The Old Bell Of Independence; Or, Philadelphia In 1776
Henry C. Watson
Part 2 out of 3
perfect wretch; he robbed for gain, and murdered to conceal the robbery.
The hiding-place of the band was in the pine barrens of New Jersey, and
they thence received the name of 'the pine robbers' from the people of
the country. Their violence and cruelty towards women and even children
had made them the terror of all classes. The whigs charged their doings
on the tories and refugees; but the robbers were against both parties.
They plundered a tory in the name of the continentals, and were true to
the Crown when a whig chanced to be in their power.
"Well, I'm going to tell you about one of their exploits. Not many miles
from Trenton, on the road to Bordentown, was the farm-house of Nathaniel
Collins, a Quaker, but who was not strict enough for his sect. He was
disowned by them on account of encouraging his two sons to join the
continental army, and for showing a disposition to do the same himself.
He was about sixty years old at the time of which I speak, but still
a large, powerful man, with the glow of health on his cheek and
intelligence in his eye. Though disowned by the Quaker sect, Nathaniel
Collins retained their dress, manners, and habits, and always defended
them from the attacks of their enemies.
"One night, the old Quaker, his wife Hannah, cousin Rachel, and daughter
Amy, were sitting up till a very late hour. They expected Nathan's sons
home from the Continental army. These sons had chosen the night to cross
the river, to avoid the notice of the Hessians at Trenton. Well, the
family waited till the clock struck one, but the sons did not appear,
and Nathan was getting impatient. At last footsteps were heard on the
"'There they are at last!' eagerly exclaimed Amy.
"'Let me see,' said Nathan, as, with the placid manner characteristic
of a Friend, he moved to a window which commanded a view of the kitchen
door, at which a knocking had commenced. He could distinguish six men,
armed and equipped like militia, and another, whose pinioned arms
proclaimed him a prisoner. His sons were not of the party; and as the
persons of the strangers were unknown, and the guise of a militia-man
was often assumed by Fagan, our friend was not 'easy in his mind how to
act.' His first idea was to feign deafness; but a second knock, loud
enough to wake all but the dead, changed his intention--he raised the
window and hailed the men:
"'Friends, what's your will?'
'A little refreshment of fire and food, if you please; we have been far
on duty, and are half frozen and quite starved.' 'We don't entertain
them who go to war.'
'Yes; but you will not refuse a little refreshment to poor fellows like
us, this cold night; that would be as much against the principles of
your society as war.'
'Thee's from Trenton?'
'No, I thank you; Nathaniel Collins is too well known as a friend to the
country, and an honest man, to aid a refugee--we know that.'
'Soap the old fox well,' whispered one of the band.
'Come, friend, make haste and let us in, we are almost perished, and
have far to go before sunrise, or we may change places with our prisoner
here before sunset.'
'But what does the party here, this side of the river, right under the
Hessians' nose, if--'
'Oh, we are minute-men, sent from within by Captain Smallcross, to seize
this deserter--don't you mean to let us in?'
"Nathaniel closed the window and said, 'I don't know what to make of
these men. Amy, call the boys; tell them to make haste and bring their
guns, but keep them out of sight, where they will be handy.'
"As the command was obeyed, and the three young men, laborers on the
farm, appeared and placed their guns behind the inner, their master
unbolted the outer door and admitted five of the armed men--the prisoner
and one of his captors remaining without. Nathaniel thought this
unnecessary of so cold a night, and a little suspicious--'Will not thy
companions enter also?'
"'No, thank you; he guards the prisoner.'
'But why may not the prisoner, too?' 'Pshaw! he's nothing but a
deserter. The cold will be good for _him_.'
"'I must say,' quote Nathan, 'exercised,' as he afterwards owned, past
endurance, 'thy conduct neither becomes thy nature as a man, or thy
calling, which should teach thee more feeling--I'll take the poor fellow
something to eat myself.'
"The old man had reached the door on his merciful errand, meaning it is
true, to satisfy his curiosity at the same time, when he who had acted
as leader of the party sprang from his chair, and, placing his hand on
his host's breast, pushed him rudely back. 'Stand back--back, I say, and
mind your own business, if you _are_ a Quaker.'
"There was a momentary struggle in Nathan's mind, whether to knock
the fellow down, as from appearances he easily might, or to yield,
in obedience to his _principles._ 'It was strongly on his mind,' he
confessed, to pursue the former course, but prudence conquered, and
he quietly withdrew to the upper end of the apartment, where his men
lounged on a bench, apparently half asleep, and indistinctly visible
in the light of the fire and one small candle, which burned near the
strangers. In the interim, the old cook had been summoned, and had
arranged some cold provisions on the table. 'Old Annie,' the cook, was
the child of Indian and mulatto parents, but possessed none of the
features of her darker relation, except a capacious mouth and lips
to match. She refused to associate with either negroes or Indians,
considering herself as belonging to neither, and indulging a
sovereign contempt for both. Her favorite term of reproach was 'Injin'
and 'nigger,' and when they failed _separately_ to express her feelings,
she put the two together, a compliment always paid the Hessians, when
she had occasion to mention them. A party of these marauders had, on
a visit to her master's house, stolen her fall's store of sausages;
thenceforth she vowed eternal hatred to the race--a vow she never forgot
to the day of her death.
"The strangers ate their repast, showing anything but confidence in
their entertainer, and ate, each man with his gun resting on his
shoulder. During the whole meal, he who called himself their captain was
uneasy and restless. For some time, he appeared to be engaged in a very
close scrutiny of the household, who occupied the other end of the
kitchen--a scrutiny which, owing to the darkness, could not yield him
much satisfaction. He then whispered anxiously and angrily with his men,
who answered in a dogged, obstinate fashion, that evidently displeased
him; till, finally, rising from his seat, he bade them follow, and
scarcely taking time to thank Nathan for his food and fire, passed out
of the door and made from the house.
"'Well, now, that beats me!' said Elnathan, as he and his comrades
looked at each other in astonishment at the abrupt departure and
singular conduct of their guests.
"'That are a queer lark, any how!' responded John; 'it beats all
''The Injins,' said Ann. 'If that is not Fagan or some of his gang,
never trust me!--why did you not give them a shot, the 'tarnal thieves?'
"But our household troop were too glad to get rid of their visitors to
interrupt their retreat. The house was secured again, the men had thrown
themselves down, and some of them were already asleep, when another
knock at the same door brought them as one man to their feet. On opening
the door, a laborer attached to a neighboring farm presented himself,
breathless from haste, and almost dead with fear. When he so far
recovered his speech as to be able to tell his story, he proved to
be the man whom the pretended militia-men had brought with them as a
prisoner, and his captors were found to be no less than Fagan and a
portion of his band. They had that night robbed five different houses
before they attempted our Friend's. Aware that his sons were from
home, they expected to find the old man unsupported, but having gained
admission into the house, they were surprised at the appearance of three
additional men. Fagan, however, was bent upon completing his enterprise
in spite of all opposition; but his followers obstinately refused. At
the foot of the avenue a bitter quarrel ensued, Fagan taxing his men
with cowardice; but the fear of pursuit silenced them at length. The
next question was, how to dispose of their prisoner, whom they had
seized in one of their 'affairs,' and, for want of some means of
securing him, brought with them. Fagan, as the shortest way, proposed,
as he had before, to cut his throat; but the proposal was overruled as
unnecessary. He was unbound, and, upon his solemn promise to return
without giving the alarm, one of the band returned him his silver and
a little money they had abstracted from his chest. In consideration
whereof he made to the nearest house and gave the alarm, impelled by
instinct more than anything else.
"Suddenly, the man's narrative was interrupted by an explosion of
fire-arms, which broke upon the clear, frosty night, and startled even
Nathan. Another and another followed before a word was uttered.
"'What can that be? It must be at Trenton.'
"'By jingo,' exclaimed Elnathan, forgetting, in his excitement, that
his master was present, 'if I don't believe our men ain't giving the
Hessians a salute this morning with ball _cartridges_--there it goes
again!--I say, John, it's a piert scrimmage.'
"In his own anxiety, Nathan forgot to correct his servant's profanity.
'It must be--but how they got over through the ice without wings--'
"'No matter 'zackly how, marster, it's them. I'll warrant them's hard
plums for a Christmas pudding. Ha! ha! they get it this morning,--them
tarnation Hessian niggers!'
"'Ann, thee'll never forgive the Hessians thy sausages and pork.'
"'Forgive--not I. All my nice sausages and buckwheat cakes, ready
buttered--and all for them 'are yaller varments.'
"The firing having continued some minutes, though less in volleys
than at first, gradually ceased, and all was quiet, as if nothing had
happened to disturb the deathlike stillness of the night. Yet, in
that brief hall hour, the fate of a continent was decided--the almost
desperate cause of the colonies had been retrieved. The victory of
Trenton had been achieved.
"The attention of Nathan was diverted, by this first incident, from the
other events of the night, but was soon recalled to the pursuit of
the robbers, and the relief of their victims, who, from their late
prisoner's account, had been left in an unpleasant condition. His men
being dispatched to collect aid, Nathan now remained with old Anne; the
sole efficient defender of the house. He was not doomed to wait their
return undisturbed--the indistinct sound, as of many feet, was heard
advancing along the road to Bordentown.
"'It's them Hessians,' said Anne. But Nathan thought not--it was not
the tread of regular troops, but the confused rush of a multitude. He
hastened to an upper window to reconnoitre. The day had begun to break,
and he easily distinguished a large body of men in Hessian uniform,
hurrying along the road in broken ranks. As they came nearer, he
perceived many individuals half clad and imperfectly equipped. The whole
consisted of about six hundred men. Before their rear was lost behind a
turn in the road another body appeared in rapid pursuit. They marched in
closer order and more regular array. In the stillness of the morning the
voice of an officer could be distinctly heard urging on the men. They
bore the well-known standard of the colonies. It all flashed on Nathan's
mind--Washington _had_ crossed the river, and was in pursuit of the
routed foe. The excited old man forgot his years, as he almost sprang
down stairs to the open air, proclaiming the tidings as he went. Even
the correct Hannah, who had preserved her faith unbroken, in spite of
her husband's and sons' contumacy, and the, if possible, still _more_
particular Rachel, were startled from their usual composure, and gave
vent to their joy.
"'Well, now, _does_ thee say so?' said the latter, eagerly following the
others to the door. 'I hope it is not unfriendly to rejoice for such a
"'I hope not, cousin Rachel,' said Amy; 'nor to be proud that _our_ boys
had a share in the glorious deed.'
"Amy was left to herself, and broke loose upon this occasion from the
bonds of Quaker propriety; but no one observed the transgression--except
"'That's right, Amy Collins; I like to hear you say so. How them
Hessians can run--the 'tarnal niggers; they steal sausages better than
they stand bullets. I told 'em it would be so, when they was here
beguzzlen my buckwheat cakes, in plain English; only the outlandish
Injins couldn't understand their mother tongue. They're got enough
swallowen without chawen, this morning. I wish them nothen but Jineral
Maxwell at their tails, tickling 'em with continental bagonets.'
"'That friend speaks my mind,' said Elnathan, with a half-sanctimonious,
half-waggish look, and slight nasal twang.
"'Mine too,' as devoutly responded a companion, whom he had just brought
to assist in the pursuit of the robbers.
