Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.



By Judy Leithe

At age thirteen, orphan and future President Andrew Jackson joined the Continental Army as a courier in the back country of the Carolinas.  He was captured and held prisoner by the British -- During the course of the war, at least 85,000 American prisoners died in British captivity due to starvation and harsh treatment.  Young Jackson survived and remained defiant; when ordered to clean the boots of his captors, he refused, even after enduring hand lacerations made by the sword of a British officer.  Years’ later, in the War of 1812, his bravery and toughness earned him the apt moniker, Old Hickory.     

Sybil Ludington was another example of the kind of commitment to freedom exhibited by younger Americans.  In 1777, at the age of sixteen, Lundington rode her horse all night, through a driving rain, to warn her neighbors that the British were coming.  By dawn, 400 Minutemen, ages sixteen to sixty-five, were gathered to repel the British attack.  (See Article 7 in this series.)

While the men were away at war, children were relied upon to help their mothers protect their homes against British encroachments (See Article 21).  Many children were pressed into menial service by the British when they took control of Colonial towns.

By contrast, the Continental Army routinely made their headquarters outside of populated areas, sparing the citizens from having thousands of soldiers overtake their town centers and homes.  At the same time, there were many wives and mothers with children who travelled with the army.  While in camp, the children assisted in duties such as mending and laundering clothes, cooking, tending to the sick and wounded and transporting needed items to soldiers fighting on the front lines.  Along with delivering messages between officers and their troops, older boys were eager to be trained for the fife and drum corps.  Music played an important role in unifying large armies as they marched, as well as when they went into battle.