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Sarah Osborn Recalls Her Experiences in the Revolutionary War

Women participated actively in a variety of ways during the War for Independence; some even traveled with the Patriot army. Sarah Osborn was a servant in a blacksmith's household when she met and married Aaron Osborn, a Revolutionary war veteran, in 1780. When he re-enlisted as a commissary sergeant without informing her, Sarah agreed to accompany him. Sarah traveled with the Continental Army to the southern colonies working as a washerwoman and cook. This account comes from an 1837 deposition she filed at the age of eighty-one as part of a pension claim for Revolutionary war veterans and their widows.

...after deponent had married said [Aaron] Osborn, he informed her that he was returned during the war, and that he desired deponent to go with him. Deponent declined until she was informed by Captain Gregg that her husband should be put on the commissary guard, and that she should have the means of conveyance either in a wagon or on horseback. . . .

. . . They continued their march to Philadelphia, deponent on horseback through the streets, and arrived at a place towards the Schuylkill where the British had burnt some houses, where they encamped for the afternoon and night. Being out of bread, deponent was employed in baking the afternoon and evening. Deponent recollects no females but Sergeant Lamberson’s and Lieutenant Forman’s wives and a colored woman by the name of Letta. The Quaker ladies who came round urged deponent to stay, but her said husband said, "No, he could not leave her behind."

[They] marched immediately for a place called Williamsburg . . . deponent alternately on horseback and on foot. There arrived, they remained two days till the army all came in by land and then marched for Yorktown, or Little York as it was then called. The [New] York troops were posted at the right, the Connecticut troops next, and the French to the left. In about one day or less than a day, they reached the place of encampment about one mile from Yorktown. Deponent was on foot and the other females above named and her said husband still on the commissary’s guard. . . . Deponent took her stand just back of the American tents, say about a mile from the town, and busied herself washing, mending, and cooking for the soldiers, in which she was assisted by the other females; some men washed their own clothing. She heard the roar of the artillery for a number of days, and the last night the Americans threw up entrenchments, it was a misty, foggy night, rather wet but not rainy. . . deponent cooked and carried in beef, and bread, and coffee {in a gallon pot) to the soldiers in the entrenchment.

On one occasion when deponent was thus employed carrying in provisions, she met General Washington, who asked her if she "was not afraid of the cannonballs"? She replied, "No, the bullets would not cheat the gallows," that "It would not do for the men to fight and starve too."

Source | Sarah Osborn's application for Revolutionary War pension, Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.; in John C. Dann, ed., The Revolution Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 242-50.
Creator | Sarah Osborn
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | Sarah Osborn, “Sarah Osborn Recalls Her Experiences in the Revolutionary War,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 7, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/862.

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