THE YOUNG AMERICAN'S LIBRARY.
BY HENRY C. WATSON,
AUTHOR OF "THE CAMP-FIRES OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION," "THE YANKEE TEA-PARTY, OR BOSTON IN 1773," ETC. ETC.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851, by LINDSAY AND BLAKISTON, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
To awaken in the minds of all Americans that veneration of the patriots and heroes of the War of Independence, and that emulation of their noble example which is so necessary to the maintenance of our liberties, are the objects of this little work. Every day's developments illustrate the importance of these objects. In the enjoyment of the freedom and prosperity of our country, we are apt to under-rate the means by which that enjoyment was secured to us, and to forget the men who worked for that end. A knowledge of the toils and sufferings of the noble-hearted fathers of the Revolution is the best preventative, or curative, for this "falling off." War, clothed as it is, with horrors, is to be condemned, and the spirit which leads to it should be driven from the breasts of men. But generous devotion, strength of resolution, and far-reaching skill, are things to be commended and imitated wherever displayed. In these pages, will be found stories of the chief men of the Revolution, so connected, by the manner in which they are narrated, as to give a general interest to them — "The Old Bell of Independence" being the rallying point of the veteran story-tellers.
It was a season of unparalleled enthusiasm and rejoicing, when General Lafayette, the friend and supporter of American Independence, responded to the wishes of the people of the United States, and came to see their prosperity, and to hear their expressions of gratitude. The national heart beat joyfully in anticipation; and one long, loud, and free shout of welcome was heard throughout the land.
Arriving at New York in August, 1824, General Lafayette journeyed through the Eastern States, receiving such tokens of affection as the people had extended to no other man except Washington, and then returned southward. On the 28th of September, he entered Philadelphia, the birth-place of the Declaration of Independence, the greater part of the population coming out to receive and welcome him. A large procession was formed, and thirteen triumphal arches erected in the principal streets through which the procession passed.
After General Lafayette himself, the most remarkable objects in the procession were four large open cars, resembling tents, each containing forty veterans of the struggle for independence. No one could, without emotion, behold these winter-locked patriots, whose eyes, dimmed by age, poured forth tears of joy at their unexpected happiness in once more meeting an old commander, and joining in the expressions of gratitude to him.
After passing through the principal streets, General Lafayette was conducted into the hall of the State-House, where the old Continental Congress had assembled, and where the immortal Declaration of Independence was signed. Here the nation's guest was received formally on behalf of the citizens by the mayor, and then the people were admitted to take him by the hand. At night there was a splendid illumination; and crowds of people traversed the streets, singing and celebrating the exploits of the champion of liberty and the friend of America.
On one of the days succeeding Lafayette's grand entry into the city, he received, in the Hall of Independence, the veteran soldiers of the Revolution who had come to the city, and those who were residents. One by one these feeble old men came up and took the General by the hand, and to each he had some reminiscence to recall, or some congratulation to offer. Heroes of Brandy wine, Germantown, Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth, and other fields, were there; some with scars to show, and all much suffering to relate. The old patriotic fire was kindled in their breasts, and beamed from their furrowed countenances, as memory flew back to the time that proved their truth and love of liberty. One had been under the command of the fiery Wayne, and shared his dangers with a spirit as dauntless; another had served with the cool and skilful Greene, and loved to recall some exploit in which the Quaker general had displayed his genius; another had followed the lead of Lafayette himself, when a mere youth, at Brandywine: everything conspired to render this interview of the General and the veteran soldiers as touching and as interesting as any recorded by history, or invented by fiction.
After the reception of the veterans, one of them proposed to go up into the belfry, and see the old bell which proclaimed liberty "to all the land, and to all the nations thereof." Lafayette and a few others accompanied the proposal by expressing a wish to see that interesting relic. With great difficulty, some of the old men were conducted up to the belfry, and there they beheld the bell still swinging. Lafayette was much gratified at the sight, as it awakened his old enthusiasm to think of the period when John Adams and his bold brother patriots dared to assert the principles of civil liberty, and to proclaim the independence of their country. Old John Harmar, one of the veteran soldiers who had been in Philadelphia when the Declaration was proclaimed, and who again shook hands with his old brothers in arms, gave vent to his thoughts and feelings as he stood looking at the bell.
"Ah! that's the trumpet that told the Britishers a tale of vengeance! My memory's not so bad but I can recollect the day that old bell was rung for independence! This city presented a very different appearance in those days. It was a small town. Every body was expectin' that the king's troops would be comin' here soon, and would sack and burn the place: but the largest number of us were patriots, and knew the king was a tyrant; and so we didn't care much whether they came or not. How the people did crowd around this State-House on the day the Declaration was proclaimed! Bells were ringing all over town, and guns were fired; but above 'em all could be heard the heavy, deep sound of this old bell, that rang as if it meant something! Ah! them was great times."
As old Harmar concluded these remarks, the old men standing near the bell nodded approvingly, and some echoed, "Them was great times!" in a tone which indicated that memory was endeavoring to conjure back the time of which they spoke. They then slowly turned to descend. Lafayette had preceded them with his few friends. "Stop!" said old Harmar; "Wilson, Morton, Smith, and you, Higgins, my son wants you to come home with me, and take dinner at his house. Come; I want to have some chat with you over old doings. I may never see you again after you leave Philadelphia."
The invitation, cordially given, was cordially accepted, and the party of old friends descended the stairs, and, arriving at the door, were assisted by the cheering crowd to get into their carriage, which then drove towards the residence of old Harmar's son. At that place we shall consider them as having arrived, and, after much welcoming, introducing, and other preparatory ceremonies, as seated at a long, well-supplied table, set in a large and pleasant dining-hall. Young Harmar, his wife, and the four children, were also accommodated at the same table, and a scene of conviviality and pleasure was presented such as is not often witnessed. The old men were very communicative and good-humored; and young Harmar and his family were free of questions concerning the great scenes through which they had passed. But we will let the company speak for themselves.
"GRANDFATHER," said Thomas Jefferson Harmar, "won't you tell us something about General Washington?"
"I could tell you many a thing about that man, my child," replied old Harmar, "but I suppose people know everything concerning him by this time. You see, these history writers go about hunting up every incident relating to the war, now, and after a while they'll know more about it — or say they do — than the men who were actors in it."
"That's not improbable," said young Harmar. "These historians may not know as much of the real spirit of the people at that period, but that they should be better acquainted with the mass of facts relating to battles and to political affairs is perfectly natural." The old man demurred, however, and mumbled over, that nobody could know the real state of things who was not living among them at the time.
"But the little boy wants to hear a story about Washington," said Wilson. "Can't you tell him something about the man? I think I could. Any one who wants to appreciate the character of Washington, and the extent of his services during the Revolution, should know the history of the campaign of 1776, when every body was desponding, and thinking of giving up the good cause. I tell you, if Washington had not been superior to all other men, that cause must have sunk into darkness."
"You say well," said Smith. "We, who were at Valley Forge, know something of his character."
"I remember an incident," said Wilson, "that will give you some idea, Mrs. Harmar, of the heart George Washington had in his bosom. I suppose Mr. Harmar has told you something of the sufferings of our men during the winter we lay at Valley Forge. It was a terrible season. It's hard to give a faint idea of it in words; but you may imagine a party of men, with ragged clothes and no shoes, huddled around a fire in a log hut — the snow about two feet deep on the ground, and the wind driving fierce and bitter through the chinks of the rude hovel. Many of the men had their feet frost-bitten, and there were no remedies to be had, like there is now-a-days. The sentinels suffered terribly, and looked more like ghosts than men, as they paced up and down before the lines of huts."
"I wonder the men didn't all desert," remarked Mrs. Harmar. "They must have been uncommon men."
"They were uncommon men, or, at least, they suffered in an uncommon cause," replied Wilson. "But about General Washington. He saw how the men were situated, and, I really believe, his heart bled for them. He would write to Congress of the state of affairs, and entreat that body to procure supplies; but, you see, Congress hadn't the power to comply. All it could do was to call on the States, and await the action of their Assemblies.
"Washington's head-quarters was near the camp, and he often came over to see the poor fellows, and to try to soothe and comfort them; and, I tell you, the men loved that man as if he had been their father, and would rather have died with him than have lived in luxury with the red-coat general.
"I recollect a scene I beheld in the next hut to the one in which I messed. An old friend, named Josiah Jones, was dying. He was lying on a scant straw bed, with nothing but rags to cover him. He had been sick for several days, but wouldn't go under the doctor's hands, as he always said it was like going into battle, certain of being killed. One day, when we had no notion of anything of the kind, Josiah called out to us, as we sat talking near his bed, that he was dying, and wanted us to pray for him. We were all anxious to do anything for the man, for we loved him as a brother; but as for praying, we didn't exactly know how to go about it. To get clear of the service, I ran to obtain the poor fellow a drink of water to moisten his parched lips.
"While the rest were standing about, not knowing what to do, some one heard the voice of General Washington in the next hut, where he was comforting some poor wretches who had their feet almost frozen off. Directly, he came to our door, and one of the men went and told him the state of things. Now, you see, a commander-in-chief might have been justified in being angry that the regulations for the sick had been disobeyed, and have turned away; but he was a nobler sort of man than could do that. He entered the hut, and went up to poor Josiah, and asked him how he was. Josiah told him that he felt as if he was dying, and wanted some one to pray for him. Washington saw that a doctor could do the man no good, and he knelt on the ground by him and prayed. We all knelt down too; we couldn't help it. An old comrade was dying, away from his home and friends, and there was our general kneeling by him, with his face turned towards heaven, looking, I thought, like an angel's. Well, he prayed for Heaven to have mercy on the dying man's soul; to pardon his sins; and to take him to Himself: and then he prayed for us all. Before the prayer was concluded, Josiah's spirit had fled, and his body was cold and stiff. Washington felt the brow of the poor fellow, and, seeing that his life was out, gave the men directions how to dispose of the corpse, and then left us to visit the other parts of the camp."
"That was, indeed, noble conduct," said young Harmar. "Did he ever speak to you afterwards about violating the regulations of the army?"
"No," replied Wilson. "He knew that strict discipline could not be, and should not have been maintained in that camp. He was satisfied if we were true to the cause amid all our sufferings."
[ Illustration: WASHINGTON'S PRAYER FOR THE DYING SOLDIER.]
"Praying at the death-bed of a private," mused Smith aloud. "Well, I might have conjectured what he would do in such a case, from what I saw of him. I wonder if history ever spoke of a greater and better man?"
Young Mr. Harmar here felt inclined to launch out into an elaborate panegyric on the character of Washington, but reflected that it might be out of place, and therefore contented himself with remarking, "We shall ne'er look upon his like again."
"He was a dear, good man," remarked Mrs. Harmar.
"Yes," said old Harmar, "General Washington was the main pillar of the Revolution. As a general, he was vigilant and skilful; but if he had not been anything more, we might have been defeated and crushed by the enemy. He had the love and confidence of the men, on account of his character as a man, and that enabled him to remain firm and full of hope when his countrymen saw nothing but a gloomy prospect."
"Now I'll tell you a story that I have just called to mind," said old Harmar. "It's of a very different character, though, from the story of Washington. It's about a spy's fate."
"Where was the scene of it?" inquired Mrs. Harmar.
"Out here on the Schuylkill's banks, just after the British took possession of this city," replied old Harmar. "There was a man named James Sykes, who had a lime-kiln on the east bank of the river, and was manufacturing lime pretty extensively when the enemy came to this city. While Congress was sitting here, Sykes always professed to be a warm friend to the colonial cause; but there was always something suspicious about his movements, and his friends and neighbours did not put much faith in his professions. He would occasionally be out very late at night, and sometimes be gone from home for a week, and give very vague accounts of the business which had occupied him during his absence. Some of his neighbours suspected that he was acting as one of Sir William Howe's spies, but they could never get any positive proof of their suspicions.
"At length the enemy took possession of this city, and then Sykes began to show that he was not such a very warm friend of the right side. He went to the head-quarters of the British general frequently, and seemed to be on the best terms with the enemy. Well, it happened that one of his old neighbors, named Jones, was the captain of one of the companies of our line; and he, somehow or other, obtained proof that Sykes was acting as a spy for the enemy. He informed General Wayne of the fact, and immediately proposed that he should be allowed to attempt his capture. Wayne consented, and Captain Jones set about preparing for the enterprise. Sykes was usually out at his lime-kiln, with some of his men, during the morning, and, as the guilty are ever suspicious, he increased the number of his assistants, to ensure himself against attack. Captain Jones took only twenty men from his company, and left our camp just before dark. The business was full of danger. The place where Jones expected to capture the spy was within a mile of a British out-post; and the greatest secrecy and rapidity of movement was necessary to prevent surprise by the enemy's scouting parties.
"About daylight, Jones and his party reached the wood near Sykes' lime-kiln, and halted to reconnoitre. Sykes and four of his men were at work at that early hour. The lime was burning, and some of the men were engaged in loading and unloading two carts which stood near the kiln. Captain Jones' plan was quickly formed. He sent one half his party around to cut off the escape of Sykes towards the city, and when he thought they had reached a favorable position sallied out towards the kiln. When he was about half-way to it, Sykes discovered the party, and, shouting to his men to follow, ran along the bank of the river to escape; but the other party cut off retreat, and Jones coming up rapidly, Sykes and his men were taken. Jones did not intend to detain the workmen any longer than till he got out of the reach of the British, when he would not have cared for their giving the alarm. Sykes seemed to be very anxious to know why he was arrested in that manner; but Jones simply told him he would know when they got him to the American camp; and that, if Sykes had not thought of a reason for his arrest, he would not have attempted to run away. Well, the Americans hurried the prisoners towards the wood, but Jones soon descried a large party of British coming over a neighboring hill, and knew that his chance was a desperate one. Sykes also discovered the party of red-coats, and struggled hard to make his escape from the Americans. Jones wanted to bring him alive to the American camp, or he would have shot him down at once. Suddenly, Sykes broke away from his captors, and ran towards the lime-kiln. Several muskets were discharged, but all missed him. Then one of the privates, named Janvers, a daring fellow, rushed after the prisoner, and caught him just as he reached the kiln. There a fierce struggle ensued; but Sykes was cut in the shoulder, and, in attempting to throw his antagonist into the hot lime and fire, was hurled into it himself. Then Janvers hurried to the woods after his brave comrades. The British party was near enough to see the struggle at the limekiln, and came on rapidly in pursuit of our men. A few of the red-coats were ordered to examine the lime-kiln, to see if Sykes was alive and concealed; and they found his body burned almost to a crisp."
