Lydia Darragh

If the story of Lydia Darragh (also spelled Darrah or Darrach) is true then she possessed courage most people could only wish for, she was a lady who by all accounts acted to save the American Army from attack by the British. This act was said to have happened during the American Revolutionary War, the act in question started out as simple espionage and intelligence gathering but finished in a hugely unselfish brave move.

The story has it that as the British took control of Philadelphia, bolstered their numbers and then started planning an attack on American forces. After finding out about the impending attack through espionage, Lydia Darrah crossed British lines to give information on the British plans to the American Continental Army thus acting as a spy for the Americans.

The issue with this story is there is no evidence that it truly happened or not, we like to think it did and thus we will tell you about Lydia Darrah and the story of her courage.

A Young Lydia Darrah

Lydia Darrah was born in 1729 in Dublin, Ireland as Lydia Barrington where she enjoyed a good childhood.

At the age of 24 Lydia Darrah married William Darragh who was the family tutor and a respected man in the community having also been the son of a clergyman. Not long after marriage William and Lydia Darragh decided to move overseas and chose America as their new home. Once in America they soon settled in Philadelphia where William continued his profession as a tutor and Lydia started a profession as a midwife.

The Darrah’s were not only hard workers but also enjoyed a good home life where they had five children (plus another four that didn’t make it past infancy which was common during the time) and were practised Quakers.

Lydia Darrah and the American Revolutionary War

While Lydia and her family were against war as per their Quaker beliefs, there first son Charles ended up joining the Continental Army and serving in the Philadelphia Regiment.

By 1777 the British forces had taken control of Philadelphia and the British General chose a house opposite the Darrah’s as his base. This chance choice by the British General gave Lydia the option to eavesdrop on the British to find out what they were doing, something which she did without being asked. As Lydia gathered information she would pass it on to her eldest son based in the Continental Army.

In Autumn 1777 the British asked to use the Darrah’s home but they said they wished to stay, as Quakers were known to oppose war the British left them be but did start using the Darrah home from time to time for meetings.

In December 1777 the British held one such meeting and as was customary they asked the Darrah’s to retire early to bed and said they would awaken them when the meeting was finished. The Darrah’s agreed but Lydia only pretended to sleep and listened to the meeting where the British were planning to attack the Continental Army in a surprise move.

When finished the British knocked on the bedroom door to signal the Darrah family could come out while believing they had been asleep for the whole time.

On December the 3rd 1777, a day after the meeting took place, Lydia gained dispensation from the British General to cross the British lines into American territory to visit a flour mill. Lydia went across the British lines to the flour mill and dropped off her flour sack. Next she went to visit the American Army meeting Colonel Craig of the Light Horse on route where she advised him of the British plans.

The British true to plan came to attack the American Continental Army but the plan was foiled as the Americans were waiting for the British. The British realised the Americans had been tipped off and questioned Lydia but she said she had no knowledge of anything and she was left alone.

After the American Revolutionary War

The Darrah’s continued to live in their Philadelphia home until 1783 when William Darrah passed away. The Darrah family move to a new home in 1786 and Lydia started running a store which was quite successful; this was until her unfortunate death in 1789 aged 60 years of age.

2 thoughts on “Lydia Darragh”

Leave a Comment