Imagine allowing your home to be burned down in the name of patriotism. Rebecca Brewton Motte did just that for the cause of independence.
Born to an elite South Carolina Low Country family in 1737, Rebecca Brewton married politician, slave owner, and planter Jacob Motte, Jr. in 1758. The couple actively supported independence, as did Rebecca’s brother, Miles, who was lost at sea on his way to serve in the second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775. Rebecca inherited Miles’s fine Georgian home, still standing today at 27 King Street in Charleston, as well as his plantation, Mount Joseph, on the Congaree River.
After the Siege of Charleston in 1780, the British seized Rebecca’s stately house as a headquarters for British officers. When her husband passed away, she left the occupied city with her three daughters to settle at Mount Joseph. Located near an important supply route between Charleston and the interior, that property was also soon seized by the British, who installed defensive earthworks around the mansion house and renamed it Fort Motte. To wrest this outpost from the enemy, Patriots Francis Marion and Henry Lee decided to set fire to the fort and burn the British out. Rebecca not only gave her blessing to the destruction of her property, but she supplied Patriot troops with combustible arrows acquired by her late husband. The flaming projectiles ignited the dry roof of the fort and forced the British to surrender.
Rebecca Motte died in 1815 and is buried in Charleston’s St. Philip’s Church cemetery.
DATE OF BIRTH - DEATH
June 28, 1738 - January 15, 1815
For more on the life of Rebecca Motte, visit Battlefields.org.