"Horrible!" exclaimed Mrs. Harmar.
"Well," continued Old Harmar, "there was a long and doubtful race between the two parties; but Jones succeeded in getting within the lines of the Americans without losing a man, and with his four prisoners in safe custody. These fellows were examined, but no evidence of their being spies and confidants of Sykes could be produced, and they were discharged with the promise of a terrible punishment if they were detected tampering with the enemy."
"Captain Jones was a daring fellow to venture so near the British lines, and with such a small party," observed Morton.
"In such an attempt, a small party was preferable. Its success depended upon secrecy and quickness of movements," said Wilson.
"It was a horrible death," remarked young Harmar. "Sykes, however, courted it by treachery to his countrymen."
"I believe this is the first time I've seen you since the disbanding of the army, Morton," said Wilson. "Time has been rather severe on us both since that time."
"Oh, we can't complain," replied Morton. "We can't complain. I never grumble at my age."
"Some men would have considered themselves fortunate to have seen what you have seen," said young Harmar. "I think I could bear your years, to have your experience."
"So do I," added Mrs. Harmar. She always agreed with her husband in whatever he asserted.
"Let me see," said old Harmar; "where did I first meet you, Higgins? Oh! wasn't it just before the battle of Brandywine you joined the Pennsylvania line?"
"No," answered Smith for Higgins, who, just then, was endeavoring to make up for his want of teeth by the vigorous exertions of his jaws. "He joined at the same time I did, before the battle of Germantown."
"Yes, just before the battle of Germantown," added Higgins. "I was not at Brandywine."
"You wasn't? Then you missed seeing us retreat," said old Harraar. "But we did considerable fightin', howsomever. Mad Anthony was there, and he used to fight, you know — at least the enemy thought so. I shall never forget the night before that battle."
"Why?" asked Higgins. "Was you on the watch?"
"No, not on that account; something very different. There was a sermon preached on the evenin' before that battle, such as can only be heard once."
"A sermon?" enquired Wilson.
"Yes; a sermon preached for our side by the Rev. Joab Prout. I told my son there about it, and he wrote it into a beautiful sketch for one of the papers. He's got a knack of words, and can tell about it much better than I can. Tell them about it, Jackson, just as you wrote it," said old Harmar.
"Certainly," replied young Harmar. "If I can recall it."
"Do," said Mrs. Harmer; and "Oh! do," added the children; and Mr. Jackson Harmar did — as follows: — "All day long, on the tenth of September, 1777, both armies were in the vicinity of each other, and frequent and desperate skirmishes took place between advanced parties, without bringing on a general action. At length, as the day closed, both armies encamped within sight of each other, anxiously awaiting the morrow, to decide the fate of the devoted city.
"The Americans lay behind Chadd's Ford, with the shallow waters of the Brandywine between them and their opponents; the line extending two miles along that stream.
"The sun was just sinking behind the dark hills of the west, gilding the fading heavens with an autumnal brightness, and shedding a lurid glare upon the already drooping and discolored foliage of the surrounding forests. It was an hour of solemn calm. The cool evening breezes stole softly through the air, as if unwilling to disturb the repose of all around. The crystal waters of the creek murmured gently in their narrow bed, and the national standard flapped lazily from the tall flag-staff on its banks.
"In the American camp, interspersed between groups of tents and stacks of arms, might be seen little knots of weary soldiers seated on the ground, resting from the fatigues of the day, and talking in a low but animated tone of the coming contest.
"Suddenly the tattoo sounded, — not loud and shrill, as on ordinary occasions, but in a subdued and cautious manner, as if fearful of being heard by the British, whose white tents might be seen in the distance. Obedient to the signal, the greater part of the soldiers assembled in front of the marquee of the commander, near the centre of the encampment.
"All was hushed in expectation: soon the tall form of Washington, wrapped in his military cloak, and attended by a large body of officers, was seen advancing in their midst. All present respectfully saluted them, to which they bowed courteously, and then took their seats upon camp-stools set for them by a servant. The venerable Joab Prout, chaplain of the Pennsylvania line, then stood upon the stump of a tree, and commanded silence — for it was the hour of prayer.
"Here was a scene of moral grandeur unsurpassed by anything in the annals of war. There, on that still, cool evening, when the sky was darkening into night, were assembled some eight thousand men; very many of whom would never look upon the glorious sunset again. From the humble cottages in the quiet valley of the Connecticut — from the statelier mansions of the sunny South — at the call of liberty, they had rushed to the tented field; and now, on the eve of battle, as brethren in heart and deed, had met together to implore the God of battles to smile upon their noble cause.
"Oh! it was a thrilling and an august sight! The mild and dignified Washington looked around him with proud emotion, and turned enquiringly to the fair young stranger, Lafayette, beside him, as if to ask, 'Can such men as these be vanquished?'
"The bold and fearless Wayne was there; the undaunted Pulaski, and the whole-hearted Kosciusko; and they bowed their heads in reverence to Him in whose presence they were worshipping.
"Never beneath the vaulted dome of the stately temple — never from the lips of the eloquent divine — was seen such a congregation, or was heard such a discourse, as on that September evening, from that humble old man, with his grey locks streaming in the wind.
"With a firm, clear voice, that re-echoed to the distant hills, he announced his text: —
'They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.'
Then, straightening himself to his full height, and his eye beaming with a holy feeling inspired by the time and place, he commenced: —
"'They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.' 'Soldiers and Countrymen:
We have met this evening perhaps for the last time. We have shared the toil of the march, the peril of the fight, the dismay of the retreat — alike we have endured cold and hunger, the contumely of the internal foe, and outrage of the foreign oppressor. We have sat, night after, night, beside the same camp-fire, shared the same rough soldiers' fare; we have together heard the roll of the reveille, which called us to duty, or the beat of the tattoo, which gave the signal for the hardy sleep of the soldier, with the earth for his bed, the knapsack for his pillow.
'And now, soldiers and brethren, we have met in a peaceful valley, on the eve of battle, while the sunlight is dying away behind yonder heights — the sunlight that, to-morrow morn, will glimmer on scenes of blood. We have met, amid the whitening tents of our encampment,--in times of terror and of gloom have we gathered together — God grant it may not be for the last time!
'It is a solemn moment. Brethren, does not the solemn voice of nature seem to echo the sympathies of the hour? The flag of our country droops heavily from yonder staff; the breeze has died away along the green plain of Chadd's Ford — the plain that spreads before us, glistening in the sunlight; the heights of the Brandywine arise gloomy and grand beyond the waters of yonder stream, and all nature holds a pause of solemn silence, on the eve of the uproar and bloodshed and strife of to-morrow.'
"The propriety of this language was manifest. Breathless attention was pictured upon every countenance, and the smallest whisper could be distinctly heard. Pausing a moment, as if running back, in his mind's eye, over the eventful past, he again repeated his text: —
"'They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.'
'And have they not taken the sword?
'Let the desolated plain, the blood-soddened valley, the burnt farm-house, blackening in the sun, the sacked village, and the ravaged town, answer; let the whitening bones of the butchered farmer, strewn along the fields of his homestead, answer; let the starving mother, with the babe clinging to the withered breast, that can afford no sustenance, let her answer; with the death-rattle mingling with the murmuring tones that mark the last struggle for life — let the dying mother and her babe answer!
'It was but a day past and our land slept in peace. War was not here — wrong was not here. Fraud, and woe, and misery, and want, dwelt not among us. From the eternal solitude of the green woods arose the blue smoke of the settler's cabin, and golden fields of corn looked forth from amid the waste of the wilderness, and the glad music of human voices awoke the silence of the forest.
'Now! God of mercy, behold the change! Under the shadow of a pretext — under the sanctity of the name of God — invoking the Redeemer to their aid, do these foreign hirelings slay our people! They throng our towns; they darken our plains; and now they encompass our posts on the lonely plain of Chadd's Ford.
"The effect was electric. The keen eye of the in-trepid Wayne flashed fire. The neighboring sentinels, who had paused to listen, quickened their pace, with a proud tread and a nervous feeling, impatient for vengeance on the vandal foe.
"Gathering strength once more, he checked the choking sensations his own recital had caused, and continued:
"'They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.'
"Brethren, think me not unworthy of belief, when I tell you that the doom of the Britisher is near! Think me not vain, when I tell you that beyond the cloud that now enshrouds us, I see gathering, thick and fast, the darker cloud and the blacker storm of a Divine retribution!
'They may conquer us on the morrow! Might and wrong may prevail, and we may be driven from this field — but the hour of God's own vengeance will surely come!
'Ay, if in the vast solitudes of eternal space, if in the heart of the boundless universe, there throbs the being of an awful God, quick to avenge, and sure to punish guilt, then will the man, George of Brunswick, called king, feel in his brain and in his heart the vengeance of the Eternal Jehovah! A blight will be upon his life — a withered brain, an accurst intellect; a blight will be upon his children, and on his people. Great God! how dread the punishment!
'A crowded populace, peopling the dense towns where the man of money thrives, while the labourer starves; want striding among the people in all its forms of terror; an ignorant and God-defying priesthood chuckling over the miseries of millions; a proud and merciless nobility adding wrong to wrong, and heaping insult upon robbery and fraud; royalty corrupt to the very heart; aristocracy rotten to the core; crime and want linked hand in hand, and tempting men to deeds of woe and death — these are a part of the doom and the retribution that shall come upon the English throne and the English people!'
"This was pronounced with a voice of such power, that its tones might have reached almost to the Briton's camp, and struck upon the ear of Howe as the prophetic inspiration of one whose keen eye had read from the dark tablets of futurity.
"Looking around upon the officers, he perceived that Washington and Lafayette had half risen from their seats, and were gazing spell-bound at him, as if to drink in every word he uttered.
"Taking advantage of the pervading feeling, he went on: —
"'Soldiers — I look around upon your familiar faces with a strange interest! To-morrow morning we will all go forth to battle — for need I tell you that your unworthy minister will march with you, invoking God's aid in the fight? — we will march forth to battle! Need I exhort you to fight the good fight, to fight for your homesteads, and for your wives and children?
'My friends, I might urge you to fight, by the galling memories of British wrong! Walton — I might tell you of your father butchered in the silence of midnight on the plains of Trenton; I might picture his grey hairs dabbled in blood; I might ring his death-shriek in your ears. Shelmire — I might tell you of a mother butchered, and a sister outraged — the lonely farm-house, the night assault, the roof in flames, the shouts of the troopers, as they despatch their victim, the cries for mercy, the pleadings of innocence for pity. I might paint this all again, in the terrible colors of the vivid reality, if I thought your courage needed such wild excitement.
'But I know you are strong in the might of the Lord. You will forth to battle on the morrow with light hearts and determined spirits, though the solemn duty — the duty of avenging the dead — may rest heavy on your souls.
'And in the hour of battle, when all around is darkness, lit by the lurid cannon glare and the piercing musket flash — when the wounded strew the ground, and the dead litter your path — then remember, soldiers, that God is with you. The eternal God fights for you — He rides on the battle cloud, He sweeps onward with the march of the hurricane charge — God, the Awful and the Infinite, fights for you, and you will triumph.'
"Roused by this manly and pathetic appeal, a low murmur ran from man to man, as a heartfelt response; and the chieftains who were near the speaker, felt proud and happy in the command of such true hearts and tried blades. But darkness was enveloping all, and he hastened to conclude.
"'They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.'
'You have taken the sword, but not in the spirit of wrong and ravage. You have taken the sword for your homes, for your wives, for your little ones. You have taken the sword for truth, for justice and right, and to you the promise is, Be of good cheer, for your foes have taken the sword in defiance of all that man holds dear, in blasphemy of God — they shall perish by the sword.
'And now, brethren and soldiers, I bid you all farewell. Many of us may fall in the fight of to-morrow — God rest the souls of the fallen; many of us may live to tell the story of the fight of to-morrow; and, in the memory of all, will ever rest and linger the quiet scene of this autumnal night.
'Solemn twilight advances over the valley; the woods on the opposite heights fling their long shadows over the green of the meadow; around us are the tents of the continental host, the suppressed bustle of the camp, the hurried tramp of the soldiers to and fro among the tents, the stillness and silence that marks the eve of battle.
'When we meet again, may the long shadows of twilight be flung over a peaceful land.
'God in heaven grant it.'
"And now the last ray of lingering light had departed, and they were left in darkness. Presuming it proper to dismiss his auditors, he proposed a parting prayer, and immediately every head was uncovered and bowed in reverence, while, with outstretched hands, that sincere old man in the homespun garb thus addressed the throne of grace.
"'Great Father, we bow before thee. We invoke thy blessing, we deprecate thy wrath, we return thee thanks for the past, we ask thy aid for the future. For we are in times of trouble, oh, Lord! and sore beset by foes, merciless and unpitying; the sword gleams over our land, and the dust of the soil is dampened with the blood of our neighbors and friends.
