1778 Entries | James Thatcher’s Military Journal


    About the author

    James Thatcher.
    James Thatcher

    James Thatcher was a military surgeon for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. After the war, he continued practicing in his home state of Massachusetts, and wrote a number of works on the Revoution, such as Observations Relative to the Execution of Major John André as a Spy in 1780 (1834).


      Editor’s note

      The following is an excerpt from the journal of James Thatcher, a military surgeon for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. It provides a fascinating glimpse into life on the frontlines during the war, as well as the wider context and politics of the Revolution from 1775-1783. This page covers his diary entries from 1778.

      This journal has not been edited and as a result it has some old English spellings of certain words.



      February 4th

      Having performed a journey on horseback to Boston and Barnstable, in Massachusetts, I returned here two days before the expiration of my furlough, and resumed my duties in the hospital. Several gentlemen belonging to the hospital being desirous of improving in the accomplishment of dancing, Mr. John Trotter has agreed to open a special school for our accommodation and we are to attend every afternoon. Master Trotter has for many years been in the practice of teaching the art in the city of New York, and has acquired great fame as a man of knowledge and experience in his profession. He is about fifty-eight years of age, a small, genteel, well-proportioned man, every limb and joint proclaiming that he is formed for his profession; and the ease and grace with which he moves on the floor, evince that he is an accomplished master, and that he has lost none of his agility by age. Under the tuition of such a master, we flatter ourselves that in due time, if we improve our advantages, we shall be able to figure in a ball-room.

      February 10th

      I have now obtained a particular description of the American Torpedo, and other ingenious submarine machinery, invented by Mr. David Bushnell, for the purpose of destroying shipping while at anchor, some account of which may be found in this Journal. The external appearance of the torpedo bears some resemblance to two upper tortoise shells, of equal size, placed in contact, leaving at that part which represents the head of the animal, a flue or opening, sufficiently capacious to contain the operator, and air to support him thirty minutes. At the bottom, opposite to the entrance, is placed a quantity of lead for ballast. The operator sits upright, and holds an oar for rowing forward or backward, and is furnished with a rudder for steering. An aperture at the bottom, with its valve, admits water for the purpose of descending, and two brass forcing pumps serve to eject the water within, when necessary for ascending. The vessel is made completely water-tight, furnished with glass windows for the admission of light, with ventilators and air-pipes, and is so ballasted, with lead fixed at the bottom, as to render it solid, and obviate all danger of oversetting. Behind the submarine vessel, is a place above the rudder for carrying a large powder magazine; this is made of two pieces of oak timber, large enough, when hollowed out, to contain one hundred and fifty pounds of powder, with the apparatus used for firing it, and is secured in its place by a screw turned by the operator. It is lighter than water, that it may rise against the object to which it is intended to be fastened. Within the magazine, is an apparatus constructed to run any proposed length of time under twelve hours; when it has run out its time, it unpinions a strong lock, resembling a gun-lock, which gives fire to the powder. This apparatus is so pinioned, that it cannot possibly move, till, by casting off the magazine from the vessel, it is set in motion. The skilful operator can swim so low on the surface of the water, as to approach very near a ship in the night, without fear of being discovered; and may, if he choose, approach the stern or stem, above water, with very little danger. He can sink very quickly, keep at any necessary depth, and row a great distance in any direction he desires without coming to the surface. When he rises to the surface, he can soon obtain a fresh supply of air, and, if necessary, he may then descend again and pursue his course. Mr. Bushnell found that it required many trials and considerable instruction to make a man of common ingenuity a skilful operator. The first person, his brother, whom he employed, was very ingenious, and made himself master of the business, but was taken sick before he had an opportunity to make use of his skill. Having procured a substitute, and given him such instruction as time would allow, he was directed to try an experiment on the Eagle, a sixty-four-gun ship, on board of which Lord Howe commanded, lying in the harbor of New York. He went under the ship, and attempted to fix the wooden screw into her bottom, but struck, as he supposes, a bar of iron which passes from the rudder hinge, and is spiked under the ship’s quarter. Had he moved a few inches, he might have done without rowing, there is no doubt he would have found wood where he might have fixed the screw; or if the ship had been sheathed with copper, he might easily have pierced it. But not being well skilled in the management of the vessel, in attempting to move to another place, he lost the ship. After seeking her in vain, for some time, he rowed some distance, and rose to the surface of the water, but found day-light had advanced so far, that he durst not renew the attempt. He says that he could easily have fastened the magazine under the stern of the ship, above water, as he rowed up to the stern and touched it before he descended. Had he fastened it there, the explosion of one hundred and fifty pounds of powder, the quantity contained in the magazine, must have been fatal to the ship. In his return from the ship to New York, he passed near Governor’s Island, and thought he was discovered by the enemy on the island. Being in haste to avoid the danger he feared, he cast off the magazine, as he imagined it retarded him in the swell, which was very considerable. After the magazine had been cast off one hour, the time the internal apparatus was set to run, it blew up with great violence, throwing a vast column of water to an amazing height in the air, and leaving the enemy to conjecture whether the stupendous noise was produced by a bomb, a meteor, a water-spout, or an earthquake. Some other attempts Were made in Hudson’s river, in one of which the operator, in going towards the ship, lost sight of her and went a great distance beyond her, and the tide ran so strong as to baffle all his efforts. Mr. Bushnell being in ill health, and destitute of resources, was obliged to abandon his pursuit at that time, and wait for a more favorable opportunity, which never occurred. In the year 1777, Mr. Bushnell made an attempt from a whale-boat, against the Cerberus frigate lying at anchor, by drawing a machine against her side, by means of a line. The machine was loaded with powder, to be exploded by a gun-lock, which was to be unpinioned by an apparatus to be turned by being brought alongside of the frigate. This machine fell in with a schooner at anchor astern of the frigate, and concealed from his sight. By some means it became fixed and exploding, demolished the schooner. Commodore Simmons, being on board the Cerberus, addressed an official letter to Sir Peter Parker, describing this singular disaster. Being at anchor to the westward of New London, with a schooner which he had taken, discovered about eleven o’clock in the evening a line towing astern from the bows. He believed that some person had veered away by it, and immediately began to haul in. A sailor, belonging to the schooner, taking it for a fishing-line, laid hold of it, and drew in about fifteen fathoms. It was buoyed up by small pieces of wood tied to it at stated distances. At the end of the rope a machine was fastened, too heavy for one man to pull up, for it exceeded one hundred pounds in weight. The other people of the schooner coming to his assistance, they drew it on deck. While the men were examining the machine, about five minutes from the time the wheel had been put in motion, it exploded, blew the vessel into pieces, and set her on fire. Three men were killed, and the fourth blown into the water, much injured. On examining round the ship, after this accident, the other part of the line was discovered, buoyed up in the same manner. This the commodore ordered to be instantly cut away, for fear of hauling up another of the infernals, as he termed it. These machines were constructed with wheels, furnished with irons sharpened at the end, and projecting about an inch, in order to strike the sides of the vessel when hauling them up, thereby setting the wheels in motion, which in the space of five minutes causes the explosion. Had the whole apparatus been brought to operate on a ship at the same time, it must have occasioned prodigious destruction. Mr. Bushnell contrived another ingenious expedient to effect his favorite object. He fixed a large number of kegs under water, charged with powder, to explode on coming in conflict with any thing while floating along with the tide. He set his squadron of kegs afloat in the Delaware, above the English shipping, in December, 1777. The kegs were in the night set adrift, to fall with the ebb, on the shipping; but the proper distance could not be well ascertained, and they were set adrift at too great a distance from the vessels, by which means they were obstructed and dispersed by the ice. They approached, however, in the day time, one of them blew up a boat, and others exploded, which occasioned among the British seamen the greatest alarm and consternation. They actually manned the wharves and shipping at Philadelphia, and discharged their small arms and cannon at every thing they could see floating in the river, during the ebb tide. This incident has received the name of the Battle of the Kegs, and furnished a subject for an excellent and humorous song by the Honorable Francis Hopkinson, which is inserted in the Appendix.


