During the Revolutionary War, British forces seized the spacious home of Rebecca Motte on the Congaree River in South Carolina. Motte, a wealthy widow, was forced to take up residence in a smaller nearby house while about 175 British soldiers fortified her home, surrounding it with a trench and parapet.
From May 8 to May 12, 1781, a Patriot force led by Francis Marion and Lighthorse Harry Lee laid siege to Fort Motte, as the British called their compound. Marion and Lee called on Lt. Daniel McPherson, the British commander, to surrender, but he refused. The Patriots soon concluded that to get the British out, they would have to set fire to the house. When Lee broke the news to Mrs. Motte, she responded that she was “gratified with the opportunity of contributing to the good of her country, and should view the approaching scene with delight.”
The widow produced a bow and set of arrows and told Lee to put them to use. The Patriots shot flaming arrows at the roof, setting it on fire and forcing a surrender. Then they quickly climbed to the top of the house and managed to put out the flames. That evening, in the tradition of true Southern hospitality, Rebecca Motte served dinner to both the American and British officers in her dining room.