'Oh! God of mercy, we pray thy blessing on the American arms. Make the man of our hearts strong in thy wisdom; bless, we beseech, with renewed life and strength, our hope and thy instrument, even GEORGE WASHINGTON. Shower thy counsels on the honorable, the Continental Congress. Visit the tents of our host; comfort the soldier in his wounds and afflictions; nerve him for the hour of fight; prepare him for the hour of death.
'And in the hour of defeat, oh, God of Hosts, do thou be our stay; and in the hour of triumph be thou our guide.
'Teach us to be merciful. Though the memory of galling wrongs be at our hearts, knocking for admittance, that they may fill us with desires for revenge, yet let us, oh, Lord, spare the vanquished, though they never spared us in their hour of butchery and bloodshed. And, in the hour of death, do thou guide us into the abode prepared for the blest; so shall we return thanks unto thee, through Christ, our Redeemer. — GOD PROSPER THE CAUSE. — Amen"
During the recital of this interesting and thrilling incident of the Revolution, the veterans — even Higgins, too — laid down their knives and forks, and listened as if carried back to the memorable eve of the battle of Brandywine, and filled with the hopes and fears of the period. At its conclusion, they expressed their approbation of the manner of the recital, and the beauty of the sermon.
"That minister was one of the kind that I like," said Wilson. "He could preach peace as long as peace was wise, and buckle on his armor and fight when it became his duty."
"Mr. Harmer handles his pen well," remarked Morton, "but such an incident would make any pen write well of itself. There's fire in it."
"Yes, a whole heap of fire," put in Mrs. Harmar, who thought she must make a remark, as she had been quieting the children while the latter part of the sermon and the remarks upon it were listened to by the others.
"But the Lord didn't assist us much in that next day's battle," said old Harmar. "We had hard fighting, and then were compelled to retreat."
"It was all for the best," said Wilson. "We shouldn't have known our enemies nor ourselves without losing that battle. The harder the struggle for liberty, the more we enjoy it when won."
"That's true," said young Harmar, "The freedom dearest bought is highest prized, and Americans have learned the value of that inestimable gem."
The dinner was, by this time, pretty well disposed of, and the party adjourned to the large parlor, where they were soon comfortable seated. Mrs. Harmar would make one of the company, and the children would force their way in to see and hear the "sogers." The windows were up, and the gentle breeze of summer blew softly through the parlor, thus relieving the otherwise oppressive atmosphere.
But we must introduce the company to the reader. Old Hannar was seated on one end of the sofa, with one of the small children on his knee. He was a stout, hearty-looking man of about seventy, with silvery hair, and a face much embrowned by exposure and furrowed by time. The general expression of his features was a hearty good humor, as if perfectly satisfied with things around. On the other end of the sofa sat Mr. Higgins, a thin, small-featured, bald-headed man, looking much older than old Mr. Harmar. On the opposite sofa sat Mr. Morton and Mr. Wilson. The first was a large-bodied, full-faced man, slightly bald, with a scar across his forehead, from the right eye to the left side of his head. His appearance bespoke an active life, and a strong constitution; and his eye yet beamed with intelligence. Mr. Wilson was evidently about seventy-five, with a long, lank face, tall figure, and head scantily covered with grey hair. Mr. Smith sat in an easy arm-chair. His appearance was much the same as that of Mr. Higgins, though his face expressed more intelligence. He had a troublesome cough, and was evidently very weak. Mr. Jackson Harmar sat on a chair next to his father. He was about thirty-five, rather short and thin, with long brown hair, wild, blue eyes, in a "fine frenzy rolling," and a very literary appearance generally. Mrs. Harraar sat near her husband, with two very mischievous little boys, apparently about six and eight years of age, by her side. She had a childish face, but might have been thought pretty by a loving and indulgent husband.
"There is only one other scene during the struggle for our country's right," said young Harmar, "which I would compare with the one I have just narrated; and that is the scene in Congress — the old Continental Congress — during the first prayer by the Rev. Mr. Duche."
"I've heard something of that prayer," said Morton, "since the Revolution, but nothing that I could depend on."
"An account of the scene is given by John Adams, who was a chief actor in it," said young Harmar.
"Old John Adams?" enquired Higgins. "He was the man! He was the Washington of our politics during the war. He was the man!" and Higgins rubbed his hands together.
"Thomas Jefferson, take your foot off your brother's, and quit pinching him," interrupted Mrs. Harmar.
"I have Mr. Adams' account of that first prayer and its effects," said young Harmar, "and here it is." So saying, he pulled from his pocket a paper into which the account had been copied, and read: —
"'When the Congress met, Mr. Gushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay, of New York, and Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, because we were so divided in our religious sentiments, some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists, that we could not join in the same act of worship. Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said, 'that he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety, and who was, at the same time, a friend of his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia, but had heard that Mr. Duche (Dushay they pronounced it) deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to the Congress to-morrow morning.' The motion was seconded, and passed in the affirmative. — Mr. Randolph, our President, waited on Mr. Duche, and received for answer, that if his health would permit he certainly would. Accordingly, next morning he appeared with his clerk, and, in his pontificals, read several prayers in the established form, and then read the collect for the seventh day of September, which was the thirty-fifth psalm. You must remember, this was the next morning after we had heard the rumor of the horrible cannonade of Boston. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning.
"'After this, Mr. Duche, unexpectedly to every body, struck out into an extemporary prayer which filled the bosom of every man present. I must confess I never heard a better prayer, or one so well pronounced. Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervor, such correctness and pathos, and in language so elegant and sublime, for America, for Congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, especially the town of Boston. It has had an excellent effect upon every body here. I must beg you to read that psalm. If there is any faith in the sortes Virgilianæ, or sortes Homericæ, or especially the sortes Biblicæ, it would be thought providential.'
"The thirty-fifth psalm was indeed appropriate to the news received, and the exigencies of the times. It commences: —
"'Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that fight against me.
'Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help.
'Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.'
"What a subject for contemplation does this picture present. The forty-four members of the first Congress, in their Hall, all bent before the mercy-seat, and asking Him that their enemies 'might be as chaff before the wind.' WASHINGTON was kneeling there; and Henry and Randolph, and Rutledge, and Lee, and Jay; and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who, at that moment, had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. It was believed that Boston had been bombarded and destroyed. They prayed fervently 'for America, for the Congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston;' and who can realize the emotion with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for divine interposition and aid? 'It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave Quakers of Philadelphia.'"
"Yes," said Wilson, when young Harmar had concluded, "that was a scene equal, at least, to the one on the eve of Brandywine: how finely old John Adams speaks about it!"
"That Dr. Duche forgot his connexion with the Church of England, and only thought of his country," remarked Morton. "He was a good man."
"Yes; and he prayed in the presence of as good a set of men as was ever assembled together," added Smith. "Them was men — those Congressmen. They didn't get eight dollars a day for making speeches."
"No," put in Higgins, "but they earned a great deal more. Some of 'em lost all the property they had, during the war."
"The spirit which animated our countrymen at that period was the noblest which could prompt the deeds of men," said young Harmar, growing quite eloquent. "From the men who emptied the tea into Boston harbor, to the statesman of the Continental Congress, all were filled with patriotism, and that's the most unselfish of human motives."
"Mrs. Harmar, your sex nobly maintained their reputation for devotion and patriotism during the Revolution," said Wilson. "Did you ever hear how a Quaker lady, named Lydia Darragh, saved the army under Washington from being surprised?"
"No, never," replied Mrs. Harmar.
"No! Then, as a Philadelphia lady, you should know about it," said Wilson.
"The superior officers of the British army were accustomed to hold their consultations on all subjects of importance at the house of William and Lydia Darragh, members of the Society of Friends, immediately opposite to the quarters of the commander-in-chief, in Second street. It was in December, in the year that they occupied the city, that the adjutant-general of the army desired Lydia to have an apartment prepared for himself and friends, and to order her family early to bed; adding, when ready to depart, 'Notice shall be given to you to let us out, and to extinguish the fire and candles.' The manner of delivering this order, especially that part of it which commanded the early retirement of her family, strongly excited Lydia's curiosity, and determined her, if possible, to discover the mystery of their meeting. Approaching without shoes the room in which the conference was held, and placing her ear to the keyhole, she heard the order read for the troops to quit the city on the night of the 4th, to attack the American army encamped at White Marsh. Returning immediately to her room, she laid herself down, but, in a little while, a loud knocking at the door, which for some time she pretended not to hear, proclaimed the intention of the party to retire. Having let them out, she again sought her bed, but not to sleep; the agitation of her mind prevented it. She thought only of the dangers that threatened the lives of thousands of her countrymen, and believing it to be in her power to avert the evil, determined, at all hazards, to apprize General Washington of his danger. Telling her husband, at early dawn, that flour was wanting for domestic purposes, and that she should go to Frankford to obtain it, she repaired to headquarters, got access to General Howe, and obtained permission to pass the British lines. Leaving her bag at the mill, Lydia now pressed forward towards the American army, and meeting Captain Allen M'Lean, an officer, from his superior intelligence and activity, selected by General Washington to gain intelligence, discovered to him the important secret, obtaining his promise not to jeopardize her safety by telling from whom he had obtained it. Captain M'Lean, with all speed, informed the commander-in-chief of his danger, who, of course, took every necessary step to baffle the contemplated enterprize, and to show the enemy that he was prepared to receive them. Lydia returned home with her flour, secretly watched the movements of the British, and saw them depart. Her anxiety during their absence was excessive, nor was it lessened when, on their return, the adjutant-general, summoning her to his apartment and locking the door with an air of mystery, demanded 'Whether any of the family were up on the night that he had received company at her house?' She told him, that, without an exception, they had all retired at eight o'clock. 'You, I know, Lydia, were asleep, for I knocked at your door three times before you heard me, yet, although I am at a loss to conceive who gave the information of our intended attack to General Washington, it is certain we were betrayed; for, on arriving near his encampment, we found his cannon mounted, his troops under arms, and at every point so perfectly prepared to receive us, that we were compelled, like fools, to make a retrograde movement, without inflicting on our enemy any manner of injury whatever.'"
"Ha! ha! a neat stratagem, and a patriotic woman," exclaimed young Harmar.
"Talking of the services of the women during the war," said Higgins, "reminds me of Molly Macauly, or Sergeant Macauly, as we knew her while in the army. She was a Pennsylvanian, and was so enthusiastic in her patriotism, that she donned a man's dress, and joined the army, when she became a sergeant, and fought bravely in several battles and skirmishes. Nobody suspected that she was not what she seemed to be; for she was tall, stout, and rough-looking, and associated with men very freely. Molly had a custom of swinging her sabre over her head, and hurraing for Mad Anthony, as she called General Wayne. She was wounded at Brandywine, and, her sex being discovered, returned home."
"She was not the only woman in disguise in the army," said old Harmar. "There was Elizabeth Canning, who was at Fort Washington, and, when her husband was killed, took his place at the gun, loading, priming, and firing with good effect, till she was wounded in the breast by a grape-shot. While our army lay at Valley Forge, several Pennsylvania women were detected in disguise, enduring all kinds of want, and with less murmuring than the men themselves. Oh, yes! the women were all right in those days, however they may have degenerated since."
"Come, no slander on the women of the present day," said Mrs. Harmar. "I've no doubt, take them all in all; they will not suffer in comparison with those of any age."
"Bravo! Mrs. Harmar," exclaimed Wilson.
"Women, now, are ready enough with disguises," remarked young Harmar.
"To be sure!" replied his wife, "and always were."
"Mr. Smith, can't we have a leaf from your experience in those trying times?" said old Harmar.
"Ah! sir, I would have much to tell if I had time to collect my memory — much to tell, sir. But though I saw a great deal in the Revolution, I heard much more."
"Tell us anything to pass time," said young Harmar. "I've heard my father speak of some bold exploits up in the vicinity of New York. The history of the Cowboys and Skinners always interested me."
"Ah! I've heard many a story of them," replied Smith. "I'll tell you of one old Jack Hanson told me — you recollect old Jack, don't you, Harmar? He was with us at Valley Forge."
"That I do," replied old Harmer. "He gave me a piece of his blanket, and an old shoe, when I believe I was freezing to death."
"Yes, he was ever a good-hearted fellow — Jack Hanson was. He's been dead now about ten years. Well, as I was saying, he told me a story about those Cowboys and Skinners which will bear telling again."
"It happened when the British were in possession of the city of New York. Many brave men did all that could be done to destroy the power and comfort of the king's representatives, and alarm them for their personal safety; and, to the greater part of them, the neighboring county of West Chester furnished both the home, and a theatre of action. Their system of warfare partook of the semi-savage and partisan predatory character, and many fierce and desperate encounters took place between them and the outlawed hordes of desperadoes in the pay of the British.
"The refugees, banded together for the purpose of preying upon the patriots, and then retreating behind the shelter of the royal fortifications, were composed of the vilest miscreants that could be gathered from the dregs of any community, and were generally known by the slang name of 'Skinners.'
"To oppose these desperadoes, and protect their lives and property from insult, many of the whigs had united in small parties, and were styled by the Skinners, in derision, the 'Cow-boys.' One of the most active and energetic of these bands, ever ready for any species of patriotic duty, was led by Nicholas Odell. Nick, as he was familiarly termed, though entirely uneducated, was one of the shrewdest men to be found; for Nature had gifted him where cultivation was wanting, and he became, in consequence, a most formidable and dangerous enemy in the service he had chosen. But fifty men composed his entire force, and with these he did his country much service, and the enemy no little mischief.
"The line of the Bronx River was the route always kept in view by Nick and his men; and, at six several points, places of rendezvous were established, at which they were generally to be found when off duty, which was, indeed, seldom the case.
