Story Of Lydia Darragh
Lydia Darragh grew up in a Quaker family and came from Dublin, Ireland, but eventually moved with her family to America. After the Continental Army lost the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, the British had taken over Philadelphia. Many of the city’s residents fled to the surrounding region, but Lydia remained home with her family. Coincidentally, Lydia Darragh’s house was in close proximity to Howe’s headquarters in Philadelphia. She did not know that these circumstances would lead her to becoming a Patriot spy during the American Revolution.
The British military was known for occupying civilian homes, so it is not surprising that British officers would convene in Darragh’s house to discuss their plans. With the assistance of her cousin, a British soldier, Lydia persuaded the British to let her remain in the house with her family. At one meeting, Lydia listened in on the discussion while hiding in a closet. She learned that the British, with a large force, were planning to attack Washington's forces at Whitemarsh on December 4th.
After some thought, Lydia resolved that she had to convey the news. Perhaps she decided to go because her son was in the army at the Whitemarsh encampment or perhaps because of her strong sense of patriotism. Either way, she demonstrated much courage as she traversed over six miles of snowy and rugged roads while risking her life. She had to remain vigilant, as the British closely monitored the civilians who remained in Philadelphia. Acquainted with such regulations, she used a pass to purchase flour so that she could leave and bring the message.
On her way to the Rising Sun Tavern, she encountered Colonel Craig, an officer she knew, and conveyed the message to him. Craig most likely went to the Rising Sun Tavern and discussed the issue with Elias Boudinot, who was the “Intelligence of the Army.” Eventually the information would reach Washington. Many sources indicate that Washington had received important, confidential information concerning a British attack, indicating that this news had been previously unknown to him.
Through Lydia’s message, the American troops under Washington were able to prepare themselves for any imminent attack. If it were not for Lydia’s bravery, the Americans might have been crushed by the British troops. Instead, the Continentals were able to create a strong defensive force that even Howe could not breach. Eventually realizing how impenetrable the Whitemarsh encampment was, Howe retreated back to Philadelphia with his troops. Thus, one could argue that Lydia Darragh played a pivotal role in the survival of the American forces at the Battle of Whitemarsh.
(N.B., please find sources and footnotes in digitized copy on Home Page.)