Eliza Ambler Describes Fleeing from Louisa Court House to Green Springs and Back Again

[Eliza Jacquelin “Betsy” Ambler to Mildred Smith, probably June 5, 1781, in “An Old Virginia Correspondence,” Atlantic Monthly 84 (Oct. 1899): 538-539:]

LOUISA COURT House, Tuesday.

Oh, my dearest girl, I tremble for your safety. Where were you hid when the enemy passed your door? We only had time to learn that they were on the road from Richmond, when we were again in the carriage, and in a few hours reached this place where it would seem impossible for us to be in any danger.

My much loved father [Treasurer of Virginia Jacquelin Ambler] is full of anxiety for us. Much have we to apprehend for him. The public office which he holds makes it absolutely necessary for him to run no risks of falling into the hands of the enemy. We therefore see him safely lodged in the old coach every night, with faithful old Sam as his guard, while we endeavour to make ourselves as comfortable as we can in the overseers tiny dwelling, which will scarcely hold us all Thursday morning.

When or where shall we find rest? Such a journey as we have again had, and now are precisely in the same spot we set out from!

No sooner had we committed our dear father to his solitary confinement on the night I last wrote you, and were endeavouring to console ourselves with the idea that the miserable little hovel we were in was too solitary a situation for us to fear any danger; then while enjoying our frugal supper of Bonny Clabber, honey, etc., a terrible clatter of horses at the door set us all scampering. The British! Nothing but the word British did we hear; upon opening the door, however, we soon discovered a parcel of miserable militia belonging to the neighbourhood. They had called to give notice that the enemy were actually proceeding on their way through the country, but not one of them could say which route they had taken. A consultation of our party was then held, and if we had had one particle of our natural reason about us, we should have quietly stayed where we were, but flight had so long been the word that it was determined unanimously that we should lie off in a moment. The nearer the mountains the greater the safety, was the conclusion; so on we traveled through byways and brambles until we could get to the main road leading to Charlottesville. Our design was first to reach a plantation in the neighbourhood of the Springs, where we were at least sure of house room and a bed (a friend of ours having removed his furniture to this place for security); and to this place we proceeded, where we arrived just as the sun appeared in all his glory. With difficulty we got admittance, no soul being in the house, and were just spreading pallets to rest our weary heads, when the landlord, out of breath, reached the house, saying that Tarleton and all his men had just passed, and would catch the Governor before he could reach Charlottesville.

What a panic for us all! Our best beloved father had pursued the same route only a half hour before, Charlottesville being the place appointed for public officers to repair to. Fortunately, however, the enemy had got ahead of him by another road, which he by good luck hearing, he immediately joined us and hurried us back to the selfsame spot [at or near Louisa Court House] we had left the night before. Thus were we one whole night and the greater part of the next day accomplishing what placed us precisely in the same situation we were in before, a spot that I defy the British or even the dl himself to find.

Great cause have we for thankfulness, and however dreary it is I will endeavour to be contented, hoping and trusting for a speedy deliverance.

But how dreadful the idea of an enemy passing through such a country as ours committing enormities that fill the mind with horror, and returning exultingly without meeting one impediment to discourage them!

Your affectionate E. J. A.

[Relevant Component(s), National Park Service Thematic Framework: Shaping the Political Landscape--Military Institutions and Activities]

[selected and posted by NGH]

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Western Louisa County
Multiple Privately Owned Properties, VA 23093


540 693-3200 x1020

Contact Us