Many incidents and scenes of Revolutionary times are remembered, of the actors in which little is known beyond what is contained in the anecdotes themselves. A few of these are subjoined as aiding our general object of illustrating the spirit and character of the women of those days. Fragmentary as they are, they have some interest in this light, and it seems a duty to preserve them as historical facts, which may possibly prove of service in future inquiries.
The county of Sussex, in New Jersey, was noted for its number of tories. A party of them one night attacked and broke into the house of Mr. Maxwell, the father of General William Maxwell. Their first assault was upon the old man, who was eighty years of age; and having felled him with repeated blows, so that his skull was fractured, they left him for dead, and proceeded to plunder the house. Mrs. Maxwell was compelled to direct them to the place where her husband's money was kept, and to send a female domestic to show them the way. They had determined, when their work should be finished, to make an attack on the house of Captain John Maxwell - the General's brother, who lived about a mile distant, and whom they supposed to have in his possession a large sum of money, he being commissary in the army. But their design of obtaining the spoil was frustrated by the timely information given by the negroes, who, escaping from the old gentleman's house, gave warning to the family of the young officer. John afterwards arrested one of the robbers in the neighborhood, before he had time to change his bloody garments. The others succeeded in effecting their escape.
Some British officers quartered themselves at the house of Mrs. Dissosway, situated at the western end of Staten Island, opposite Amboy. Her husband was a prisoner; but her brother, Captain Nat Randolph, who was in the American army, gave much annoyance to the tories by his frequent incursions. A tory colonel once promised Mrs. Dissosway to procure the release of her husband, on condition of her prevailing upon her brother to stay quietly at home. "And if I could," she replied, with a look of scorn, and drawing up her tall figure to its utmost height, "if I could act so dastardly a part, think you that General Washington has but one Captain Randolph in his army ?"
The cattle and horses of many of the whig residents on Staten Island having been driven away by the loyalists, they had no means of attending divine worship. After the establishment of Independence, one winter's day, when several families of those who had suffered during the war were returning in their sleighs from "meeting," the word was given by Mr. Dissosway to stop before the house of a tory captain. He gave a loud thump with the handle of his whip at the door, and when the captain appeared, said - "I called, sir, to inform you that I the rebels have been to church; it is their turn, now, to give thanks !" He then returned to his sleigh and drove on.
Among the noble spirits whose heroism has never been known beyond the circle of their personal acquaintance was Mrs. Jackson, who resided on a farm upon Staten Island. The island, as is known, was a "nest of tories;" and it was thought proper to banish her husband, on account of his zeal in the cause of his country, although he had not joined the army. He was nine months confined in the Provost, and the remainder of two years was on his parole on Long Island and in the vicinity. During his absence the house was for a great part of the time the abode of British officers and soldiers, who made themselves quite at home in the use of every thing. On one occasion a soldier, carrying through the house a tin pail, used for milking, was asked by the mistress what he meant to do with it. "My master wants to bathe his feet," was the insolent reply. "Carry it instantly back," said the resolute lady, authoritatively, "not for your master's master shall you touch what you have no business with !" By the exhibition of such firmness and spirit she saved herself much inconvenience.
This lady was in the habit of sending provisions from time to time, to the American army on the opposite shore. This she was obliged to do with the utmost secrecy; and many a time would she set going the mill which belonged to her husband, to allow the black man she employed to cross the water unsuspected by the watchful enemy. At one time, having a calf which she was anxious to send to the suffering American soldiers, she kept it concealed all day under her bed, having muzzled it to prevent its cries. She sometimes came to New York, with friends, to visit prisoners in the Provost. They were received on such occasions at Whitehall by a gentleman, who, though of whig principles, had been permitted to remain in the city - the father of one whose genius has rendered his name illustrious. He was in the habit of accompanying the ladies to the prison, and directed them, when they wished to convey money to the captives, to drop it silently as they went past, while he would walk just behind, so as to screen them from the observation of the stern provost-marshal.
