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The Biography of Susannah Smith Elliott

 

"The men and women who achieved American Independence needed no reminders of what they had accomplished. The victory itself was a monument to the spirit. No other was required. Documents, relics, and soldier's tales were handed down in the traditional way, through families. The nation was to endure a devastating war between its very states, a painful reconstruction, and a proud centennial before it finally awoke to the ephemeral nature of the national memory. And then suddenly, it was time to remember and preserve."

This quote comes from "A Century of Service, The History of the DAR." As I thought about what today means for us, I found these paragraphs to be appropriate as we are organizing in the memory of Susannah Smith Elliott.

In the spirit of "preserving and remembering" a brief history is in order. Susannah Smith was born around 1747 in Berkeley County, South Carolina. She was a native of South Carolina and the daughter of Benjamin Smith who for many years was the Speaker of the Assembly of the province. Left young as an orphan and an heiress, she was raised by her aunt, Mrs. Rebecca Motte. Susannah Smith Elliott was seen by others as "one of the most busy among the Revolutionary women and always active among the soldiers."

One day at her plantation home referred to as "The Hut," three American gentlemen were visiting when suddenly the British approached. She hurried the three gentlemen into a closet, which contained a secret door. This secret door was known only to her and was contrived for a hiding place. Two of the men entered, but the third felt he could flee with his horse. In leaping a fence he was overtaken within sight of the Hut. The soldiers made threats and searched her home. However, she would not disclose their location. The British officers demanded her silver, pointed to some mounds of earth not far off from the Hut requesting if her silver was there. She told the soldiers that the mounds were graves for British soldiers. They dug up the mounds and found she was telling the truth. After the British departed, she released the two American men. And no silver had been taken as it was buried in the marsh.

In 1775, Susannah Smith married Barnard Elliott. Her husband became a captain in Colonel William Moultrie's Second South Carolina Regiment and conducted a successful recruiting campaign in the backcountry. When the 4th Regiment of the SC Line was created, he was elected to Major in November 1775. In 1776, Major Elliott was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth Regiment and on the 8th of July 1777, he was given the command of Fort Johnson in Charleston Harbor. Now as the wife of a strong force in the Revolution, Susannah crafted two flags. One was of fine blue and the other of red silk. She presented them to the 2nd SC Regiment of Infantry, Commanded by Col Moultrie, just three days after the attack on Ft Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, which took place on June 28, 1776. These colors were very elegant and richly embroidered with the Latin for "Liberty is more to be desired than Life."

The colors were presented with these words: "Your gallant behavior in defense of liberty and your country, entitles you to the highest honors. Accept these two standards as a reward justly due to your regiment and I make not the least doubt, under Heaven's protections you will stand by them as long as they can wave in the air of liberty."

After the Colonel and Lt Colonel received the colors from Susannah Smith Elliott, she was thanked for the gift and a promise was made by the Colonel in the name of the soldiers that they would be honorably supported and never tarnished by the second regiment. Never was a pledge more nobly fulfilled. Three years afterwards, they were planted on the British Lines at Savannah. Two officers, who bore them, lost their lives; and just before the retreat was ordered, the gallant Sergeant Jasper, in planting them on the works, received a mortal wound and fell into the ditch. One of the standards was brought off in retreat, and Jasper succeeded in returning to the American Camp. In his last monuments he said to Major Horry, "Tell Mrs. Elliott I lost my life supporting the colors she presented to our regiment." The colors were afterwards taken by the British at the fall of Charleston and were deposited in the Tower of London. Susannah Smith Elliott lived a patriotic and courageous life.

This Biography of Susannah Smith Elliott was prepared and read by Mrs. Stephanie Moskos Hall, Organizing Chapter Registrar at the Organizational Meeting of the Susannah Smith Elliott Chapter, Summerville, South Carolina on August 17, 2002.

References
"Patriots, Pistols, and Petticoats" by Walter J. Frazer, Jr.
"South Carolina Women, They Dared to Lead" by Della Bodie
"The Women of the American Revolution" by Elizabeth F. Ellet

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