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LEE AND SHEPARD Boston Mass.
â€œFIGHTING THEIR BATTLES OvER AGAINâ€
THE WATCH FIRES
SAMUEL ADAMS DRAKE
â€œ The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sat by the fire and talked the night awayâ€
LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS
10 MILK STREET
CopyYRIGHT, 1895, BY SAMUEL ADAMS DRAKE
All Rights Reserved
Tue WatcH Fires or â€™76
TYPOGRAPHY BY C. J. PETERS & SON, BOSTON.
PRESSWORK BY ROCKWELL & CHURCHILL.
THE PENSION AGENT. .
THe First TROPHY OF THE REVOLUTION. *.
THE FLIGHT oF HANCOCK AND ADAMS.
THE OLD CocKED Hat
THE READING MINTUE-MEN
THE Kincâ€™s OWN REGULARS
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA
THE OLD SERGEANTâ€™S STORY .
CuHewâ€™s House . .
THE DEATH OF GENERAL FRAZER. .
A ForRTUNATE DISCOVERY
A Moruerâ€™s Love. ....
GENERAL GATES .
THE CLOTHES-LINE TELEGRAPH
THE KIDNAPPING OF GENERAL PRESCOTT.
AT VALLEY FORGE. .
THE FIRE IN THE REAR:
Stony Point JAcKson .
EIGE-HIRING 9,5 =.
OLp Purâ€™s GALLows . .
THE SECRET SERVICE.
Davip Gray, THE DouBLeE Spy .
THE SPY AND THE INNKEEPER .
CHARLEY MORGAN. . .
FEMALE HEROISM ..
Tue INTREPIDITY OF Miss Ross
THE Story oF A Tory. .
THE YOUNG SENTINEL
A TEMPERANCE SERMON
Our FRENCH ALLIES .
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS
THE BRAVE OLD BARON STEUBEN
CARMEN BELLICOSUM. ....
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
â€œFIGHTING THEIR BATTLES OVER AGAINâ€ . Frontispiece
PORTRAIT OF WASHINGTON : Se gee eee ACL /C.
THE HEAD OF A PATRIOT . . E aan aNe 2)
BUNKER-HILL MONUMENT : SUSI Eas 7
THE First TROPHY OF THE REVOLUTION . coe: 8
ComMBAT AT THE CONCORD BriDGE eels
Province House .. . ; e 15
Boston Boys GuyinG a BRITISH OFFICER ee 22)
Percy MARCHING Out, APRIL 19TH : 25
Russet, House, ARLINGTON, Mass P 30
Hosmer House, Concorp, Mass . 38
A BRITISH GRENADIER . er eat
â€œT Fert BACK DEPRIVED OF SENSE OR MotIONâ€ . , . 44
Tue Heap oF aA TRAITOR. . . , 55
WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE Go 69
CoLoniaL Frac . . . . 5 reer G20 5 : 80
Tue CHew Housr, GERMANTOWN Be ete 81
GENERAL BURGOYNE . . . 3 ae fewer CO,
AN AMERICAN RIFLEMAN . : eae. 97
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER . eae log
THE SILVER BULLET . ae ; 108
GENERAL Horatio Gares . eae : Poe 114
EQurEsTRIAN PoRTRAIT OF WASHINGTON 136
AVES TuRP ODN Ts NG Verena yates ine fae p 6 + 141
Ruins oF Fort Putnam, West Point. . . ae S 147
â€œSTORMING oF Stony Point ... eee Sere 153
vill LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
InmMAN House, CAMBRIDGE, Mass'. . . . .... + 162
WASHINGTONâ€™S HEADQUARTERS, TAPPAN, N.Y... . . 2. 1970
WEAVOR: JORIN ANID 56 6 o 0 6 6 50 0.6 0-0-0 : 173
WASHINGTONâ€™S TREASURE CHEST -. . ....., - 178
Gis IGANG, 5 5G 6 6 0 0Â° 0:0 6 6 6 6 , 153
SHR ISVS COOTON 5 5 oo 2 5 96 5.0 0 Â© 0 6 0 0 BOR
WASHINGTONâ€™S SERVICE SWORD, AND STAFF. . . . . . . 207
IBIRICISH 2S OL DINE Race tea ie tet ee oer en emery ee NOT
WWASIETINIGMON) IBEW 5Â° 5-5 ceo 0 B96 bo 6 6 6 6 6 6 5 Bei
DNV AGT ETT RANT re oe ee ee ee 0)
HIS<@) GEC SVE AC er i sees ee ee mn 2
Doe! Nari Op 178 6 6 o 6 50 6 6 Â» 6 6 6 0 YO
WORESHONTN, Who a 6 co 0 0 0 0 0 00.0 a 6 6 0 9 0 0 Ae
CORBWWAGHS 9 5 oo 0 0 0 6 0 o oo 6 9 6 0 8 oo BBY
WHERE THE SURRENDER Took PLACE . . ..... . . 259
SVU. Â© IV VE NIT pe ea ees en et ee O
SHOWIN oo oo 0 6 0 6 6 6 6b 6 6 9 0 06 6 626 AM
WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
THE PENSION AGENT
SOME years ago, in the course of my rambles
among the battlefields of old Middlesex, I chanced
to fall in with a hale old gentleman of seventy, or .
thereabouts, in whose company I spent very many
happy hours. He knew the history of all the older
families of the neighborhood by heart. He had
the open sesame to all the old houses, and in not
a few cases also held the key which unlocked
closed chambers and long unused closets, in which
the family skeleton was shut out from the knowl-
edge of a gossiping world.
He told me that he had formerly been a Revolu-
tionary pension agent. Though his clients were
all dead, his occupation gone, his interest in them
had suffered no abatement, and was easily aroused.
His: gray eye would light up whenever we ap-
proached some century-old cottage, as if the bare
sight of it had made him feel twenty years younger,
or had awakened some slumbering recollection.
2 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
When we knocked at the door, he seemed to
expect to see one of his former clients standing,
with extended hand, on the threshold. There
was a hesitation in his manner, in his speech,
which showed all too plainly how hard it was
to realize the passing of his own generation.
Together we gleaned the country round of its
secrets. Like another Old
Mortality, he would scrape
away the clinging mosses
from some weather-beaten
headstone with loving
hand, and fall into silent
communion with himself
over the fading inscription
of â€œA soldier of the Rev-
olution, mustered out.â€
Then, as we loitered
homeward, he would tell .
: me some little anecdote,
Tur Heap or a Parrior OF some scrap of history,
which the incident had
called up, to all of which, it is certain, I eagerly
What a pity, thought I, that all the knowledge
this man has gathered, as it fell from the lips of
those veterans, should perish with him! Upon
this thought I spoke.
â€œYou must have accumulated a vast fund of
information, first and last,â€™ I suggested,
THE PENSION AGENT 3
By way of reply he threw open a closet door,
and taking down from a shelf one of half a dozen
thick folios, he let it fall on the table before me.
A cloud of light dust rose and floated around
the room, as if we had wantonly disturbed the
ashes of the dead.
I turned over the leaves with a certain feeling
of respect. Muster-rolls, enlistment papers, sworn
affidavits, letters of identification, furloughs and
the like, followed each other in rapid succession.
It was like a disbanded army again collected with-
out order or organization. It was like the head-
stones in the old graveyard across the way.
Impressed with my.idea, I put my finger, at
hazard, on a name against which, in the margin,
there was only a cross. â€˜â€œ Who was this man,
who thus makes his mark?â€ asked. â€œWas that
â€œOh,â€ replied the pension agent, glancing over
my shoulder, â€œthat was my first case. Queer old
chap, that. You should have seen him come hob-
bling in here one day on his crutch. I asked him
the usual questions, made out the application in
proper form, and told him where to sign his
name. He couldnâ€™t do it because he had lost his
right arm, and could only make his mark with
his left. :
â€œJ then asked him for his discharge papers or
other proofs of service.
â€œ* Proofs, proofs,â€™ the old fellow repeated after
4 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
me, in high dudgeon, â€˜hereâ€™s one,â€™ touching his
empty sleeve; â€˜hereâ€™s another,â€™ pushing back his
long, scanty white hairs, so as to uncover a deep
scar on his seamy forehead ; â€˜and hereâ€™s another,
somewhere hereabouts,â€™ he added, fumbling with
unsteady hand at the buttons of his waistcoat.
â€˜What more do you want ?â€™
â€œOf course I stopped him. â€˜Nothing,â€™ said I
mildly, â€˜you need nothing more to convince me ;
but the rules of the pension office are strict, you
see, and must be complied with.â€™ .
_ Â«<Â«Tâ€™yve got my gun and caâ€™tridge-box to home,â€™
he said doubtfully. ;
â€œT told him to go home and make search for
the necessary papers. â€˜ By-the-by, how did you
lose your arm?â€™ J asked him as he was going.
â€œMe? lose my arm? Oh, I lost it at the
storming of Fort Montgomery by the British.
Youve heard tell of that?â€™ I nodded. â€˜Ah,-
that was rough and tumble! We had a cannon
trained on them, loaded chock up to the muzzle
with every kind of thing we could rake and scrape
up, even to old spikes and horseshoes. I was
cannoneer. I was chuckling to myself a thinkinâ€™
_ what kind of a grist we would give them, when up
they come a-hoorarin like time. Says I to my-
self, nowâ€™s your time, Jake; give it to â€™em. Just
as I was touchinâ€™ her off, a musket-ball from the
â€˜enemy broke this arm, thug! Like a fool I let
the match drop to the ground. â€œSteady,â€ says I
THE PENSION AGENT 5
to myself; â€œthat cannonâ€™s got to be fired.â€ I
snatched up the match with my left hand, saw it
was lighted, gave it a switch to make sure, and
touched off the piece at the very instant the
enemy were rushing into the fort, shouting, â€˜â€˜ Give
the rebel rascals no quarter!â€™â€™ When the smoke
blew off, not a living soul was to be seen nowhere
near. You can tell them thatâ€™s why I have to
make my mark. I never learned how to write
with my left hand.â€™â€
â€œBravo! I hope he got his pension,â€ I cried.
â€œOh, yes, he got it; but I had a deal of trouble
to establish his claim, all the same. Red tape is
no respecter of persons.â€
â€œThe hand that wrote this signature must have
shaken terribly,â€ I remarked, seeing that my host
had finished. â€˜â€œ What do you make of it?â€ I
â€œNo wonder you're puzzled. Thatâ€™s Starbuck
Ramsdell. The boys used to call him Old Buck-
ram, for short. â€˜Joe,â€™ he used to say to me, â€˜Iâ€™ve
settled down in three States. I left one leg in
the Jarseys, an arm in Virginny, and the rest of
me is here in old Massachusetts.â€™ He used to ask
the parson if he thought a man like him would -
find himself all together on resurrection day.
â€œWell, when Ramsdell applied to me for his
papers, I asked-him where he had served. Some-
how that question always nettled those old sol-
diers. They seemed to think you were playing
6 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
with them. Poor old Buckram! He was over
eighty, nearly blind, and hardly able to help
himself. He flew up in a moment.
â€œÂ«Why, first,â€™ said he, â€˜in the old French War. ,
Put that down.â€™
Â«Â«Â«Qh,â€™ said I, â€˜you canâ€™t get a pension for that.
You must have served in the Revolutionary
I was at Bunker Hill, afterwards at Long Island,
and the taking of the Hessians at Trenton. Have
you got that down?â€™
â€œÂ¢Ves, in black and white.â€™
Â«Â«Thatâ€™s right. Then I was at the attack on
Germantown, in the battle of Monmouth, and
finally at the siege of Yorktown, in Virginia;
and,â€™ added the old man, his eyes rekindling with
the fire of 76, â€˜I was the first American sentinel
placed at the quarters of Lord Cornwallis when
he became an American prisoner.â€™ â€
Before leaving him, I made my friend promise
to tell me as many more of these stories as he
could remember, and it was accordingly agreed
that we should meet every Thursday evening for
. the purpose; he meanwhile refreshing his memory
by a reperusal of his old documents; while I,
fully alive to the conviction that individual valor
and heroism had never had half the recognition
they deserved, made up my mind that love of
country could have no nobler inspiration than in
THE PENSION AGENT 7
these homely tales of the Continental rank and
file. Brave veterans! those of us who, in our
own generation, have striven to uphold the totter-
ing fabric that your devotion had reared, salute
8 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
THE FIRST TROPHY OF THE REVOLUTION
On my part, I took good care that the pension
agent should not forget his promise. -
Â«Since you were here,â€ said he at our next
meeting, â€œI have been ransacking my memory as
well as my old documents ; and, as luck would have
it, I have found some minutes of several informal
meetings, held at the old village tavern, years and
years ago. In fact, I had forgotten all about
them. The tavern was a place of much resort
for my clients, the veterans; but at first it was
like pulling teeth to get them to talk at all; nor
would they until I had broken the ice myself.
Now imagine yourself in that tavern, and fancy
that you hear them talking through my lips,
if you can.â€ With this preamble he thus pro-
ceeded : â€”
â€œAmong other relics of the old Revolutionary
times, sacredly preserved in the State House at
Boston, is an old kingâ€™s arm with a history. No
soldier would ever dream of carrying such a
clumsy affair nowadays; indeed, visitors are often
THE FIRST TROPHY OF THE â€œREVOLUTION 9
heard to remark that the gun looks as if it would
do greater hurt to the one who should fire it than
the'one fired at ; yet it was with just such weapons
as this that the battle was won and independence
achieved. I will give you the story of this mus-
ket as well as I can; because from seeing it ex-
hibited in so public a place, visitors are naturally
curious about it. :
â€œNow, this old rusty kingâ€™s arm is something
more than a musket. To be sure, I cannot well
explain the curious association that exists between
a thing made of wood, iron, and brass, and the
event in which it may have borne a part. But so
it is. I should call it a sort of conductor between
mind and matter. For instance, at the Springfield
arsenal you will probably see thousands of mus-
kets. Yet who cares for them? Now, with this
one it is different. It is a sort of talisman to the
memory. Give it but a rub, and, like the magi-
cianâ€™s lamp in the tale, it whisks you away in an
instant across the gulf of time. The past lives
again, and you live in it.â€
Thus spoke the pension agent, whose business
had often taken him to the State House, there to
delve among the musty archives of that past of
which he had become almost a part himself.
It is an episode of the Nineteenth of April,
1775 â€” the beginning of the war for independence,
10 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
the ending of British dominion over her American
colonies. If, now, it should appear that this very
musket had fired the first shot, people would look
upon it with almost superstitious awe. But of
that we are not quite certain. It may or may not
Everybody knows that Hancock and Adams
were staying at the Rev. Jonas Clarkâ€™s house on
the night of the 18th. Hancockâ€™s sweetheart was
staying there too. You can put this and that
together as well as I.
During that afternoon several British officers
were seen riding up the main road in the town.
This aroused the suspicions of some of our people,
who knew them to be British officers, although
they were so disguised as to look like honest
Very early in the morning word was brought
to Hancock and Adams that a British force was
on the way to Lexington, designed, it was sup-
posed, to get possession of their persons, and also
to destroy the military stores at Concord. In
fact, it could mean nothing else. First one mes-
senger rode up in hot haste, then another, both
with the same startling story â€”â€œThe regulars
are coming!â€ â€œThe regulars are coming!â€
They had been seen getting under arms, had
been watched while crossing the bay, and were
now, no doubt, well on their march, which they
hoped and expected would be as complete a sur-
THE FIRST TROPHY OF THE REVOLUTION 11
prise as General Gage had meant it should be.
On their way up to Concord they could easily lay
hands on those two arch-rebels, Hancock and
Adams, clap a pair of handcuffs on each one of
them, destroy the stores, overawe the people by
this display of force, and presto, the infant rebel-
lion would be strangled in its cradle. That was
General Gageâ€™s logic.
â€œMan proposes and God disposes.â€ The mes-
sengers had only succeeded in passing the pickets
by the skin of their teeth, and by hard riding had
got far ahead of the marching column, setting
the church bells ringing, rousing people in a fright
from their beds, and spreading the alarm as they
went, from village to village, and from door to
door. And still on they went.
All that, every schoolboy knows so well that
it is hardly worth while to repeat it here.
About that musket. John Parker, yeoman, was
captain of the Lexington company of minute-
men. There never was a better name given, as
every man was pledged to turn out at a minuteâ€™s
notice. Well, the alarm was soon spreading on
every side; and, as the enemyâ€™s force was reported
to be very large, besides warning the minute-men,
messengers were sent off through the town, call-
ing out the regular militiamen as well. The church
bell on the green also struck up, sounding ten
times louder and more startling than it ever did in
the daytime. Lights were soon flashing in the
12 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
windows, windows went up, doors flew open, and
voices were heard timidly asking what was the
matter. No more sleep that night.
Captain Parker lived about two and a half
miles from the meeting-house on the Common,
which was the place of rendezvous agreed upon
in case of an alarm. He had been there late in
the evening to see Hancock and Adams about
calling out his men, in case it should be neces-
sary. Parker went to bed late, feeling quite ill.
About two oâ€™clock he was called up by the mes-
sengers referred to, and went in haste to the meet-
ing-house. There he formed his company on the
Common, a little after daybreak, and ordered the
roll called. About a hundred and twenty men
-answered to their names, armed and equipped ;
but as some doubted the truth of the reports
brought in, Parker dismissed them, with the order
to be within call, ready to fall in at the tap of the
drum. Not long after, one of his own scouts re-
turned, bringing the startling news that the British
were close at hand.
Parker then ordered the drum beat in front of
the tavern, near by the Common. It is there
now. Seventy men fell in, were formed in four
platoons, and marched into the Common to the
music of a fife and drum. Parkerâ€™s nephew, Jona-
than Harrington, then a lad of sixteen, played the
fife that morning.
After forming his men in line, Parker ordered
THE FIRST TROPHY OF THE REVOLUTION 13
them to load with powder and ball. There was a
famous rattling of ramrods. When this was done,
he said, â€œ Men, donâ€™t fire unless fired upon; but if
they want war, let it begin now and here.â€ He
then took his station at a little in front of the
companyâ€™s right wing, and waited.
CoMBAT aT THE CONCORD BRIDGE
Soon the British came marching up, in full view,
with Pitcairn on his horse at their head. Some
of Parkerâ€™s men were so terrified that they began
to slink off out of harmâ€™s way. Seeing this, the
captain drew his sword, and calling on them by
name to come back, said he would order the first
man shot who should show the white feather.
You know what followed â€”the fire of the Brit-
14 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
ish, the return of the fire, the killing of eight of
Parkerâ€™s company, his order to them to disperse
and to take care of themselves.
After they were gone, the British soldiers gave
three loud cheers, and halted for half an hour or
so to eat their breakfasts, after which they marched
off at a quick step for Concord. But they came
Upon their leaving the ground, Captain Parker
and his men came back, took up the dead, looked
after the wounded, and tried to realize what had
happened. Bloodshed had happened ; death had
stricken down the flower of the little village ; war
had begun. Where would it all end?
Then it was that fear left the breast of every
â€˜true man, and thirst for revenge steeled every
true heart. The minute-men grasped their mus-
kets, and followed on after the royal troops. Cap-
tain Parker saw a British soldier, who had loitered
behind, sitting by the roadside. The man was too
far gone in drink to keep up with the marching
column. Parker instantly seized and disarmed
him. Besides his musket, he carried a knapsack,
blankets, haversack, and cartridge-box, with sixty
rounds of ammunition in it. Captain Parker kept
them as the spoils of war, as did also his son, and
so likewise his grandson, before they finally passed
into the keeping of the State of Massachusetts.
This is that very same musket.
â€œA great affair, truly,â€™ said I, when I saw he
THE FIRST TROPHY OF THE REVOLUTION 15
had finished his story, â€œto take away a helpless
â€œNever mind,â€™ he returned, with a quiet
chuckle, â€œit was the first trophy of the Revolu-
tion â€” the very first.â€
16 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
THE FLIGHT OF HANCOCK AND ADAMS
My father was town clerk, justice of the peace,
and general factotum for all the country round;
the man, in short, to whom everybody goes for
advice. He knew every family in the county â€”
knew all about them away back as farâ€™as the first
settler of the name. After the battle of Lexing-
ton he took down the depositions of a number of
his townspeople whose houses had either been
burned or plundered, or both; for at that time it
was the very general expectation that these losses
would be made good to them.
Sometimes, of an evening, mother would glance
up from her knitting-work at fatherâ€™s face, and if
she thought he was in the right mood, would say
to him, â€˜â€˜ Father, why canâ€™t you tell the children
about -those folks who used to live down by the
Hollow, on the Woburn road ?â€â€™
â€œWhat folks ?â€
â€œOh, you know who I meanâ€” those women
down there, who helped Hancock and Adams to
get away so cleverly on the night after the battle
We all knew that father was only making
believe, for he dearly loved to tell a story, and, for
THE FLIGHT OF HANCOCK AND ADAMS 17
that matter, few could tell one better. So we all
teased him to begin.
â€œOh, thatâ€™s an old story,â€™ he would say
â€œWhat if itis? I want these children to know
that the men-folks were not the only ones who
faced dangers, and went through hardships, for
their countryâ€™s sake,â€™ mother would very earnestly
As near as I can recollect, the tale ran about as
follows : â€”
It was late on that night of the Nineteenth of
April, 1775. Mrs. Vallette and her friend Mrs.
Reed were sitting over a few dying embers, in
their home at Lexington, with their infants in
their arms. The clock had struck eleven â€” gunsâ€
had been heard throughout the day â€”the firing
had ceased ; and they sat talking over the perils
of the times, when Mrs. Reed said, â€œHark! I
â€œTt is only the rustling of the trees, and we will
not be needlessly alarmed,â€ said Mrs. Vallette,
pressing at the same time her infant closer to her
heart, as if fearful it might be wrested from her,
and trying to assume a courage which she did
At that moment a gentle rap at the door was
â€œ Who is there ?â€â€™ asked Mrs. Reed, in a tremu-
lous tone, hardly above a whisper.
18 THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
â€œFriends,â€ replied a low voice, speaking through
the small hole where the cord had been drawn in
to prevent the lifting of the latch outside, for few
doors had locks and keys in those simple times.
They immediately opened the door; and three
men, each muffled in a long cloak, entered in pro-
â€œDo not be alarmed, ladies,â€ said one, in the
same low tone of voice; â€œwe are friends to our
country, and are pursued by the enemy; we have
hid in the woods through the day, and have come
now to seek your bounty, and a shelter for the
Â« And these you should have with all my heart,â€
said Mrs. Reed, whose countenance brightened
up when she found that instead of the dreaded
enemy, her guests were those distinguished pa-
triots, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul
Revere. â€˜But,â€™ she continued, â€˜you would not
be safe here a moment. Why, the redcoats are
prowling around us in every direction ; they were
here only yesterday, eating up all my pies, and
bread and cheese, and because they could not find
enough at my neighborsâ€™ to satisfy their hunger,
they must needs rip open their beds, and leave
their cider running out. Oh, sir, these are dread-
ful times !â€â€™
â€œThey are, indeed, madam,â€ said Mr. Hancock.
â€œBut, gentlemen,â€ he said, turning to his com-
panions, â€œwhat shall we do, for it is certain we
are not safe here ?â€
THE FLIGHT OF HANCOCK AND ADAMS 19
They looked at each other, but did not speak.
â€œ Flave you any neighbors,â€ asked Mr. Hancock,
â€œwhere we might find safety for the night?â€
â€œNone except my father,â€ replied Mrs. Reed,
â€œwho lives five miles off, on the main road. It
would be dangerous for you to go by the road, and
you could not find your way through the woods ;
and we have neither man nor boy to guide you ;
they have all gone to fight the redcoats.â€
â€œWill you stay alone and nurse my baby,â€
asked Mrs. Vallette of her friend, â€œwhile I go
and show these gentlemen the way?â€
She answered, â€œI will do so, though it is sad to
be alone in such dangerous times. But you must
not go; you are not able, you are lame, and never
walked a mile at once in your life; you must not
think of going on this wet night.â€ Mrs. Vallette
had had the misfortune to fall and break her back,
and was ever afterward an invalid and a cripple.
Mrs. Vallette made no reply ; she knew there
was not a moment to be lost ; so laying her infant
in the arms of her friend, she wrapped her riding-
hood â€˜around her, and desired the gentlemen to
~ follow her.
When they saw this deformed little woman, not
more than four feet high, prepared to walk a dis-
tance of over three miles, they looked at each
other in astonishment; but not a word was spoken,
for the case was desperate.
Mrs. Vallette, taking the proffered arm of Mr.
20 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
Hancock, they went forward, the other two gen-
tlemen bringing up the rear. The rain which had
fallen for some days previous, had so swelled the
brooks, that the gentlemen were obliged at times
to lift Mrs. Vallette overthem. Thus wading and
walking, they reached the farm-house at about
three o'clock in the morning.
No sooner had they aroused the family, and
made known who they were and what they
wanted, than every one was up and in motion ;
and even the dog tried to show them by his gam-
bols that they should find protection. A blazing
fire soon shone forth on the hearth, and a plenti-
ful repast was provided; and notwithstanding the
gloominess of the times, a degree of cheerfulness,
and even humor, pervaded the little company.
At early dawn a carriage was prepared to con-
vey Mrs. Vallette home to her infant. Mr. Han-
cock politely lifted her into the carriage, and said,
â€œMadam, our first meeting has been in trouble-
some times. God only knows when these scenes
will end; but should we both survive the struggle,
and you should ever need a friend, think of me.â€
â€œThere, children,â€ said mother triumphantly.
â€œTt was a woman who saved King Charles from
his enraged pursuers ; and it was a woman who
led the proscribed American patriots to a place
â€œDo tell!â€ said father dryly.
THE OLD COCKED HAT 21
THE OLD COCKED HAT
HeEREâ€™s another story of Concord Fight, as told
by one of my pensioners.
A Boston boy, I was born in an old house on
Coppâ€™s Hill, near the burying-ground, which, I can
promise you, I gave a wide berth after dark. I
lived with my grandparents, my own father hav-
ing been lost at sea. The old folks used to give
me the run of the house; and many is the romp.
Iâ€™ve had, playing hide-and-seek around the huge
chimney-stack in the garret, knocking my head
against the big, cobwebbed rafters, from which
all sorts of old cast-off clothes were hanging limp
and forlorn. How they did scare me!
Being a boy, what most charmed me in this
museum of antiquities was an old sword, with the
blade peeping out at the end of the scabbard, just
like Jim Bolles the tinkerâ€™s toes out of his boots.
It went beyond my small strength to draw it, so
firmly was the weapon rusted in the sheath; but
with it loosely belted round me, and dragging on
the floor behind me, and an old cocked hat â€”
which to my surprise fitted me exactly â€” stuck on
my head, I doubt if any veteran just returned
from victorious fields ever felt prouder than I.
22 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
But we know it is not the sword alone that
makes the soldier, any more than it is the dress
that makes the man.
One day, equipped as I have described, I ven-
tured down-stairs to where grandfather was sitting
by the fireside smoking his pipe, with one eye
shut, and with the other meditatively watching
the smoke slowly curling upward along the low
ceiling. At the clatter on the stairs, and the
queer figure I cut, the old man took his pipe from
his mouth, straightened himself up, and when I
had made him a mock salute, said with a quiet
. Well,. lad, ready for action, I see. Do you
mean to attack our old four-post bedstead, or will
you try a bout with the pump, out in the back-
â€œ But, grandpa,â€ said I, â€œwhere in the wide
world did you get this rusty old sword, and this
funny old hat?â€
â€œCome here, boy,â€ said the old man; and tak-
ing from my head the thing which appeared so
ridiculous to me, he put his finger through a hole
I had not before noticed, and said very gravely,
â€œtwo inches lower, and the bullet would have
gone through my head.â€
â€œWhere? when?â€ I breathlessly exclaimed,
quite overcome by the thought of grandfatherâ€™s
narrow escape, as well as by the impressive way
in which he spoke of it.
Boston Boys GuyinG A BRITISH OFFICER
THE OLD COCKED HAT 23
â€œ At Concord Fight, in the year Â°75. You've
read of that,.my boy, in your Be book, I'll be
â€œTo be sure I have; and about General Gage
and Pitcairn, and the minute-men. It is also
called the Battle of Lexington. Oh, do, grandpa,
tell me all about it. You donâ€™t know how I love
to hear you talk about war and battles.â€
â€œWell, tis an old story. But sit down, my boy,
and.listen. You shall hear my first experience of
strife and bloodshed.
Grandfather gave the backlog a stir, refilled his
pipe, settled himself comfortably back in the old
rush-bottomed chair, and thus began : â€”
â€œT was just fourteen in April, â€™75, and lived in
this same house, built by my grandfather a hun-
dred years before. On my way to and from
school, I passed every day the barracks of the
kingâ€™s soldiers, for at that time Boston was a gar-
risoned town. Some of them were always loiter-
ing about, and I grew quite accustomed to hear
myself called a young rebel by the redcoat gen-
try. But my cheeks would burn for many a long
hour after. I must not forget to mention that I
had got acquainted with a boy of about my own
age, called Tony Apthorp, drummer-boy of the
Welsh Fusileers, who now and then invited me
into the barracks, and had even taught me how to
beat the drum a little.
â€œOne fine morning I started off for school, as
24 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
usual. When I got to the barracks, the redcoats
were forming out in the street as if for parade;
but even I, boy that I was, knew by their faces
that something unusual was going on. The ser-
geants were serving out ammunition, while the
goat of the corps, a prime favorite with us boys,
was loudly bleating in the barrack-yard. Such a
look as Tony gave me! not a bit like his usual
mocking expression. Even the surly old drum-
major let me pass without a word. I was lost in
â€œWhile I stood looking at the men,â€” some of
whom were buttoning their gaiters, others trying
â€˜ the locks of their muskets, â€”an aid came down
the street at full gallop.
â€œÂ«Ffalloo, there, Royals!â€™ said he; â€˜where is
your officer ?â€™
Â« A sergeant stepped out of the ranks, and made
a salute. The officer then ordered the detachment
to march; but the men did not stir a step.
Â«Does he take us for raw recruits, like him-
self?â€™ growled some of those grizzled veterans.
â€œTt is his excellencyâ€™s command,â€™ said the aid
angrily, starting off as fast as his horse could
â€œÂ«Vou should have said so at first, young
greenhorn,â€™ muttered the old sergeant, fixing his ~Â°
bayonet. â€˜Come along, lads, come along; the
general must not be kept waiting.â€™
â€œThe soldiers shouldered their firelocks, and
THE OLD COCKED HAT 25
took their way towards the Common. I soon lost
sight of them in a turn of the street.
â€œ When I reached the schoolhouse door, I found
it shut fast. A group of wondering urchins were
loitering there, each asking the other the mean-
ing of these strange proceedings. But we were
true schoolboys, and, provided our holiday did not
disappoint us, cared not a button where it came
from. Just then an upper window. was thrown
open, and the schoolmaster called out to us : â€”
â€œ Â«Boys, war has begun ; school is dismissed!â€™
Â«Â« Some one proposed that we should follow the
â€˜rigâ€™lars ;â€™ a proposal no sooner made than agreed
to. Away we scampered, in the route the troops
â€˜had just taken. By this time every one we met
seemed strangely excited ; and I scarcely remem-
bered that I would not have ventured above the
mill-bridge the day before, for fear of a sound
drubbing from the South End boys.
â€œWhen we came near the Common, a long line
of soldiers extended to the head of the mall in
Long-Acre, and in their midst were two brass
cannon I had so often gazed at with admiration
and awe. At command of Lord Percy, the rigâ€™lars
shouldered their muskets, and moved off towards
the Neck. We boys followed on in the rear, tak-
ing care to keep a good distance behind the
marching column. I well remember that the fifes
struck up â€˜ Yankee Doodle,â€™ as they often did, just
to plague our people,
26 THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
â€œBy this time the whole town knew that the
tigâ€™lars had gone out the night before to destroy
the stores at Concord, and that Lord Percy had
been sent to re-enforce them. It was just as we
came to the George Tavern that I noticed a small
boy seated astride a fence, laughing so immoder-
ately I felt sure he must be a born idiot, for I
assure you I saw nothing to laugh at.
Â« Â«What are you laughing at, sirrah?â€™ demanded
his lordship sternly.
Â«To think how you'll dance to another tune
by and by,â€™ replied the young scape-grace, scam-
pering off, out of harmâ€™s way.
â€œLord Percy gave his horse the spur, and gal-
loped off to the front, as if these idle words had
called up something in his mind he would rather
have forgotten at that moment. If you should
ever read the old ballad of â€˜Chevy Chase,â€™ you
will understand what I mean.
â€œWe had got quite through Little Cambridge,
now Brighton, when an express from General
Gage overtook the troops. The courier rode
straight up to the earl, and, lifting his hat, deliv-
ered his errand in a few hurried words. His lord-
ship turned in his saddle, and exclaimed, â€”
â€œOn! press on! Godâ€™s life, gentlemen! we
shall be too late!â€™
â€œUrged on by their officers, the soldiers marched
silently and with a quickened pace. The road
was deserted. Every house was shut up. Nota
THE OLD COCKED HAT 27
living soul was to be seen as we passed by. Now
and then our ears caught the sound of some dis-
tant alarm bell. Once in a while we even thought
we could catch the report of distant gunshots. At
hearing these ill-omened noises in the air, some of
our comrades began to lag behind, but a few of us
kept on, more because we wouldnâ€™t give ourselves
the time to think, than from superior courage.
Boys will be boys, you know. We soon reached
the bridge leading to the colleges, and I heard
the word passed to halt, prime, and load. The
cannoneers lighted their matches. These orders
being executed, the troops impatiently awaited
the word to march; but it did not come. The
officers impatiently slashed the bushes by the
roadside with their swords, and demanded of each
other what was up.
â€œ Â«Then the rebels mean to make a stand here,â€™
â€œTis what I most wish for, next to my din-
ner,â€™ ejaculated a third.
â€œâ€œMy throat is full of this infernal Yankee
dust,â€™ observed a fourth, carrying his well-filled
canteen to his lips. â€˜Hereâ€™s confusion to the
whole rebel crew!â€™
â€œThe bridge was soon made passable, and the
troops crossed. Before we followed, I picked up
a handful of musket-balls where. they had stood.
At the colleges, an officer sternly forbade our fol-
28 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
lowing the column farther; and as we were thor-
oughly tired out, after quenching our thirst at a
neighboring well, we threw ourselves down upon
the grass to rest.
â€œThe rigâ€™lars were hardly out of sight, when the
roads in every direction seemed swarming with
men, some in little squads of twoâ€™s and threeâ€™s,
some with the semblance of military order, but all
armed with muskets or fowling-pieces, and every
one looking eager and determined. They halted,
by common consent, on the college green. An
angry murmur of many voices, every instant
growing more and more threatening, came out of
the throng, as their numbers increased. They
seemed undecided what to do next.
â€œÂ«Â« The bridge is where we ought to have stopped
them,â€™ I heard one strapping fellow call out.
Â«So we might, if the planks hadnâ€™t been piled
up on the wrong side; too bad, too bad!â€™
â€œA roar of rage and disappointment went up
from two hundred lusty throats. It subsided ina
moment, and I heard a voice, very calm, but clear
asa bell, speaking rapidly. Every word cut like
the two detachments from forming a junction, as
I hoped we might; but so long as weâ€™re between
them and their quarters, shall we let them march.
back unscathed? Hark!â€™ The distant booming
of a cannon broke the stillness. The speaker, who
THE OLD COCKED HAT 29
had been standing quietly in the middle of the
minute-men, now pushed _ his way out of the
throng. Oh, he was a beautiful looking young
man, armed with a fusee and hanger.
â€œ< Why do we stand here idle, when our
brethren are being slaughtered by the kingâ€™s
cut-throats? We have them between two fires.
Let all who are willing to strike one good blow
for liberty, follow me!â€™
â€œ How brave he looked as he said this, his eye
sparkling, his fine form drawn up to its full
height! I thought I had never beheld such an
â€œAy, avenge them! Down with the bloody-
backs!â€™ shouted the multitude.
â€œLead us on, Doctor!â€™ cried several voices ;
and I then knew it was Warren who had first
â€œWaving his fusee toward the enemy, Warren
put himself at the head of our people, who started
off at a brisk pace up the road. As excited as the
rest, without a momentâ€™s reflection, I joined them.
We soon heard firing at no great distance. By
our leaderâ€™s advice, we now made a circuit across
the fields so as to reach the road again unperceived
at a point where it descends from a great pile of
granite ledges into the plain. It is what military
men call a defile. Here we concealed ourselves
among the bushes and trees, on both sides of the
road, Indian fashion. The place where we lay
30 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
hid is known as the Foot of the Rocks, to this
â€œCannon firing now grew rapid and clearer.
At every peal my heart
gave a great thump;
but I tell you, boy, I
had little idea of what
â€œÂ«There they are!â€™
â€œSure enough, there
RusseLL Housz, ARLINGTON, Mass.
With cellar-way showing bullet-holes. (Eleven Americans were killed at
they were, coming down the narrow road in a
cloud of dust, and that cloud spitting out fire
right and left. Every house they came to was
THE OLD COCKED HAT 31
saluted with a volley; and we were maddened to
desperation by the sight of feeble womÃ©n, with
babes in their arms, flying shrieking across the
' fields, while these miscreants fired and hooted at
them, like so many demons let loose. Then up
would leap the red flames from the dwellings that
those poor, terrified creatures had just quitted.â€
The old man had kept his pipe lighted, giving
now and then an angry whiff between whiles ; but
he had now got so worked up over his recollec-
tions, that he bit the stem of his pipe short off.
