The Fourth of July; Independence Day – our Nation’s birthday. It is an honor and a privilege to be citizens of the greatest country in the world. So many people have sacrificed to provide the elements of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.; I’d like to thank them all but it would be impossible. So to all of you whose sacrifices were known only to God, we thank and honor you.
Here is one of my favorite stories of patriotism, I’ve shared before but it is so meaningful to me that I would like to share it again. It began on a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the year 1750.
I am writing a historical fiction children’s book called Traveling Time about grandparents who take their children on a trip to get to know their relatives – in other centuries by way of a magic pocket watch and an old suitcase filled with maps. The story begins…
Elizabeth Duncan Porter
…We look at one of the maps and discover a 1200 mile trail from Virginia to Quebec by way of Detroit, Michigan. The year is 1780 and we don’t know it yet, but we are about to come face-to-face with our great… great grandmother Elizabeth, an American patriot who has been captured by the British. She was marched, while pregnant, over 1200 miles as a prisoner-of-war. As we set the watch for 80 past 1700, the clock begins ticking loudly, “Hold hands!” says Grandma. A whistling wind arises and we close our eyes; as the wind dies down we hear tinkling chimes. We open our eyes and find ourselves in another place… and another time. We are standing in a British prisoner-of-war camp in the freezing winter of Quebec, Canada. The year is 1780. We hear a baby crying. “We’re here,” states Grandma matter-of-factly…” The rest remains to be written, maybe I’ll finish it on the 4th.
In case you are wondering what became of Elizabeth, here is a brief biography:
Honoring an American Heroine; Elizabeth Duncan Porter
Elizabeth was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Duncan in Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1750. The Duncan parents were born in Scotland, moved to Ireland and then to the British colonies in America. They settled in Lancaster, which is known in modern times for an Amish community, lush green farms and hillsides.
Elizabeth enjoyed growing up in the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. In the spring she played with the lambs and picked flowers. But childhood ended early for Elizabeth; her father died when she was six years old and her help was needed for the farm and family. She grew to be a strong and lovely woman.
At twenty-five she met a man who would sweep her off her feet and she married her beloved Samuel Porter. He and his brothers had immigrated to the colonies from Ireland. As a member of the Virginia militia, Samuel was one of the men responsible for patrolling the roads and trails to keep travelers safe from Indian raids. The British had enlisted the Indians to attack settlers on the western frontiers of the colonies.
The winds of war began to blow across America.
Samuel, Elizabeth, their two children, her mother, brother and other family members had established a small village in the hills between Kentucky and Virginia. The entire town was captured by Indians in 1780. It is thought that British soldiers were with them because they were not scalped. The attackers took all of their stock and possessions.
They were marched and carried over 600 miles to Detroit. Elizabeth had to work hard to keep her little children quiet so they would not be killed by their captors. She was pregnant with her third child. Sometimes when she was permitted to ride in a canoe, she sat with her feet in water for hours and hours. Samuel was sentenced to die. The other men were placed in stockades and pens and nearly starved to death.
Elizabeth was put to work cooking for the British officers. She saved scraps of bread and meat from the plates and smuggled them out when she took out the dishwater. As she placed the tub of water and food near Samuel’s prison, he was able to reach through the cracks in the barn to get the food. Her act of courage probably kept him alive.
Elizabeth who was still pregnant, her young children Margaret and Hugh and her mother were marched as a prisoners of war another 700 miles from Detroit to Quebec, Canada.
On January 7th, New York Harbor froze over. In the bitter cold of a winter that would become known as the “little Ice Age, ” far from her home, Elizabeth gave birth to baby Samuel. She was a captive of the British and Shawnee Indians because she believed in freedom.
Her husband Samuel suffered as well in the confinement of the prison camp. 8 of 10 American prisoners died in the hulls of British warships. He did not know what had become of Elizabeth, their unborn baby or the other two young children.
Many people sacrificed much for the cause of freedom. Some sacrificed everything.
Elizabeth took care of baby Samuel, little Margaret and Hugh the best she could. She sang to them the Celtic lullabies her mother had sung to her.
