Richardson, Dorcas Nelson

ca. 1741–1834

Using flattery and promises of wealth and promotion, they tried to persuade Dorcas to convince her husband to change to the British side. She defiantly refused their advances, however, “and refused to be made instrumental to their purposes.”

Revolutionary War heroine. Richardson was the daughter of Jared Nelson (Neilson), who operated Nelson’s Ferry on the Santee River in what later became Sumter District. In 1761 she married Richard Richardson, Jr. (1741–ca. 1816), son of Richard Richardson and Mary Cantey. The couple had ten children.

Dorcas Richardson’s husband was the captain of a militia company and was taken prisoner after the surrender of Charleston. The British held him at Johns Island, where he became ill with smallpox. After recovering, he escaped and hid out in the swamps of the Santee River near his home. Meanwhile, British colonel Banastre Tarleton had made the Richardson house a cavalry station. Richardson’s family was confined to a few rooms of their house and received little to eat. Nevertheless, Dorcas Richardson managed to send food and even a horse into the swamp for her husband while the British troops hunted for him. The British allegedly taunted Richardson with what they would do to her husband when they captured him.

After her husband succeeded in joining Francis Marion’s troops, the British changed their tactics on Richardson. Using flattery and promises of wealth and promotion, they tried to persuade Dorcas to convince her husband to change to the British side. She defiantly refused their advances, however, “and refused to be made instrumental to their purposes.” While the reports of British cruelty to Dorcas Richardson may have been exaggerated, they and other similar stories became anti-British propaganda to rally South Carolinians to the patriot cause. Richardson died in 1834.

Bailey, N. Louise, and Elizabeth Ivey Cooper, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 3, 1775–1790. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Ellet, Elizabeth F. The Women of the American Revolution. 2 vols. New York: Baker and Scribner, 1848.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Richardson, Dorcas Nelson
  • Coverage ca. 1741–1834
  • Author
  • Keywords Revolutionary War heroine,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date April 13, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 23, 2022
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