â€œDonâ€™t stop, grandpa! How did it end?â€ J
â€œWaal, boy, we just let the rigâ€™lars clear our
hiding-place, and then, with a yell of rage, our
men fell on their rear. I forgot I had no earthly
weapon but a stout hickory stick, and shouted,
and rushed into the thickest of the mÃ©/Ã©e with the
rest. The first thing I knew, the soldiers faced
about, and gave us a volley slap in our faces. I
thought the day of judgment had come, sartinâ€™
sure. How like fiends they looked, panting with
rage and heat, and with faces: begrimed with
powder and dirt! Well, I guess we looked as
wicked to them as they did to us.
â€œ An officer on horseback waved the rigâ€™lars on,
his sword in one hand, his hat in the other.
â€œ*Upon them, my gallant Fusileers! Give
them the cold steel! Drive the rebel pack to
their kennels !â€™
32 LHE WATCH FIRES OF "76
â€œ*Down with the murderers! Kill the assas-
sins !â€™ we yelled back at them. I jest tell you,
bullets and curses flew thick and fast that day.
Oh, we peppered them good, and they know it!
â€œThe soldiers were actually pushed along by
our onset, some falling every instant under the
deadly fire. Presently, a shot knocked the officer
from his horse, at which a cheer went up from
our side. Then we made another rush, and forced
the enemy toarun. A poor devil of a drummer-
boy was just in front of me. I sprang upon him,
and brought him to the ground. Lo and behold!
it was Tony, my chum of the Royals. It was the
work of an instant to take away his drum, put it
on, and then to follow the throng, beating the
charge like a drummer gone mad. My prisoner
kept close at my heels. Our people saw my
capture, and heard my drum. As for me, I
hurrahed myself hoarse, and got this hole in my
Here the old man paused, quite breathless,
â€œPlague onâ€™t!â€™â€™ he at length exclaimed; â€œhereâ€™s
my pipe gone out, and the fire too. Whatâ€™ll
THE READING MINUTE-MEN 33
THE READING MINUTE-MEN
Tue pension agent now invited me to consider
myself as listening to the pensioners themselves.
Deacon Adoniram Short, who, by the way,
stood some six feet two in his blue yarn stock-
ings, having pleaded conscientious scruples against
drawing lots to see who should tell the next story,
was finally persuaded into telling one of his own
free choice. Like some other people whom I
have known, he only needed a little coaxing.
After leaning back in his chair as far as safety to
his long person would permit, and dovetailing his
hands together as a support to the back of his
very bald head, he delivered himself as follows :â€”
â€œTI sâ€™pose, friends, youâ€™ve all heard how Colo-
nel Barrettâ€™s house, up in Concord town, was one
of the places where our ammunition was stored
aginâ€™ the time when we should give it to the
British. If they'd only waited a little longer
they might have had it for nuthinâ€™!
â€œWell, tew days before they come out, I
hauled an even ton of bullets, with my tew old
hosses, over from Reading. I lived in Reading
then, and done teaming when I could get it.
34 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
When I got to Colonel Barrettâ€™s, they told me to
drive over yon into the rye-field, where some
men in their shirt-sleeves were hard at work dig-
ging a big hole in the ground. They told me to
dump the bullets into the hole, and I done it.
*Â« Vou donâ€™t expect â€™em to sprout without pow-
der, do ye?â€™ said I to one of the diggers, who
was shovelling the dirt back into the hole, and
stamping it down with his feet.
â€œÂ« Dunno, mebbe so; some say they come up
first rate if you donâ€™t plant too deep,â€™ he replied
with a sort oâ€™ knowing wink at me. â€˜At any rate,
they won't spile.â€™
â€œWaal, says I, winking back at him, â€˜if thatâ€™s
so, I'll jest take a handful home for seed.â€™ So off
â€œT bâ€™longed to our minute-company. I was
corporal. Captain Brooks was our captain, Dave
Butters orderly sergeant. There was seventy-five
of us, all big, strong fellows, who didnâ€™t take no
dare from nobody, either drillinâ€™ or shootinâ€™ at a
mark. Our captain was clear grit through and
through, if he was a doctor; and we all sot as
much by him as anybody could. And I guess he
did by us.
â€œAfter ['d put up my team, I went over to
have a little talk with the captain.
Â«Hello, Shorty, is that you?â€™ he sung out,
when I poked my head into his office. â€˜Come
THE READING MINUTE-MEN 35
â€œ*Itâ€™s me, Cap,â€™ says I, â€˜and Iâ€™m goinâ€™ to put a
flea in your ear.â€™ I then up and told him where
I had been, and what goings-on I had seen.
â€œHis tone changed in a minute. â€˜Corporal
Short, notify your platoon to report for duty at
the meeting-house after dark to-night. You know
where the key is kept?â€™ I nodded so; he went
on: â€˜You keep watch by reliefs till sun-up. If
nothing happens by that time you can go home.
Take care I donâ€™t catch one of you napping; if I
do, I'll break him. Now go warn your men. Off
â€œThere was mischief brewing. I see it in his eye.
â€œNothing happened that night. The captain
didnâ€™t come round, though, â€™cause as soonâ€™s â€™twas
dark heâ€™d saddled his old bay mare and rode off
to Boston full tilt. Next day he was back again,
lookinâ€™ sober as aâ€” as aâ€”
â€œÂ«Say deacon,â€™ some one suggested, seeing
Adoniram halting for a word.
â€œWell, deacon, then,â€™ Adoniram continued,
chuckling a little to himself. â€˜Well, the capâ€™ he
came back chock full of something heâ€™d picked up
in Boston. He rode round town as usual, making
calls on his patients, but somehow or other most
all his patients that day were minute-men. At
each house, it was noticed, he left the same pre-
scription: â€˜To-night; Westonâ€™s corner; sixty
rounds.â€™ At each house visited he received the
same response, â€˜We shall be there.â€™
36 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œOn his way home the captain stopped before
the ministerâ€™s gate. The parson came out lookinâ€™
as stiff as a drum-major, and the two men held a
whispered talk together.
â€œThe parson stood with his hand on the horseâ€™s
mane, looking up into the young captainâ€™s face till
he had done speaking.
â€œÂ« These are fine words you have just spoken ;
but will you have the courage to repeat them to
others besides an old man like me?â€™
*Â«Â«Tn the face
of all the world,
and even of my
I have waited
long for this
visit and for just
such areply. But â€”pardon meâ€” if worst comes
to worst, do you think you can be cool on the
â€œ*T do not know. But you may depend upon
it, that if I do lose my head, it will always be at
â€œ*God be with you, then. Good-night.â€™
â€œThe men began stealing off for the rendez-
vous as soon as it grew dark, As Iâ€™d been on
duty all night before, the captain said heâ€™d excuse
me, on my promise to be at the rendezvous bright
and early in the morning.
THE READING MINUTE-MEN 37
â€œT was just putting. the bridle on Old Calico,
when I heard the clatter of a horse going by the
house at a great rate, as if heâ€™d run away. While
I was listeninâ€™, somebody shouted out at the top
of his voice, â€˜Turn out! turn out! the rigâ€™lars are
â€œTn five minutes the meetinâ€™-house bell struck
up at a lively rate. In ten, the whole village was
turned topsy-turvy. When I got outdoors every-
body was a-streakinâ€™ it for the green, where the
courier sat on his steaminâ€™ horse with a crowd
around him, all talkinâ€™ and gesticulatinâ€™ at once.
The parson he stood on the top step of the porch
with a gun in his hand.
â€œJust as I turned my horseâ€™s head down the
road, my wife, Marthy, ran out to the gate. She
had one corner of her apron in her mouth, and
looked as if she was goinâ€™ to bust right out cryinâ€™.
â€œÂ«Come back you, Adoniram,â€™ sez she. â€˜You
ainâ€™t goinâ€™ off lookinâ€™ so. How â€™shamed I should
be to have you taken up dead with that old waist-
â€œTI got to the rendezvous: Nobody there, so
I pushed on quicker ; and a mile or two further
on, where the road crosses the Widow Petersâ€™s
medder (she had money fell to her), I overtook our
boys. I put up my horse in her barn, and jâ€™ined
â€œWhenever we halted for a minute or twoâ€™s
rest, we could hear the sound of distant bells or
38 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
blowinâ€™ of horns, and now and then a gun-shot
would crack away. That made us move on all
the faster. We were 'fraid the fightinâ€™ would
be. all over before we could take a hand in it.
â€œWhen we got to where our road and the
one from Chelmsford come together, we fell in
with Colonel Bridge, to whose regiment we be-
â€œWe were glad enough to see them, and they
us. .â€˜There come the man-eaters!â€™ we hollered
out to them.
â€œÂ«What do you know about war? You never
fired a gun!â€™ they hollered back.
â€œThe regiment, or as much of it as Bridge had
been able to get together, was also on the march
to Concord. Captain Brooks saluted, and reported
for orders. Colonel Bridge said to him, â€˜Iâ€™m glad
youâ€™ve come up, Captain: we will halt here, give
our men some refreshment, and then push on
for Concord.â€™ To this Brooks replied, â€˜My men
have just refreshed themselves; and as I think
there is no time to be lost, with your leave,
Colonel, I will push ahead; and, as neither of -us
knows just what is going on over there, if I
should get into trouble, I shall know that you
are following me, and shall have you to fall back
upon.â€™ â€˜You may go,â€™ the colonel replied, â€˜ but
be careful not to get too far ahead.â€™
â€™â€œQOur captain then ordered us forward again.
â€œWe had gone astrong mile, I should say, when
Hosmer House, Concorp, Mass.
THE READING MINUTE-~MEN 39
we met a courier, looking for us. In afew hurried
words he told the captain how matters stood, how
the enemy (for as such they had now shown them-
selves) had fired upon our men, how the fire had
been returned, and how, if we expected. to do any
good, now was our time. Nota man of us could
stand still. The news made us as skittish as a lot
of two-year-old colts.
â€œ As luck would have it, we had arrived in time
to intercept the villains.
â€œ* Ride back, as hard as you can, till you meet
Colonel Bridge. Tell him what you've told me.
Donâ€™t spare the spur. Away with you!â€™
â€œWe halted only long enough to load. Every
man looked well to his priming. Every face was
set for what was coming. As I was feelinâ€™ pretty
fresh, I was sent on ahead, with a file of men, to
see what we could scare up.
â€œWhen we had come quite near to the main road
from Concord to Lexington, we saw some seventy
or eighty men, making their way across a hillside,
which rose between us and the village. They
seemed to be watching us. â€˜They were redcoats
â€œCaptain Brooks at first took these men for some
scattered party of ourown. The fact Is, they were
the enemyâ€™s flankers. He therefore halted us,
until he discovered his mistake, which he soon
did upon seeing this flank-guard fall in with the
main body, to cross a bridge down the road, below
40 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
the hill which had hid them from us. The enemy
was in full retreat.
â€œFinding his position could not be outflanked,
Brooks then ordered us to advance to Merriamâ€™s
Corner, where we were covered by a barn and
some stone walls (for all I know the old barnâ€™s
there now).; and as soon as we were securely
posted, he gave the order to fire straight at the
crowded bridge, not more than twenty or thirty
rods off. We let â€™em hev.
â€œ As the enemy were in a great hurry, they fired
only one volley at us in return. They shot wild.
Our men took deliberate aim, and every shot told.
After they had all crossed the bridge we followed
them up, loading and firing, and either on or near
it, nine dead bodies were lying where they had
fallen, unde: the unerring aim of the Reading
Â«That just about squared the account for those
of our men killed on Lexington Green, without
provocation, in the morning,â€ observed one of
the deaconâ€™s most interested listeners.
â€œHow great a matter a little fire kindleth,â€
A BRITISH GRENADIER, 1775
THE KINGâ€™S OWN REGULARS 4l
â€˜THE KING'S OWN REGULARS
â€œOne storyâ€™s good till anotherâ€™s told,â€ said
Jotham Beard, contemplatively punching the fire
with his iron-shod staff. â€œNow, for my part, I
always like to hear both sides, then you can put
this and that together, and perhaps get the rights
â€œDonâ€™t you bâ€™leeve what your own folks say?
I do,â€ remarked Reddy, rather testily. â€œId
bâ€™leeve the deacon, here, ten times over, before I
would a Britisher,â€ he added.
â€œThat reminds me of the Dutch judge, out in
York State, who was trying a case of assault and
battery. He refused to hear the defendantâ€™s
counsel, because he said he could decide the case
so much better by hearing only one side.â€
There was a ripple of laughter at Reddyâ€™s
expense. But he took it all in good part, though
vigorously maintaining his own opinion.
â€œGo on, Jotham, with your other side,â€ said
several voices. â€˜â€œCourtâ€™s open, and the juryâ€™s all
good men and true.â€
â€œSo be it, then. You know, I was second
officer of a Marblehead privateer. We cruised
out in the bay, looking for what we could pick up
42 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
in an honest way, and one day we gave chase to a
transport ship bound out. She gave us a long
chase; but at last we came up with her off the
Salvages, fired a shot across her bows, and ordered
her to heave-to. She hove to.
â€œWhen we boarded her the captain tried to
throw his mail-bag overboard ; but I fished it out
of the water with a boat-hook before it could
sink, and after we had taken our prize into port,
we went through the contents.
â€˜They were mostly letters from officers of the
British army to their friends at home. After
reading them through, we sent the whole batch to
General Ward, to do what he pleased with them.
Some, I believe, were eventually returned to the
writers, who probably chose a safer mode of de-
livery next time. I hope so. They had wives
and sweethearts over the water, those Britishers.
Though enemies, they were men. Why, some of
the letters had little keepsakes in them.â€
â€œYes, and I've got one of their little keepsakes
in my left leg now,â€™ growled the irreconcilable
â€œCome, no more interruptions; open your
budget, Jotham,â€ commanded the deacon author-
Â« Sartain; here it is,â€™ Jotham returned, pro-
ducing a bundle of papers from his side pocket,
putting on his specâ€™s, and unfolding a sheet of
yellow foolscap. â€œListen, all.â€
THE KINGâ€™S OWN REGULARS 43
â€˜Boston, May 5, 1775.
Â«Â« Won't my dear Bess be more pleased with hearing I am
well and hearty, than with the account of all the world
besides? That I am so, God alone can, in his goodness,
account for... . The tale would last a winter's night, so
some Christmas, when we have exhausted all our gambols,
you shall have a history of our late frolic. At present, it
would seem we have the worst of the fight, for, however we
block up their port, the rebels certainly block up our town,
and have cut off our good beef and mutton, much to the dis-
comfiture of our mess.
â€˜** But while I get sufficient to sustain life, though of the
coarsest food, with two nights out of three in bed, I shall not
repine, but rejoice that fortune has given me a constitution
to endure fatigue, and prove that it is accident, not inclina-
tion, that has made me hitherto eat the bread of idleness.
â€œYou will perceive that I write in a great hurry; probably
this will be finished by the side of my fortification â€” mine I
may safely call it, as ] am not only planner and director, but
partly executor â€” as often taking the spade as telling others
where toemploy it; which is attended with these good effects
â€” exercise to myself and encouragement to the men, who,
you will be pleased to hear, fly to execute that for me, which
for others would be done with a very bad grace, because I
set them a good example in not being afraid to work.
â€˜*T had three approving generals (Gage, Pigot, and Howe)
in favor of my work, with one of whom I dine to-morrow.
Â«I have now before me one of the finest prospects a warm
imagination can picture. My tent-door, about twenty yards
from a piece of water, nearly a mile broad, with the country
most beautifully tumbled about in hills and valleys, rocks
and woods, interspersed with straggling villages, with here
and there a spire peeping over the trees, and the country of
the most charming green that delighted eye ever gazed on.
Pity these infatuated people cannot be content to enjoy such
44 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
a country in peace! But alas! this moment their advanced
sentinels are in sight, and tell me they have struck the fatal
blow. Where it will end, but in their destruction, I cannot
see. Thank you for the pocket-pistol (the bottle and cup):
would that I had had it on the rgth of April for the sake of
my friends and self.
â€˜â€˜When Lord Percyâ€™s brigade joined us there were very
few men had any ammunition left, and we were so fatigued
that we could no longer keep our flanking parties out; so
that we must soon have laid down our arms, or been picked
off by the rebels at their pleasure.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t see any bragging there,â€ re-
marked one of the listeners, when the reading was
completed. â€˜â€œ We certainly had â€™em on the run,â€
he added triumphantly. â€˜Letâ€™s hear another
â€œThis one,â€ continued Jotham, â€œwas written
after the Battle of Bunker Hill, and shows how
perilously near the writer came to leaving his
bones to moulder with the dust of so many of his
companions-in-arms. JI will read it.â€
â€œÂ© We had made a breach in their fortifications, which Jâ€™
had twice mounted, encouraging the men to follow me, and
was ascending a third time, when a ball grazed the top of
my head, and I fell back deprived of sense and motion.
â€œMy lieutenant, Lord Rawdon, caught me in his arms,
and, believing me dead, endeavored to remove me from the
spot, to save my body from being trampled on. The motion,
while it hurt me, restored me to my senses, and I feebly
articulated, â€˜ For Godâ€™s sake, let me die in peace.â€™
â€œYT Fett Back DEPRIVED OF SENSE OR MOTIONâ€
THE KINGâ€™S OWN REGULARS 45
*â€˜ The hope of preserving my life induced Lord Rawdon
to order four soldiers to take me up and carry me to a place
of safety. Three of them were wounded while performingâ€
this office (one afterwards died of his wounds) ; but they suc-
ceeded in placing me under some trees, out of reach of the
rebel balls. A retreat having been sounded, poor Holmes
(my body servant), was running about like a madman, in
â€˜search of me, and luckily came to the place where J was lying,
just in time to prevent my being left behind; for when they
brought me to the waterâ€™s edge, the last boat was put off, the
men calling out that they would take no more! On Holmesâ€™
hallooing out, â€˜It is Captain Harris,â€™ they put back and took
Â«â€˜T was very weak and faint and seized with a severe shiv-
ering; our blankets had been flung away during the engage-
ment; luckily there was one belonging to a man in the boat,
in which, after wrapping me up, and laying me on the bot-
tom, they conveyed me safely to my quarters.
Â«The surgeons did not at first apprehend danger from the
contusion, notwithstanding the extreme pain I felt, which
increased very much if I attempted to lie down. A worthy
woman, seeing this, lent me an easy chair, but this being full
of bugs, only added to my sufferings. My agonies increas-
ing, and the surgeons, observing symptoms of matter form-
â€˜ing (which, had it fallen on the brain, must have produced
instant death, or at least distraction), performed the opera-
tion of trepanning, from which time the pain abated, and I
began to recover. But before the callous was formed they
indulged me with the gratification of a singular curiosity â€”
fixing looking-glasses so as to give me a sight of my own
brains. The heat of the weather, and the scarcity of fresh
provisions, added greatly to the sufferings of the wounded.
As patience was the only remedy for the former, I trusted to
it for relief; and for the latter, the attention of the surgeon,
and a truly benevolent family in Boston who supplied me
with mutton-broth, when no money could purchase it, was
a blessing for which I can never be sufficiently thankful.â€
46 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œThat seems a good sort of fellow,â€ the deacon
â€œ You'll see a white blackbird, when you see
one,â€ interjected the incorrigible Reddy.
â€œHereâ€™s another, written by an officer of the
52d, a right jolly fellow, â€™ll be bound; for he
seems to have enjoyed a joke cracked even at the
expense of his own comrades.â€
â€œDuring the winter of 1775-76, plays were acted at Bos-
ton twice a week, by the officers, and some of the ladies of
the town. A farce called â€˜ The Blockade of Boston, written
by General Burgoyne, was on the stage. The enemy knew
the night it was to be performed, and made an attack on the
mill, at Charlestown, at the very hour that the farce began.
They fired some shots, and surprised and carried off a ser-
geantâ€™s guard. We immediately turned out and manned the
works, and a shot being fired by one of our advanced sen-
tries, a firing commenced at the redoubt, and could not be
stopped for some time.
â€œAn orderly sergeant, standing outside the playhouse
door, who heard the firing, immediately ran into the play-
house, got upon the stage, and bawled out at the top of his
lungs, â€˜ Turn out! turn out! theyâ€™re hard at it, hammer and
â€œ* The whole audience, supposing the sergeant was acting
a part in the farce, loudly applauded, and there was such a
noise, he could not, for some time, make himself heard.
When the applause was over he again cried out, â€˜What the
dickens are ye all about? If ye wonâ€™t bâ€™lave me, be gorra
you need only go to the door, anâ€™ there yeâ€™ll hear and see
â€˜If the enemy intended to stop the farce, they certainly
THE KINGâ€™S OWN REGULARS 47
succeeded, as the officers immediately left the playhouse to
join their regiments.â€
â€œWhere was the playhouse?â€ it was asked.
â€œTn old Faneuil Hall.â€
â€œWho wrote the letters?â€
â€œThe first two were written by Captain Harris,
afterward Lord Harris, the conqueror of Mysore,
in India. The last was from the pen of Lieu-
tenant Hunter, afterward a lieutenant-general.
Both fought their way up, through the interme-
diate grades, to high distinction. Both are dead.
. Peace to their ashes!â€
48 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA
Wuen Thursday evening came round again,
there was quite a full turn-out of veterans, as the
word had been passed from house to house that
these talks were likely to prove much more inter-
esting than at first had been supposed. Some of
the old fellows were naturally talkative, some
grown garrulous with age, and some, who were
really the best informed of all, needed to be
drawn out. But that old feeling of brotherhood
in arms! Once aroused, it proved a talisman to
loosen all tongues. -
In order to overcome the feeling of awkward-
ness, or rather, perhaps, I should say of backward-
ness, which invariably showed itself at our first
coming together, I resolved to take upon myself
the part of spokesman. Fortunately I knew
_ where all the men had served, so that I was at no .
loss for a subject.
â€œPeleg,â€ said I, by way of an opening, â€œyou
were with Allen at Ticonderoga. Come, we
would like to hear your account of that affair.
Are you ready?â€
â€œCocked and primed,â€ was the prompt reply.
â€œI canâ€™t tell it as some of the rest could; but any-
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA 49
how, I. can give you the real Simon-pure facts
about the taking of â€˜Ty,â€™ and if that will sarve, .
â€˜There were two men consarned in that affair
who were born leaders of men. You all know
who I mean. â€˜Ethan Allen was one, Benedict
An ominous, though suppressed, growl ran
round the circle at the mention of the traitorâ€™s
â€œThatâ€™s right; give it to him,â€ resumed Peleg,
with an angry toss of the head, â€˜â€œâ€˜heâ€™s no more a
friend of mine than of yours, though now that
heâ€™s dead and gone, give the devil his due, say I,
â€œAmen! heâ€™s got it, or Iâ€™m a sinner,â€™ spoke
up Thody Rhodes testily.
â€œAy, along with Judas Hiscarrot,â€ interposed
Remember Bowen, whose recollection of Scrip-
ture names was none of the clearest.
â€œHow you do take me up. Let him go. He
was dog in the manger at â€˜Tyâ€™; but when it
came to fighting, Benedict Arnold would rather
fight than eat any time. Neither Allen nor Ar-
nold made the first move toward taking â€˜Ty.â€™
That was done by some quiet, long-headed folks,
down â€˜in Connecticut, who planned the whole
affair beforehand. They sent up spies to see how
the land lay ; saw how the thing might be done
â€™ by a bold dash, invited Allen to take hold with
50 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
his Green Mountain Boys, let the Massachusetts
folks know what they were up to, and Arnold got
a commission to raise men and go up and help
them. But all the men that Arnold raised, be-
sides himself, was his own servant. That, how-
ever made no difference with him. He was
bound to be there, men or no men.
â€˜â€œâ€˜Now then, the leaders were on tenter-hooks
for fear the secret would get out before they were
good and ready. They knew it must be a sur-
prise or nothing ; so they took precious good care
not to beat any drums or blow any trumpets, but
just quietly mounted their horses and rode off to
Pittsfield, where they let some good men and true
into their plans, who in turn passed the word
round among their neighbors so quietly that,
presently, they rode out of Pittsfield with forty
men, for Bennington, â€” and thereâ€™s where I come
into the story.
â€œâ€œAt Bennington they met Allen, who entered
into the spirit of the thing with all imaginable
ardor. Allen instantly set about raising his men.
Castleton was appointed as the place of rendez-
vous; for which place the party pushed on in
great spirits, now that the famous leader of the
Green Mountain Boys was so thoroughly enlisted
in the good cause. :
_â€œWhen we were all mustered at Castleton,
there were just two hundred and seventy of us.
Two hundred and thirty were Allenâ€™s boys, who
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA SI
*minded me of Robin Hoodâ€™s outlaws, such a
tough looking lot they were, all keen as briers
and wild as so many catamounts. It took Allen
to handle â€™em. It was there that Arnold joined
us, with his re-enforcement of one, though to hear
him talk youâ€™d have thought he had got up the |
-whole thing. With his accustomed impudence he
immediately laid claim to the command, by virtue
of his commission. Allen swore he never should
have it. Arnold vowed he would; and for a while
the sparks flew, because one was flint and the
other steel, and neither would give an inch.
Pretty way to begin by fightinâ€™ among yourselves,
wasnâ€™t it? But that was Arnold all over.
â€œFlowever, it was finally settled that Allen
should be first in command and Arnold second.
One party was sent off to Skenesborough, now
Whitehall, at the head of the lake, to secure
Major Skene with his negroes and tenants, who
might have given us trouble, as they belonged to
the other side of the dispute. You see, the thing
had so grown upon us that we had pretty much
made up our minds to make a clean sweep of
everything on. Lake Champlain.
â€œAllen had set the next morning to march for
â€˜Tyâ€™ with his hardy band. It so happened, how-
ever, that something caused that plan to be
changed. That something was a man who came.
ridinâ€™ up to our rendezvous with his horse all ina
52 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
â€œWe.all crowded up round him. â€˜ Where's
Ethan?â€™ says he.
Â«â€œ Â«Here I am,â€™ called back Allen, pushing his
way through the crowd. â€˜Stand back there, you
fellows,â€™ he commanded in that big voice of his;
â€˜Noah Phelps and I must have a little talk to-
â€œAs the men didnâ€™t move along quite so quick
as he thought they should, Allen gave one or two
of them a smart shove, by way of emphasizing his
words. But they took it all from him. He was
over six foot, long-limbed, and muscular ; and Iâ€™d
as soon have let a bear hug me as get into Allenâ€™s
clutches, especially when he was a little riled.
Â«So you're back, Noah?â€™ Ethan said, when-his
men were out of earshot. â€˜Whatâ€™s the word?â€™
â€œÂ«Good for us. The best. Iâ€™ve been in the fort.â€™
Â«Â« You have ?â€™
â€œVes; I disguised myself as a countryman,
went boldly up to the sentinel, and told him I
wanted to be shaved by the fort barber. He
let me pass. I vowed and vumâ€™d I never did
â€˜see such tarnal big guns before in all my born
days. â€œTake care you donâ€™t care any of â€™em
off with you,â€ says he, alaughinâ€™ fit to kill him-
self. -â€œI couldn't,â€ says I, â€œonless I had fatherâ€™s
ox-team and some of the boys to help me. How
many of â€™em might there be, now?â€ I asked him.
â€˜Oh, about a hundred or so,â€ he replied, then
turned sharply on me with the question, â€˜ Whatâ€™s
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA 53
that to you ?â€â€ â€” â€œOh, nothinâ€™,â€ I replied indiffer-
ently. â€œI was only wonderinâ€™ what an all-fired
noise they would make if they was all touched
off at once.â€™
â€œÂ«Come to the point,â€™ said Allen, rather im-
â€œÂ¢ All in good time, friend Ethan. The first
thing was to disarm suspicion. In the character
I assumed, of a simple, inquisitive, country lout,
they let me look about as long as I liked. Our
information was correct. They have not the
least suspicion of our plans. There are only
forty odd privates, besides half a dozen officers ;
but, in his talk while shaving me, the barber,
who, like his tribe the world ovet, is given to
babbling, let fall something about a re-enforcement
being expected from below. Ethan, we must be
beforehand with them.â€™
â€œBy the tall pines of these hills, you say well,
Noah! It shall be this very night! Hereâ€™s for
Ticonderoga or a turf jacket!â€™ exclaimed Ethan,
turning away to give the necessary. orders.
â€œWe were soon ready for the march. Every
manâ€™s horn, bullet-pouch, and flints were care-
fully looked to. By the light of the stars we ,
stole noiselessly out of the little village, picked
up our picket, posted outside on the road we
were travelling, settled down into our leaderâ€™s long,
swinging stride, and were presently swallowed up
in the pitch-darkness of the surrounding woods.
54 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œ After a long, hard march we got to the lake
opposite the fortress the next evening. Here we
expected that the detachment sent to Skenesbor-
ough would join us, with what boats they had
been able to pick up at that place. But the night
wore away without news of them. This was the
ninth day of May. I remember it so well because
the next was my birthday, which I had promised
myself to celebrate (providing our expedition did
not fail), by making an assault on the larder and
cellars of Ticonderoga.
â€œWith what few boats our scouts had ferreted
out along shore, eighty-three men of us crossed
the lake, and landed under the fortress just as
the east was brightening up a little. Allen first
formed us in three ranks, and then sent the boats
back for the rest. I confess that I felt a little
nervous when I saw them push off, leaving us
to take what the enemy might choose to give
us, either in cold lead or stiff hemp; for from
where we stood, screened by the cliffs above our
heads, the fortress loomed up dark and threaten.
ing, like some ancient castle, silent now, but ready
to spit out fire and flames as soon as we should
show ourselves. I know I was all of a shiver.
â€œBut my teeth actually chattered in my head
when, instead of pushing on, as any man in his
sober senses would, Allen stepped out in front and
began making us a speech. A speech! and we
standing there at the imminent risk of discovery !
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA 58
Iâ€™ve heard that Allen first studied for a minister,
so he may have felt that morning like one of the
prophets of old, before leading his men forth to â€”
battle. But this was no time to preach. Men
fought then with darts and javelins, not powder
and ball. Pooh!
THE HEAD oF A TRAITOR
â€œAll I can now recollect of what Allen said was
this : â€˜You men that are not afraid to undertake
this adventure, poise your firelocks!â€™
â€œEvery musket was instantly brought to a
â€œWe were now faced to the right, and Allen,
with his drawn sword, put himself at our head.
Arnold did the same thing. He declared by all
56 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
that was good and great that he would go into the
fort first. Allen swore he should not. Here was
a pretty pickle. Two commanders quarrelling for
precedence within gunshot, ay, almost within ear-
shot, of the sentinels on the ramparts. For my
part, at that moment, I heartily wished both of
them at the bottom of the Jake.
â€œThe dispute was finally compromised by let-
ting them march side by side. It is my firm
belief that Arnold would rather have seen the
expedition fail, than not to have carried his point.
â€œThis war of words being over, we advanced
briskly up to the water-gate, where a sentry was
posted. This man snapped his musket at Allen,
looked as though he had seen a ghost, and then
took to his heels, we pushing on after him through
the covered way right into the fort, before he had
time to give more than one yell of wild alarm.
Once there, we formed in line on the parade, the
front rank facing one row of barracks on one side,
the rear rank those on the other, ready to fire at
any one who showed himself at a window. So
far, so good.
â€œThe garrison being sound asleep, we gave
three rousing huzzas, that would have waked the
dead. If they heard us, they took good care to
keep quiet. If they saw us, they saw our guns
held at a ready. Ticonderoga, the gate of the
North, was ours without the loss of a man.
â€œThe next thing was to secure the garrison.
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA 57
We had no trouble at all. One only of the sen-
tinels made a lunge at one of our officers with his
bayonet, giving him a slight wound. Allen in-
stantly gave the fellow a neat sword-cut over the
head, which made him drop his gun, and howl for
quarter. On being ordered to lead the way to the
commandantâ€™s quarters, the fellow showed Allen
a pair of stairs leading up to the second story of
the barracks, which Allen immediately mounted,
two steps at a time, finding himself before a door
at the top. The door being locked on the inside,
Allen dealt it two or three furious blows with the
hilt of his sword, at the same time calling out to
the terrified commandant that if he did not in-
stantly come forth, the garrison should all be
put to the sword.
â€œ The bewildered commander did not hesitate to
open the door at this threat; although he stood
only in his shirt, with his breeches in his hand,
not having had time to pull them on. Without
more words Allen demanded the surrender of the
â€œÂ«By what authority?â€™ asked the perplexed
â€œÂ¢In the name of the Great Jehovah and the
Continental Congress!â€™ was the bombastic reply.
-â€œ Still more astounded, for supposing he had
heard of the first, it was unlikely that he ever
had of the second, the commandant began to
stammer out some objections, which Allen, how-
58 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
ever, cut short by brandishing his naked sword
over the officerâ€™s head, repeating his demand in
a still more peremptory voice. To this display
of force, the unlucky commandant incontinently
-yiÃ©lded. Orders were given for the garrison to
parade, as prisoners of war to the Great Jehovah
and the Continental Congress.
â€œWhile Allen was thus occupied, the rest of us
had not been idle. By command of our officers,
we had beaten down several of the barrack doors
without opposition, taking the soldiers within be-
fore they could muster in any force. We were
â€˜too overjoyed by our success to jeer at them, in
spite of the black looks they gave us. A more
mortified lot of men you never saw in your life
than the forty-six officers and soldiers we took
there on the ever glorious. 10th of May, 1775.â€
â€œBut what became of the other detachments ?â€
it was asked when Peleg had finished.
â€œOh, I forgot to say that Seth Warner crossed
over with the rearguard as soon as the boats had
got back, though not in time to take part in the
capture of the fort. Immediately upon his join-
ing us, he was sent off down the lake to Crown
Point, another strong fortress, built at a narrow
part of the Jake during the Old French War.
Warner got possession of it very easily. There
were only a sergeant and twelve men there. Glory
enough for one day !
â€œThis was not all. There was an armed sloop
THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA 59
at St. Johns, at the foot of the lake, with which
the enemy could, of course, keep control of the
water, if let alone. It was determined to take
her too. For this purpose a schooner was fitted
out, and put under the command of Arnold, who
had been a sailor, I believe. At any rate, he got
the chance he had been waiting for, to do some-
thing on his own hook. To make sure of their
prey, Allen sailed with some bateaux, along with
Arnold; but the wind came out fair and fresh, the
schooner outsailed the boats, and Arnold took the
sloop alone. That puffed him up like a peacock.â€
60 THE WATCH PIRES OF â€™76
â€œWasn't Allen a little cracked in the upper
story?â€™ asked Uncle Billy, without addressing
any one in particular.
â€œWell, if he was, I only wish for my part we'd
had a few more like him, thatâ€™s all. I call him
an original, I do,â€ said. Reddy, with his usual.
decision. â€˜ What's your opinion?â€ he added,
turning to me.
Thus appealed to, I could only say that, in
my judgment, Allen was a singular compound
of courage and rashness, of shrewdness and self-
conceit, and of misdirected abilities. He was one
of those men who believe they are born to great
things; and such men are always a power, if per-
sonally brave, because courage and decision are
qualities all men admire, more especially in the
soldier. But then Arnold was thoroughly unprin-
cipled. Allen has always made me think of one
of Cromwellâ€™s Ironsides. His talk was a strange
mixture of â€œlocal barbarisms, scriptural phrases,
and Oriental wildness, though often highly ani-
mated and forcible. So much, at least, I have
gathered from his own narrative, I finished, by
way of apology, for I saw the frowns gathering Â»
ETHAN ALLEN 61
upon the brows of my venerable hearers, who,
however, heard me through silently, if I may ex-
cept an occasional angry snort or grunt coming
from the right or left of my chair. -
Reddy tilted his chair back to the verge of
oversetting it, passed his big freckled hand over
his glistening bald head, gazed up at the ceiling,
as if I was beneath his notice, and blurted out the
question : â€”
â€œWhat was Greene ?â€â€™
* The son of an anchor-smith.â€
â€œ A bookseller.â€
â€œ A farmer and tavern-keeper.â€
â€œTurned out pretty well, didnâ€™t they?â€
â€œWell, Squire, when you lay down the law at
education, donâ€™t forget what our generals were
made of. Werenâ€™t they all sons of the soil, like
â€œ Mostly so, I admit.â€
â€œAnd had to get their growth by the hardest
kind of knocks ?â€
â€œTf you mean that experience was their teacher, .
â€œI think you said something about Cromwell's
Ironsides. - You never said a better thing. They
were the hard-handed yeomanry of England. We
fought their fight over here. They won theirs; so |
62 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
did we ours. As for Allen, I wouldnâ€™t give a pis-
tareen for a man who hadnâ€™t a little gunpowder
in him, eh, boys?â€
There was a general murmur of assent, so I
held my peace. Reddy went on :â€”
â€œIn a single night Allen, with his handful of
homespun soldiers, did what whole armies had
failed to do in the French War. It was a great
â€œYes; but not his,â€™ objected some one else,
who now took up the cudgels on the other side.
