Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

The Close of the War

It is quite certain that Patrick Henry would have strapped on his knapsack to fight for his country if he had not been needed to help make the laws. He was elected to the legislature to help provide means to carry on the war.

The British armies had failed in the North. So they came marching into Virginia to capture the South. They burned and plundered the towns on the coast. The people fled to the mountains.

The legislature kept moving from one place to another for safety.

One day the British General Tarleton was hurrying with his troopers to arrest the lawmakers. A Virginian captain, who saw him from the window of a tavern, mounted his horse and rode by the shortest way to Charlottesville. He burst into the room where the legislature sat, crying, "Tarleton is coming!"

There was a rush for three-cornered hats. The lawmakers decided, as they ran, to meet at Staunton, beyond the mountains.

They mounted their horses and fled in different directions.

It is said that as Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison, Judge Tyler, and Colonel Christian were hurrying along, they saw a little hut in the forest. An old woman was chopping wood by the door. The men were very hungry, and stopped to ask her for food.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"We are members of the legislature," said Patrick Henry; "we have just been compelled to leave Charlottesville on account of the British."

"Ride on, then, ye cowardly knaves!" she said in wrath. "Here are my husband and sons just gone to Charlottesville to fight for ye, and you running away with all your might. Clear out! Ye shall have nothing here."

"But," replied Mr. Henry, "we were obliged to flee. It would not do for the legislature to be broken up by the enemy. Here is Mr. Benjamin Harrison; you don't think he would have fled had it not been necessary?"

"I always thought a great deal of Mr. Harrison till now," answered the old woman, "but he'd no business to run from the enemy." And she started to shut the door in their faces.

"Wait a moment, my good woman," cried Mr. Henry; "would you believe that Judge Tyler or Colonel Christian would take to flight if there were not good cause for so doing?"

"No, indeed, that I wouldn't."

"But," he said, "Judge Tyler and Colonel Christian are here."

"They are? Well, I would never have thought it. I didn't suppose they would ever run away from the British; but since they have, they shall have nothing to eat in my house. You may ride along."

Things were getting desperate. Then Judge Tyler stepped forward: "What would you say, my good woman, if I were to tell you that Patrick Henry fled with the rest of us?"

"Patrick Henry!" she answered angrily, "I should tell you there wasn't a word of truth in it! Patrick Henry would never do such a cowardly thing."

"But this is Patrick Henry," said Judge Tyler.

The old woman was astonished; but she stammered and pulled at her apron string, and said: "Well, if that's Patrick Henry, it must be all right. Come in, and ye shall have the best I have in the house." Even this ignorant woman in the woods had heard of the courage and patriotism of Patrick Henry.

The legislature met again at last, and took measures to collect soldiers and supply food, clothing, and arms to fight the British.

The next year Washington himself came down from New York, and a French fleet, sent over by King Louis the Sixteenth of France, entered Chesapeake Bay. Lord Cornwallis, the British general, was hemmed in on all sides. He surrendered his army; and soon the British soldiers and many Tories sailed away and left the American colonies to govern themselves.

Three years later General Washington and Marquis de Lafayette visited Virginia. The state wished to do great honor to the commander-in-chief of the American armies and to the young French nobleman, who had fought for liberty. And so Patrick Henry was chosen to make a speech of welcome.

The French general did not understand the English language very well; but when he saw the glowing eyes and the speaking face, and heard the rich tones of the orator's voice, he said Mr. Henry was a wonderful man.