought it time for me to retreat, so figure me (mightily scared,) running in at one door and out another, all in a shake with fear, but after a while seeing the officers appeared gentlemanly and the soldiers civil, I call’d reason to my aid. My fears were in some measure dispell’d, tho’ my teeth rattled and my hand shook like an aspen leaf. They did not offer to take their quarters with us, so with many blessings and as many adieus they marched off. I have given thee the most material occurrences of yesterday faithfully.”

The next day she and “chicken hearted” Liddy, as Sally called her sister, were very much scared by a false report that the dreaded Hessians, who comprised a large part of the British army, were approaching, had “actually turned into our lane,” writes Sally, and she adds “Well, the fright went off,” but hearing that the forces were momentarily drawing nearer, she remarks, “I expect soon to be in the midst of one army or t’other.” Then while looking for some great happening, she had another fright, for a party of Virginia light horse rode up to the door, and mistaking the red and blue of their uniforms for the British colours, she fled to the shelter of the house, with, as she says, “wings tack’d to my feet.”

An interval of several weeks then passed, in which nothing of any great moment happened, as she explains in the brief notes in her diary. Then comes a stirring day to chronicle for Debby’s benefit. In the morning she hears “the greatest drumming, fifing and rattling of waggons that ever was heard” and goes a short distance to see the American army as it marches to take a position nearer the city. On that same day comes General Smallwood, commander of the Maryland troops, with his officers, and a large guard of soldiers to the farm, and asks to be allowed to make it his headquarters. Permission having been given by Hannah Foulke, one of the officers wrote over the door:

“Smallwood’s Quarters”

to secure the house from straggling soldiers, and then the regiment rode away, leaving a flutter of excitement in the hearts of the girls, at the thought of having such a novel experience as a house full of soldiers. With delightful candour Sally tells us that she and her sister and cousins at once “put on their best dresses” and “put their lips in order for conquest,” and then awaited the evening with what patience they could summon. At last the general and his staff and soldiers arrived, when at once the yard and house were in confusion, and glittered with military equipments. A Dr. Gould who was at that time staying with the Wisters, being a friend of General Smallwood’s, presented him and his officers ceremoniously to the family of which they were to be a part, and there is no doubt that from soldier to General all looked with covert or open admiration on pretty, saucy Sally, who despite her fear of the military, showed great courage, not to say pleasure, in their near presence!