She told them the Bible stories she had learned as a child. Tales of Moses leading Israel to freedom, of brave Joseph and how Daniel’s life was spared.
She would have loved to have been home when spring came. She would have loved to have worked in her garden with her children and enjoyed outings with her family and friends. Because the cause of freedom had meant so much to Elizabeth and Samuel; she had no home to return to.
Samuel was a hard worker and as one of many brothers, he knew how to get along and be helpful. His execution was stayed by a British commander who took a liking to him.
The price of independence was very high. When the war ended and freedom was won, Elizabeth, Samuel and the others were released and made their way back to Virginia and to each other.
Elizabeth and Samuel had three more children. In later years as Samuel and his sons were building a house, they were attacked again by natives. A pack of wild dogs appeared and chased away the braves. Another time as their daughters were fetching water, they were watched by another band of Indians. It is not known why, but they were left alone. As the family grew, their lives were filled with both joy and sorrow and their sacrifice blessed their family for generations.
Elizabeth lived 95 years. She died and was buried in Jackson County, Missouri where a marker and plaque were placed to honor the memory of this heroine of the American Revolutionary War.
Elizabeth’s legacy is celebrated today by the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution organizations with chapters that have been named for her.
This year marks my family’s 400th year in America. Our first ancestor in the colonies was William Tracy who was the governor of the Berkeley Colony in Virginia in 1619, the year before the Pilgrims arrived.
We have lived and died in America, served, wept, laughed and cried here. It is our home and we are forever grateful. GOD BLESS AMERICA!
For more patriotic inspiration and images, please visit my Pinterest board. And be sure to thank a soldier; young or old, living or gone on to their reward.
There is a a story about the events of the eve before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. As the authors and members of the Continental Congress convened to discuss the document and ponder its impact on their futures, apparently there was understandable reticence about affixing their name to a document that was in reality treason against the crown and a death sentence. The author of this article from Esoterx recounts an impassioned fiery speech by a “stranger” that urged the signers on to their duty.
Interestingly, the unknown speaker talks about the width and breadth of the country which had probably not been considered as yet and how it was the duty of the colonists to set up a land that God ordained for the freedom of man. As I read it, I found nothing that contradicted my understanding of America as a land of destiny. After the man concluded his remarks he “vanished” from the locked and guarded room. It has been suggested that the unknown orator may have been America’s guardian angel, perhaps Moroni from the Book of Mormon.
There has never been a country like America and those that have studied its rise from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power of power and influence.
“Gibbet! They may stretch our necks on all the gibbets in the land; they may turn every rock into a scaffold, every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die! “They may pour blood on a thousand scaffolds, and yet from every drop that dyed the axe, or drops on the sawdust of the block, a new martyr to freedom will spring into birth! The British king may blot out the stars of God from His sky, but he cannot blot out His words written on the parchment there. The work of God may perish. His word, never!
These words will go forth to the world when our bones are dust. To the slave in bondage, they will speak hope; to the mechanic in his workshop, freedom; to the coward kings these words will speak, but not in tones of flattery. They will speak like the flaming syllables on Belshazzar’s wall: ‘The days of your pride and glory are numbered! The day of judgment draws near!’ Yes, that parchment will speak to kings in language sad and terrible as the trumpet of the Archangel. You have trampled on the rights of mankind long enough. At last the voice of human woe has pierced the ear of God, and called his judgment down. You have waded on to thrones through seas of blood; you have trampled on to power over the necks of millions; you have turned the poor man’s sweat and blood into robes for your delicate forms; into crowns for your annointed brows. Now, purpled hangmen of the world! For you comes the day of axes, and gibbets, and scaffolds; for you the wrath of man; for you the lightning of God!
Look how the light of your palaces on fire flashes up into the midnight sky! Now, purpled hangmen of the world, turn and beg for mercy! Where will you find it? Not from God; for you have blasphemed His laws! Not from the people, for you stand baptized in their blood! Here you turn, and lo! a gibbet! There, and a scaffold stares you in the face! All around you death, but nowhere pity! Now, executioners of the human race, kneel down—yes, kneel down on the sawdust of the scaffold; lay your perfumed heads upon the block; bless the axe as it falls — the axe sharpened for the poor man’s neck.