      Major-General Lee, captured by the enemy in December, 1776, has been exchanged for Major-General Prescott, who was taken at Rhode Island, by Colonel Barton.

      The glorious intelligence being announced, that Congress have negotiated a treaty of alliance with the Court of France, General Washington has issued the following orders for the army to celebrate the momentous event:

      “Head Quarters, Camp, Valley Forge, May 5th, 1778.

      “It having pleased the Almighty Ruler of the Universe propitiously to defend the cause of the United American States, and finally, by raising us up a powerful friend among the princes of the earth, to establish our liberty and independence on a lasting foundation; it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the Divine goodness, and celebrating the important event which we owe to His benign interposition.

      “The several brigades are to be assembled for this purpose at nine o’clock to-morrow morning, when their chaplains Will communicate the intelligence contained in the Postscript to the Pennsylvania Gazette of the second instant, and offer up a Thanksgiving, and deliver a discourse suitable to the occasion.

      “At half-past ten o’clock a cannon will be fired, which is to be a signal for the men to be under arms. The brigade inspectors will then inspect their dress and arms, form the battalions according to the instructions given them, and announce to the commanding officers of brigades that the battalions are formed. The brigadiers and commandants will then appoint the field-officers to command the battalions; after which, each battalion will be ordered to load and ground their arms. At half-past eleven, another cannon will be fired as a signal for the march; on which the several brigades will begin their march by wheeling to the right by platoons, and proceed by the nearest way to the left of their ground, in the new position that will be pointed out by the brigade inspectors. – A third signal will be given, on which there will be a discharge of thirteen cannon: when the thirteenth has fired, a running fire of the infantry will begin on the right of Woodford’s, and continue throughout the whole front line; it will then be taken up on the left of the second line, and continue to the right-on a signal given, the whole army will huzza – Long live the King of France! “The artillery will then begin again, and fire thirteen rounds. This will be succeeded by a second general discharge of the musketry in a running fire – Huzza! long live the Friendly European Powers! Then the last discharge of thirteen pieces of artillery will be given, followed by a general running fire – Huzza for the American States!”

      Agreebly to the above orders, his Excellency General Washington, his lady and suite, Lord Stirling, the Countess of Stirling, with other general officers and ladies, attended at nine o’clock at the Jersey brigade, when the Postscript mentioned above, was read, and. after prayer a suitable discourse delivered to Lord Stirling’s division by the Rev. Mr. Hunter.

      On the signal at half-after eleven, the whole army repaired to their alarm-posts; on which General Washington, accompanied by the general officers, reviewed the whole army at their respective posts; and after the firing of the cannon and musketry, and the huzzas were given agreeably to the orders, the army returned to their respective brigade parades, and were dismissed.

      All the officers of the army then assembled, and partook of a collation provided by the general, at which several patriotic toasts were given, accompanied with three cheers. His excellency took leave of the officers at five o’clock, on which there was universal huzzaing – Long live General Washington! – and clapping of hands till the general rode some distance. The non-commissioned officers and privates followed the example of their officers as the general passed their brigades. Approbation indeed, was conspicuous in every countenance, and universal joy reigned throughout the camp.

      My friend, Major Minnis, from head-quarters at Valley Forge, has detailed to me the particular circumstances of the distress and privations, which our army suffered, while in winter-quarters at that place, the last winter. – In the month of December, the troops were employed in erecting log huts for winter-quarters, when about one-half of the men were destitute of small-clothes, shoes, and stockings; some thousands were without blankets, and were obliged to warm themselves over fires all night, after the fatigues of the day, instead of reposing in comfortable lodgings. At one time nearly three thousand men were returned unfit for duty, from the want of clothing, and it was not uncommon to track the march of the men over ice and frozen ground, by the blood from their naked feet. Several times during the winter, they experienced little less than a famine in camp; and more than once our general officers were alarmed by the fear of a total dissolution of the army from the want of provisions. For two or three weeks in succession, the men were on half-allowance, and for four or five days without bread, and again as many without beef or pork. It was with great difficulty that men enough could be found in a condition fit to discharge the military camp duties from day to day, and for this purpose those who were naked, borrowed from those who had clothes. It cannot be deemed strange that sickness and mortality were the consequence of such privations, in the midst of an inclement season. Under these unexampled sufferings, the soldiers exercised a degree of patience and fortitude, which reflects on them the highest honor, and which ought ever to entitle them to the gratitude of their country. The army indeed was not without consolation, for his excellency the commander-in-chief, whom every soldier venerates and loves, manifested a fatherly concern and fellow-feeling for their sufferings, and made every exertion in his power to remedy the evil, and to administer the much-desired relief. Being authorized by Congress, he reluctantly resorted to the unpopular expedient of taking provisions from the inhabitants by force, and thus procured a small supply for immediate necessity.*