On one occasion, Mrs. Jackson received intelligence that one of the American generals was coming to her house in the night, to surprise and capture the enemy quartered there. She gave no information to her guests of what awaited them, till there was reason to believe the whig force was just at hand. Then, unwilling to have her house made the scene of a bloody contest, she knocked at each of the doors, crying out, Run, gentlemen, run ! or you are all prisoners ! They waited for no second bidding, and made their escape. Mrs. Jackson used afterwards to give a ludicrous description of their running off - each man with his boots and clothes in his hands.
Mr. Jackson's house was robbed after his return home. A knock was heard at the door one night, and on opening it he felt a pistol pressed against his breast, while a gruff voice bade him be silent, on pain of instant death. His little daughter uttered a terrified scream, and received a violent blow on the forehead with the pistol from the ruffian, which stretched her upon the floor. The house was then stripped of all that could be taken away; and the path of the villains might have been traced next morning by the articles dropped as they carried off the plunder. The family believed this to have been done by tories, whom they found at all times much more cruel and rapacious than the British soldiers.
Mary Bowen, the sister of Jabez Bowen, Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, was celebrated for her charitable efforts in behalf of those who suffered in the war. Through her influence and exertions a petition was addressed to the commandant at Providence for the lives of two soldiers - brothers - who had been condemned as deserters. The petition was successful, and the reprieve was read when the prisoners were on the scaffold. Miss Bowen was active in collecting charitable contributions for clothing for the army, and assisted in making up the material, exerting herself to interest others in the same good work. General La Fayette was one of her visitors, and maintained a correspondence with her. Her information was extensive, her manners gentle and pleasing; and she had the respect and affection of all who knew her. Her brother, who resided at Providence, was in the habit of entertaining persons of high distinction. Rochambeau occupied part of his house during his stay in the town.
A gentleman residing in Charlottesville, to whom application was made for personal recollections of the Baroness de Riedesel, mentions the following instance of female patriotism.
At the time that Tarleton with his corps of cavalry was working a secret and forced march to surprise and capture the Governor and Legislature of Virginia - the latter then holding its session in Charlottesville - several of the members chanced to be at the house of Colonel John Walker, distant some twelve miles from the town. This was directly on the route; and the first intimation the family had of the enemy's approach was the appearance of Tarleton's legion at their doors. Colonel Walker was at the time on service with the troops in Lower Virginia.
Having made prisoners of one or two members of the Legislature, Colonel Tarleton ordered breakfast for himself and his officers and men. Mrs. Walker, who was a staunch whig, knew well that the design of her unwelcome guest was to proceed to Charlottesville, and plunder and destroy the public stores there collected. She delayed as long as possible the preparations for breakfast, for the purpose of enabling the members who had escaped to reach the town and to remove and secrete such portions of stores as could be saved. Her patriotic stratagem gained time for this. Tarleton remained but a day or two at Charlottesville, and then hurried back to join the main army under Cornwallis.
Of the same kind was the service rendered by Mrs. Murray, which Thacher has acknowledged in his journal.
On the retreat from New York, Major General Putnam, with his troops, was the last to leave the city. To avoid any parties of the enemy that might be advancing towards it, he made choice of a road along the river from which, at a certain point, another road would conduct him in a direction to join the American army. It happened that a force of British and Hessians, more than twice as large as his own, was advancing on the road at the same time, and but for a fortunate occurrence, would have encountered that of General Putnam before he could have reached the turn into the other road. In ignorance that an enemy was before them, the British officers halted their troops, and stopped at the house of Robert Murray, a Quaker, and friend to the whig cause. Mrs. Murray treated them with cake and wine, and by means of her refreshments and agreeable conversation, beguiled them to stay a couple of hours - Governor Tryon jesting with her occasionally about her American friends. She might have turned the laugh upon him; for one half hour, it is said, would have enabled the British to secure the road at the turn, and cut off Putnam's retreat. The opportunity was lost - and it became a common saying among the officers, that Mrs. Murray had saved this part of the American army.