"The whole family had assembled at the door to watch the motions of the
troops. The front ranks had already passed down the road, when a
horseman, at full speed, galloped along the line of march to the extreme
right, and commanded a halt. After a few minutes delay, two or three
officers, followed by a party carrying a wounded man, emerged from the
ranks and approached the house. This was too much for the composure of
our late overjoyed family; all hastened to meet their wounded or dead
relation, but were disappointed agreeably--the brothers were indeed of
the party, but unhurt.
'Nothing, father, except that we paid the Hessians a friendly visit this
morning. You saw them?'
'A part--where are the rest?'
'Oh, we could not consent to turn them out of their comfortable quarters
this cold night, so we insisted on their remaining, having first gone
through the trifling ceremony of grounding their arms.'
"The greeting between the young soldiers and their more peaceful
relations could not have been more cordial if their hands had been
unstained with blood. Nathaniel proffered refreshments to the whole
detachment; old Anne trembled for her diminished stock of sausages, and
remarked to Elnathan, that it would take a ''tarnal griddle' to bake
cakes for 'all that posse cotatus.' But the offer was declined by the
officer in command, who only desired our friends to take charge of the
wounded Hessian, whom his own men had deserted in the road.
[Illustration: THE OUTLAW OF THE PINES.]
"In the meanwhile, about forty men had assembled at Nathan's summons to
pursue the robbers, some of them having first visited those who had
suffered from the previous night's depredations. In one instance, they
found a farmer tied in his own stable, with his horse gear, and his wife,
with the bed-cord, to some of the furniture in her own apartment. In
another place, the whole household was quietly disposed down a shallow
well, up to their knees in water, and half frozen. In a third, a
solitary man, who was the only inmate at the time, having fled, in his
fright, to the house-top, was left there by the unfeeling thieves, who
secured the trap-door within. But the last party who arrived had a
bloody tale to tell: they had been to the house of Joseph Farr, the
sexton to a neighboring Baptist church; a reputation for the possession
of concealed gold proved fatal to him. On entering his house, the door
of which stood open, the party sent to his relief stumbled over his
body. After having most cruelly beaten him, in the hope of extorting
the gold he was said to possess, the murderers, upon his positive
denial, pierced him in twenty places with their bayonets. The old
bedridden wife was still alive in her bed, though the blood had soaked
through the miserable pallet and run in a stream into the fire-place.
Their daughter, a woman of fifty years, fled from the house as the
murderers entered, and was pursued by one of them, nearly overtaken,
and even wounded in the arm by his bayonet; but his foot slipped in
making the thrust, and she escaped slightly hurt.
"This bloody business aroused the whole country; a persevering and
active pursuit was commenced. The murderers had many miles to traverse
before they could reach a safe retreat, and were obliged to lighten
themselves of their heavier plunder in the chase. Four were shot down
in the pursuit; the knapsack of a fifth was found partly concealed in a
thicket, and pierced with a ball, which had also penetrated a large mass
of continental money in sheets, and, by the blood on the inner covering,
had done good service on the wearer. It was believed that he contrived
to conceal himself in a thicket, and died there; as he was never heard
of after. Fagan alone escaped unhurt to the pines, and for days defied
all the exertions of the whig farmers. By this time, the pursuing party
had increased to nearly two hundred men. The part of the wood in which
he was known to be concealed, was surrounded and fired, till the wretch
was literally burnt from his den, and, in an attempt to escape from one
flaming thicket to another, taken alive, although not unwounded. One of
the gang, who had not participated in the deeds I have mentioned, was
secured at the same time.
"There appeared to be no difference of opinion about the mode of
disposing of the prisoners--indeed, an opinion was scarcely asked or
given. It seemed taken for granted--a thing of course; and the culprits
were led in silence to the selected place of execution. There was
neither judge nor jury--no delay--no prayer for mercy; a large oak then
stood at the forks of two roads, one of which leads to Freehold; from
the body of the tree a horizontal branch extended over the latter road,
to which two ropes were attached. One of them having been fixed to the
minor villain's neck, _his_ sufferings were soon over; but a horrible
and lingering death was reserved for Fagan. The iron hoops were taken
off a meat cask, and by a blacksmith in the company fitted round his
ankles, knees, and arms, pinioning the latter to his body, so that,
excepting his head, which was 'left free to enjoy the prospect,' he
could not move a muscle. In this condition he hung for days beside his
stiffened companion; dying by inches of famine and cold, which had
moderated so as, without ending, to aggravate his misery. Before he
died, he had gnawed his shoulder from very hunger. On the fifth night,
as it approached twelve o'clock, having been motionless for hours,
his guards believed him to be dead, and, tired of their horrid duty,
proposed to return home. In order, however, to be sure, they sent one of
the party up the ladder to feel if his heart still beat. He had ascended
into the tree, when a shriek, unlike anything human, broke upon the
stillness of the night, and echoed from the neighboring wood with
redoubled power. The poor fellow dropped from the tree like a dead man,
and his companions fled in terror from the spot. When day encouraged
them to return, their victim was swinging stiffly in the north wind--now
lifeless as the companion of his crime and its punishment. It is
believed, to this day, that no mortal power, operating upon the lungs of
the dead murderer, produced that awful, unearthly, and startling scream;
but that it was the voice of the Evil One, warning the intrusive guard
not to disturb the fiend in the possession of his lawful victim; a belief
materially strengthened by a fact that could not be disputed--the limb
upon which the robbers hung, after suffering double pollution from
them and their master's touch, never budded again; it died from that
hour; the poison gradually communicated to the remaining branches, till,
from a flourishing tree, it became a sapless and blasted trunk, and so
stood for years, at once an emblem and a monument of the murderers' fate.
"Fagan was never buried; his body hung upon its gibbet till the winds
picked the flesh from off his bones, and they fell asunder by their own
weight. A friend of mine has seen his horrid countenance, as it
hung festering and blackening in the wind, and remembers, by way of
amusement, between schools, pelting the body with stones. The old trunk
has disappeared, but the spot is still haunted in the belief of the
people of the neighborhood, and he is a bold man who dare risk a
nocturnal encounter with the bloody Fagan, instead of avoiding the
direct road, at the expense of half a mile's additional walk. No
persuasion or force will induce a horse _raised in the neighborhood_ to
pass the fated spot at _night_, although he will express no uneasiness
by daylight. The inference is, that the animals, as we know animals
_do_, and Balaam's certainly _did_, see more than their masters. A
skeptical gentleman, near, thinks this only the force of habit, and that
the innocent creatures have been so taught by the cowards who drive
them, and would saddle the horses with their own folly.
"I am at the close of my story, and not a lover or a tender scene in the
whole tedious relation--alas! what a defect, but it is too late to mind
it now; it only remains to take leave of our friends. Nathan and
Hannah have mingled with dust, and their spirits with that society
whose only business is love, and where sighing and contention can never
intrude. Nathan was permitted, on his expressing his sorrow that he
had 'disobliged Friends,' to rejoin his society, and he died an elder.
Rachel departed at a great age, as she had lived, a spotless maiden. The
blooming, the warm-hearted, mischievous Amy lives, a still comely old
lady, the mother of ten sons, and the grandparent of three times as many
more. She adheres strictly to all the rules of her society, and bears
her testimony in the capacity of a public Friend. Still, she is
evidently not a little proud of her father's and brothers' share in the
perils and honors of the revolutionary contest, though she affects to
condemn their contumacy and unfriendly conformity to the world's ways,
and their violation of 'Friends' testimony concerning war.' Old Annie
died four years since, at an almost incredible age, though she was not
able to name the exact number of the days of her pilgrimage. From the
deep furrows on her cheeks, and the strong lines of her naturally
striking countenance, which, as she advanced in years, assumed more and
more the character of her Indian parentage, and the leather-like
appearance of her skin, she might have passed for an antediluvian.
While other less important matters lost their impression on her memory,
the Hessian inroads upon her sausages and buckwheat cakes were neither
forgotten nor _entirely_ forgiven to the last. She sent for a friend
when on her death-bed, to make arrangement of her little affairs. He
found her strength of body exhausted, but her powers of mind unimpaired.
After disposing her stock of personalities among some of her friends,
she turned to him. 'That's all, Mr. Charles, except the old sash you
used to play with, which I sp'iled from the Hessian officer, the
Injin--keep that to mind old Anne by,'
"'Thank you, Anne--I'll keep it carefully. But you must not bear malice
_now_, Anne; you must forgive even the Hessians,' said Charles.
"'What, them Hessians, the bloody thieves?' and the old woman's eyes
lighted up, and she almost arose in her bed with astonishment, as she
asked the question.
'Yes; even _them_: you are about to need forgiveness as much as
they--they _were_ your enemies and persecutors, whom you are especially
enjoined to pardon, as you would expect to be pardoned.'
'So it is, Mr. Charles; you say the truth,--poor ignorant, sinful mortal
that I am! Well, then, I do--I _hope_ I _do_--forgive 'em; I'll try--the
"There; will that do for a story, Thomas Jefferson?" asked the old
grandfather, when he had concluded. The old man had a straight-forward,
natural way of telling a story that showed he had practised it
frequently. The boy seemed much gratified by the horrible narration.
Mrs. Harmar said she was interested, but didn't like it much; her
husband remarked, however, that it would make a thrilling sketch.
"I suppose that Nathaniel Collins was very much the same sort of a
Quaker as General Green," said Morton. "They were peaceable men, as
long as peace and quiet were not inconsistent with self-defence. To
be peaceable when a foe is wasting your fields and slaughtering your
brethren, is cowardly and against nature."
"That's truth," replied Higgins. "We must look upon a merciless invader
in the same light as upon a cruel beast, whom it is saving life to
"Fagan was well punished for his outrages," remarked Wilson.
"It was the only way for the inhabitants to ensure their safety," said
THE TORY'S CONVERSION.
"By the bye," said Mr. Morton, "some events have just recurred to my
mind, which interested me very much when I first heard of them, and
which I think may strike you as being wonderful. I knew of many strange
and unaccountable things that happened during the Revolution, but the
conversion of Gil Lester from toryism capped the climax."
"Enlighten us upon the subject, by all means," remarked Mr. Jackson
"Yes, that was a strange affair, Morton; tell 'em about it," added
"There's a little love stuff mixed up with the story," said Morton,
"but you will have to excuse that. I obtained the incidents from Lester
himself, and I know he was always true to his word, whether that was
right or wrong. Gilbert Lester, Vincent Murray, and their ladye-loves,
lived up here in Pennsylvania, in the neighborhood of the Lehigh. One
night a harvest ball was given at the house of farmer Williams. Vincent
Murray and Mary Williams, the farmer's daughter, joined in the
festivities, and, becoming tired of dancing in a hot room, they went out
to walk along the banks of the Lehigh, and, of course, to talk over love
"They had seated themselves on a fallen tree, and continued for a few
moments to gaze in the mirrored Lehigh, as if their very thoughts might
be reflected on its glassy surface. Visions of war and bloodshed were
passing before the fancy of the excited girl, and she breathed an inward
prayer to heaven to protect her lover; when, casting her eyes upward,
she suddenly exclaimed with startling energy:
"'Vincent, look at the sky!' Murray raised his head, and sprang
instantly on his feet. 'Tell me,' continued Mary, 'am I dreaming, or am
I mad! or do I actually see armies marching through the clouds?'
"Murray gazed steadfastly for a moment, and then exclaimed, 'It is the
British, Mary--I see the red coats as plainly as I see you.'
"The young girl seemed transfixed to the spot, without the power of
moving. 'Look there,' said she, pointing her finger upward--'there are
horses, with officers on them, and a whole regiment of dragoons! Oh, are
you not frightened?'