      * It was on this occasion that a foreign officer of distinction said to a friend of mine, that he despaired of our Independence, for while walking with General Washington, along the soldiers’ huts, he heard from many voices echoing through the open crevices between the logs, “No pay, no clothes, no provisions, no rum,” and when a miserable being was seen flitting from one hut to another, his nakedness was only covered a dirty blanket. It will be difficult to form a just conception of the emotions of grief and sorrow which must have harrowed up the soul of our illustrious patriot and philanthropist. In this darkening hour of adversity, any man who possesses less firmness than Washington, would despair of our Independence.

      This was the unhappy condition of that army, on whom General Washington had to rely for the defence of every thing held most dear by Americans, and this, too, while situated within sixteen miles of a powerful adversary, with a greatly superior army of veterans, watching with a vigilant eye for an opportunity to effect its destruction. But a fact which excites the greatest indignation and astonishment is, that, at the critical period above mentioned, a party in Congress, in concert with General Conway, was endeavoring to remove General Washington from the supreme command. If the American army is to be annihilated, and the cause of our country sacrificed to gratify individual ambition, then is there a faction ripe for the execution of the object. No man, perhaps, ever had a greater combination of vexatious evils and uncontrollable obstacles to encounter, than this incomparable patriot and warrior; and no one surely ever possessed in a more eminent degree the peculiar talents and qualities requisite for the discharge of the important duties assigned him in his elevated station. He has acquired the full confidence of every faithful officer and soldier under his command, and his wisdom and judgment are considered adequate to the most trying exigencies. He rises in the midst of distress, and gains strength by misfortunes. The Assembly of Pennsylvania, and a certain party in our Congress, entertain an idea that the royal army was permitted to take possession of Philadelphia by the timidity, or by the excessive caution, of our commander-in-chief. It is well known, that from necessity be has evinced himself more the disciple of Fabius Maximus, than of Marcellus. He temporizes, and acts on the defensive, when a superior force and the peculiar circumstances of his army compel him to adopt such conduct. But no one will deny that he has displayed the greatest courage in opposing danger, and the greatest presence of mind in retreating from it. He has perplexed the enemy by his judicious manoeuvres, and braved him frequently in his camp; and it is by his superior generalship, and the unfailing resources of his mind, that the enemy was not sooner in possession of Philadelphia, and that our feeble, half-starved, naked army, has not been entirely destroyed. The candidates who have been named to supersede his excellency in the supreme command, are Generals Lee, Mifflin, Gates and Conway. Lee has many advocates in his favor. Mifflin has no claim, and it is believed no desire, to be elevated to this highly responsible station. The splendid achievement of General Gates at Saratoga is auspicious to his preferment but even the officers and soldiers who served under him in the northern army, would not willingly yield their attachment to their beloved Washington, in whose wisdom and judgment they repose such unbounded confidence. It is most unfortunate that Congress appears to be split into factions at this eventful period, when the salvation of our country depends on the harmony and unanimity in our councils. A strong party exists in this body, who are exerting every nerve to effect their favorite scheme of elevating General Gates to the supreme command. This gentleman is made the object of their applause and caresses, though he has been deficient in duty and respect in his official station, in not communicating to the commander-in-chief the important intelligence of the capture of General Burgoyne and his army. General Conway, a French gentleman, has been appointed by Congress inspector-general, with the rank of major-general, over a number of brigadiers of regular standing, and this, even when it was notorious that he was inimical to the commander-in-chief, and the author of letters in which his excellency’s character is basely aspersed and calumniated. These unhappy dissensions and jealousies occcasion the greatest solicitude in our army, and consequences of a fatal tendency are seriously apprehended. The brigadiers and a number of colonels have remonstrated in strong terms to Congress respecting the preferment of General Conway. The machinations of this insolent foreigner have at length recoiled on his own head. Having, by his vile intrigue and insufferable effrontery, rendered himself an object of disgust in his station, he has been induced to resign his commission, and has withdrawn himself from the army.*

      *General Conway, after his resignation, was challenged by General Cadwallader, for his conduct, and in the combat he received a wound which he supposed to be a mortal one; and conceiving death to be near at hand, he conducted honorably in addressing to General Washington a letter of apology. Further particulars relative to this unpleasant business may be found in the characters of Lee, Gates and Conway, in the Appendix.

      On this serious occasion, the character of Washington was found unassailable, and it shines with redoubled lustre. His excellency displays a noble magnanimity in overlooking a want of confidence in his skill and judgment in his profession. Envy and malice are ever attendant on exalted station and superior merit.


      May 16th

      In various parts of this state the inhabitants are constantly infested with a banditti of tories and other villains, following the practice of robbing and plundering, stealing horses and cattle, and often committing murder on those who oppose them; and even on innocent persons. A number of these vile wretches have been apprehended and condemned; two of them were executed yesterday. They had been convicted of robbing the house of Mr. Van Ness, whose son, being a captain in our militia, was taken by them and cruelly murdered. The criminals were conducted to the gallows, by a guard of soldiers, and were attended by a prodigious number of spectators. They manifested, at the gallows, the most agonizing horrors. One of them held in his band a Bible till the halter deprived him of the power of holding it. Had this sacred volume been his companion in early life, it might have been the means of averting this awful and untimely death.

