Rebecca Brewton Motte

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Rebecca Brewton Motte (1737–1815) was a plantation owner in South Carolina, patriot in the American Revolution, namesake of Fort Motte and mother-in-law of Major-General Thomas Pinckney.

Early Life and Marriage[edit]

Rebecca was the daughter of Robert Brewton a wealthy resident of Charleston, South Carolina. She married Jacob Motte (1729–1780) in 1758. Jacob was a plantation owner and involved in politics.[1] The Mottes had seven children two of whom died young and two daughters who married Thomas Pinckney in 1779 and 1797.[2]

The Mottes were living at Fairfield Plantation (Charleston County, South Carolina) on the South Santee River outside of Charleston by 1758 and also in town until Jacob died of illness in 1780 leaving Rebecca to inherit the plantation and 244 slaves.[3]

Revolutionary War Era[edit]

Rebecca's brother Miles Brewton (1731–1789) also died during the Revolution; he and his family were lost at sea on their way to Philadelphia - he having been elected to the second Provincial Congress.[4] Miles had owned up to eight ships and was soon South Carolina's largest slave dealer as well as one of the wealthiest families in the province.[5] He had numerous plantations (growing rice and indigo) including Mt. Joseph (later known as Fort Motte).[6]

In 1765 Miles had begun building a lavish home in King Street in Charleston that still stands today beautifully preserved and known as the Miles Brewton House. Upon the deaths of her husband and brother, Rebecca was one of (if not the) wealthiest people in South Carolina in the Revolutionary War Era.[7]

The family were supporters of the American Revolution and supplied soldiers with rice, beef, pork, corn, and fodder from 1778-1783.[8] During the war, she and her children were living in her brother's former town house when it was commandeered as British headquarters.[9] She soon left for the comparative safety of Mt. Joseph plantation on the Congaree River outside of town.

On June 13, 1776 after the Battle of Fort Moultrie, the women of Charleston presented the second regiment of the Continental Army "a pair of silken colors, one of blue, one of red, richly embroidered by their own hands; and Susanna Smith Elliott, a scion of one of the oldest families of the colony, who, being left on orphan, had been brought up by Rebecca Brewton Motte, stepped forth to the front of the intrepid band in matronly beauty, young and stately, light-haired, with eyes of mild expression, and a pleasant countenance, and, as she put the flags into the hands of Moultrie and Motte, she said in a low, sweet voice: 'Your gallant behavior in defense of liberty and your country entitles you to the highest honors; accept these two standards as a reward justly due to your regiment; and I make not the least doubt, under heaven's protection, you will stand by them as long as they can wave in the air of liberty.'" [10]

In June 1780 the British occupied Belleville Plantation near Mt. Joseph even though the latter held a more commanding view of the river,[11] possibly because of a smallpox scare.[12] By December 1780 Rebecca and her daughters, one being Elizabeth with her infant who was the wife of Thomas Pinckney, and others were at Mt. Joseph. Thomas was there too, recuperating, having been wounded in August fighting at the Battle of Camden with General Gates.[13] In January 1781 the Pinckney family left for Charleston then Philadelphia with other captured American officers awaiting possible exchange. Shortly thereafter, the British left Belleville and encamped at Mt. Joseph and began to fortify the house and surrounds.[14] Rebecca's entourage then moved to the overseer's house.

Brigadier General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion and Lt. Col. Henry Lee III of Virginia were sent by General Nathanael Greene to capture Fort Motte in what became known as the Siege of Fort Motte. They arrived in May 1781 with about 400 men and an artillery piece. After five days of attack, Marion and Lee decided to burn the house which had a dry wood shingle roof. Mrs. Motte didn't hesitate to "burn her home" and even provided the arrows which would be lit and shot onto the roof of her house.[15]

Later life[edit]

In the 1790s Rebecca Motte continued to manage her affairs after paying off her family's war debts. She and son-law Thomas Pinckney also built the rice plantation, Eldorado (now in ruins) on the South Santee River downstream from her first Santee home "Fairfield."[16] There she lived out her days with some of her grandchildren who remembered the old arrow quiver holding her knitting needles hanging on the back of her chair.[17]


  1. ^ Walter Edgar and N. Louise Bailey. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Volume II, The Commons House of Assembly 1692-1775. Columbia, SC. University of South Carolina Press. 1974. pp. 480-481
  2. ^ Smith, Steven D. Obstinate and Strong: The history and archeology of the siege of Fort Motte SC Institute of Archeology and Anthropology 2007 pp. 12,34
  3. ^ Elise Pinckney. Letters of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1768-1782. South Carolina Historical Magazine (76). 1975. pp. 145,165.
  4. ^ Col. Miles Brewton and Some of His Descendents. South Carolina Historical Magazine (II). 1901. pp. 130-131, 142-144, 148-150.
  5. ^ Edgar and Bailey, pp. 95-97.
  6. ^ Edgar and Bailey, p. 96
  7. ^ Margaret Hayne Harrison. A Charleston Album. Richard R. Smith Publishers. 1953. pp 36-43.
  8. ^ Alexia Jones Helsley. South Carolinians in the War for American Independence. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. 2000. pp. 65-69.
  9. ^ Margaret Hayne Harrison. pp. 36-43.
  10. ^ Bancroft, Vol. IV, p.410 96
  11. ^ Lyman C. Draper. Diary of Lieut. Anthony Allaire in King's Mountain and its Heroes. Peter G. Thompson. 1881. p 497.
  12. ^ Letter, Elizabeth Motte to Eliza Pinckney, July 1780 in Ravenel, Eliza Pinckney. pp. 289-290.
  13. ^ Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Life of General Thomas Pinckney. Houghton, Mifflin and Co. 1895. p. 80.
  14. ^ Ranking. Francis Marion. p. 201.
  15. ^ Letter, Lord Rawdon to Cornwallis, May 24th 1781 in R. W. Gibbes. Documentary History of the American Revolution in 1781 and 1782. Appleton and Co. 1855. p. 79.
  16. ^ Smith, pp. 12,34
  17. ^ Rebecca Brewton in SC Genealogies, Vol I, pp 150-153, Reprint Co., Spartanburg, SC, 1983

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