â€œPeleg told us how that was. To tell the truth,
Iâ€™ve about come to the conclusion that Allenâ€™s
success at â€˜Ty,â€™ turned his head. What could
have been more foolish than his attack on Mon-
treal, with only a hundred and ten men, and a
river a mile wide behind him?â€
â€œHe made a good fight, anyhow,â€ Reddy in-
sisted, apparently determined not to desert his
â€œAnd was taken prisoner for his pains,â€ was
â€œLike some other folks I know of.â€
â€œYou mean me. I donâ€™t mind your twitting
on facts, Reddy. Fortune of war. When I was
a prisoner in New York, Allen was there too,
so I saw him. often. To speak out plainly, the
British had treated him more like a wild beast
than a human being. I think it was because
they were afraid of him. But he was the same -
ETHAN ALLEN ; 63
old Allen still. They had kept him in irons, like
any criminal; but his spirit was just as untamed
as if he had been walking the wild woods of his
â€œ Thatâ€™s the boy for me!â€ Reddy exclaimed in
triumph. â€œNever say die!â€
â€œ How did he look after his long confinement?â€
â€œAs you would naturally expect, very bad.
He had been brought from Halifax a short time
after that wretchedly managed business at Long
Island, where I was taken, and was paroled when
we were. Allen at that time looked like a once
robust man, worn down by hard usage and worse
fare, but he was then recovering his health and Â°
spirits. He wore a suit of blue, with a gold-laced
hat, presented to him by some gentlemen of Cork,
when Allen was there, in which he cut a very
passable figurÃ©â€”for a rebel colonel. He used
to show us a tooth that had been broken by his
twisting off with it, in a fit of anger, the nail
which fastened the bar of his handcuffs; an act
which drew, from one of the astonished spectators,
the exclamation of â€˜Hang the man; can he eat
iron?â€™ I soon became well acquainted with Allen,
and have more than once heard him relate his
adventures while a prisoner, exactly correspond-
ing, both in substance and language, with the
narrative he gave to the public in the year 1779.
I have seldom met with a man possessing in my
64 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
opinion a stronger mind, or whose mode of ex-
pression was more vehement and oratorical.â€
_ â€œThere!â€ exclaimed Reddy, turning to me
with every mark of triumph on his honest face;
â€œseeinâ€™s believinâ€™, Squire, the world over.â€
â€œ Anyhow, the taking of Ticonderoga was a most
costly victory for us,â€ I returned, â€œbecause it drew
our people on to attempt the conquest of Canada,
instead of confining their efforts to holding that
strong place alone. What happened? We lost
two. armies, three generals, and were kicked out
of Canada in the bargain.â€
â€œNothing venture, nothing have,â€ observed
Pelee. . â€œI. notice,â€™ he continued, â€œthat none
of you have found out that Boston was taken at
Seeing that his remark was a puzzle, he pro-
ceeded to make it clear to us in this wise :â€”
â€œ At that time, as you all know, our New Eng-
land yeomanry had General Gage penned up in
Boston hard and fast; but their intrenchments
were without cannon, and their men without
powder. It could not be a siege; it was more
of a blockade. â€˜Tyâ€™ was taken in May. Things
lingered along until winter. Washington wanted
those cannon and mortars badly, but getting them
down to camp before there was snow on the
ground was not to be thought of. Even then
it was a task to make a man think twice. Just
you think of it yourselves,
ne TN eS ee Le ee eee TT a a ee
ETHAN ALLEN 65
â€œBut where thereâ€™s a will thereâ€™s a way. Wash-
ington sent for Knox, who declared himself ready _
for anything. Dear me, I was just like him at
his age! Washington gave him his instructions,
some letters to friends at Albany, handed him
a wad of money, wished him success, and watched
the young colonel of artillery mount his horse and
ride off, with something of the feeling of having
asked him to perform a miracle.
â€œTt is only miracles, after all, that can save
us, murmured the commander-in-chief to himself,
as he turned to his writing-table, loaded down
with piles of official correspondence, and set him-
self resolutely at work again.
â€œThat was a proud day for Knox, a glorious one
for us, when the long train of ox-teams came
toiling down into Cambridge from across the
mountains. The whole army turned out to cheer
them as they passed by â€”twenty-fours, eighteens,
heavy mortars, shot, shell, and what not â€” with
Knox at their head, brown and ragged, but happy.
When they had come up abreast of the com-
mander-in-chiefâ€™s quarters, he with his staff stood
on the doorstep, clapping their hands. Knox
dismounted, threw the bridle over the hitching-
post, and walked up the flagged-walk to where
â€œ<Â«Flere are the guns from â€œTy,â€ your Excel-
lency,â€™ was all he said, making his salute.
66 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
in bluff old Putnam, who was standing my with
a face wreathed in smiles.
â€˜â€œWashington grasped Knoxâ€™s hand, and piece
it warmly, â€˜God has decreed that we should
succeed,â€™ he said, â€˜since He has permitted a
miracle in our favor. This is more than I dared
to hope for. Colonel, you dine with us to-day.â€™
â€œÂ«By your Excellencyâ€™s leave, there is a little
woman not far off who is expecting me.â€™
â€œThe general smiled benignantly. â€˜Ah! very
true. I forgot. Go and embrace her, and report
here to-morrow. General,â€™ turning to Putnam,
â€˜we will send the enemy the latest news from
Ticonderoga from the muzzles of their own
THE OLD SERGEANTâ€™S STORY - 67
THE OLD SERGEANTâ€™S STORY
Ir was Christmas night. Four of us were sit-
ting round a blazing wood fire in the old tavern at
X. A wrinkled, white-haired man crouched over
the fire, rubbing his hard, bony hands together, in
the seat that by general consent was always left
vacant for him in the chimney corner.
There is always something about very old men
that inspires us with a feeling of awe. So we sat
silent now, although our tongues had been running
fast enough before this taciturn old fellow had
â€˜dropped in upon us. He said never a word.
After giving a meaning glance at the rest of us,
one of the boys spoke up: â€œ What makes you look
so glum, Uncle Billy? Brighten up, old man, and
tell us a story about the good old times of â€˜sev-
enty-six.â€™.â€ ie i
â€œThe good old times of â€˜seventy-six,â€™â€ the old
man slowly repeated, â€œthe good old times of â€˜sev-
enty-six?â€™ You donâ€™t know what you're talking
Having said this, the old sergeant fell into a
brown study again. Our defeated companion ~
â€œMy grandfather was in the retreat from Long
Island,â€ I said, rather grandly I suppose.
68 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
â€œWas he?â€ retorted Uncle Billy: â€œI hope he
retreated in good order,â€ he added, with a grin of
â€œWhich would you rather do, fight the British
or Hessians?â€™â€™ my next neighbor asked, half iron-
ically, half in earnest.
At this question the old man fired up.
â€œNeither,â€ he replied, with decision. â€œId rather
be a-settinâ€™ here, by a warm fire, hearinâ€™ other
folks tell about their explites. Ah, boys, boys,â€
he continued, in a more gentle tone, â€œthis is
the time oâ€™ year when peace on airth and good
will toward men is the universal gospel, and
right it should be; but Iâ€™ve seen the time when
things were different, I can tell ye.â€
We sat as still as mice, afraid to interrupt
â€œYou want to hear about it? You shall. I
remember it as if it was yesterday, and yet it
was nigh on sixty year ago. How time does fly !
â€œJt was at Trenton, the very last of December
â€˜seventy-six. The time for which most,of us had
enlisted was out â€” yes, and more too. Now, just
as we'd made up our mouths to go home, what
does Ginâ€™ral Washington do but order our regi-
ment paraded. â€˜God bless the man! heâ€™s goinâ€™ to.
give us all our discharge,â€™ was what we thought,
at first. Instead of that he made us a speech,
begging and entreating us to stay a month
WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE
THE OLD SERGEANTS STORY 69
â€œThe drums beat up for volunteers. Not a
man stirred. What do you think? We were all
worn out. We were in rags. I know I was
nothinâ€™ but skin and bone; for sence we licked
the Hessians and before, we'd been kept dancinâ€™
back and forth, to and fro, up hill and down dale,
until we looked more like a pack of scarecrows
than good flesh and. blood. The only thing we
ever got a full meal of was fightinâ€™; and most of
us wernâ€™t hankerinâ€™ for any more of that, you can
take your Bible oath on. Why, manyâ€™s the time
Iâ€™ve eat raw potato peelinâ€™s, and glad to get â€™em.
Now just look at it. For the last month we'd
been countinâ€™ the days, one by one, when we
should go home â€”home! why it was like heaven!
And now to be asked to stop another month. It
was enough to turn a man to stone. ;
â€œJ said not a man stirred in his tracks, didnâ€™t
I? I know my backbone was stiff as a ramrod.
We stood there like graven images, deaf and
dumb, and never winked. |
â€œThe ginâ€™ral wheeled his horse, and rode along
in front of the regiment, very slow. Says he â€”
I give you his very words â€” â€˜ My brave lads, your
country is at stake ; wives, homes, little ones, and
all you hold dear. I know you have worn your-
selves out with fatigues and hardship, and now
want to go home; but we know not how to spare
you. If you will only stay one month more, you
will render that service to the cause of liberty, and
70 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
to your country, which probably you can never do
under any circumstances. The present is em-
phatically the cvzszs, which is to decide our des-
tiny.â€ Oh, he was grand!
â€œThe drums then beat for the second time.
â€œ The soldiers felt the force of the appeal and
showed it. One said to another, â€˜Iâ€™ll stay if you
will.â€™ Others said, â€˜We canâ€™t go home under
such circumstances, can we?â€™ A few stepped
forward. Their example was quickly followed
by nearly all who were fit for duty, in the regi-
ment, amounting in all.to about two hundred
Â«Â¢ Shall these men be enrolled, sir?â€™ our colonel
â€œÂ«No,â€™ said the ginâ€™ral; â€˜men who will act as |
they have donâ€™t need any enrolment.â€™
â€œ Now, you must know that we were in a pretty
tight fix. There was Lord Cornwallis planted
squarely in our front, with men enough to eat us
all up. We stood lookinâ€™ at each other across the
Assanpink. Three times the Hessians tried to
force their way across the bridge, and three times
our cannon drove them back. At last they gave
it up, and left us alone for the night.
â€œThen we played them a Yankee trick. We
built big fires to make them think we were lying
there all snug, waitinâ€™ for them to come on in the
morning, turned off by a roundabout way, and
marched away for Princeton. Ugh, but it was
THE OLD SERGEANTS STORY 71
â€œOur two hundred volunteers were with the
advance. We were ina sorry plight for a forced
march, but there were no stragglers. Our artil-
lery horses were without shoes; and when we
came to a spot that was frozen over, they would
slip and slide about so that the soldiers would
have to drag and push them along, by main
strength. The men were hardly better off than
the horses for shoes, many having nothing on but
some old rags or a piece of carpet to keep their
feet from the frozen ground.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t mean to say that the men were
actually barefooted?â€ we cried out in a chorus of
â€œBoys, you could have tracked those men by
the blood oozing out at every step, where the
sharp ice had cut through into the flesh.â€
â€œT should have thought their feet would have
frozen stiff,â€™ was the sympathetic rejoinder of the
youngest of us.
â€œQh, your feet won't freeze as long as the
blood runs. You wanted me to tell you about
the good old times of â€˜seventy-six,â€™ didnâ€™t you?â€
And the old sergeant went on with his story.
â€œTt was, I think, about sun-up on the morning
of January 3, â€˜seventy-seven,â€™ when, upon reach-
ing the top of a hill near Princeton, we saw a
. light-horseman watching us at a distance. Ginâ€™ral
Mercer, he gave orders to some of the riflemen to
pick him off ; but before they could draw a trigger,
72 THE WATCH FIRES OF '76
the vedette turned his horse and galloped off, out
of our reach.
â€œÂ«That rascal will give the alarm,â€™ said the
ginâ€™ral to my captain.
â€œThere was a farmhouse a few rods from where
we halted, to spell the men a little. Presently a
countryman came out of the house, and stood on
the doorstep staring at us, as if we were so many
ghosts. The ginâ€™ral beckoned to him.
â€œAre you a friend to your country?â€™ he asked.
â€œThere ought to be some by-way by which
we can approach coe village without pelle seen.â€™
â€œ Â«There is one.â€™
â€œVery good, Captain,â€™ continued the ginâ€™ral,
turning to us, â€˜here is the man you want. If he
prove faithful, reward him; should he betray us,
â€œThe countrymanâ€™s eyes roved from one to the
other, but. he said never a word. You see, boys,
the man who didnâ€™t carry a musket on one side or
the other, in those days, couldnâ€™t be trusted out
â€œ*You hear?â€™ said our captain to the man.
â€œ*Yes,â€™ was the sullen reply.
â€œÂ«Then take care how you lead us into an
ambuscade. If you do, I'll blow out your brains,
â€œThe man led us off through a farm-road, that
ran nearly parallel with the one on which we had ~
THE OLD SERGEANTâ€™S STORY Te
seen the vedette disappear. For some: distance
our march was concealed by a piece of pine woods,
but at the end of about fifteen minutes, as I
should judge, we came out of this wood into open
â€˜ground again, on the top of a small hill, which we
began descending. Before us we saw a high
bank and hedgerow, stretching across our path,
and glittering with icicles in the morning sun,
which-shone full in our faces. It blinded us. All
seemed quiet around us.
â€œTurning to my captain, who marched at my
side, I pointed to this innocent looking hedgerow, .
without speaking. He nodded, as much as to say,
â€˜I see it as well as you do,â€™ and kept right on.
If it hadnâ€™t been for those plaguy icicles, I could
have sworn I saw bayonets sticking up behind
â€œTn a couple of minutes more, we were within
twenty paces of the ditch, under the bank. All
of a sudden a perfect swarm of British rose up,
and poured a tremendous fire into us.
â€œÂ« Aha! Captain,â€™ said our guide, â€˜it seems that
two can play at this game.â€
â€œHe had hardly got the words out of his mouth,
when the captain brought down the breech of his
musket on the fellowâ€™s head with all his might.
It was enough to have felled an ox.
â€œ*Â« Fire, men! why donâ€™t you fire?â€™ shouted the
ginâ€™ral, reining back his horse. I then saw that
he was bare-headed and bleeding too.
74 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œLuckily for us, their first volley mostly went
over our heads. They were in too big a hurry to
do execution. We were ordered to wheel out.
As my platoon was obeying this order, the cor-
poral at my left let go his gun, gave a spring in
the air, and pitched headforemost into the ditch.
We rallied, moved on, shoved our muskets
through the hedge, and gave it to the beggars
hot and heavy. If ever I smelled powder, it was
then and there.â€
The old sergeant stopped to mop his forehead,
and get his breath. Â¥
â€œWhere was I? Oh! we were a-fightinâ€™ away
across the bank. Well, pretty soon they fell back
about eight rod, to where their packs were laid-on
the ground, in a line. We kept on rattling the
buckshot into â€™em, like all possessed; for we saw
we had â€™em beaten, fair and square. But just
then, what should we see but another passel on
â€œem come a-runninâ€™ up double-quick.
â€œSome one sung out to us, â€˜Stanâ€™ your ground,
brave boys! The beggars are cominâ€™ to town!â€™
â€œIt was no use. They were three to our one,
and all fresh men. Pretty soon I heard some one
give the order to retreat, in a dying sort of voice.
It was the general. I looked around to see if I
could discover anything of our main body; for we
were all fought out, and the enemy were drivinâ€™
their bayonets into our wounded men, right and
left. Our folks were nowhere to be seen. After
THE OLD SERGEANTâ€™S STORY 75
giving the enemy what I had in my gun, I ran for
the woods I told you of before.
â€œ Before I could get there, Ginâ€™ral Washington
came ridinâ€™ up. at full gallop. Far behind him I
could see the head of our advancing columns.
â€˜Parade with us, my brave fellows,â€™ he shouted,
â€˜there are only a handful of the enemy, and we'll
have them directly.â€™
â€œTf there was one of â€™em, there was a million;
and he was almost alone.
â€œWell, the minute they saw us trying to rally,
the enemy gave us a whole volley. How the bul-
lets did hum! Some of us grabbed the ginâ€™ralâ€™s
bridle, and tried to turn his horseâ€™s head. We
all felt that it was no place for him. But he
wouldnâ€™t budge an inch. â€˜Leave me alone!â€™ he
cried, â€˜the enemy is there,â€™ pointing his sword
toward the rascals who were popping away at us
out of the smoke. It was the bravest thing I
ever saw. I vow and declare to you nobody would
have thought he was the commander-in-chief. It
was the Virginia colonel, stemming the tide of
defeat at Braddockâ€™s field over again. My heart
was in my mouth, for I expected to see him fall
from his horse every instant. But bless you, they
couldnâ€™t hit him. That man bore a charmed life.â€
â€œWell, go on, go on; how did it come out?â€
we breathlessly exclaimed.
â€œ Just like this. Up came our folks, puffinâ€™ and
blowinâ€™, cheerinâ€™ and shoutinâ€™, â€˜have at the blood-
76 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
hounds!â€™ â€˜Trenton! Trenton!â€™ I tell you it was
beautiful. Did you ever see dead leaves go whirl-
ing away before a gust of wind in autumn? At
*em we went, tooth and nail. They retreated
back to the college, where they thought them-
selves safe. Our army was there in an instant.
Our cannon unlimbered right before the door;
and, after two or three shots, we saw a white
handkerchief hung out of the window on the point
of asword. The enemy had surrendered.â€
| GERMANTOWN Tei
â€˜THERE was Germantown. We had them whipped
there as clean as a whistle. I'll tell you how I
know it. After the British marched out of Phil-
adelphia for good, some of us were rummaging
around their quarters at Germantown, when we
ran across a lot of papers that had been torn up
and thrown into a fireplace among the ashes.
One of the men, I forget now who it was, picked
up a piece to pene his pipe with.
â€œHold on,â€ says he, â€œ thereâ€™ s writing on it.â€
We pulled a rickety table out of a corner, spread
the torn pieces out on it, and went to work trying
to put them together. It took us a good while;
but we got as much interested in it as boys will
over a puzzle, and at last we had them all com-
plete, like a book.
One paper-was a return of the killed and
wounded ; another was a letter telling about the
battle, aie the writer evidently hadnâ€™t had time
to finish before he was ordered off somewhere in
a hurry. So he tore it up. This was the way it
read. I know it by heart. You can see by the
way it is worded that an educated man and an
78 THE WATCH FIRES OF '76
officer wrote it, â€”none of your ignorant rank and
file, Squire â€” ahem !
**While the greater part of our army were employed at
Mud Island, General Washington, availing himself of that
circumstance, attacked our battalion at Biggerstown with
his whole army.
Â«The first General Howe knew of Washingtonâ€™s march-
ing against us was by his attacking us at daybreak. General
Wayne commanded the advance, and fully expected to be
revenged for the surprise we had given him a short time
â€˜* When the first shots were fired at our pickets, so much
had we all Wayne's affair in remembrance, that the battalion
was out and under arms in a minute. The day had just
broke; but it was a very foggy morning, and so dark we
could not see a hundred yards before us.
â€˜Just as the battalion had formed, the pickets came in
and said the enemy were advancing in force. They had
hardly joined the battalion when we heard a loud cry of
. â€˜Have at the bloodhounds! revenge Wayneâ€™s affair!â€™ and
the enemy immediately fired a volley at us.
â€œWe gave them one in return, cheered, and charged.
â€œAs it was near the end of the campaign, our battalion
was very weak; it did not consist of more than three hun-
dred men, and we had no support nearer than Germantown,
a mile-in our rear.
â€˜â€œâ€˜On our charging they gave way on all sides, but again
and again renewed ine attack, with fresh troops and greater
â€˜*We charged them twice, till the battalion was so re-
duced by killed and wounded that the bugle sounded a
retreat; indeed, had we not retreated at the very time we
did, we should all have been taken or killed, as two columns
of the enemy had nearly got round our flank. But this was
- the first time we had ever retreated from the Americans, and it
was with great difficulty we could get the men to obey orders.
â€œâ€˜The enemy were kept so long in check that the two
brigades had advanced to the entrance of Biggerstown when
they met our battalion retreating. By this time General
Howe had come up; and seeing the battalion retreating all
broken, he flew into a passion and exclaimed, â€˜ For shame,
Light Infantry! I never saw you retreat before; form! form!
itâ€™s only a scouting-party !â€
â€œ However, he was quickly convinced it was more than
a scouting-party, as the heads of the enemyâ€™s columns soon
appeared. One coming through Biggerstown, with three
pieces of cannon in their front, immediately fired, with
grape, at the crowd that was standing with General Howe
under a large chestnut-tree. I think I never saw people
enjoy a discharge of grape before; but we really all felt
pleased to see the enemy make such an appearance, and to
hear the grape rattle about the commander-in-chiefâ€™s ears,
after he had accused, the battalion of having run away from
a scouting-party. :
â€˜â€˜ He rode off immediately at full speed, and we joined the
two brigades that were formed a little way in our rear; but it
was not possible for them to make any stand against Wash-
ingtonâ€™s whole army, and they all retreated to Germantown,
except Colonel Musgrave, who, with the Fortieth Regiment,
nobly defended Chewâ€™s house till we were re-enforced from
There the letter ended abruptly.
It may be supposed that we were far from sat-
isfied with the way the story broke off. Just as
we had worked ourselves up into a fine state of
excitement, to be left dangling in a state of
uncertainty was cruel.
80 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œWhat did he mean by â€˜Wayneâ€™s affairâ€™?â€
one asked. ;
â€œWhat had Chewâ€™s house to do with the battle?
and why couldnâ€™t they have marched past it?â€
â€œThatâ€™s another story,â€ the veteran replied,
shaking his gray head regretfully. â€˜Ah, boys,
fortune oâ€™ war, fortune oâ€™ war.â€
THE CHEW House,
CHEWS HOUSE 81
Axsour Chewâ€™s house. Well, Iâ€™ll try to tell
you how that unlucky house was the cause of our
losing the day, after we had so nearly won it in
a. fair. stand-up fight. As far as he goes, that
British officer tells the truth. So Iâ€™ll just fill up â€”
what he has left out.
After the battle of Brandywine the British
thought Washington was so badly beaten that he
would be only too glad to keep quiet for some
time to come. But they had reckoned without
_ their host. Washington saw his opportunity and
seized it promptly.
Part of the British army lay in PRViadel pita
part was posted at Germantown, with its light
troops pushed out beyond that place to watch the
Americans. Now, if that part holding German-
town could be overwhelmed by a sudden assault,
Philadelphia would fall into our hands again.
That was precisely what General Washington
For this attack he had formed his army in four
columns. He, himself, was with the column that
82 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
was driving the enemy before them through Ger-
While everything was going on thus success-
fully with him, a brisk musketry fire, coming from .
a large house situated at a pistol-shot back from
the street, stopped the head of his troops at that
spot, and, of course, brought those in the rear to
a sudden halt.
The general officers instantly gathered round
Washington in a little knot, all talking excitedly.
Knox insisted that it was against all rule to
leave a fort in their rear.
â€œDo you call that a fort?â€â€™ another exclaimed
in apet. â€˜We waste our time here.â€
Washington was undecided. In this case, how-
ever, he seems to have yielded to Knoxâ€™s advice.
The worst that could have happened was the loss
of a few men in marching on, while every minute
we stayed there put our chances of success at
hazard, as you will presently see.
â€œT think Knox was right,â€ interposed one at-
â€œAnd I think he was all wrong,â€ asserted an-
other with equal decision.
â€œThere was a difference of opinion then, moreâ€™s
the pity; but there doesnâ€™t seem much room for
it at this late day,â€ returned the narrator of the
story. â€œIf we'd got Philadelphia, where would
Chewâ€™s house have been?â€
CHEW'S HOUSE 83
As this question was unanswerable, he was
allowed to proceed without further interruption.
Unluckily it was determined to make an attack.
on this Chewâ€™s house. This could only be done
successfully by cannonading it, as the house was
strongly built of stone, and of course could not
be set on fire. As luck would-have it, again, there
was nothing but some light six-pounders at hand.
The Chevalier Mauduit Duplessis brought up two
to within two hundred yards of the house, with
â€˜which he opened fire. Bless you! they did no
more good than snowballs. The balls just im-_
bedded themselves in the solid walls, and that was
But Mauduit would not give it up so. He now
proposed carrying the house by an assault. His
plan was quickly matured. Colonel Laurens was
to take a few determined men, each of whom
should carry a bundle of straw with him to the
house, throw it down in a heap against the front
door, and set it on fire. If this plan succeeded,
the enemy would have to choose between being
smoked out or surrendering at discretion.
These two young dare-devils immediately set
about the execution of their most desperate pro-
Supposing that the men with the straw were
following him, Mauduit himself made straight
for a window of the first floor, broke it in, and
84 THE WATCH FIRES. OF Â°76
climbed up on the sill ina moment. He had no
sooner gained this dangerous perch than a pistol
was thrust in his face with a gruff command to
surrender. At the same instant a shot was fired
from inside the room, which brought down, â€˜not
Mauduit, but the officer who wanted to take him
It was now become a question of how to escape
from this dangerous situation with a whole skin,
since either to go or stay would expose the gallant
young Frenchman to about equal risk. He real-
ized that he must not only run the gantlet of a
murderous fire, which the defenders of the man-
sion kept up from the upper stories, but also in
the full sight of a large part of the American
army who stood looking on to see how he would
get out of the scrape he was in.
Rather than to risk being laughed at, should he
make a bold dash for his friends, or have it said
that he had run away from his enemies, Mauduit
coolly marched back to the American column, |
under a shower of balls. Laurens did the same
thing. To the astonishment of all the lookers-on,
both returned safe and sound, except that Laurens -
received a slight wound in the shoulder.
An officer, with a flag, was then sent to sum-
mon the house to surrender. He was shot down
before he could deliver his message,
It was this unforeseen delay, caused by the
obstinate resistance of Colonel Musgrave, that
CHEWS HOUSE 85
turned the fortunes of the day against-us; for the
other columns, being thus left without support,
were compelled to fall back, fighting in retreat,
because Howe had gained time to bring his whole
â€˜army into action.
General Washington candidly admitted that the
fault was his own. After the battle was over
somebody asked him whether he blamed any of
his subordinate officers for the disasters of the
day. â€˜No; not at all,â€ he replied; â€œ the fault lay
with ourselves,â€ referring, of course, to that wind-
mill attack on Chewâ€™s house. If youâ€™ve ever read
â€œDon Quixote,â€ you'll know what that means.
A good plan spoiled by a.bad decision, was the
general verdict upon this affair. Soldiers, you
know, can only obey orders.
86 - THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
As some of you may happen to know, I was
one of the guards who were detailed to escort
General Burgoyneâ€™s army to Cambridge after the
surrender. While we were on the march, I got
acquainted with a good many of the officers, both
high and low. Some were young cubs, hardly
out of their teens; some grizzled veterans, who
looked as savage as a meat-axe when you passed.
HUBBARDTON . 87
the time oâ€™ day to â€™em. I didnâ€™t blame them a
mite, Vou and I would have done the same thing,
if we had taken a dose of the same medicine.
There was one young fellow among them who
showed more sense than a good many did. Hewas
a captain in the Twenty-fourth, I think it was, well-
educated, good-looking, gentlemanly, never snarl-
ing at the weather, the rations, or the lodgings, .
but taking things as they came, like the good
soldier he was. The way we got acquainted was
this. (I wonder where he is now.) You see,
heâ€™d lost some of his baggage, and was telling
me in a joking sort of way, though I could see
he felt as ashamed as could be to think he didnâ€™t
look quite as slick as some, that he hadnâ€™t a shirt
to his back, except the one he had on. I got him
one of mine. â€œTake it,â€™ says 1; â€œIâ€™ve got plenty
more at home.â€™ That broke the ice between us.
I got to like that young chap like a brother. I
wonder where he is now.
Speaking of brothers, my next oldest one,
Joshua, was in the battle of Hubbardton. We'd
heard all kinds of stories about that affair, so
one day I made bold to ask my captain if he had
been in it too. ;
â€œIt was my first engagement,â€ he replied;
â€œand before it was half over, I little thought
that I should ever live to tell of it,â€ he added,
with a very expressive shake of the head. â€œThose
Green Mountain Boys of yours are dead shots,â€
88 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
I then told him about my having had a brother
in the fight ; and said I would like to hear his side
of the story.
â€œ First tell me your own version,â€ he suggested.
â€œThatâ€™s Yankee, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œWell, Joshua is no hand to write letters, so
itâ€™s not much I know about it ; but anyhow, this Â©
_is the way we heard it : â€”
â€œWhen our army retreated from TiconderÃ©gâ€™ on
the morning of July 6, 1777, they took the road
leading to Hubbardton, Vt. Colonel Francis, of
Newton, Mass., was in command of â€˜the rear-
guard with his own regiment. When Francis
came up with our main body, which had halted
at Hubbardton, the rear-guard was re-enforced
with the regiments of Warner and Hale, and
Warner, as senior officer, then â€˜took command of
it. The main body then moved on six miles
farther to Castleton. Warnerâ€™s orders were to
keep within supporting distance; but, as his men
were tired, he decided to go into camp where
he was, and the battle of Hubbardton was the
â€œAre you quite sure those three regiments
were all the force you had on the ground?â€ asked
my officer in some surprise.
â€œ As sure as you live.â€
The captain then gave me his side. Ycu can
put this and that together.
Said he, â€œI belonged to Frazerâ€™s corps, com-
posed of the light infantry and grenadiers, with
_some Canadian bushrangers acting as scouts. We
were the advanced guard of the army.
â€œ As soon as it was known that the Americans
had abandoned their works, we marched into
them. When we got down to the bridge thrown
across the lake, over which the garrison had
passed, some hours earlier, to the eastern shore,
we had to halt until the bridge could be made
passable again, which took up some time, as it
had been partly destroyed on purpose to stop
us. More than this, four men had been left in
a battery, which raked the bridge from end to
- end, who, on the approach of our army, were to
have fired off the cannon that defended it, and get
away in the confusion. .
â€˜No doubt this was their intention, as they left
their lighted matches close to the cannon.
â€œSituated as our brigade was, had these men
obeyed orders, they would have done us great
mischief ; but, instead of doing so, we found them
lying dead drunk by a cask-of wine, which had
been left behind in the retreat.
â€œHowever, this same battery came very near
being the destruction of the Ninth regiment,
through the curiosity of an Indian, who took up a
lighted match that was lying on the ground, and,
whether by accident or not, let a spark fall on the
priming just as that regiment was marching over
the bridge. The cannon was loaded with all man-
90 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
ner of destructive missiles, great and small, which
must have swept the bridge of every living thing ;
but, as it fortunately turned out, was so elevated
that it did no damage whatever when it went off.
â€œSome little time after this, we were ordered
to march in pursuit of the enemy, and to catch up
with them if we could. Riedeselâ€™s Germans were
ordered to fall in behind us as a support; but as
we took a sort of pleasure in making them chase
us, we saw nothing more of them until the next
â€œOn our march we picked up several strag-
glers, from whom it was learned that the enemyâ€™s
rear-guard was composed of picked men, com-
manded by a Colonel Francis, one of their best
â€œUpon learning that this force was not far off,
we marched on, three miles nearer, and slept on
our arms where night overtook us. Few harder
â€œmarches have ever fallen to my lot. The general
was initiating us into the mysteries of soldiering
with a vengeance.
â€œAt three in the morning we were on the road
again ; and at about five we came up with the en-
emy, whom we found thrown entirely off their
guard, and busily employed in cooking their
breakfasts around the camp-fires. The celerity
of our march had prevented their getting any
notice of it.
â€œMajor Grant, of our regiment, at once at-
tacked their pickets with our advanced guard.
After firing a few scattering shots, the pickets â€”
ran in to their main body, with our men following
close at their heels. Upon coming up with them,
the major got upon the stump of a tree to recon-_
noitre, and had hardly given the order â€˜to fire
when a rifle ball knocked him off the stump,
stone dead. He was the first man I saw killed
on that day, though not the last by a good many.
â€œAt the commencement of the action, the
Americans were everywhere thrown into the
greatest confusion; but being rallied by that brave
officer, Colonel Francis, whose death, though an
enemyâ€™s, will ever be regretted by all those who
can feel for the loss of a brave and gallant man,
the fight was renewed with the greatest fierceness
and obstinacy. Indeed, the fate of the day was
undecided until the arrival of the Germans, who,
though late, came in. for a share of the glory, in
dispersing the enemy in all quarters.
â€œUpon their arrival we were apprehensive, by
the noise we heard, that a re-enforcement had been
sent back from the main body of the American
army for the support of their rear-guard ; for they
began singing psalms on their advance,: and at
the same time kept up an incessant firing, which
totally. decided the fate of the day.
â€œ After the action was over, and all firing had
ceased, a number of our officers met at a quiet
spot to read the papers taken out of the pocket-
92 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
book of Colonel Francis. While thus engaged,
Captain Shrimpton of the Sixty-second, who had
the papers in his hand, jumped up, staggered and
fell, exclaiming that he was severely wounded.
We all heard the ball whiz by us, and upon turn-
ing toward the place whence the shot came, saw
the smoke drift away from it, but the person who
had fired could not be found.â€
I told the captain, who had now finished his
narrative, that I was glad to hear our men had be-
haved so well, as I was tired of hearing them con-
tinually spoken of as cowards, who would run
away at the first fire.
â€œT admit,â€ he replied apologetically enough,
â€œthat such was the general belief in our army
at one time. But that was before we had met the
_ Americans in the open field on the 19th of Sep-
tember. The courage and obstinacy with which
the Americans fought on that day were the as-
tonishment of every one of us; and we then be-
came fully convinced that .they were far from
being the contemptible enemy we had once im-
agined them, or were, as some of us had thought,
incapable of fighting except behind strong and
â€œAnd since I have mentioned the 19th of Sep-
tember, I will tell you of another thing that set
me to thinking. Being one day detailed as officer
of the guard, I was requested to reconnoitre over
across two wide ravines that lay in our front. In
doing this I had to make a circuit over a part of
the late battle-ground, meeting in my way with
several dead bodies belonging to the enemy, still
lying unburied where they fell. Among them,
lay a woman quite dead, with arms extended and
both hands full of cartridges. Evidently she had
heard the men calling out, for more ammunition,
had run up into the hottest of the fire, and was in
the act of distributing her cartridges among them,
when one of our bullets struck her. down.
â€œNot brave, eh? I will give you another in-
stance of personal heroism that I never knew
â€œWhile we were halting at Fort Edward, on
our march down to Albany, there were almost
daily skirmishes between our Indian contingent
and the American scouting-parties, who were thus
trying to delay us. In one of these skirmishes
the Indians had taken some prisoners, who were.
brought into camp.
â€œOne of them, who was-so badly wounded as
to be unable to walk, the Indians had brought in
on their backs for nearly three miles, with as
much care and attention as if he had been one of
their own people. Even they know how to honor
bravery in an enemy.
â€œAs they approached the camp we were all ap-
prised of their having some prisoners with them,
by their setting up the war-whoops ; but every one
94 = THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
was as much astonished as pleased with their hu-
manity in bringing the chief of the party in on
â€œHe was taken before General Frazer, but
would give no answer to any question whatever,
and }ehaved in the most undaunted manner
â€œThe general, imagining that by showing him
some attention he might gain some information
from him, ordered him some refreshment; and
when the surgeon, who had examined his wound,
told him he must immediately undergo an ampu-
tation, which was submitted to without a murmur,
the man was warned to keep himself still and
quiet, or lock-jaw would inevitably set in.
â€œTo this he replied with great firmness, â€˜ Then
I shall have the pleasure of dying in a good cause;
that of gaining independence to the American col-
â€œSuch was the manâ€™s restless disposition that
he actually died the next morning.â€
THE DEATH OF GENERAL FRAZER 95
THE DEATH OF GENERAL FRAZER
By his evident desire to be fair and straight-
forward in all he said, I had come to put a good
deal more confidence in my English captain than
in some of our own boasters, and I hinted as
much to him. oa
His reply was what I should have expected
â€œWhy,â€ said he good-humoredly, â€œI could
never see how disparaging your enemy was
going to increase your own importance. The
more contemptible your adversary, the less glory
in overcoming him. Look at it in this way. Of
course, I would: not be willing to admit that we
were your inferiors, yet here we are prisoners
of war.â€ ;
â€œWhat do your officers say about our riflemen?
Donâ€™t you think them more than a match for any
troops in your service?â€
â€œAs skirmishers, especially in a wooded coun-
try like yours, no troops in the world can equal
them. At first we thought highly of our own
Indians and Canadians as marksmen, but your
riflemen actually drove them out of our camp.
It was to that fatal skill of theirs at long-range
96 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
firing, that we owed the loss of our gallant com-
mander, General Frazer.â€
â€œWere you near him that day?â€
â€œNo; I was on duty in the lines. I saw him
soon after he was shot, however.â€
â€œWould it be painful for you to give me some
account of his last moments?â€
â€œBy no means. He met a soldierâ€™s death on
the field of honor, fighting for the cause he be-
lieved in. What more can be said? You may
recall my speaking about heading a reconnoi-
tring party out beyond the ravines. I knew that
our troops had gone out, though ignorant with
what object. Before I got back to my post, how-
ever, the battle of the 7th of October was raging
off at my right in a way to put us all on the
â€œThis was all the more provoking because the
thick woods hid everything from our sight.
â€œSoon after my return to the guard, the firing
appeared to become general on both sides, and
very heavy indeed. Much about this time the
bat-men of the army, who went out with the
troops for forage, came galloping back into camp,
having thrown off their forage to save their own
horses and themselves by rapid flight.