      May 20th

      I attended the judicial court at the City Hall for the trial of a number of criminals accused of house robbery, horse stealing, and murder, among the defenceless inhabitants on our frontiers. No less than ten of these miscreants were arraigned at the bar. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty against the whole number. Judge John Jay, who officiated on the bench, pronounced the awful sentence of death, and addressed them in a very solemn and affecting manner, calculated to rouse them to a sense of their dreadful condition, and in a moving and pathetic strain, enjoined it on them to prepare to meet their God. This scene was rendered the more melancholy, by observing among the criminals a grey-beaded man of seventy years, and his son about twenty. The criminality of the son admits of some extenuation from his ignorance and the example of his father. The youth was afterwards pardoned; but the old man, with several others, expiated their crimes by a public execution on the gallows.

      In the town of Schoharie, about thirty miles from this city, a company of our troops, under the command of Captain Patrick, has been for some time stationed for the purpose of guarding the inhabitants against the incursions and cruel ravages of the Indians and tories. We have just received the melancholy intelligence, that about two hundred Indians and their tory allies, fell on our party by surprise, killed the captain and all but fifteen men, and most of the inhabitants shared the same miserable fate. The bodies were cut and mangled in a savage manner, and some of them were scalped.


      June 1st

      Orders have been received for the removal of our hospital from this city to the highlands, on the Hudson River, where our whole army, it is said, is about to assemble. During my residence in this city, I have contracted but a limited acquaintance with the inhabitants. They are chiefly Low Dutch, and not much inclined to associate with strangers. There are, however, several families of respectability and fashion, who have taken refuge here from New York, among whom are some amiable and accomplished ladies, in whose society I have been permitted to enjoy a social intercourse. The charming Miss M. H. has captivated the heart, and is destined to receive the hand of my excellent friend Dr. W. P. S., an auspicious union of congenial souls. But in military life our associates must be chiefly those of a military character. In a society of about thirty professional gentlemen, harmonizing in similar pursuits and inclinations, our sympathies and mutual pleasures are mingled, and raised to a state of the purest enjoyment. We are now to be separated, and subjected to vicissitudes and incidents beyond our calculation. Three of our number are to continue with the sick in this place, and the remainder are destined to a new situation.

      June 5th

      We embarked with our hospital stores and baggage on board of a sloop, and proceeded with a fair wind down the Hudson. In the evening we landed at Kinderhook, a small town on the bank of the river.

      June 7th

      Arrived at Fishkill, where we replenished our stock of provisions.

      June 10th

      Proceeded on our voyage, took in a pilot at New Windsor, lodged on board, and on the 11th reached the Place of our destination, landed our stores and baggage, and took possession of the house which we are to occupy for a hospital. This house was erected by Colonel Beverly Robinson, a respectable gentleman from Scotland, for his summer residence, but being induced to adhere to the British interest, he has, with his excellent family, removed to New York, and thereby forfeited his large estate. This is a spacious and very convenient building, situated on the eastern bank of the Hudson, about two miles from West Point, which is on the opposite shore. Robinson’s house, with the out-buildings, is found very convenient for a hospital; the farm and gardens are very extensive, affording excellent pasturing for horses and cows, and containing three or four large orchards, abounding in fruit of various descriptions. In the location of a country-seat, the judgment of Colonel Robinson is not much to be admired, unless he was guided altogether by a taste for romantic singularity and novelty. It is surrounded on two sides by hideous mountains and dreary forests, not a house in view, and but one within a mile. The Hudson, which washes the borders of this farm, affords a facility of communication with New York and with Albany; and the excursion up or down the river is truly romantic; nature exhibits a diversified scenery of wild mountains, craggy precipices, and noble lofty cliffs, on each side the river, which at this place is about one mile wide. The bank on the west side is formed by a large mountain called Butterhill, and that on the east by another named Brecknock. At a small distance south of Robinson’s is a remarkable bluff, whose rocky cliffs ascend almost perpendicularly from the water’s edge to the height of about twelve or fifteen hundred feet. This, from its singular form and appearance, is known by the name of Anthony’s Nose. Not far from Robinson’s house is Sugar-loaf mountain, covered with various kinds of forest trees.

      June 12th

      A little party, consisting of three gentlemen of the hospital and myself, resolved on the attempt to ascend to the summit of Sugar-loaf mountain, which from its rude acclivity is deemed almost inaccessible. It was with great difficulty and fatigue that we effected our purpose, holding by the limbs and bushes, while the decayed wood and loose stones, sliding from under our feet, kept us in continual fear of a fatal fall. Having reached the summit, we contemplated with amazement the sublime scene which opened to our view. Looking down as from a cloud, we beheld the Hudson, resembling a vast canal cut through mountains of stupendous magnitude; a few boats playing on its surface were scarcely visible. But to the pen of the poet, and the pencil of the painter, be consigned the task of describing the wonders of nature there exhibited in the form of huge mountains, rocky cliffs, and venerable forests, in one confused mass. From this summit, too, we have a most interesting view of the fortress and garrison of West Point. Fort Putnam, on its most elevated part, the several redoubts beneath, and the barracks on the plain below, with numerous armed soldiers in active motion, all defended by the most formidable machinery of war, combine to form a picturesque scenery of peculiar interest, which can be heightened only when from the cannon’s mouth issue fire and smoke, and the earth trembles with its roar and thunder. While musing on the rich scenery, we observed a number of large rocks, which, seemed to have but a slender hold at their basis, we conceived that it would not be difficult to undermine and precipitate them down the steep precipice. Having a consultation to decide on the most eligible mode of effecting our purpose, we resolutely commenced the laborious enterprise; destitute of every kind of utensil, we procured each one a limb of a sapling, with which we burrowed away the earth, and soon perceived the happy effects of our industry; the rock began to totter. Among other curiosities, we viewed the path made by the descent of Putnam’s rock. Colonel Rufus Putnam ascended this mountain with forty men, who were, for amusement, employed about two days in precipitating from its summit a rock of many tons weight into the river. Such was the force of this ponderous body, that in its passage it cut down trees of a large size, and nothing could impede its course till it fell with a tremendous crash into the river. The rock was of such size, that a part of it remained above water, and Colonel Putnam, standing on its top, holding in his hand a bottle of spirits, gave to it the name of Putnam’s Rock.


