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l) Emily Geiger, a young girl, shows bravery

Page history last edited by Lee Adcock 12 years, 6 months ago



Emily Geiger



Courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History website


Background: Nathanael Greene settled his troops in South Carolina and needed a messenger to take a letter requesting reinforcements for his troops to General Sumter, who was camped some 100 miles away by the Wateree River.

16 year-old Emily Geiger offered her services. Greene wrote out a message to Sumter and Emily memorized it. Then she took off:


American History Stories, The Baldwin Project


 The first day and night of my ride was uneventful. On the second day when Emily was riding through an open dry swamp, and was confronted by a Tory scout with a gleaming bayonet. She was taken prisoner and led to a farm house nearby. The British sent for a neighbor woman and her teenage daughter and they searched Emily for any hidden message. They had her undress and every inch of her clothing was turned inside out... no message was found! It took Emily a day longer than planned to reach General Sumter’s camp. Emily then told him the message that she had memorized, she also told him about her encounter with the Tory scouts.


General Sumter: “I have only one question, when you were alone in the room, what did you do with the letter?


Emily: “I ate it”


Emily’s message allowed General Sumter to break camp and join up with Greene’s soldiers. When the British discovered that reinforcements for the Continental Army were on their way, they retreated.


As you read this background and the words that Emily and General Sumter exchanged think about what you would have done in that situation! Would you have eaten the letter? Can you think of any other way that you would have gotten rid of the dangerous evidence that you were carrying? 




Years later, after Emily made a sacrifice for her country we learned that she got married! Here is a picture of the wedding invitation that her parents sent out! Try and read what is written on the invitation, if you get stuck or frustrated scroll to the bottom and read what the letter says. 


Courtesy of Ms. Sara Texas Geiger-Geiger through the South Carolina Department of Archives and History


Here is what the invitation says:


"Major Geiger and family request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their kinsman, Emily Geiger, John Threewitts, October eighteenth Y.L. seventeen hundred eighty nine at six O'clock p.m."


Have you seen wedding invitations today? Compare it to the Emily's invitation, how are they similar? How are they different? As you think about this consider the value of paper and the other resources and materials that were available back then.




Below is a poem that was written about Emily Geiger. After reading the previous information about Emily think about what the author is saying in the poem. How does the poem make you feel about Emily and her contribution to the war? How well did the author highlight the important events in Emily's adventure? If you think that they left parts out, which parts did they leave out and how would you include them in this poem? 




'Twas in days of the Revolution,—

Dark days were they and drear,—

And by Carolina firesides

The women sat in fear;

For the men were away at the fighting,

And sad was the news that came,

That the battle was lost; and the death-list

Held many a loved one's name.



When as heart-sore they sat round the camp-fires

"What ho! Who'll volunteer

To carry a message to Sumter?"

A voice rang loud and clear.

There was a sudden silence,

But not a man replied;

They knew too well of the peril

Of one who dared that ride.


Outspoke then Emily Geiger,

With a rich flush on her cheek,—

"Give me the message to be sent;

I am the one you seek.

For I am a Southern woman;

And I'd rather do and dare

Than sit by a lonely fireside,

My heart gnawed through with care."


They gave her the precious missive;

And on her own good steed

She rode away, 'mid the cheers of the men,

Upon her daring deed.

And away through the lonely forests,

Steadily galloping on,

She saw the sun sink low in the sky,

And in the west go down.


"Halt!—or I fire!" On a sudden

A rifle clicked close by.

"Let you pass? Not we, till we know you are

No messenger nor spy."

"She's a Whig,—from her face—I will wager,"


Swore the officer of the day.

"To the guard-house, and send for a woman

To search her without delay."


No time did she lose in bewailing;

As the bolt creaked in the lock,

She quickly drew the precious note

That was hidden in her frock.

And she read it through with hurried care,

Then ate it, piece by piece,

And calmly set her down to wait

Till time should bring release.


They brought her out in a little,

And set her on her steed,

With many a rude apology,

For their discourteous deed.

On, on, once more through the forest black,

The good horse panting strains,

Till the sentry's challenge, "Who comes there?"

Tells that the end she gains.


Ere an hour, in the camp of Sumter

There was hurrying to and fro.

"Saddle and mount, saddle and mount!"

The bugles shrilly blow.

"Forward trot!" and the long ranks wheel,

And into the darkness glide:

Long shall the British rue that march

And Emily Geiger's ride.






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