Such is the message of the declaration of man to the kings of the world. And shall we falter now? And shall we start back appalled, when our feet press the very Threshold of Freedom? Do you see quailing faces around you, when our wives have been butchered—when the hearthstones of our lands are red with the blood of little children. What! Are there shrinking hearts or faltering voices here, when the very dead of our battlefields arise and call upon us to sign that parchment, or be accursed. “Sign! If the next moment the gibbet’s rope is around your neck. Sign! If the next moment this hall rings with the echo of the falling axe. Sign by all your hopes in life or death — as husbands, fathers—as men, sign your names to the parchment, or be accursed forever!
Sign! not for yourselves, but for all ages; for that parchment will be the text-book of freedom — the Bible of the rights of man forever. Sign, for the declaration will go forth to American hearts forever, and speak to those hearts like the voice of God. And its work will not be done until throughout this wide continent not a single inch of ground owns the sway of privilege or power.
Nay, do not start and whisper with surprise. It is a truth. Your hearts witness it; God proclaims it. This continent is the property of a free people, and their property alone. God, I say, proclaims it. Look at this strange history of a baud of exiles and outcasts suddenly transformed into a people. Look at this wonderful exodus of the Old World into the New, where they came, weak in arms but mighty in Godlike faith. Nay, look at the history of your Bunker Hill, your Lexington, where a band of plain farmers mocked, trampled down the panopoly of British arms, and then tell me, if you can, that God has not given America to the free.
It is not given to our poor human intellect to climb the skies, to pierce the counsels of the Almighty One. But methinks I stand among the awful clouds which veil the brightness of Jehovah’s throne. Methinks I see the Recording Angel—pale as an angel is pale, weeping as an angel can weep—come trembling up to the throne, and speaking his dread message: “Father! The Old World is baptized in blood! Father! it is drenched with the blood of millions, butchered in war, in persecution, in low, grinding oppression! Father, look! With one glance of Thine eternal eye, look over Europe, Asia, Africa, and behold evermore a terrible sight — man trodden down beneath the oppressor’s feet, nations lost in blood, murder and superstition walking hand in hand over the graves of their victims, and not a single voice to whisper hope to man.
He stands there, his hand trembling with the black record of human guilt. But hark! The voice of Jehovah speaks out from the awful cloud: ‘Let there be light again. Let there be a New World. Tell my people, the poor, down-trodden millions, to go out of the Old World. Tell them to go out from wrong, oppression and blood. Tell them to go out from the Old World to build up my altar in the New.
As God lives, my friends, I believe that to be His voice. Yes, were my soul trembling on the wing of eternity, were this hand freezing in death, were my voice choking with the last struggle, I would still, with my last gasp of voice, implore you to remember the truth—God has given America to be free. Yes, as I sank down into the gloomy shadows of the grave, with my last gasp I would beg you to sign that parchment in the name of One who made the Savior, who redeemed you in the name of the millions whose very breath is now hushed, in intense expectation, as they look up to you for the awful words, you are free!
Laboring men of America! The voice of Patrick Henry and the fathers of American Independence rings down through the corridors of time and tells you to strike. Not with glittering musket, flaming sword and deadly cannon; but with the silent, potent and all-powerful ballot, the only vestige of liberty left. Strike from yourselves the shackles of party slavery, and exercise independent manhood. Strike at the foundation of the evils which are threatening the existence of the Republic. Strike for yourselves, your families, your fellow man, your country and your God. Strike from the face of the land the monopolies and combinations that are eating out the heart of the Nation. Let the manhood of the Nation rise up in defense of liberty, justice and equality. Let the battle go on until all the people, from North to South and East to West, shall join in one loud acclaim, “Victory is ours, and the people are free!” (Morgan, 1891, p770-774)
We are reminded of quote by Alexis de Tocqueville, ““I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”