"One of these places was on the banks of that stream, where the water was so wide and deep as to render it perilous for any but an expert and experienced swimmer to attempt its passage, and always placid, with a sort of oily surface looking like the backed waters of a mill-pond. The banks were covered with a thick undergrowth of vines, saplings, and trees in abundance, so that autumn did not, by taking away the leaves, expose the spot to the observation of the passer-by. Here a rude board shanty had been knocked up in a hurry, and was used to shelter the men from the intense cold of the winter nights. This episode in the stream Nick had named 'Dead Man's Lake,' in consequence of finding on its banks the body of a man who had been murdered and mutilated by his old enemies, the Skinners.
"One evening, in the depth of winter, Nick, who had been a long distance above White Plains, hastened back to the lake in order to intercept a body of Skinners, on their way from Connecticut to the city, with considerable booty taken from the inhabitants in the vicinity of the Sound. They numbered about eighty, under the control of a petty Scotch officer named McPherson. Nick had contrived to gain intelligence of their movements and access to their party, by means of John Valentine, one of his own scouts, who, by his direction, had met and joined the tories with a specious tale, and promised to lead them through the country so securely that none of the prowling rebels should encounter them.
"Previous to John's starting on his perilous adventure, it was agreed that Nick, with all his men, should remain the whole night in question concealed at the lake, without entering the hut. John was then to bring the refugees to the spot, shelter them in the hut, and, at a favorable moment, he would sing out, 'Hurrah for Gin'ral Washington, and down with the red-coats!' when the Cow-boys were to rush in, and take them by surprise.
"Having reached the lake about nine o'clock in the evening, Nick proceeded to devise a plan for concealment, for he expected to wait several hours. The cold was intense, and, like all the servants of Congress, Nick and his men were but ill prepared to resist the inclemency of the weather.
"Nick was in perplexity; no plan could be devised with satisfaction to the majority, and they stood in absolute danger of perishing with cold. The debate on the subject was still in progress, when heavy flakes of snow began to fall briskly, with promising appearances of a long continuance. 'Good!' said Nick, half in soliloquy, as he viewed the feathery element, and a new idea seemed to strike him, 'I have hit it at last. Boys, no grumblin' or skulkin' now, for I won't have it. You must do as I am goin' to order, or we part company.'
"So saying, he directed the whole of his men to enter a swamp meadow which was behind the shanty, and had been rendered hard and porous by the weather. Here he directed them to spread their blankets, and lie down with the locks of their muskets between their knees, and the muzzle protected by a wooden stopper kept for the purpose. Nick enforced this command with an explanation of its advantages: the snow being dry, and not subject to drift, would soon cover them, keeping them quite warm, and would also conceal them at their ease. The porous quality of the ground would enable them to distinguish the distant approach of the enemy, and therefore they could snatch a few moments sleep in the snow. To prevent its being fatal or injurious, he made each man, previous to lying down, drink freely of rye whiskey. Four long hours elapsed, by which time the hardy patriots were completely under the snow, being covered with nearly eight inches of it.
"The keenest eye, or acutest cunning, could not have detected in those undulating hillocks aught but the natural irregularities of swampy ground.
"At length, about two o'clock in the morning, John arrived with his devoted followers. They were right thankful for the shelter of the shanty, and McPherson swore he would report John's generous conduct at head-quarters, and procure him a deserved reward.
"'Wait,' said John; 'I have not done the half that I intend to do for you.'
"Nick, whose bed was nearest the hovel, now arose, and placed himself against it, that he might be ready to act when John's signal was given. He first, however, awoke his men, without permitting them to rise, by the summary process of slightly pricking each one with the sharp point of a bayonet.
"The tories, stowed like sheep in the little hut, soon began to drink, and, as they did so, became very valorous and boastful. McPherson, singularly communicative to John, detailed his atrocities on the route with savage exultation. He feared no assault — not he! He was strong enough to repel any handful of half-starved, skulking outlaws. If he caught any of the Cow-boys he would hang them to their own trees, and manure the soil with the blood of their women.
"John had crept to the door by degrees, and now stood with his hand upon the raised latchet. He applauded the officer's remarks, and was willing, he said, to aid him in the deed he contemplated. He then proposed a toast, and, filling a tin-cup with liquor, said in a loud voice, 'Hurrah for Ginral Washington, and down with the red-coats!' The liquor was dashed in McPherson's face, and John vanished from the hut. Nick immediately summoned his men by a repetition of the toast, and the fifty hillocks of snow were suddenly changed, as if by magic, into as many armed and furious 'rebels.' Before the Skinners could recover from the momentary surprise into which this curious incident had thrown them, a volley of powder and shot had been fired into their midst. Dashing like a frightened hare through the open door, McPherson beheld his assailants. His fears magnified their numbers, and, conceiving there was no hope in fight, he summoned his men to follow him in flight.
"They madly rushed after him, and forcing their way through the dry limbs of brush that stuck up on the banks of the lake, gained the frozen surface. More than one half their number had taken this course, while the rest had either fallen victims to the first fire, or taken to their heels towards the main road. Suddenly a terrible crash was heard, accompanied by a splash, and a hubbub of unearthly screams. The ice had broken, and 'Dead Man's Lake' was accomplishing a victory for the handful of American patriots who stood upon its banks.
"The result was, that over twenty of the Skinners were taken prisoners. Only half-a-dozen were killed by fire-arms. The lake was examined at sunrise, and fifteen bodies were drawn from its remorseless bosom. The remainder, McPherson among them, escaped."
"That Nick Odell was nearly equal to old Nick himself in stratagems," said Wilson, when Smith had concluded.
"It's a wonder the men didn't freeze to death under the snow," said Morton. "I think I should have been opposed to trying such a way of disposing of myself."
"Oh! there 's no doubt about its keeping you warm," said old Harmar.
"How can cold snow keep men warm?" enquired Thomas Jefferson Harmar.
"I suppose," answered Higgins, "that it's much like blowing your warm breath on anything hot to cool it."
As nobody seemed disposed to contradict this explanation, old Higgins took it for granted that he was correct; and Thomas Jefferson was satisfied.
[Illustration: DEFEAT OF THE SKINNERS AT DEADMAN'S LAKE.]
[Illustration: THE STORY OF THE HALF-BREED.]
"Now," said young Harmar, who, as a literary gentleman, was anxious to collect as many incidents of the Revolution as he could from these old men; "now, Mr. Higgins, you must oblige us by recalling something of your experience."
"Ah!" replied Higgins, "if I could tell in words a small part of what I know of the war, I'm sure I could interest you."
"We are not critical," said old Harmar. "Jackson may think of his bookish notions sometimes; but he knows what kind of old men we are. Narrate anything that comes uppermost."
"Well," commenced Higgins, "I'll tell you about an adventure of a friend of mine, named Humphries, with a half-breed — that's horribly interesting — if I can only recollect it." And, after a short pause, to let his old memory bring up the incidents from the far past, Higgins told the following story of revenge.
"In the country around Saratoga, when General Gates lay encamped there, lived a half-breed Indian, called Blonay. He was well known in the neighborhood as a fierce and outlawed character, who wandered and skulked from place to place, sometimes pretending to be for the Americans, and, at others, for the tories. He went anywhere, and did everything to serve his own ends; but his whole life, and all his actions, seemed centred in one darling object, and that was revenge. He had deeply and fearfully sworn never to rest until he had drawn the heart's blood of Humphries, a member of Morgan's corps, and his greatest enemy. They had been mortal foes from boyhood, and a blow Humphries had given Blonay had fixed their hatred for life. He had pursued him from place to place with untiring vigilance, and had watched, day after day, and month after month, for an opportunity to glut his revenge, but none offered.
"One morning, Humphries and a comrade named Davis, with a negro servant belonging to Marion's band, were standing on a small hill near the encampment, when a strange dog suddenly appeared through the bushes, at the sight of which Humphries seized his rifle, and raised it to his eye, as if about to fire. The black was about to express his surprise at this sudden ferocity of manner, when, noticing that the dog was quiet, he lowered the weapon, and, pointing to the animal, asked Davis if he knew it. 'I do; but can't say where I've seen him,' replied the other. 'And what do you say, Tom?' he asked of the black, in tones that startled him. 'Don't you know that dog?' 'He face berry familiar, massa, but I loss to recollect.' 'That's the cur of Blonay, and the bear-eyed rascal must be in the neighborhood.' 'Do you think so?' inquired Davis. 'Think so! I know so; and why should he be here if his master was not?' 'Tom,' he continued, 'hit the critter a smart blow with your stick — hard enough to scare him off, but not to hurt him; and do you move to the edge of the creek, Davis, as soon as the dog runs off, for his master must be in that direction, and I want to see him.'
"Thus ordering, he called two of the riflemen that were near, and sent them on the path directly opposite to that taken by Davis. He himself prepared to strike the creek at a point between these two. He then made a signal, and Tom gave the dog a heavy blow, which sent him howling into the swamp, taking, as they had expected, the very path he came. Blonay, however, was not to be caught napping. He left the point from which he was watching the camp, and running in a line for some fifty yards, turned suddenly about for the point at which he had entered the swamp. But he could not but have some doubts as to the adequacy of his concealment. He cursed the keen scent of the dog, which he feared would too quickly discover him to his pursuers. He hurried on, therefore, taking the water at every chance, to leave as small a trail as possible; but, from place to place, the cur kept after him, giving forth an occasional yelp. 'Aroint the pup! there's no losin' him. If I had my hand on him, I should knife him as my best caution,' exclaimed the half-breed, as the bark of the dog, in making a new trail, showed the success with which he pursued him. Exasperated, he rose upon a stump, and saw the head of Humphries, who was still pressing on, led by the cries of the dog.
"'I can hit him now,' muttered Blonay. 'It's not two hundred yards, and I've hit a smaller mark than that at a greater distance, before now.'
"He raised the rifle and brought the sight to his eye, and would have fired, but the next minute Humphries was covered by a tree. The dog came on, and Blonay heard the voices of his pursuers behind; and just then the dog reached him.
"The faithful animal, little knowing the danger into which he had brought his master, leaped fondly upon him, testifying his joy by yelping with his greatest vocal powers.
"With a hearty curse, Blonay grasped the dog by the back of the neck, and, drawing the skin tightly across the throat, quickly passed the keen edge of his knife but once over it, and then thrust the body from him. Sheathing the knife and seizing his rifle, he again set forward, and did not stop till he gained a small but thick under-brush. His pursuers now came up to the dead body of the dog; seeing which, they considered further pursuit hopeless.
"At this moment, sounds of a trumpet came from the camp, as the signal to return. Humphries told the others to obey its summons, but avowed his determination of pursuing Blonay until he or the other had fallen. After they had left him, he again set forward, and walked very fast in the direction he supposed his enemy had taken, and had not proceeded far ere he saw his track in the mud, which he followed until it was lost among the leaves. Darkness coming on, he gave up the chase until the next morning. That night both slept in the swamp, not more than two hundred yards apart, but unconscious of each other's locality. In the morning, Humphries was the first to awake. Descending from the tree where he had slept, he carefully looked around, thinking what he should do next. While he thus stood, a slight noise reached his ears, sounding like the friction of bark; a repetition of it showed where it came from. He glanced at an old cypress which stood in the water near him, and saw that its trunk was hollow, but did not look as if it would hold a man. On a sudden, something prompted him to look upward, and, in the quick glance he gave, the glare of a wild and well-known eye, peeping out upon him from its woody retreat, met his gaze. With a howl of delight, he raised his rifle, and the drop of the deadly instrument fell upon the aperture; but before he could draw the trigger the object was gone. It was Blonay, who, the moment he perceived the aim of Humphries' piece, sank into the body of the tree.
"'Come out and meet your enemy like a man!' exclaimed Humphries, 'and don't crawl, like a snake, into a hollow tree, and wait for his heel. Come out, you skunk! You shall have fair fight, and your own distance. It shall be the quickest fire that shall make the difference of chances between us. Come out, if you're a man!' Thus he raved at him; but a fiendish laugh was the only answer he got. He next tried to cut his legs with his knife, by piercing the bark; but a bend of the tree, on which Blonay rested, prevented him. He then selected from some fallen limbs one of the largest, which he carried to the tree and thrust into the hollow, trying to wedge it between the inner knobs on which the feet of the half-breed evidently were placed. But Blonay soon became aware of his design, and opposed it with a desperate effort. Baffled for a long time by his enemy, Humphries became enraged, and, seizing upon a jagged knot of light wood, he thrust it against one of the legs of Blonay. Using another heavy knot as a mallet, he drove the wedge forward against the yielding flesh, which became awfully torn and lacerated by the sharp edges of the wood. Under the severe pain, the feet were drawn up, and Humphries was suffered to proceed with his original design. The poor wretch, thus doomed to be buried alive, was now willing to come to any terms, and agreed to accept the offer to fight; but Humphries refused him, exclaiming, 'No, you don't, you cowardly skunk! you shall die in your hole, like a varmint as you are; and the tree which has been your house shall be your coffin. There you shall stay, if hard chunks and solid wood can keep you, until your yellow flesh rots away from your bones. You shall stay there until the lightning rips open your coffin, or the autumn winds tumble you into the swamp.' So saying, he left him, and went back to the camp — left him to die in the old woods, where no help could ever come; and in this wild and awful manner — buried alive — perished the savage half-breed."
"That was an awful death, indeed," exclaimed Mrs. Harmar. "That Humphries must have been a very disagreeable fellow."
"And why so?" enquired Higgins. "The men in those parts of the country were forced to be as fierce as their foes. Humphries was one of the cleverest fellows I ever knew."
"A man after your own heart," remarked Smith. "A warm friend and a warm foe. I know you, Higgins."
"You should know me, Smith, or no man should," replied Higgins, evidently profoundly satisfied with himself.