The following record of an instance of female patriotism has appeared in several of the journals. It is relied upon as fact by the friends of the family who reside in the neighborhood where the occurrence took place, and there is no reason to doubt its authenticity. A grand-nephew of the heroine is living near Columbia, South Carolina.
"At the time General Greene retreated before Lord Rawdon from Ninety-Six, when he had passed Broad River, he was very desirous to send an order to General Sumter, then on the Wateree, to join him, that they might attack Rawdon, who had divided his force. But the country to be passed through was for many miles full of blood-thirsty tories, and it was a difficult matter to find a man willing to undertake so dangerous a mission. At length a young girl - Emily Geiger, presented herself to General Greene proposing to act as his messenger; and the General, both surprised and delighted, closed with her proposal. He accordingly wrote a letter and gave it to her, at the same time communicating the contents verbally, to be told to Sumter in case of accident. Emily was young, but as to her person or adventures on the way, we have no further information, except that she was mounted on horseback, upon a side-saddle, and on the second day of her journey was intercepted by Lord Rawdon's scouts. Coming from the direction of Greene's army, and not being able to tell an untruth without blushing, she was shut up; and the officer in command having the modesty not to search her at the time, he sent for an old tory matron as more fitting for the purpose. Emily was not wanting in expedients, and as soon as the door was closed, she ate up the letter, piece by piece. After a while the matron arrived. Upon searching carefully, nothing was to be found of a suspicious nature about the prisoner, and she would disclose nothing. Suspicion being thus allayed, the officer commanding the scouts suffered Emily to depart whither she said she was bound. She took a route somewhat circuitous to avoid further detection, and soon after struck into the road to Sumter's camp, where she arrived in safety. She told her adventure, and delivered Greene's verbal message to Sumter, who in consequence soon after joined the main army at Orangeburg. Emily Geiger afterwards married a rich planter on the Congaree. She has been dead thirty-five years, but it is trusted her name will descend to posterity among those of the patriotic females of the Revolution."
It is said that the first Governor Griswold, of Connecticut, was once indebted to a happy thought of his wife for his escape from the British, to whom he was extremely obnoxious. He was at home, but expected to set out immediately for Hartford, to meet the legislature, which had commenced its session a day or two previous. The family residence was at Blackhall, opposite Saybrook Point, and situated on the point of land formed by Connecticut River on the east, and Long Island Sound on the south. British ships were lying in the Sound; and as the Governor was known to be at this time in his own mansion, a boat was secretly sent on shore for the purpose of securing his person. Without previous warning, the family were alarmed by seeing a file of marines coming up from the beach to the house. There was no time for flight. Mrs. Griswold bethought herself of a large meat barrel, or tierce, which had been brought in a day or two before and was not yet filled. Quick as thought, she decided that the Governor's proportions - which were by no means slight-must be compressed into this, the only available hiding place. He was obliged to submit to be stowed in the cask and covered. The process occupied but a few moments, and the soldiers presently entered. Mrs. Griswold was of course innocent of all knowledge of her husband's whereabouts, though she told them she well knew the legislature was in session, and that business required his presence at the capital. The house and cellar having been searched without success, the soldiers departed. By the time their boat reached the ship, the Governor on his powerful horse was galloping up the road on his way to Hartford. Blackhall, in Lyme, Connecticut, is still the residence of the Griswolds.
A man named Hubbs, who had served with the bloody tory and renegade Cunningham in South Carolina was an "outlier" during the war. At one time he proposed, with two confederates, to rob an old man of Quaker habits - Israel Gaunt - who was reputed to be in the possession of money. The three rode up one evening to the house and asked lodging, which was refused. Hubbs rode to the kitchen door - in which Mrs. Gaunt was standing, and asked for water. He sprang in while she turned to get the water, and as she handed it to him she saw his arms. Her husband, informed of this, secured the doors. Hubbs presented his pistol at him; but his deadly purpose was frustrated by the old man's daughter, Hannah. She threw up the weapon, and, being of masculine proportions and strength, grappled with, and threw him on the floor, where she held him, though wounded by his spurs - in spite of his desperate struggles - till he was disabled by her father's blows. Gaunt was wounded through the window by Hubbs companions, and another ball grazed his heroic daughter just above the eye; but both escaped without further injury. Hannah afterwards married a man named Mooney. The gentleman who relates the foregoing incident has often seen her, and describes her as one of the kindest and most benevolent of women. She died about the age of fifty, and her grandson, a worthy and excellent man, is now living in the village of Newberry.
