Tag Archives: General Howe

An Ear at the Keyhole

By Mark Bowser

If not for the courage of a Mrs. Lydia Darrah we would all be speaking with an accent and flying a different flag on the fourth of July. During the American War for Independence, she and her family had the uncomfortable responsibility of boarding some British officers in her house. Stationed was the more appropriate word. Some officers had been assigned to live in her house and for all sense of purposes, Mrs. Darrah had no choice in the matter. But, how fortunate for us that they were there in that house. For if not, most assuredly the Continental Army would have been destroyed if not for her actions.

One night, one of the British officers in her house ordered that she make sure that her family were in bed and asleep at a given hour. She was told that British Commander in Chief, General William Howe, was coming to her house and she was instructed to quietly let him in and show him to the officer’s quarters when he arrived. And, she was to be ready to show the General out when he was finished with his business.

Mrs. Darrah did as was instructed, but then decided to do something so daring that every school child should learn of her name. Realizing that something devious was going on, she gently slid off her shoes as not to make any noise, and snuck upstairs in her stocking feet. She then placed her ear at the keyhole in the door leading to the room where General Howe was conducting his business with the other officers. What she heard horrified her spirit. The British were planning an engagement to surprise Washington and capture him and the entire Continental Army.

The next day, Mrs. Darrah got General Howe’s permission to go beyond the lines of the British army in Philadelphia in order to get some flour ground at a mill. She proceeded to walk twenty five miles to where the Continental Army was positioned. She spoke with an officer and fervently pleaded with him to let General Washington know of the British plan. Because of her daring courage, the British plan was foiled and Washington and the Continental Army lived to see another day … and eventual victory at Yorktown. God bless Mrs. Darrah. Thanks for reading today.

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