"Many a time have we messed together," added Smith; "ay, and many a time have we hunted in company for the food we made a mess of."
"Those times are gone," said old Harmar mournfully. "Those times are gone."
"I wonder where?" put in Mrs. Harmar's youngest, looking up in her face for an answer. She smoothed his hair, and shook her head.
"Speaking of awful deaths," said Morton, "reminds me of a scene I witnessed at Saratoga, which I may as well tell you about, as young Mr. Harmar seems anxious to hear anything relating to the war of independence. You know there was an unconscionable number of tories up there in New York State about the time of Burgoyne's invasion. Some of them were honest, good sort of men, who didn't happen to think just as we did: they kept at home, and did not lift their arms against us during the war, though some of them were pretty hardly used by their whig neighbors. Another set of the tories, however, acted upon the maxim that 'might makes right.' They were whigs when the royal power was weak, and tories when they found it strong. Though raised in the same neighborhood with the staunch whigs, these men turned robbers and murderers, and lost all virtuous and manly feelings. Colonel Tom Lovelace was one of this class: He was born and raised in the Saratoga district, and yet his old neighbors dreaded him almost as much as if he had been one of the fierce Senecas. When the war commenced, Lovelace went to Canada, and there confederated with five men from his own district, to come down to Saratoga, and kill, rob, or betray his old neighbors and friends. There's no denying Lovelace was a bold, wary, and cunning fellow, and he made the worst use of his qualities. He fixed his quarters in a large swamp, about five miles from the residence of Colonel Van Vechten, at Dovegat, and very cunningly concealed them.
"Soon after, the robberies and captures around that neighborhood became frequent. General Schuyler's house was robbed, and an attempt was made, by Lovelace and his companions, to carry off Colonel Van Vechten. But General Stark, who was in command of the barracks north of Fish Creek, was too wide awake for him. He got wind of the scheme, and gave the Colonel a strong guard, and so Lovelace was balked, and compelled to give up his design. Captain Dunham, who commanded a company of militia in the neighborhood, found out the tory colonel's place of concealment, and he determined to attempt his capture. Accordingly, he summoned his lieutenant, ensign, orderly, and one private, to his house; and, about dusk, they started for the swamp, which was two miles distant. Having separated to reconnoitre, two of them, named Green and Guiles, got lost; but the other three kept together, and, about dawn, discovered Lovelace and his party, in a hut covered over with boughs, just drawing on their stockings. The three men crawled cautiously forward till near the hut, when they sprang up with a shout, levelled their muskets, and Captain Dunham sang out, 'Surrender, or you are all dead men!' There was no time for parley; and the tory rascals, believing that our men were down on them in force, came out one by one, without arms, and Dunham and his men marched them off to General Stark's quarters. The rascals were all tried by court-martial, as spies, traitors, and robbers; and Lovelace was sentenced to be hung, as he was considered too dangerous to be allowed to get loose again. He made complaint of injustice, and said he ought to be treated as a prisoner of war; but our general could not consent to look upon such a villain as an honorable soldier, and his sentence was ordered to be carried into effect three days afterwards. I was then with a company of New York volunteers, sent to reinforce General Stark, and I was enabled to gratify my desire to witness the execution of a man I detested. The gallows was put up on the high bluff a few miles south of Fish Creek, near our barracks. When the day arrived, I found that our company was on the guard to be posted near the gallows. It was a gloomy morning, and about the time the tory colonel was marched out to the gallows, and we were placed in position at the foot of the bluff, a tremendous storm of wind and rain came on. It was an awful scene. The sky seemed as black as midnight, except when the vivid sheets of lightning glared and shot across it; and the peals of thunder were loud and long. Lovelace knelt upon the scaffold, and the chaplain prayed with him. I think if there was anything could change a man's heart, it must have been the thought of dying at such a time, when God himself seemed wrathful at the deeds of men.
"I expected to be delighted with seeing such a man hung; but I tell you, my friends, I felt very differently when the time came, and I saw the cruel tory kneeling on the scaffold, while the lightning seemed to be quivering over the gallows. I turned away my head a moment, and when I looked again, the body of Lovelace was suspended in the air, and his spirit had gone to give its account to its God."
The account of this terrible scene had deeply interested the company; and the animated manner of Morton impressed even the children with a feeling of awe.
"Why didn't they postpone the hanging of the man until there was a clear day?" enquired Mrs. Harmar.
"Executions are never postponed on account of the weather, my dear," replied her husband. "It would be rather cruel than otherwise thus to delay them."
"I've heard of that Lovelace before," remarked old Harmar. "I judged that he was a bold villain from some of his outrages, and I think he deserved his death."
"For my part," said Higgins, "I hated the very name of a tory so much, during the war, that I believe I could have killed any man who dared to speak in their defence. All that I knew or heard of were blood-thirsty scoundrels."
"If you were at Saratoga, Mr. Morton, perhaps you know something about the murder of Miss M'Crea," said Mrs. Harmar.
"Oh, yes! I know the real facts of the case," replied Morton. "I got them from one who was acquainted with her family. The real story is quite different from the one we find in the histories of the war, and which General Gates received as true."
"Then set us right upon the matter," remarked young Harmar.
"Do," added Wilson. "I've heard the story through two or three twistings, and I'm only satisfied that the lady was killed."
"Well," commenced Morton, "what I now tell you may depend on as the truest account you can receive. No one but Heaven and the Indians themselves witnessed the death of the young girl; and our only evidence of a positive nature is the declaration of those who were supposed to be her murderers. But to the story.
"Jane M'Crea, or Jenny M'Crea, as she is more generally known, was the daughter of a Scotch clergyman, who resided in Jersey City, opposite New York. While living with her father, an intimacy grew up between the daughter of a Mrs. M'Niel and Jenny. Mrs. M'Niel's husband dying, she went to live on an estate near Fort Edward. Soon after, Mr. M'Crea died, and Jenny went to live with her brother near the same place. There the intimacy of former years was renewed, and Jenny spent much of her time at the house of Mrs. M'Niel and her daughter. Near the M'Niel's lived a family named Jones, consisting of a widow and six sons. David Jones, one of the sons, became acquainted with Jenny, and at length this friendship deepened into love. When the war broke out, the Jones's took the royal side of the question; and, in the fall of 1776, David and Jonathan Jones went to Canada, raised a company, and joined the British garrison at Crown Point. They both afterwards attached themselves to Burgoyne's army; David being made a lieutenant in Frazer's division. The brother of Jenny M'Crea was a whig, and, as the British army advanced, they prepared to set out for Albany. Mrs. M'Niel was a loyalist, and, as she remained, Jenny remained with her, perhaps with the hope of seeing David Jones.
"At length Jenny's brother sent her a peremptory order to join him, and she promised to comply the next day after receiving it. On the morning of that day, (I believe it was the 27th of July,) a black servant boy belonging to Mrs. M'Niel discovered some Indians approaching the house, and, giving the alarm, he ran to the fort, which was but a short distance off. Mrs. M'Niel, Jenny, a black woman, and two children, were in the house when the alarm was given. Mrs. M'Niel's eldest daughter was at Argyle. The black woman seized the two children, fled through the back door into the kitchen, and down into the cellar. Jenny and Mrs. M'Niel followed; but the old woman was corpulent, and before they could descend, a powerful Indian seized Mrs. M'Niel by the hair and dragged her up. Another brought Jenny out of the cellar. But the black woman and the children remained undiscovered. The Indians started off with the two women on the road towards Burgoyne's camp. Having caught two horses that were grazing, they attempted to place their prisoners upon them. Mrs. M'Niel being too heavy to ride, two stout Indians took her by the arms, and hurried her along, while the others, with Jenny on horseback, proceeded by another path through the woods. The negro boy having alarmed the garrison at the fort, a detachment was sent out to effect a rescue. They fired several volleys at the party of Indians; and the Indians said that a bullet intended for them mortally wounded Jenny, and she fell from her horse; and that they then stripped her of her clothing and scalped her, that they might obtain the reward offered for those things by Burgoyne.
"Mrs. M'Niel said that the Indians who were hurrying her along seemed to watch the flash of the guns, and fell down upon their faces, dragging her down with them. When they got beyond the reach of the firing, the Indians stript the old lady of everything except her chemise, and in that plight carried her into the British camp. There she met her kinsman, General Frazer, who endeavored to make her due reparation for what she had endured. Soon after, the Indians who had been left to bring Jenny arrived with some scalps, and Mrs. M'Niel immediately recognised the long bright hair of the poor girl who had been murdered. She charged the savages with the crime, but they denied it, and explained the manner of her death. Mrs. M'Niel was compelled to believe their story, as she knew it was more to the interest of the Indians to bring in a prisoner than a scalp.
"It being known in camp that Lieutenant Jones was betrothed to Jenny, some lively imagination invented the story that he had sent the Indians to bring her to camp, and that they quarrelled, and one of them scalped her. This story seemed to be confirmed by General Gates' letter to Burgoyne, and soon spread all over the country, making the people more exasperated against the British than ever. Young Jones was horror-stricken by the death of his betrothed, and immediately offered to resign his commission, but they would not allow him. He bought Jenny's scalp, and then, with his brother, deserted, and fled to Canada."
"Did you ever hear what became of him?" enquired Mrs. Harmar.
"Yes; he was living in Canada the last time I heard of him," replied Morton. "He never married; and, from being a lively, talkative fellow, he became silent and melancholy."
"Poor fellow! It was enough to make a man silent and melancholy," remarked young Harmar. "I can imagine how I would have felt if deprived of her I loved, in as tragical a manner." "Don't — don't mention it, my dear!" exclaimed his wife, sensibly affected at the thought of her being scalped.
"It was a horrible transaction," remarked Wilson; "and it had a stirring effect upon our people. I can recollect when I first heard the story with all its embellishments; I felt as if I could have eaten up all the red varmints I should chance to meet."
"General Gates's version of the affair answered a good purpose," said Higgins. "It roused our people to great exertions to defeat the designs of a government which employed those savages."
"King George's government thought it had a right to make use of every body — rascals and honest men — to effect its design of enslaving us; but we taught 'em a thing or two," added Morton, with a gratified smile.
"I suppose," said young Harmar, "that, while you were up in New York, you heard of many bloody affairs with the Indians and tories."
"Many a one," replied Morton. "Many a one, sir. I could interest you for days in recounting all I saw and heard. The poor whigs suffered a great deal from the rascals — they did. Those in Tryon county, especially, were always exposed to the attacks of the savages. I recollect an affair that occurred at a settlement called Shell's Bush, about five miles from Herkimer village.
"A wealthy German, named John Shell, had built a block-house of his own. It was two stories high, and built so as to let those inside fire straight down on the assailants. One afternoon in August, while the people of the settlement were generally in the fields at work, a Scotchman named M'Donald, with about sixty Indians and tories, made an attack on Shell's Bush. Most of the people fled to Fort Dayton, but Shell and his family took refuge in the block-house. The father and two sons were at work in the field when the alarm was given. The sons were captured, but the father succeeded in reaching the block-house, which was then besieged. Old Shell had six sons with him, and his wife loaded the muskets, which were discharged with sure aim. This little garrison kept their foes at a distance. M'Donald tried to burn the block-house, but did not succeed. Furious at the prospect of being disappointed of his expected prey, he seized a crowbar, ran up to the door, and attempted to force it; but old Shell fired and shot him in the leg, and then instantly opened the door and made him a prisoner. M'Donald was well supplied with cartridges, and these he was compelled to surrender to the garrison. The battle was now hushed for a time; and Shell, knowing that the enemy would not attempt to burn the house while their captain was in it, went into the second story, and began to sing the favorite hymn of Martin Luther, when surrounded with the perils he encountered in his controversy with the Pope."
"That was cool," remarked Higgins.
"Bravely cool," added old Harmar.
"Oh, it was necessary to be cool and brave in those times," said Morton. "But to go on with my story; the respite was very short. The tories and Indians were exasperated at the successful resistance of the garrison, and rushed up to the block-house. Five of them thrust the muzzles of their pieces through the loop-holes; but Mrs. Shell seized an axe, and, with well-directed blows, ruined every musket by bending the barrels. At the same time, Shell and his sons kept up a brisk fire, and drove the enemy off. About twilight, the old man went up stairs, and called out in a loud voice to his wife, that Captain Small was approaching from Fort Dayton, with succor. In a few minutes, he exclaimed, 'Captain Small, march your company round on this side of the house. Captain Getman, you had better wheel your men off to the left, and come up on that side.' This, you see, was a stratagem. The enemy were deceived, took to their heels, and fled through the woods, leaving eleven men killed and six wounded. M'Donald was taken to Fort Dayton the next day, where his leg was amputated; but the blood flowed so freely that he died in a few hours. On his person was found a silver-mounted tomahawk, which had thirty-two scalp notches on the handle, to show how he had imitated the savages."
"But what became of the two sons who were captured by the tories and Indians?" inquired young Harmar.
"They were carried to Canada," replied Morton. "They afterwards asserted that nine of the wounded tories died on the way. But some of the Indians were resolved to have revenge for their defeat, and they lurked in the woods near Shell's house. One day they found the wished-for opportunity, and fired upon Shell and his boys while they were at work in the field. One of the boys was killed, and Shell so badly wounded that he died soon after, at Fort Dayton."
"Revenge seems a part of an Indian's nature," remarked young Harmar.
"Yes," said Higgins, "they will pursue one who has injured them in any way until he has paid for it."
"Our people suffered much from them during the Revolution," added Higgins, "and they want no instruction in regard to their character."
"I recollect," said old Harmar, "after our line went south, under General Wayne, just after the surrender of Cornwallis, I met some of the men who had passed through Green's campaign. They were the bitterest kind of whigs — men who had seen their houses burnt over their heads, and who could have killed and eaten all the tories they should meet. They told me many wild stories of the black doings of those traitorous rascals."