The same company of marauders, with Moultrie, another of Cunningham's gang, visited Andrew Lee's house, at Lee's Ferry, Saluda River, for the purpose of plunder. Moultrie succeeded in effecting an entrance into the house. Lee seized and held him, and they fell together on a bed; when he called to his wife, Nancy, to strike him on the head with an axe. Her first blow, in her agitation, fell on her husband's hand; but she repeated it, and stunned Moultrie, who fell on the floor insensible. Lee, with his negroes and dogs, then drove away the other robbers, and on his return secured Moultrie, who was afterwards hanged in Ninety-Six.
In the collections of the Maine Historical Society is an account of the exertions of the O'Brien family. The wife of one of a party who left Pleasant River settlement, on an expedition, found a horn of powder after their departure, and knowing their want of it, followed them twenty miles through the woods - for there were no roads - to bring it to her husband.
Hazard's Register gives a notice of Margaret Durham, one of the early settlers of a portion of Pennsylvania, who shared largely in the toils and dangers of the war. When the thinly scattered population fled before the savages, she was overtaken, scalped, and left for dead; but recovered to be an example of Christian faith and virtue.
The daughter of a miller In Queens County defended her father from his brutal assailants at the risk of her life, when men who witnessed the cruelty dared offer no assistance.
The death bed of Mercer was attended by two females of the Society of Friends, who, like messengers from heaven, smoothed his pillow, and cheered his declining hours. They inhabited the house to which he was carried, and refusing to fly during the battle, were there when he was brought, wounded and dying, to the threshold.
When the wife of General Woodhull, who perished under the inhuman treatment he received at the hands of his captors, reached his bed-side, it was only in time to receive his last sigh. She distributed the wagon-load of provisions she had brought, for the relief of the other American prisoners.
Rebecca Knapp, who died recently in Baltimore, was one of those who relieved the American prisoners in Philadelphia, by carrying them provisions from her own table. Others were associated in the same good work in New York.
Mary Elmendorf, who lived in Kingston, Ulster County, studied medicine, that, in the absence of the physicians, who were obliged to be with the army, she might render assistance to the poor around her.
Mrs. Speakman, of Philadelphia, daily visited the soldiers who were brought into the city ill of the camp fever, and placed in empty houses - carrying food and medicines, and ministering to their wants. Eleven in one house were restored through her kind attentions.
The journal of Rev. Thomas Andross, who escaped from a prison ship through Long Island, alludes frequently to female kindness and assistance. These prison ships were indeed store houses of pestilence and misery. A large transport - the Whitby - was the first anchored in the Wallabout; she was moored October 20th, 1776, and crowded with American prisoners, whom disease, bad provisions, and deprivation of air and light, soon reduced to a pitiable condition. The sand-beach and ravine near were filled with graves scratched along the sandy shore. One of these ships death was burned the following year - fired, it is said, by the sufferers, who were driven to desperation. Mr. Andross thus describes the old Jersey, in which he was a prisoner: "Her dark and filthy exterior corresponded with the death and despair reigning within. It is supposed that eleven thousand American seamen perished in her. None came to relieve their woes. Once or twice, by order of a stranger on the quarter-deck, a bag of apples was hurled promiscuously into the midst of hundreds of prisoners, crowded as thick as they could stand, and life and limbs were endangered in the struggle. The prisoners were secured between the decks by iron gratings; and when the ship was to be cleared of water, an armed guard forced them up to the winches, amid a roar of execrations and reproaches - the dim light adding to the horrors of the scene. Thousands died whose names have never been known; perishing when no eye could witness their fortitude, nor praise their devotion to their country."