"'No,' replied her companion--but before he had time to proceed, she
'There, there, Vincent! See the colors flying, and the drums, and
trumpets, and cannon, I can almost hear them! What can it mean?'
'Don't be so terrified, Mary. It is my belief, that what we see is an
intimation from God of the approaching war. The 'Lord of Hosts' has
set his sign in the heavens. But come, let us run to the house. This is
no time to dance--and they will not believe us, unless their own eyes
behold the vision!'
"Before he had finished speaking, they were hastily retracing their
steps to the scene of merriment; and in another moment the sound of the
violin was hushed, and the feet of the dancers were still. With one
accord, they all stood in the open air, and gazed with straining glances
at the pageant in the heavens; and marked it with awe and wonder. A
broad streak of light spread itself gradually over the sky, till the
whole wide expanse was in one brilliant blaze of splendor. The clouds,
decked in the richest and most gorgeous colors, presented a spectacle of
grandeur and glory, as they continued to shape themselves into various
forms of men, and horses, and armor, till a warlike and supernatural
host was distinctly presented to the view. The dragoons, on their
prancing horses; the riflemen and artillery, with their military ensigns
and accoutrements; the infantry, and even the baggage-wagons in the
rear, were all there to complete the imposing array. _It is no fiction_;
many were eye-witnesses of that remarkable vision, which passed on from
the east, and disappeared in the west--and, from that evening, the sound
of the violin was heard no more in those places, until the end of the
"Mary Tracy hung upon the arm of her lover, and listened anxiously to
his words, as he spoke to her in a low but decided tone." "That's very
strange; but you have not told us how the young tory was converted,"
interrupted Mrs. Harmar.
"I am coming to that," replied Morton. "Vincent Murray and Mary Williams
conversed together for some time. He told her he was going to leave his
friends and join the American army. He said he thought the signs in the
clouds were warning to all the friends of liberty to rush to the aid of
our little struggling band; and that he intended to go to New York,
and then seek out the best plan for enlistment. Before he bade his
sweetheart farewell, he also told her he was resolved to do his best to
convert Gilbert Lester from his tory principles. Now this was no easy
task, as the two young men had often argued the question of rights, and
Lester had shown that he was as firmly fixed to his creed as Murray was
to his. Mary told him that she thought that the frowns or the smiles of
Jane Hatfield alone could change his way of thinking. But, nevertheless,
Murray resolved to try what he could do.
"The little group of dancers were all scattered in different directions.
Murray sought among the number for Gilbert Lester, and found him, at
length, leaning in a thoughtful attitude against the trunk of a huge
sycamore tree, whose broad shadow fell upon the waters of the Lehigh. So
profound was his reverie, that Murray touched his arm before he stirred
from his position, or was aware of approaching footsteps.
"'Gilbert, shall I divine your thoughts?'
"'You, perhaps, think you could do so, but I doubt whether you would
guess right.' "'Why, there can be but one subject, I should suppose,
which could occupy the mind of any one who has seen what we have seen
"'True; but there may be different interpretations put upon what is
equally a mystery to us all.'
"'Well, I will not dispute that point with you,--but there is a _right_
and a _wrong_, notwithstanding. Now, tell me, what is your opinion?'
"'It will hardly coincide with yours, Vincent; for I fear we shall never
agree in our ideas of the propriety and expediency of taking up arms
against our sovereign. As to this pantomime of the clouds, I must
confess it is beyond my comprehension; so, if your understanding has
been enlightened by the exhibition, I beg you will have charity to
extend the benefit.'
"'You are always for ridiculing my impressions, Gilbert; but you cannot
change my belief that our cause is a rightful one, and that it will,
with the help of the Almighty, ultimately prevail.'
"'What, against such a host as we have just seen imaged out in the sky?'
"'The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,' replied
"'But,' continued his friend, 'if a real army, coming over the sea to
do battle for the king, has been represented by that ghostly multitude
which passed before our view, you will find the number too strong for
this fanciful faith of yours, in the help of an invisible arm.'
"'It is a faith, however, which I am not yet disposed to yield,--the
race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.' "'I will
acknowledge,' said Lester, interrupting him, 'that you have the
advantage of me in quoting Scripture--but depend upon it, the
_practical_ advantages of the British over the rebel army will soon
overturn your theory.'
"'No such thing, Gilbert. I tell you that the zeal, fortitude, undaunted
courage, and invincible resolution, which encompass our little band of
patriots, will prove a shield of strength that will make every single
man of them equal to at least a dozen British soldiers. And having once
risen up in defence of their rights, they will persevere to the last
extremity before they will submit to the disgraceful terms of a despotic
government. It grieves me that _you_ should be among the tories. Come, I
entreat you, and share in the glory of the triumph which I am persuaded
will eventually be ours.'
"'Then you really do believe, Murray, that God will work a modern
miracle in favor of America! My dear friend, I wish you would abandon
this vain chimera of your imagination, and let common sense and reason
convince you of the folly of this mad rebellion.'
"'And what then? Should I sit down in cowardly inaction, while others
are sacrificing their lives in the struggle? No--that shall never be
said of Vincent Murray! My resolution is taken; I will rise or fall with
"'And perhaps the next time we meet,' said Lester, 'it may be on the
field of battle.'
"'God forbid! But should it even be the case, Gilbert, I should know no
friend among my country's enemies. Farewell--you will think better of
this subject; and remember, that no one but a _Republican_ will ever win
Jane Hatfield,' said Murray.
"The young men wrung each other's hands, and each went his way."
"Murray thought he would put in the last remark by way of strengthening
the effect of the vision in the clouds, I suppose," remarked Mr. Jackson
"Yes; the promise of the hand of a lovely girl has a great influence on
the opinions of a young man," replied Morton. "But in this case, if you
will wait till my story is through, you will see that Jane Hatfield had
but little to do with Lester's conversion. The next morning after the
occurrence of the wonderful phantom in the clouds, Murray left his home,
and soon after enlisted in the army under General Montgomery. He was in
the unlucky expedition against Quebec.
"After the death of Montgomery, and the uniting of the different
detachments under Arnold, as their head, Murray, to his marvellous
astonishment, encountered his friend Gilbert Lester among the
Pennsylvania riflemen, under Captain Morgan. By some strange accident,
and each being ignorant of the proximity of the other, they had not met
before the attack on Quebec. Great, therefore, was Murray's surprise and
pleasure; for, since the evening of their last conversation on the banks
of the Lehigh, he had no opportunity of learning whether there had been
any change in the political sentiments of his friend. With the utmost
fervor of delight he grasped his hand as he exclaimed: "'I rejoice to
see you,--but, my dear friend, what is the meaning of this meeting? And
how, in the name of wonder, came you here?'
"'Why, it is truly a wonder to myself, Murray,' replied Lester, 'that
I ever got here; or that any of us, who passed through that frightful
wilderness, are now alive to tell the story.'
"'The wilderness! I should like to know how you contrived to get into
the wilderness from the place where I last saw you?' said Murray.
"'I remember,' said Gilbert, laughing; 'you left me looking at the
clouds on the banks of the Lehigh; and, perhaps, you imagine that I
was taken up into them, and dropped down in that horrible place as a
punishment for my _toryism!_'
"'And if that was not the case, pray throw a little light on the
"'Have patience, then, and let me tell my story my own way. The getting
into the labyrinth was a trifle in comparison to the getting out.
Believe me, the tales of romance are nothing to the tremendous horrors
of that march. Why do you look incredulous?'
"'You know your love of the marvellous, Gilbert--but go on; only don't
out-Herod Herod in your description.'
"'There is no danger of that--no description can come up to the truth. I
looked upon that whole army in the desert as destined to make their
next general parade in the heavens--and fancied you would see our poor,
unhappy apparitions gliding through the sky; and, perhaps, exclaim,
'Poor Gilbert; he died in the good cause at last. It seems, however, that
the necessity is spared of my making so pathetic an apostrophe. You had
the good fortune to escape.'
'It was little less than a miracle that we did so, I assure you,'
'Your preservation, then, should be a more convincing proof to your
mind, that the Lord is on our side, and will not forsake us in this
'Ah,' replied Lester, 'you may beat me in _faith_, Vincent, but I will
contend that I have beaten you in _works_. Had you waded, as we did,
through those hideous bogs, which a poor Irishman, whose bones we left
on the way, declared, 'bate all the bogs of Ireland!' you would have
said the Israelites in the wilderness had a happy time of it, compared
to us. Why, we were drowned, and starved, and frozen, till we had nearly
given up all hope of the honor of being shot.'
'But you forget that I am still in ignorance of the preceding causes,
which produced the revolution in your sentiments, and consequently
influenced your actions after I left the farm,' said Murray,
"'You are right,' replied Gilbert; 'I am before my story. My head was
so completely filled with the images on the way, that I was obliged
to dispose of them first, ere I could clear a passage in my memory to
relate what came before. It would, however, require too much time, at
this moment, to enter into all the detail of argument and persuasion
that gradually undermined my first principles. My imagination was a
little excited by the whole scene at our last harvest festival. The
sudden interruption in the dancing by the singular phenomena in the
heavens, and the termination, from that evening, of all our accustomed
mirth and gaiety, made a strong impression, which led me to inquire
and reflect on passing events, connected with the disturbances in the
country, much more closely and anxiously than I had done before. The
result was a determination, in my own mind, to follow you. Knowing your
admiration of General Washington, I instantly jumped at the conclusion
that you had proceeded to Cambridge, in order to be guided in your
future movements by the commander-in-chief; and so, without the least
hesitation, I straightway decided on pursuing the same course. You are
well aware, Vincent, that I am a creature of impulse. My arrival at
head-quarters happened to be at the moment when Colonel Arnold was
fitting out his troops for this unhappy expedition; and meeting
accidentally with an acquaintance among the Pennsylvania riflemen, I
enlisted in the same regiment, under Captain Morgan. A spice of romance,
which I believe nature infused into my disposition, and which was
increased among the mountain passes and wild fastnesses of our native
scenery, induced me to look forward with a kind of adventurous pleasure,
to the projected passage through the unexplored wilderness. The probable
hazard and difficulty of the exploit presented only a spur to my newly
awakened ardor; and thus, with my usual impetuosity of feeling, I
pushed on among the most enthusiastic followers of Colonel Arnold. The
concluding part of the history is written in the blood of our brave and
gallant general; and now, in the closing scene of the drama, I find
myself, by a singular freak of fortune, thrown again in your company, in
a place where I had little dreamed of such a meeting.'
"In the meanwhile, an interesting event happened on the banks of the
Lehigh. The usual business in that part of the country was suspended.
The men congregated to talk over the causes and events of the war, and
the signs of the times. The appearance of the army in the heavens was
still fresh in the minds of all; and it was but a few weeks after the
departure of Murray and Lester that another spectacle was seen, even
more astonishing than the first.
"It was on a September evening that the _Aurora Borealis_ was discovered
in the sky. It grew brighter and brighter, and soon drew together a
large number of the inhabitants of the neighborhood. The distance was
short to the highest ground on the ridge of the Lehigh Mountains, and
the whole party ascended to the summit, near the old road between Easton
and Philadelphia. There they paused, to view the surrounding scenery in
the broad, clear light. The Kittating Mountain, enveloped in its blue
shade of mist, lay far away to the north and west; while, on the Jersey
side, to the east, the high Musconetcong rose darkly in the distance.
