Five miles below Charlotte, North Carolina, on a hot day in September 1780, a fourteen-year-old girl named Susan stood behind a window in her home and looked south along the road that led from Camden in South Carolina. It was in the area called the Waxhaws, that broad swath of Back Country between Charlotte and Camden, including much of the present Mecklenburg, Union, and Anson Counties in North Carolina, and Lancaster, Chester, and York Counties in South Carolina. In later years Mrs. Susan Smart was in the habit of telling the following story to her intimate friends.
Every day young Susan stood behind the window and watched the road leading from the south. Her father and brother had been in the American army that General Horatio Gates had led to disaster at Camden against the British under Lord Cornwallis. That had been on the sixteenth of August and now it was September, and the family had no idea of the fate of father and brother. Susan's job upon spotting travelers was to race out to them and ask for news.
Late that hot afternoon a dust trail rose behind a rider coming quickly from the southward. Susan flew out of the house. The rider was a boy, a year younger than Susan, and the most forlorn figure she had ever seen. He was a tall, “gangling fellow, ” she recalled, legs so long they could almost meet beneath his shaggy “grass pony, ” as the swamp horses of South Carolina were then called. He was covered with dust and looked too tired to sit his horse. A battered wide-brimmed southern countryman's hat flopped over his narrow face. Susan hailed him and he reined in.
“Where are you from?” she asked. “From below.”
“Where are your going?” “Above.”
“Who are you for?” “The Congress.”
“What are you doing below?” “Oh, we are popping them still.”
Young Susan thought that dubious if this worn-out, ridiculous-looking boy was doing the popping.