A very interesting account is given in Dwight's
Travels of the capture and escape of General Wadsworth. He had
been for many years a member of Congress - and was sent by the
legislature of Massachusetts to command in the District of Maine.
In February, 1781, he dismissed his troops, and made preparations
for his return to Boston. His wife and her friend Miss Fenno,
who had accompanied him, shared in the peril, when, by order
of the commander of the British fort, an attack was made on the
house where the General lodged. It was near midnight, the weather
being severely cold, and the ground covered with snow, when the
enemy came suddenly upon the sentinel, and forced a an entrance
into the guard-room. Another party of them at the same instant
fired through the windows of Mrs. Wadsworth's apartment; a third
forcing their way through the windows into Miss Fenno's room.
The two terrified women had only time to dress hastily, when
the intruders assailed the barred door of the General's chamber.
He made a brave defence, but at length, being wounded in the
was compelled to surrender.
With the most admirable self-command, Mrs. Wadsworth and her friend gave no expression to their own agitated feelings, intent only on relieving those of the wounded prisoner. The wife wrapped a blanket round him, and Miss Fenno tied a handkerchief round his arm, to check the effusion of blood. In this condition, his strength almost exhausted, he was carried off and the ladies were left behind in their desolated house. Not a window had escaped destruction; the doors were broken down, two of the rooms set on fire, the floors drenched with blood; and an old soldier, desperately wounded, was begging for death, that he might be released from his sufferings. The neighboring inhabitants, who came to see what had happened, spared no labor - so that the next day they could be more comfortable; but the anxiety endured on the General's account could not be relieved by any kind attentions to themselves.
In about two months, Mrs. Wadsworth and her friend obtained permission to visit the prisoner, in the gloomy solitude of his quarters at Bagaduce. Parting from him at the end of ten days, Miss Fenno contrived to give him an intimation of the knowledge she had gained that he was not to be exchanged, by saying in a significant manner, "General Wadsworth - take care of yourself." The General soon understood this caution, learning that he was regarded as a prisoner of too much consequence to be trusted with his liberty. The account of his imprisonment, his remarkable escape, and his adventures wandering through the wilderness, before reaching the settlements on the river St. George, where he found friends - has all the interest of the wildest romance, but would here be out of place. His wife and Miss Fenno had sailed for Boston before his arrival at Portland. They were overtaken by a violent storm, and barely escaped shipwreck - being obliged to land at Portsmouth. There they had a new source of anxiety. The wife had left all her specie with her captive husband, and the continental bills had lost their currency. Without money, and without friends, after meditating on various expedients, she at last remembered that she had one acquaintance in the place. To him the wanderers applied - receiving assistance which enabled them to return to Boston, where a happy reunion terminated the distresses of the family. It may be added that General Wadsworth was an ancestor of the distinguished American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Immediately before the battle of Bennington, General Stark, with several of his officers, stopped to obtain a draught of milk and water, at the house of Mr. Munro, a loyalist, who chanced to be absent. One of the officers walked up to Mrs. Munro, and asked where her husband was. She replied that she did not know; whereupon he drew his sword, and endeavored to intimidate her into a more satis factory answer. The General, hearing the commo tion, severely reproved the officer for his uncivil be havior to a woman; and the offender went out, apprarently much abashed. Mrs. Munro always remembered Stark's words - "Come on, my boys," - as they marched to battle. The firing continued till late; and after a sleepless night, Mrs. Munro and her sister repaired with the earliest dawn to the battle-field, carrying pails of milk and water, - and wandering among heaps of slain and wounded, relieved the thirst of many sufferers, of whom some - the Hessians - were unable to express their thankfulness, save by the mute eloquence of grateful looks. Towards noon, wagons were sent to convey them to hospitals, and to bring away the dead for burial. This was not the only occasion on which Mrs. Munro was active in relieving distress, nor was her share of hardship and trial a light one.