Suddenly, a cloud appeared on the blue sky above, and immediately,
quick, successive sounds, as of the firing of cannon, broke on the ear.
The cloud dispersed with the noise, and flying troops were seen rushing
on from the west. Men and horses were mingled in one indiscriminate mass
of confusion. The soldiers wore the uniform of the British; but
there was no order, as in the former vision. Ranks were cut up and
destroyed--plumes were bent down and broken--horses fled without
riders--and the fallen were trampled on by their companions. Terror
seemed to move in their midst, as they hurried onward. The pillar of a
cloud rose again behind them. It was like a thick smoke from the fire
of the enemy. It curled and wreathed itself away in the heavens, and
disappeared, as with another sound of guns. Then came the Continental
Army. Soldiers marching in triumph--officers mounted, and flags of
victory streaming on the sky. On and on, they followed in the pursuit,
till the singular phantasm melted away in the east.
"The sight was hailed with joy, as an omen of success to the American
cause. Numerous were the spectators to that second vision--and some are
yet alive in the part of the country where it was seen.
"An account of this phenomenon was sent to Murray and Lester, and the
latter became confirmed, heart and soul, in the cause to which he had
attached himself. Now, I know, you may look upon these things with a
smile of credulity, and say it was all the result of imagination; but a
mere fancy cannot mislead hundreds of people, and make them believe
that their eyes are traitors. I have told you nothing but what is well
attested. I don't pretend to know anything of the causes of such events,
but I do know that these visions changed many a heart from toryism to
patriotism." "I am very much obliged to you for your interesting
story, Mr. Morton," said Mr. Jackson Harmar. "I like your plain,
straight-forward style, and your matter excites my wonder. It is a fact,
that General Washington was known to observe and mention the remarkable
apparitions in the heavens, at many different periods of the Revolution.
They were not without their influence on his mind. I firmly believe
that such things occurred; and can look for no cause but that of God's
providence, to explain them."
Of course Mrs. Harmar believed the story of the apparitions to be
perfectly true, and did not look for any other cause except the direct
order of the Almighty; but Wilson said he was always suspicious of such
stories. He even ventured to offer an explanation of the phenomenon,
which amounted to this:--A thunder-storm came up while the people were
gathered together, very much excited upon the subject of the war, and
feeling very anxious for the success of the cause of the colonies; one
man thought he saw an army in the clouds driven before the winds, and
heard the roar of the artillery; this he communicated in an excited
manner to the others, and they, disposed to believe, also thought the
clouds looked "very like a whale." But Morton, old Harmar, Mr. Jackson
Harmar, Smith, and Higgins, brought their argumentative batteries to
bear upon the explanation and incredulity of Wilson, and silenced,
if they did not convince him. He admitted that a man of General
Washington's strength of mind could not easily be deceived, and said,
that if it was a fact that he had seen and mentioned the phenomenon,
he could think it true; but no one was prepared to prove what had been
asserted. Mr. Morton was again thanked for the manner in which he had
told the story, and Mr. Jackson Harmar said that some of the writers of
the day might learn from him.
"Of course, Murray and Lester lived through the war, went home to the
banks of the Lehigh, and married the girls they loved," remarked Wilson.
"They did; and two very happy couples they made. Jane Hatfield had
always been a republican in sentiment, and she loved Lester more than
ever when she heard he had dropped toryism as something that would have
burnt his fingers if he had held on to it," replied Morton.
THE TIMELY RESCUE.
"When Mr. Morton commenced his story," said old Harmar, "he said
there was considerable love-stuff mixed up with it, as if that was an
objection to his telling it. Now I can tell you a story of which love
and fighting are the elements. The events occurred up here in New
Jersey, and are true to the time and the people that acted in it."
"No matter if it was all made up of love, if it illustrated the
character of the time, I should like to hear it," remarked Mr. Jackson
"And so should I," added his wife.
"Is it that story about Captain Edwards and Miss Williams, that Bill
Moore used to tell?" inquired Higgins.
"That's the affair; and, supposing you folks will wish to hear about it,
I shall proceed. Shortly after the surrender of Burgoyne, two horsemen
were riding along the road which leads to the town of Ridgefield. One
was Captain Edwards, and the other Lieutenant Brown. Their conversation
partook of the spirit of the period. They were discussing the relative
merits of General Gates and General Washington. Brown thought that
Washington was deficient in energy, while Edwards thought him a model
general, and Gates deficient in both energy and skill. They could not
agree, and so they dropped the subject.
"As the colloquy ended, the horsemen spurred onward, and soon arrived in
view of the residence of Mrs. Williams, which was situated on a gentle
acclivity, accessible by a long avenue, skirted on either side with
tall poplars, and entered at the extremity by a slight wooden gate. On
entering this avenue, old Pompey came running towards them with a brow
darkened a number of shades by his agitation, and grasping the bridle of
Captain Edward's horse, exclaimed:
"'Oh! for Heaven's sake, good master Edwards, don't go to the house!'
"'What the devil's the matter?' ejaculated the captain, as he endeavored
to disengage the hold of the negro.
"'Mistress has gone clean 'stracted,' began the African, 'because young
"'What of her?--speak out, in the fiend's name!' exclaimed Captain
Edwards, evincing much greater emotion than he had hitherto betrayed.
"'You stop me, sir; I must tell my story in my own way,' replied Pompey.
"'Proceed with it, then, with a murrain to you,' said Lieutenant Brown,
impatiently, 'or, by heaven, I'll beat it out of you with the flat of my
sword.' "'Well, then,' cried the negro, angrily, 'the tory Captain Lewis
came to our house last night with some sodgers, and carried off Miss
"'The unhung villain!' muttered Captain Edwards, from between his
clenched teeth; and then, compelling himself to speak more calmly, he
said, 'Brown, my dear fellow, return directly to the camp, and meet me
at Stophel's tavern, with Sergeant Watkins and a dozen trusty soldiers.
The scoundrel cannot escape me--I know every tory haunt between here
and the Hudson; I must go to the house, and console the afflicted Mrs.
"The subaltern struck his spurs into the flank of his steed, and
hastened to execute the orders of his superior. The captain rode up the
lane, and having reached the house, threw his bridle to a servant, and
entered without ceremony. As he had anticipated, he found Mrs. Williams
in an indescribable state of grief; her health was delicate, and this
unexpected calamity had prostrated her. After offering a few encouraging
words, which produced but a very slight effect, he remounted his horse
and rode to the place of rendezvous. Here he met Lieutenant Brown, a
sergeant, corporal, and ten privates, all finely armed and equipped, and
prepared to brave any danger and incur any hazard, in the service of a
commander in whom they had the most unbounded confidence. He instantly
placed himself at their head, and proceeded on his expedition.
"It was now dark. Their road lay along the margin of a small stream,
bounded on the one side by half cultivated fields, and on the other by
a thick gloomy forest, in which the death-like stillness of its dark
bosom was only broken by the occasional howl of wild beasts.
"After pursuing their course for some distance along the bank of this
rivulet, now traversing the ground on its very margin, and then again
carried by the windings of the path miles from the stream, they came to
a sharp angle in the road, on turning which, the captain, being a short
distance in advance of his troops, discovered a figure slightly defined,
but yet bearing some resemblance to the human species, stealing along
the side of the path, apparently wishing to avoid observation.
"Striking his spurs into his horse, and drawing his sword at the same
time, the captain had the person completely in his power before the
other had time to offer either flight or resistance.
"'For whom are you?' was demanded by Captain Edwards, in no gentle
"'I'm nae just free to say,' replied the stranger, thus rudely
interrogated, with the true Scotch evasion.
"'Answer me at once,' returned the captain; 'which party do you favor?'
"'Ye might have the civility to give me a gentle hint which side ye
belang to,' said Sawney.
"'No circumlocution,' rejoined the soldier, sternly. 'Inform me
immediately: Are you a mercenary of the tyrant of England, or a friend
to liberty? your life depends on your answer.'
"'Aweel, then,' said the Scotchman firmly, 'sin ye will have it, by
my saul, I won't go to heaven with a lie in my mouth--I'm whig to the
back-bone, ye carline; now do your warst, and be hanged till ye!'"
"He might still have been a foe," remarked Wilson. "He might have seen,
from Edwards' language, that to be a whig was to ensure his safety."
"I cannot say whether the Scotchman was sincere or not," replied old
Harmar. "The American captain was well pleased to discover a friend,
when he had every reason to expect an enemy; and, after furnishing him
with a pistol, and advising him to avoid the scouting parties of the
enemy, by keeping in the wood, he again proceeded on his expedition.
They soon reached a fork in the road: one branch led into the recesses
of the wood, and the other lay still farther along the banks of the
stream. On arriving at this spot, the captain, calling Lieutenant Brown
a little distance from the troop, said, 'A few miles' ride will carry us
to an encampment of a party of these tories. I wish to reconnoitre the
position of the enemy, and shall take the road which leads into the
wood, for that purpose, while you with the soldiers will ride on the
other road, till you will arrive within sight of the enemy, and then
return to this point, which shall be our place of rendezvous. In the
meantime, I wish you to avoid coming to any engagement with the tories;
but, in case you hear me fire two pistol shots, you may believe me to be
in danger, and hasten to my relief.'
"To command was to be obeyed with Captain Edwards, and soon no sound
was heard save the slow and regular tread of the horses of the soldiers
under command of Lieutenant Brown "Captain Lewis, the partisan tory who
had carried off Miss Williams, was an officer of some fame. Of English
extraction, and bred in the principles of entire acquiescence in the
orders of the British ministry, he beheld the struggles of the colonists
with contempt. He saw the inhabitants rising about him in various parts
of the country, with feelings of bitter hatred, and he determined
to crush these evidences of rebellion in the outset. He accepted a
captain's commission in the English army, and fought for a time under
the banners of General Clinton, with success worthy of a better cause.
But taking offence at some imperious order of his commander, he threw up
his commission in disgust, and retired to his native village near the
river Hudson. Here, collecting about him a few choice spirits like
himself, he kept the inhabitants in a continual state of alarm by his
plundering and rapacious conduct. Acting, as he pretended, under the
orders of the king, the tories durst not oppose him, and the whigs were
too few in numbers to resist his foraging excursions with any prospect
"In his youth he had been a school companion of Captain Edwards, but
their principles were widely dissimilar, and little intercourse had
taken place between them. In after life they embraced different sides,
and the tory disliked the whig for his virtues, and envied his good
name. In one of his marauding expeditions he became acquainted with
Miss Williams, and discovering the interest the republican had in her
affections, he determined to get her into his power, for the purpose of
holding a check on the whig officer, whom he equally feared and hated. A
libertine in principle, and a profligate in practice, he scrupled at
no means to attain his object, and a violent attack on the peaceful
dwelling of a defenceless woman was as consonant with his views as
robbing a hen-roost.
"The dwelling of this renegade was situated on a small hill on the bank
of the river Hudson. His peculiar occupation, and the state of affairs
in the country, had rendered it necessary for him to fortify and
strengthen his house, and, at the time referred to, it resembled, what
in fact it was, the rendezvous of a band of lawless desperadoes.
"In the principal room of the building was the villain captain, with
three of his officers, seated round a decayed table, playing cards; on
one end of the table stood a dirty decanter, partly filled with apple
brandy; three or four cracked, dingy tumblers were scattered over the
table, and the rest of the furniture of the apartment was in keeping.
