Rebecca Biddle Biography | Women of the Revolution


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.


      The husband of this lady, Colonel Clement Biddle, was among the first of those who took an active part on the breaking out of the war, resolved to sacrifice every thing in the cause. Both he and his wife were members of the Society of Friends, and as a consequence of his taking up arms he was “read out of meeting” by that peace-loving community; while Mrs. Biddle, as ardent a patriot expressing her approval of the war, and encouraging her husband in his course – was subjected to similar discipline.

      Mrs. Biddle gave up the comforts of home to join the army with her husband, and was with the camp during the greater part of the war. With Mrs. Greene and Mrs. Knox, who were also with the army, she formed a lasting friendship, and was intimate with Mrs. Washington – being moreover on terms of personal friendship with the Commander-in-chief, for whom she entertained the highest respect and admiration. His letters to her husband, with whom a correspondence was kept up during his life, are still in the possession of her children. This intimacy, with the unusual facilities she enjoyed for observing the events of the war, and the characters of the distinguished men engaged in it, render it a matter of regret that the spirited anecdotes and graphic details, so well worthy of being embodied in history, with which her conversation abounded in after life, should not have been recorded as they fell from her lips. One or two of these, however, received from a member of her family, may illustrate her character.

      When the American army was encamped near the Brandywine, Mrs. Biddle was informed by an aid of Washington that a large British foraging party was within the distance of a few miles; that orders had been issued for a party to start before day for the purpose of cutting off their retreat, and that, as an engagement might be expected, the women were directed to leave the camp. Mrs. Biddle, not willing to consider herself included in the order, told General Washington, when an opportunity of addressing him occurred, that as the officers would return hungry and fatigued from the expedition, she would, if allowed to stay, make provision for their refreshment. He assured her she might remain in safety, but recommended that she should hold herself in readiness to remove at a moment’s warning, promising, in the event of any disaster, to send her timely information. She immediately despatched her servant through the neighborhood to collect provisions; and all the food cooked that day in the camp was thus procured by her. The enemy, informed by spies of the movement against them, made a hasty retreat, and at a late hour the American troops returned after a fatiguing march. Mrs. Biddle had the pleasure of giving the dinner she had provided to at least a hundred officers; each remarking, as he entered, “Madam, we hear that you feed the army to-day,” which she really did till not a crust remained.

      Among her guests on that occasion was the gallant La Fayette, who on his last visit paid his respects to her in Philadelphia. One of the Revolutionary reminiscences which they talked over in the presence of her deeply interested children and friends, was that entertainment, to which the General alluded with marked satisfaction. He also recalled to Mrs. Biddle’s memory the suffering condition of the army at Valley Forge, where the want of provisions was at one time providentially supplied by a flight of wild pigeons in such vast numbers, and so near the ground, that they were killed with clubs and poles. Even the officers were at that time so destitute of decent clothing, that it was jocosely remarked, that a single suit of dress uniform served them all for dining in, when invited by turns to head-quarters, where the repast consisted of’ pigeons prepared in as many ways as the cook could devise.

      In no instance did the enthusiasm and patriotic spirit which animated the heroines of that day shine more brightly than in this high-minded woman. The purest and most disinterested love of country induced a cheerful submission on her part to all the inconveniences, hardships, and losses rendered inevitable by a protracted war; and often, in subsequent years, did her detail of those difficulties serve for the amusement of her family circle. Her attachment to General Washington and his family continued through life; and during their residence in Philadelphia, she and Colonel Biddle were always honored guests at their table. She survived her husband many years, living till upwards of seventy, and to the last retaining in all their strength and freshness, the faculties and feelings of her prime. She ever loved to dwell on the signal display of the hand of Providence in the contest with the mother country, and whenever allusion was made to the Revolutionary war, it was a source of new delight to her children to hear her “fight her battles o’er again.”

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