A spirit kindred to that of Mrs. Motte was exhibited by Mrs. Borden at a period when American prospects were most clouded. New Jersey being overrun by the British, an officer stationed at Bordentown endeavored to intimidate her into using her influence over her husband and son. They were absent in the American army when she was visited at her residence for this purpose. The officer promised that if she would induce them to quit the standard they followed and join the royalists, her property should be protected; while in case of refusal, her estate would be ravaged and her elegant mansion destroyed. Mrs. Borden answered by bidding the foe begin the threatened havoc. "The sight of my house in flames," she said, "would be a treat to me; for I have seen enough to know that you never injure what you have power to keep and enjoy. The application of a torch to my dwelling I should regard as a signal for your departure." The house was burned in fulfillment of the threat, and the property laid waste; but as the owner had predicted, the retreat of the spoiler quickly followed.
The spirit exhibited by Mrs. Thomas Heyward, of Charleston, S. C., is as worthy of remembrance. A British order having been issued for a general illumination, in honor of the victory of Guilford, it was remarked that the house occupied by her and her sister showed no light. An officer called to demand the reason of this mark of disrespect to the order. In reply, Mrs. Heyward asked how she could be expected to join in celebrating a victory claimed by the British army, while her husband was a prisoner at St. Augustine ? The answer was a peremptory command to illuminate. "Not a single light" - said the lady - "shall with my consent be placed in any window in the house." To the threat that it should be destroyed before midnight, she answered with the same expression of resolute determination. When, on the anniversary of the battle of Charleston, another illumination was ordered in testimony of joy for that event, Mrs. Heyward again refused compliance. Her sister was lying in the last stage of a wasting disease. The indignation of the mob was vented in assaults upon the house with brickbats and other missiles; and in the midst of the clamor and shouting, the invalid expired. The town major afterwards expressed his regret for the indignities, and requested Mrs. Heyward's permission to repair the damages done to the house. She thanked him, but refused, on the ground that the authorities could not thus cause insults to be forgotten, which they should not have permitted to be offered.
An American soldier, flying from pursuit, sought the protection of Mrs. Richard Shubrick. The British, who followed him, insisted with threats that he should be delivered into their hands. While the other ladies in the house were too much frightened to offer remonstrance, this young and fragile creature withstood the enemy. With a delicacy of frame that bespoke feeble health, she possessed a spirit strong in the hour of trial: and her pale cheek could flush, and her eyes sparkle with scorn for the oppressor. She placed herself resolutely at the door of the apartment in which the fugitive had taken refuge, declaring her determination to defend it with her life. "To men of honor," she said, "the chamber of a lady should be sacred as a sanctuary !" The officer, struck with admiration at her intrepidity immediately ordered his men to retire.
On another occasion, when a party of Tarleton's dragoons was plundering the house of one of her friends, a sergeant followed the overseer into the room where the ladies were assembled. The old man refused to tell him where the plate was hidden, and the soldier struck him with a sabre; whereupon Mrs. Shubrick, starting up, threw herself between them, and rebuked the ruffian for his barbarity. She bade him strike her, if he gave another blow, for she would protect the aged servant. Her interposition saved him from further injury.
The family of Dr. Charming, on their way from France to America, not long after the commencement of the war, were attacked by a privateer. During the engagement that ensued, Mrs. Channing remained on deck, handing cartridges, with encouraging speeches to the crew, and assisting the wounded. When the colors of the vessel were struck, she seized the pistols and side-arms of her husband, and flung them into the sea, declaring that they, at least, should not be surrendered to the enemy.
An anecdote is related of Mrs. Daniel Hall, who was a guest in the house of Mrs. Sarah Reeve Gibbes when the British surrounded it. It is said that having obtained permission from the authorities then in power, to go to Johns Island on a visit to her mother, she was stopped when going on board by an officer who demanded the key of her trunk. She asked him what he wished to look for." For treason, madam," he replied. "Then," retorted Mrs. Hall, "you may be saved the trouble of search, for you may find enough of it at my tongue's end."
