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In 1781 South Carolina was completely overrun by the British. The English colonists were divided, the majority being in favor of the Revolution, but there were a goodly number of loyal men among them who conscientiously espoused the cause of the Mother country and these were called Tories. Those who took part in the Revolution were called Whigs. Lancaster County was their stronghold. They were mostly descendants of the Scotch-Irish. Among these was Charles Mackey, their acknowledged leader.

The Whigs had always made Lancaster too hot for the Tories, but the advent of the British with Tarleton at their head, turned the tide of war, and now the Tories with Tarleton drove the Whigs from Lancaster across the Catawba and the Pedee Rivers to join General Marion.

Charles Mackey, as the leader of his band, had made himself very obnoxious to the Tories and they impatiently waited the time for vengeance. He was a man of medium size, very active and energetic, a fine horseman, a splendid shot, hot headed, impulsive, often running unnecessary risks and doing daredevil deeds. No work was too hazardous for him. His wife, Lydia Mackey, was a woman of good common sense, with a clear head and fine judgment. In her coolness and self-possession she was far superior to her husband.

They had a family of young children, and Charles Mackey had not heard from them or seen any of them in several weeks. Their home was not more than two and a half miles from Tarleton's camp, on the Hanging Rock Creek. He knew it would be hazardous for him to return to his home so near Tarleton's camp; but his anxiety became so great that he could no longer remain in doubt, so he cautiously made his way home where he unwisely loitered for a week, and during this time he had the temerity to enter Tarleton's lines more than once in search of information which was most valuable to his country's defenders.

His home had patches of corn and potatoes on either side of a lane leading to the front of the house, while at the rear was a large kitchen-garden extending back to a great swamp, which was almost impenetrable to man or beast. This swamp was surrounded by a quagmire from ten to thirty feet wide. It was entered by jumping from tussock to tussock of moss covered clumps of mold, a foot or two in diameter and rising six to eight inches above the black jelly-like mire which shook in every direction when passing over it. A plank or fence-rail served as a temporary draw-bridge, which was pulled into the swamp after passing over.

When the country was infested by Tories, Charles Mackey spent his days in this swamp if not out scouting. At night he ventured home. He had good watch dogs and they gave the alarm whenever anyone approached, whether by night or day. If at night, he would immediately lift a loose plank in the floor of his bed room, drop through to the ground, and out in the rear and run thirty or forty yards across the garden with his gun in hand and disappear in the swamp, pulling his fence rail draw-bridge after him. There was no approach to the house from the rear, and his retreat was always effected with impunity.

Once when he was at home, on the eve of leaving with some valuable information for the American General, his faithful watchdog failed to give warning of the approach of strangers and the first notice of their presence was their shouting "Hallo" in front of the house. Mrs. Mackey jumped out of bed, threw open the window shutters, stuck her head out, surveyed carefully the half dozen armed men, and said: "Who is there?" "Friends," they replied. "Is Charlie Mackey at home?" She promptly answered "No." In the meantime Charlie had raised the loose plank in the floor, and was ready to make for the swamp in the rear, when, stopping for a moment to make sure of the character of his visitors, he heard the spokesman say: "Well, we are sorry indeed, for there was a big fight yesterday on Lynch's Creek, between General Marion and the British, and we routed the Redcoats completely. We have been sent to General Davie at Lansford with orders to unite with General Marion at Flat Rock as soon as possible, and then to attack Tarleton. We do not know the way to Lansford and came to get Charlie to pilot us." Mrs. Mackey, calm and collected, said she was sorry her husband was not at home. But her husband was just the reverse, hot headed and impetuous. This sudden news of victory after so many reverses excited him, and he madly rushed out into the midst of the mounted men, hurrahing for Marion and Davie, and shouting vengeance on the Redcoats and Tories, and he began shaking hands enthusiastically with the boys and asking particulars about the fight, when the ringleader cooly said: "Well, Charlie, old fellow, we have set many traps for you, but never baited them right until now. You are our prisoner." And they marched him off just as he was, without hat or coat and without allowing him a moment to say a parting word to his poor wife. They took him to Col. Tarleton's headquarters where he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death as a spy.

