Anne Frisby Fitzhugh
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
Anne Frisby, daughter of Peregrine Frisby of Cecil County, Md., was born in 1727, and married to John Rousby who died in the early fifties. In 179, she was married to Col. William Fitzhugh, an officer in the British army. At the beginning of the differences between the Colonies and the mother country he had been retired on half pay and was living on his large and highly improved estate at the mouth of the Patuxent River in Maryland. When Colonial discontent ripened into rebellion, Colonel Fitzhugh, though advanced in years, feeble in health, and nearly blind, openly espoused the cause of the Colonies. He was unable to bear arms but in other ways gave constant aid to the cause. Their two sons, Peregrine and William, entered the Continental Army and did excellent service. On account of his influence in the community, Colonel Fitzhugh had been offered full pay by the British if he would remain neutral but declined to do otherwise than declare himself openly. He took his seat in the Executive Council of Maryland, giving his vote and support to every measure calculated to advance the patriot policy, as well as travelling [sic] from town to town making stump speeches.
This activity soon made him a marked man with the British and Tories and he received repeated warnings. One day while he was absent, Mrs. Fitzhugh received information that a party of British troops was approaching. She hastily collected her slaves, furnished them with such weapons as could be found, which included twenty stand of arms besides various fowling pieces and hunting rifles belonging to her absent sons, and taking a quantity of cartridges in her apron, she led the say to meet the visitors with a round of shot. The enemy, finding preparations made for resistance, retired hurriedly.
At another time, when news reached them of an intended raid, to capture Colonel Fitzhugh and plunder the premises, the Colonel and his wife gathered up a few of their valuables and made their escape. When they returned the next day, they found the old mansion a smoking ruin. The family then removed fifty miles farther up the river to Upper Marlboro, where they lived until the end of the Revolution. In the fall, before the close of the war, a detachment of British soldiers landed on the shores of the Patuxent and marched to Colonel Fitzhugh’s house, arriving there about midnight. They did their best to make their escape. The night was dark and the rain was falling, making it easy for them to get away, though only half clothed, through a back door as their mother unlocked the front. The troops rushed in and she calmly asked what they wanted. “We want Colonel Fitzhugh,,”—then seeing the parts of her dress left behind by her sons—”What officers have you here?”
“No one but my own family,” she answered.
“Well, we have to take these,” said the officer pointing to the caps, holsters, and cloaks of the young men who had but just escaped. Nothing else was touched in the house, though the table was set with valuable plate.
Mrs. Fitzhugh, in obedience to orders from the officer, went to assist her husband in dressing and returned with him, unmindful that she had not dressed herself. When she learned that Colonel Fitzhugh was to be taken at once to New York, she turned and taking his arm, said decidedly: “Then I am going with you to take care of you.”
She insisted to the officer, who demurred at taking her, that because of his blindness she must go with her husband and would not be separated. She was not even given time to dress so great was the haste of the British to get away, but a cloak was thrown over her shoulders and the little party started toward the river where a boat was moored in readiness. Suddenly a gun shot was heard. The officer and men, believing that it meant a gathering of Americans, suddenly turned to Colonel Fitzhugh and told him that if he would give his parole, they would release him. He consented, and the British pushed off as rapidly as possible. On their return to their house, the Colonel and Mrs. Fitzhugh found that their negroes had all disappeared, with the exception of one little girl who had hidden herself in the attic. The slaves had evidently been taken away while their master was absent. Probably that was the reason of the raid.
Of the two sons, Peregrine and William, both became officers and served with distinction. Captain Peregrine Fitzhugh was for some time an aide on Washington’s staff. He married Miss Elizabeth Chew of Maryland and removed to Sodus Bay, on Lake Ontario. William Fitzhugh married Miss Anne Hughes of Maryland and went to live near Geneseo, N.Y. Anne Frisby Fitzhugh died in 1793, and was buried by the side of her first husband at “Rousby Hall” in Maryland, but it has remained for the D.A.R. of Bay City, Mich., to pay the tribute to her memory of naming her as a patron saint of their Chapter.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.