The Arrest of Emily Geiger
From the Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, by Benson J. Lossing,
copied from the original painting by Flagg
Emily Geiger was the daughter of German-speaking Swiss farmers and Patriots who lived in the backcountry of South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.
In June 1781, General Nathanael Greene and his forces, after retreating from British troops at Fort Ninety Six, camped about two miles from the Geiger home. Greene let it be known that he needed to get a message to General Thomas Sumter, about 100 miles away near the Wateree River.
Eighteen-year-old Emily, who knew the route well, offered to take the message. Greene accepted her offer, penned the note, and had Emily memorize the message in case she had to destroy it along the way. Mounted sidesaddle on a strong, fast horse, Emily travelled the first leg of the journey without incident.
But on day two, Lord Rawdon’s scouts stopped her. Although Emily told them she was travelling to her Uncle Jacob’s home, they took her to their encampment to question her. Left alone in a room, Emily, concerned about the note, decided to eat it. Minutes later, a Tory woman, Mrs. Hagabook, was brought to search Emily, but found nothing on her person. The British officer in charge apologized for the error and provided Emily an escort to her uncle’s home.
The next day, she completed her journey to Sumter’s camp and relayed the following message: “Lord Rawdon has determined to abandon Fort Ninety-Six. Moving down the southern bank of the Edisto River to Orangeburg, then they will divide their forces.” Sumter began moving his forces within the hour.
On October 18, 1789, Emily married South Carolina plantation owner, John Threwitts. As a wedding present, General Greene gave her a pair of earrings and brooches. At a ball in Charleston, SC, given in Lafayette’s honor, Emily was honored as a distinguished heroine of the Revolutionary War.