"Mad Ann, The Huntress."

United States Magazine, Vol. III, No. 3, September 1856

One cold, raw November evening, toward the close of the last century, an individual was traveling through the unbroken wilderness which skirted the banks on either side of the Great Kanawha River, in the western part of the State of Virginia, mounted on a beautiful black pony, whose sleek, glossy hid betokened the care which was bestowed upon his grooming, and whose slender, but well-knit limbs, broad chest and spirited head showed evidence that he was the choice of a good judge of horseflesh. The traveler was pursuing an old Indian trail, running westward from Covington to Point Pleasant, at the confluence of the Great Kanawha and the Ohio Rivers. The dress of this individual was of a mongrel character, and a close observer might have been undecided which of the two sexes should claim our subject for its own. But let us describe the costume of this doubtful character.

The head was bound round with a flaming red bandana handkerchief, from beneath whose folds there fell, and fluttered on the breeze, long, grizzled locks of coarse, matted hair, which gave it a wild and savage appearance; a great coat of coarse material incased the upper part of the figure, while from either shoulder hung suspended a bullet-pouch and a powderhorn. In the belt, which encompassed the waist of this personage, was a tomahawk and a scalping-knife; and another belt sustained a short but very serviceable rifle, which was strapped to the shoulders, but could be unslung for immediate use in case of need. The nether limbs were encased in a pair of buckskin leggings, which reached from the hips to the feet. The feet were covered with a pair of beautiful Indian moccasins. Around the waist, and depending two-thirds of the way to the feet, was a petticoat, which, in riding, did not form so striking a feature in the garb of this singular being as it did in a pedestrian attitude. Imagine a short, thick-set, coarse and masculine figure, with a face bronzed by exposure, and marked with the unmistakable outlines of care and passion, and you will have a fair portaiture of Anna Bailey, or "Mad Ann, the Huntress," as she was commonly called, for our traveler was a woman. A woman in nothing save sex, however, for every instinct and feelng was masculine. She hunted, rode and fought like a man, and, man like, she delighted in all the excitement and adventure of border life. She was on her way to the garrison at Point Pleasant, to convey information of importance to the commandant thereof - a service on which she was frequently engaged, as she was much less likely to be disturbed by the Indians, who deemed her insane, and who always look upon a person in that condition as under the special protection of the Great Spirit.

As night closes around her she prepares to camp, for which purpose she slackens her pace, and after selecting a spot to suit her, rides on about half a mile and dismounts. Relieving her pony of his saddle, bridle, &c., which she secretes in the adjacent underbrush, she turns him loose to graze at his leisure; and retraces her steps - carefully following in the trail she has just made - to the spot selected, which is the foot of a large tree, whose roots afford a sort of niche in which she can recline and sleep. She then digs a hole about eighteen inches deep, and large enough to contain a small fire, and allow room for her legs on either side of it. Striking a light, she builds a fire with dead twigs, which she carefully covers up, so that is shall exhibit no light by which to attract the attention of any straggling red-skin warrior. She then takes her seat, with her feet resting in the hold, and her petticoat so arranged as to cover it, except a small opening for draught; in which position she takes her meal, consisting of an Indian cake or two, washed down with copious libations from a flask, which is a constant companion of her travels; in fact, it is doubtful if she ever parts with it. In this situation she sleeps till the morning, when she calls her nag by means of a peculiar whistle, and mounting him, pursues her way through the wilderness.

Such is a fair specimen of the every-day life of this singular being, who spent two-thirds of her time in the woods, either hunting, fishing, or carrying messages from post to post - by which latter occupation she rendered great service toward the close of the war with the Indians, on the Western frontier.

Of her antecedents little is known, except that she was the wife of a dissipated fellow, who, while under the influence of liquor, and overcome by the eloquence and flattering promises of the recruiting sergeant, enlisted in H. B. M.'s 7th foot, and was immediately sent to America, to aid other of H. B. M.'s servants in subjugating the rebels against his Majesty's authority. When lots were drawn to see who should bring their wives with them, Bailey was fortunate enough (?) to draw a ticket; and consequently Ann came to America. Her husband passed through the campaign of 1780, and was killed about its close, leaving his wife a widow. Disgusted with the life of a sutler, which she had been leading, and yet attached to the adventurous life of a camp, she determined to become a warrier on her own accont. She accordingly went to the western part of Virginia, which was at that time suffering all the horrors of Indian warfare, and took to the woods for a living. Her eccentric habits and peculiar costume, in connection with her mode of life, induced the belief that she was crazy, and she was commonly called "Mad Ann," when spoken of; but no one dared to call her so to her face. She was very profane, and often intoxicated - the natural consequences of the life she had led while in camp - and could box with the skill of one of the fancy men of her native country; and as pugnacity was one of the striking characteristics of her nature, she had frequent opportunities to exhibit her qualifications in this line. Nothwithstanding these faults - which, in a new country, were not viewed in the same light in which they would be looked upon in more polite society - she became a great favorite with all who knew her; and "Mother Ann," and her black horse, "Liverpool," were always welcome guests at any and every cabin where she might chance to step. On such occasions it was her delight to gather around her a group of listeners, and relate the adventures, trials and difficulties she had met with in the course of her checkered career; and often the sympathetic tear would gather in the eyes and course down the cheeks of her audience. She could read and write, and possessed a considerable amount of intelligence for one in her walk of life. After the close of the wars with the Indians, she spent her time in hunting, and the skill she had acquired in the use of the rifle was such that she seldom wasted a shot. She died in Ohio many years since.

Sources on Anne Bailey