In May 1781 patriot commanders Francis Marion and Henry Lee decided that they would have to burn the house to get the British outpost to surrender. Rebecca Motte gave her consent to the plan and even provided the arrows used to set fire to the roof.
Revolutionary War heroine. Motte was born on June 15, 1737, at the Santee River plantation of her parents, Robert Brewton and Mary Loughton. She was the sister of Miles Brewton, a leading Charleston merchant. On June 28, 1758, she married Jacob Motte, Jr. (1729–1780), son of the public treasurer of South Carolina, Jacob Motte, Sr. The couple had seven children, but only three daughters survived to adulthood.
The Mottes actively supported the patriot cause. They supplied food for the soldiers and their animals from their plantation, Mount Joseph, in St. Matthew’s Parish, near the junction of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers and McCord’s Ferry. This advantageous location, however, overlooked a key British supply route. British troops under the command of an officer named McPherson took the Motte house and renamed it Fort Motte. They then dug a trench and built a dirt wall to protect the house from patriot attack. The British moved Motte and her household to an outbuilding.
In May 1781 patriot commanders Francis Marion and Henry Lee decided that they would have to burn the house to get the British outpost to surrender. Rebecca Motte gave her consent to the plan and even provided the arrows used to set fire to the roof. The British surrendered after the roof caught fire, and then troops from both sides put out the fire to save the house. Motte reportedly fed all the officers, British and patriot, following the battle.
Motte was connected by the marriages of her daughters to some of the most prominent families in South Carolina, including the Pinckneys, Middletons, and Alstons. Motte died on January 10, 1815, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Philip’s Church, Charleston.
Bodie, Idella. South Carolina Women. Orangeburg, S.C.: Sandlapper, 1991.
Garden, Alexander. Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War. 1822. Reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1972.
Harkness, David James. “Heroines of the American Revolution.” University of Tennessee Newsletter 60 (February 1961): 1–16.
Helsley, Alexia Jones. South Carolinians in the War for American Independence. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 2000.
Tablet to Mrs. Rebecca Motte, Erected by Rebecca Motte Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Ceremony of Unveiling at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, S.C., May 9th, 1903. Charleston, S.C.: Dagett, 1903.