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Women of the American Revolution - Anna Maria Lane
The American Revolution wasn’t fought only on the battlefields. It was also fought on the home front. While their men were away, many quiet and capable women took on the role of head of household and managed farms and plantations. Others made homespun cloth and boycotted tea in protest against the taxes imposed by the English Parliament. And still others chose to follow their men into war.
This story is about one such woman. Her name was Anna Maria Lane.
Anna Maria Lane
Precious little is known about Anna Maria’s early life. She may have been born in the 1750s and hailed from New England, possibly New Hampshire. Like many girls of her generation, Anna Maria may have been able to read, but in all likelihood was never taught how to write. When she came of age, she was courted by and eventually married John Lane.
The American Revolution Begins
In 1776 the American Revolution began and John enlisted in the Continental army. He participated in numerous campaigns in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Rather than stay at home where it would have been relatively safe, Anna Maria chose to accompany her husband. She became what was known as a 'camp follower'.
Camp followers have been around for as long as the military has been around. Camp followers were women and, occasionally, their children who followed the military divisions to wherever they were quartered. The women were usually the wives of the soldiers and provided support services such as cooking, sewing, laundering, nursing and sometimes even espionage.
Anna Maria went one step further. She would dress in the uniform of a military man and fight side by side with her husband and the other soldiers.
The Battle of Germantown
On the morning of 4 October 1777 the American Army, under George Washington, launched an assault on the British army led by Sir William Howe. During the Battle of Germantown, Anna Maria Lane "in the garb and with the courage of a soldier” charged into the fray. She fought as bravely as any man, receiving a severe wound during the fighting which left her lame for the rest of her life.
Life After the American Revolution
After the American Revolution, the Lanes moved to Virginia where John had obtained employment at the state arsenal in Fluvanna County. Later in 1801, the Lanes moved again and settled in Richmond. John joined the Public Guard and Anna Maria volunteered at the military hospital.
While working at the hospital, Anna Maria met Dr. John H. Foushee. It was he who appealed to Governor James Monroe (who would later become the fifth President of the United States) and the Council of State to authorize a small gratuity for her services as a nurse.
Dr. Foushee’s reasons for doing this remain unclear. Perhaps he felt sorry for her because of her disability. Or maybe he was familiar with the cause of her lameness and wanted to show his gratitude for her sacrifice. He may possibly have felt she was an exceptional nurse and deserved a reward. I don’t suppose we’ll ever really know.
As the years passed, Anna Maria grew weaker and eventually became too ill to continue her duties at the hospital. She, John and several other veterans of the American Revolution approached the Virginia government for help in the form of pensions.
On 28 January 1808 in a letter to Hugh Nelson, Speaker of the House of Delegates, Governor William H. Cabell put forth his argument for awarding pensions to these men and women of the American Revolution. Anna Maria was one of those women.
In the letter, Governor Cabell asks that these veterans be given consideration in view of their services during the American Revolution. He noted that Anna Maria was in particular need of assistance due to her failing health. The severe wound she received during the fight for independence was most likely a contributing factor to her condition.
Anna Maria is Awarded Her Pension
Unfortunately, we will never know exactly what heroic feats Anna Maria performed on that fateful day at the Battle of Germantown. For reasons unknown, no one at the General Assembly had written down any notes when Anna Maria's exploits were put forth. Historian Joyce Henry has her own theory as to what might have occurred:
"We know there was one final assault on the Chew house. Meant some American soldiers made their way actually into the house, where some vicious hand-to-hand fighting ensued in the yard and in the hallways. Certainly it was a very brave act. But they did not succeed in overrunning the house.
Was Anna Maria Lane one of these who entered the house, who picked up a fallen standard, who made a valiant final charge when others were retreating? That’s my thought. Because again, her pension record states, “In the garb, and with the courage of a soldier, performed extraordinary military service and received a severe wound at the Battle of Germantown.” To me, that highlights the most, I won’t call it the decisive action, but probably one of the bloodiest and heroic actions of the Battle of Germantown."*
Soldier of the American Revolution
Whatever her deeds were, they must have been quite impressive. While the other veterans received on average $40 a year pension, The General Assembly saw fit to award Anna Maria $100 per year in consideration of her services during the American Revolution and the injury she received on the battlefield.
Two years later on 13 June 1810, Anna Maria Lane, a soldier of the American Revolution, died. While she is gone, she has not been forgotten.
In Richmond, Virginia there is a marker that commemorates her heroism in the fight for American independence from English oppression.
Video: Women of the American Revolution: Anna Maria Lane
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