â€œYou must allow this defeat of the bat-men,
besides a steady stream of wounded men coming
into camp, was no very favorable omen of suc-
cess; nor can you conceive the sorrow visible
THE DEATH OF GENERAL FRAZER 07
on every face at General Frazerâ€™s beirig brought
in wounded, supported by two officers, one on
each side of his
â€œ T cannot describe
the scene to you. It
was such that the im-
agination must help
to paint, â€” the offi-
cers all anxious and.
eagerly inquiring as
to his wound, the
downcast look and
melancholy that were
visible to every one
as to his situation.
And all the answer
he could make to the
many inquiries was a
shake of the head, ex-
pressive that it was
all over with him. So
much was he beloved,
that not only officers
and soldiers, but all
the women, flocked
AN AMERICAN RIFLEMAN
(From a print of 1780)
round him, so solicitous were they for his fate.
â€œWhen the general had reached his tent, and
was a little recovered from the faintness occa-
sioned by loss of blood, he told those around him
98 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
that he saw the man who shot him. He was a
rifleman perched up in the forks of a tree. The
ball had entered a little below the breast, and
come out just below the backbone. It had gone
entirely through him.
â€œ After the surgeon had dressed his wound, the
general said to him very composedly, â€˜Tell me,
Sone, to the best of your skill and judgment, if
you think my wound is mortal.â€™ -The surgeon re-
plied, â€˜I am sorry, sir, to inform you that it is,.
and that you cannot possibly live four-and-twenty
â€œ The general then called for pen and ink, and,
after making his will and distributing a few little
tokens of regard to the officers of his suite, de-
sired that he might be removed to the general
hospital. Ah, that was a bad day for us, very bad!
â€œThe next morning we heard that the general
was dead. We could as well have lost another
battle. At his own request he was buried in the
great redoubt we had thrown up on the high
ground above the hospitals. The body was borne
up the hillside to, the grave upon the shoulders of
four stout grenadiers of his own corps. The rest
of the corps marched in procession. _
â€œT greatly doubt if just such a military funeral
was ever seen before â€” certainly not to my knowl-
edge. Upon seeing such a collection of troops
massed in one spot, your artillery opened fire
upon us; and amid the roar of this cannonade the
THE DEATH OF GENERAL FRAZER 99
funeral service began, with the balls ploughing
and throwing up the earth all around us. Even
while the chaplain was reading the service for the
dead, a cannon-ball, better aimed. than the rest,
fell exactly in the middle of the group around
him, covering him and them with dirt. It was
barbarous â€” barbarous |â€
The captainâ€™s face showed far more clearly than
words his deep horror of the act.
â€œTâ€™ve heard about it,â€™ said I, â€œfrom our own
men who were there. As you say, they saw your
troops massing on the hill, but without knowing
the object, and so opened fire. No flag was sent
in to let them know what was going on. It was
supposed that you were getting ready either to
attack or retreat; but, in any case, your troops
were a fair mark for our guns, Iâ€™ve been told,
and believe it too, that somehow word was passed
between the sentries that a general officer was
being buried, and that not a shotted gun was
fired by us afterward, but minute guns instead.â€
â€œThat, indeed, puts a new face upon the mat-
ter,â€ said the captain, visibly brightening up. â€œI
hope it may be true,â€™ he added, with a shake
of the head.
â€œOh, we Americans are not quite lost to all
feeling, you may depend, sir. Ask your wounded,
ask your prisoners who have fallen into our hands,
if we have behaved to them like savages.â€
I suppose I had spoken out rather impulsively,
100 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
for the captainâ€™s face grew flushed. Instead of
showing temper, however, he simply answered,
â€œ Nothing was farther from my thoughts. Am I
not a living evidence to the truth of your state-
ment?â€ The subject was then dropped. :
We rode along together in silence for the next
half-hour, each probably casting about in his own
mind for something more agreeable to talk about.
He was the first to break the silence.
â€œBy-the-by,â€ he remarked, â€œitâ€™s an ill wind
blows nobody good. We took some of your men
prisoners who are now enjoying their liberty, I
dare say, through our misfortunes.â€
I informed. him that all those who were taken
at Hubbardton had been retaken at â€œTyâ€ by our
own troops, before the surrender, a fact of which
he seemed thoroughly ignorant.
â€œOur retreat, then, was really cut off,â€™ he
observed thoughtfully. â€œIt was not of them that
I was thinking, though,â€ he continued, â€œ but of
some we took at the beginning of that roth of
â€œTn this skirmish, one of General Frazerâ€™s bat-
men rescued an officer of the Virginia riflemen
from the Indians, who had already plundered him
of his valuables, and were on the point of strip-
ping him when Frazerâ€™s man interfered. He
made them give up the officerâ€™s pocket-book, con-
taining all his valuable papers, as well as his com-_
mission, in return for which the grateful officer
THE DEATH OF GENERAL FRAZER 1o!t
offered his rescuer all the paper dollars he had,
and said he was only sorry he had no ae ones to â€”
reward him with. a
â€œThe bat-man brought his prisoner up to Gen-
eral Frazer, who closely questioned him concern-
. Ing the enemyâ€™s position and force, but could get
no other answer than that their army was com-
manded by Generals Gates and Arnold.
â€œExceedingly provoked that he could gain no
intelligence, General Frazer told the prisoner
that if he did not immediately inform him as
to the exact situation of the enemy, he would
hang him up directly. The officer, with the
most undaunted firmness, replied, â€˜You may,
if you please.â€™
â€œ The general, perceiving he could make noth-
ing of him, rode off, leaving him in the custody of
Lieutenant Dunbar, of the artillery.
â€œJust at this time my servant arrived with my
canteen, which was very fortunate, as we stood in
need of some refreshment after our march through
the woods, and this little skirmish. I requested
Dunbar, with his prisoner, to partake of it; so
seating ourselves upon a fallen tree, we asked the
captain a variety of questions, to which he gave
very evasive answers. We both observed that he
was in great spirits.
â€œAt last I said to him, â€˜Captain, do you think
we shall have any more work upon our hands
to-day ?? To which he replied, â€˜ Yes, yes; you'll
102 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
have business enough, for there are many hun-
dreds all round you now.â€™
â€œHe had hardly spoken the words, when from
out of the woods, a little way in our front, there
came an excessively heavy fire. Dunbar ran off.
to his guns, saying, â€˜Anburey, you mustâ€™ take
charge of the captain.â€™ There being only one
officer, besides myself, with my company, I com-
mitted the captain: to the care of a sergeant, with
particular orders that he should not be ill-treated:
And that was the last I saw of him,â€
A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY 103
A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY
You must know that my confidential talks.with
the British captain not only helped to shorten the
road, which was as bad as possible, coming over
the mountains, so late in the season, but also was
the means of correcting a good many mistakes
into which each of us had fallen with respect to
the operations of the campaign just closed. He
had been so free and frank with me that I felt
myself bound to be equally so with him.
On the day that we crossed over the Connecti-
cut River there was, of course, considerable delay ;
and General Glover, who commanded the escort,
grew impatient and SEeDE ED I pointed him out
to my captain.
â€œThatâ€™s the man who saved our army at Long
Island,â€ said I.
The captain looked at him long and attentively.
â€œAnd who crossed Washingtonâ€™s little army
over the Delaware, when he beat up your sua
at Trenton,â€ I continued.
â€œYes; his men are mostly fishermen and
sailors, whe handle an oar or a musket equally
well. Some are ship-carpenters. If they want
104 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
boats they build them; if a bridge, they build
that ; or, if in a hurry, a raft. They take to the
water like ducks.â€
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER
(From an old print)
â€œ Jacks at all trades?â€
observed the captain,
â€œWhy, yes; but let
me tell you weâ€™ve no bet-
ter regiment in our army
than Gloverâ€™s. Instead
of having to wait for a
corps of artificers, as you
call â€™em, when Glover
comes to a river too deep
to be forded, he simply
sings out, â€˜Boatmen, to
the front!â€™ or â€˜ Bridge-
builders, fall out, there!â€™
as the case may be; and
at it they go, and you are
across before you know
â€œ? Tisnâ€™t soldier-like.
A soldier should be noth-
ing else ; a sailor nothing
else. I canâ€™t imagine a
half-and-half creature like that being the best of
â€œVou seem a little out of sorts this morning,
A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY 105
â€œT confess it. This river reminds me of the
Hudson at Saratoga, only itâ€™s broader. Oh, if we
could only have got across that river in season !â€
â€œGlover would have taken you over,â€ I hastened
to say. :
â€œ Flum,â€ returned the captain musingly, â€œI
think you: have the best of it.â€
â€œYou might have got away, as it was, if it a
not been for one trifling accident.â€
â€œWhat was that?â€ the captain hastily asked.
â€œA deserter.â€ a
The captain looked at me blankly. I saw that
he was as ignorant as a child of my meaning.
â€œTl tell you about it,â€ I explained. â€œWe
knew that. if you stayed where you were, you
would have to surrender. So we all expected
your army would try to get away. Thatâ€™s clear.â€
The captain smiled and nodded assent.
â€œEarly on the morning of October 11, General
Gates heard that your army (that is, the main
body) had marched off for Fort Edward, leaving
only a rear-guard behind to fool us. _
â€œThe general officers were called together in a
hurry. They were told how matters stood. The
news fell like a bomb-shell among them, for all
thought you were as safe as so many herrings
in a pound. It was decided to advance to the at-
tack of your camp in half an hour. So the offi-
cers were ordered forthwith to their respective
106 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
â€œ The first brigade crossed the Fishkill. Glov-
erâ€™s was behind, in support. The banks were
rough, steep and brokenâ€”in short, it was just
such a place as one would like to see his
enemies floundering about in. And that is
just the reason why we had not attacked it
â€œ Our artillery was in position there, masked by Â©
the brushwood,â€ interposed the captain, with
â€œPrecisely. And would have blown our troops
into the middle of next week. Well, then, just as
Glover was spurring his horse into the creek,
he saw a British soldier making for our side of
it. Glover called the soldier to him and ques-
â€œ The soldier said that he had belonged to the
cattle-guard, but had watched his chance to desert,
and was going over to the Americans. The gen-
eral then asked him about your army. The reply
was, â€˜It is encamped the same as it has been for
some days past.â€™
â€œSaid the general, â€˜If you attempt to deceive
me, you shall be hung in half an hour ; if you tell
the truth, you shall be protected, and have good
usage.â€™ He then asked the deserter, â€˜ Have not
large bodies of your troops been sent off to Fort
two ago, sir, but it returned on finding the road
A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY 107
occupied by ee Americans; and the whole army
is now in camp.â€™
â€œGlover sent word to the first brigade to re-
cross the creek on the instant. The deserter
was mounted behind an aid, and hurried off post-
haste to headquarters. Upon hearing his story,
the order to attack was countermanded in all
â€œGeneral Nixon, who led the first brigade, had
begun to fall back as soon as he received Glover's
message ; for he, too, realized the danger he was
in as soon as he should be discovered.
â€œJT ought to explain that at this season of the
year the mornings are always very foggy, and this
one was no exception. So far the fog had favored
the advance of our troops; but, as luck would
have it, the sun came out bright, clearing off the
fog before Nixon could get back across the creek.
Your artillery blazed away at him, killing and
wounding a number of his men; but he thought
this loss trifling compared with what it must have
been if Gloverâ€™s message had failed to reach him
in season. Nobody doubted that if he had kept
on, his brigade, and perhaps Gloverâ€™s too, would
have been cut to pieces. And if that had hap-
pened the situation of the two armies might have
been reversed. Ours would have found itself
weakened and dispirited, yours elated, and with
confidence restored. At least, that is the way I
look at it.â€
108 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
â€œTJ doubt it much,â€ said the captain gloomily.
â€œTrue, it might have bettered the situation some-
what; indeed, it must; but we should probably
have been cut off in detail, and forced to sur-
render at Jast. Our provisions were about gone ;
so was our ammunition. Our horses were dying
of starvation; our bateaux were mostly taken or
destroyed. The fate of the campaign was really
settled at Bennington. Some of us then saw the
THE SILVER BULLET
handwriting on the wall. I tell you it was not so
to be.â€ ee
â€œ Who was to blame for your pushing on as you
Â« A British officer, sir, never criticises the acts
of his superiors,â€ replied the captain with some
asperity. In another moment he went on to
say that the expected assistance. from below
was doubtless a controlling reason with General
Burgoyne, but that no news of Clintonâ€™s prog-
A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY 109
ress up the Hudson reached him until too late.
â€œStrange,â€ he said, halt to himself and half aloud.
â€œJ think I can explain that part of it,â€™ I sug-
gested. â€œOne of Clintonâ€™s spies was captured
while on the way to your camp. When taken
before our Clinton, he was seen hastily to swallow
something. An emetic as quickly brought to
light a silver bullet, in which was found a de-
spatch meant for you. The spy pleaded hard for |
mercy, but grim old Clinton told him he was con-
demned out of his own mouth.â€
110 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°*76
A MOTHER'S LOVE
I know of nothing so likely to take all the con-
ceit for fighting out of a man as a little thing that
_ happened after we were settled down in quarters
for the winter. A prisonersâ€™ camp had been
formed on Prospect and Winter Hill, in what
is now Somerville. The officers, however, were
allowed to take up their quarters in the neighbor-
ing towns if they wished, though not to go out-
side of certain limits. They relieved the dulness
of their captivity by strolling about the country,
as men in their situation naturally would. One
day when I was passing by his quarters, the
English captain I told you of came to the door
and called me in.
â€œWell met,â€ said he. â€˜â€˜Do you remember our
talk about Hubbardton ?â€
â€œ Every word of it, Captain.â€
Â« Thatâ€™s good. Then I would mee to know
what you think of this adventure. It has made
me heartily sick of the very name of war. Listen.
â€œA few days since, while walking out with
some brother officers, we stopped at a house to
see if we could purchase vegetables there. While
the others were bargaining with the woman of
A MOTHERâ€™S LOVE 111
the house, I observed an elderly woman sitting
by the fire, who was continually eying us, and
every now and then shedding a silent. tear.
â€œJust as we were quitting the house she got up,
turned her eager looks toward us, and bursting
into tears, said, â€˜Gentlemen, will you let a poor,
distracted woman speak a word to you before
â€œWe, as you must naturally imagine, were
much astonished; and, upon inquiring what she
wanted, with the most poignant grief, and sobbing
as if her very heart would break, she asked if any
of us knew her son, who was killed at the battle oe
Hubbardton, â€”a Colonel Francis.
â€œSeveral of us informed her that we had seen
him after he was dead.
â€œ She then inquired about his pocket-book, and
if any of his papers were safe, as some of them
related to his estate ; or if any of the soldiers had
got his watch. Oh if she could but obtain that in
remembrance of her dear, dear son, she should be
â€œCaptain Ferguson of our regiment, who was
of the party, told her that, as to the colonelâ€™s
papers and pocket: -book, he was fearful they were
either lost or destroyed ; but, pulling out a watch
from his fob, he added, â€˜There, my good woman,
if that can make you happy, take it, and God
â€œWe were all as much surprised as ignorant
112 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
at his having the watch in his possession, which
it seems he had purchased from a drummer-boy.
â€œOn seeing it, it is impossible to describe the
joy and grief that were depicted in her counte-
nance. I never, in all my life, beheld such a
strength of passion. She kissed it, looked un-
utterable gratitude at Captain Ferguson, then-
kissed it again. Her feelings were inexpressible ;
she knew not how to express or show them. She |
would repay his kindness by kindness, but could
only sob out her thanks. Our feelings were lifted
up to an inexpressible height. We promised to
search after the papers; and, I believe, at that
moment could have hazarded life itself to pro-
GENERAL GATES 113
â€œWuar did you think of Gates, anyway?â€ I
asked of one of the Saratoga veterans, as a feeler.
â€œ Was he, or was he not, a good general?â€
â€œ Private soldiers, Squire, are not always the
best judges, I admit ; but we had our opinions, just
the same, and if you want to know mine, thereâ€™s
no law aginâ€™ my giving it to you. At the begin-
ning of the war, those officers who had seen ser-
vice in the British army were looked up to as the
ones who were going to make reputations. We
all thought so. But before the end of the war
came, nearly all of those officers had gone to the
rear, as so many failures. There was Lee. Some
think he was-a traitor. St. Clair was always get-
ting whipped. Conway was a snake in the grass.
Montgomery began well, but nobody knows how
he would have ended. However, he failed.â€
â€œBut what about Gates?â€
â€œGates ? oh, Gates was-just the man for the
-place they first put him in. As adjutant-general
he did great work in getting our raw levies into
shape ; no man could have done better ; but when
it came to commanding an army in the field, why,
Gates had to depend mostly on his subordinates.
I14 THE WATCH FIRES OF '76
Mind, I donâ€™t say that Gates was no general, but I
do say he was not a great captain. After Camden,
there was nothing left of him. His head could
hold only just about so much.â€
â€œYou surprise me, for I always have thought
Gates a skilful tactician.â€
GENERAL HORATIO. GATES
(In British Uniform)
â€œT will say this for Gates. As a man, every-
body spoke well of him. There was not a kinder-
hearted man in the army. Let me give you an
instance, as told me by a British officer taken
prisoner at Saratoga.â€
There was an old soldier of the royal regiment
of artillery, who had served in the French war, at
GENERAL GATES TI5
Fort Pitt and the Illinois. On his return from
that country to Philadelphia, in 1772, he came to
me with a happy smile on his face, and told me
that he had had the honor to receive a letter from
Major Gates, which he begged me to read for
I asked him how he came to correspond wit
â€œPlease your honor,â€ said the old man, â€œ Major
Gates was dangerously wounded at Braddockâ€™s
defeat, and was left on the field among the slain.
I was wounded also, but made a shift to carry the
worthy Captain Gates (he was then a captain) off
the field. He has often told me since that he
owed his life to me, and charged me at parting
that whenever I thought he could, in any way,
serve me, not to forget to write to him without
reserve ; so, please your honor (this is the way
soldiers address all officers), I am now grown old,
and worn out in the service, and expect to be
invalided and sent home; but have been long in
America, and I like America, please your honor.
I accordingly took the liberty to write to Major _
Gates for his advice, and this is his answer. He
has also written to Major Hay, to give me every
indulgence the service will admit of. I hope your
honor will give me your opinion what is best to
I read the letter, but had not read far before I
was sensibly touched with the generous senti-
116 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
ments of the writer. After going over the service
the veteran had rendered him at Braddockâ€™s field,
he went on to say,â€”
â€œDo as you please respecting your small pittance of
pension. Thou hast served long, but thy service has not
brought thee rest for thy wounds and infirmities. I find by
your letter that you wish to continue in America; therefore,
make yourself easy. When you receive your discharge, re-
.pair to my plantation on the Potomac River. I have gota
fine tract of land there, which not only furnishes me with
all the necessaries, but all the comforts of life. Come and
rest your firelock in my chimney corner, and partake with
me. While I have, my savior Penfold shall not want; and
it is my wish, as well as Mrs. Gatesâ€™s, to see you spend the
evening of your days comfortably. Mrs. Gates desires to be
' affectionately remembered to you.â€
â€œTf Gates hadnâ€™t let himself be made a tool of
to throw down Washington, I should vote him a
_trump. That I can never forgive him,â€ Uncle
Billy very seriously insisted.
â€œYou may go still farther, and say that he
even descended to snub the commander-in-chief,â€ .
snarled Reddy. â€œTl never forgive him for that,â€
he added, bringing his clenched fist down on his
knee as if to clinch the assertion.
THE CLOTHES-LINE TELEGRAPH T17
â€œTHE CLOTHES-LINE TELEGRAPH
Â«Wer want something to stir the old sluggish
blood. a little to-night, boys. I don't know just
what it should be myself; but you all know what I
meanâ€” something, for instance, that will prove
we had those among us as able to plan, and as
prompt to execute, a risky piece of business as
our enemies ; and they were not slow either, at
that sort of thing. I have it! Let the parole
be â€˜Newport,â€™ and the countersign â€˜Bartonâ€™ to-
night. Come, Jerry, my boy, you must take the
laboring oar now, as you did that night in the
whaleboat. Stiffen up, man, and let a listening
world hear your version of that exploit.â€
â€œI suppose,â€ Jerry very deliberately began,
â€œyou've all seen a semaphore working? But did
any of you ever hear of a clothes-line telegraph ?â€
This unexpected question elicited considerable
merriment from the old boys. After the laugh
had subsided, Jerry -quietly remarked, â€œ Oh, you
may laugh as much as you please, but he laughs
best who laughs last; and if Ben Franklin could
make the lightning pass over the string of a boyâ€™s
kite, why not over a clothes-line ? Hasnâ€™t a
clothes-line got poles too? Wait and see.
118 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
â€œThe British held Rhode Island strongly, with
an army and a fleet. That was a thorn in the
flesh that our people couldnâ€™t pluck out. Twice
_ they tried it, and twice they failed. When the
British got ready to go they left, and not before. |
All that our folks could do, in the meantime,
was to look over the water at the beggars, who -
every now and then would sally out of -their
stronghold, and burn a town or two, just to keep
their hand in, as it were.
â€œAt length General Gates was sent down to
Providence. to see what could be done. It was
important to know what this nestâ€™ of redcoated
salamanders would try to do next. I call them
salamanders because they were all so fond of
warming themselves by the blaze of our burning
towns and villages â€”the wretches! So. the gen-
eral sent for one Lieutenant Seth Chapin, told
him what he wanted, studied Chapinâ€™s face a bit,
and finally asked him if he didnâ€™t know some way
of getting at the root of the matter. Chapin said
he would try. :
â€œChapin knew every nook and corner of New-
port like a book. The thing was, first, to find a
trustworthy agent; and next, to hit upon such a
plan of communication as should. excite no sus-
picion in the minds of the British garrison. They
were a suspicious folk, and watched everybody
sharply, as you may imagine.
â€œFinally, in some way, Chapin found out a poor
THE CLOTHES-LINE TELEGRAPH 119
washerwoman on the island, who was in the nabit
of taking in washing for the British officers ; and
as she had to go back and forth often, to fetch
away the soiled clothes or carry the clean ones
home to her customers, she became a sort of
privileged character; and by keeping both eyes
and ears open, she managed to hear and see a
good deal of what was going on
â€œChapin sounded her, found her willing to
undertake the business for a consideration, and
so, after a little talk, the matter was settled
â€œTt was agreed that she should write down all
the intelligence she could get. A woman has ten
times more wit than a man in such matters, any-
way, besides a natural love for havinâ€™ a hand in
probing a mystery, or being made the confidant
of one, and all that. Some folks pretend that she
canâ€™t keep a secret, but thatâ€™s all stuff. I know
â€œWell, these two conspirators, Chapin and the
washerwoman, settled. it between them that the
writing should be put in the crevice of a certain
rock near the shore, where Chapin could come
over the water and get it. But how should he
know when there was a letter in the post-office
for him? â€˜Leave that to me,â€™ says the woman.
â€œWith the ready wit of her sex, the washer-
woman contrived a code of signals, to be made
when she had anything of consequence to send
120 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
out, by putting up a certain number of clothes-
poles, as if drying her clothes, on which the Brit-
ish linen was hung out in such a way as to give
Chapin his cue to.come or not to come. For
instance, three shirts hung in a row meant â€˜im-
portant ;â€™ two with a gap between them, â€˜nothing
to-day ;â€™ a pair of drawers, hung upside down,
â€˜come quickly ;â€™ and so on. .
â€œ After dark the lieutenant would paddle across
from Little Compton in his skiff, secure the com-
munication, and return the way he came, with
nobody the wiser; and the very next day it would
be put in the hands of General Gates at Prov-
â€œ After the British had evacuated the island,
the general gave Chapin fifteen hundred dollars,
in Continental paper money, for himself and his
trusty agent. The whole of it was worth just
seventy-five silver dollars â€” not a cent more.
- Think of it!â€ And for this paltry recompense
two persons had risked the gallows. But Chapin
never told even General Gates who his partner
was. So some men can keep a secret too.â€
KIDNAPPING OF GENERAL PRESCOTT 121
THE KIDNAPPING OF GENERAL â€˜PRESCOTT
Ir was the general impression that Jerry, like
every good story-teller, had merely given us this
incident as an appetizer, leaving the best part for
the finish. He now resumed his relation.
â€œ All of you recollect what a tremendous blow
to us the capture of General Lee was in the Â©
Jerseys, in the winter of â€™76; for with all his
eccentricities â€” and they would fill a volume â€”
Lee was looked up to as the best military man we
- had. It made no difference that he was taken
through his own utter disregard â€”to use the
mildest term â€” of Washingtonâ€™s. repeated orders,
or even that he may have thought he was a
greater man than Washington himself. Taken
he was, the army was going to pieces, the enemy
swarming about us, and it really looked as though
the end of the Revolution was in sight. I, for
one, thought so, at any rate.
â€œ Lee was taken to New York; we had no gen-
eral officer in our hands to exchange for him;
everybody was now praising Lee to the skies;
and there the matter stood, blue for us, rosy for
the enemy, black for Lee.
â€œIt was this state of things that first put it
ee _. THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76,
into Major William Bartonâ€™s head to attempt the
capture of the British General Prescott. â€˜Prescott
was just such a captain as you like to have op-
posed to you in war. He was no warrior, but
then he would be just as valuable for the purpose
of an exchange as a better man would. Besides,
che had once before-been taken in this war, and
Barton probably argued that what had been done Â©
before could be done again.â€™
â€œHaving thus settled the matter in his own
mind, Barton next applied to his colonel for the
necessary permission. After hearing his plan,
he was told, in substance, to go ahead. He then
proceededâ€™ to choose such officers as he knew
would not fail him in a pinch. â€œAs for the men
who were to go with him, he purposely put off
calling for them until the very last moment; for .
the very excellent reason that, if they knew noth-
ing about the proposed expedition, they would say *
â€œWhen all was in readiness the battalion was
paraded. In a few words Barton told the men
he wanted forty volunteers, and finished by ask-
ing those who were willing to go with him on
a very hazardous expedition to step out two paces
to the front. The whole regiment stepped out.
â€œ Barton was thus enabled to take his pick from
the whole regiment.
â€œBut Iâ€™m getting a little ahead of my story.
Before this, while Barton was turning the matter
KIDNAPPING OF | GENERAL PRESCOTT 123.
over in his mind, a man by the name of, cone
who had made his escape from. the island, was
brought to Major Bartonâ€™s quarters. This man
described minutely the situation of the house
in which General Prescott lived.. This was a
good-sized farm-house, standing near the direct
road from Newport to Bristol .Ferry, and about
â€˜half-way between the two places. So General
Prescott, it seemed, was doing precisely the same.
thing that had so easily brought about General:
Leeâ€™s CBee â€”mamisly) sleeping away from. his.
â€œBartonâ€™s quarters were at Tiverton. The.
time for action having come, he crossed over the
bay to Warwick Neck, where he was detained two
days more by a violent storm. With him were
his forty volunteers, picked men every one, wha
manned five whaleboats. The enemy were then.
in possession of both Canonicut- and Prudence
Islands, with some guard-ships of theirs lying at:
anchor under the little Hope Island, which is be-
â€˜tween Prudence and the west shore of the bay.
â€œOn the night of the 9th of July, 1777, every-
thing being favorable, Barton informed his. men
for the first time where they were going, and. for
what purpose. His party then embarked in their
boats,â€œ rowing swiftly and silently, with muffled
oars, between Patience and Prudence Islands, in
order to keep clear of the enemyâ€™s guard-boats.
Of these they saw no sign; but from the enemyâ€™s.
124 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
shipping, whose position was indicated by the
lights sparkling on the water, there came to their
ears the thrice-welcome cry of â€˜ Allâ€™s well!â€™ â€˜Allâ€™s
well!â€™ passed from ship to ship and from watch
â€œâ€œSo they reached the island shore undiscov-
ered, at a point about a mile distant from the
Overing house, where they knew that General
Prescott was to be found. Near it were two
guard-houses, one on each. side of the road.
These also were passed without discovery. They
now saw the house itself, standing a little back
from the road, looming up in the darkness. Two
parties instantly filed off to the right and left to
surround it. Leaving a third in the road, Barton
- advanced with a fourth toward the house by the
usual entrance. As he opened the gate of the
front yard, the sentinel posted at the door of
the house sharply challenged. No reply being
made, he again challenged, â€˜Who comes es
â€œÂ¢ Friends, Barton answered.
Â«Â«Â¢ Advance one, with the countersign !â€™
â€œ Before he could have the time to recover his
wits, the poor man found himself in the grasp
of seven or eight determined men. Wresting the |
musket from his trembling hands, Barton threat-
ened the. sentinel with instant death if he made
the least noise or offered the least resistance.
He was then asked if the general was in the
house. Upon receiving an affirmative reply, the
KIDNAPPING OF GENERAL PRESCOTT 125
door was burst open, and the party, with Barton
at their head, rushed in.
â€œThe first room entered was that of Overing,
Senior, who positively denied that General Pres-
cott was in the house. They then darted into
that of the son, who gave the same answer as his
father had done. Other rooms were then searched,
with the like ill-success.
â€œFully persuaded that the general was con-
cealed somewhere in the house, Barton, as a last Â©
resort, called out to his men to set it on fire.
The stratagem succeeded. In a moment more a
voice was heard asking what was the matter.
Barton instantly ran to the place, pushed open a
door, and, by the dim light of a candle, saw the
person of whom he was in search, just getting out
of bed. The colloquy was brief and to the point.
â€œÂ«Are you General Prescott?â€™ Barton de-
Â«Â«Then you are my. prisoner.â€™
â€œ Time was given to the crestfallen British gen-
eral to partly dress himself before being marched
off to the boats. Meantime his aid, Major Bar-
rington, had also been taken. On arriving at the
shore, the general was allowed to finish dressing
himself in the open air. The boats then pushed
off. Soon after Bartonâ€™s party had left the island,
the alarm was given in the British camp. Cannon
were fired, and rockets sent up in every direction.
126 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
It was more than fortunate that those on board
the enemyâ€™s shipping were unable to guess the
cause of the uproar, as they might easily have cut
off Bartonâ€™s retreat. As it was, however, the
â€œaudacious Americans carried off their prize with-
out interference or accident. As they stepped on
shore at. Warwick Neck, the prisoner, who. had
been cautioned not to speak aloud, said to hisâ€
captor, â€˜Sir, you have made-a very bold push to-
nightâ€ The whole affair was planned and exe-
cuted with consummate skill andâ€™ boldness, and
was all over in just six and a half hours from the
time.the party had shoved off from the Neck.â€
AT VALLEY FORGE ee
AT VALLEY FORGE
WE met, as usual, at the tavern; though one or
two of the more infirm were absent at roll-call, as
the veterans now facetiously styled these gather-
ings, on account of the severity of the weather.
It was a bitter cold night in January, following
a heavy fall of snow, so that travelling could hardly
have been worse; but nothing could keep the old
fellows away, now that their tongues had become
loosened by the magical. power of old recollec-
tions. One by one they came straggling in,
stamping their feet, threshing their arms about,
or blowing upon their benumbed fingers with
frosty breath, in the effort to restore warmth to
the different members, or aid the feeble circula-
tion of their bodies. But their hearts were still
â€œWhew!â€ exclaimed Uncle Zeb Turner, delib-
erately unwinding several thick coils of woollen
muffler from his throat. â€œDo you know, this
â€™minds me of the nights I stood guard down there
at Valley Forge, in â€™77?â€
â€œYou have the floor, Uncle Zeb,â€ a by- stander
facetiously remarked, making way for the veteran
to reach the fire.
128 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œYes, Uncle Zeb, you have the floor,â€ the
others hastened to join in; â€œnow speak your
piece, and never mind the weather outside.â€
â€œLet me get my breath first, wonâ€™t you?â€ the
old man returned. â€˜Fact is, I haâ€™nâ€™t got thawed
out yit. Seems as if I could spit snowballs, anâ€™
An armful of dry wood was thrown on the fire,
from which the red and yellow flames presently
leaped up in great style, setting fire to the thick:
crust of soot at the chimney back, and making it
glow like a furnace. Uncle Zeb gave a sigh of
deep content, put one hand on each knee, stared
steadily at the fire, and said absently, â€”
â€œ?Tainâ€™t no long story. Iâ€™m like the dreenings
toa jug. You have to tip me clean upside down
before anythingâ€™ll run out. Howsâ€™ever, [ll try to
keep the ball a-rolling.
â€œ After making that bad mess of it at one
town, there was considerâ€™ble marching and coun-
termarching, but very little fighting, until, at last,
as the season for that sort of business was about
over, our army went. into â€˜winter quarters at Val-
ley Forge, seventeen miles up the Schuylkill.
The long and short of it all was, that the British
took Philadelphia, and we took to the woods.
â€œNow, that warnâ€™t quite the original cal lation.
We had planned to spend the winter in Philadel-
phia ourselves. We had even dreamed of tight
houses, warm clothing, full rations, light duty,
AT VALLEY FORGE 129
and sich like; but General Howe heâ€™d gone and
shut the door in our faces, and there we were,
turned out in the cold, with the bare ground for
our beds, the naked sky for a covering to pull over |
us, and as for the feathers for our beds, they came
down presently, thick and fast, in the form of
snowflakes. Who wouldnâ€™t be a soldier?
â€œ We were set to work at. our old trade of dig-
ging, and building huts. We said our clothes
were dropping off of us. They said work would ~
keep us warm.
â€œFrom day to day the snow fell, sometimes
more, sometimes less, but often to the depth of a
foot or more. Until our log huts were roofed in,
we had to sleep on the frozen ground, never tak-
ing off our clothes wet or dry, which, by the way,
were often frozen so stiff that a man would rattle
about in them as he walked, like a dried-up crab
in his shell. The way we did was this. Half a
dozen of us would form a mess together, spread
our straw out on the ground â€” they gave us the
same kind of litter as the horses â€” we had an old
tattered blanket apiece. to pull over us, and by
building big fires, and snuggling up so close
together you couldnâ€™t tell tother from which, we .
managed to get through the nights pretty well. I
mean things might have been worse. Those who
came in off duty would keep the fires going, turn-
ing into the warm nests of those who were turned
out, growling, for the reliefs.
130 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œT shall remember one night to the longest
day I live â€” that wonâ€™t be very long, will it? but
no matter. My knapsackâ€™s packed ; and when the
Great Commander of us all gives the order to fall
in, Uncle Zebâ€™s ready to march.
â€˜Well, the weather for several days had been
remarkably cold and stormy. On that particular
-day we had one of the most tremendous snow-
storms in the memory of man. No man could
stand out in it many minutes without danger to
his life. It blew great guns. The snow did not
fall straight down, so as to lie on a level, but came
swooping down on the camp in whirlwinds, that
nothing could stand up against. It stung like
bird-shot; it blinded you; it took your breath
away. The sentinels had to be relieved every fif-
-teen minutes ; and even in that short time some
_ of them narrowly escaped being frozen to death.
Bur-r-r! it makes the cold shivers run down. my
-back when I think of it. Am I here, or am I not?
â€œYou know how short December days are.
â€œWell, it grew dark early, with the storm still ra-
ging about us, while we crouched and shivered,
- dozed off and woke again, under our blankets.
Suddenly my comrades and myself were roused
from sleep by loud cries for help, coming from
close-at hand. We.turned out in a hurry. Sev-
eral officers of our battalion stood there, sort of
bewildered like, as if they didnâ€™t know which way
to turn, though only-a few yards from the door.
AT VALLEY FORGE 130
Their old matquee had been ripped up by the
wind like rotten paper, and blown down over their
heads, flat. They had managed to crawl out,
somehow, into the darkness and the storm, in
which they were almost smothered before they
could reach our hut, not ten rods off. When day-
light came at last, it was found that.some of the
soldiers who slept in tents were actually covered
up, and buried, under a foot or more of snow, like
Â» sheep caught out in a storm. y
â€œBut that was not the worst of it, either.
These storms so blocked up the roads, that fora
week at a time not a wheel could turn; or a hoof
travel to camp ; so that when what we had on hand
was gone, rations were cut down, and cut down,
until we had exactly enough dealt out to us to
keep us from dying of hunger, not a crumb
â€˜more. Would you .believe it, for seven days
together the army was without a speck of meat,
and for several days without a morsel of bread.
What was the consequence? Why, that we grew
leanerâ€™ than Lent. We wereâ€™ so weak from
hunger and cold as to be unfit for duty of any
kind, let alone digging out roads, hauling wood on
hand:sleds, or building huts: When I think of it,
our situation seems more like that of some casta-
ways in the Arctic regions, you read about.' Why,
friends, a thousand well-fed countrymen, armed
with old-fashioned flails, could have thrashed the
whole of us easy.
132 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œDo you wonder that we thot'ght ourselves â€”
abandoned by our country? When it was no
longer to be borne, the soldiers got together, and
sent upacommittee to the general officers. Their
sufferings were told as respectfully as could be,
but between you and me their looks spoke the
loudest. O Liberty, Liberty, what did not the
American soldiers of that day endure for thy
â€œWhen the wretched story was all told, the Â°
men said right out plain that it was no longer
possible to keep body and soul together without -
food. It was bread,â€˜or every man for himself.
â€œBless you, we all knew perfectly well that the
officers were hardly better off than we were our-
selves, yet pride kept them from complaining.