      July 2nd

      By Dr. Brown, surgeon-general, just arrived from Philadelphia, we are favored with the intelligence that commissioners have arrived from the British government with new proposals for the purpose of a reconciliation between the two countries. It appears that in consequence of the capture of General Burgoyne and his army the Parliament had manifested great mortification and alarm, and have been induced to pass some acts, with a view of reconciliation, more consistent with the just claims of America than those formerly declared. The royal commissioners have presented to our Congress their proposals for a mutual adjustment of existing difficulties, couched in such plausible, and apparently conciliatory language, as to excite serious apprehensions that it may occasion considerable disaffection among the people, if not division in our public councils. Fears are entertained by many, in and out of Congress, that the expedient now adopted by Parliament may be productive of the consequences which the authors probably intended, that of relaxation and delay in our military preparations. There is, however, a very important and radical defect in the terms proposed by the commissioners: they are not authorized to treat with Congress on the principles of independency, but still adhere to the idea of a reunion of the states, as colonies, under the government of Great Britain. Firm in their determination never to relinquish this fundamental principle, the Congress unanimously rejected the proffered conditions, and it is morally certain that no terms short of an explicit acknowledgment of our Independence, will ever be accepted. A very animated address has been published by Congress to their constituents, respecting the terms proposed by the commissioners, in which they observe, that “the haughty prince who spurned us from his feet with contumely and disdain, and the Parliament who proscribed us, now descend to offer terms of accommodation. While in the full career of victory, they pulled off the mask, and avowed despotism. But having lavished in vain the blood and treasure of their subjects, in pursuit of this execrable purpose, they now endeavor to ensnare us with the insidious offers of peace. They would seduce us into a dependence which necessarily and inevitably leads to the most humiliating slavery. And do they believe you will accept these fatal terms because You have suffered the distresses of war? Do they suppose that you will basely lick the dust before the feet of your destroyers? Can there be a man so lost to the feelings that adorn human nature, to the generous pride, the elevation, the dignity of freedom? Is there a man who would not abhor a dependence on those who have deluged his country in the blood of its inhabitants? We cannot suppose this, neither can we suppose that they themselves expect to make many converts. What then is their intention? Is it not to lull you with the fallacious hopes of peace, till they Can assemble new armies to prosecute their nefarious designs? If this is not the case, why do they meanly court each little tyrant of Europe to sell them his unhappy slaves? Why do they continue to embitter the minds of the savages against you? Surely, this is not the way to conciliate the affections of America. Be not deceived.” The address then proceeds to encourage the people with the fairest prospect of success in the full establishment of their liberty and independence. The most powerful incentives to perseverance and exertion are held forth as the means of vanquishing the foes of our country. “Above all, bring forward your armies into the field. Trust not to appearances of peace or safety. Be assured that, unless you persevere, you will be exposed to every species of barbarity; but if you exert the means of defence which God and nature have given you, the time will soon arrive when every man shall sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

      July 3rd

      A great degree of dissatisfaction has prevailed for some time among the officers of our army. At the commencement of the war, a considerable proportion of our officers, it is presumed, engaged in the service from the purest motives of patriotism; some doubtless were actuated by pecuniary views, or influenced by the novelty of the employment, and with the expectation that the contest would be of short continuance. These incentives appear in a great measure to have vanished. The active spirit of patriotism is not to be considered as inexhaustible; when it has made the most liberal personal sacrifice, it is disposed to languish, and to resign its duties to others who hold an equal stake in the public weal. The military commission, which in other armies is eagerly sought for, and prized, as entitling the bearer to the post of honor and profit, is in ours held in little estimation, and in some instances it is scarcely considered as reputable. The paper money in which our army is paid, has greatly depreciated, and an officer can with difficulty realize an adequate support while in camp, and those who have families dependent on them, are reduced to the greatest embarrassments. Many officers, when commissioned, relinquished lucrative professions or employments, and are devoting the most precious portion of life to the service of their country. When we contemplate the destitute condition which may be his lot at the close of the war, or the wretched circumstances in which he may be called to leave his family in case he should not survive this period, no one can be surprised that he is dissatisfied in his present situation, and that he claims from the public a more ample remuneration. These considerations will account for the numerous resignations which have taken place, and which has occasioned the commander-in-chief much anxiety and concern. Apprehending that he should be deprived of the services of many meritorious officers, his Excellency General Washington made a feeling representation to Congress relative to the subject. A committee of that honorable body has been appointed to confer with the general, and in concert with him to make and recommend such new arrangements as should appear eligible. His excellency strongly recommended a half-pay establishment, which he conceived was indispensably necessary, to induce the officers to continue in the service, and cheerfully discharge their respective duties; as many have already resigned, and application for it is frequently made by others. Besides adopting some method to make the provision to officers equal to their present exigencies, a due regard should be paid to futurity. “Nothing, in my opinion,” says his excellency, “would serve more powerfully to reanimate their languishing zeal, and interest them thoroughly in the service, than a half-pay establishment.” This conference and representation produced the desired effect. Congress, being convinced of the propriety and necessity of making further provision for the encouragement of their army, resolved, unanimously, that all military officers, commissioned by Congress, who now are, or hereafter may be, in the service of the United States, and shall continue therein during the war, shall, after the conclusion of it, be entitled to receive annually for the term of seven years, if they live so long, one-half of the present pay of such officers. They further resolved, unanImously, that every non-commissioned military officer or soldier who has enlisted or shall enlist in the service of these states during the war, and shall continue therein to the end thereof, shall be entitled to receive a further reward of eighty dollars at the expiration of the war.