"Tell us one of them, won't you?" entreated Mrs. Harmar.
"Come, father, spin us one of those yarns, as the sailors say," added her husband. The children also became clamorous for 'a story,' and the old veteran was compelled to comply.
"Well, you shall hear. A man named Joe Bates told me how he had been used by the enemy, and how he had been revenged. He joined the southern army when Greene first took command of it, leaving his wife and two children at his farm on the banks of the Santee River. His brother, John Bates, promised to take care of the family and the farm. You see, John used to help Marion's band whenever he could spare the time — he was so anxious to do something for the good of his country, and he didn't know how else he could do it than by going off on an occasional expedition with Marion. Well, some how or other, Major Wernyss, the commander of the royalists in the neighborhood, got wind of John's freaks, and also of those of some other whig farmers, and he said he would put a stop to them. So he sent a detachment of about twenty-five men to burn the houses of the people who were suspected of being the friends of Marion. John Bates heard of their coming, and collected about ten or a dozen whigs to defend his house. He hadn't time to send the wife of Joe and his children away to a safer place, or else he thought there was no better place. However it was, they remained there. The house was barred up, and everything fixed to give the red-coats a warm reception, should they attempt to carry out their intention. The time they chose for it was a moonlight night. The neighbors could see their houses burning from the upper windows of the one where they were posted, and they kept muttering curses and threats of vengeance all the time."
"Why didn't each man stay at home, and take care of his own house?" enquired Mrs. Harmar.
"Of what use would that have been?" returned old Harmar. "By so doing, they could not have saved any house, and would have lost the chance of punishing the red-coats for their outrages. I forgot to tell you, though, that some of the farmers had brought their wives and children to Bates', and these were all put up-stairs out of the way. The little garrison had made loop-holes on all sides of the house, and each man had his rifle and knife ready to guard the post at which he was stationed. John Bates was the captain, because he knew most about such fightin' matters; he learned it of Marion. Well, at last the garrison caught sight of the Britishers coming up steadily, the leader a little in advance. They didn't seem to suspect that any body was in the house, for they had found all the rest deserted. Still they thought it wise to be careful. They surrounded the house at their leader's command, and were getting their things ready to set fire to it, when the garrison, who had kept still as death all the time, blazed away at them from all sides. This staggered the whole party; four or five of their number were shot dead, and as many more wounded. They rallied, however, and poured a volley into the house. The garrison, under John's command, returned the fire, and seemed to have decidedly the best of the matter. Joe's wife couldn't content herself up-stairs with the women and children. She wanted to be of some use in defending her own house. She would come down and load the guns for John, while he kept a look-out on the movements of the British party. Well, she had just loaded the gun, and was handing it to John, when a bullet whizzed past him, struck her in the breast, and she fell dead. John Bates looked through the loop-hole, and caught sight of one of the red-coats running back from the house, and fired at him but missed. He saw the man's face, though, and remembered it. John then bore the corpse up-stairs. The women and children shrieked at the sight, and thus discovered to the cowardly foe where they were placed. A volley was sent through the upper part of the house, which killed one of Joe's children and wounded the wife of a neighbor. But the enemy were losing men too fast to continue the attack. I think Joe said they had lost half their party in killed and wounded, while in the house only one man was wounded. The red-coats that were left began to move off, dragging some of their wounded with them. Then the farmers threw open the doors and windows, and, giving a shout of triumph, sent a volley after them that must have done some damage."
"Didn't they start a pursuit?" inquired Higgins.
"No: John thought his party was not strong enough, and that the glory of defeating such a party of regulars was enough for once. But several of the wounded red-coats were taken. Some of the farmers wanted to kill them right off, but John wouldn't let them. He said there had been blood enough shed already, and set them at work to bury the dead. Soon after, John went to the army, and told Joe of the attack, and of the death of his wife and child. Joe swore, by the most sacred oaths, to have revenge; and made John describe the appearance of the man whom he had seen running away from the house after firing the shot that had killed Mrs. Bates. The man had peculiar features, and could not be mistaken.
"At the great Battle of Eutaw Springs, Joe was among the troops who charged with trailed arms. He came upon a man who answered the description given by John, and rushed upon him with such force that he pinned him to the ground with his bayonet, and he then drew a knife across his throat to make sure work of it. He told me that he stopped, amid a tremendous storm of grape and musketry, to take a look at the Britisher, and to be sure that he had no life in him."
"What bloody creatures war can make men," remarked young Harmar. "That man was not sure he had killed the murderer of his wife."
"It made no difference to him," replied old Harmar. "He hated the whole set, and he had no mercy on any of them. Joe Bates was a clever fellow — as warm a friend and as quiet a companion as you would wish to meet in time of peace; but he hated like he loved — with all his heart, and would go through fire and death to get at a foe."
"I believe Joe Bates' conduct was a fair specimen of that of the whole people of those parts, at that time," said Wilson. "I've been told that the whigs and tories had no mercy on each other."
"Not a bit," added old Harmar. "It seems to me that the fighting up here in the North was child's play in comparison with that in the South. Every man on the American side that went into the battle of Eutaw Springs, was so full of courage and the desire of revenge that he was equal to two common men. Greene had difficulty in restraining their ardor within the limits of prudence. I heard of Colonel Henry Lee and his legion coming up with a body of tories who were assembled to march to the British camp, and his men would slaughter them without mercy, in spite of his efforts to restrain them."
"It was a bloody time," remarked Smith.
"God grant that we may never see its like again," added Morton.
"Up this way," said Wilson, "the tories were quite peaceable and respectable; and some of them were badly treated without any reason for it. They were honest men, and differed in opinion with those who judged the Declaration of Independence and the assumption of arms, necessary measures."
"Yes," replied Higgins; "its all very well for men to differ in opinion — nobody finds fault with that; its taking up arms against their own countrymen, and opposing their country's cause, that we grumble at. We should all adopt Commodore Decatur's motto; 'Our country — right or wrong.' If she be right, our support cannot be refused; if wrong, we should endeavor to set her right, and not, by refusing our support, or by taking up arms against her, see her fall."
"Bravo!" cried Mr. Jackson Harmar. "There's the true patriotic sentiment for you. Allow me, Mr. Higgins, to shake hands with you over that sentiment."
The veteran patriot extended his hand, and received the hearty shake of the patriot of another generation.
"Grandfather," said Thomas Jefferson Harmar, "wont you tell us something about Mad Anthony Wayne?"
"Who learnt you to call him Mad Anthony Wayne?" inquired Higgins.
"That's what grandfather calls him," replied the boy.
"Yes," said old Harmar; "we always called him Mad Anthony — he was such a dare-devil. I don't believe, if that man, when alone, had been surrounded by foes, they could really have made him afraid."
"He was a bold and skilful general," remarked Morton. "He was equal to Arnold in those qualities, and superior to him in all others."
"I think I can see him now, at Morristown, in the midst of the mutineers, with his cocked pistol in his hand, attempting to enforce orders — an action that no other man would have thought of doing under such circumstances." "He did his duty," said Wilson; "but the men cannot be censured for their conduct. They had received no pay for many months, were without sufficient clothing to protect them from the weather, and sometimes without food. If they had not been fighting for freedom and their country's rights, they never could have stood it out."
"One of the best things Wayne ever did," said Smith, "was that manoeuvre of his in Virginia, where the British thought they had him surely in a net."
"What manoeuvre was that?" inquired Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"Why, you see, General Lafayette was endeavoring to avoid a general action with Cornwallis, and yet to harass him. Early in July, 1781, the British army marched from Williamsburg, and encamped on the banks of the James River, so as to cover a ford leading to the island of Jamestown. Soon after, the baggage and some of the troops passed the ford, but the main army kept its ground. Lafayette then moved from his encampment, crossed the Chichahominy, pushed his light troops near the British position, and advanced with the continentals to make an attempt on the British rear, after the main body had passed the river. The next day, the Marquis was told that the main body of the British had crossed the ford, and that a rear-guard only remained behind. This was what the British general wanted him to believe, and he posted his troops ready to receive our men. Well, General Wayne, with eight hundred men, chiefly of the Pennsylvania line, (including Mr. Harmar, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Wilson, and myself,) was ordered to advance against the enemy. Now, Wayne thought he had to fight a rear-guard only, and so he moved forward boldly and rapidly; but, in a short time, he found himself directly in front of the whole British army, drawn up to receive him. Retreat was impracticable, as the enemy then might have had a fair chance to kill or capture the whole detachment. Wayne thought that the best plan was to put on a bold face, and so he commenced the attack at once. A fierce and bloody struggle followed, and I'm not sure but we were gaining the advantage, when General Lafayette discovered the mistake and ordered a retreat, and we were compelled to fall back, leaving two cannon in the hands of the enemy. By General Wayne's presence of mind and courage, you see, we got off with but the loss of one hundred men. The British lost the same number."
"The Marquis was, of course, right in ordering a retreat," remarked young Harmar.
"I suppose so," replied Smith. "Our detachment might have made considerable havoc among the British, and, perhaps, if promptly supported, have maintained a long and doubtful battle. But General Lafayette wanted to save his men until a more certain contest could be brought about. He was a very young general — younger than Napoleon when he took command of the army of Italy; but all his movements about that time indicated that he was as skilful and vigilant as he was brave."
"Americans should ever be grateful to the memory of such a man as Lafayette," said old Harmar. "He was a true lover of liberty, and a staunch friend to this land when it most needed friends."
"And that reminds me," added young Harmar, "that I've a song here, which I wrote for one of the papers, in relation to Lafayette. It is arranged in the measure of the feeling melody of 'Auld Lang Syne.'"
"Sing it," said Mr. Smith; and the request was echoed by the rest. Mr. Jackson Harmar, therefore, after sundry excuses in the usual routine — that he had a cold, &c. — sang the following words in a very emphatic manner, with an occasional break in the high notes, and huskiness in the low ones.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot And never brought to mind? The friend that's true, remember'd not, And days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, We never can forget; When dangers press'd, and foes drew near, Our friend was Lafayette.
When first our fathers bravely drew 'Gainst tyrants and their laws, On wings of generous zeal he flew To aid the holy cause. For auld lang syne, my dear, &c.
He stemm'd the broad Atlantic wave; He vow'd they should be free; He led the bravest of the brave To death or victory. For auld lang syne, my dear, &c. Let Brandywine his glory tell, And Monmouth loud proclaim; Let York in triumph proudly swell The measure of his fame. For auld lang syne, my dear, &c.
Shall sons of freedom e'er forget, Till time shall cease to move, The debt they owe to Lafayette Of gratitude and love? For auld lang syne, my dear, &c.
The song was listened to with considerable pleasure by the company, and there was an occasional attempt, on the part of the veterans, to join in the chorus, which, however, ended in a slight cough and shaking of the head, as if the attempt was hopeless.
"There's good sentiment in that song," remarked Smith. "It stirs the heart."
"Mr. Harmar, did you say the piece was your own composition?" inquired Morton.
"It is one of my humble efforts," modestly replied Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"I'm very glad there are some young men left who can write something else besides the love trash that's so popular," said Mr. Higgins. Old men generally have a strong aversion or lofty contempt for everything relating to the love matters of youth.
"Everything has its time," was the sage remark of Mr. Jackson Harmar; "or, in the more popular phrase of Mr. Shakespeare, 'Every dog will have his day!'"
"I should like to see patriotic songs more popular," remarked Morton; and it is highly probable the conversation would have continued on this subject, but Mrs. Harmar and the children kept up a constant clamor for more stories, and old Harmar consented to amuse them and the rest of the company with a story which, he said, he had seen in several papers, and told in several different ways, none of which were correct. The true circumstances he would then relate in order that his son might make a story of it for his forthcoming work, — "Legends of the Times that tried Men's Souls."
"In the fall and winter of 1776," began Mr. Harmar, "the people of New Jersey experienced their full share of the miseries of civil war. During no period of the Revolutionary contest did the enemy's troops act more cruelly or more unlike civilized men. As they marched through the Jerseys, driving our poor 'rebel' army before them, they committed all kinds of outrages on helpless women and old men; but this conduct was destined to recoil upon the heads of the foe. The people were roused to resist the invaders, and the militia was organised throughout the State — silently but surely. Our victories at Trenton and Princeton were received as the signals for action. As the enemy retired on Brunswick, they were followed by the exasperated farmers, and harassed terribly. But, at the time when my story commences, the red-coats were in quiet possession of New Jersey, from Burlington to New York. General Washington had come over on this side of the Delaware.
"It was late in December. The weather was bitter cold, and the enemy seldom stirred from their quarters to visit the interior of the State. This respite would have been refreshing to the harassed farmer, if the withdrawal of the regular troops had not left free play for the more desperate servants of King George, or others who pretended to be such. One of these pretenders was named Fagan. He was the leader of about twenty ruffians as free from any particle of human feeling as himself. There was no romance about the black character of Fagan; he was a 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 road.
"'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 natur'.'
''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 cause.'
"'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 old Anne.
"'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.
"'Charles — boys — what means — '
'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 bloody creeters.'
"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 slay."
"Fagan was well punished for his outrages," remarked Wilson.
"It was the only way for the inhabitants to ensure their safety," said Smith.
"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 Harmar.
"Yes, that was a strange affair, Morton; tell 'em about it," added Higgins.
"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 matters.
"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 again exclaimed:
'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 Revolution.
"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 this evening.'
"'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 Murray.
"'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 my country!'
"'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 Harmar.
"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 Québec.
"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 Québec. 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 mystery.'
"'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,' replied Gilbert.
'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 unequal strife.'
'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, interrupting him.
"'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.