In one corner of the room sat Miss Williams, apparently in the depth of
wretchedness. She occasionally cast furtive glances at the captain, and
then toward a small window, which was firmly barricaded; but seeing no
prospect of escape, she relapsed again into hopeless sorrow. Groups of
blackguard soldiers were seated on stools in different parts of the
room, many of them following the example of their officers, and others
amusing themselves with burnishing their muskets and equipments. After
numerous potations from his bottle, the captain started up, reeling
under the influence of the liquor, and addressing a ruffian-looking
officer, one of his boon companions, said: "'Lieutenant Jocelyn, have
the drum beat to arms, and take these lazy knaves and scour the woods
for a few miles around, and cut down or make prisoner every rebel rascal
you meet; leave soldiers enough, however, to guard the old castle;
quick--blast me, no hesitation.'
"'Humph!' muttered the old soldier; 'ready enough to run his comrades
into the noose, but devilish careful to keep his own delicate person out
"'Ha! what say you, old grumbler? You shall stay here and guard the
lady, if you are so much afraid of your beautiful self; and I will take
command of the men.'
"The lieutenant liked this proposition still worse than the former, but
seeing no alternative, obeyed in silence. In a short time, the captain,
accompanied by about twenty men, including a sergeant and two corporals,
left their camp and proceeded toward the wood. It was night-fall when
they reached the forest, through which the road was very narrow and
circuitous. They were travelling along the path in double files, when
the sergeant in front ordered a halt.
"'Why do we stop here,' roared the captain, 'when it is as dark as
"'I hear a noise like the trampling of horses,' replied the sergeant.
"'Hist, then,' said Captain Lewis; 'draw up the men into a body, and
await their arrival in silence.'
"'The horse's footsteps were now distinctly heard, but it was a solitary
horseman whom these worthy soldiers were to encounter. When he
arrived within speaking distance, the sergeant advanced a few paces in
front of the soldiers, and exclaimed:
"'Stand! stand! or you are a dead man!'
"The horseman evinced no disposition to comply with this arbitrary
requisition, but deliberately drew pistol from his holsters and
endeavored to urge his horse through the ranks of his opponents. Captain
Lewis now came to the front of his men, and ordered: "'Seize the bridle,
and down with the rebel!'
"'Let no man lay a hand on me or my horse, as he values his life,' said
the horseman in a determined tone, at the same time cocking his pistol.
"'The sergeant drew back a few yards, and discharged his carbine, but
without effect; two soldiers grasped the horse by the head at the same
instant. The horseman, seeing a struggle inevitable, literally blew out
the brains of one of his assailants, and, plucking his other pistol from
its holster with his left hand, he fired at and slightly wounded his
second antagonist; he now threw aside his pistols, &c., and then
drew his heavy broadsword, and essayed to cut his way through his
opponents--but giant strength, combined with the most desperate courage,
could not compete with such vast disparity of numbers; some of his
enemies fastened themselves on his horse, while others thrust at him
with their bayonets, and, after a protracted contest, during which the
tories lost five men, the horseman was disarmed and brought to the
"'Bind the rebel dog,' shouted the infuriated captain; 'he shall die
the death of a felon, were he George Washington. By Heaven!' continued
he, as he viewed the prostrate horseman, 'it is Captain Edwards! Are
then my dearest wishes gratified? I will be doubly revenged! Bind him
hand and foot, boys, and throw him across his own horse, if the beast
can bear him; if not, drive a bullet through the horse's brains, and
carry the soldier in your arms.'
"The whig officer was firmly bound and placed on his own charger, while
a soldier marched on either side of him, and another led the horse.
After prosecuting their route homeward near a mile, they were startled
with 'No quarter to the cowardly tories! cut them down root and branch!'
followed by the discharge of near a dozen pistols, which killed four
men, and wounded two or three others; and in a moment they were nearly
surrounded by the dragoons under command of Lieutenant Brown. For a
short time the contest was maintained with vigor; the bonds of Captain
Edwards were soon cut; he attacked the tory captain, sword in hand, and,
after a short conflict, succeeded in wounding him in the sword-arm and
hurling him to the ground, and placing his foot on his breast, he said:
"'Now, you dastardly ruffian, avow your villanies, and inform me where I
shall find Miss Howard, or, by heaven, I will send you where the tenor
of your life will be hard to account for.'
"The fierceness of the whig soldier's manner, and the consciousness of
being wholly in his power, completely humbled the tory, and he begged
his life, and promised to conduct the troops to his encampment, where
they would find the lady in safety.
"The tories were now effectually routed; some were killed, some wounded,
others captured, and some had escaped. A few miles' travel, and Captain
Edwards and the men under his command arrived at the habitation of the
tories. A coarse slovenly soldier was pacing the ground in front of the
building, and, on the advance of the continental troops, presented his
musket, and ordered them to halt. Captain Edwards briefly informed him
of the reverse that had taken place in the fortunes of his commander,
and concluded by telling him that 'Submission was safety--resistance
"The door was now burst open, and in a moment Miss Williams was folded
in the arms of her lover.
"Little more remains to be told. No entreaties of Captain Edwards, or
persuasions of her aunt, could induce Miss Williams to give her hand to
her admirer till the close of the war. On the establishment of peace,
Colonel Edwards, (for he had received that rank,) was made happy in the
possession of his long-tried affection. Lieutenant Brown served under
his captain during the war, and, on the promotion of Captain Edwards,
succeeded to his command. The tory Lewis, and the remainder of his
guilty accomplices, were captured shortly after the occurrence of the
events I have related, and executed for desertion."
"The tories generally received the worst of every encounter," remarked
Higgins; "at least, so all our love-story tellers say." "What I have
told you I know to be true--just as Bill Moore, who was one of Captain
Edwards' men, used to tell it," replied old Harmar.
"I believe it to be a fact that the tories did get the worst of most
of the encounters in which they had an equal number of our men to deal
with. The reason was plain. They had not the same great motives to spur
them to daring and noble effort; and the whigs fought against them with
more ardor than they would against the British," said Wilson.
"Captain Edwards was a host. Just think of one man daring to resist the
attack of twenty men, and killing five of them before he was taken. It
seems like the deed of a fabulous hero," remarked Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"The case was a desperate one, and demanded desperate conduct. A
surrender would not have saved his life, and might have secured Miss
Williams in the hands of Lewis. By a bold attack, Edwards won new
reputation and alarmed his men, who then saved his life and the honor of
his beloved," said old Harmar, in defence of his hero.
"I expect they would have murdered the poor man, and then Lewis would
have forced Miss Williams to become his wife--the wretch!" put in Mrs.
"Nothing would have been too black for his heart, when he had an end in
view. Such men are the most dangerous foes to their fellows, and we
must rejoice when a just punishment overtakes them in their headstrong
career. Many of those who are glorified as great men have possessed the
same unscrupulous disposition. The only difference between them and
Lewis lies in this--they fixed their minds on greater objects," said old
"What's that for?" inquired Higgins, starting up as the sound of drum
and fife broke on his ear. Mrs. Harmar went to the front window, and
reported that a Volunteer company of soldiers was coming down the
street. The old men instantly crowded round the window, and expressed
their gratification at the sight that presented itself. The volunteers
were neatly uniformed and very precisely drilled. They marched with
the firm and uniform tread of regulars. The "ear-piercing fife and
spirit-stirring drum" discoursed the music sweetest to the ears of the
old warriors, and their eyes brightened and they made an effort to
straighten themselves, as if "the old time came o'er them." They
lingered at the window as long as they could catch the sound, and long
after the volunteers had turned the corner of the street. Perhaps, if we
had possessed sufficient mental insight, we might have been with those
old men in the scenes that came back to their minds like a tide that had
seemed to have ebbed away for ever. We might have been with them where
the drum and fife were as strong drink to the warriors, firing their
hearts and steeling their nerves for the bloody struggle. But we are
left to conjecture what was present to their imaginations by what they
express in conversation.
BATTLE OF GERMANTOWN.
"Those fellows look very neat and prim; they march well, and their
muskets are polished very bright. I wonder how they would stand fire,"
said Higgins, after the party had seated themselves.
"I doubt if they would like it as well as parading the streets; but
there may be some stout hearts among them," replied old Harmar.
"They should have been at Brandywine or Germantown. At either place they
would have had a chance to prove their stuff. Fife and drum would have
been necessary, I think, to stir them up," said Wilson.
"I paid a visit to Germantown, the other day," said Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"I passed over the chief portion of the battle-ground, and examined
Chew's house, where some of the British took refuge and managed to turn
the fortunes of the day. The house is in a good state of preservation,
and bears many marks of the conflict."
"I have seen it since the day of the battle, and have also walked over
the neighboring grounds," said Smith "You are wrong in stating that the
troops that threw themselves into that house turned the fortune of the
day. Our defeat was the result of many unlooked-for circumstances, which
no general could have been prepared to meet."
"I have always understood that the check received by our troops
at Chew's house gave the enemy time to rally, and thus defeated
Washington's plan," replied Mr. Jackson Harmar. "If it was otherwise, I
should like to be informed of the circumstances."
"Oh, tell us about the battle of Germantown, Mr. Smith!" exclaimed Mrs.
Harmar. She had some acquaintances at Germantown, and she wished to
astound them by the extent of her information. "Father says he was not
in the battle, being sick at the time. Besides, if he knew, he would
never condescend to tell me about it, when he could find Jackson to talk
"Why, I'm sure, my child, you never seemed very anxious to know,"
replied old Harmar; "but if you will listen to Mr. Smith, you will know
all about it. He was present during the whole battle."
"Ay; and did my share of the fighting, too," added Smith. "But I'll tell
you how it was; and you, Mr. Harmar, may judge whether our defeat was
owing in any degree to the exertions of the enemy. After General Howe
took possession of Philadelphia, the main body of the British was
encamped at Germantown. Our army lay at Skippack Creek, about sixteen
miles from Germantown. Well, General Washington having received all
the reinforcements he expected, and knowing that the enemy had been
considerably weakened by sending detachments to take possession of the
city and the ports on the river, determined to attempt to surprise them
in their camp. The plan was formed with all the judgment and foresight
we might expect in Washington. We were to march at night for Germantown.
Wayne and Sullivan were to attack the left wing of the enemy in front,
whilst Armstrong, with a body of militia, attacked it in the rear.
Greene and Stephens were to attack the right wing in front, while
Smallwood fell upon its rear. Then there was a strong reserve. Of
course, I was with the Pennsylvania line, under Wayne's command. We
started on the evening of the third of October. I shall never forget
that night's march. It was very dark. We could scarcely see three feet
from us; and, as we wished to move on so as not to be discovered by any
of those who usually gave the enemy information, we carried very few
lanthorns. The road, however, was well known, and we marched rapidly and
surely. As we approached Germantown, we found an evidence that the enemy
were aware of our vicinity, and Wayne determined to attack at once. Just
at dawn of day, a party of Sullivan's troops attacked the picket at the
end of the village, and our whole division rushed on as the picket was
driven in. The surprise was complete. The enemy could not make a stand.
They were broken and routed, and their tents and marquees burnt. We
pushed on, took some prisoners, and drove the British from behind fences
and houses where they had taken shelter.
"Six companies of a British regiment, under their lieutenant-colonel,
being hard pressed by an advancing column, threw themselves into Chew's
house, and, barricading the lower windows, opened a destructive fire
from the cellars and upper windows. Our troops, finding their musketry
made no impression, were in the act of dragging up their cannon to
batter the walls, when a stratagem was attempted, which, however, failed
of success. An officer galloped up from the house, and cried out, 'What
are you about? You will fire on your own people.' The artillery opened,
but, after fifteen or twenty rounds, the pieces were found to be of too
small calibre to make a serious impression, and were withdrawn.