      July 4th

      Intelligence has reached us that the royal army, under the command of General Sir Henry Clinton, has evacuated Philadelphia, and while marching through Jersey to New York, General Washington attacked them near Monmouth court-house, on the 28th of June, and a warm engagement ensued. This contest was conducted with military ardor and spirit on the side of both armies; but was not on so broad a scale as to prove very decisive in its consequences. Each side, it is said, claims the victory; but allowing the honor to be equally divided, the enemy is incomparably the greatest sufferer. If reports are accurate, the loss of the royalists consists of forty officers, and two hundred and forty-five rank and file killed, and left in the field buried by our people; one thousand two hundred and fifty-five wounded; one hundred and seventeen prisoners; and one thousand five hundred and seventy-two deserted during the march; total of their loss, after they left Philadelphia, according to accounts circulated, three thousand one hundred and eighty-nine. Of the continentals, according to returns, sixty-nine were killed, one hundred and forty-two wounded, and about one hundred missing. The intense heat of the weather, great fatigue, and drinking cold water, proved fatal to about sixty or eighty men of each party. General Washington commanded in person on this memorable day. He was exposed to every danger while encouraging and animating his troops, and his presence and example were of the utmost importance during the day. After the action, at night, he laid down in his cloak under a tree, with the expectation of recommencing the battle in the morning, but the royal army silently retreated during the night without being pursued.

      One unfortunate circumstance occurred on this occasion, which created considerable embarrassment, and deranged the plan of operations. Major-General Lee was ordered, by the commander-in-chief, to advance and attack the enemy’s rear, so soon as a proper opportunity should offer. Having approached very near, instead of engaging, he suffered his troops to retreat in some confusion. On learning this, his excellency was exceedingly mortified and astonished. Coming up to General Lee, and meeting part of his corps in their flight, he with some warmth inquired the cause of his retreat, and addressed General Lee in language which implied censure. The high-spirited Lee could not brook the slightest appearance of disapprobation, and replied with an air of disrespect. He, however, requested of his excellency fresh orders for the conduct of his corps, and these he promptly obeyed, and discovered no want of bravery in the field. But, unable to quell the rankling of a turbulent temper, he addressed, after the battle, two letters to the commander-in-chief, containing improper and disrespectful expressions. As if in defiance of superior authority, he demanded a trial by a court martial, that be might have an opportunity of vindicating his conduct, in consequence of which his excellency has put him under arrest to await his trial.

      July 5th

      Congress have passed a vote of thanks to General Washington and his army for their brave conduct at the battle of Monmouth.

      July 8th

      I accompanied Dr. Woodruff to Fishkill village, about fourteen miles. Dined at the hospital with our old friends Drs. Adams and Eustis. They are pleasantly situated in a secure retreat for the accommodation of our sick and wounded soldiers.

      It is expected the French government will lend us their assistance and cooperation against our English adversaries. It is asserted that a powerful French fleet will soon arrive on our coast.

      July 16th

      His excellency the commander-in-chief visited West Point, to take a view of the works which are constructing there. His arrival was announced by the discharge of thirteen cannon, the number of the United States.

      July 20th

      Having a number of sheep running at large in the woods belonging to our hospital, and being in want of mutton, I was induced to assist the slaughterers with my gun against these harmless animals. In pursuit of this game, I devoted most of the day, and a single sheep only was the reward of my labor and fatigue. On my return, I was accused of want of skill as a marksman, and Dr. Prescott challenged me to decide our superiority by firing at a mark; the challenge accepted, we placed an object at the end of our garden. After the third fire, we were checked by an unpleasant incident. Several horses were grazing in afield directly in our range, and one of them, a valuable animal, received a ball through his body. The wound on examination was found to be fatal, the skill of the surgeon could avail nothing, and, to add to our chagrin, we were informed that the animal was the property of Brigadier-General Glover, and was by him highly prized. We soon received a billet from the general, and on waiting on him at West Point, to adjust the terms of settlement, he demanded the cost of the horse, which was one hundred and fifty dollars. Justice and honor required that we should promptly comply with his demand. A soldier who had the charge of the horses informed us that one of the balls struck the ground within, a yard of his feet; had the poor fellow been the victim, the catastrophe would have been much more melancholy; but the event is sufficiently unfortunate to deter us from again sporting with our guns at random shot.

      July 27th

      Colonel Malcome, from West Point, with his much-admired lady, and several other officers, favored us with their company to dine; we treated our polite guests with all the civilities and all the comforts in our power, and the cheering glass was not removed till evening, when we accompanied them to the river side, and finished two bottles of port on board their barge.

      July 28th

      Agreeably to the invitation, the gentlemen of our hospital returned the visit to Colonel Malcome, at West Point, and were entertained in the most genteel manner.

      The public mind is now in a state of excitement, occasioned by the improper proceedings of the royal commissioners for restoring peace. They have made a second communication to Congress, but still without any intimation of a recognition of the Independence of the United States; but addresses them on the supposition that the people of America are still the subjects of the crown of Britain. This last communication is drafted with much art and address, calculated to excite jealousies and division among the people. Not content with their public declarations, and proposals addressed to Congress, they have actually descended to the dishonorable act of insidious offers to corrupt some distinguished individuals. Governor Johnstone, one of the commissioners, with inexcusable effrontery, offered a bribe to Mr. Reed, a member of Congress. In an interview with Mrs. Ferguson at Philadelphia, whose husband is a royalist, he desired she would mention to Mr. Reed that if he would engage his interest to promote the object of their commission, he might have any office in the colonies, in the gift of his Britannic majesty, and ten thousand pounds in hand. Having solicited an interview with Mr. Reed, Mrs. Ferguson made her communication. Spurning the idea of being purchased, he replied, “that he was not worth purchasing, but such as he was, the king of Great Britain was not rich enough to do it.” Congess declined all further intercourse with the commissioners, and terminated their attempts at negotiation, unless their royal master would first withdraw his fleets and armies, or expressly acknowledge the independence of the United States. in order to demonstrate their most pointed indignation against such daring attempts to corrupt their integrity, they resolved that it was incompatible with their honor to bold any further intercourse with George Johnstone, Esquire, more especially to negotiate with him on affairs in which the cause of liberty and virtue are interested.