"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 Harmar.
"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 Miss Caroline — '
"'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 Caroline.'
"'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. Williams.'
"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 accents.
"'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 of success.
"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 of danger.'
"'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 Egypt?'
"'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 ground.
"'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 death.'
"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. Harmar.
"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 Harmar.
"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.
"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 to."
"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 Higgins.
"Ay; and from the vicinity of Philadelphia," replied Smith. "They could not have recovered from such a defeat."
"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 quakèd; 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 vessel.
"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 dangerously wounded.
"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 their destruction."
"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 individuals."
"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, ironically.
"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."
"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 neighborhood."
"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 general, his rescue certainly, and probably the destruction of the party, would have been the consequence.
"The first room Major Barton entered was occupied by Mr. Pering, who positively denied that General Prescott was in the house. He next entered the room of his son, who was equally obstinate with his father in denying that the general was there. Major Barton then proceeded to other apartments, but was still disappointed in the object of his search. Aware that longer delay might defeat the object of his enterprise, Major Barton resorted to stratagem to facilitate his search. Placing himself at the head of the stairway, and declaring his resolution to secure the general dead or alive, he ordered [Illustration: CAPTURE OF GENERAL PRESCOTT.] his soldiers to set fire to the house. The soldiers were preparing to execute his orders, when a voice, which Major Barton at once suspected to be the general's, demanded 'What's the matter?' Major Barton rushed to the apartment from whence the voice proceeded, and discovered an elderly man just rising from his bed, and clapping his hand upon his shoulder, demanded of him if he was General Prescott. He answered 'Yes, sir.' 'You are my prisoner, then,' said Major Barton. 'I acknowledge that I am,' replied the general. In a moment, General Prescott found himself, half dressed, in the arms of the soldiers, who hurried him from the house. In the meantime, Major Barrington, the aid to General Prescott, discovering that the house was attacked by the rebels, as he termed them, leaped from the window of his bed-chamber, and was immediately secured a prisoner. General Prescott, supported by Major Barton and one of his officers, and attended by Major Barrington and the sentinel, proceeded, surrounded by the soldiery, to the shore. Upon seeing the five little boats, General Prescott, who knew the position of the British shipping, appeared much confused, and, turning to Major Barton, inquired if he commanded the party. On being informed that he did, he expressed a hope that no personal injury was intended him; and Major Barton assured the general of his protection, while he remained under his control.
"The general had travelled from head-quarters to the shore in his waistcoat, small-clothes, and slippers. A moment was now allowed him to complete his dress, while the party were taking possession of the boats. The general was placed in the boat with Major Barton, and they proceeded for the main.
"They had not got far from the island, when the discharge of cannon and three sky-rockets gave the signal of alarm. It was fortunate for the party that the enemy on board the shipping were ignorant of the cause of it, for they might easily have cut off their retreat. The signal of alarm excited the apprehensions of Major Barton and his brave associates, and redoubled their exertions to reach the point of their destination before they could be discovered. They succeeded, and soon after day-break landed at Warwick Neck, near the point of their departure, after an absence of six hours and a half.
"General Prescott turned towards the island, and, observing the ships of war, remarked to Major Barton, 'Sir, you have made a bold push to-night.' 'We have been fortunate,' replied the hero. An express was immediately sent forward to Major-General Spencer, at Providence, communicating the success which had attended the enterprise. Not long afterwards, a coach arrived, which had been despatched by General Spencer to convey General Prescott and his aide-de-camp prisoners to Providence. They were accompanied by Major Barton, who related to General Spencer, on their arrival, the particulars of the enterprise, and received from that officer the most grateful acknowledgments for the signal services he had rendered to his country."
"I suppose Prescott paid for Lee soon afterwards?" said young Harmar. "Yes; he was an officer of equal rank with Lee. The enemy had refused to exchange Lee for two or three officers of an inferior grade, but they were ready enough to take Prescott for him," replied Morton.
"It was as complete an enterprise as was ever carried through," remarked old Harmar.
"The poor general must have been surprised to find he was a prisoner, when he thought himself safe among an army and fleet," observed Mrs. Harmar.
"Major Barton was every inch a hero. See his skill and daring in planning and executing the capture, and then his modesty when Prescott said he had made a bold push — 'We have been fortunate.' The reply was worthy of the noblest of the Athenians," remarked Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"Circumstances did certainly favor the enterprise," said Smith. "In fact, we may say its success turned upon chances, and if it had failed and the whole party been made prisoners, Major Barton would have been called a rash and inconsiderate officer. Success works wonders in our estimate of deeds."
"You are harsh. Barton calculated the chances before he entered into the expedition — saw that they were in his favor, and then formed his plan. I am persuaded that, had he failed, his countrymen would have done him justice," said Wilson.
"Perhaps," replied Higgins.
"I say, Mr. Higgins," said old Harmar, wishing to change the subject, "do you recollect Jonathan Riley and Frank Lilly, that were in our company?"
"I do. I shall never forget the death of either of them," replied Higgins. "Poor Frank used to be the butt of the regiment."
"And why shall you always remember the death of those two men?" inquired Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"Well, from peculiar circumstances connected with them," replied Higgins. "However, your father knew them most intimately, and he can tell you more about them than I can."
"Come, father, we call on you for the story," said Mrs. Harmar.
"You shall have what I can recollect of it, my child. My memory won't pass muster any more; but if there's one event that will never escape its grasp, it is the singular death of Jonathan Riley. He was a sergeant in our regiment.
[Illustration: RILEY GOING TO THE PLACE OF EXECUTION.]
He had served in the old French war, and, being a man of tried courage and presence of mind, he was usually selected for dangerous and trying situations. He was at length placed on a recruiting station, and in a short period he enlisted a great number of men. Among his recruits was Frank Lilly, a boy about sixteen years old, who was so weak and small that he would not have passed muster if the array had not been greatly in want of men. The soldiers made this boy the butt of their ridicule, and many a joke was perpetrated at his expense. Yet there was a spirit in the boy beyond his years. Riley was greatly attached to him; and it was reported, on good authority, that he was the fruit of one of Riley's love affairs with a beautiful and unfortunate girl.
"Often on our long and fatiguing marches, dying almost from want, harassed incessantly by the enemy, did Riley carry the boy's knapsack for miles, and many a crust for the poor wretch was saved from his scanty allowance. But Frank Lilly's resolution was once the cause of saving the whole detachment. The American army was encamped at Elizabethtown. The soldiers stationed about four miles from the main body, near the bay that separated the continent from Staten-Island, forming an advance picket-guard, were chosen from a southern regiment, and were continually deserting. It was a post of some danger, as the young ambitious British officers, or experienced sergeants, often headed parties that approached the shore in silence, during the night, and attacked our outposts. Once they succeeded in surprising and capturing an officer and twenty men, without the loss of a man on their part. General Washington determined to relieve the forces near the bay, and our regiment was the one from which the selection was made. The arrangement of our guard, as near as I can recollect, was as follows:
"A body of two hundred and fifty men was stationed a short distance inland. In advance of these were several outposts, consisting of an officer and thirty men each. The sentinels were so near as to meet in their rounds, and were relieved every two hours. It chanced one dark and windy night, that Lilly and myself were sentinels on adjoining posts. All the sentinels were directed to fire on the least alarm, and retreat to the guard, where we were to make the best defence we could, until supported by the detachment in our rear. In front of me was a strip of woods, and the bay was so near that I could hear the dashing of the waves. It was near midnight, and occasionally a star was to be seen through the flying clouds. The hours passed heavily and cheerlessly away. The wind at times roared through the adjoining woods with astonishing violence. In a pause of the storm, as the wind died suddenly away, and was heard only moaning at a distance, I was startled by an unusual noise in the woods before me. Again I listened attentively, and imagined that I heard the heavy tread of a body of men, and the rattling of cartridge boxes. As I met Lilly, I informed him of my suspicions. All had been quiet in the rounds, but he promised to keep a good watch, and fire on the least alarm. We separated, and I had marched but a few rods, when I heard the following conversation. 'Stand.' The answer was from a speaker rapidly approaching, and in a low constrained voice. 'Stand yourself, and you shall not be injured. If you fire, you are a dead man. If you remain where you are, you shall not be harmed. If you move, I will run you through.'
"Scarcely had he spoken, when I saw the flash, and heard the report of Lilly's gun. I saw a black mass rapidly advancing, at which I fired, and with all the sentinels retreated to the guard, consisting of thirty men, commanded by an ensign. An old barn had served them for a guard-house, and they barely had time to turn out, and parade in the road, as the British were getting over a fence within six rods of us, to the number of eighty, as we supposed. We fired upon them, and retreated in good order towards the detachment in the rear. The enemy, disappointed of their expected prey, pushed us hard, but we were soon reinforced, and they, in their turn, were compelled to retreat, and we followed them at their heels to the boats. We found the next morning that poor Frank Lilly, after discharging his musket, was followed so close by the enemy that he was unable to get over a fence, and he was run through with a bayonet. It was apparent, however, that there had been a violent struggle; for in front of his post was a British non-commissioned officer, one of the best formed men I ever saw, shot directly through the body. He died in great agonies, as the ground was torn up with his hands, and he had literally bitten the dust. We discovered long traces of blood, but never knew the extent of the enemy's loss. Poor Riley took Lilly's death so much to heart that he never afterwards was the man he previously had been. He became indifferent, and neglected his duty. There was something remarkable in the manner of his death. He was tried for his life, and sentenced to be shot. During the trial and subsequently, he discovered an indifference truly astonishing. On the day of his execution, the fatal cap was drawn over his eyes, and he was caused to kneel in front of the whole army. Twelve men were detailed for the purpose of executing him, but a pardon had been granted, unknown to Riley, in consequence of his age and services; they had no cartridges. The word 'ready' was given, and the cocking of guns could be distinctly heard. At the word 'fire,' Riley fell dead upon his face, when not a gun had been discharged."
"That was a remarkable death; but there have been many instances of a similar kind. The dread of death has been sufficient to produce it without a mortal blow," remarked Wilson.
"But I cannot believe that Riley ever felt a dread of death. He was always as reckless of his own life as if it was not of the value of a pin's head. No; it was not the dread of death," replied old Harmar.
"It may have been the belief that death was certainly about to visit him. Imagination may produce effects quite as wonderful," observed Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"It's a waste of time and thought to speculate on such things," said Smith. "But I'm inclined to believe, with young Mr. Harmar, that it was the result of imagination. A man hearing the word 'fire,' in such a case, would feel sure of death, and then his faculties would sink into the expected state."
"I guess Riley's heart must have been almost broken at the death of poor Frank Lilly," said Mrs. Harmar.
"Yes; he felt it deeper than most of us thought, and as I said, became perfectly indifferent whether his duty was performed or not," replied old Harmar. "The whole story of Riley and Lilly, including the account of the love affair, was a sad bit of romance."
"The people of Pennsylvania," observed Morton, "suffered more from the tories and Indians than they did from the British. Philadelphia and its vicinity were the only parts which any considerable British force visited; but look at the depredations of the tories and Indians on the northern and western frontiers, and at the massacre at Wyoming particularly."
"Ay, there were suffering and horror enough experienced in that valley alone, to match those of any other event in our history. It was a time of blood and desolation," remarked Mr. Jackson Harmar.
"I was intimately acquainted with several families residing in the valley at the time of the massacre," said Morton; "and one man, who was taken prisoner after seeing his whole family slaughtered, and who afterwards escaped from the bloody band, narrated the whole affair to me."
"There is considerable dispute in regard to the circumstances attending the massacre. It seems impossible to get at the precise truth," observed Mrs. Harmar. "It's my opinion, the horrors of the event have been greatly exaggerated," added Smith.
"I do not think they could be exaggerated," replied Morton. "If you desire it, I will relate the circumstances as they were narrated to me. I can vouch for the strict regard to truth that has ever distinguished my friend."
Of course, the company signified their desire to hear the account, and thereupon Morton began as follows.
"Wyoming, besides being a frontier settlement during the course of the Revolutionary war, and therefore constantly exposed to the inroads of the savages, had furnished two full companies, and about sixty recruits more, for the main army — all which were annexed to the Connecticut line, and armed at their own expense. They amounted, in the whole, to two hundred and thirty men. While thus weakened and unguarded, they were invaded by an army from Niagara, in the British service, composed of regulars, tories, and Indians; of which the Indians composed the greater part.
"The Indians, in the spring of 1777, began to be troublesome. Their numbers were frequently augmented by the arrival of new parties; and it was from the cattle, hogs, and other plunder taken from the inhabitants, that they furnished themselves with provisions. Some of the inhabitants were killed by them, and others captured; and they destroyed much property. At length they became very formidable.
"The inhabitants had erected several small forts, but the principal one was Forty Fort, in Kingston, on the west side of the river, a small distance above Wyoming Falls. To this the settlers had chiefly resorted. They had sent agents to the continental army to acquaint them with their distressed situation; in consequence of which, Captain Spaulding, with about sixty or seventy men, was dispatched to their assistance. This detachment was, at the time of the massacre, about forty miles distant. The garrison had been apprised of their march from Lancaster, but not of their proximity.
"The people in the garrison grew uneasy, under the insults of the invaders. The militia were placed under officers taken from themselves, and the whole body was commanded by Colonel Zebulon Butler, of the continental army. Colonel Dennison, of the militia, was second in command. There was a fortification about three miles above Forty Fort, called Wintermoot's Fort. This was in the possession of tories. They surrendered at the approach of the enemy, without opposition, and gave them aid; some of them entering fully into their interests. Wintermoot's Fort instantly became the headquarters of the expedition from Canada; and was commanded by Colonel John Butler, a British officer, and commander of a party of rangers. The second in command was Colonel Brandt, a natural son of Sir William Johnson, by an Indian woman. Some communications by flag had taken place between the hostile parties previous to the battle, with propositions of compromise. The Canadians insisted on an unqualified submission to Great Britain; but this the garrison peremptorily refused, and nothing was effected. The reciprocal bearers of flags represented the army of the invaders as double the garrison in number, and still more superior in the quality of their arms.
