SKETCHES OF DISTINGUISHED FEMALES
By Jo. Seawell Jones, of North Carolina
Miss Flora MacDonald
Carolina Observer, (Fayetteville, NC) September 02, 1834
Posted November 13, 2009 by Myrtle Bridges
The romantic story of this celebrated heroine is not confined to Scotland, nor to the fortunes of the house of Stuart.
The banks of the Cape Fear, in North Carolina, were for several years distinguished by her residence; and it is this
circumstance which will link her name with the history of that state, almost as it already is with that of her own Scotland.
The rebellions of Scotland had contributed to the population of the Cape Fear countries, long before the famous revolt
of the Highland Clans, under the chivalrous banner of Prince Charles Edward in 1745, after which much of the nobility and
gentry of the Stuart party sought a refuge amidst the solitudes of our forests. The fatal battle of Culloden annihilated
the power and independence of the highland "lairds;" and, in the year 1747, a colony of five thousand highlanders arrived
and settled on the banks of the Cape Fear. They came originally from hard necessity, but, even up to this time, from ties
of relationship, or the still deeper sympathy of mutual origin, the highland emigrants are prone to seek the sandy region
of their countrymen. He who cannot go to Scotland may penetrate into the counties of Cumberland, Moore, Richmond, Robeson
and indeed into nearly all the Cape Fear counties, where he will find even the Gaelic tongue, in all its native purity.
Flora MacDonald was the daughter of MacDonald of Milton, in the island of South Uist; but her father having died in her
infancy, and her mother having married Macdonald of Armadale, in Skye, an adherent of the government, she was thus endeared
to both parties, the government and that of Prince Charles, the young pretender. Her more usual residence was with her brother,
the proprietor of Milton; but such seems to have been the estimation of her character, that she was beloved by every clan,
rebellionists or not.
She did not see the Prince Charles until after the battle of Culloden, when he was a wanderer, without a home, and without
friends or adherents. His forces had been slaughtered and routed, and he himself driven to the hills and caves of his kingdom
to find a hiding place: and, at such a moment Flora MacDonald adopted him and his cause. She disguised him in a female dress,
and guided him from island to island; and, after encountering every hardship and every peril, put him into the way to escape
to France, where he had friends on and around the throne.
Flora MacDonald was arrested, confined in prison, and after a year, was released, and then carried into the court society of
London, by Lady Primrose, a Jacobite lady of wealth and distinction. It is recorded that twenty coaches, of the proudest names
of the realm, stood at the door of Lady Primrose, to pay their respects to the heroine of the Scotch rebellion, only a few days
after her release. A chaise-and-four were fitted up to take her back to Scotland; and when she was consulted as to who should
escort her home, she selected her fellow-prisoner, General Malcolm McLeod, who boasted that he "came to London to be hanged, but
rode back in a chaise-and four with Flora MacDonald."
She afterwards married Kingsburg MacDonald, of Kingsburg, the son of one of her old associates in the perilous salvation in the
perilous salvation of Prince Charles; and he, like all the highland gentlemen, was encumbered with heavy obligations, in the way
of private debts, and still heavier oaths of fealty to the house of Hanover. In 1773, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell visited the
house of Kingsburg MacDonald, and were entertained by the generosity and hospitality of the proprietor and his noble spouse.
She was than a fine, genteel looking woman, full of the enthusiasm of her early life; and she
was now the mistress of the house in which both the fugitive prince and herself had been once entertained by the father of her
husband, she put the great living patriarch of English letters in the same bed in which the unfortunate prince had on that occasion
slept. In the tour to the Hebrides, it is related that Kingsburg MacDonald was embarrassed in his private affairs, and contemplated
a migration to America.
I think it was in 1775, when she arrived in North Carolina and settled at Cross Creek, the seat of the present town of Fayetteville.
It was a stormy period of our history, and those who came among us at that time to seek peace and contentment were disappointed, for
they met, at their landing, civil and intestine war. The policy of the royal governor, too, was to carry along with him the Highlanders,
whom he represented as still liable to confiscation of estate for their former rebellion. The prudent emigrants were too recently from
the bloody field of Culloden to run heedlessly into another war of extermination. They measured the strength of the English government
by their own experience, and seeing around them no prince of their own blood to lead them on to battle, they nearly to a man joined
the royal standard.
The truth is, that countrymen of Flora MacDonald were incapable of appreciating the nature of our revolution. They had come to North
Carolina in quest of fortune and undisturbed peace, and clung to the government from a double sense of interest and fear. The sublime
idea of an American empire, was not within the range of their hopes or anticipations; but Scotland was again to be their home, when
King George should have forgotten their rebellion and fortune should again have restored to them wealth and importance.
Kingsburg MacDonald entered with much zeal into the cause of the royal government, and assisted his kinsman, General Donald McDonald,
in his extensive preparations for the famous battle of Moore's Creek. Flora, too, is said to have embraced, with much enthusiasm, the
same cause, and to have exhorted her countrymen to adhere to their king. The settlement of Cross Creek were the metropolis of the
Highlanders, and there they congregated to listen to the counsels of their aged chief. The MacDonalds, the MacLeods, the Camerons,
the MacNeills, and the Campbells were all represented there, in the person of some beloved and hereditary chieftain.