"A most daring attempt was then made to fire the building.
Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens, aid-de-camp to the commander-in-chief, with
a few volunteers, rushed up to the house under cover of the smoke,
and applied a burning brand to the principal door, at the same time
exchanging passes with his sword with the enemy on the inside. By almost
a miracle, this gallant officer escaped unharmed, although his clothes
were repeatedly torn by the enemy's shot. Another and equally daring
attempt was made by Major White, aide-de-camp to General Sullivan, but
without as fortunate a result. The major, while in the act of firing one
of the cellar windows, was mortally wounded, and died soon after.
"Washington accompanied the leading division under Major-General
Sullivan, and cheered his soldiers in their brilliant onset, as they
drove the enemy from point to point. Arriving in the vicinity of Chew's
house, the commander-in-chief halted to consult his officers as to the
best course to be pursued towards this fortress that had so suddenly
and unexpectedly sprung up in the way. The younger officers who were
immediately attached to the person of the chief, and among the choicest
spirits of the Revolution, including Hamilton, Reed, Pinckney, Laurens,
and Lee, were for leaving Chew's house to itself, or of turning the
siege into a blockade, by stationing in its vicinity a body of troops to
watch the movements of the garrison, and pressing on with the column in
pursuit of the flying enemy. But the sages of the army, at the head of
whom was Major-General Knox, repulsed at once the idea of leaving a
fortified enemy in the rear, as contrary to the usages of war and the
most approved military authorities.
"At this period of the action the fog had become so dense that objects
could scarcely be distinguished at a few yards' distance. We had
penetrated the enemy's camp even to their second line, which was drawn
up to receive us about the centre of Germantown. The ammunition of the
right wing, including the Maryland brigades, became exhausted, the
soldiers holding up their empty cartridge boxes, when their officers
called on them to rally and face the enemy. The extended line of
operations, which embraced nearly two miles, the unfavorable nature
of the ground in the environs of Germantown for the operations of the
troops, a large portion of whom were undisciplined, the ground being
much cut up, and intersected by stone fences and enclosures of various
sorts, the delay of the left wing under Greene in getting into
action--all these causes, combined with an atmosphere so dense from
fog and smoke as to make it impossible to distinguish friend from foe,
produced a retreat in our army at the moment when victory seemed to be
within its grasp.
"Washington was among the foremost in his endeavors to restore the
fallen fortunes of the day, and, while exerting himself to rally his
broken columns, the exposure of his person became so imminent, that his
officers, after affectionately remonstrating with him in vain, seized
the bridle of his horse. The retreat, under all circumstances, was quite
as favorable as could be expected. The whole of the artillery was saved,
and as many of the wounded as could be removed. The ninth Virginia
regiment, under Colonel Mathews, having penetrated so far as to be
without support, after a desperate resistance, surrendered its remnant
of a hundred men, including its colonel, who had received several
bayonet wounds. The British pursued but two or three miles, making
prisoners of the worn-out soldiers, who, after a night-march of fifteen
miles and an action of three hours, were found exhausted and asleep in
the fields and along the road.
"I made a narrow escape from being taken by a party of dragoons. They
were nearly upon a small body of us that had got separated from our
division, before we perceived them. I gave the alarm, and we ran on, as
we thought, toward our troops; but the fog was so thick that we mistook
the way, and wandered about for some time in constant risk of being
surrounded by the enemy. At length we stumbled on the main body of
our line, and retreated with them. I never saw a more irritated and
disappointed set of men than our officers on that day. Every one had a
different cause for the repulse. Some said that Greene did not come up
in time to aid Wayne and Sullivan; while others said that Greene had
performed the most effective service during the engagement, and that the
loss of the day was owing to the military prejudices of Knox and some
others, who would halt to attack Chew's house, instead of following up
the advantages already gained. Then the fog was blamed for the confusion
it caused. The fact was, the defeat was owing to many causes combined,
some of which I have mentioned."
"The attack was certainly skilfully planned and truly executed, in spite
of its want of success," remarked old Harmar. "Your opinion of the
causes of the defeat, Mr. Smith, is that which is now generally adopted.
The halt at Chew's house did not give rise to the retreat of Sullivan's
division. The ammunition of the troops was exhausted, and they were not
aware of Greene's approach until they had begun to fall back. By the
way, did you hear how General Nash was killed?"
"He was killed by a cannon-ball, I believe," replied Smith.
"Yes," said old Harmar. "A round-shot from the British artillery
striking a sign-post in Germantown, glanced therefrom, and, passing
through his horse, shattered the general's thigh on the opposite side.
The fall of the animal hurled its unfortunate rider with
considerable force to the ground. With surprising courage and
presence of mind, General Nash, covering his wound with both
of his hands, called to his men, 'Never mind me, I have had a
devil of a tumble; rush on, my boys, rush on the enemy--I'll
be after you presently.' He could do no more.
Faint from loss of blood and the intense agony of his wound, the
sufferer was borne to a house hard by, and attended by Dr. Craik, by
special order of the commander-in-chief. The doctor gave his patient but
feeble hopes of recovery, even with the chances of amputation, when Nash
observed, 'It may be considered unmanly to complain, but my agony is too
great for human nature to bear. I am aware that my days, perhaps hours,
are numbered, but I do not repine at my fate. I have fallen on the field
of honor, while leading my brave Carolinians to the assault of
the enemy. I have a last request to make of his Excellency, the
commander-in-chief, that he will permit you, my dear doctor, to remain
with me, to protect me while I live, and my remains from insult.' Dr.
Craik assured the general that he had nothing to fear from the enemy; it
was impossible that they would harm him while living, or offer insult
to his remains; that Lord Cornwallis was by this time in the field,
and that, under his auspices, a wounded soldier would be treated with
humanity and respect. The dying patriot and hero then uttered these
memorable words: 'I have no favors to expect from the enemy. I have been
consistent in my principles and conduct since the commencement of the
troubles. From the very first dawn of the Revolution I have ever been
on the side of liberty and my country.' "He lingered in extreme torture
between two and three days, and died admired by his enemies, admired and
lamented by his companions in arms. On Thursday, the ninth of October,
the whole American army was paraded by order of the commander-in-chief,
to perform the funeral obsequies of General Nash."
"I have heard those who knew him best speak of him as a brave soldier
and a noble-hearted man; and your account of his death assures me of the
truth of their eulogy," remarked Smith.
"It is said that Washington, seeing that his well-arranged plan was
about to be defeated, could not control his anger and disappointment,"
said Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"It is true. Washington, like all very great men, was naturally strongly
passionate. His usual self-command was the more wonderful because it had
been acquired by stern practice. The battle of Germantown was one of
those few occasions in his life when his feelings burst through all
restraint; and then, it is said by those who should know, that his wrath
was fierce and terrible. The officers were compelled, by considerations
of his safety, to lead his horse from the field. He did all that a man
could do to rally his broken troops, and exposed himself as fearlessly
as the bravest soldier. All his exertions were vain, however, and he
became much irritated in consequence."
"The retreat just when victory was within his grasp was enough to
irritate any commander who valued his aim and plan," observed Mr.
Jackson Harmar, agreeing with Smith in the remarks which he had just
made. "I suppose, if Washington had been completely successful at
Germantown, the British would have been driven from Philadelphia," said
"Ay; and from the vicinity of Philadelphia," replied Smith. "They could
not have recovered from such a defeat."
[Illustration: BATTLE OF THE KEGS.]
BATTLE OF THE KEGS.
"Father," said Mr. Jackson Harmar, "I have a song in my portfolio,
written by Francis Hopkinson while the British were in Philadelphia;
perhaps you can tell us something about the event which is the subject
of it. Here it is. It is called 'The Battle of the Kegs.'"
"The Battle of the Kegs! That I can, my boy. But read the song," replied
old Harmar. His son then read the following facetious ditty:
"Gallants, attend, and hear a friend
Trill forth harmonious ditty:
Strange things I'll tell, which late befell
In Philadelphia city.
Twas early day, as poets say,
Just when the sun was rising,
A soldier stood on log of wood,
And saw a sight surprising.
As, in amaze, he stood to gaze,--
The truth can't be denied, sirs,--
He spied a score--of kegs, or more,
Come floating down the tide, sirs.
A sailor, too, in jerkin blue,
The strange appearance viewing,
First damn'd his eyes, in great surprise,
Then said, 'Some mischief's brewing.
These kegs now hold the rebels bold,
Pack'd up like pickled herrings
And they're come down to attack the town,
In this new way of ferrying.'
The soldier flew, the sailor, too,
And, scared almost to death, sirs,
Wore out their shoes to spread the news,
And ran till out of breath, sirs.
Now up and down, throughout the town,
Most frantic scenes were acted;
And some ran here, and some ran there,
Like men almost distracted.
Some fire cried, which some denied,
But said the earth had quaked;
And girls and boys, with hideous noise,
Ran through the town half-naked.
Sir William he, snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a snoring,
Nor dream'd of harm, as he lay warm,
While all without was roaring.
Now, in affright, he starts upright,
Awaked by such a clatter:
He rubs both eyes, and boldly cries,
'For God's sake, what's the matter?'
At his bedside he then espied
Sir Erskine at command, sirs;
Upon one foot he had one boot,
And t'other in his hand, sirs.
'Arise! arise!' Sir Erskine cries:
'The rebels--more's the pity--
Without a boat, are all afloat,
And ranged before the city.
'The motley crew, in vessels new,
With Satan for their guide, sir,
Pack'd up in bags, or wooden kegs,
Come driving down the tide, sir.
'Therefore prepare for bloody war!
These kegs must all be routed;
Or surely we despised shall be,
And British courage doubted.'
The royal band now ready stand,
All ranged in dread array, sirs;
With stomach stout, to see it out,
And make a bloody day, sirs.
The cannons roar from shore to shore,
The small arms make a rattle;
Since wars began, I'm sure no man
E'er saw so strange a battle.
The rebel vales, the rebel dales,
With rebel trees surrounded,
The distant woods, the hills and floods,
With rebel echoes sounded.
The fish below swam to and fro,
Attack'd from every quarter:
Why, sure, thought they, the devil's to pay
'Mongst folks above the water.
The kegs, 'tis said, though strongly made,
Of rebel staves and hoops, sirs,
Could not oppose their powerful foes,
The conquering British troops, sirs.
From morn to night, these men of might
Display'd amazing courage;
And when the sun was fairly down,
Retired to sup their porridge.
A hundred men, with each a pen,
Or more--upon my word, sirs,
It is most true--would be too few
Their valor to record, sirs.
Such feats did they perform that day
Upon these wicked kegs, sirs,
That years to come, if they get home,
They'll make their boasts and brags, sirs."
"Ha! ha! that's a good thing. The enemy used to be so fond of the word
'rebel' that they would attach it to the most trifling things, when
speaking of our people. Judge Hopkinson ridicules that in fine style,"
remarked old Harmar.
"It ought to be sung to the tune of the 'Hoosier's Ghost,'" said Wilson.
"Who is the Sir Erskine alluded to in the song?" inquired Mrs. Harmar.
"Sir William Erskine, one of Sir William Howe's officers," replied old
Harmar. "This song created much merriment among the whigs at the time
it was written, so that, however much the enemy were right, we had the
laugh on our side."
"But what were the circumstances which gave rise to it?" inquired Mr.
Jackson Harmar, impatiently.
