A True Story of a #West Virginia Heroine
During the #American Revolution, Wheeling, West Virginia, was a small garrison on the edge of the frontier. It was called Fort Henry, named after Gov. Patrick Henry. On September 10, 1782, the area’s settlers learned of an imminent attack by British soldiers and their Indian allies, the Shawnees, Mingos, Delawares, and Wyandots. The next day sixteen-year-old Elizabeth (Betty) Zane hurried into Fort Henry, along with about forty others. (Three of Betty’s older brothers, Ebenezer, Jonathan, and Silas, had begun settlement of the area in 1769. Now Silas was in command of the fort.)
Ebenezer and Jonathan chose to stay behind in Ebenezer’s log house, built as strong as any fortress. (Ebenezer’s house had once been burned to the ground by Indians and he vowed never to leave it again during an attack.)
Back in Fort Henry, about 20 men fought hard against their attackers. They were outnumbered 15 to 1, but they had a small cannon and men who would fight to the death. Betty Zane molded bullets for the fighters as the siege continued. Then came a horrible discovery: Fort Henry was almost out of gunpowder. The fort and every man, woman, and child in it was doomed!
The defenders knew that Betty’s brother, Ebenezer Zane, had several kegs of gunpowder stored in his house, if only they could get to it. Volunteers offered to run 100 yards to the Zane house to get the gunpowder, but only one was chosen — Betty. She convinced the men that they could not be spared, and besides, she could run as fast as any of them, if not faster. The heavy wooden gate was swung open and Betty ran almost the length of a football field to her brother’s house. The Indians spotted her but did nothing except shout “Squaw! Waugh!”
Ebenezer flung open the door to his house. After a quick explanation, he slashed a keg of gunpowder and poured the contents into a tablecloth. Betty threw the bundle over her shoulder. She flew out of the house and dashed across the open field, but this time the Indians were suspicious. Bullets began to fly around her, ripping into her clothes and striking her arm, but Betty ran on, determined to reach the fort.
Several defenders of #Fort Henry pulled open the wooden gate. Betty ran through the opening with the precious gunpowder on her back. The siege continued for one more day and night until reinforcements arrived. The following day the attackers gave up and left.
#Betty Zane has gone down in history as the courageous teenager who saved the early settlers of Wheeling, West Virginia, from certain death. Her great-grandnephew was Zane Grey, author of over 90 books, mainly Westerns.
Children’s Books about Elizabeth (Betty) Zane:
Betsy Zane: the Rose of Fort Henry (2000) by Lynda Durrant (fiction for 8-12 year olds, but based on Elizabeth Zane’s real life)
Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue (2015) by Susan Casey