January 30, 2013

The Maid of Orleans

Betsy Doyle was a military wife married to Private Andrew Doyle of the First U.S. Artillery Regiment. Andrew, along with Betsy, was stationed at Fort Niagara when war broke out. Andrew was present during the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812, when he was captured. Andrew was sent to Britain to stand trial for treason since he was still considered a British subject.

Betsy Doyle working the guns
As an army wife, Betsy worked as a laundress or nurse at Fort Niagara. However, on November 21, 1812, during an artillery duel between Fort Niagara and Fort George, Betsy performed the duties of an artillerist when she carried hotshot to the fort’s guns. Fort Niagara’s commanding officer, Colonel George McFeely, witnessed the actions of Betsy Doyle and remarked that she acted “with the fortitude of the Maid of Orleans,” a reference to Joan of Arc. Betsy’s story spread quickly and officers visiting Fort Niagara in 1813 were eager to meet her. Upon seeing Betsy, one officer remarked that she was disappointingly unattractive. 

After the war, Betsy continued to perform as a nurse for the army, a task she continued until her death in 1819. Unfortunately, it appears that Betsy was not reunited with her husband who was released in 1815. When Andrew returned to New York, he was unable to find Betsy and concluded that she died. Andrew remarried in 1819 and began a new life on a farm in Massachusetts until his death in 1875 at the age of 87. 
Make sure you visit Fort Niagara to learn more about this heroic woman.

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