Elizabeth “Betsy” Hagar. This woman definitely deserves a bit of credit. In 1759, after being orphaned at the age of nine, Betsy Hagar became a “bound girl,” migrating around the homes of colonists who gave her shelter in exchange for her servitude. Somehow, in the mix of this, she cultivated a unique skill set for her age and gender: a handiness with machinery and tools. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Betsy collaborated with a local blacksmith to refurbish old firearms for use against the British. Because it was (and still is) illegal to make weapons to use against the government, this work had to be done in secret, in a small room attached to the smith’s shop."Betsy the Blacksmith" is known to have refitted a number of cannons, matchlocks, and muskets, as well as forging the corresponding ammunition for these firearms. She also spent much of her time healing the battlefield wounded, gaining bedside experience and sharpening her medical skills. She carried this expertise into her golden years, where she continued to practice medicine and was one of the pioneers of the smallpox inoculation.
Interested in 19th Century firearms? Check out my other blog.