All the same we knew it. We knew of their
borrowing hats, coats, belts, yes, and even boots
from each other, in order that they might appear
decently before their commands on parade. And
when this resource failed they would feign sick-
ness, and all that. Ah, many a sore heart beat
â€™ under-those threadbare uniforms, if the wearers
did keep a stiff upper lip before us. Eternal
honor to the officers of the Continental army of
"77 say I.
â€œGeneral Greene, who had a heart as big as an
oxâ€™s, promised to lay the appeal before the com-
mander-in-chief. He declared that the menâ€™s pa-
tience and forbearance thus far were beyond all
AT VALLEY FORGE mee
praise; but Re begged and entreated them not to
act too hastily in a matter of such vital importance
to themselves and their country. But that sort of
talk had little effect on starving men. Thereâ€™s no
nourishment in it. We told him so up and down.
He then promised to see what could be done by â€”
making a personal appeal to the farmers of the
Dutch country above us, who were mostly well
off, but snuggerâ€™n the batk of a tree; and he
was as good as his word. When General Greene
promised this, the men quietly went back to their
duty. These little collections, doled out with the
. utmost care, were all that kept the army from
disbanding then and there. But for some time
longer.we literally lived from hand to mouth,
never knowing where the next meal was coming
â€œMeantime. General Washington was doing
everything in his power to alleviate our -dis-
tresses. The light in that manâ€™s quarters was
often seen burning all night long. Iâ€™ve seen it.
We've all seen it. He was writing letters, hun-
dreds of them, to governors, to Congress, to men
of influence everywhere, begging and imploring
their assistance. Precious little he got of it.
And the time, too, was coming right along when
the army (if such a lot of ragamuffins can be
called one) ought to take the field again. And
we were expected to win battles! Iâ€™ve no pa-
tience when I think -of it, No man alive, but
134 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
Washington, could have held that hurfgry, ragged,
and dispirited crowd together. God-bless him!â€
â€˜The old pensioners, to a man, reverently lifted
their beavers, while the moisture stood in more
eyes than one at the mention of that thrice-ven-
erated name. :
â€œAh, yes,â€™ resumed Uncle Zeb, with a depre-
catory shake of the head; â€œif dumb beasts could
only speak, my tale would be more complete.
Hundreds of our horses died of starvation; hun-
dreds of other peopleâ€™s horses too. Most of them
had been impressed from the country round to
haul our supplies to camp. Often the poor crea-
tures would. drop from sheer exhaustion. One
man, I remember, came to beg to have his two
horses returned, to him, as he must otherwise
starve. He was told to look for them himself.
Both were found lying dead, a little outside the
camp. The man came back heartbroken. To all
his complaints the officer in charge: retorted,
stroking his long beard, a you have â€˜the
_ hides, havenâ€™t you?â€™
â€œT can only tell you one ae more, for my
throatâ€™s as dry as a powder-horn, with talking. It
probably did as much to quiet the grumblers in
the time of our distresses as anything that could
have happened. General Washington had a house-
keeper, a very worthy Irish woman by the name
of Thomson. Some folks imagine that all this
time, while we soldiers were perusing: the gen-.
AT VALLEY FORGE |: 135
eral himself was living on the fat of the land.
You'll see. Tom Bixby, brother to Bill Bixby,
who lives over on the back road, as you go .to
the pine meeting-house, told me this himself.
Tom was one of the generalâ€™s body-guard. . Noth-.
ing went into headquarters that those chaps didnâ€™t
scent out, you may depend.
Â«Â«Sir,â€™ said theâ€™ good woman to him one day,
â€˜we have nothing in the Ee to cook but the
â€œWell, then, Mrs. Theor, you must cook
the rations, for I have not a farthing to give
you.â€™ ; i < '
give me an order for six bushels of salt.â€™
Â«Â« Six bushels of salt! For what, pray?â€™
â€œâ€œ*To preserve the fresh beef, Sir,â€
â€œOne of the aids gave the order, and the next
day his Excellencyâ€™s table was amply provided
with fresh meat. Mrs. Thomson was sent for.
The general put on a severe look, and said that
she had done very wrong to spend her own.
money, in the way she had,â€™as it was not known
when she could be repaid.
â€œ<Â«T owe you,â€™ said his Excellency frankly, â€˜too
much already to permit the debt being increased,
and our situation at this moment is not such as
to induce very sanguine hopes.â€™
Â«Dear sir, said the good old lady, â€˜it is
always darkest just before day, so I hope your
136 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
Excellency will forgive me for bartering the salt
for other necessaries which are now on the table.â€™
Â«Salt was then worth eight dollars a bushel,
and could always be exchanged with the country
people for anything they had to sell. There was
a woman for you!â€
THE FIRE IN THE REAR 137
THE FIRE IN THE REAR -
UncLe Zzp here has told you something of
what soldiers had to endure while in the field,
from such enemies as cold, hunger, disease, and
bullets. I put bullets last because they didnâ€™t
kill as many of us by half as the others did. Be-
sides, they came from our enemies.
But of all we had to contend with, the ne in
the rear was the worst. Outside of New York
and Philadelphia, where the enemy had things all
their own way, the Tories kept pretty quiet. I
donâ€™t mean them at all. I do mean the general
apathy prevailing among our friends at home,
after the first year of the war had come and gone
without our having driven the enemy back on
board their ships. That was, indeed, hard to bear.
I will just read you two letters that were passed
around the camp while the army was getting
ready to make one more effort against the numer-
ous, well-fed, well-clothed, and splendidly equipped
forces of Sir William Howe. Judge ye whether
I have stated the case too strongly.
You must know that when any of us received
letters containing matters of general interest to
the army, they would be handed round among the
138 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
soldiers to be read, as newspapers are to-day. It
was few enough we had of them. Here is one
letter I took a copy of. It is written from Boston,
â€˜â€œWe were greatly alarmed here a few days ago by an
express from Cape Ann, to the effect that one hundred and
fifty sail of large ships were seen in the bay, steering directly
for this port. They were supposed to be the enemyâ€™s fleet
from New York.
â€œâ€˜You cannot begin to imagine the confusion we were
thrown in at this unwelcome news. Some were driving up
street, and some down, buying up all the old hogsheads,
barrels, and boxes they could discover to pack up their goods
in. Others were galloping as madly about, hunting after
teams to take their goods away out of town.
â€˜â€˜The Council was then sitting, but they did not know
what to do. Express after express was sent off in a hurry
to call the members of the General Court together, to ask
their advice about fortifying one place or evacuating another.
Colonel Crafts, with eighteen or twenty orderlies, attended
on the Board of War to wait their orders.
â€˜Â« Before this alarm came, there was not a barrel of rum,
a pound of sugar, or a pound of cotton-wool to be bought in
the town; and in three hours there was not less than a hun-
dred loads of these articles carted out of it! .
â€˜* Although the alarm came very direct, every one was for
oneâ€™s own dear self. From my little observation of this
affair, I really think that if the enemy were to come here,
not one quarter part of the town would turn out to oppose
them. I tremble at the thought. Harry, it is too true.
Tell it not in high places; publish it not in poor America!â€
The second letter is more spicy. It is from a
lady to her husband, and most vividly does it set
THE FIRE IN THE REAR 139
forth the straits to which the poor were put by
the niggardly conduct of their own more wealthy
â€˜â€˜T have nothing new to entertain you with, unless it is
an account of a new set of nobility which has lately taken
the lead in Boston. You must know that there is a great
scarcity of sugar and coffee, articles which the female part
of the State is very loath to give up, especially whilst they
consider the scarcity occasioned by the merchants having
secreted a large quantity. There had been much rout and
noise in the town for several weeks. Some stores had been
opened by a number of people, and the coffee and sugar
carried into the market and dealt out by pounds. It. was
rumored that an eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant (who is.
a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in his store, which he
refused to sell to the committee under six shillings per pound.
A number of females, some say a hundred, some say more,
assembled with a cart and trucks, marched down to the ware-
house, and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver.
Thereupon one of them seized him by the neck, and tossed
him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter, he delivered
the keys; when they tipped up the cart, discharged him,
then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee them-
selves, put it into the truck, and drove off.
â€œIt was reported that he had personal chastisement
among them; but this, I believe, was not true. A large
concourse of men stood amazed, silent spectators of the
140 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€˜REALLY and truly,â€ observed the pension agent,
shaking his head, â€œthe more I think of it, the
more I am led to wonder how we ever succeeded.
It was not so much the fighting, as the thousand
and one perplexities arising from our own inex-
perience, apathy, or neglect that came so near
to making shipwreck of the righteous cause.â€
â€œThat is true,â€™ assented the deacon, rubbing
his chin musingly, â€œIâ€™ve often ehoughe of that
mpself,â€™ he added. â€œ But as
â€˜Truth crushed to earth will rise again,â€ .
so in every dark hour some true patriot would
lift the falling standard out of the mire; and by
his own abiding faith and noble example give
new courage to the faltering or disheartened ones
among us. One such I will now give you. And
as long as the story shall be told, my friends,
never let the name of Christopher Ludwick be
â€œThis Christopher Ludwick was a German.
In early life he had had a small sum left him by
a-relation. This money he had squandered away
in London, in the pursuit of pleasure, thinking
CHRISTOPHER LUDWICK I4!i
perhaps, like many another spendthrift, that it
would last forever. After parting with his last.
shillingâ€™at the places of public resort in the neigh-
borhood of London, he went to sea, and passed
the years between 1745 and 1752 in successive
voyages from London to Holland, Ireland, and
the West Indies, as a common sailor. In these
voyages he saved twenty-five pounds sterling ;
with which he bought a quantity of ready-made
clothes, and sailed for Philadelphia, where he
arrived in 1753. He sold these clothes for a
profit of three hundred per cent, and with the
proceeds returned to London. Here he spent
nine months in learning the confectionery busi-
ness, and the making of gingerbread. In the
year 1754 he returned to Philadelphia with a
number of gingerbread prints, and immediately
set up his business of a family and gingerbread
â€œTn the year 1774 he felt, with the great ma-
jority of the people of America, the impulse of
that spirit of liberty which led them to oppose,
first by petitions and afterwards by arms, the at-
tempts of Great Britain to subjugate the Amer-
. ican colonies. He then owned nine houses in
Philadelphia, a farm near Germantown, and three
thousand five hundred pounds, Pennsylvania cur-
rency, at interest, all of which he staked, with his
life, in the cause of his country.
â€œLudwick was elected successively a member
142 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
of all the committees and conventions which con-
ducted the affairs of the Revolution in Pennsyl-
vania, in 1774, 1775, and 1780. His principles
and conduct were alike firm, under the most
difficult and alarming events of those memorable
â€œIn one of the conventions of which he was
a member, it was proposed by General Mifflin to
open a private subscription for purchasing fire-
arms. To this motion some persons objected the
difficulty of obtaining, by such means, the sum
that was required. Upon this, Mr. Ludwick rose
and addressed the chair in the following laconic
speech, which he delivered in broken English, but
in a clear and firm voice: â€˜Mr. President, I am
but a poor gingerbread baker, but put down my
name for two hundred pounds.â€™ The debate was
closed with this speech, and the motion was
carried unanimously in the affirmative.
â€œTn the spring of 1777 he was appointed super- .
intendent of bakers in the army of the United
States. When his commission was delivered to
him by a committee of Congress, they proposed
that for every pound of flour he should furnish
the army with a pound of bread. â€˜No, gentle-
men,â€™ said he, â€˜I will not accept of your commis-
sion upon any such terms; Christopher Ludwick
does not want to get rich by the war ; he has money
enough. I will furnish one hundred and thirty-
five pounds of bread for every hundred weight
CHRISTOPHER LUDWICK 143
of flour you put into my hands.â€™ The committee
were strangers to the increase of weight which
flour acquires by making it into bread. From
this time there was no complaint of the bad
quality of bread from the army, nor was there a
moment in which the movements of the army,
or of any part of it, were delayed from the want
of that necessary article of food. After the ca-
pitulation of Lord Cornwallis, he baked six thou-
sand pounds of bread for his army by order of
Â« At the close of the war Ludwick returned, and
settled on his farm near Germantown. His house
had been plundered of every article of furniture,
plate, and wearing apparel he possessed, by the
British army. As he had no more cash than was
sufficient to satisfy his daily wants, he lived in
the most economical manner, rather than to run
in debt. He even slept between blankets until
such a time as he could replace the sheets by pay-
ing for them honestly. Borrowing was his aver-
sion. True to his undeviating principle of living
strictly within his means, this man, who had been
able to lend to others, now steadfastly refused to
become a debtor himself. Thanks to his own fru-
gality and thrift, he again saw himself possessed
of a moderate competence before his death, in
144 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
STONY POINT JACKSON
As I have said, the old tavern, down here at the
Four Corners, was a favorite resort of my old pen-
sioners, who so often met there of winter even-
ings, to talk over their campaigns together. It
would have done your heart good, I know, to see
the cordial way in which they would greet each
other, calling each other by their Christian names,
or by such nicknames as they had been given in
the army so long ago. For instance, â€œ Reddyâ€
Brownâ€™s hair was as white as snow, though it may
once have been as red as fire; â€œSilentâ€ Wilde
was the most talkative, and â€œSolomonâ€ Sharp
the stupidest of the lot. When those old fellows
fell to chaffing each other, the sparks flew as thick
and fast, I guess, as they used to do from their
old flint-locks when they pulled the trigger.
Speaking of nicknames, there was a cousin of
one of my clients who went by the name of Stony
Point Jackson, although his right name was
George. I never heard him called anything else.
Strange how a nickname will stick to a man.
This, alone, was quite enough to arouse my curi-
osity to the boiling-point ; and so one evening,
hearing that Jackson was to be at the tavern, I
went over bright and early myself.
STONY POINT JACKSON TAS
When I walked into the public room, some six
or seven grizzled pensioners were sitting around
â€˜the fire, all blowing great puffs of tobacco-smoke
into the open chimney-place, like a breaching bat-
tery in full play. I drew up my chair within the
charmed circle, nodded in turn to the smokers,
and settled myself down to listen to the conversa-
tion which had been broken off at my entrance,
but was now resumed.
It seemed that they had been talking about
General Hull, whose death had occurred within
the week. ;
An old man of seventy or thereabouts, who sat
on a settle at my left, took up the word.
â€œThey may say what they like; but I saw him
at Trenton, and I saw him at Stony Point, and
I sayâ€”â€” George Jacksonâ€™s my nameâ€”that no
braver man ever stepped than that same Wil-
liam Hull, and I donâ€™t care who the next man
Having said this, like a man who has weighed
well his words, Jackson glanced defiantly round
the group as if challenging a denial, but meet-
ing none, very coolly drained his mug to the last
drop. The smokers smoked silently on.
I adroitly turned the conversation upon Stony
Point ; and as the outburst had loosened Jackson's
tongue, he readily consented to tell us what he
knew of that most brilliant exploit.
â€œYou know how it was,â€ he began, by way of
146: THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
preface, â€œthe British were always sneering at us,
because we wouldnâ€™t fight except behind breast-
works. Thatâ€™s what Â¢hey said.â€
A derisive laugh greeted this statement, in
which Jackson himself heartily joined.
â€œWait and see. They had piled up a nice big
fort at a place called Stony Point on the Hudson,
armed it with heavy guns, and garrisoned it ac-
cording to. Their old blood-red rag waved defi-
ance in our very faces. Said Washington to
Wayne, â€˜This will never do; weâ€™ve got to take
that fort, and youâ€™re the man to do it.â€™
â€œThen Washington, he up and took a pinch of
snuff, and Wayne he took another. â€˜Iâ€™m ready,â€™
said he, â€˜if you be. Where do you buy your snuff ?â€™
â€œÂ«Capital!â€™ continued his Excellency. â€˜I de-
pended upon you. How many men do you
require for this affair?â€™
â€œ Wayne took another look at the fort.
â€œÂ«Fm! twelve hundred; fifteen hundred.â€™
â€œÂ«You shall have them. Now to arrange the
plan of attack. But first, we want an intelligent
man, who will contrive some way to get into the
fort, and let us know how matters stand there. I
charge myself with that. Go and settle your plan
â€œBut Iâ€™m getting ahead of my story. Perhaps
some of you would like to know the whys and the
wherefores of the matter first. It was little
enough I knew about it, at the time, because
STONY POINT JACKSON â€” 147
somehow or other the general officers never asked
our opinions or advice; but for all that I think the
men in the ranks could have made a better fist at
it than some of â€™em did. Eh, Reddy?â€
Reddy simply gave a low grunt of assent.
â€œOur folks had begun to build some strong
Ruins or Fort Putnam, West PoInr
works at Stony Point, and Verplanckâ€™s Point, op-
posite (you all know how the land lays there),
designed to keep open the lower route between
the Eastern and Southern States. The farther the
enemy crowded us up river, the longer marches we
had to make to get around them. Well, the Brit-
ish came and took both forts away from us before
they were half completed. So we lost that trick.
148 THE WATCH FIRES OF '76
â€œNow you see what Iâ€™m coming at, donâ€™t you?
By the loss of these two posts the Jersey people
had to make a circuit of about ninety miles round,
through the mountains, to reach the States east of
the Hudson River, and vice versÃ©. When they
fell, the enemy pushed on farther up the river.
Our army then lay at Middlebrook. We had to
pull up stakes quicker, and fall back on West
Point, where a new fort had only just been com-
menced. And there we were, actually kicked out
of our kennels.
â€œ<*T'll shorten that line,â€™ said General Washing-
â€œThat brings me back to where I started from.
It was found out from a deserter just what the
enemy had been doing in the way of strengthen-
ing Stony Point since they took it away from us.
Of course we knew all about its strong natural
defences, having chosen it for that very reason;
but these were now turned against us, and more
too. Then it was that Wayne was ordered to go
and take it.
_ â€œWayne was given his pick from the army.
He took his men from several different States. It
was a shrewd move on his part ; because the Mary-
landers and Pennsylvanians pretended to look
down on our Yankee regiments, as if they were
no better than negroes, and Wayne well knew we
would rather die to the last man than let. those
Quakers and Southerners crow over us, We'd
STONY POINT JACKSON - 149
often wished for the day to come when Washing-
ton would put us outside the enemyâ€™s works to-
gether, so we might see who'd back down first.
My grief, but they were saucy!
Â« All the Massachusetts light infantry marched
from West Point on the morning of the 15th.
And who do you think commanded.us? Who
but Major Hull, the man they wanted to shoot,
like a dog, in the last war, because they said he
was a coward. Billy Hull a coward! Scapegoatâ€™s
nigher, I guess.
â€œTt was in July, as hot as Tophet. Pretty soon
some more troops came dustinâ€™ down the road
where we were halted â€” Southern fellows. How
they did grin as they passed us! Our boys worked
at the shanks of their bayonets when they saw
that, but said nothing.
â€œWayne paraded us, fourteen miles from the
fort, at dark, and ordered any man who was
afraid to take his life in his hand to step right
out in front. The way he spoke it sounded more
like a threat than anything else. Unless my ears
deceived me it meant, â€˜I should like to see the
first man who would dare to do it.â€™ _I verily believe
Mad Anthony would have shot him on the spot.
So not a man stirred in his tracks.
â€œUp to that moment not one of us had even a
suspicion of where we were going. Now it was
â€œÂ¢ George,â€™ whispered my rear-rank man over
150 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
my shoulder, â€˜Iâ€™m afraid itâ€™s going to be a toss up
who of us gets out of this with a whole skin.
What do you think ?â€™
â€œ*Tooks like it,â€™ I answered as shortly as
possible, for Iâ€™ve always noticed that when men
get nervous they want to talk tosomebody. Now,
Iâ€™m different. When I scent danger ahead, my
mouth. shuts up like a steel trap, my thoughts
buzz around in my head like a swarm of angry
bees that wonâ€™t light nowhere. So I didnâ€™t want
to think at allâ€”what was the use of it?â€”I
wanted to know why it was that they kept us
dawdling there in the road, leaning idly on our
muskets. Queer, isnâ€™t it?
â€œ*George, whispered my right-hand man,
â€˜hold my musket, will you, till I tighten my belt a
bit?â€™ I did so. â€˜All right,â€™ said he, when he
had taken up another hole in the leather. â€˜Now
feel in the side pocket of my coat.â€™ Idid as he
requested. â€˜All right,â€™ said he again; â€˜if I should
get my billet in this scrimmage, promise me to
send that to the old folks at home. I'll do as
much for you, George.â€™
â€œÂ«Vou neednâ€™t,â€™ I answered him. â€˜Iâ€™m not think-
ing about getting killed. Iâ€™m thinking about my
â€œThe order was given to march on in perfect
silence â€” not a word was to be spoken in the
ranks. In midnight darkness we were marched
up in sight of the fort. There we were halted.
STONY POINT JACKSON I51
Wayne then walked through the ranks, and ex-
plained just what was to be done. He promised
the first man who should enter the fort $500;
the second, $400; the third, $300; and the
fourth, $200â€” also to divide among the officers
and men the value of all the property found in
the fort. More than this, he promised that any
officer or man who should perform any particular
act of bravery should have his name mentioned
to the commander-in-chief.
â€œThe men all knew Wayne like a book. Ah!
but he was a cool one. :
â€œThe fort was reached at ten oâ€™clock at night,
after a most severe march through bad roads, over
high mountains, and through narrow defiles, where
we had to go in single file. This delayed us.
Half-past eleven was the time fixed for the as-
sault ; but when we finally got into position, the
tide wouldnâ€™t let us cross a wet marsh in our front
till after midnight.
â€œ Our force was formed in two columns, each
headed by a forlorn hope of twenty men, who
were told off to remove obstructions. These were
followed by a hundred more with unloaded mus-
kets, and these again by the main body.
â€œThe night was so dark that each one of us
was ordered to put a piece of white paper in his
hat, to distinguish him from an enemy. We were
to move forward without firing a shot until the
order was given, on pain of death. Any man who
152 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
attempted to retreat in presence of the enemy
was to be served the same way. _When the works
should be forced, and not before, the victorious
troops were to shout aloud the watchword, â€”
â€˜The fortâ€™s our own!â€™
â€œWayne put himself at the head of the right
column. The word was passed down the line in
whispers; and like two dusky serpents crawling
stealthily up to some rocky den, the two columns
began winding their way up the steep ascent
leading to the fort.
â€œIn a minute or two I heard our pioneers
thundering away at the abatis with their axes.
Then first one gunshot, and then another, flashed
out in the darkness. Then I saw bright sparks
moving swiftly to and fro above the black bulk of
the fortress, like fireflies in August. Bur-r-r!
went the drums. Ta-ra-ra! went the trumpets.
Bang! went the big guns. The enemy was wide
â€œIn less time than it takes to tell of it, the
fort was blazing like a volcano. The flashes of
the guns showed us our road. A terrible fire of
cannon and musketry was poured into us, which
made our column reel and lurch like a ship in
a heavy seaway. Yet every lurch was forward.
How the grape and canister did rattle about our
ears! It was hard not to return this bitter fire,
but such were the orders. One reckless chap, in-
deed, stopped to load in spite of orders, and on
STONY POINT JACKSON 183
refusing to desist, was run through the body by
- his officer. J didnâ€™t see it, but others did.
Â« All at once we tumbled, one after another,
STORMING OF STONY POINT
into the ditch, without seeing it. It brought us
up all standing. I was just thinking to myself,
â€˜We're here first, anyhow,â€™ when we heard a loud
cheering off at our left. For just one second we
154 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°*76
stood there stock-still, listening. Then some one
in the crowd cried out, â€˜Thunder and Mars, boys,
the Quakers are in ahead of us!â€™
â€œThat did it. The men went downright crazy.
There were the pickets, a good deal higher than a
tall man could reach up to. We began mounting
over each otherâ€™s shoulders, one by one; and when
one man got to the top, another would hand him
up his musket. Others, more impatient, would
give a spring, catch hold of the pickets with his
hands, while another gave him a heave by the leg,
and so on.
â€˜There was that little Captain Miller. What a
bantam! Over and over again, did he try to
reach the tops of the pickets, only to miss his
hold each time, and fall backward into the ditch
again. After making several unsuccessful leaps,
he turned to his men, and yelled out, almost be-
side himself, â€˜Throw me into the fort on your
bayonets!â€™ His men crossed their bayonets, and
actually tossed him over the pickets in this man-
ner. I tell you I saw it done.
â€˜By this time some axes were brought to the
spot. Our men couldnâ€™t wait for the pickets to be
cut through, but tore them away with their hands,
like madmen ; squeezed themselves through the
openings, and swarmed upon the parapet, over-
turning everything they met, silencing the guns,
and raising their battle-cry of â€˜The fortâ€™s our own!
The fort's our own!â€™ And so it was. You ought
STONY POINT JACKSON 155
to have heard those Britishers cry out for quar-
ter! Colonel Fleury, our leader, had eleven swords
thrust into his hands by officers of the garrison,
in their haste to surrender before the Americans
should take a bloody revenge for the cowardly
murders perpetrated at Paoli and elsewhere. We
took five hundred prisoners. That wasnâ€™t a bad
nightâ€™s work, was it? And we beat the Quakers
in the bargain.â€
â€œT couldnâ€™t have told it better myself,â€ declared
Solomon; â€œand I was there too,â€ he added very
156 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
BEFORE separating for the night, it was agreed
that at our next meeting, instead of listening to
one or two long stories, we would have only short
anecdotes of personal experience from each pen-
sioner in turn. The idea seemed to please the
old fellows hugely, as, indeed, it was the only
way of getting some of them to talk at all.
â€œ File-firing to-night, boys,â€™ was the word
passed round the circle, as we took our accus-
tomed seats before mine hostâ€™s hospitable fire-
â€œCome, Buckram, I donâ€™t see but what you'll
have to lead off,â€ said the deacon, after we were
all comfortably seated.
The ever ready Buckram gave a preliminary yawn
or two, and thus began: â€œâ€˜ When the British over-
ran the Jerseys, they used our people worse than
barbarians. It didnâ€™t help them any though, for
just as soon as we got the upper hand again every
manâ€™s hand was against the varmints! Even the
Tories riz up in arms.
â€œThey weren't satisfied with killing a man, but
must hew and hack him in pieces, soâ€™s his own
mother wouldnâ€™t know him. The butchers!
â€œThere was a young man, belonging to our
army, who had been recently killed by the Brit-
ish cavalry while out on a scout, and his poor,
lifeless body so shockingly hacked and mangled
by their sabres, that General Washington thought
proper to send it in to Brunswick for their in-
spection, to see if it wouldnâ€™t shame them into
better things. for the future. The officer com-
-manding the post, to which the poor ladâ€™s body
was brought, refused even to look at it, and sent
it back with the answer that he was no coroner.â€
â€œThe clever rascal! But that reminds me of a
little circumstance to which I ask your attention,â€
observed the next chair in order. â€˜â€œ When we
were manceuvring below New York in 1776, it
so chanced that a widow womanâ€™s garden, which
lay between the two camps, was frequently robbed
â€œFler son, a mere boy, and small of his age,
asked his motherâ€™s leave to find out, and if pos-
sible to take, the thief, in case he should return
to renew his depredations. His mother, as any
mother would in her place, refused point-blank.
â€œThe son persisted: the mother flatly forbade
his stirring from the house.
â€œ As soon as it was dark, however, the fearless
boy, watching his opportunity, slipped out at the
back door with his gun, and hid himself among
the bushes growing at the edges of the garden.
Arrived here, he cautiously peered around to see
158 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
that nobody was spying him, rested himself on
one elbow, and waited patiently for the thief to
show himself, confident that the darkness would
prevent his own presence being discovered.
â€œPretty soon he saw a figure approaching with
slow and stealthy steps. Upon coming nearer, it
proved to be a strapping Highlander, belonging to
the British grenadiers, who carried a large bag in
one hand. It was the thief.
â€œAfter satisfying himself that the garden was
completely deserted, the burly grenadier pro-
ceeded to fill his bag, which, being soon com-
pleted, he lifted to his shoulder, gave it a toss
to ease its weight, and turned to make his retreat
by the way he came.
â€œSeeing him thus encumbered with his load,
the boy left his hiding-place, stole softly up
behind the thief, cocked his gun, and called out,
â€˜You are my prisoner; if you attempt to put
down your bag or turn round, I will shoot you on
the spot; now go forward in that road. March!â€™
â€œThe grenadier promptly did as he was bid,
fully believing that his captor would be as good
as his word. The boy kept close at his prisonerâ€™s
heels, constantly threatening him with the con-
tents of his gun if he slackened his gait for an
â€œTn this manner they arrived at the American
camp, where the crestfallen soldier was at once
secured. When he found himself at liberty to
throw down his bag, and first saw by whom he
had been so cleverly taken, his mortification
knew no bounds; and he exclaimed in bitterness
of spirit, â€˜What! a British grenadier made pris-
oner by such a miserable brat! by such a miser-
able brat!â€™ He was led away to the guard-house
â€˜muttering curses on his ill-luck.
â€˜â€œâ€œThe American officers were so delighted with
the boyâ€™s ready wit and spirit that a Â¢Ã©ollection
was made up for him on the spot, amounting to
quite a little sum, with which he returned home.
fully satisfied for the losses his motherâ€™s garden-
patch had sustained. The soldier had his side-
arms, but of course they were of no use so long
as he dared not lay down his bag.â€
The general verdict was that it served the
soldier exactly right for committing so mean an act.
â€œ Ahem! well, perhaps so,â€ spoke up old Amos
Corbin ; â€œbut Iâ€™m thinking if every soldiÃ©r who
robbed a garden-patch had been served the same
sauce, a good many of us would have spent our
days and nights in the guard-house, hey?â€
This sally provoked a general laugh, old Amos
shaking his sides silently, as if the memory of
some nocturnal foraging scrape, in which he had
been an actor, was now vividly recalled.
â€œYes,â€ he continued, â€œit used to be forbidden
up and down; but you know forbidden fruitâ€™s the
sweetest. It used to be set out in orders, written
by men with full stomachs, what a burning shame
160 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
it was to plunder the poor, suffering inhabitants of
.a few â€™taters, or a few knurly apples, and all that
stuff and nonsense, just as if hanging was too
good for such depraved villains. Bless ye, â€™twaâ€™nâ€™t
no use. Finally the sentinels had orders to shoot
down any man caught trying to steal out without
the countersign. But we fixed their flints for
â€œWhat! you didnâ€™t take their gun-flints out,
Amos, did you?â€ asked Jonas Parsons, in a tone
of strong disapproval.
â€œOh, no; we just went halves with â€™em,â€ was
the quiet reply.
â€œYou see, boys,â€™ Amos went on presently,
â€œstarving menâ€™s got no consciences, anyway.
I'd haâ€™ resked an ounce of lead for a pound of
meat any time. And so would you.â€
â€œWell,â€ Jonas struck in, â€œforaging on the
enemyâ€™s all right enough, but on your friends,
you know â€” come now, call a halt.â€
â€œFriends!â€ laughed Amos scornfully ; â€œfriends,â€
he repeated, with a still more contemptuous shrug,
â€œâ€˜why, man, down in the Jarseys we used to beg
for food from door to door â€”actually begged for
it. What did they tell us? â€˜Allâ€™s gone; been
stripped of everything; not a mossel in the
house.â€™ Same old tune everywhere. Hungry!
Why, my glory! if weâ€™d haâ€™ seen a funeral goinâ€™
by, I verily bâ€™leeve the boys would have et the
corpse and chased the mourners.â€
â€œ Speaking of guns,â€ Jonas chimed in, â€œthere
was a curus thing happened to my wifeâ€™s oldest
brother, Bill, at the battle of Bunker Hill.â€
â€œ How was that ?â€â€™ we inquired.
Â«â€œ Bill was a-standing inside the redoubt loading
up, as the enemy was cominâ€™ up for the second
time. Just as heâ€™d rammed home two nice new
bullets good and solid, a cannon-ball came and
struck the outside of the parapet, pretty high up,
filling the barrel of Billâ€™s gun with dirt, plumb up
to the muzzle. Bill was a-lookinâ€™ at it, rather silly-
like, when his captain sung out, â€˜What are ye
lookinâ€™ at? Give it to â€˜em dirt and all, man.
It'll brush off.â€ And Bill said, when he pulled
the trigger the dirt flew so he couldnâ€™t see
whether he aimed true or not.â€
â€œ Thatâ€™s nothing,â€ observed Reddy. â€˜During
the heat of the battle of Germantown, while
bullets were flying as thick as hailstones, one
Barkalew was just taking aim, when a ball came
and carried away the lock of his musket. Looking
around him, he caught up the gun belonging to a
dead comrade, fetched it up to his shoulder, and
was just going to pull trigger, when another ball
from the enemy entered the muzzle, fair and
square, twisting the barrel round like a corkscrew.
There was twice he had tried to get a shot and
â€œ But Barkalew wouldnâ€™t give it up; so dropping
down on his knees, he unscrewed. the whole lock
162 THE WATCH FIRES OF 776
from the twisted barrel, found it fitted his own
gun to a T, screwed it on in a hurry, and, jumping
to his feet, blazed away at the enemy as if he had
meant to make up for lost time.â€
â€œHe was a good one, and thatâ€™s a fact,â€ ob-
served Ezra Valentine a little cautiously. â€œHe
showed presence of mind.â€
â€œAbsence of bodyâ€™s better than presence of
mind, in my opinion, where bullets were flying as
thick as Reddy tells for. For my part, Iâ€™d much
rather put my own bullets in my own gun. Itâ€™s
safer.â€ This was Jothamâ€™s quiet comment.
Reddy looked hard at the speaker to see if there
was any hidden meaning in his words, but as
Jotham kept a straight face the incident passed
â€œAh, yes; strange things happen on the battle-
field,â€ said old Ebenezer Stimpson, as if talking
to himself; â€œbut were any of you ever smoked
alive?â€ he asked.
The question was greeted with ironical laughter.
â€œOh, you may laugh. I mean what I say.
Listen. In the summer of â€™76, I was at my old
home in Boston, on a furlough. The smaill-pox
was raging in town, and the authorities were very
strict about letting any one go out of it who had
not had the disease in the natural way, or been
inoculated for it, for fear of spreading it. I knew
that if I didnâ€™t report back at camp before my fur-
lough was out, I would be posted as a deserter.
E Mass. PUTNA
n House (I
So they took me, and put me into their smoke-
house, where I was nearly choked to death by the
fumes of burning sulphur, tar, and such rubbish.
Fumigating they call it now. Here is what they
gave me. I brought it here on purpose,â€ he con-
tinued, taking a much crumpled piece of paper
out of his waistcoat pocket. â€˜Here, Deacon, you
The deacon read aloud as follows : â€”
Boston, August ye 13, 1776.
These certify that Ebenezer Stimpson has been so
smoaked and cleansed, as that in our opinion, he may be
permitted to pass into the country without danger of commu-
nicating the small-pox to any one.
ms ( Selectiien.
164 | THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
OLD PUTâ€™S GALLOWS
PuncruaL to the hour the veterans filed into
their seats. After the usual amount of small talk
had been indulged in, a call was made for reminis-
cences of General Putnam. At the mention of
that familiar name there was a general call for
Abel Small, who until now had lurked in the
background, like some bashful schoolboy who is
afraid of being called upon to speak his piece.
â€œCome, Abel, say something and be some-
body,â€ urged the deacon by way of encourage-
Thus urged, Abel stroked his chin thoughtfully
a moment, turned his eyes up to the ceiling,
cleared his throat, and thus began.
Near Peekskill, not far from the main road
there stands a clump of forest trees, among which
an aged hickory is conspicuous. It bore for a long
time, and still bears I believe, the name of â€œ Old
Putâ€™s Gallows,â€ from the fact that it was the place
of military execution when Putnam commanded
on that line.
In the early part of August, 1777, General
OLD PUTâ€™S GALLOWS 165
Tryon was in command at the British outposts,
near Kingâ€™s Bridge. It will be remembered that
he was royal Governor of New York at the com-
mencement of the Revolution, and a full colonel of
British regulars. After the war broke out, he was
placed on active service, and raised to a general's
rank, with power to recruit and equip a Tory corps
or brigade from the Americans who yet remained
loyal to the crown and government of Great
For a long time it had been a favorite project
with Putnam that an attempt should be made to
recapture the city of New York. From all ac-
counts it appears that Washington did not dislike
the plan, but, with proper caution, did not wish to
run at that time the risk of a defeat. Putnam,
however, made several feints and false movements
at his outposts to alarm Sir Henry Clinton, in
which he succeeded so well that he kept the Brit-
ish troops within the city for its protection, that
otherwise, aided by the fleet, would have been rav-
aging the adjacent shores of other States.
Clinton decided that he must know the position
and strength of Putnamâ€™s troops more accurately,
and also endeavor, if possible, to ascertain who it
_was in the city that gave Putnam such a correct
knowledge of all his, Clintonâ€™s, plans.
Tryon was busy raising his â€œnew levies,â€ and
for him Sir Henry sent.
â€œGeneral Tryon,â€ he said, â€œI must know the
166 THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
position of Putnamâ€™s troops, and their number,
including his fresh battalions of militia. You
ought to be able to find some oneâ€” say a native
â€”who has enlisted in your corps, that will go
into the Highlands and get what I want. The
reward shall be liberal, and, if successful, the per-
son shall be advanced in grade.â€
â€œT think I have such a man, Sir Henry; heisa
sergeant in De Lanceyâ€™s regiment. He enlisted
only about a week ago; is intelligent and ambi-
tious. He has friends on the other side who do
not yet know he has joined us.â€
â€œThe very man! Go and send him!â€
General Tryon was absent about two hours, for
he had to send to Harlem, where the sergeant
was posted, undergoing a drill with others of the
â€˜â€˜ new levies,â€ and their officers.