"I was about to tell you," replied his father. "A Mr. David Bushnell
had invented several ingenious articles of submarine machinery, for the
purpose of destroying the British vessels stationed in the Delaware.
Among these was the American torpedo, a machine shaped like a water
tortoise, and managed by a single person. It contained sufficient air to
support respiration thirty minutes without being replenished, valves to
admit or reject water for the purpose of rising or sinking, ballast to
keep it upright, and a seat for the operator. Above the rudder was a
place for carrying a large powder magazine, constructed from two pieces
of oak timber, and capable of carrying one hundred and fifty pounds of
powder, with the apparatus for firing it. Within the magazine was an
apparatus constructed to run any proposed length of time under twelve
hours, after which it sprung a strong lock similar to that of a gun,
which gave fire to the powder. This apparatus was so secured that it
could be set in motion only by the casting off of the magazine from the
"With this machine a skilful operator could swim so low on the surface
of the water, as to approach at night very near to a ship without being
discovered. After sinking quickly, he could keep at any necessary depth,
and row to a great distance in any direction, without coming to the
surface. Bushnell found, however, that much trial and instruction were
required for a man of common ingenuity to become a skilful manager. It
was first tried by his brother, who, unfortunately, was taken ill at the
time when he had become an able operator. Another person was procured,
and the first experiment tried upon the Eagle, a sixty-four, which Lord
Howe commanded in person. He went under the ship, and attempted to fix
the wooden screw into her bottom, but struck, as was supposed, a bar
of iron running from the rudder-hinge. Not being well skilled in the
management of the machine, he lost the ship in attempting to move to
another place; and, after seeking her in vain for some time, rowed a
little distance and rose to the surface. Daylight had now advanced so
that the attempt could not be renewed, and, fearing he was discovered,
he detached the magazine from his vessel and escaped. In an hour the
powder exploded, throwing a vast column of water to an amazing height,
and leaving the enemy to conjecture whether it was caused by a bomb, a
water-spout, or an earthquake. Want of resources obliged Mr. Bushnell to
abandon his schemes for that time; but, in 1777, he made an attempt from
a whale-boat against the Cerberus frigate, by drawing a machine against
her side with a line. It accidentally became attached to a schooner and
exploded, tearing the vessel in pieces. Three men were killed, and one
"In December, 1777, Mr. Bushnell contrived another ingenious expedient
for accomplishing his favorite object. He charged a number of kegs
with powder, arranging them so as to explode on coming in contact with
anything while floating along the tide. This squadron was launched
at night on the Delaware river, above the English shipping; but,
unfortunately, the proper distance could not be well ascertained, and
they were set adrift too far from the vessels, so that they became
obstructed and dispersed by the floating ice. On the following day,
however, one of them blew up a boat, and others exploded, occasioning
the greatest consternation among the British seamen. The troops were
aroused, and, with the sailors, manned the wharves and shipping at
Philadelphia, discharging their cannon and small-arms at everything they
could see floating in the river during the ebb tide.
"The scene must have been a very ridiculous one, and we cannot wonder
at Judge Hopkinson making such comic use of it. The British must have
imagined that every keg was the visible part of a torpedo, intended for
"We cannot wonder at their consternation, while in constant danger of
being blown into the air," said Mr. Jackson Harmar. "Just place yourself
in their position; and, knowing that several attempts had been made to
blow up the ships, how would you have acted?"
"I should have made quite as much noise, I suppose," replied old Harmar;
"but then it was so laughable. I don't think the folks aboard of those
ships slept for a week after finding that there was powder in the kegs.
That, I believe, was Bushnell's last attempt to destroy the fleet."
"For my part," remarked Wilson, "I never liked such contrivances; and it
is a very pregnant fact that in most cases they have failed, when, from
the skill and science displayed in their construction, success was
anticipated. It's my opinion, God works against such things. As much
as I hated the enemy, I could not sanction such wholesale murder--for
murder it would have been, to have sent hundreds of men into eternity,
without giving them an inch of fair fighting ground. I would not have
minded blowing up the British government--that I could have done myself
without any more sting of conscience than the hangman feels; but
soldiers and seamen fight fairly and openly for their country's honor
and rights, as they understand those things, and they should be met in
the same manner."
"You're right, Mr. Wilson. Torpedoes, catamarans, and such inventions,
might be employed by both parties in war, and with destructive effect.
But wars ought to be conducted in such a manner as to gain the desired
end with as little loss of life as possible; besides, in the eyes of all
really brave men, these things must seem cowardly," said Morton.
"You must permit me to differ with you, gentlemen," put in Mr. Jackson
Harmar; and, in a very dignified, Congressional style, he delivered
himself of the following defence of the innovations of modern warfare:
"I view all such contrivances as the triumph of the genius and skill of
man over mere brute force, and as tending to the great ends of the peace
and happiness of mankind. They place the weak upon a level with the
strong, and make it evident to every one that the best course would be
to submit all questions of right to the arbitration of the mind instead
of the arm and sword. Suppose I, being a small, weak man, should quarrel
with a man of great physical strength, and a hatred to the death should
be declared between us. Now, upon whichever side the bone of right lay,
the strong man would have the power to destroy me; but if I set my brain
to work, and contrive an 'infernal machine,' I shall be superior to him,
and drive him to the same resource. Now, we both see by this, that we
stand an even chance of being destroyed, and reason resumes her reign.
We see that the wisest and safest course for both would be to submit
the question involved in the quarrel to the judgment of a mutual and
impartial friend. Even so these inventions operate among nations,
which, by the way, should be ruled by the same general principles as
"That's all very true," remarked Wilson. "But if I was about to fight
a duel with a man, and I stood up, pistol in hand, while he stood off
beyond my reach, and with some infernal invention endeavored to kill me,
I should call him a coward."
"That would not settle the dispute," said Mr. Jackson Harmar. "Your
wisest course would be to equal his invention, and compel him to fight
fairly or make peace."
"Many strange and many laughable public events occurred in Philadelphia
during the Revolution," said old Harmar. "I was with the army during the
greater part of the time, but our family remained in the city, and kept
me advised of everything that was going on. I was engaged to be married
to your mother, Jackson, before the war commenced, and I had to leave
her in Philadelphia also, until the war was over. She used to write me
letters, telling me about everything that passed in the city that was
interesting. I recollect in one letter she gave me an account of how the
news of Arnold's treason was received among the people."
"With blessings on the traitor's head, of course," remarked Wilson,
"I could imagine how it was received," said Mr. Jackson Harmar. "The
people were indignant and cursed the traitor."
"The people of Philadelphia knew Arnold's real character," replied old
Harmar. "They knew, from his residence among them, that he was capable
of selling his soul for gold, glory, and pleasure; but they did not
suspect him of any intention of leaving our cause entirely. They thought
he would see that it was for his interest to stand by his country's
rights. While in command in this city, Arnold had been very intimate
with several wealthy tory families, and I believe had married a lady
who was connected with them. But such an intimacy was not sufficient to
justify suspicions of his patriotism, if it had not been joined with
other circumstances. He gave great entertainments at his house, and
lived as if he was worth a mint of money. Then he was always in trouble
with the committees of Congress about money matters, which made
people generally believe that he cared more for gold than he did for
principles. Well, when the news of his discovered treachery reached
Philadelphia, the men with whom he had been wrangling about money said
they knew it would turn out just so, and they never expected anything
else; and the citizens generally were very indignant. They chose some
laughable ways of showing the state of their feelings. An artist
constructed a stuffed figure of the traitor, as large as life, and
seated him in a cart, with a figure of the devil alongside of him,
holding a lantern so as to show his face to the people. The words,
'Benedict Arnold, the Traitor,' were placed on a board over the head
of the first figure. An evening was appointed for the display, and the
hanging and burning of the effigy. A vast procession was formed, with
the cart at the head, and drums and fife playing the Rogues' March. This
paraded the streets of the city during the whole evening. The people
groaned and hissed, and pelted the figures as they passed. At length the
procession reached a common which had been selected for the purpose, and
on which a gallows had been erected. There the effigy was hung, and then
taken down and burnt. In the fire, the figure of old Nick was arranged
with one hand upon Arnold's head, and the other pointing below, while he
grinned as if over a triumph."
"An appropriate ceremony," said Wilson.
"It must have been a great sight," observed Mrs. Harmar.
"They should have caught the man himself, and burnt him instead of a
stuffed figure," said Higgins.
"It would have saved Andre," remarked Smith.
"The scoundrel!" exclaimed Morton. "He ought to have been put to death
with all the torture the Indians use with their captives."
These slight remarks indicated the peculiar manner in which each of
these individuals viewed a subject.
"The British generals expected that Arnold's example would be followed
by numbers of the Americans; but I think they soon saw the character of
the people, and the way they regarded Arnold," said old Harmar.
"It's my opinion that Arnold's going over to the enemy was a benefit to
our cause," remarked Smith. "Such men are stains upon the character of
the people with whom they associate; and if a selfish, sensual traitor
was fit company for Sir Henry Clinton and his officers, he was not for
Washington and the other generals of our army." "Some of our people
thought that he would prove a dangerous foe; but, after the attack on
New London, all his activity and bravery seem to have fallen asleep. We
had many men who could have met and defeated him, with anything like
equal force. We did not lose much by his treachery, and the British lost
Andre, who would have outweighed many Arnolds," said Morton.
"But treason found its reward," observed Mr. Jackson Harmar. "If Arnold
had an atom of conscience or sensibility to shame, the curses of a whole
people, whom he had turned from admiring friends to bitter foes, and
the jeers and scorn of those whom he wished to make friends, must have
planted many a thorn in his bosom, to rankle and poison his life."
"If he had any conscience?" remarked Morton, with an unbelieving smile.
"The people of Philadelphia showed that they had the true patriotic
spirit in them, in burning that effigy of Arnold," said Mr. Jackson
Harmar; "and taught the enemy that, though they might buy one man, they
could not hire a people to follow wrong example."
CAPTURE OF GENERAL PRESCOTT.
"Well, leaving Arnold to the execration of all patriotic and pure-souled
men," remarked Mr. Jackson Harmar, assuming the post of pilot to the
conversation, "there is an exploit of the Revolution which always struck
me as being one of the most daring and perilous to be found in the
annals of war. I mean the capture of Major-General Prescott by Major
Barton. If either of you, gentlemen, know the circumstances of that
affair, I would be obliged to you for your information."
"I don't know as much about it as you may obtain from history,"
replied old Harmar, speaking for himself. "Our line was in another
"I should suppose Mr. Morton was acquainted with the facts, as he was up
in that part of the country about that time," observed Wilson.
"I was; and do know all that one engaged in the expedition might tell
me," replied Morton. "Furthermore, I have no objection to communicating
my information.--I would thank you for a glass of water, Mrs. Harmar."
The water was handed to the old man, and, after a refreshing draught, he
proceeded with his narrative.
"You must know, that in the latter part of 1771 General Charles Lee was
surprised and taken prisoner by a detachment of British troops. This
was the result of his own carelessness. The British chuckled over his
capture, saying that they had caught the American palladium, as if Lee
was at all necessary to the success of our cause. However, the Americans
considered him a valuable officer, and Major William Barton, of the
Rhode Island line, resolved upon retaking him or procuring his exchange.
"Some months elapsed, after the capture of General Lee, before an
opportunity offered of effecting the object which Major Barton had
in view. In the month following that of the capture, the enemy took
possession of the islands of Rhode-Island, Canonicut, and Prudence.
