The Heroism of Miss Betty Zane

for full orchestra (2023)

Study Score

Orchestral parts are available for rental.

by Leanna Primiani




Leanna Primiani: The Heorism of Miss Betty Zane


c.3 min 30 sec


July 1-4, 2023
Wheeling Symphony
John Devlin, music director

Part of Wheeling Symphony's "Celebrate America 4th of July" Tour:
Saturday, July 1 – Weirton, WV
Sunday, July 2 – Davis, WV
Monday, July 3 – Clarksburg, WV
Tuesday, July 4 – Wheeling, WV


Commissioned by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, John Devlin, music director


full orchestra

Program Notes

The story of Ms. Betty Zane’s heroism is not well known but is one of the most remarkable untold stories of the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth “Betty” Zane was the youngest sister of the Zane brothers, members of Wheeling West Virginia’s founding family. Zane, 16, gained fame for her now famous run for gunpowder during the second siege of Fort Henry during the 1782 battle. As the legend goes, as the gates were unbarred, Zane raced towards house with the gunpowder. The attackers were stunned to see a 16-year-old girl run across a battlefield with her pantaloons, skirts and ribbons flying in the air. So astonished, in fact, that the attackers did not fire upon her. When Zane reappeared from the house with a supply of gunpowder in her skirts, however, they realized her purpose and opened fire. Although her clothes were pierced, no bullet struck her, and she regained the fort safely. The powder she delivered enabled the fort to hold out until relief arrived. She ran about 60 yards to her brother Ebenezer’s blockhouse and carried back enough powder to enable the fort defenders to hold off the enemy.

The music acts as a kind of mini tone poem. The sweeping strings evoke Americana, buoyant brass denotes the sound of heroism, and defiant drums capture the fighting spirit of our heroine. Flying flutes are strategically placed throughout, as to be reminiscent of drum-and-fife music of the time. A hummable theme is developed in the piece that is both soaring and evocative of the great struggle for independence and freedom. A brief interlude featuring flute, glockenspiel and other woodwinds depicts the bravery that is found in the spirit of a 16-year-old girl fighting for what she believes in. Finally, all these different forces combine to culminate in a stirring finale.  –R. Gross