The next day, Mrs. Mackey, not knowing what had happened to him, gathered some fruits and eggs, and with a basket well filled made her way to Col. Tarleton's. The Colonel was on parade, but a young officer asked her to be seated. He said: "You have something for sale, I presume?" She replied that she had fruit and eggs. He gladly took what she had and paid for them. She then said her basket of fruit was only a pretext to get to Col. Tarleton's headquarters. That she was anxious to see him in person on business of great importance. She then explained to him the capture of her husband and that she wished to get him released if he were still alive, though she did not know but what they had hung him to the first tree they had come to.

The officer told her the Colonel was on parade and would not return for two hours. Mrs. Mackey was a comely woman of superior intelligence and soon interested the young officer in her sad condition. He expressed for her the deepest sympathy and told her that her husband was near by under guard; that he had been tried and sentenced to death, and he feared there was no hope for him, as the evidence against him by the Tories was of the most positive kind. He told her Col. Tarleton was as cruel and unfeeling as he was brave, and that he would promise her anything to get rid of her, but would fulfill nothing. "However" said he, "I will prepare the necessary document for your husband's release, filling in the blanks so that it will only be necessary to get Col. Tarleton's signature, but I again frankly say that it is almost hopeless."

At twelve o'clock Tarleton rode up, dismounted, and entered the adjoining tent. As he passed along the young officer said, "You must wait until he dines; another horse will be brought and when he comes up to mount you can approach him, but not till then."

At the expected time the tall, handsome, clean-shaven Colonel came out of his tent, and as he neared his charger, he was confronted by the heroic Lydia Mackey, who in a few words made known the object of her visit. He quickly replied that he was in a hurry and could not at that time stop to consider her case. She said the case was urgent; that her husband had been condemned to death and he alone had the power to save him. He replied: "Very well, my good woman, when I return later in the day I will inquire into the matter." Saying this he placed his foot in the stirrup and sprang up, but before he could throw his right leg over the saddle, Mrs. Mackey caught him by the coat and jerked him down. He turned upon her with a scowl, as she implored him to grant her request. He was greatly discomfited and angrily said he would inquire into the case on his return. He then attempted again to mount, when she dragged him down the second time, begging him in eloquent terms to spare the life of her husband. "Tut, tut, my good woman," said he, boiling with rage, "do you know what you are doing? be gone, I say I will attend to this matter at my convenience and not sooner." So saying he attempted the third time to mount, and so the third time Lydia Mackey jerked him to the ground. Holding by the sword's scabbard, and falling on her knees, she cried: "Draw your sword and slay me, or give me the life of my husband, for I will never let you go until you kill me or sign this document," which she drew from her bosom and held up before his face.

Tarleton, trembling with rage, turned to the young officer who stood close by intently watching the scene, and said: "Captain, where is this woman's husband?" He answered: "Under guard in yonder tent." "Order him to be brought here," and soon Charlie Mackey stood before the valiant Tarleton. "Sir" said he, "you have been convicted of bearing arms against His Majesty's government; worse, you have been convicted of being a spy. You have dared to enter my lines in disguise as a spy, and you cannot deny it, but for the sake of your wife I will give you a full pardon on condition that you will take an oath never again to bear arms against the King's government."

"Sir," said Charlie Mackey, in the firmest tones, "I cannot accept pardon on these terms. It must be unconditional or I must die," and poor Lydia Mackey cried out, "I, too, must die." On her knees she plead with such fervor and eloquence that Tarleton seemed lost for a moment and hesitated; then turning to the young Captain he said with quivering lips and a voice choking with emotion:

"Captain, for God's sake sign my name to this paper, and let this woman go."

With this, Mrs. Mackey sank to the ground exhausted, and Col. Tarleton rode off, doubtless happier for having spared the life of the heroic Lydia's husband.

The history of the American Revolution can hardly present a more interesting tableau than that of Lydia Mackey begging the life of her husband at the hands of the brave and bloody Tarleton, and it is probable that the "Lydia Mackey victory" was the first ever gained over the heart of this redoubtable commander, and it is very certain that Charles Mackey was the only condemned prisoner ever liberated by him without taking the oath of allegiance to the Mother Country.--MRS. F. H. ORME, _Atlanta Chapter, D. A. R._