This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: Kitty Knight became a national hero for what act of bravery?
A. Armed with only a broom, she convinced the British navy to spare the remains of Georgetown.
B. She led a ring of women spies that undermined the British occupation during the War of 1812.
C. She provided fresh horses and libations to Lt. General Tench Tilghman on his ride from Yorktown to Philadelphia.
D. None of the above.
The Answer: A.
There are different versions describing the valor of Kitty Knight (1775-1855) on May 6, 1813, during the war of 1812. But all in all, she is portrayed as a strong-willed, charismatic, selfless heroine, who saved at least one life and stood up to lion-like British Rear Admiral of the Fleet, Sir George Cockburn (1772-1853), who had stormed and pillaged his way up the Eastern Shore. His plan was to annihilate any settlement close to the waterways that might divert or harass his ships-of-war.
When Cockburn and his band of sea-going marauders reached the thriving twin port towns of Fredericktown and Georgetown, Maryland, they were already burning, but then he spotted the pair of brick houses high on the Maryland hill overlooking the Sassafras, and decided they had to become ashes as well. Miss Knight, unmarried and considered a “spinster,” confronted him at one of the blazing houses, accusing him of taking the life of her neighbor trapped inside. He was unimpressed and turned his back. It was then that brave Kitty wielded her broom effectively enough to quell the fire and save both her friend and the house. She then made sure the second house was free of fire and also her own home nearby, which she rented, was safe from the invaders.
She ultimately bought one of the two houses, which was later joined with its neighbor to create the configuration of the present Kitty Knight House.
Looking into Kitty Knight’s earlier years, it is clear that she was a confident no-nonsense woman of strength. She was born into a family of considerable means, was quite a beauty and the “belle of the ball” during at least one social season in Philadelphia. As the story goes, at one of the balls, she caught the eye of General George Washington and danced a waltz with him. She was well educated and chose to remain single.
That remarkable day has never been forgotten and it is with great pride that recent owners of the Kitty Knight House have planted a memorial garden where the confrontation was to have taken place. In addition, the National Park Service has installed a kiosk to immortalize the historic event next to the garden.
Kitty Knight’s remarkable grit and determination to protect her home and that of her neighbor in the face of superior strength have entitled her to be revered as Kent County’s own war heroine.
The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion.
Do you have a Kent County history question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.