It is well known that the name of Gustavus Conyngham, the captain of one of the first privateers under the American flag, was one of terror to the British. The print of him exposed in the shops of London, labelled, "The Arch Rebel," and representing a man of gigantic frame and ferocious countenance, was one of the expressions indicating the popular fear attached to his name. He was repeatedly captured by the enemy, and treated with barbarous severity, being only saved from death by the resolution of Congress that his execution should be avenged by that of certain royalist officers then in custody. While he was a prisoner in irons on board one of their vessels, his wife made an eloquent and touching appeal in his behalf, in a letter to General Washington, which was laid before Congress. "To have lost a beloved and worthy husband in battle," she says, would have been a light affliction but her courage failed at the thought of the suffering, despair, and ignominious death that awaited him. The interposition she besought was granted, and saved the prisoner's life.
A letter written from Antigua, published in the Pennsylvania Register, gives an account of Mrs Conyngham's romantic introduction to the noted hero who was afterwards her husband. She was with two other ladies at sea, and shared the common fear of meeting with some American privateer - "The Revenge" in particular - cruising near the West India Islands. The Captain was pacing the quarter-deck with a glass in his hand, and was pressed with many questions as to the danger by his fair passengers, who had heard dreadful accounts of the cruelty of the Americans. Suddenly a cry from aloft - "A sail ! a sail !" caused general confusion. The captain hastened up the shrouds, gave orders to the man at the helm, and remained some minutes watching the approaching suspicious stranger; then coming on deck, said that the vessel looked d-d rakish; he had no doubt it was a privateer, probably the Revenge - the terror of those seas. The ladies were in tears, and withdrew to the cabin half fainting from apprehension." There was no prospect of escape; the sail gradually drew near; a gun was fired, and the pursued vessel lay to. A boat put off from the stranger, and two officers and several men were soon upon her deck. The spokesman wore a blue roundabout and trowsers, and was well armed; he was about twenty-five, of a light and active figure; his sunburnt face showed much intelligence, and was, withal, interesting from a shade of melancholy. He made some inquiries concerning the vessel, cargo, and passengers, and on being informed there were ladies in the cabin, colored, and observed to his lieutenant that he would have to go and say to them, the passengers were not prisoners, but guests. The lieutenant replied that he had not "confidence enough to speak to them," and the other went into the cabin. The fears of the ladies were soon dispelled, and the youngest asked the officer, with much naïveté, if he was really a pirate. "I am captain of an American privateer," he answered, "and he, I trust, cannot be a pirate." "Are you the captain of 'the Revenge' ?" "l am." "Is it possible you are the man represented to be a bloody and ferocious pirate, whose chief delight is in scenes of carnage ?" "I am that person of whom these nursery tales have been told; whose picture is hung up to frighten children. I have suffered much from British prisons and from British calumny; but my sufferings will never make me forget the courtesy due to ladies."
During the few days the vessels were together, the chivalrous spirit of Conyngham, and his kindness towards the passengers, won their esteem, and they listened with pleasure to the lieutenant's account of his gallant achievements on the seas. The beautiful Miss Anne, who chatted with him in so sprightly a manner, was, a day or two afterwards, with her two companions, put on board a vessel bound to one of the islands. When the writer of the letter saw her again at L'Orient, some time afterwards, she was the wife of the far-famed captain of "The Revenge."
The case of Sir Charles AsgiII, a young officer of the British Guards, selected by lot for execution in retaliation for the murder of Captain Huddy, was made the ground-work of a French tragedy by Sauvigny, represented in Paris, in 1789. The story of his imprisonment - the sufferings of his mother and family while the doom hung over him - her appeal to the King and Queen of France - their intercession, and the final relenting of Congress - is one of deep and touching interest. It is included, with the letters of Lady Asgill, in many of the books on the Revolution.