This Day in History: Dicey Langston’s midnight dash to save her brother
On this day in 1766, a little-known Patriot is born in South Carolina. At the age of 15, Dicey Langston would make a Paul Revere-like dash in the middle of the night. Revere was fortunate to have a horse: Dicey had only her feet! She also had the swift currents of a local river standing between her and her destination.
Dicey made her run despite the fact that she’d already been admonished to quit passing intelligence on to the Patriots. Her father was getting worried that she was about to get caught. Dicey had complied at first. But then she learned that a band of Loyalists known as the “Bloody Scout” was planning a raid on the encampment where her brother was located.
The Bloody Scout was known to be especially ruthless. Obviously, she couldn’t let those Tories find her brother.
Dicey snuck out in the middle of the night, determined to deliver her warning. She had just one small problem: The Tyger River stood in her way. Worse yet, the waters were flowing higher and swifter than normal due to recent rains. Naturally, none of these dangers were enough to stop Dicey. It was treacherous going, though, and she got caught up in the currents about halfway across the river.
Imagine how terrifying it must have been. A young girl, alone in the middle of the night, surrounded by darkness and trapped by rushing water. She became disoriented for a time, but finally figured out how to get to the other bank. Would you believe she delivered her message—even cooking her brother a quick snack—before returning home in time for breakfast? Her father never knew she left.
Dicey’s daring spirit was often in evidence during those Revolutionary War years.
On one occasion, a band of Loyalists confronted Dicey and her father in their home. They were furious that his sons were helping the Patriot militia, and they were ready to take their anger out on Dicey’s father. He was old and unable to defend himself, but Dicey leapt between the gun and her father, declaring her intention to take the bullet in his stead. The Loyalists so admired her bravery that they ended up sparing both lives.
Dicey’s bravery was in evidence yet again when she was stopped by a band of Loyalists. They thought she had information they wanted. The captain of the band aimed a pistol at her chest, ordering her to speak. Dicey was unflinching. “Shoot me if you dare!” she told him defiantly. “I will not tell you!”
The officer was furious and tried to shoot her, but another Loyalist grabbed the gun. He saved Dicey’s life.
One final story potentially changed the course of Dicey’s life—but in a good way. Her brother had given her a rifle for safekeeping until he needed it. One day, a company of men came to retrieve it. Dicey left the room to retrieve the rifle before remembering that she hadn’t asked the men for her brother’s countersign. As she came back into the room, she asked for it. One of the men laughed and declared it too late to make such a demand: He had both the gun and the girl in his possession.
That spunky girl raised the rifle and aimed it at his chest. She declared: “If the gun is in your possession, take charge of her!” Subdued, the man instantly gave the countersign.
So what was the good part? At least according to legend, that man was Thomas Springfield. He later asked for Dicey’s hand in marriage.
The Springfields would later have 22 children together. Dicey was one tough cookie (in many ways), wasn’t she?!
Archie Verno Huff Jr., Greenville: The History of City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont (1995)
Benson J. Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book of the American Revolution (1850) (Vol. 3)
C. Brian Kelly, Best Little Stories from the American Revolution (2011)
Elizabeth Fries Ellet, The Women of the American Revolution (1850)
Jesse Clement, Noble Deeds of American Women (1857)