â€œT have seen the man, and had a long conversa-
tion with him,â€ said Tryon, when he re-entered.
â€œHe is willing to undertake the service on one
condition, and that only a condition of pride.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€ i
â€œThat he shall receive a lieutenantâ€™s commis-
sion at once. He will then depart the instant you
require, and is confident of success.â€
â€œDo you know him to be worthy of reliance?â€
â€œFrom all that I can learn, as well as from my
own judgment, I should not doubt it in the
â€œThen let his commission be made out, and
OLD PUTâ€™S GALLOWS 167
send him with it to me. If I have the same
opinion of him then I will sign it.â€
The young sergeant soon made his appear-
ance. He was not more than three and twenty
years of age, of good personal appearance, and
there was a cunning twinkle about his black eye
denoting no want of confidence in his own good
opinion of himself. Sir Henry was so well
pleased with him that his instructions were soon
completed; and after receiving his commission,
the new lieutenant bade the British commander
farewell, promising to return with the desired
information. On reaching his quarters, he changed
his military suit, ripped up the lining of his cocked
hat, under which he placed his commission, which
he carefully re-sewed, saying to himself, â€”
â€œT think when Miss Rosa Milford sees my com-
mission as an officer in his Majestyâ€™s service, she
will no longer refuse to listen to Nathan Palmer.â€
The next morning he left the farther British
outposts at Kingâ€™s Bridge on horseback, where
General Tryon had accompanied him to pursue
his expedition. It was a beautiful morning; and
he looked forward with all the anticipations of
gratified pride, and hope rose high in his breast.
He passed the â€œ Neutral Groundsâ€ without moles-
tation, and advanced into what was considered the
American district without being troubled by any
of the occasional travellers on the road, although
almost every one was armed and carried a musket.
168 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
Now and then he met an American yeoman or
farmer with whom he was acquainted who did not
know as yet of his defection; for he was born in
that section of the country, and residents within a
wide circle were considered as neighbors.
Late in the afternoon he came within sight of
the regular American outposts, when he turned
off of the main road by a narrower one that led to
a mill and dwelling on the banks of a small but
rapid stream. Let us, fora moment, look into the
dwelling and notice its inmates. One was a girl
of about eighteen, a fine rustic beauty, engaged in
some trifling housework, but mainly listening to
the conversation of a lively-looking, brown-com-
plexioned young man in a half military garb. It
was evident that what he said did not displease
her, for she looked up at him from time to time
with an arch smile. These two were Rosa Mil-
ford, the millerâ€™s daughter, and William Townley,
a neighboring farmerâ€™s son, and an ensign in the
American army lying near.
â€œWho is that, William, coming towards the
mill on horseback ?â€
â€œAs I live,â€ said the young man, â€œ it is that sly
rascal, Nathan Palmer, the dominieâ€™s nephew, who
despises him and has cast him off. The rogue, I
heard it in private this morning, has enlisted in
the refugee corps. If I knew for certain, he
should swing for it. Depend upon it, Rosa, he is
here for no good purpose.â€
OLD PUTâ€™S GALLOWS 169
â€œDo not be seen, William. Leave me to man-
The young man retired by a back door, but not
out of hearing, as the Tory lieutenant and spy
entered by the front. He advanced with a bold
â€˜Miss Rosa, I have but little time to spare, and
want your answer at once. Read that.â€ He took
the commission from the lining of his hat, and,
with a self-satisfied air, placed it before her.
â€œSome difference between holding a commis-
sion in King Georgeâ€™s service and in being a
â€œNathan Palmer,â€ said Rosa sternly, â€œI always
disliked you ; now I hate you!â€ And she handed
him back his commission.
â€œDo you refuse me now?â€
â€œRefuse you! Leave this house, or I shall be
tempted to loose the dog upon you.â€
â€œGood-by, Miss Rosa,â€ he said, grinding his
teeth in anger. â€˜Look to your fatherâ€™s mill your-
self. I will be avenged.â€ And he mounted his
horse and rode swiftly away.
Rosa hastened to the back door to look for
Townley. He was just entering the woods lead-
ing to the camp, and a wave of his hand indicated
to Rosa that he knew Palmerâ€™s errand. He has-
tened to the camp, had an interview with Putnam,
and the latter issued his private orders. Palmer
came into the lines that night with the freedom
170 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
of an. old comrade, and having, as he supposed,
accomplished his errand, was about taking his
departure, when he was arrested, and the fatal
commission was full proof of his guilt as a spy.
After.a brief trial he was ordered to be hung on
â€œ Putâ€™s gallowsâ€ the next afternoon.
Before the hour for execution came, Tryon, who
heard of the arrest, had sent in a flag, declaring it
murder to hang a mere civilian, who happened to
be a loyalist, and. threatening retaliation. He
_ was not aware that Palmerâ€™s commission had been
found upon his person. Putnam wrote back this
brief and memorable note : â€”
HEAD QUARTERS, Aug. 7, 1777.
Sir: â€”Nathan Palmer, a Lieutenant in your Kingâ€™s ser-
vice, was takÃ©n in my camp as a spy. â€” He was tried as a
spy â€” he was condemned as a spy â€” and you may rest as-
sured, sir, he.shall be hanged as a spy.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
His Excellency, General Tryon.
P.S. Afternoon. He is hanged.
Such was â€œ Old Put,â€ prompt to execute as to
decide. The hickory-tree still remains standing
Â«Speaking of memorable trees,â€ said Buckram,
â€œdid you ever know that the great tulip-tree at
Tarrytown, under which Major AndrÃ©â€™s captors
were playing. cards when he rode up, and was
WASHINGTONâ€™s HEADQUARTERS, TAPPAN, N.Y.
OLD PUTâ€™S GALLOWS I7I
taken, was struck by lightning some twenty years
after? Singularly enough, the destroying bolt
rived the tree from top to bottom, splitting it ex-
actly in two. One-half only was left standing,
but that part overhung the road so dangerously
that it had to be cut down. It was impossible to
save it, much to the regret of everybody, far or
near; for besides the great interest attached to it
historically, the tree was a noble specimen of its
sort. It stood over a hundred feet high, measured
twenty-six feet around the base, and spread out
its branches for a hundred feet more.
â€œAnd do you know,â€ continued the speaker,
lowering his voice almost to a whisper, â€œ it has
always seemed to me that, even in death, there
was some mysterious connection between Arnold
and AndrÃ©, the betrayer and the betrayed; for if
youll believe me, on the very day this tree was
struck down news was received there of Benedict
â€œThe greatest of all mysteries,â€ solemnly re-
plied the deacon, raising his old eyes reverently
as he spoke, â€˜is the overruling providence of
The room was hushed in silence as, with bowed
heads, the. veterans, one by one, filed out into the
darkness of the starlit night.
172 THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
THE SECRET SERVICE
â€œ ANYTHING but a spy!â€
The curl of Andy Tompkinsâ€™s lip, as he aid
this, showed that he fully shared in the feeling
of hatred with which this class of go-betweens
in war is universally regarded.
â€œ Allâ€™s fair in war, they say,â€ the phlegmatic
Reddy retorted. â€œ Besides, there were sples and
spies,â€ he added, in his knowing way.
â€œHow so? Do you call it fair to creep into your
camp like a snake, count your men while asleep,
bring your enemy on your back, and butcher every
motherâ€™s son of you before you can have a chance
to cry for quarter? Thatâ€™s Injun fashion.â€
â€œNo, I make a distinction. For instance, there
were spies who put their necks into a halter for
pay only. They simply sold themselves. But
there were some who did it out of as pure a love
of country as ever you and I fought for, Andy, or
just for the glory of the thing, like that amiable
spy, Major AndrÃ©.â€
â€œT saw him hanged.â€
â€œVou did?â€ :
â€œYes ; I was one of the guards at the place of
execution. I stood as close to him as I do to you
now. He died game,â€
THE SECRET SERVICE 173
â€œSo Iâ€™ve heard. They moved heaven and earth
to save him. And wasnâ€™t there a Captain Hale
on our side? They gave him hardly time to say
his prayers. It makes a difference whose ox is
gored, you know. Neither of those men would
have played the part of a spy for a room-full of
Major JoHN ANDRE
â€˜â€œThey were spies just the same.â€
â€œYes, of course; but nobody thinks any the
less of them now on that account, do they? If
either of them had been a professional spy, he
wouldnâ€™t have been caught. No, itâ€™s your profes-
sional spy that everybody despises so. We'd as
soon have hung one of â€™em up as killed a snake â€”
sooner. Yet there were men, let me tell you, who
174 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
risked the noose from motives as excusable â€”I
won't say honorable, because the word sticks in
my throat â€”as ever AndrÃ© or Hale did, who lived
and died forgotten, while AndrÃ© has a monument
in Westminster Abbey.â€
â€œOh, he was an officer high in rank, with lots
of influential friends. That makes all the differ-
ence in the world.â€
â€œNot in principle. But to cut short the dis-
cussion, did any of you ever hear tell of David
Two or three of the veterans answered in the
affirmative. All listened expectantly.
â€œWe had a man of that name in our regiment,
He was with Ethan Allen at â€˜Ty,â€™ besides having
seen considerable service before he joined us.
They say Allen set a good deal by him. That man
Gray had an eye like a hawk, a step like a cat,
seldom spoke unless spoken to, and it was then
plump yes or no with him. Not a word more.
â€˜â€œâ€œWhenever there was a nest of Tories to be
smoked out, or information was wanted of the
enemyâ€™s doings, Gray was always the first man
detailed. He would get into a smock frock, cut
himself a stout stick, and make himself look so
much like a country bumpkin, that his best
friends wouldnâ€™t have known him. But whoever
took David Gray for a fool was mightily deceived
in the man. He was as keen as a brier, and as
close as the bark of a tree.
THE SECRET SERVICE 175,
Â« All of a sudden Gray disappeared. I had my
suspicions ; so did others; but, poor fellow, we
wronged him. He was as true a man as ever
â€œThe war came to an end. All of us came
home â€”all who were left. Imagine my surprise
at hearing that Gray had got back before us, and
was then living quietly on his farm. But not a
word could any of us get out of him about his
reasons for leaving camp at Fishkill as he did.
So we set him down as a deserter.
â€œTt was full forty years afterward before that
man Gray would lisp a syllable about himself.
Then the truth came out.
â€œTt seems that Washington was in want of a
man who could be trusted to goâ€˜inside the en-
emyâ€™s lines, at New York. Upon making inquiry
for such a man, Gray was recommended to him
by our colonel. And there, the colonel never
said a word either. It only leaked out when Gray
became too poor and infirm to keep body and soul
â€œBut I know he was a pensioner,â€™ I hastened
to put in, â€œbecause I made out his papers my-
Â«A mere drop in the bucket. Were eight dol-
lars a month, for a man who had half a dozen
dependent upon him, and was as poor as poverty,
a sufficient means of livelihood, or a mere gra-
176 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
Â«Well, General Washington sent for our colo-
nel, and, says he, â€˜I have urgent need of a man,
daring, quick-witted, intelligent, active, and all
that, who at need will let himself be cut in pieces
before betraying his employers. You under-
Excellency, he is in my regiment.â€™
â€œ*Excellent. Send him hither immediately.
I must know what is going on below. But take
care, sir, not to let. the man know what he is
wanted for; I must take his measure first.â€™
â€œGray was to report after dark, so that no one
might recognize him when going in or coming out
of headquarters. At the appointed hour he was
conducted into the presence of the commander-
in-chief, who eyed Gray long and closely before
speaking. At length he said, â€”
Â«Â¢T am in want of a trustworthy person, who
will go within the enemy's lines, get all the infor-
mation he can of their intended movements and
force, and return with it. to headquarters as soon
as possible. You have been strongly recom-
mended to me by your colonel. Reflect well
before you decide. It is true the risk is great,
but the reward will be ample.â€™
â€œDavid stood irresolute before the questioning
eye and majestic figure of the commander-in-chief.
â€˜A spy, thought he. â€˜To be tucked up to the
nearest tree if taken? To be followed through
THE SECRET SERVICE â€” 177
life by the scorn of honest men? To lie, cheat,
and dissemble? A thing for every manâ€™s hand to
be raised against? My God, what shall I do?â€™
And David turned and twisted his battered old
hat in his trembling hands, like a thief taken in
Â« At last his face cleared up. â€˜I will do it, your
Excellency,â€™ he said firmly, â€˜on one condition.â€™
â€œÂ« That if I succeed, I shall fix my own reward.â€™
â€œTt was now Washingtonâ€™s turn to hesitate.
But he saw something so frank and noble in the
humble soldierâ€™s looks, that after taking a quick
turn up and down the room, he said, â€˜I agree to
your terms; only take care they do not exceed
â€œÂ«QOh, your Excellency, they will not tax them
â€œÂ«So much the better, since the army chest is
not overstocked. So again, I say, let your de-
mands be moderate.â€™
â€œOh, it will not be money I shall ask for.â€™
â€œ* Not money ; what then, sir?â€™
â€œFor what does your Excellency serve?â€™
â€œWashington gave David one of those looks
which read a manâ€™s soul. â€˜To set my oppressed
country free, young man, God willing! For a
principle dearer than life itself, he replied im-
â€œ* And without pay?â€™
178 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
Â«â€œ Washington gave a shrug of disdain. There
was a suppressed excitement visible under. his
usual impassive manner. He seemed to catch
dimly at Davidâ€™s meaning. :
â€œ*T am ready, sir; give me your instructions,â€™
said David simply.
â€œFor a moment the two men stood looking at
each other without speaking. Then the general
WASHINGTONâ€™sS TREASURE CHEST
sat down at his table, and wrote a few lines on
a piece of paper, which he handed to David.
â€˜This,â€™ he said, â€˜will pass you through all our
lines and outposts. Guard it well. Destroy it if
you are taken. Once within the enemyâ€™s lines
you must rely on your own resources. I am
much mistaken if they do not prove equal to
every emergency.â€™ ,
â€œ David took off his neckcloth, carefully folded
THE SECRET SERVICE 179
the pass up in it, and tied it around his neck
â€œWhile he was doing this the general unlocked
an iron-bound chest, took from it a small but
heavy bag, and handed it to David, with the re-
mark, â€˜Here are fifty guineas. Guard these well
â€œDavid weighed the bag for an instant in his
hand, like a man bewildered at the possession of
so much money, then dropped it into his capacious
â€œâ€œ* One thing more,â€™ resumed the general; â€˜ by
no word or sign must it be suspected that you
have any dealings with me. For your own safety
this must be so.â€™:
â€œDavid assented to this hard condition by a
nod of the head. â€˜An outcast,â€™ he murmured.
â€˜Be it so.â€™ ae
â€œ* And now,â€™ the general finished in a whisper,
inaudible to any prying eavesdropper, â€˜I give you
the countersign for the night ; for you must leave
camp immediately: and, mark me, that pass is
only to be shown should you fail to elude the
vigilance of our guards. You understand?â€™
â€œAgain David nodded. â€˜A deserter,â€™ he inwardly
groaned. â€˜What will they say of me at home?â€™
â€œDavid saluted, half turned to go, then hesi-
tated. â€˜You have something to ask of me,â€™ said
*â€œ Davidâ€™s, voice for the first time, was unsteady,
180 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
as he replied, â€˜ Your Excellency, I have a wife and
four children at home, whose sole support I am.
Should I?â€”should I?â€™ â€” here David expres-
sively put his hand between his neckcloth and
throat, for words failed him.
â€œÂ« Fave no fears on that account, my friend. I
charge myself with their care, should anything
happen to you,â€™ was the firm reply. â€˜Do you
rely on me?â€™
â€œÂ¢Next to my Maker,â€™ David declared, feeling
his heart lightened of its load.
â€œAt roll-call the next morning, David Gray
failed to answer to his name. When the colonel
looked over the morning report, his gray eyes
sparkled. â€˜Private David Gray absent without
leave, is he?â€™ was all he said. â€˜Guess heâ€™ll turn
DAVID GRAY, THE DOUBLE SPY 181
DAVID GRAY, THE DOUBLE SPY
Davip Gray had visibly risen in the estimation
of all the veterans during the recital of his inter-
view with the commander-in-chief. One and all
teased Reddy to continue.
â€œSo far Iâ€™ve told you Grayâ€™s story as I heard it,
after heâ€™d put in his claim for assistance to the
legislature. Gray was not the man to brag about
his familiarity with great men. He was too mod-
est for that. But now comes his own account of
â€œThe night on which he â€˜ook French leave of
camp, with his pack on his back, and his life in
his hand, instead of steering straight for New
York, he struck off through the woods, and over
the hills, by unfrequented paths, or no paths at
all, until he knew he had got clear of all our out-
guards. By daybreak he calâ€™lated on having put
a good fifteen miles between him and camp. He
darsenâ€™t be seen skulking about that part of the
country in the daytime, for the very good reason
that our light-horse were continually scouting the
roads in that direction, and might pick him up.
But perhaps he most feared falling in with some
marauding party of Skinners or Cowboys, either
182 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
of whom would quickly have gobbled him up as
lawful prey. So David hid in the woods till it
was safe to travel.
â€œOnce out of the dangerous â€˜ Neutral Ground,â€™
David breathed more freely, and travelled more
at his ease. His idea was to strike for the Sound,
find means to cross over to the Long Island shore,
and get thence to New York: whereas, if he had
taken the short cut, the Cowboys would have
robbed him first and hung him afterwards; while
the Skinners would have hung him first, and
read his pass later on.â€
_â€œ Out of the frying-pan into the fire,â€ Peleg re-
marked, kicking some stray coals back from the
hearth into the fireplace.
â€œJust so. A greater set of scoundrels never
disgraced the name of soldiers. We reckoned
them all as one â€” Cowboys or Skinners, Skin-
ners or Cowboys.â€
â€œRight you are. David would have stood a
mighty poor chance once in their clutches â€”the
â€œOnce safe in Connecticut, David was among
friends. The only risk he run was that of falling
in with small squads of militia, who were on the
lookout for deserters from the army. So the first
time David could get hold of pen and ink he
forged himself a furlough. â€˜In for a penny, in
for a pound,â€™ he remarked to himself, while imi-
tating the cramped scrawl of his commanding of-
DAVID GRAY, THE DOUBLE SPV 183
ficer. â€˜I may as well add forgery to my other
accomplishments, he added, as he inserted the
name of Jonathan Brown, instead of that of
David Gray. And wherefore, indeed, should
not Jonathan befriend David in time- of need,
I should like to know?
â€œ As sharp-witted a chap as we know David to
be was not long in finding a man who, for some
hard dollars counted out on the spot, would risk
making the run across the Sound. The man was
as good as his word, the Sound as smooth as a
smelt; so by daylight next morning David was
landed on Long Island. In the cool of the morn-
ing he set out across the sands, at a brisk pace
for the nearest village, in which the boatman had
warned him he would find De Lanceyâ€™s dragoons
â€œDavid marched straight into the village tavern,
sat himself down, and called for something to eat,
with the air of a man who-feels himself quite at
home. â€˜Two or three loungers dropped in to take
their morning dram, who stared at the new-comer
with no very friendly looks, and, after whisper-
ing with the landlord, went out, shortly returning
with a soldier who wore a sergeantâ€™s stripes.
This was precisely what David had foreseen
â€œThe sergeant did his best to pump David; but
all he could get out of him was, â€˜I will tell your
commanding officer. The sergeant blustered,
184 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
threatened to no purpose. David wouldnâ€™t budge
a hair. So off he was marched, between a file of
soldiers, to headquarters.
Â«â€œ While the sergeant was making his report,
David managed to catch the colonelâ€™s eye. To
arrest his attention by making a quick motion
toward the breast of his coat, giving him at the
same time a look of peculiar meaning, was the
work of a moment. The act was not lost on
the colonel, who immediately ordered the sergeant
out of the room. â€˜Remain within call,â€™ he cau-
tiously added, glancing at the table where his
pistols were lying, as if to make sure that they
were within reach of his hand.
â€œWhen they were alone, David ripped open the
lining of his coat, took from it a letter, and
handed it to the colonel, who broke the seal, read.
it through from beginning to end, and at once
threw off all reserve.
â€œÂ«This letter vouches for you as a true friend
to your king and country. The writer is a stanch
friend to our cause. How would you like to join
my American Legion? That would give you the
opportunity you desire, of paying off some old
scores, I fancy.â€™
â€œDavid replied that he preferred to enter the
secret service, in which he might hope to pay off
all the abuse and ill-treatment to which he had
been subjected, by one good stroke.
â€œâ€œÂ« Well,â€™ said the colonel warily, â€˜although you
DAVID GRAY, THE DOUBLE SPY 185
come well recommended, such further proof of
your fidelity will be required as will put it beyond
a question. Besides,â€™ he added, turning the letter
over in his hand, and holding it up to the light,
â€œhow do I know this paper is not a forgery ?â€™
â€œÂ¢Vou shall judge. All our cavalry moved
down into Westchester the day I left camp.
Four brigades of Heathâ€™s division, mine was one,
drew ammunition the day before, and we had
orders to cook six daysâ€™ rations. Besides this, all
the blacksmiths in the army were at work night
and day shoeing the artillery horses. Even the
headquartersâ€™ guard were packing up. Old sol-
diers neednâ€™t be told what that means.â€™
â€œThe colonel drummed on the table with his
fingers. Presently he started to his feet, threw
open the door, and shouted to his orderly to bring
his horse round from the stables. â€˜Sir Henry
must know of this instantly. You must go with
me. And, Orderly! a horse for our friend here. â€”
Come on, sir, we have not a moment to lose.â€™
â€œAnd off they galloped toward the city, at a
rate that promised to take them there inside of
â€œThe villain! The double-faced villain!â€
shouted the indignant Peleg, half rising from
his chair; â€œand did he really mean to betray
â€œOh, no; not he. Washington told him just
enough to keep his credit good with the enemy.
186 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
It was only a big foraging party, or a reconnois-
sance, or something like that; but it served
Davidâ€™s turn to a T, for they found it all as
straight as a gun-barrel.â€
â€œThe upshot of it was that Sir Henry took
David into his special service. He was employed
in this sort of work for a year, carrying letters
to Tories inside our lines, and even to Canada;
all of which he first faithfully delivered into
Washingtonâ€™s own hand, and afterward to the
persons for whom they were intended. Many
were the disguises he assumed, and many the
expedients to which he was driven to conceal his
American pass, which would have betrayed him
to the British, or the despatches they trusted him
with, which would have betrayed him to the
Americans. For a long time things went on
swimmingly. David played his part to perfection ;
fortune favored him wonderfully. But the pitcher
that goes too often to the well is broken at last.
â€œTt happened in this wise. David knew that
the British, under the traitor Arnold, were collect-
ing a force on Long Island with which to make
a descent on New London. He promptly con-
veyed the news to headquarters. When the
matter was fully ripe, David was sent to inform
Colonel Ledyard, who commanded at New Lon-
don, that if the wind was fair, Arnold would
probably attempt to land the next morning. It
so turned out. Arnold was on hand. He knew
DAVID GRAY, THE DOUBLE SPY â€” 187
the place only too well, having been born right
there, in the neighborhoodâ€”the renegade. It
so happened that the fort in which David found
himself was so closely invested that he barely had
time to make his escape, leaving his despatches
in the hands of the commanding officer, who, as
you all know, was most wickedly run through the
body with his own sword, at the moment of sur-
rendering it. As everything fell into the hands
of the British, Davidâ€™s papers with the rest, that,
of course, put an end to his career as a spy.
Â«All that goes to prove that what one man
whispers in another manâ€™s ear may easily decide
the fate of war. To know just what your ad-
versary intends doing is half the battle, at
â€œThereâ€™s not one man in a thousand who could
have done what David Gray did, and have come
off with a whole skin. He must have had nerves
of steel and a constitution of iron,â€ spoke up one.
â€œOf course his claim was allowed?â€ inquired
the next man.
â€œNo; there you are wrong. The legislative
Solons, in a spirit of economy perhaps, gave him
leave to withdraw. You see, the war was an old
story. The debt was considered as outlawed.â€
Â«A debt of honor never is outlawed!â€ ex-
claimed old Buckram in a voice of deep emotion.
188 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
THE SPY AND THE INNKEEPER
â€œTHERE was another story current in camp,â€
said Big Reuben, â€œthe truth of which I do not
vouch for myself, mind you, but which was gen-
erally believed by all of us. I give it to you for
what it is worth.â€
In the year 76 the keeper of a country tavern
at White Plains, by the name of Albertson, struck
a bargain with a British spy, who bribed him
for a large sum to favor the British cause. As
Albertsonâ€™s house was the resort of our officers,
who frequently dropped in to take a little refresh-
ment, it was thought that he might pick up from
their conversation some useful information now
and then. |
Among other things, this Albertson was to
receive a snug reward if, in any way, he could
succeed in entrapping a certain sergeant of ours,
named Josephs, who had made himself partic-
ularly odious to the refugees and Tories by his
activity in thwarting their well-laid plans to rob
and plunder our people. Really he was a born
detective, that Josephs.
The cunning innkeeper promised to do his best
THE SPY AND THE INNKEEPER 189
â€” which I take to mean his worst ; and it so hap.
pened that chance soon afterward put the sergeant
in his power. One evening the sergeant stopped
at Albertsonâ€™s, intending to pass the night there,
as he had often done before, not suspecting that
his treacherous host was meditating, all the time,
how he should earn the promised reward without
arousing the sergeantâ€™s suspicions.
The sergeant was a strongly built, athletic fel-
low ; the innkeeper middle-aged, and a coward to
boot. So the idea of taking the sergeant by
throwing himself upon him unawares was not to
the innkeeperâ€™s liking. Instead of trying that,
he conceived the cowardly notion of poisoning
Josephs, which would be, he thought, on the
whole, the safer way.
After exchanging a few words with his host,
Josephs ordered something to keep the cold out.
The temptation was too strong to be resisted.
Albertson accordingly drugged the liquor, brought
itâ€™ in, and handed it to his unsuspecting victim.
As he did so their eyes met. Josephs noticed
that the innkeeperâ€™s hand trembled. It suddenly
flashed upon him that all was not as it should be.
â€œWhatâ€™s the matter, Albertson? And why
does your hand shake so?â€
â€œOh, nothing, nothing,â€ the startled wretch
replied, forcing a sickly smile, but turning very
pale at the question.
The sergeant set the cup down on the table
1g0 | THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
untasted, and his look grew more and more
threatening. â€œWell, now,â€ said he, jumping to
his feet, and speaking like a man struck with a
sudden light, â€œyou look as if some deed of dark-
ness was in the wind, if ever a man did; and for
some time Iâ€™ve half suspected you were in the
pay of the other side. If so, you had better
hang yourself up to your own sign-post, and save
us the trouble.â€
Albertson had now grown so agitated that he
shook all over.
â€œJ believe you are a cowardly traitor to your
country,â€ the sergeant went on; â€œfor no honest
man could look as white-livered as you do. Why
do you eye my cup of grog so closely? Ah! I
have it. Speak out! Ainâ€™t the liquor right?â€
Â«â€œ Ye-e-s,â€ stammered the now thoroughly
â€œWell, then, if itâ€™s good, letâ€™s see you drink it.
Come, down with it, and I'll have another cup,â€
said Josephs, pushing the deadly draught into
Albertsonâ€™s reluctant hand.
Albertson looked first at the mug, then at
Josephs, but made no movement to raise the
liguor to his lips.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you swallow it, if it is good?â€
again demanded the sergeant, still more peremp-
â€œT beg that you'll excuse me; in fact, I donâ€™t
feel well; I donâ€™t, indeed,â€™â€™ Albertson pleaded.
THE SPY AND THE INNKEEPER 1gt
Big drops of perspiration stood out on his fore-
head as he said this.
Josephs was now fully convinced of the truth
of his suspicions. â€˜â€œ Swallow it you shall!â€ he
cried out, drawing his sword to enforce the com-
mand. â€˜Choose quickly between this and that.â€
Death by poison or the sword was too much
for Albertson. He fell on his knees, confessed
that the cup of liquor was poisoned, made a clean
breast of his treacherous compact with the enemy,
and begged for mercy so humbly that Josephsâ€™s
anger was turned to contempt. Two weeks after-
ward the would-be murderer was tried by a court-
martial and hanged.â€
192 THE WATCH FIRES OF '76
It was voted to hear one more spy story as
a complement to what had gone before, as all
agreed that the subject had never been given
the importance it deserved. Nearly every one
was busy with his own recollections when Buck-
ram struck.in with, â€”
You all remember when Cornwallis marched up
across the Carolinas into Virginia in 1781, â€”the
march that brought his victorious career to a halt
at Yorktown the next year. He wasa driver, that
Cornwallis. So much for that. Well, at the time
I speak of, Washington had sent Lafayette, with a
small force, to watch his lordshipâ€™s motions.
This was easier said than done. His lordshipâ€™s
motions were so decidedly energetic, his force so
decidedly superior, especially in cavalry, that the
poor marquis was kept continually on the jump to
keep out of harmâ€™s way. Still, as often as he was
obliged to fall back before one of the enemyâ€™s
sudden dashes, he would be found advancing
again just so soom as Cornwallis had faced about.
Angry at being so dogged about by a force he
could never bring to bay, Cornwallis laid his plans
CHARLEY MORGAN 193
to surprise the marquis, and so make an end of
him. He felt so confident of succeeding, that he
declared that â€œthe boyâ€ could not escape him.
But that same â€œboyâ€ had a manâ€™s head on his
shoulders, as it turned out.
Both armies were then on the same side of
James River. Being very desirous, on his part,
of finding out what move his lordship was plan-.
ning, the marquis concluded to send a spy into
his camp for that purpose. His eye fell upon one
Charles Morgan, a Jerseyman, of whom he had
formed a favorable opinion as being the right man
for just such a bold and hazardous undertaking.
So Charley was sent for. The marquis unfolded
194. THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
his project, and Charley agreed to undertake it;
stipulating, however, that in case he should be
discovered and hanged, which was one and the
same thing, the marquis should cause the facts
to be published in the Jersey papers, in order
that justice might be done to his reputation.
Charley deserted to the enemy. When he
reached the royal army he was taken before Lord
Cornwallis, who asked him his reasons for de-
To this question Charley replied : â€œ My Lord, I
have been with the American army from the
beginning, and while serving under General
Washington I was satisfied ; but since they have
put a Frenchman over us, I, for one, do not like
it, and have left the service.â€
His lordship commended his conduct, arid or-
dered him to be suitably rewarded.
Charley was very diligent in performing all his
military duties, so as to ward off suspicion; but
at the same time he kept both eyes wide open to
all that was passing about him.
One day his lordship sent for the new recruit.
â€œ How long a time will it take the marquis to
cross James River?â€ he asked.
Charley thought a moment, as if making a
mental calculation, and then answered, â€”
â€œThree hours, my Lord.â€
â€œThree hours! Why, it will take three days!â€
his lordship exclaimed.
CHARLEY MORGAN 195
â€œNo, my Lord,â€ said Charley; â€œthe marquis
has so many boats, each of which will carry so
many men. If your Lordship will take the trouble
to reckon that up, you will find that he can cross
in three hours.â€
Turning to the officers with him, Cornwallis
remarked, in Charleyâ€™s hearing, â€œ The scheme
will not do.â€
Charley now concluded that this was the proper
moment for making his escape to his friends. He
determined, however, upon not returning alone.
Getting together some of his comrades whom he
thought he could best work upon, he first plied
them well with grog until they were well warmed
up, and then very artfully opened his masked
battery. He complained of the poor fare fur-
nished in the British camp as compared with the
plenty that prevailed in the American, more than
hinting at his own inclination to return to the
Continental colors. Finding he was listened to,
he bluntly asked, â€œWhat say you, lads, will you
go with me?â€
They agreed, leaving it to him to manage te
Charley went boldly up to the first sentinel, and
offered him a drink out of his canteen. .While the
fellow was drinking, Charley secured his musket.
He then proposed to the sentry to go along with
them. Finding himself thus caught, the sentinel
joined the deserters, willing or unwilling. The
second was served in the same way.
196 THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
In this way Charley Morgan managed to carry
off seven deserters with him to the American
camp. When he was brought to headquarters,
upon seeing him, the marquis cried out, â€˜ Aha,
Charley, are you got back?â€
â€œYes; and, please your Excellency, I have
brought seven more with me.â€
After Charley had told his reasons for return-
ing, then and there the marquis offered him
money, which was firmly refused. Charley said
he only wanted his gun again. The marquis
then offered to make him a sergeant. To this
Morgan replied: â€œI will not have any promotion.
I have abilities for doing my duty as a common
soldier, and a good character. Should I accept
promotion, my abilities might not answer, and I
would then lose my character besides.â€
WADSWORTHâ€™S ESCAPE 197
â€œWe have now had stories of all sorts, relating
to almost every kind of experience in a soldier's
life, with one exception. I now propose to fill
that gap to the best of my ability,â€ said the pen-
sion agent, crossing one leg over the other, while
each of his listeners assumed the attitude best
suited to his comfortable hearing.
Â« Ahem! my voice is a trifle husky this even-
ing; but the story, fortunately, will not be long.
â€œGeneral Peleg Wadsworth was the second in
command when the New England militia tried to
take Castine, but were repulsed.
Â« After that the general held a nominal com-
mand in that quarter, without troops. He made
his headquarters at Thomaston, on the other side
of the bay, where he lived with his wife in ap-
parent security. A young lady by the name of
Fenno, with a guard of six militiamen, comprised
his whole means of defence.â€
â€œWhy do you put her in?â€ asked one veteran,
who was making an ear-trumpet of his right hand.
â€œWomen donâ€™t count in a scrimmage.â€
â€œHave patience and you shall see, General
198 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
Campbell, commanding at Castine, was well in-
formed of Wadsworthâ€™s defenceless condition, and
resolved to send him an invitation to come over
and take up his quarters in the fortress, at the
kingâ€™s expense. A leutenant and twenty-five
rank and file were detailed to carry the message.
They arrived at Wadsworthâ€™s house at dead of
night. The sentinel challenged and fled into the
house. General Wadsworth, hearing the commo-
tion, jumped out of bed in his shirt, only to find
himself face to face with his assailants, who made
a rush to take him; the lieutenant calling out at
the top of his lungs, â€˜Surrender, or you are a
â€œThe general defended himself with Spartan
bravery. â€œArmed with a brace of pistols, a fusee,
anda blunderbuss, he fought his assailants away
from his windows, then turned upon those who
had followed the retreating sentinel through the
door, and fought them off until he had not a shot
left. Then he kept them back with his bayonet,
until a shot disabled his left arm. Then, with
five or six wounded men lying on the floor around
him, the windows shattered and the house on fire,
Peleg Wadsworth was able to say, â€˜I surrender.â€™
â€œ They took him, exhausted by his efforts, and
benumbed with cold, to the fort, where he was
kept a close prisoner.
â€œSome time after this, a Major Burton, who
had served with the general, was also brought a
WADSWORTH'S ESCAPE 199
prisoner to the fort, and put in the same room with
him. Wadsworth applied to be paroled. It was
refused. Governor Hancock sent a cartel, with
an offer to exchange an officer of equal rank for
the general. That, too, was denied. One day
Miss Fenno, who had come to the fort to see
him, managed to let him know that the enemy
had resolved to hold him a captive until the end
of the war. Then Peleg Wadsworth resolved that
they should do no such thing.
â€œThe prisoners were confined in a room of the
officersâ€™ quarters, the window of which was grated,
and the door fitted with a sash, through which the
sentinel, on duty in the passage, could look into
the room as he paced up and down on his beat.
At either end of this passage there was a door
opening out upon the parade-ground of the fort,
at which other sentinels were posted. At gun-fire
the gates were shut, the number of sentries in-
creased, and the countersign given out for the
â€œ These were not all the difficulties in the way
of an escape. Even supposing the prisoners
should have passed the sentinels posted in the
passage, and at the outer door of their quarters,
they would have to cross the parade and ascend
the ramparts in full view of the guards on duty
there. Admitting the top of the rampart gained,
the outer wall was strongly fraised with pickets
driven obliquely into the earth, of which it was
200 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
built. From this point there was a sheer descent
of twenty-five feet to the ditch. Once in the ditch,
the fugitives must ascend the counterscarp, and
contrive in some way to work through the che-
vaux-de-frise beyond it. They were then out of
the fortress, with no possible means of gaining
their liberty except by water, as Castine is a pe-
ninsula, joined only to the mainland by a narrow
neck, where there was a picket posted. To elude
this picket was not to be thought of.
â€œNevertheless, the prisoners made up their
minds that it was worth the trial. The room in
which they were confined was ceiled with pine
boards. Upon one or another pretext they pro-
cured a gimlet of a servant, with which they bored
a circle of holes in the ceiling, thus making an
aperture sufficiently large to pass the body of a
man through. The interstices were cut through
with a penknife, except at the corners, which
were left in place until the moment for action
should arrive. The holes were then closed with
bread, and the dust carefully removed from the
floor beneath. All this work had to be carried on
while the sentinel in the passage was pacing off a
distance equal to twice the depth of the room.
