"Tennessee Trails" through Bedford County

Bedford County TN Biographies

SARAH (CLAY) MARTIN

Sally Clay, born November 16, 1765, married Matthew Martin, brother of Barkley Martin, who married Rachel Clay. They were the sons of Abram and Elizabeth (Marshall) Martin, of Caroline County, Virginia, who settled in Edge field District, South Carolina. These sisters are named among the heroines of the Revolution. In May, 1781, only two inland posts in Georgia and South Carolina were in the possession of the British. Pickens and Lee we re besieging Augusta, while General Greene sat down before Ninety-Six, so called from being situated ninety-six miles from the chief town of t he Cherokee Nation. It was an important place, therefore strongly fortified. Its garrison was of Tories commanded by Colonel John Cruger, a loyalist from New York, who had rendered himself particularly obnoxious because of his cruel persecution of the patriots. General Greene's approaches were skillfully protected by I I Maham Tower," a high structure of logs which commanded the stockade. Mounted upon this battlement, men from behind the breastworks could pour a destructive fire. As a protection against the sharpshooters, the Tory garrison piled sandbags high upon the parapets, which were surrounded by a deep, wide moat. The siege was pressed for nearly a month. The defenders were reduced to direst extremities for water, which could only be brought in small quantities at night by a few negroes, entirely nude that they might be invisible in the darkness. General Greene hoped to starve them out and thus save his command further suffering.

May 18, 1781, the Martin family received news that a courier, guarded by two British soldiers, had left Charleston with important dispatches for the beleaguered fort. These zealous patriots, women though they were, "put their heads together" and determined to secure those papers. Grace (Waring) and Rachel Clay Martin each donned a suit of her husband's clothes, and, providing herself with contraband arms, took a protected position in a turn of the public road where they knew the escort must pass.

It was already late in the evening, and the shadows of the forest lent additional darkness to the hour, when the tramp of the horses feet were heard in the distance. We can scarce imagine the feelings of those courageous young women as three well-equipped riders appeared in sight. As the couriers approached the hiding-place the disguised women sprang from their covert, presented their pistols, and claimed the dispatches. The soldiers being completely surprised while off their guard, quickly yielded to the demands of the rebels. Having secured the important documents, together with the guns and accouterments, they paroled their prisoners and wisely disappeared through the bushes.

Having reached the house and displayed their trophies, Sally Clay Martin claimed the privilege of carrying the dispatches to headquarters. Mounting an old blind pony deemed worthless by both armies, she rode through the darkness to the picket station by midnight. She was quickly ushered in to General Greene's presence, and placed the dispatches in his hand. The she bore the news that General Rawdon, strengthened by three Irish-regiments, had left Charleston to reinforce the fort at Ninety-Six. General Greene, who had scarce two thousand men, realized quickly that he must either a band on the siege or make an immediate attack. He decided on the latter, and asked for a hundred volunteers to scale the walls, and with iron hooks pull down the sandbags from the parapets. That it was a "forlorn hope" was quickly realized by those brave soldiers, and yet a hundred and twenty responded. Two of this number were Samuel Clay and Barkley Martin. At two o'clock in the morning a vigorous charge was made from three points, which was met by a most spirited and determined resistance. General Greene, realizing that if the fort were taken at all it must be done by the sacrifice of the best material of his army, wisely ordered a hasty retreat. When the command reached High Hills to rest and recruit, it was found that only seven of that heroic hundred answered to roll call.

At the close of the Revolutionary War, Matthew and Barkley Martin moved to the neighborhood of Columbia, Tennessee. Mrs. Barkley Martin was living in 1849, about eighty-six years of age. She had no children. Matthew and Rachel (Clay) Martin raised a large family, who were prominent in that State. One son, Honorable Barkley Martin, was Representative in Congress from Tennessee. His father lived to a great age, dying in October, 1849, seventy-six years from the day he entered the Revolutionary War.

Source Judith H. Martin at World Connect
From The Descendants of John Claye / Bob Francis / Ancestry.com

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