Transvestitism and the Revolution: Mad Molly Spyder

Women Intelligence Riders from South Carolina are shown here during the Revolutionary War intercepting dispatches. They hastened to transmit these important messages to General Greene, whose camp was not far distant. They showed the spirit of the noble matron who told Cornwallis that she had seven sons in the Army with General Sumter and who assured the British General that she would also enlist under Freedom’s Banner if need be.

 “Go, boys, and fight for your country.  Fight til death, if you must; but never let your country be dishonored.  Were I a man I would go with you”  Elizabeth Martin, Charleston, SC , who sent her 7 sons to fight for the cause.

Proud were they by such to stand,
In hammock fort, or glen;
To load the sure old rifle,
To run the leaden ball,
To watch a battling husband’s place,
And fill it, should he fall.”

During the Revolution there were several women who took up weapons and fought either in their husbands’ places, because they were devoted to freedom or worked behind the lines passing vital information to the Continentals and their leaders.  The story I like the best is the one about Mad Annie Bailey of West Virginia who shot straight, cursed like a soldier, looked like a wild banshee and was so fearsome the Natives thought she was insane.

This weekend is the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and tonight I got ready to do my bit in the million man militia march up the hill, into the woods, to Grandmother’s  house I go- oops, wrong tune. I went over to  Mike’s and rummaged through his clothes, picking out what I thought would fit me so that on Saturday, I could participate as a honest- to- goodness Militia man. This is something I never considered until our fearless  leader, that crazy  Irishman, convinced me that women limitedly did fight.

God knows I’m a girly-girl, always been one for pink and lace, when I wasn’t climbing some tree, mucking out stables, building tree forts, trying to derail a commuter train (long story) , playing soldier or beating up Johnny Hogan who was a royal pain in my buns. It certainly never occurred to me in my life to pass as a gent, albeit a short one, with what I now call man-boobage .  It was pretty novel trying on man’s breeches. For one thing, I put them on backwards but when I righted them, there was a hole in the waistband as they were a bit too big and my underwear was hanging out.  Why do breeches have those  silly back vents anyway? Then there was all those buttons; one never better be in a big  hurry to water the flowers!  I did ok with the shirt, neck scarf, weskit and civilian jacket except the jacket is a bit big but I guess being the least of the least, I don’t need to go to the ball in party clothes, so to speak. By the time Mike pulled my mop into a pony tail ,  jammed the tricorn on my head and thrust a musket in my hands, I was ready for all comers and even his dogs looked scared.

Musket hoisted across my manly(flat)  chest, cartridge box to the side, I started to drill. Mike put me through the traces. He had me marching all over his back yard, accompanied by the dogs, which was fitting. He showed me how to respond to commands (present arms, half cock, hold the musket upside down, trigger facing the leader, bounce the rod inside the barrel), about face quarter turns, shoulder to the left, present, left foot, right foot, left…. It would help if I knew my right from my left- better tie a rope on my left wrist (note to myself). Then it was time to prime and shoot. That was a trick; I groped a cartridge out of the box, ripped the end off with my teeth, swallowed a few grains of powder…. Then I primed the pan, poured the rest down the barrel, closed the thing-a-ma-jig over the pan,  ready , aim, FIRE… and the recoil splattered  me into the side of the building! That was a disaster but I picked myself off the ground and did it again. The second time, I only managed to punch myself in the face. I did it again and the third time went off without a hitch.   Mike said he’s going to fill my cartridge box full of cartridges. I think this is wishful thinking on his part as it took me a while to get the procedure down. By the time I find the cartridge, put the musket between my legs, pull the hammer with both hands, fill all the orifices and get ready to shoot all the while moving though a thicket, I will have been shot full of holes a half dozen times. That’s one way to get rid of an indentured servant. In the end, I think I’ll just get off one shot and then yell my new curse… “BOOM!! God curse King George; Cornwallis be damned!!!!”

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