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Dear Reader #134

Dear Reader,

A lovely start to the year. Damaged, my latest Sam Smith mystery, published 15 January 2022, is a #60 hot new release 🙂

My direct ancestor, Jeanne de Navarra de Champagne (14 January 1273 – 2 April 1305, a bold, courageous and enterprising woman who led an army against the Count of Bar when he rebelled against her. It’s thought that Jeanne, like far too many of my ancestors, died in childbirth.

My direct ancestor, Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd (1090 – 1137). With her husband, Gruffydd ap Rhys, an outlaw who distributed wealth to the poor, ‘like Robin Hood.’ Academic Dr Andrew Breeze argued that Gwenllian wrote the Mabinogion, the tales that influenced Lord of the Rings.

The January 2022 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

Author Features, Genealogy, Poetry, Puzzles, Recipes, Seasonal Articles, Short Stories, National Pharmacist Day and so much more!

My ancestor, Christopher Gadsden (16 February 1724 – 28 August 1805) was an American politician and the principal leader of the South Carolina Patriot movement during the American Revolution. Furthermore, he was a delegate to the Continental Congress, a brigadier general in the Continental Army, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, a merchant, the designer of the Gadsden flag, a signatory to the Continental Association and a Founding Father of the United States.

Christopher Gadsden. Portrait by Charles Fraser.

The son of Royal Navy officer Thomas Gadsden, Christopher was born in 1724 in Charleston, South Carolina. After service in the Royal Navy, Thomas became a customs collector for the Port of Charleston, hence the family association with the area.

Christopher was schooled in England. He returned to America in 1740 and served as an apprentice at a Philadelphia counting house. When his parents died in 1741, he inherited a large fortune, which made him financially secure for life.

Between 1745 and 1746 Christopher served as a purser on a British warship during King George’s War. In 1747, he developed his mercantile ventures and a few years later he built Beneventum Plantation House. 

Slavery was common practice amongst plantation owners in South Carolina. Although Christopher was ambivalent towards this barbarity, nevertheless he did keep and trade in slaves.

As Christopher Gadsden’s businesses prospered, he invested in projects such as Charleston Wharf. Between 1767 to 1787 and 1803 to 1808, it is estimated that forty percent of enslaved people (about 100,000) were brought to America through this wharf.

The Gadsden flag

Christopher was captain of a militia company during a 1759 expedition against the Cherokee. He was first elected to the Commons House Assembly in 1757 and immediately clashed with the autocratic royal governors. His stance brought him to the attention of Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, which resulted in a long correspondence and friendship.

Christopher Gadsden became one of the founders and leaders of Charleston’s Sons of Liberty. In February 1776, South Carolina President John Rutledge named him a brigadier general in charge of the state’s military forces. He played an active roll in the military, often to great personal financial cost.

In 1778, Christopher was a member of the South Carolina convention that drafted a new state constitution. That year he also served as lieutenant governor, stepping down in 1780.

When the British besieged Charleston in 1780, John Rutledge, as president of the council, fled to North Carolina to ensure a ‘government in exile’. However, Christopher remained and representing the civil government he surrendered the city and was taken as a prisoner of war.

As a prisoner of war, Christopher spent forty-two weeks in solitary confinement in a prison room at the old Spanish fortress of Castillo de San Marcos. Gaining his freedom in 1781, he helped to restore South Carolina’s civil government.

Christopher Gadsden was returned to South Carolina’s House of Representatives. He was elected as the governor, but due to poor health sustained during his imprisonment, he declined. In 1788, as a member of the state convention, he voted for the ratification of the United States Constitution.

The Gadsden house in Charleston (Wikipedia).

In 1798, Christopher built an imposing house at 329 East Bay Street in Charleston, a house that remained in the family for more than a century. He married three times and had four children with his second wife. He died, the result of an accidental fall, on 28 August 1805, in Charleston, and was buried in St Philip’s Churchyard.

Christopher Gadsden was born into privilege. A capable and principled man, he achieved a great deal in his life. He was a man of his times and some of his attitudes look dubious today. 

The world of politics is murky at the best of times, and politics was Christopher’s world. To his credit, he wasn’t a populist. Even when it disadvantaged him personally, he stood up for his beliefs, and I feel that history should commend him for that.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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