â€œThe way they took to prevent being surprised
at their work was quite ingenious. Arm in arm,
the prisoners would walk the floor, taking care to
keep exact time with the sentinel, whose steps
'they counted. At the moment he had passed the
WADSWORTHâ€™S ESCAPE 201
door, Burton, who was the taller of the two, and
could reach the ceiling by standing on tiptoe,
would begin the boring, while Wadsworth walked
on, At the soldier's returning, Burton quickly
rejoined his companion. In this manner the work
went on without exciting suspicion, though it took
three weeks to complete it. Meantime each man
had provided himself with a blanket, and a strong
staff sharpened at the end. For food they se-
creted their crusts, and dried scraps of their meat.
â€œThey waited until one night when a violent
thunderstorm was raging out of doors. It grew
intensely dark. The rain fell in torrents upon
the roof of the barracks ; now and then a blinding
flash lit up the darkness, followed by the loud
bellowing of the thunder, as if the fortress was
beleaguered by all the powers of the air. It was
just such a night as the daring captives had
longed for. The moment for action had come.
â€œThe prisoners undressed themselves as usual
and went to bed, in order to throw the watchful
sentinel off his guard. They then put out their
candle, arose, and hurried on their clothes. Their
plan was to first get into the vacant loft overhead,
and then to gain the passage-way next beyond
them, which they knew to be unguarded, by creep-
ing along the joists on their hands and knees.
Thence they had agreed to make the best of their
way to the north bastion, acting afterward as cir-
cumstances might determine,
202 | THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
â€œBurton was the first to pass through the open-
ing. He had made but little progress before the
cackling of some fowls notified him of his having
invaded a henroost. Wadsworth, meantime, lis-
tened breathlessly to the familiar noises that ap-
prised him, for the first time, of this new danger.
At length they ceased, without having attracted
the attention of the guards; and the general, not
without difficulty, ascended in his turn. He
passed over the space between him and the gal-
lery unnoticed, then quickly gained the outside by
the door which Burton had left open. The storm
was still fiercely raging; but what was that to a
man who, for the first time in many long, weary
months, now drew in the free air of liberty?
â€œFeeling his way, in the dark, along the west-
ern wall of the barracks, Wadsworth made a bold
dash for the embankment, thence mounting the
rampart by an oblique path. At the very moment
when he stopped to take breath, and was striv-
ing to peer into the blackness about him, the door
of the guard-house was flung open, a bright light
streamed forth upon the parade-ground, and a voice
was heard giving the order, â€˜ Relief, turn out !â€™
â€œWadsworth gave himself up for lost. In
another moment the relief would be upon him..
Fortunately the guard passed without seeing him.
He reached the bastion agreed upon as a rendez-
vous; but, lo and behold, Burton was not there!
No time was to be lost. Fastening his blanket to
WADSWORTHâ€™S ESCAPE 203
a picket, he lowered himself as far as its length
would permit, and then, like a spider dangling at
the end of his thread, let himself drop into the
muddy ditch, now ankle deep with water.
â€œFrom here the fugitive crawled stealthily out
by the water-course unobserved, and at length
stood a free man outside the fort. It being low
tide, the general waded the cove to the mainland,
plunged into the thickets, and made rapid strides
in a direction that would take him farthest from
the fort before his daring escape should be dis-
covered, In the morning, to his great joy, he
was rejoined by Burton, when both pushed on
again together with renewed resolution; and after
a terrible march, they finally succeeded in reach-
ing the opposite shores of the Penobscot.â€
â€œT would have given something to have seen
that commanderâ€™s face when news of the escape
was brought to him,â€ observed Jonas. â€œIt must
have been a study.â€
204. THE WATCH FIRES OF "76
â€œT suppose that all of you recollect what was
said here about the gallantry of the woman who
was shot dead, and left on the field, while in the
act of distributing cartridges to the men, at the
battle of Freemanâ€™s Farm. I wish I knew her
name, But I could never learn it. Though a
woman, she had the heart of a true soldier.â€
â€œThat is by no means a solitary instance,â€ said
Reuben Philpot, casting his dim eyes up and
down the line, until they rested on. a sleepy-look-
ing individual, whose head was half hid by his
enormous coat-collar. â€˜Here you, Jere!â€ he
called out; â€œwake up, and tell that old story
about Captain Molly.â€
â€œTell it yourself. You know it as well as I
do,â€™ was the drowsy rejoinder.
â€œT donâ€™t know about that. But I thought it
was a thing understood that no man should shirk
when called upon. Shall we let him off, boys?â€
finished Reuben, glancing-to the right and left.
The notion was highly resented. So after
thrusting his frowzy head up out of his coat-
collar, like a mud-turtle from her shell, and seeing
that the looks of all were turned expectantly
FEMALE HEROISM 205
toward him, Jere very reluctantly began his rela-
tion in this manner :â€”
â€œâ€™Twas, let me see? yes; I] remember now,
it was at Germantown. No; Iâ€™m wrong. Lord
help my poor head! â€™twas at Monmouth. Yes;
Sir Henry CLINTON
Monmouth. Warm work! warm work! I was
all het up.â€
Here poor old Jere relapsed into a brooding
silence, which. continued so long that one of the
party suggested touching him off with the logger-
head that lay thrust among the glowing embers
of the fireplace.. The idea met with instant ap-
206 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
proval, for the reason that Jere had served in the
artillery, in which the use of a loggerhead was
by no means unknown.
â€œTut, tut, you boys, keep the loggerhead to
warm your flip,â€™ remonstrated Jere. â€œIâ€™m only
a little slow in going off, like one of our old field-
â€œpieces. Give me time, and Iâ€™ll give you the yarn,
and done with it.
â€œWell, then, as I said, â€™twas at Monmouth.
Clinton had evacuated Philadelphia. The British
were in full retreat across the Jerseys; we after
them. Washington thought he had them. So did
we. One part of our army was advanced so as
to hang on their rear, and worry them, until the
main body could come up. So easy, wasnâ€™t it ?
We thought their rear-guard would be easily
handled; because their whole line, wagons, artil-
lery, and all, donâ€™t you see, stretched out for
twelve miles along the road. Then we would
scoop in the wagons. Thereâ€™s where we made
a big mistake. Instead of doing as we thought,
John Bull was marching wrong end foremost, with
horns to the rear. So in place of worrying him,
as they thought, he tossed and gored our ad-
vanced guard until they were tired, and gave up
â€œOur people were trying to rally on some high
ground, to which the enemy had driven them,
when Washington rode up. He was the maddest
man I ever laid eyes on. There was our vanguard
.. FEMALE HEROISM .. 207
all fought out and in disorder. There were the
British lining up beyond us, for a fresh attack.
Boys, if I was to live as long as
old Methuselah himself, I shall
never forget that moment. I saw
Washington straighten himself up
in his saddle like a man of bronze.
I heard him give Lee such a tre-
mendous scolding that the poor
man turned as white as a sheet.
Out flew the orders. Aids were
soon skurrying over the field in
every direction. Our men plucked
up heart again. Our artillery
came up at a gallop. Up came
the old Continentals, with steady
tramp, bayonets fixed, all on edge
to retrieve the fortunes of the
day. It was glorious, glorious !
Â«â€œÂ¢ Where shall I put in, Gen-
eral?â€™ asked the bluff old briga-
dier, who had rode on ahead,
busily mopping his forehead with
his red bandanna as he spoke.
eer : WASHINGTONâ€™S SER-
Halt your men here, General. yicx Sworn, AND
The enemy are going to advance STAFF
directly. Our guns are getting
into position to check them until we can have
time to make a stand. You must support the
guns, sir.â€ He then rode off to the rear.
208 THE WATCH FIRES OF *76
â€œGeneral Knox posted us; our orders were to
silence that battery, firing over against us, and
at it we went, hammer and tongs. After a few
discharges the smoke grew so thick that we fired
at the flashes of the other batteryâ€™s guns. They
were not slow at giving us as good as we sent
them; and what with the terrible heat, the suffo-
cating smoke, and the blinding dust and dirt that
the enemyâ€™s balls threw over us every minute or
so, it was the hottest place I ever got into, by
all odds. But we made it hot for them on the
other hill too, or I miss my guess.
â€œT remember that about this time Colonel
Wesson of the Old Ninth rode up to our battery
to see what was going on. He was another old
salamander. His regiment lay on the slope of the
hill just behind us, taking it easy.
â€œâ€œ* Blame this smoke,â€™ he roared out; â€˜how do
we know the enemyâ€™s infantry ainâ€™t stealing a
march on us?â€™
â€œ* Because their guns havenâ€™t slackened their
fire yet, Colonel,â€™ my captain answered him.
â€œThe cannon-smoke hung down over us as high,
perhaps, as a manâ€™s head from the ground.. There
wasnâ€™t a breath of air. The colonel leaned down
over his horseâ€™s neck to see if he couldnâ€™t peek out
under it, when biff! there came a round shot from
the enemyâ€™s battery, tearing the coat from his
back, and the flesh from his body. Had he sat
upright an instant longer, he must have been
FEMALE HEROISM 209
killed outright. As it was, he became a cripple
â€œExcuse me. That little incident darted up in
my mind, to turn it away from my story.
â€œJ was working away like a blacksmith at my
piece, black in the face, with not a dry rag on me,
when who should I see but Molly, the wife of our
gunner, fetching water from a neighboring spring.
She never scooched a mite. Just how many times
she trotted back and forth on this errand I don't
know, and therefore canâ€™t say ; but at any rate, she
was coming up again, with her canteen full, when
a shot struck the gunner fairly, and down he went
like a log.
â€œ Molly was at his side, and down on her knees,
in a moment. One look was enough. The man
was done for. He never spoke again.
â€œWhile the woman sat crouching over the
dead man, in speechless grief, a mounted officer
came up, and ordered the piece to the rear, be-
cause there were not now: men enough left to
serve it. What there were prepared to obey the
order, when Molly sprang to her feet, laid her
hand on the breech of the gun, and with flashing
eyes, cried out, â€˜Stop!â€™
â€œThe men all thought she had gone crazy.
Â«Stop, I say!â€™ she again exclaimed; â€˜that
cannon shall never leave the field for want of
somÃ© one to serve it. Come, lads,â€™ turning to the
amazed artillerymen, who stood staring at her in
210. THE WATCH FIRES OF.*76
astonishment, â€˜since they have killed my poor
husband, J will try my best to take his place, and
avenge his death.â€™ She then wrenched the ram-
mer from the dead manâ€™s grasp, sprang forward
to the muzzle of the piece, rammed home the car-
tridge with all the strength and fury of an Ama-
zon, and in another moment the gun was again
dealing death and dismay in the enemyâ€™s ranks.
That gun didnâ€™t go to the rear. And so Molly
stood to her post, as well as the best of them,
throughout the action, to the wonder and admira-
tion of all who saw her, never flinching or making
even a whimper until the order came to cease firing.
Then she sat herself down on the ground, by the
side of her poor dead husband, threw her apron
over her head, and gave way to her pent-up grief.
â€œ Among the rest, Washington saw her at work
at her gun. After the battle he gave her an
officerâ€™s commission, of which she was very proud.
After that she wore an epaulet, and was called by
everybody, â€˜ Captain Molly.â€™ â€
â€œThere was a woman for you!â€ exclaimed
Reddy, rubbing his hands gleefully.
â€œNot for me,â€ remarked Jotham, scratching his
ear. â€œI donâ€™t know now as I should pick out just
such a woman as that for my wife. I think Iâ€™d
rather be excused.â€
â€œThe fact is, observed Buckram sagely, that
most of the women who have been held up as
FEMALE HEROISM 211
examples of personal bravery on the field of battle
were camp-followers. Campâ€™s no place for women,
anyhow. They get to be so much like the men,
and often so much worse than the men, that men
come to have no respect for them. However,
thereâ€™s one woman who has been a good deal
talked about, who, by all thatâ€™s unaccountable,
went into the army just for the love of the thing.
Just fancy it!â€
â€œWho was she ?â€
â€œDeborah Sampson, better known as Deborah
Gannett, that being her husbandâ€™s name, though
she was a Sampson before she married him. [ve
studied a good deal overt that woman, and canâ€™t
make her out yet. You've all heard of her?
Not a few broad grins broke out on the faces of
the amused veterans. Buckram went on: â€œThere
have been women in history who have enlisted in
the room of some husband, brother, or sweetheart,
who for some reason or other, good -or bad,
couldnâ€™t go himself. Thatâ€™s quite another thing.
But this case was not of that kind. Debby just
took it into her foolish little wrong head to go
a-soldiering for no better reason, as far as I can
make out, than because she was dead tired of the
humdrum life of a country village. So she put on
menâ€™s clothes, hunted up a recruiting-officer, took
the bounty, and became a Continental soldier, as
true as you live.â€
212 THE WATCH FIRES OF "76
â€œWomen folks scream when they see a mouse,â€
laughed Jotham, â€œlet alone the bang of a gun.
That sets â€™em off into hysterics.â€
â€œI know it. But Debby was not one of the
â€œT should have thought they would have de-
tected her on the spot.â€
â€œQh, no; she passed muster all right. She had
made herself a suit of menâ€™s clothes, in which she
carried herself so well that nobody seems to have
seen through the cheat.â€
â€œShe must have been a bold, brazen-faced huzzy
then, to have carried it off so bravely,â€ insisted
â€˜Have your own opinion. At any rate, she en-
listed, though not until the war was about over,
in the spring of 1782, so that she really saw but
little hard marching or fighting in comparison
with old soldiers, though thereâ€™s little doubt that
she got all she wanted of both. She went in
the army by the name of Robert Shurtleff. Of
her having served without detection for eighteen
months or so, there is no manner of doubt; but
the stories told about her in the book called the
â€˜Female Reviewâ€™ â€” some of you may have read
itâ€”are all gammon. Instead of fighting all so
gallantly in the campaign of Yorktown, that affair
was all over six months before she enlisted. Peo-
ple swallowed the story, though, as if it was gos-
pel. It made her out a second Joan of Arc.
FEMALE HEROISM 213
Â«She must have been awful cute, though, to
have concealed her-sex as long as she did, among
so many prying eyes. It makes me think that
she must have been a very masculine looking sort
of woman. Being beardless, and having probably
little color, they called her the â€˜smock-faced boyâ€™
and other nicknames; but she was never found
out until she was taken down with a fever, and
had to go into the hospital, when the sharp-eyed
surgeon made the discovery that the youthful
soldier was a woman.
â€œShe was true blue. She was out in several
' skirmishes our folks had with the refugees, in one
of which she got a musket-ball in her hip, which
she carried to her grave. She got a pension ; and,
but for the conflicting stories she told about her-
self, her name would be more highly honored than
it is. Some folks have a weakness that way, you
know ; and from often telling a story they seem to
get to believing it themselves.â€
214 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
THE INTREPIDITY OF MISS ROSS
â€œYou will not find any chapter of the Revolu-
tionary struggle from which there does not shine
forth some bright example of female heroism, like
this which I am about to relate to you,â€ said
Obed Grimes, the color-bearer of the Old Sixth.
During the British General Tryonâ€™s descent
upon Connecticut in 1779,â€”a most dastardly
affair for men calling themselves soldiers to be
engaged in, by the way, â€”he met with some of
the true Yankee spirit among the brave girls
and dames of Norwalk and Fairfield, both of
which places he burned to the ground, thus
turning the poor inhabitants out of house and
Most of them had fled at the enemy's approach,
having had timely warning of it, leaving their little
all to the invaderâ€™s mercy; but among those who
stayed behind to protect their property, was a
wealthy family by the name of Ross, or rather,
I should say, the women of the family, for Squire
Ross, the head of it, was then absent from home
on some business of his own,
THE INTREPIDITY OF MISS ROSS 215
Squire Ross was a lawyer of some note in that
part of the country, who had taken little or no
part in the struggle for freedom. Perhaps it was
on this account that Mrs. Ross and her daughter
Lavinia had decided not to leave their house, but
to await the arrival of the British troops, as if
nothing had happened. Indeed, they were very
far from foreseeing that the total destruction of
this flourishing village was the one object which
had brought Tryonâ€™s soldiery there â€” congenial
employment for which they were well fitted.
However, for fear of being troubled by these
marauders, the women armed themselves and
their domestics, locked their doors, and awaited
the result as calmly as they could.
They did not have long to wait. The soldiers
came, divided themselves into squads, spread them-
selves out through the village, and set about their
cruel work. Their orders were to spare not, and
soon smoke and flames were rising in every part of
the village. Not even the mecting-houses were
spared. One squad surrounded the Ross house,
while another set fire to the out-houses belong-
ing to it. Upon being refused admittance, they
began an assault upon the dwelling itself, whose
only garrison was a few weak women, trembling
with fear at every shot that came crashing through
One of these messengers of death struck down
Mrs. Ross. Instead of shrieking and fainting
216 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
dead away, the daughter was nerved to despera-
tion at the sight. She had a musket in her
hand. Taking deliberate aim, she fired at one of
the nearest of the assailants. The man dropped.
Lavinia kept on loading and firing until several
more had fallen under her unerring aim.
This unlooked-for resistance served only to ex-
asperate the infuriated marauders all the more;
and they finally forced their way into the house,
rushed upon and disarmed the plucky Lavinia,
and would, in their rage, undoubtedly have put
her to death on the spot, but for the timely inter-
ference of a lieutenant, who had fortunately come
up at the moment when the soldiers had effected
their entrance into the house.
Miss Ross was put under guard, and taken away
as a prisoner to the enemyâ€™s camp. From here
she made her escape through the aid of the very
lieutenant who had saved her life. Gratitude had
prompted her to acknowledge to him, that to him
alone she owed her rescue from death, and out of
the fulness of her heart she spoke. Her remark-
able beauty and intelligence, no less than her dis-
tress of mind at being separated from her friends,
won his consent to assist her in making her es-
cape. Horses, a trusty guide, and a_ suitable
disguise for himself, were procured. At the ap-
pointed time the generous lieutenant conducted
the homeless and friendless girl to a place of
safety before he left her to return to his duty.
THE INTREPIDITY OF MISS ROSS 217,
â€œ And did she never see him afterward?â€ it
â€œNo; I believe not. The Englishman was killed
in a skirmish some months later. She never saw
218 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
THE STORY OR A. TORY.
â€œI wave about as much love for a Tory as
for a rattlesnake,â€ remarked Timothy Toothaker,
making a very wry face; â€œbut something that
happened up our way once made me confess to
myself that after all a Tory might not be quite as
black as he was painted.
â€œDuring the war the New oa country
became too hot for Tories. Most of them had run
away aS soon as fighting began. Those who re-
mained had to keep very quiet, and they were
generally men who thought a good deal more of
saving their property than of serving their king.
Still, there were exceptions.â€
The veterans shifted uneasily about on their
chairs, in evident disapproval.
â€œBy your leave, friends,â€ Timothy briskly went
on, â€œif you will hear me out, I think you will be
very apt to agree with me. But, be that as it may,
here is the story.â€
â€œA plain farmer, Richard Jackson by name,
was taken up during the war under such cir-
cumstances as proved beyond all doubt his inten-
tion of joining the kingâ€™s forces. In fact, when
charged with it, he was too honest to deny it. So
THE STORY OF A TORY 219
Jackson was delivered over to the high sheriff of
the county, who, without more words, clapped the
prisoner in the county jail.
â€œ The old prison was in such a state that Jack-
son might easily have got out of it if he had
wanted to; but the fellow considered himself as
being in the hands of the constituted authorities,
and the same principle of duty which led him to
take up arms made him equally ready to abide
the consequences. That was queer logic, wasnâ€™t
it ? but it shows you the man, all the same.
â€œHowever, the jail was dirty, the air foul, and
the idleness oppressive. So, after lying there for
a few days, Jackson asked the sheriff to let him
go out and work by day, promising to return regu-
larly at night. .
â€œHis character for simple, straightforward in-
tegrity was so well known, that permission was
given without hesitation; and for eight months
Jackson went out every day to labor, and as regu-
larly came back at night.
â€œIn the month of May the sheriff told Jackson
that he must go with him to Springfield, to stand
his trial for high treason. The court sat at
Springfield. Jackson said that this would be a
needless trouble and expense, as he could go just
as well by himself. His word was once more
taken; and he accordingly set out alone, to pre-
gent himself for trial, and, in short, for certain
condemnation, as the evidence against him was
clear and positive.
220 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œOn the way to Springfield, Jackson was over-
taken in the woods by a Mr. Edwards, a member
of the council of Massachusetts, which at that
time was the supreme executive body of the State.
This gentleman asked Jackson where he was
going. â€˜To Springfield, sir, to be tried for my
life,â€™ was his answer.
â€œTo this casual interview Jackson owed his
escape from a felonâ€™s doom; for after having been
found guilty and condemned to death, application
was made on his behalf to the council for mercy.
The evidence and the sentence were stated, after
which the president put the question whether a
pardon should be granted or not.
â€œTt was strongly opposed by the first speaker.
The case, he said, was perfectly clear; the act un-
questionably high treason, the proof complete.
If mercy was shown in this case, he saw no reason
why it should not be granted in every other.
â€œThis hard-hearted opinion tallied quite with
the temper of the times, and was acquiesced in
by one member after another, until it came Mr.
Edwardsâ€™s turn to speak.
â€œInstead of giving his opinion, he merely re-
lated the whole story of Jacksonâ€™s strange con-
duct while a prisoner, and also told what had
passed between them at their meeting in the
woods. For the honor of old Massachusetts and
of human nature, not a man was found willing to
weaken its effect by one of those dry legal re-
THE STORY OF A TORY 221
marks, which, like a blast from the desert, wither
the hearts they reach. The council began to
hesitate; and when at last another member ven-
tured to say that such a man certainly ought not
to be sent to the gallows, a natural feeling of
justice and humanity prevailed, and a pardon
was immediately made out.â€
222 THE WATCH FIRES OF "76
THE YOUNG SENTINEL
AT our coming together again, some one
promptly suggested that no attention had yet
been paid to that particularly arduous, exacting,
and often perilous part of a soldierâ€™s duty, namely,
standing guard. The suggestion seemed to touch
a mysterious fibre in about every veteranâ€™s experi-
ence, judging from the way in which all the hands
went up when the question was put.
With one accord all eyes were turned toward
Abel Hewett, who thus far had kept himself
_well in the background, but who was now called
out by the deacon in spite of his protests, which
nobody listened to. We all knew that this old
fellow, nearly ninety, blind of one eye, minus an
arm, and hobbling painfully on his wooden leg,
could tell us, if he would, of some things worth
hearing. His tale, begun in a quavering voice,
gradually growing stronger as he went on, ran
about as follows :â€”
Jonathan Riley had been a sergeant in the
French War, where he served under General
Amherst. Before that he had been with the
-Provincial levies at the taking of Havana.. So
THE VYOUNG SENTINEL 223
he was pretty well seasoned when the Revolution-
ary War broke out, as you may judge.
After doing duty for a spell as a non-comâ€™, he
was at length detailed on recruiting-service, in
which he had very good success, as he was the
very man to take the fancy of the young fellows
who hung about the taverns, by his well-told tales
of the attractions of a soldierâ€™s life. And what
he didnâ€™t know about that wasnâ€™t worth knowing,
In a very short time Riley had succeeded in â€™list-
ing a large number of men.
Among his recruits was a weak and puny lad,
â€œnot over sixteen, called Frank Lilly, who would
not, perhaps, have passed muster, if we had not
been so greatly in want of men.
The soldiers made this boy a butt for their ridi-
cule, as soldiers are apt to resent comradeship
with all such food for powder as he seemed to be;
and many a sorry joke was cracked at poor Frankâ€™s
expense. They told him to swear his legs, or in
other words get them insured; for his spindling
shanks did not look as if they could stand even
one good, hard march, without giving out. Poor
Frank bore it all silently. To have shown anger
would only have made it all the worse for him.
For some unknown cause, â€”look into it you
who have seen the like comradeship spring up be-
tween the weak and the strong, â€”I say, for some
unknown cause, the stout soldier Riley became
greatly attached to this friendless boy Frank, and
224 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
seemed to pity him from the bottom of his heart.
Often, on our long, fatiguing marches, when we
were almost dying of hunger, or being incessantly
harassed by the enemy, I have known Riley to
carry the boyâ€™s knapsack for miles together, shar-
ing with him many acrust that he had, with an
old soldierâ€™s foresight, put by from his own scanty
But for His own wise purposes, no doubt, the
Great Commander of us all often puts a great
soul into a weak body. Many a big bully have I
seen turn coward at the first fire, and so have
You all know how it was when the British held
Staten Island, and we the Jersey shore to give
notice if they should try to land there in any
force. We had what were called flying-camps â€”
a good name, by-the-by, for the soldiers were con-
tinually deserting themâ€” but the heaviest part
of our army in that quarter was encamped at
We had a picket-guard posted about four miles
in advance of the main body, near the Kill as they
called it, separating our shore from Staten Island.
If that island wasnâ€™t a hornetâ€™s nest, then your
humble servant is no judge of hornets. As they
had full and entire command of the water, the
British could land on our shore under cover of
the night, and attack our outposts when and
where they pleased. Once they did succeed in
THE YOUNG SENTINEL 225
surprising and carrying off an officer and twenty
men in this manner, without the loss of a man on
their part. So you see, you old Continentals, that
our advanced picket was no place to curl yourself
up to take a quiet nap in.
This particular post Iâ€™m telling you about had
been held by a Southern regiment. Their men
were continually going off. Washington made up
his mind to put a Yankee regiment in its place,
and ours was ordered up there. The arrangement
of our guards, as near as I can now recollect, was
like this: The main body, consisting of two hun-
dred and fifty men, was encamped at a short dis-
tance inland. In advance of this were several
pickets, consisting of an officer and thirty men
each, spread out like a fan. Our sentinels were
so near each other as to meet in going their
rounds, and were relieved once in every two
hours. And so, there you have it.
It chanced, on one dark and windy night, that
Frank Lilly and myself were sentinels on adjoin-
ing posts. All of us had orders to fire on the
least alarm, and then retreat to the guard I told
you of, where we were to make the best defence
we could, until supported by the battalion in our
rear. Now, Iâ€™m almost there.
There was a thin strip of woods in front of me,
and the bay was so near that I could plainly hear
the wash of the waves as they struck the shore.
Lonesome is no name for it. If ever a man is in
226 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
just the right mood for overhauling all the acts of
his past life, it is when he is walking on a lonely
beat, with nothing but the sound of the winds and
waves to keep him company. Ugh!
It was near midnight. All was as still as death.
Now and then, as I shifted my musket over to
right or left, and glanced upward, a star could be
seen shining out through the flying clouds. Then
it would turn as thick as mud. The hours passed
cheerlessly and slowly away. Now and then I
would stop to listen, as a gust of wind went tear-
ing its way through the strip of woods before me.
And then, as it subsided, I would walk on again.
This happened many times, until I tried to stiffen
up my nerves a bit by saying to myself, â€˜â€œâ€˜ Donâ€™t be
afool; donâ€™t you know the sound of the wind
when you hear it? Hello, whatâ€™s that?â€
In a lull of the storm, as the wind suddenly died
away, and was only heard moaning in the dis-
tance, I-was startled by an unusual noise in the
woods opposite tome. Again I listened intently,
until I felt sure I heard the heavy tread of a body
of men, and the rattling of their cartridge-boxes.
As soon as Lilly and I met again, I told him of
my suspicions. He had heard nothing himself,
but promised to keep a sharper lookout, and to
fire at once if he saw anything coming toward his
post. We then separated.
I had passed on only a few rods, when a sharp
challenge, coming from behind me, brought me
THE YOUNG SENTINEL 227
to a sudden halt. It was the sentinelâ€™s startling
cry of â€œStand!â€
The answer came from some one, rapidly ap-
proaching, who spoke in a low, constrained voice,
as if afraid of being overheard, â€œStand yourself,
and you shall not be injured! Fire, and you are
a dead man! Remain where you are, and you
shall not be harmed! Stir a step, and I'll run
you through !â€
These words could scarcely have been uttered,
when I saw the flash, and heard the report of
Lillyâ€™s musket. J now saw a moving black mass,
rapidly advancing out of the woods, at which I
fired, faced about, and, with the rest of the senti-
nels, retreated back upon the guard of thirty men.
They had barely time to turn out of the barn
which served as a guard-house, and to form in the
road in front, before the British, who had pushed
on after us, were within six rods of them. Fortu-
nately they were stopped by a rail-fence, over
which the redcoats were climbingâ€”TI should
think there were at least seventy or eighty â€” when
we gave them one fire, and then fell back on our
main body. This was all in the dark, remember.
The enemy pushed us hard, but we were soon
re-enforced; and they, in their turn, were com-
pelled to retreat back to their boats, we following
close at their heels.
The next morning we found that poor Frank
Lilly, after discharging his musket, had been so
228 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
closely pursued by his assailants that, while in
the act of getting over a fence, the enemy had
overtaken him and run him through with their
bayonets, though not without a fierce struggle.
But on going back to his post, there lay in front
of it a British non-commissioned officer, one of
the best formed men I ever saw, shot directly
through the body. It was evident that he had
died in great agony; for the ground around him
was torn up with his hands, and he had literally
bitten the dust. It was Frankâ€™s shot that had
given the alarm, and saved the detachment in the
face of almost certain death. And so this de-
spised stripling had died the death of a hero.
My story is nearly ended. Poor old Riley
took Frankâ€™s death so much to heart, that he
never afterwards was the same man he had been
before. He became indifferent, neglected his
duty, moped around the camp, and was finally
guilty of some act for which he was tried and
sentenced to be shot. Through it all he showed
no sort of feeling whatever. On the day of exe-
cution, he was taken to the appointed spot, the
fatal cap drawn over his eyes; he was commanded
to kneel, and the firing party of twelve men faced
the condemned man in readiness to carry out the
stern sentence of the court-martial.
Unknown to Riley, a pardon had been granted
him, in consideration of his previous long and
meritorious services. The firing party had only
THE YOUNG SENTINEL 229
blank cartridges. As the word â€˜ Ready!â€ was
given, the cocking of the guns could be distinctly
heard. At the command â€œFire!â€ Riley fell for-
ward flat on his face before a gun had been dis-
charged. We turned him over. He was quite
230 THE WATCH FIRES OF "76
A TEMPERANCE SERMON
â€œHow public sentiment does change, to be sure.
Common rum was a regular ration in the Revolu-
tionary army and navy, as much as bread or meat ;
and many a soldier and sailor would as soon have
thought of going without the one as the other.
If you will read General Washingtonâ€™s letters,
you will find him more than once earnestly com-
plaining to Congress because the army had been
without rum for weeks together. Now look at
Thus spoke Old Sam Butterfield, whose long,
straight nose, thin lips, and massive chin be-
tokened no little decision of character,
â€œYes,â€ he went on reflectively, â€œI took my
morning nip with the rest of them, year in, year
out, and never thought it hurt me a mite. But
Pm going to tell you how I was cured.â€
The veterans craned their necks toward the
speaker, in expectation of hearing one of those
humorous yarns for which Old Sam was famous,
â€œThere was a retired veteran officerâ€™ up in Old
Berkshire, where good men come from, â€” Iâ€™m from
Berkshire, â€” whose army service had been full
as brilliant as his private character was above re-
A TEMPERANCE SERMON 231
proach. Like everybody else, he kept his decanter
on his sideboard.
â€œThe first thing that anybody knew, there was
a great stir being made in the papers, in the
pulpit, in the prayer-meetings, about the vice of
intemperance. You've no idee how rabid our
folks got about it. Why, Iâ€™d no sooner get hold
of the old brown jug in the buttery, arter a hot
day in the â€˜hayfield, than my oldest darter would
beseech and beset me to set it down. â€˜Father,â€™
sez she, â€˜you put that right straight down !â€
â€œÂ¢Tn a minnit,â€™ sez I, uncorking it.
â€œâ€œÂ¢ Donâ€™t, father, dear, thereâ€™s death in it!â€™ she
pleaded, putting one corner of her apron up to her
Â«Â«Who put it in?â€™ sez I.
sollum like. |
Â«Â© Hooroar, boys! Betsy be you crazy?â€™
â€œÂ«No, father; Iâ€™ve just come to my senses.
Iâ€™ve joined the teetotal society. Already we've
rescued many erring souls. Squire So and So is
â€œÂ«Sho!â€™ sez I, -settinâ€™ the jug right down.
â€˜You donâ€™t mean it.â€™
â€œVes, I do mean it,â€™ sez she, clapping her
hands on the jug, and whisking it away out of
Â«â€œÂ¢Tell me about it,â€™ sez I.
â€œ<Â«Well, soon after our Temperance Society
232 THE WATCH FIRES OF "76
was formed, we all felt the need of having the
leading people in town with us. So our commit-
tee waited on the squire, you see, and respect-
fully invited him to unite with us in the good
work. He fidgeted a little when he heard what
they wanted of him, but said very kindly, â€œI beg
that you will excuse me, gentlemen. I honor
your motives, and approve of your efforts, and
hope you may have great success. But old peo-
ple donâ€™t change easily, you know. I learned
to drink when I was in the army, and have always
been in the habit of taking a little now and then,
with moderation, as you know, gentlemen; and
now, in my old age, it seems like a necessary com-
fort, so much so that I can hardly think of giving
_itup. I hope that you may succeed, with all my
heart, and that the next generation may be wiser
than their fathers ; but as for myself, why, really,
gentlemen, I think the old soldier must be ex-
cused. I do indeed.â€™
â€œÂ«My sentiments to a dot. And a good deal
better than I could have said them. Betsy, you
just pass that jug up here. Iâ€™m as dry as a
powder-horn.â€™ Thatâ€™s the way I broke in on her,
when she stopped to take breath.
â€œ Â«Wait a minute, father, I ainâ€™t through quite
yet. Hear me out, and if you want it then, you
shall have it.â€™
â€œÂ«The committee left, feeling not a little sorry
at their failure in obtaining the name of so worthy
A TEMPERANCE SERMON 233
a fellow-citizen as the squire, but certainly with
no loss of respect or affection for one whom they
all venerated as a father.â€™
Â«Â¢\ mean trick, a downright mean trick, to
want to take away the sole comfort of his declin-
ing years! Is that all?â€™ sez I, reaching for the jug.
â€œÂ¢No; have patience, canâ€™t you? A short
time afterwards they visited the old man again.
As before, he received them politely, though there
might have been a little more stiffness than at
first. â€œSquire,â€ said the spokesman of the com-
mittee, â€œwe've made bold to come to see you
again, on account of a little difficulty we find our-
selves in,â€ ,
â€œÂ¢And pray what may that be, gentlemen ?â€™
asked the squire pleasantly.â€™
â€œTt is this. We go to our neighbors who
are drinking men, and who are in danger of drink-
ing too much, and we try to persuade them to give
it up. But they all say, â€˜Squire So and So drinks ;
and if he thinks it is right, why should not we
â€œ<Â«The squire thought a moment. There was
a brief struggle, soon ended. The old fire of â€™76
blazed up again. â€œGive me the paper, gentle-
men,â€ said he. â€œIt shall never be said that an
old soldier of the Revolution was found standing
in the way of a measure so necessary to the public
good as temperance reform. There,â€™ putting his
name to the pledge just handed him, â€œI have
234 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
helped to conquer the enemies of my country, and
it will be a sin and shame if I cannot conquer
myself. If my name or example can do you any
good, they are yours for the good work.â€â€™
â€œÂ«Betsy,â€™ sez I, â€˜you can jest pour whatâ€™s in
that arâ€™ jug down the sink-spout.â€™ By hoky,
boys, she dreened the jug! Then she hugged me
half to death.â€
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 25
OUR FRENCH ALLIES
Wits one accord this evening was devoted to
reminiscences of the French auxiliary army,
which the King of Franceâ€”the amiable, but
â€˜unfortunate, Louis XVI.â€” had sent over to help
us achieve our independence. The old boys ap-
proached the subject with peculiar diffidence,
however, because, owing to their ignorance of the
French language, communication with the soldiers
of that army had, as a matter of course, been
much restricted, to say the least.
However, one among the rest volunteered to
break the ice.
â€œWhen the French army was encamped at
Newport,â€ he began, â€œI was one day detailed by
General Heath to act as a guide to the Count
Rochambeau, who was going to meet General
Washington at Hartford on public business of
importance. I joined the army from Connecticut,
you know ; thatâ€™s why they sent me, I suppose.
Â«The air was full of rumors of great doings, so
you may be sure I kept my ears wide open ; but as
all the conversation between the count and his
suite was carried on in French, precious little
news came my way, I can tell you.
236 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œThe count rode in a carriage with the admiral
of the French fleet. The staff-officers rode their
horses behind; and I believe there was a small
escort, sent more for formâ€™s sake than anything
else, as the country we were travelling through
was considered safe enough for our parties.
â€˜But you ought to have seen the gold and silver
lace, the orders, medals, crosses, and what not,
those big fellows wore. Why, I give you my word,
there was enough to have gone round the whole
American army, with something to boot.
â€œWe were just coming into the village, where
we had planned to stop for the night, when the
countâ€™s carriage broke down, ker-smash. In a
moment his countship and his admiralship were
tumbled out into the road without ceremony,
greatly astonished, no doubt, to find themselves
safe and sound on solid ground.
â€œWell, we all gathered round the trap to ex-
amine into the damage. It was an old dried-up
affair, the carriage was, which had been left
standing so long without use that it was as shaky
in every joint and crevice asâ€” well, as an old
soldier out of service. The off hind-wheel had
got twisted in a rut, skewed itself inside out, and
let the spokes drop out of the rim, as slick as
could be. And there we were.
â€œSuch a jabbering! Such a shrugging of
shoulders! Such a looking this way and that way!