Major Barton was then stationed at Tiverton, and for some months
anxiously watched the motions of the enemy, with but feeble prospect of
obtaining the opportunity he desired.
"At length, on the 20th June, 1777, a man by the name of Coffin, who
made his escape from the British, was seized by some of the American
troops, and carried to Major Barton's quarters. Major Barton availed
himself of the opportunity to inquire respecting the disposition of the
British forces. Coffin on examination, stated that Major-General
Richard Prescott had established his head-quarters on the west side of
Rhode-Island, and described minutely the situation of the house in which
he resided, which he said was owned by a Mr. Pering. His account was
a few days after confirmed by a deserter from the ranks of the enemy.
Major Barton was now confirmed in his belief of the practicability of
effecting his favorite object:--but serious obstacles were first to be
encountered and removed. Neither his troops, nor their commander, had
been long inured to service; and the intended enterprise was of a nature
as novel as it was hazardous. Besides, Major Barton was aware that the
undertaking, should it prove unsuccessful, would be pronounced rash and
unadvised, and, in its consequences, though his life might be preserved,
be followed by degradation and disgrace. Moreover, to involve in the
consequences of an enterprise, devised and undertaken without previous
consultation with his superiors in rank, the interest and perhaps the
lives of a portion of his brave countrymen, was a subject that excited
reflections calculated to damp the ardor and appall the courage of the
bravest minds. Still, however, upon mature reflection, aided by a
consciousness that its only motive was the interest of his country, he
resolved to hazard his reputation and his life in the attempt.
"The regiment to which Major Barton was attached, was commanded by
Colonel Stanton, a respectable and wealthy farmer in Rhode-Island, who,
in the spirit of the times, had abandoned the culture of his farm and
the care of his family, and put at hazard his property and his life in
defence of his country. To this gentleman Major Barton communicated his
plan, and solicited permission to carry it into execution. Colonel
Stanton readily authorized him 'to attack the enemy when and where he
pleased.' Several officers in the confidence of Major Barton were
then selected from the regiment for the intended expedition, on whose
abilities and bravery he could rely:--these were, Captain Samuel
Phillips, Lieutenant Joshua Babcock, Ensign Andrew Stanton, and John
Wilcock. (Captain Adams subsequently volunteered his services, and took
an active part in the enterprise.) These gentlemen were informed by
Major Barton, that he had in contemplation an enterprise which would be
attended with great personal hazard to himself and his associates; but
which, if success attended it, would be productive of much advantage
to the country. Its particular object, he stated, would be seasonably
disclosed to them. It was at their option to accept or decline his
invitation to share with him in the dangers, and, as he trusted, in the
glory that would attend the undertaking. The personal bravery of Major
Barton had been previously tested; and such was the confidence and
esteem which he had acquired among the officers under his command,
that, without insisting upon a previous developement of his plans,
his proposal was immediately accepted. Major Barton experienced more
difficulty in obtaining the necessary number of boats, as there were but
two in the vicinity. But this difficulty, though it caused a few days'
delay, was at length obviated, and five whale-boats were procured and
fitted for service. Major Barton had purposely postponed procuring the
necessary number of men until the last moment, from an apprehension that
their earlier selection might excite suspicion, and defeat the object
of their enterprise. Desirous that this little band might be composed
entirely of volunteers, the whole regiment was now ordered upon parade.
In a short, but animated address, Major Barton informed the soldiers
that he projected an expedition against the enemy, which could be
effected only by the heroism and bravery of those who should attend him;
that he desired the voluntary assistance of about forty of their number,
and directed those 'who would hazard their lives in the enterprise,
to advance two paces in front.' Without one exception, or a moment's
hesitation, the whole regiment advanced. Major Barton, after bestowing
upon the troops the applause they merited, and stating that he required
the aid of but a small portion of their number, commenced upon the
right, and, passing along the lines, selected from the regiment, to
the number of thirty-six, those who united to bravery and discipline
a competent knowledge of seamanship, for the management of the boats.
Having thus obtained an adequate number of officers and men, and
everything being ready, the party, on the 4th of July, 1777, embarked
from Tiverton for Bristol. While crossing Mount Hope Bay, there arose a
severe storm of thunder and rain, which separated three boats from that
of their commander. The boat containing Major Barton, and one other,
arrived at Bristol soon after midnight. Major Barton proceeded to the
quarters of the commanding officer, where he found a deserter who had
just made his escape from the enemy at Rhode-Island. From this man he
learned that there had been no alteration for the last few days in the
position of the British. On the morning of the fifth, the remaining
boats having arrived, Major Barton, with his officers, went to Hog
Island, not far distant from Bristol, and within view of the British
encampment and shipping. It was at this place that he disclosed to
his officers the particular object of the enterprise, his reasons for
attempting it, and the part each was to perform. Upon reconnoitring
the position of the enemy, it was thought impracticable, without great
hazard of capture, to proceed directly from Bristol to the head-quarters
of the British general. It was determined, therefore, to make Warwick
Neck, a place opposite to the British encampment, but at a greater
distance than Bristol, the point from which they should depart
immediately for Rhode-Island. The closest secrecy was enjoined upon his
officers by Major Barton, and they returned to Bristol.
"On the evening of the sixth, about nine o'clock, the little squadron
again sailed, and crossing Narragansett Bay, landed on Warwick Neck.
On the seventh, the wind changing to E.N.E. brought on a storm, and
retarded their plan. On the ninth, the weather being pleasant, it was
determined to embark for the island. The boats were now numbered, and
the place of every officer and soldier assigned. About nine o'clock in
the evening, Major Barton assembled his little party around him, and in
a short but spirited address, in which were mingled the feelings of the
soldier and the man, he disclosed to them the object of the enterprise.
He did not attempt to conceal the danger and difficulties that would
inevitably attend the undertaking; nor did he forget to remind them,
that should their efforts be followed by success, they would be entitled
to, and would receive, the grateful acknowledgments of their country.
'It is probable,' said he, 'that some of us may not survive the daring
attempt; but I ask you to hazard no dangers which will not be shared
with you by your commander; and I pledge to you my honor, that in every
difficulty and danger I will take the lead.' He received the immediate
and unanimous assurance of the whole party, that they would follow
wherever their commander should lead them. Major Barton then, reminding
them how much the success of the enterprise depended upon their strict
attention to orders, directed that each individual should confine
himself to his particular seat in the boat assigned him, and that not
a syllable should be uttered by any one. He instructed them, as they
regarded their character as patriots and soldiers, that in the hour
of danger they should be firm, collected, and resolved fearlessly to
encounter the dangers and difficulties that might assail them. He
concluded by offering his earnest petition to the Great King of Armies,
that he would smile upon their intended enterprise, and crown it with
success. The whole party now proceeded to the shore. Major Barton had
reason to apprehend that he might be discovered in his passage from the
main to Rhode-Island, by some of the ships of war that lay at a small
distance from shore. He therefore directed the commanding officer at
Warwick Neck, that if he heard the report of three distinct muskets, to
send boats to the north end of Prudence Island to his aid. The whole
party now took possession of the boats in the manner directed. That
which contained Major Barton was posted in front, with a pole about
ten feet long fixed in her stern, to the end of which was attached a
handkerchief, in order that his boat might be distinguished from the
others, and that none might go before it. In this manner they proceeded
between the islands of Prudence and Patience, in order that they might
not be seen by the shipping of the enemy that lay off Hope Island. While
passing the north end of Prudence Island, they heard from the sentinels
on board the shipping of the enemy, the cry of 'All's well!' As they
approached the shore of Rhode-Island, a noise like the running of horses
was heard, which threw a momentary consternation over the minds of the
whole party; but, in strict conformity to the orders issued, not a word
was spoken by any one. A moment's reflection satisfied Major Barton of
the utter impossibility that his designs could be known by the enemy,
and he pushed boldly for the shore. Apprehensive that, if discovered,
the enemy might attempt to cut off his retreat, Major Barton ordered
one man to remain in each boat, and be prepared to depart at a
moment's warning. The remainder of the party landed without delay. The
reflections of Major Barton at this interesting moment, were of a
nature the most painful. The lapse of a few hours would place him in a
situation in the highest degree gratifying to his ambition, or overwhelm
him in the ruin in which his rashness would involve him. In the solemn
silence of night, and on the shores of the enemy, he paused a moment to
consider a plan which had been projected and matured amidst the bustle
of a camp and in a place of safety. The night was excessively dark, and,
a stranger to the country, his sole reliance upon a direct and rapid
movement to the head-quarters of a British general, so essential to
success, rested upon the imperfect information he had acquired from
deserters from the enemy. Should he surprise and secure General
Prescott, he was aware of the difficulties that would attend his
conveyance to the boat; the probability of an early and fatal discovery
of his design by the troops upon the island; and, even if he should
succeed in reaching the boats, it was by no means improbable that the
alarm might be seasonably given to the shipping, to prevent his retreat
to the main. But regardless of circumstances, which even then would have
afforded an apology for a hasty retreat, he resolved at all hazards to
attempt the accomplishment of his designs.
"To the head-quarters of General Prescott, about a mile from the shore,
a party in five divisions now proceeded in silence. There were doors on
the south, the east and west sides of the house in which he resided. The
first division was ordered to advance upon the south door, the second
the west, and the third the east, the fourth to guard the road, and the
fifth to act in emergencies. In their march they passed the guard-house
of the enemy on their left, and on their right a house occupied by a
company of cavalry, for the purpose of carrying with expedition the
orders of the general to remote parts of the island. On arriving
at the head-quarters of the enemy, as the gate of the front yard was
opened, they were challenged by a sentinel on guard. The party was at
the distance of twenty-five yards from the sentinel, but a row of
trees partially concealed them from his view, and prevented him from
determining their number. No reply was made to the challenge of the
sentinel, and the party proceeded on in silence. The sentinel again
demanded, 'Who comes there?' 'Friends,' replied Barton. 'Friends,' says
the sentinel, 'advance and give the countersign.'
"Major Barton, affecting to be angry, said to the sentinel, who was now
near him, 'Damn you, we have no countersign--have you seen any rascals
to-night?' and, before the sentinel could determine the character of
those who approached him, Major Barton had seized his musket, told him
he was a prisoner, and threatened, in case of noise or resistance, to
put him to instant death. The poor fellow was so terrified, that upon
being asked whether his general was in the house, he was for some time
unable to give any answer. At length, in a faltering voice, he replied
that he was. By this time each division having taken its station, the
south door was burst open by the direction of Major Barton, and the
division there stationed, with their commander at their head, rushed
into the head-quarters of the general. At this critical moment, one of
the British soldiers effected his escape, and fled to the quarters of
the main guard. This man had no article of clothing upon him but a
shirt; and having given the alarm to the sentinel on duty, passed on
to the quarters of the cavalry, which was more remote from the
head-quarters of the general. The sentinel roused the main guard, who
were instantly in arms, and demanded the cause of alarm. He stated the
information which had been given him by the soldier, which appeared so
incredible to the sergeant of the guard that he insisted that he had
seen a ghost. The sentinel, to whom the account of the general's capture
appeared quite as incredible as to his commanding officer, admitted that
the messenger was clothed in white; and after submitting to the jokes
of his companions, as a punishment for his credulity, he was ordered to
resume his station, while the remainder of the guard retired to their
quarters. It was fortunate for Major Barton and his brave followers,
that the alarm given by the soldier was considered groundless. Had the
main guard proceeded without delay to the relief of their commanding
Back to Full Books