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The Tale of "Mad Ann"

Updated on June 30, 2011

Ann Hennis Trotter Bailey

She wasn’t really mad of course, but the fact some believed she was saved her life on several occasions. Her full name was Ann Hennis Trotter Bailey and how she got the moniker of “Mad Ann” is quite an interesting tale. She was a scout and messenger during the Revolutionary War.

Ann was born in Liverpool England in 1742 and by the time she was 18 both of her parents had died. At 19 she sailed for America, most likely becoming an indentured servant in order to pay for her trip.

In 1765, Ann married Richard Trotter and moved to Staunton, VA in the Kanawha Valley area. They had one son, William. At the time, skirmishes often broke out between settlers and Native Americans living in the area. Not to mention the constant harassment by the British army. Therefore it became necessary for the governor of Virginia to establish a militia for their protection.

Trotter was one of the first to join. He engaged in what some consider the first battle of the American Revolution, the battle at Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. Although the Settlers won the battle, there were massive losses on both sides…Richard Trotter was one of them.

Husbands' Death

After the death of her husband, Bailey swore to avenge her husband’s death. Reportedly this is about the time she got her name “Mad Ann.” She started wearing buckskins, taught herself to shoot and was rarely seen without her tomahawk and knife. A good, sturdy rifle completed her outfit.

Ann began assisting the militia as a scout and messenger. She often traveled between Fort Savannah and Fort Randolph, a distance of about 160 miles. On one of her patrols Bailey came across a group of Shawnee Indians who immediately gave chase. Realizing she couldn’t outrun them she abandoned her horse and hid in a log. Although the Shawnee searched high and low and even sat on the log she was hiding in, they failed to find their quarry. Finally they gave up, but took her horse.

Screaming "Mad Ann"

Later that night Ann stole into their camp and retrieved her horse. When she had put a little distance between herself and the camp she began screaming as loud as she could. The surprised Shawnee thought she must be mad or possessed. Although the Indians often saw her afterwards they kept their distance. The Indians believed her to be insane and such people were considered under the special protection of the Great Spirit.

Several years later, Ann met John Bailey, a frontier scout “Ranger.” They married in 1785. In 1788, John Bailey was stationed at Ft. Clendenin where more conflict between the settlers and Native Americans had been brewing.

Up to this point attacks on the settlers had been sporadic and unorganized. But finally in 1791, Indians began planning a major assault on Fort Lee. However, the militia wasn’t ready to withstand such an offensive as their store of gunpowder was almost depleted. Someone would have to ride over 100 miles to Fort Savannah at Lewisburg to bring back more. It would be a dangerous trip.

A call for a volunteer was sounded. None of the men dared step forward…but forty-nine year old “Mad Ann” did. It is said she rode the whole way without sleep or rest. When she reached her destination she received the needed supplies plus an extra horse and successfully finished her mission. With Ann’s return the attackers were driven off.

Bailey became a hero. For her bravery Ann was given the horse she had ridden. The animal was said to have been a beautiful black, with white feet and a blazed face. She called him Liverpool, in honor of her birthplace.

With a handle like “Mad Ann” it might easily be assumed she wasn’t the embodiment of what most would consider a “lady.” But she was an educated woman with the ability to read and write, not a common skill in those early days of the Revolution. She was also well liked, respected and people never tired of hearing her tell of her exploits.

In 1800, her son William married Mary Cooper. Two years later, John Bailey died. Now, in her late fifties, Ann went to live with her son. For many years afterwards she could be seen riding from Point Pleasant to Lewisburg and Staunton, still carrying mail as an express messenger.

In 1818 Ann moved with her son and family to his new farm in Gallia County, Ohio. Her son built her a cabin close to his house so she would feel more at home.

“Mad Ann” was interviewed by a local reporter in 1823. She was quoted as saying: “I always carried an ax and auger, and I could chop as well as any man…I trusted in the Almighty…I knew I could only be killed once, and I had to die sometime.”

She died in her sleep on November 22, 1825 and was buried in the Trotter Graveyard near her son’s home. In 1901, her remains were re-interred in Monument Park at Point Pleasant, in present-day West Virginia.


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      Ayesa 2 years ago

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    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Interesting piece of Americana- well written- I never knew this tale before. thanks for sharing, voted up!

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

      Great read--as they might say (crazy like a fox)

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you so much!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      I loved this one and I have bookmarked so that I can refer back to it easily.

      A great hub and thank you for sharing.

      I now look forward to reading more of your work.

      Take care