"It was debated in the garrison, whether it would be a point of prudence to hazard a sally. An officer, who had been at the enemy's camp with a flag, opposed it, as did also Colonel Dennison and several others, and Colonel Butler rather declined it; but, among others who were in favor of it, a certain captain, (who never lived to lament his temerity,) urged it with so much vehemence, that the commandant consented. A Mr. Ingersol, then in the garrison with a flag from the enemy, had been some time their captive, and was intimately acquainted with their strength. He did his utmost to deter them from the rash attempt, but all in vain; and, when he saw them turn out and parade, could no longer refrain from tears.
"The third day of July, in the year 1778, was the fatal day that deluged in blood the plains of Wyoming! The garrison marched off in a solid column, and met with no material obstruction till they reached the enemy's camp, about three miles above Forty Fort. Here they had the Susquehanna on the right, and a thick swamp on the left; and, perceiving that the enemy extended from the one to the other, ready to receive them, they displayed column, which threw them into a similar position. Colonel Zebulon Butler commanded the right, and was opposed by Colonel John Butler, on the enemy's left. Colonel Dennison commanded on the left, and was opposed by Colonel Brandt, on the enemy's right. The action commenced at about forty rods distance. The air being heavy, the smoke obstructed their sight; and, after the first discharge, they could only direct their aim by the flash of the enemy's guns. Little execution was done till after several discharges. Brandt marched a party into the swamp, and flanked the militia. The enemy, now firing from under cover of the thicket, greatly annoyed that wing. The militia dropped down very fast, and at length began to give way, one after another, in rapid succession, till the rout became general. The fugitives were closely pursued by the Indians, who, besides their rifles and tomahawks, were provided with long spears, which they threw with great dexterity, and seldom missed their object — the practice of throwing the tomahawk and spear, and of taking aim, being the principal exercises to which an Indian warrior is trained.
"It was impossible for men thus flying and thus pursued to rally, nor had they a moment's time even to load their pieces, while death was close upon every man's heel. And, besides, many of them had no other weapon but a rusty musket. Flight was their only hope; and the Indians, being most accustomed to running, if they could not run the fastest, could, however, out-wind them. The carnage at once became general, and three-fourths of the militia were killed.
"According to the account of some who were present, the number that sallied out was five hundred, and of those who escaped the scalping-knife two hundred. Others assert that the sortie consisted of but three hundred, and those who escaped were less than one hundred. The probability is that, between the confusion, carnage, and panic of the day, the accounts are all incorrect. But, by every account, about three hundred able-bodied men, amounting to more than half the settlement, were slain on that dismal day.
"The fugitives fled in every direction. Some saved themselves by fair running; some, by hiding till the darkness covered their retreat; and many by swimming the river, &c. Particular details of all individual escapes cannot be given; nor would they, perhaps, be entertaining, and I shall, therefore, pass them over. Some few of the enemy were killed in the pursuit; their total loss was never ascertained, but we are to presume that it was small.
"Forty Fort was immediately evacuated. Some few of the inhabitants took British protections, and remained on their premises. The signal for a house under protection was a white cloth hung up near the door, and for a man, a white rag round the crown of his hat.
"Those of the militia who escaped from the battle, hastened toward the Delaware, and, on their way through the swamp, met Captain Spaulding's detachment, who, on being informed of the strength of the enemy and deplorable condition of the settlement, judged it prudent to turn about and retire to the settlement on the Delaware.
"The road through the swamp was thronged with women and children, heavy-hearted and panic-struck; destitute of all the comforts of life, travelling day and night, and in continual dread of the tomahawk and scalping-knife! The whole country, and all the property in it, was abandoned to the savages, save only by the few who had taken British protections.
"Colonel Nathan Dennison, who succeeded to the command after Butler escaped, seeing the impossibility of an effectual defence, went with a flag to Colonel John Butler, to know what terms he would grant on a surrender; to which application Butler answered, with more than savage phlegm, in two short words, 'The hatchet.' Dennison, having defended the fort till most of the garrison were killed or disabled, was compelled to surrender at discretion. Some of the unhappy persons in the fort were carried away alive; but the barbarous conquerors, to save the trouble of murder in detail, shut up the rest promiscuously in the houses and barracks, which they set on fire, enjoying the savage pleasure of beholding the whole consumed in one general blaze.
"They then crossed the river to the only remaining fort, Wilkesborough, which, in hopes of mercy, surrendered without demanding any conditions. They found about seventy continental soldiers, who had been engaged merely for the defence of the frontiers, whom they butchered with every circumstance of horrid cruelty. The remainder of the men, with the women and children, were shut up, as before, in the houses, which being set on fire, they perished altogether in the flames.
"A general scene of devastation was now spread through all the townships. Fire, sword, and the other different instruments of destruction, alternately triumphed. The settlements of the tories alone generally escaped, and appeared as islands in the midst of the surrounding ruin. The merciless ravagers, having destroyed the main objects of their cruelty, directed their animosity to every part of living nature belonging to them — shooting and destroying some of their cattle, and cutting out the tongues of others, leaving them still alive to prolong their agonies.
"The following are a few of the more singular circumstances of the barbarity practised in the attack upon Wyoming. Captain Bedlock, who had been taken prisoner, being stripped naked, had his body stuck full of splinters of pine-knots, and then a heap of the same piled around him; the whole was then set on fire, and his two companions, Captains Ranson and Durgee, thrown alive into the flames and held down with pitchforks. The returned tories, who had at different times abandoned the settlement in order to join in those savage expeditions, were the most distinguished for their cruelty: in this they resembled the tories that joined the British forces. One of these Wyoming tories, whose mother had married a second husband, butchered with his own hands both her, his father-in-law, his own sisters, and their infant children. Another, who during his absence had sent home several threats against the life of his father, now not only realized them in person, but was himself, with his own hands, the exterminator of his whole family, mothers, brothers, and sisters, and mingled their blood in one common carnage with that of the aged husband and father. The broken parts and scattered relics of families, consisting mostly of women and children who had escaped to the woods during the different scenes of this devastation, suffered little less than their friends, who had perished in the ruins of their houses. Dispersed, and wandering in the forests as chance and fear directed, without provision or covering, they had a long tract of country to traverse, and many, without doubt, perished in the woods."
"Such deeds make the blood curdle in my veins," observed Mrs. Harmar.
"It is said that the cruelty of Colonel John Butler at Wyoming has been greatly exaggerated," remarked Mr. Jackson Harmar. "His son, Walter Butler, was certainly a savage, and the bloody deeds he committed have been frequently attributed to his father. But I think history should set the matter right, nor found its assertions upon the stories of the exasperated whigs."
"That's well thought of you, Mr. Harmar, but it's my opinion that historians cannot find any evidence of the humanity of John Butler. As I said before, I firmly believe the story of my friend. If John Butler did not butcher the men who asked for quarter, he looked quietly on while the red men did it, and therefore he is just as criminal, in my eyes, as if he had handled the tomahawk," said Morton, emphatically.
"Colonel Zebulon Butler, with his family, escaped from the fort before the massacre, I believe?" observed Higgins, inquisitively.
"Yes; and in that I think he betrayed his trust. A commander should either conquer or die with his men," replied Morton.
"But when slaughter is certain, I think every man is justified in doing all that he can to save himself," said old Harmar.
"That is selfish. If slaughter was certain, would it not have been more honorable to remain, and make the enemy pay life for life, than it would be to steal away and leave women and children to fall without revenge?" observed Wilson.
"But would it be wise?" asked old Harmar, interrogatively.
"Whatever is honorable is wise," replied Wilson.
"Mr. Mortan, what do you think was the most interesting scene you saw during the war?" enquired Mr. Jackson Harraar.
"Well, that's a question it requires some thinking to answer," replied Morton. "Leaving battle scenes out of view, I think the celebration of the Dauphin's birth-day, in May, 1782, was one of the most interesting events I have ever witnessed."
"It was a great celebration," observed Higgins.
"You see," began Morton, "our army was then encamped on the high grounds on both sides of the Hudson. The camp on the west side of the river was called New Boston, because the huts had been put up by the Massachusetts troops. The head-quarters of General Washington were at West Point. As our Congress had entered into an alliance with the king of France, General Washington thought it proper to seize every occasion of doing honor to our allies; and when the French were thrown into all sorts of rejoicing by the birth of an heir to the throne, he decided that we should celebrate the same event. The thirty-first of May was fixed upon for the celebration. Great preparations were made for the festival. In General Washington's orders, invitations were given to all the officers in the army, and they were requested to invite any friend or acquaintance they might have in the country to join them. A romantic, open plain near West Point was chosen for the building of the great bower under which the company were to meet and partake of a grand feast. A French engineer, named Villefranche, was employed, with one thousand men, ten days in completing it, and, when completed, it was one of the most beautiful edifices I have ever seen. It was composed entirely of the material which the trees in the neighborhood afforded, and was about six hundred feet long and thirty wide. The roof was supported by a grand colonnade of one hundred and eighteen pillars made of the trunks of trees. The roof and walls were made of the boughs and branches of trees, curiously interwoven, while the ends were left open. On the inside, every pillar was enriched with muskets and bayonets, which were arranged in a fanciful manner; and the whole interior was decorated with evergreens, French and American colors, and various emblems and mottoes.
"On the day of the festival, the whole army was paraded on the hills on both side of the river, and it was a grand view. For several miles around, as far as the eye could reach, lines of men, glittering in their accoutrements, appeared. The officers were in front, or among their respective commands, and their waving plumes seemed like floating foam on the waves. At the signal — the firing of three cannon — all the regimental officers left their commands and proceeded to the building to join in the festivities there prepared by order of the commander-in-chief.
"At five o'clock, dinner being on the table, an interesting procession moved from the quarters of Major-General M'Dougall, through a line formed by Colonel Grain's regiment of artillery. In front, walked the noble commander-in-chief, his countenance expressive of unusual cheerfulness, and his stately form moving with characteristic grace and dignity. He was accompanied by his lady, and his suite followed him. Then came all the principal officers of the army with their ladies, Governor Clinton and lady, and various distinguished characters from the States of New York and New Jersey. The procession moved to the vast bower, where more than five hundred guests were assembled. The banquet was magnificently prepared, and bands of music added melody to the other charms of the scene — thus feasting and satisfying the eye, the ear, and the palate. The cloth being removed, thirteen appropriate toasts were drank, each being announced by the firing of thirteen cannon and the playing of appropriate music by the bands in attendance. The company retired from the table at seven o'clock, and the regimental officers rejoined their respective commands. In the evening, the arbor was brilliantly illuminated. The numerous lights, gleaming among the boughs and leaves of the trees that composed the roof and the walls, presented the appearance of myriads of glowworms or of thousands of stars glittering in the night. When the officers had rejoined their different regiments, thirteen cannon were again fired, as a prelude to the general feu-de-joie which immediately succeeded. Three times was it repeated, and the reverberations sounded among the hills with tremendous effect, darkness adding grandeur to the scene, as the flashing of the musketry of the army broke upon it like sheeted lightning. The feu-de-joie was immediately followed by three shouts of acclamation and benediction for the dauphin, given by the whole army as with one voice. At half-past eleven o'clock the celebration was concluded by an exhibition of fireworks, ingeniously constructed of various figures. There was a ball given during the evening in the arbor, at which General Washington, with Mrs. Knox for a partner, led the dance. Thus ended the general festivity."
"There," remarked Mrs. Harmar, "that has interested me much more than all the horrible stories that have been told to-day. How I should have liked to be there!"
"It was a sight such as all men are not permitted to see," said Morton.
"It was grand — it was sublime!" exclaimed Mr. Jackson Harmar. "A scene worthy of any pen or any pencil!" As Mr. Jackson Harmar seized all such opportunities for exercising his literary propensities, it was most probable that he considered that the pen alone could do justice to the scene, and that his pen was destined to immortalize it.
The bell now rang for tea, and the party adjourned to the tea-table, where, however, the conversation turned upon matters foreign to the Revolution. Mrs. Harmar would introduce household concerns when her husband began to allude to the war, and the children, especially Thomas Jefferson Harmar, would play around the old veterans, asking them trifling questions, until the meal was finished, and then Morton, Higgins, Smith, and Wilson prepared to return to their respective residences. Morton lived in the interior of Pennsylvania, and was stopping with a near relative during his visit to the city. The other three resided in New Jersey, and were putting up at the same house — that of a friend of Higgins'. Old Harmar shook hands with his old camp associates, wishing them many days of health and happiness to come, and trusting that they might meet again before death should claim them. The veterans kissed the children, and Morton gave Thomas Jefferson Harmar a bullet from Bunker's Hill, telling him to learn what his countrymen had fought and bled for, and to act like them on a like occasion, if any such should ever occur, which he earnestly hoped would never be the case. Mr. Jackson Harmar procured a carriage, and the veterans being soon comfortably seated, he accompanied them to their respective residences. On bidding him farewell, the aged patriots thanked him for his kindness, which Mr. Jackson Harmar returned with an elaborate panegyric on the men of the Revolution, and the duty of his generation to treat them with the highest veneration and respect. The public either suffered from or were benefited by the interview between Mr. Jackson Harmar and the veteran patriots, for the press soon teemed with stirring poetical appeals to the people to hold their liberties dearer than life, on account of the blood that they had cost. A large volume also appeared, entitled "Legends of the Times that tried Men's Souls," beginning with the history of the "Old State-House Bell."