      We are just informed of a new order of fanatics, who have recently introduced themselves into our country, pretending to be a religious sect; but, if reports be true, they are a disgrace both to religion and to human nature. They are called Shaking Quakers, or dancing quakers, though they have no affinity either in principle or character to the established order of Quakers. Their leader is a female by the name of Ann Lee, niece of General Lee, of our army. She is lately from England, and has brought over with her a few followers, and has had the address to seduce several individuals of our country to her party. She is known by the appellation of Mother Ann, and pretends to have received a revelation from heaven. The method which they practice under the idea of religious worship, is so obviously impious, as to exceed the bounds of credibility; but we have the particulars from eye-witness, who have been admitted to their midnight orgies. They spend whole nights in their revels, and exhibit the most unbecoming scenes, violating all rules of propriety and decency. Both sexes, nearly divested of clothing, fall to dancing in extravagant postures, and frequently whirl themselves round on one leg with inconceivable rapidity, till they fall apparently lifeless on the floor. A spectator asserts that the fantastic contortions of body in which their pretended religious exercises consist, bear the semblance of supernatural impulse, and that no imagination can form an adequate idea of the extravagant conduct of these infatuated people – a burlesque on all moral and religious principle.*

      *The sect now denominated Shaking Quakers, are an orderly and civil people; they have rendered themselves remarkable for industry and ingenuity, and for their particular attention to agriculture and the mechanic arts.


      August 3rd

      I am now to notice one of the most dreadful instances of perfidious savage cruelty that can perhaps be found on the records of history. However incredible the particulars may appear, they are found in various publications, and received as indubitable facts. Nor would I tarnish a page with the diabolical transaction, till the detailed account has been incontrovertibly established. At a place on the eastern branch of the Susquehannah river, was a flourishing settlement called Wyoming. It consisted of eight townships, containing one thousand families; and such was the zeal with which they espoused the cause of America, that they voluntarily raised about one thousand soldiers for the Continental Army. The climate and soil of this territory are admirably adapted to the production of grain, hemp, fruit and stock of all kinds. The inhabitants of this secluded spot might have lived in the enjoyment of all the happiness which results from harmony and the purest natural affection. But unfortunately they suffered themselves to be divided by the turbulent spirit of party, distinguished by the epithet of whig and tory. When this rancorous spirit was permitted to disclose itself, animosities arose to such an astonishing height, as to sever the tenderest ties of family friendship and the dearest connexions. Many of the active inhabitants, influenced by malice and revenge, abandoned their plantations, forsook their neighbors and friends, and allied themselves with the savages, whom they instigated and assisted in the barbarous work of slaughter and death among their friends. The inhabitants, on receiving intelligence that an enterprise was preparing against them, and sensible of their perilous situation, threw up intrenchments and redoubts, to defend themselves against the gathering storm. About the 1st of July last, the ferocious enemy, consisting of one thousand six hundred tories, Indians and half-blooded Englishmen, approached the settlement, and were perceived lurking about their borders. This motley combination was commanded by a Colonel John Butler, a tory refugee, and others no less inhuman and cruel than their savage allies. In order to lull the inhabitants into security, the enemy several times sent messages to the settlers that they had no hostile designs against them, and the treacherous Butler himself declared that he should not molest them the present season. The inhabitants, however, had reason to distrust their professions, and those capable of bearing arms were immediately embodied under the command of Colonel Zeb. Butler, cousin to the commander of the savages. The women and children were directed to take refuge in the forts. The enemy approached; and, pretending they were desirous of a parley, proposed that Colonel Zeb. Butler should meet them at some distance from the fort for that purpose. He complied, but for safety took with him four hundred armed men. This proved to be a fatal stratagem; he soon found himself surrounded and attacked on every side; he and his little party defended themselves with great firmness and bravery; and the commander, with about twenty of his men, finally made their escape. The enemy now rushed on and invested the fort, which they cannonaded most of the day; and, horrid to relate, when they sent in a demand for the surrender, it was accompanied by one hundred and ninety-six bloody scalps taken from those who had just been slain. Colonel Dennison, on whom the command of the fort had devolved, defended himself till most of his men had fallen by his side, when he went out with a flag, to inquire what terms would be granted him on surrendering the garrison? He received from the ferocious Butler a reply in two words, “the hatchet.” Colonel Dennison was finally obliged to surrender at discretion, still retaining a hope of mercy. But he was woefully mistaken; the threat of Butler was rigorously executed; after selecting a few prisoners, the remainder of the people, including women and children, were inclosed in the houses and barracks, which were immediately set on fire, and the whole consumed together. Another fort was near at hand, in which were seventy continental soldiers; on surrendering without conditions, these were, to a man, butchered in a barbarous manner; when the remainder of the men, women and children were shut up in the houses, and the demons of hell glutted their vengeance in beholding their destruction in one general conflagration!! This tragical scene being finished, the merciless authors of it spread fire and sword throughout the settlement, sparing, however, the houses and farms of the tories; they extended their cruel hands to the cattle in the field, shooting some, and cutting out the tongues of others, leaving them alive. The additional particulars, from their unparalleled enormity, would not be recited here, were it not that they have been already promulgated from authentic sources. One of the prisoners, a Captain Badlock, was committed to torture, by having his body stuck full of splinters of pine knots, and a fire of dry wood made round him, when his two companions, Captains Ranson and Durkee, were thrown into the same fire, and held down with pitch-forks till consumed. One Partial Terry, the son of a man of respectable character, having joined the Indian party, several times sent his father word that he hoped to wash his hands in his heart’s blood; the monster with his own hands murdered his father, mother, brothers and sisters, stripped off their scalps, and cut off his father’s head!! Thomas Terry with his own hands butchered his own mother, his father-in-law, his sisters and their infant children, and exterminated the whole family! A few individuals, mostly women and children, made their escape during the carnage of the day, and dispersed themselves, wandering in the woods destitute of provision or covering, shuddering with terror and distress; their sufferings must be extreme, and their fate uncertain. It is only in the infernal regions that we can look for a parallel instance of unnatural wickedness. The cries of widows and orphans call for the avenging hand of Heaven. The name of Colonel John Butler ought to be consigned to eternal infamy, for the base treachery and cruelty with which he betrayed his kinsman, Colonel Zeb. Butler, a respectable American officer, while under the sanction of a flag.