Finally the count took out his gold snuff-box,
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 237
helped himself to a huge pinch, said something
quite sharp to his aid, gave another shrug, and
very resignedly started off on foot toward the
tavern, which was in sight of the place where we
had broken down. It seemed to me that the
count had given his aid a scolding for hiring such
a ramshackle old vehicle as he did.
â€œThe aid turned to me in despair. â€˜I say,
lami, ma foi, dites-donc,
you savez sometime one
marÃ©chal, one blacksmeet,
par exemple, by here,
close to, hein?â€™
â€œMy ear caught the
word blacksmith out of
this jumble of words, so
I nodded, grinned, and
pointed: to the village,
where I knew we should
â€œWe drew the broken
vehicle to one side, left the horses in charge of
the grooms, and started off in search of a wheel-
wright. It was then growing dark. We found
our man crouched over his kitchen fire, shivering
with: the ague they have in that section. It was
the day his fit had come on, and he was as cross
as a bear. He scarcely looked up at us when
we entered the room.
â€œIn a few words, I told him of the accident, the
238 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
urgent need of our not being delayed, and to clinch
the matter, dropped a hint that he would be well
paid for his trouble.
â€œ He heard me through, pulled his blanket still
closer round him, and promptly replied that a hat
full of guineas would not tempt him to work in
the night. And not a word more could we get
out of him. ;
â€œWe went back to the tavern with this answer.
The count and the admiral exchanged a few words
together, then put on their hats and went back
with us, to try if their joint entreaties would have
any better result than ours.
â€œ The man was sitting in exactly the same spot
where we had left him, and in the same listless
attitude. Anybody could see that he was really
suffering from the quartan fever.
â€œWhen he saw his room filled with strangers,
he peevishly demanded to know why oo thus
â€œThe count talked fast; the aid translated as
well as he could; I helped; and the sick man lis-
tened without proffering a word or asyllable. He
was told that General Washington would arrive
that very evening at Hartford for the express
purpose of conferring with these officers on the
next day; and that he would be much put out
should the whole object of this very impor-
tant meeting be defeated because a broken car-
riage could not be mended so that we might
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 239
continue our journey at an early hour. Having
said so much, the count cast his eyes upward,
as if he might have said a good deal more if a
sense of official propriety had not forbade his
â€œThe moment that Washingtonâ€™s name was
mentioned, the sick man brightened up. â€˜I be-
lieve you,â€™ he said, â€˜for I have read in the news-
paper about this meeting. I see that this is really
a matter of public necessity. Make yourselves
easy. Your carriage shall be ready at six in the
morning.â€™ And so it was.
â€œT tell. you Washingtonâ€™s was a name to con-
Â«That was not the end of it. We went on to
Hartford. JI was not admitted to the conference,
so came away as wise as I went. But I saw
Washington. On our return, would you believe
it, another wheel gave out, nearly at the same
spot, and at the same hour too, as had happened
to us before. Queer, wasnâ€™t it ?
â€˜We were obliged to look up our old friend, the
wheelwright, once more. â€˜What,â€™ said he, â€˜you
want me again to workin the night?â€™ â€” â€˜Alas!
yes, the count replied. â€˜Admiral Rodney has
arrived, and has tripled the enemyâ€™s naval force ;
so.we must get back to Rhode Island with all
speed, so as to be ready for him when he comes
to attack us.â€™
â€œYou know they pretend to say that we Con-
necticut folks are just a little bit inquisitive. .
240 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
Â«But, sir,â€™ objected the wheelwright, â€˜what
are you going to do with your six ships against
â€œ* Ah, my friend, it will be a fine day for us
if they should try to sink us at our anchors,â€™ re-
plied the admiral, twisting his gray mustache de-
fiantly. Then they all twisted.
Â«Â«Come, come,â€™ said the wheelwright, â€˜I see
that you are clever fellows; you shall have your
carriage at five oâ€™clock in the morning. But be-
fore I set to work, tell me, if thereâ€™s no harm in
asking, are you pleased with Washington, and is
he with you?â€™
â€œHe was assured that this was the case. His
patriotic feelings were gratified, and again he was
as good as his word.â€
We were all much pleased with this evidence of
public spirit in a poor mechanic. It aroused a
new interest in the subject.
â€œ They tell me,â€ said Jotham Beers, â€œthat our
folks wasnâ€™t over and above pleased to have the
French layinâ€™ there at Newport, dancinâ€™ and fid-
dlinâ€™, so many months doinâ€™ nothinâ€™, while our
poor boys were stretchinâ€™ their necks till they
ached, lookinâ€™ for â€™em to come and help us.â€
â€œT know it,â€ the deacon assented sarcastically.
â€œWe were all ginâ€™rals, and thatâ€™s a fact. Donâ€™t
you see, Jotham, that so long as the British could
blockade their fleet with a supeâ€™ror force, the
French army couldnâ€™t march off without leaving
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 241
their ships at the mercy of the enemy? I should
think any fool might see that,â€ he concluded.
â€œYou say you seen it,â€ was the tart rejoinder.
â€œâ€œStiddy on the left! no back fire! no hittinâ€™
your friends!â€ cried Ansel Robinson sharply.
â€œWell, let him stop crackinâ€™ me over the
knuckles, then,â€™ muttered the irate Jotham.
â€œWho took Canada?â€
â€œWho took Cornwallis?â€ Shorty retorted.
â€œTfold on there! Scolding is not answering,â€
I ventured to interpose, in behalf of harmony.
â€œJT think I can clear that matter up for you,
Jotham. The French knew, Washington knew,
that a second army and fleet were on the way
to join them. You understand? very well. Now,
that would give them the upper hand, wouldnâ€™t it ?
Of course it would. You see that as well as I do.
Wouldn't it have been a silly thing, then, to put in
half your strength when the other half was on
the ocean? Washington knew better than to do
Jotham was silenced, but not convinced.
â€œYes; and didnâ€™t their staying at Newport
cover New England? Didnâ€™t it keep the British
from sending off re-enforcemrents to Cornwallis?
Do you call that nothing?â€ Buckram put in.
After this outburst of patriotic feeling, called
forth by Jothamâ€™s slurring remark, had subsided,
French stock had visibly risen among the veter-
242 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
â€œTl say this for them,â€ interposed Uncle Billy
Bean ; â€œthey were the best behaved, best dressed,
and best disciplined soldiers I ever saw. Not so
much as a rail was teched or a hen-roost robbed,
FRENCH ARTILLERISTS OF 1780
so Iâ€™ve heerd say, while they were at Newport.
Everything they took was paid for on the nail,
fair and square.â€
â€œYes; and more too. That reminds me of what
we heard down at Providence, when I was in Bar-
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 243
tonâ€™s regiment; why, I was ashamed to look a
Frenchman in the face after that,â€™ spoke up
Johnny Merriwether. â€œ Hear this :â€”
â€œOn their way back from Yorktown to Boston,
where they were to embark for the West Indies,
the French army made a halt at Cranston, State
of Rhode Island. Count Rochambeau got quar-
ters with a militia captain. The troops camped
on the place. It was in the dead of winter, wood
was plenty and cheap, so they helped themselves.
Just as they were under marching orders, what
does this here militia captain do, but come to the
count with a bill of two thousand dollars in pay-
ment for firewood, burnt on his property by the
Soissonais brigade. Think of that.
â€œ The count looked at the bill, raised his white
eyebrows in mild surprise, and told the captain to
go and present it to the commissary, as he was
- the proper officer to settle all accounts chargeable
to the army. The man took his bill and left.
â€œNext day, just as the long roll had been
beaten, and the troops were ready to march off,
aman walked up to the count with a very queer
look on his face, such as one is apt to put on
when conscious of doing a mean thing; and after
telling him, with many hems and haws, how much
everybody thought of him, and all that, wound up
by saying that he was obliged, nevertheless, to do
â€œSuch a roundabout preamble seemed to pre-
244 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°7
sage a disagreeable conclusion. In fact, when he
had spoken his piece, the man pulled out a paper,
and after handing it to the count, timidly laid his
hand on the noblemanâ€™s shoulder, with the remark
that he was his prisoner.â€
â€œWhat! he, all alone, take the Count Rocham-
beau prisoner, at the head of his army?â€ was the
indignant exclamation on all sides.
â€œJust as Iâ€™m telling you.â€ '
Â«Â«* Well, sir,â€™ said the count, laughing good-
naturedly, â€˜take me away if you can.â€™
â€œNot so, your Excellency,â€™ answered the sher-
iff, looking round him in some alarm at seeing
several of the countâ€™s suite lay their hands on
their swords ; â€˜but now that I have done my duty,
I beg of you to let me depart unmolested.â€™
â€œÂ«Have no fear, my good man,â€™ the count re-
plied; â€˜I will look into this affair immediately.â€™
He then called for his commissary, and told him
to settle with this importunate creditor.
â€œBy this time the affair had got wind, so that
when the commissary reached the captainâ€™s house,
he found that worthy beset by a crowd of thor-
oughly angry. people, citizens or soldiers, who
were all firing hot shot into him, first for his ex-
tortionate charges, and then for his appeal to
the law, which, it was felt, would be highly re-
sented and condemned. It was finally agreed to
submit the matter to arbitration, with the result
that the avaricious captain had to pay the costs
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 245
and take four hundred instead of the two thousand
dollars he had hoped to squeeze out of the count.â€
â€œThe old skinflint! Well, that was sharp prac-
tice, and no mistake. But why didnâ€™t they give
the fellow a coat of tar and feathers ?â€ Sd
â€˜the wrathful Reddy.
â€œT thought you said, a little while ago, that
those Frenchmen never touched a thing that
didnâ€™t belong toâ€™em.?â€ interjected Jotham, cock-
ing his eye triumphantly at the speaker.
â€œOh, then, it was agreed, in the first place,
that they should cut what firewood they might
want, and settle for it afterward.â€
â€œDecidedly I think now, before we go, we
should have one more story to take away the
bad taste of that last,â€™ observed the deacon,
cracking his knuckles violently â€” an. operation
which with him was an unfailing sign of some-
thing weighty on his mind.
One of the French generals, and a marquis at
that, was going over this same road that the
Count de Rochambeau had travelled before him,
only somewhat farther on. He was within two
miles of the tavern where he meant to pass the
night, and like all the rest of us, I suppose, in a
like case, was pushing his nag along, in order to
get there ahead of another traveller, whom he saw
coming up behind him. He knew the American
custom of first come, first served, it seems.
246 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
He soon had the satisfaction of seeing the
other wayfarer fall behind; but this feeling was
changed to sorrow at finding the little inn already
occupied by thirteen drovers, and two hundred
and fifty head of beeves, which were being driven
to the American camp.
The cattle were, however, the least annoying of
the whole company, because they had been turned
out to graze on a piece of level ground, at some
distance off, where they were left to shift for
themselves, without any sort of guard, not even a
dog. But the drovers, with their horses and dogs,
were in full possession of the house.
While the marquis was engaged in inquiring
into the reason of this assemblage, his own ser-
vants were vainly looking up a lodging for him.
None was to be had. Every bed was taken by the
drovers; and the poor foreigner, marquis though
he was, and accustomed to be treated with the
greatest deference wherever he went, was in dan-
ger of being left to shift for himself, like the two
hundred and fifty beeves.
With many apologies, the landlord told the
marquis he had so much company that he really
did not know where to put him. He had evÃ©n
been obliged to give up his own bed, he said, and
expected to sleep in the barn himself. He also
timidly tried to prove to his sceptical guest that
the smell of hay was very healthy, indeed, and
that actually he would be better off sleeping with
him on the straw than in a good warm bed,
OUR FRENCH ALLIES 247
This sort of reasoning failed to have much
effect upon a traveller who had just made a dozen
leagues or so on horseback. In fact, the hay-mow
was only accepted as a last resort.
In short, the poor marquis was in a very unhappy
frame of mind at the prospect before him, when a
big, tall fellow, who seemed to be the head drover,
having just found out who this new guest was,
came up to him, and, without any ifs or buts, said
that neither he nor his fellows would ever let
a French general officer want for a bed while
they had one themselves; and that rather than he
should go without, they would all sleep on the floor.
They were used to it, he added, and therefore
such a lodging would not put them out in the least.
To this friendly offer the marquis replied that
he was a soldier, and that, as such, not unused to
having no other bed than the bare ground.
Then a great war of politeness ensued. The
drovers all insisted. The marquis did not like to
be outdone, but yielded at last to these rude but
thoroughly kind-hearted tavern companions. He
had a chamber with two beds, one for himself and
one for his two aides-de-camp. In the morning
the company separated, but not until they had
shaken hands all round with the French general,
after the American fashion, in testimony of their
good-will toward one who had crossed the ocean
to fight their battles for them,
248 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS
â€œOxtp comrades, we had a little gossip about
the French at our last meeting; what say you to
making this a Cornwallis night?â€ said the deacon,
after crossing his legs comfortably before the fire.
As this proposal met with no objection, the
deacon told Uncle Zeb to consider himself out on
the skirmish-line, and to blaze away.
â€œNot me. I havenâ€™t a caâ€™tridge left,â€™ Uncle
Zeb objected. â€œTry Buckram: there. He was
at Yorktown; I wasnâ€™t.â€
â€œVery well, then, Buckram; do you open the
â€œWhere shall I begin ?â€â€™
â€œCanâ€™t you tell us something about how the
French army looked, as compared with ours?â€
â€œThey looked like tame peacocks among a
flock of wild geese.â€
â€œGive us the perticâ€™lers.â€
â€œTâ€™ll begin at the beginning. The French
army, marching from Newport, formed a junction
with ours on the banks of the Hudson, on the 6th
of July, 1781â€”-we having marched down from
our winter quarters above to meet them. Our
advanced posts were not more than ten miles from
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 249
the enemyâ€™s, at Kingâ€™s Bridge. Itâ€™s going to be
New York, we thought, for sartin.
â€œ Some of us got leave to go over to the French
camp to take a look at the men. Up to that time,
the British were about our idee of what was what ;
but these fellows were soldiers from the ground
up. They made a business of it.
â€œThey got around us, and seemed desirous of
cultivating our acquaintance; but being as igno-
rant.of our language as we were of theirs, of
course the conversation was mostly carried on by
signs. They took us to their quarters, gave us
some first-rate soup, as good as I ever tasted,
treated us to a good stout glass of rum apiece, no
water in it, and then passed the pipes around.
We understood that part of it at any rate.
â€œJT wish you could have seen them. The offi-
cers carried themselves like gentlemen toward the
men, and the men seemed to look up to their
officers. â€˜Turn out, you lazy dogs!â€™ was what we
were used to. Some of the officers spoke to us
real pleasant. Their uniforms and side-arms were
just elegant. The soldiers were kept under the
strictest discipline, and, on duty or off, carried
themselves like soldiers. Their arms and equip-
ments were kept in the neatest kind of order.
Then their uniforms were made to fit them, not
somebody else, like ours. They wore coats made
of white broadcloth, trimmed with green, and a
white under-dress, with black gaiters coming up
250 THE WATCH FIRES OF '76
to the knees. And, although they had just come
off a long and hard march, every man of them
looked as if he had just hopped out of a band-
â€œDressed to kill, eh?â€ Jotham suggested.
â€œSay, rather, they were made to feel some
pride in their looks, as soldiers ought to. Put a
good coat on a manâ€™s back, donâ€™t he feel himself a
better man than in a ragged one?â€
â€œFeelinâ€™s nothinâ€™. Wonâ€™t a bullet go through
a handsome coat as easy as through homespun?â€
â€œWhat makes boys follow and hoot at a beggar
â€” yes, and dogs bark too?â€
â€œ* Cause they donâ€™t know any better, I sâ€™pose.
Go ahead with your tailor-made soldiers, Buckram.
You're all right. They fouâ€™t well enough; but I
wouldnâ€™t haâ€™ gin the Old Tenth for the hull bilinâ€™
â€œThe Tenth, indeed!â€ sneered Ansel. â€œWhere
was you a-goinâ€™ so fast that day at Brandywine,
â€œ Tryinâ€™ to ketch up with you, Ansel.â€
â€œ Silence all!â€ the deacon sternly commanded.
â€œGive Buckram a chance, wonâ€™t you ?â€
â€œBut the hats they wore! Instead of the old
three-cornered, like ours, theirs had only two
corners, like a canoe. Then they had a band of
music to â€˜liven things up for them, which beat
anything I ever heard tell of. They rolled the
music out just as slick as molasses. Some of our
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 251
boys thought our drummers could outdrum theirs,
but I donâ€™t know about that either.
â€œWell, the smoking made us sociable like.
They talked and talked, one steady stream, but
never a word could I understand of it all. But
bimeby the one who sat next to me pointed his
finger at this scar on my cheek-bone here, turned
to his comrades, and said all of a sudden, â€”
Â«Â¢V'la un coup de baionette!â€™?
â€œThen the other fellows took their pipes out of
their mouths, and all looked at me so hard that I
felt myself grow red in the face. All that I could
make out was the one word bayonet. But I could
put this and that together.
â€œT shook my head, then touched the soldier's
short sword (they all wore them), and nodded my
â€œâ€œÂ« Tiens :â€™ he said again, â€˜un coup de sabre; et
un mauvais.â€™? Then they all nodded.
â€œJust then, one of our French-American offi-
cers came strolling along (you know we had a
whole lot of â€™em in our army) who spoke French
and English too. We all jumped up and made
our salute, standing.
â€œThe officer said a few words to the French-
men, with which they seemed vastly pleased, and
then told us what they had been saying to us.
â€˜And now,â€™ he continued, â€˜I think you fellows
1 Look! a bayonet thrust. 2 Stay ! a sabre cut, and a bad one.
252 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
had better be getting back to camp, at once, for
from what I hear, the army will soon be on the
â€œTl die if those Frenchmen didnâ€™t hug and
kiss us all round! I never was so mortified in all
my life. We made them promise to come over
to see us next day, rain or shine; but they
couldnâ€™t, for marching orders were out; nor did
weâ€™ meet them again till we were in front of
â€œÂ«Colonel Fleury,â€™ I asked of our officer, who
walked back to camp with us, â€˜what did you tell
those fellows about me? I knew it was some--
thing by the way they acted.â€™
â€œJT told them how you got your cheek laid
open at Stony Point, while climbing the parapet
with me; and how you shot the man who did it,
for his trouble.â€™
â€œ Â«What did they say to that?â€™
â€œÂ«Say? Why, that a sabre cut was worth a
gunshot, the world over.â€™ S
â€œWe heard the long roll beating down the line,
rub-a-dub-dub, and made tracks back to camp as
fast as our legs could carry us.â€
â€œWell, that will do for a beginning; but I, for
one, would like to hear something that would
wake us up a bit. Come, Jonas, itâ€™s your turn to
give us a lift.â€ So said our file-leader, the deacon.
â€œTl do my best,â€™ Jonas answered, knitting his
brows, as if ransacking his memory.
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 253
â€œTt was at the siege of Yorktown, where we
Burgoyneâ€™d â€˜em. We began with the spade.
Â«Well out in front of our right, the British had
thrown up two strong earthworks, from which
they galled our men who were digging the first
parallel, like time. Did any of you ever try dig-
ging under fire? I saw one manâ€™s shovel knocked
out of his hands by a cannon-ball â€” dirt and all.
He was as mad as a March hare.
Â«Tt was determined at headquarters to take
those two redoubts by a night assault. You see,
if this succeeded, it would be possible to bring
the siege to a speedy close, as our heavy guns
254 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
could then knock the town into a cocked-hat. If
it didnâ€™t, we might have to burrow for a month
longer; and time was precious, because we were
expecting the enemyâ€™s fleet from New MoS at
â€œOne of these redoubts lay out in front of =
and the other in front of the French right
trenches; so as soon as it was known that an -
assault was coming off, one fell to them, and one
â€œThe attacking columns were picked men of
both armies, led by the most dashing officers that
the generals on both sides could pick out. Several
officers volunteered just for the glory of the thing,
and got it. There was Colonel Hamilton, the
same man who was afterward killed in a duel by
Aaron Burr, more shame to him. Lafayette had
given command of the American storming-party
to another officer, but Hamilton went straight to.
Washington and had the order changed.â€
Uncle Zeb here broke in on the narrator with,
â€œColonel Hamilton was Washingtonâ€™s secretary
and aide-de-camp when the army marched.â€
â€œWas; yes. But he and Washington fell out
at Yorktown; so Hamilton left him, in a huff ;
and to smooth him down a bit, I suppose, Wash-
ington gave him a regiment in Lafayetteâ€™s divis-
ion. Those officers were stiff in standing up for
their rights, I can tell you.â€
â€œWhy didnâ€™t Washington take him back?â€
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 255
â€œ There, you know as much about it asI do. I
suppose Washington wouldnâ€™t own up that. he was
wrong, or perhaps he wouldnâ€™t let it be thought
that he had pertickâ€™ler need of anybody. He was
that kind of a man. But, say, how do you sâ€™pose
Iâ€™m goinâ€™ to take those two batteries, with you
interruptinâ€™ me so?â€
â€œGo ahead,â€ said the deacon soothingly. â€œ You
left us cooling our heels in the trenches.â€
â€œThis was to be another cold-iron party. The
menâ€™s guns were all unloaded. The two detach-
ments, each four hundred strong, moved out of
the trenches after dark, in perfect silence, to as
near the enemy as. they could without danger of
being discovered, and there waited for the signal.
It was like waitinâ€™ to be hung.
â€œ Presently up went a shell from our batteries.
Up went our four hundred heads. We watched
it go sailing away through the darkness, like a
comet with a fiery tail, till it dropped, a mere red
speck, where it would do the most good â€” in the
enemyâ€™s camp. Then up rose another, and an- |
other, in quick succession, until we counted six of
them â€” all ticketed for Cornwallis and his friends.
It was our signal. We were like hounds held in
the leash, quivering and whining to be let loose,
and now we were off.
â€œThe forlorn hope, twenty good men, under
Lieutenant John Mansfield, led the way. The
rest of us pushed on after them, except one small
256 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
party under Colonel Laurens, which filed off to
the rear of the redoubt, in order to cut off the
enemyâ€™s retreat in that quarter.
â€œAs soon as we came up close under the re
doubt, we made a rush forit. There was a strong
abatis of brushwood and timber thrown up out-
side of it, but that didnâ€™t stop us. We were too
old for that. Instead of waiting for it to be cut
away, our men pulled it to pieces with their hands,
making a road through it in that way, do you see,
So we made short work of that. By this time the
British were firing into our faces. â€˜Wait a min-
ute,â€™ says I to myself, â€˜and we'll be with you, my
lads.â€™ Then we came to the ditch and stockade.
This was knocked to pieces in no time; and with
a yell and a cheer in we tumbled, head over heels,
one atop of â€™tother, scaled the parapet in short
order, and went at them with the bayonet.
â€œIn ten minutes it was all over. We were in
full possession. You ought to have heard us
cheer! Again we set up our shout of victory,
when we found that the French had not yet taken
their redoubt. Our fellows slapped each other on
the back, wrung each otherâ€™s hands, and some, I
believe, almost cried with joy. ;
â€œWell, it seemed as if our whole camp was up
watching us; for when they knew by our cheers
that the redoubt was ours, such a roar as went up
you never heard, no never! It rolled over us in
big waves, like the big gusts you sometimes hear
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 257
just before a storm ; it travelled on to Cornwallisâ€™s
camp, extinguishing the last ray of hope they may
have hung onto, up to that time; for they knew
it was all day with them as soon as we should
turn our new batteries loose.
â€œOur working parties came up, fell to with
pick and shovelâ€”the dirt flew some, â€”and by
morning both redoubts were connected with our.
second parallel. Mr.
Cornwallis was bagged.
â€œThis was the four-
teenth. The whole army
was anxious to make an
end of it. Our heavy
guns and mortars had
knocked their works into
dust-heaps. The town
itself was as full of holes
as asieve. Atthree hun-
dred yards we could send Conners
a ricochet-shot, that would
go skipping through Yorktown just as neat as a
boyâ€™s skipping-stone on a mill-pond.
â€œ Cornwallis was as game as a woodchuck in his
hole. He was their best general, and we knew it.
We knew if we got him, â€” Great King! if we got
him â€”the war was as good as over.
â€œT said Cornwallis was game. When he found
himself trapped, he tried to get across the river
in the night. He reckoned upon whipping our
258 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
troops who were posted on that side on purpose,
brush them away like a passel of flies, shoulder
arms, right face, and make a bold dash for the
â€œThat was his little game. You see the man;
donâ€™t you? When he got half his soldiers over,
it came on to blow so hard that the rest couldnâ€™t
go. And there he was, half on one leg, half on
t'other. So that plan didnâ€™t work. Then he
called his men back to Yorktown, sat himself
down, and began to think about makinâ€™ his will.â€
â€œHis will?â€ we exclaimed. x
â€œWhat I mean is this. He began to think
about leavinâ€™ his army and things to Washington,
while he had any to leave.
â€œAt ten in the morning, seventeenth October
(do you mind that date, you Saratoga boys ?), we
saw a drummer come up on top of their parapet,
and go through the motions of beating his drum.
But not a sound could you hear for the roaring of
the cannon. With the drummer there came an
officer, waving a white handkerchief to and fro.
That, at least, was plain English. We could
hardly speak, our hearts were so full, Then up in
the air went our hats. To us that little piece of
white cloth spoke volumes.
â€œThe officer was met by one of ours, blind-
folded, and marched off to headquarters. At
last Cornwallis, the victorious Cornwallis, had
made up his mind to surrender, and then again
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 259
he hadnâ€™t. He knew the end was near; but he
wanted a loophole left to crawl out of, in case
Clinton came to his assistance. So he asked for
twenty-four hours. Washington gave him two.
â€œ Several flags went back and forth before the
terms were finally settled. But it was now our
WHERE THE SURRENDER TOOK PLACE
turn to dictate. Mooreâ€™s house was the place
where the papers were drawn up. The capitula-
tion was announced to the army ; the roar of artil-
â€œWhen he heard of it, General Greene said
that he had been beating the bush for Washing-
ton to catch the bird.â€
â€œWell and good. But how about the French
260 THE WATCH FIRES OF 76
attack? Most assuredly we ought not to monop-
olize all the credit of that affair. You said they
carried their redoubt.â€â€™
â€œI did; and right gallantly too. Let one of
their own officers tell how it was done.â€
You must know that, at that time, the French
regiments were not numbered like ours, but went
by the name of the particular province in which
they were raised â€”such as Bourbonnais, Soisso-
nais, Gatinais, and the like.
The Gatinais grenadiers were assigned to lead
the assault. This regiment had been formerly
called Auvergne; but its name had been changed
for one reason or another, much to the disgust of
the soldiers, who had served long under the old
name. Old soldiers always do hate to be drafted
into a different regiment, or in any way to lose
the designation under which they may have
gained honor and fame. Thatâ€™s natural.
As the assault was expected to be bloody,
Rochambeau himself made a little speech of
encouragement to his storming-party. â€œMy
friends,â€ said he, â€œif I should need you this
night, I hope you have not forgotten that we
have served together in that brave regiment of
Auvergne, â€˜Sans Tache.â€â€™
â€œPromise, General, to give us back our old
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 261
name again, and we will suffer ourselves to be
killed to the last man.â€
The promise was given. Now for the way in
which the gallant Frenchmen did their part.
The six shells were fired at last, and we ad-
vanced to the attack in profound silence. When
we had come within a hundred and twenty paces
of the redoubt, a Hessian sentinel, posted on the
rampart, called out
â€œWer da?â€ Gwho comes
there ?) to which we made
no reply, but only pushed
on all the faster. On the
instant after the chal-
lenge, the enemy opened
We lost not a moment
in reaching the abatis, .
which being strong and Zs
well kept up, at about ViGWeNTT
twenty-five paces from
the redoubt, cost us many men, and stopped us
for some minutes, but was finally cleared away
with brave determination. We threw ourselves
into the ditch at once, and each one sought for
himself to break through the fraises, and to mount
That was not an easy thing todo. I could not
have succeeded without help. After a first at-
tempt I had fallen backward into the ditch, A
262 THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
young officer of the Gatinais chasseurs, who was
ahead of me, saw my difficulty, and gave me his
_ arm to assist me in getting up. At nearly the
same moment he received a musket-shot in the
We reached the parapet at first in small num-
bers, and I gave the order to fire. The enemy,
too, kept up a sharp fire on their side, and even
tried to drive us off with the bayonet ; but no one
was driven back. Our pioneers, who had worked
hard on their part, had made some breaches in
the palisades, which soon helped the main body
of the troops in mounting. With great joy I saw
the number constantly gaining.
Our fire was increasing, and making terrible
havoc among the enemy, who had placed them.
selves behind a sort of barricade, made of casks,
where they were well massed, and where all our
shots told. The time had now come when I was
willing to order my men to spring down into the
redoubt and charge the enemy with the bayonet,
when, before we could do so, they laid down their
arms, and we then made the leap more deliberately,
and with less risk to ourselves. _
I shouted immediately the cry of â€œLong live
the King!â€ which was repeated by all the grena-
diers and chasseurs who were unhurt, by all the
troops in the trenches, and to which the enemy
replied by a general discharge of musketry.
King Louis confirmed the pledge given by
A NIGHT WITH CORNWALLIS 263
Rochambeau. The name of Auvergne was re-
stored; and in token of its peerless valor, Wash-
ington caused one of the captured cannon to be
presented to the regiment.
â€œ Bravely done!â€ cried the deacon. â€˜I remem-
ber well how the French called the Yorktown
campaign a little promenade of seventeen days!â€
264 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
THE BRAVE OLD BARON STEUBEN
â€œTHaT seems to be a fitting ending to our
eveningâ€™s confab,â€ observed Buckram; â€œbut I do
so dearly love to talk about that Yorktown bus-
iness, where Cornwallis
met his Waterloo: and
besides, Jonas has just
reminded me of some-
thing I saw there, which
seems to fall in so well
with his story, that I
must really trespass on
your patience a little.â€
There being no voice
of dissent raised, Buck-
ram went on.
â€œ Speaking of the stub-
bornness with which our officers clung to their
rights, reminds me of what Baron Steuben did at
Yorktown. Iâ€™ve known duels to be fought on
account of some such disputes about precedence
in getting a chance to be shot.
â€œOld Baron Steuben, our drill-master, com-
manded in the trenches at the moment when
Lord Cornwallis made his first overtures for a
THE BRAVE OLD BARON STEUBEN 265
surrender. The proposals were immediately sent
to the commander-in-chief, and the negotiations
â€˜The Marquis de Lafayette, whose turn it was
â€œnext to mount guard in the trenches, marched
to relieve. the baron, who, to Lafayetteâ€™s great
astonishment, declined to march out of them, on
the ground that the custom of war was in favor
of his holding his position till the surrender, and
that being the case, it was a point of honor he
could neither give up for himself nor his troops.
In vain the marquis argued the orders.. The
stout old Prussian declared that the offer to sur-
render had been made during his turn of duty
in the trenches, and that in the trenches he would
stay until the capitulation was either signed or
hostilities were renewed.
â€œThe puzzled marquis immediately galloped
to headquarters to lay the matter before the-com-
mander-in-chief. Washington decided it in the
baronâ€™s favor, to his great joy; and he proudly
stuck to his post of honor until the preliminaries
of a surrender were fully agreed upon.
â€œOn Oct. 19, 1781, the army of Lord Cornwallis
marched out of their works and laid down their
arms, thus bringing to a successful close the long
and arduous struggle for independence.
â€œ Just before this took place, and while the
baron was waiting in the trenches for the British
flag to be hauled down, he saw a shell coming
266 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
from the enemyâ€™s batteries, which his experienced
eye told him would fall dangerously near the spot
where he stood. Obeying his first impulse, he
immediately threw himself flat on his face. Gen-
eral Wayne, who was at this moment standing
by him, and who also saw the shell coming,
followed the baron in such a hurry that he fell
upon him, On turning his head the baron saw
that it was Wayne. â€˜Ah, General,â€™ said he pleas-
antly, â€˜I always knew that you were brave, â€˜but
I did not give you credit for such perfect attention
to duty. You cover your generalâ€™s retreat in the
best possible manner.â€™
â€œHis was a noble soul. After the taking of
Yorktown, the superior officers of both the
American and French armies tried who could
show the most civility and attention to the cap-
tive Britons. Entertainments were given by all
the major-generals except Baron Steuben. He
was above all prejudice or meanness ; but poverty
prevented him from showing that liberality on
this occasion which others, more fortunate than
himself, had hastened to proffer.
â€œSuch was the baronâ€™s predicament, when he
called on Colonel Stewart to ask if that officer
would advance him a certain sum of money, as
the price of his favorite charger. He wanted the
money, he said, to enable him to entertain Lord
Cornwallis, in his turn, as his brother officers had
been doing. â€˜â€™Tis a good beast,â€™ said the baron,
THE BRAVE OLD BARON STEUBEN 267
â€˜and has proved a faithful servant through all the
dangers of the war; but though painful to my
heart, we must part. It shall not be said that the
Baron de Steuben ever failed in the duties of his
station. I must have the money.â€™
â€œColonel Stewart immediately offered the use
of his purse, recommending the sale or pledge of
the baronâ€™s watch, should the sum it contained
â€œÂ«My dear friend, the baron replied, â€˜â€™tis
already sold. Poor North was sick, and in want
of necessaries. He is a brave fellow, with the
best of hearts. The trifle my watch brought is
set apart for his use. My horse must go; so say
no more, I entreat, to turn me from my purpose.
I am a major-general in the service of the United
States ; and my personal convenience must not be
put in the scale with any duty which my rank
imposes on me.â€™
â€œThat was just like him. Before he joined us
we were indeed an awkward squad, much as that
epithet would have been resented. The officers
_ were little better than the men, as a general thing.
Even the oldest regiments could go through no
_ more than two or three of the most simple battal-
ion evolutions, because so few of our officers could
teach us more. The baron came, saw, and con-
quered. How disgusted he must have been when
he first saw us on parade, poor man! How could
he have helped it! But however that may be, he
268 THE WATCH FIRES OF Â°76
kept it to himself, went to work on the officers
first, and pretty soon we saw a difference. It re-
quired the patience of Job, but he had it.â€
â€œYes,â€ spoke up Elnathan Doolittle, the old
fifer ; â€œyet for all that he was a tiger when roused,
I can tell-ye.â€
â€œItâ€™s no such a thing,â€ Buckram angrily re-
torted. â€˜What do you know about war anyway,
Elnathan? You never fired a gun.â€
â€œ Oh, didnâ€™t I? Well, ef I didnâ€™t, it wasnâ€™t be-
cause I put five loads in my gun, as you did at
Garmantown, and thought you was a-doinâ€™ terrible
execution all the time.â€
â€œT tell ye the baron was as rough as the ocean
in a storm when great faults were committed; but
if, in some sudden gust of passion, he had wronged
any one, the redress was ample. J remember
that once at a review, near Morristown, a Lieu-
tenant Gibbons, a brave and good officer, was put
in arrest on the spot, and ordered to the rear, for
a fault which, as it afterwards appeared, was not
his at all.
â€œAt the proper moment, when the officers
marched up to the front, the colonel of the regi-
ment came forward and told the baron just whose
fault it was, what an excellent officer Lieutenant ~
Gibbons was, and how deeply he had been morti-
fied by this public reprimand before the whole
â€œColonel, said the grand old soldier, â€˜ desire
Lieutenant Gibbons to come to the front,â€™
THE BRAVE OLD BARON STEUBEN 269
â€œThe lieutenant soon presented himself, not
knowing what was coming.
â€œÂ«Â¢ Sir,â€™ said the baron to him, â€˜the mistake
which was made during review might have proved
serious, had it occurred in presence of the enemy.
I took you to be the delinquent, and so put you in
arrest. I have since learned that I was mistaken,
and that in this case you were not to blame. I
ask your pardon. Return to your command, sir.â€™
â€œAll this passed with the baronâ€™s hat off, and
with the rain pouring down on his venerable head.
Do you think there was an officer or soldier who
saw it unmoved?â€
In their ragged regimentals,
Stood the old Continentals,
When the grenadiers were lunging,
And like hail fell the plunging
When the files
Of the isles,
From the smoky night encampment, bore the banner of the rampant
And grummer, grummer, grummer rolled the roll of the drummer
Through the morn.
Then with eyes to the front all,
And with guns horizontal,
Stood our sires,
oO THE WATCH FIRES OF â€™76
And the balls whistled deadly,
And in streams flashing redly,
Blazed the fires;
As the roar
On the shore
Swept the strong battle breakers oâ€™er the green sodden acres
Of the plain.
And louder, louder, louder cracked the black gunpowder,
Cracking amain !
Now like smiths at their forges
Worked the red St. Georgeâ€™s
And the â€˜â€˜ villainous saltpetre â€â€™
Rang a fierce, discordant metre
Round their ears.
As the swift
With hot sweeping anger, came the Horse Guardsâ€™ clangor
On our flanks.
Then higher, higher, higher burned the old-fashioned fire
Through the ranks.
Then the old-fashioned colonel
Galloped through the white infernal
And his broadsword was swinging,
And his brazen throat was ringing
Then the blue
And the trooper-jackets redden at the touch of the leaden
And rounder, rounder, rounder roared the iron six-pounder
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TargetNamespace.1: Expecting namespace 'http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/digital/metadata/ufdc2/', but the target namespace of the schema document is 'http://digital.uflib.ufl.edu/metadata/ufdc2/'.
The element type "div" must be terminated by the matching end-tag "