On the first of February 1776, Donald MacDonald issued a proclamation, calling upon all loyal Highlanders to join his standard at
Cross Creek, and on that day fifteen hundred men mustered under his command. The enthusiastic spirit of Flora forgot that it was not
for "her Charlie," she was warring, and tradition says she was seen among the ranks, encouraging and exhorting them to battle.
Loyalty seems to have been a strange principle in the bosoms of the highlanders. Thirty years before this period, they had fought the
battle of Culloden against the house of Hanover; and now they are on the eve of a similar engagement for its support against the cause
Kingsburg MacDonald was a captain in the army of Donald MacDonald, and his wife followed the fortunes of the camp. She proceeded with
the army towards the camp of Gen. Moore, on Rock fish river, and was with her husband on the morning of the 26th of February, on the
banks of Moore's Creek, a small stream in the County of Hanover. The whig army, under the command of Colonel Lillington, was encamped
on the other side of this stream; and on the morning of the 27th, the celebrated battle of Moore's Creek was fought, the highlanders
signally routed, Colonels MacLeod and Campbell both slain, Kingsbury MacDonald taken prisoner, and Flora once more a fugitive and
indeed an outlaw. The Highlanders were a brave and loyal race, but, poor fellows, they had their Culloden in North Carolina as well
as in Scotland.
Flora MacDonald returned to Cross Creek, without her husband; and there she found the whig banner triumphant, under the command of
Colonel Alexander Martin, afterwards governor of the State. The sad reverses of her fortune seemed to have begun. Tradition says her
house was pillaged, and her plantation ravaged by the cruelty of the whigs, and there is too much reason to believe it is true. The
Highland population was, for many years, conquered, and kept in subjection by the remembrance of this defeat, and it was only during
the latter part of the war, when the contest became more doubtful, that they again joined in the heat of the battle.
The Highlanders, and with them the husband of Flora McDonald, there is too much reason to fear, shared the fate of the unfortunate
rebellionists of 1745. Their estates were ravaged by force, and as soon as a State government was established, the ravages of the
whigs were legalized by an act of confiscation. Kingsburg MacDonald remained in North Carolina but a few years, when he embarked in
a sloop of war for Scotland. Mc. Chambers in his admirable history of the Rebellion of 1745, records a circumstance that occurred
during the voyage, illustrative of her character. The sloop encountered a French ship, and, in the thickest of the battle, Flora was
on deck, encouraging the crew until the contest ceased. She afterwards philosophized, by saying that she had endangered her life for
both the house of Stuart and the house of Hanover, but that she did not perceive that she had profited by her exertions.
There is one anecdote connected with the battle of Moore's Creek, and with Donald MacDonald, who was a kinsman of Flora, the Highland
chief, which deserves to be here recorded. He was an old veteran in the art of war, having been engaged as an officer in the army of
the young Pretender, in 1745, in which character he appeared in the battle of Culloden. He was sick at the moment of the battle of
Moore's Creek, and committing the fate of his countrymen into the hands of his aid-de-camp, Colonel MacLeod, he remained in his camp.
After his forces had been entirely routed, the whig commanders found him alone, seated on a stump, and, as they walked up to him, he
waved the parchment scroll of his commission in the air, and surrendered it into their hands.
The town of Fayetteville now covers the spot formerly the metropolis of the Highland Clans. There lived Flora MacDonald, and a host
of others, whose names appear in the history of Scotland as brave and warlike spirits. To me it was a beautiful spot, as seen in 1828,
before its destruction by fire, when the spring time of year contributed to embellish the banks of the small stream that winds its way
through the very streets of the town. I remember one view which would have been a fit spot, even for the romantic genius of Flora
MacDonald. There was a small bridge that spanned the stream, connecting the court house and the city hall, and, standing on this bridge,
you had first the office of Mr. Eccles, an accomplished attorney, immediately before you, suspended over the creek, and connected with
the street by a bridge; the stream then flowed on through a spacious and richly-cultivated garden, and then hid itself amidst a profusion
of the richest shrubbery. On the left was the Episcopal church and, away down the creek, the high steeple of the Presbyterian meeting
house shot up into the air, as if it had been the monument of the spot. A beautiful crystal stream, with embroidered banks, winding its
way through the heart of a city; such an ornament had the Cross Creek of the Highlanders.-There is another creek that courses along the
southern extremity of the town, and just below the city the two streams apparently cross at right angles. The superstition was of old,
that the waters actually crossed each other, but, by a little observation, you will perceive that the streams have, as it were,
accidentally touched, and, without farther conflict, separated, and gone off quietly on their serpentine courses. Hence the name of
Cross Creek. The surrounding country is a sand barren, with but little undergrowthy, and, but for the lofty pines that cover it,
would pass for a Lybian desert. In the midst of the wide waste of sand stands the American home of Flora MacDonald, a city in a wilderness,
an oasis in a sandy desert. The life of no female in the history of any country was ever more deserving the attention of the historian.
The adventurous deeds in the service of the unfortunate prince have been celebrated by almost every poet of the age, and have, more than
any single subject, infused a spirit of love and war into the minstrelsy of her own poetical country.
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