The Sisters of Scituate Light

The Sisters of Scituate Light is a true story from the War of 1812. It was written by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Stacey Shuett. sisters of scituate lightThe setting is the Scituate Lighthouse in Scituate, MA. In September 1814, Rebecca and Abigail Bates scared away soldiers from a British warship by playing “Yankee Doodle” on a fife and drum. Rebecca and Abigail are now known as the “Lighthouse Army of Two”.

Their father, lighthouse keeper Simeon Bates, was not at the lighthouse when the sisters spotted the warship offshore. The warship lowered two boats with soldiers in them. Only a few months earlier, British soldiers had raided and plundered the town of Scituate. There was good reason to be afraid. It was Rebecca who suggested that they play a fife and drum to make it sound like American soldiers were close by. It must have sounded to the British like the Scituate Militia was gathering in the town. The British were fooled and the boats returned to the warship and left.

Scituate Lighthouse

Scituate Lighthouse










My question: what exactly is a fife? I looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s a very high pitched flute instrument. Anytime you see a documentary on TV about the Revolutionary or Civil Wars, you probably hear it playing a military march. How did Abigail and Rebecca sound that day? Here’s a video of a fife and drum corps playing “Yankee Doodle”; the only thing is that you have to imagine only one drum and fife playing the song, instead of a whole corps!

This gives you an idea of what Rebecca's fife looked like.

This gives you an idea of what Rebecca's fife looked like.

The Scituate Lighthouse is located on Cedar Point at the entrance to Scituate Harbor. It’s about 25 miles south of Boston. It looks a bit different today than it did back in 1814. It’s about 15 feet higher because of an extension built in 1827.

Some people say that the lighthouse today is haunted by the ghosts of Rebecca and Abigail. They say that fife and drum music can be heard sometimes blending in with the waves crashing against the rocks.

The current keeper of Scituate Light has a blog. The keeper is a teacher named Bob Gallagher. He’ll be there all summer to speak with visitors to the lighthouse, but I don’t know if he’d tell you about the ghosts there.

If you’d like to read more about Scituate Light, check out New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide.


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