      August 4th

      In company with Mr. Governeur Morris and Dr. Brown, our surgeon-general, I rode to camp near White Plains; waited on Colonel Scammel, adjutant-general, to inquire whether any regiment is destitute of a surgeon, as I am desirous of exchanging my present station for the office of regimental surgeon. This object I might have effected, but Dr. Brown prevailed on me not to dissolve my connection with the General Hospital at present. From camp I performed a journey to Branford, and from thence to Danbury, in Connecticut. Dined with Drs. Eustis and Adams, at their quarters at Branford, and reached Danbury in the evening. On my return, the 5th, dined at a tavern at Crompond, and in the afternoon I missed my road, and my horse tired. I was directed into an obscure path through a thick forest, and arrived at the hospital late in the evening. Riding through a thick wood, my attention was arrested by a novel spectacle: On a branch of a large oak, about thirty feet high, I observed a monstrous black-snake, suspended by a coil of its tail, his head and about half his length inclining downwards, basking in the sun. It appeared about two yards in length, and the size of a man’s arm. Its skin was of a jet black, and its prominent sparkling black eyes were very beautiful. He viewed me as I passed with the fierceness of a tiger; but discovering none of those fascinating charms by which our credulous mother Eve was so woefully beguiled, and disdaining the whole progeny of deceivers, I passed on without viewing him as an object of my civilities

      August 7th

      An unusual number of patients have been brought into our hospital within a few days. Their diseases are putrid fever and dysentery; many of the cases appear so malignant, that it is feared they will baffle all the skill of the physician.

      August 10th

      A friend from Albany informs me that three men and two girls have lately been sentenced to suffer death for murder and robbery. The two girls are sisters and one of the men is their brother. Another brother was executed last autumn, and their mother is now in prison, awaiting her trial for the same crime. The women had disguised themselves in men’s apparel, and united with the tories and Indians in perpetrating the most inhuman cruelties and savage barbarities among the defenceless and innocent inhabitants. It is time this notorious family should be exterminated from the earth, as an awful example to those wretches who are still in the practice of similar crimes. One of the British ships in the harbor of New York took fire by lightning, and blew up; the explosion shook the whole city like an earthquake, and excited great consternation among the inhabitants.


      September 4th

      A large French fleet has arrived on our coast, under the command of Count D’Estaign, and has blocked up the harbor of Newport. An army, chiefly of militia and volunteers, from the New England states, with two brigades of continental troops, under command of Major-General Sullivan, laid siege to the royal army on the island. From this land force, with the cooperation of the French fleet, very sanguine expectations were formed that the enterprise would have been crowned with success. But the English fleet appeared, and Count D’Estaign was induced to pursue them and to offer battle, when unfortunately a violent storm arose, by which his fleet suffered so considerably that the count was obliged to quit the expedition, and proceed to Boston to repair his ships. General Sullivan’s army continued several days on the island, besieging the enemy, and finally a smart engagement ensued, in which both our regular troops and the militia, emulous of fame and glory, combatted the enemy during the day. The result of the contest was a repulse of the royal forces; they retired from the field with considerable loss, and employed themselves in fortifying their camp. In the absence of the French fleet, Sir Henry Clinton sent from New York large reinforcements, in consequence of which it was unanimously agreed in a council of war to retire from the island. The retreat was conducted by General Sullivan with great judgment and discretion, without loss of men or baggage, though in the face of an enemy of superior force. This exploit reflects great honor both on the general and the brave troops under his command. In the honors of this expedition and retreat, Major General Greene, and the Marquis de la Fayette participated conspicuously, but were greatly disappointed in the final result.

      September 5th

      Major-General Lee has gone through his trial before a court martial appointed for the purpose. The charges exhibited against him were -1st, Disobedience of orders, in not attacking the enemy on the 28th of June, agreeably to repeated instructions. 2, For misbehavior before the enemy on the same day, in making an unnecessary, disorderly and shameful retreat. 3d, For disrespect to the commander-in-chief in two letters, dated June 28th and July 1st. To these several charges the general made a very able and excellent defence, particularizing all the circumstances attending the unhappy affair, and to the utmost of his ability extenuating and vindicating his conduct. The court, nevertheless, pronounced him guilty, and their sentence was, “that Major-General Lee be suspended from his command in the armies of the United States for the space of one year.” This sentence is like a mortal wound to the lofty, aspiring spirit of General Lee; few men are less calculated to sustain such a rebuff to pride and ambitious views.

      September 6th

      A duel was fought a few days since between General G. and Colonel W. Two shots were exchanged without bloodshed, and a reconciliation was effected. The gentlemen, it is said, displayed a firmness and bravery becoming their rank and character, and have established their claim to the title of gentlemen of honor. As their courage has never been called in question, the present rencontre was unneccessary, unless it be to evince that they possess malice enough in their hearts to commit a murderous deed. The example of superior officers will have great influence with those of inferior rank, whether contending with the dogs of war, or in adjusting the minor points of honor.

      September 8th

      Major-General Putnam has arrived in this vicinity, with the division of Virginia and Maryland troops under his command, and they have encamped on the borders of the river. Brigadiers Woodford and Muhlenburg have taken up quarters in apartments in our hospital. This is my first interview with this celebrated hero. In his person he is corpulent and clumsy, but carries a bold, undaunted front. He exhibits little of the refinements of the well-educated gentleman, but much of the character of the veteran soldier. He appears to be advanced to the age of about sixty years, and it is famed of him that he has, in many instances, proved himself as brave as Caesar. He visited our hospital, and inquired with much solicitude into the condition of our patients; observing a considerable number of men who were infected with the ground itch, generated by lying on the ground, he inquired why they were not cured. I answered, “Because we have no hog’s-lard to make ointment.” “Did you never,” says the general, “cure the itch with tar and brimstone?” “No, sir.” “Then,” replied he, good-humoredly, “you are not fit for a doctor.”

      Dr. Ferguson, secretary to the British commissioners, forwarded to Congress a declaration signed George Johnstone, respecting the resolve of Congress relative to his attempt on the fidelity of one of their members, which resolve he thinks to be calculated by Congress to delude the people of America, and to defeat the design of the commissioners in effecting an accommodation, which he says he would not prevent, and therefore declines acting any more as a commissioner. Another declaration, signed by the three commissioners, (Carlisle, Clinton, and Eden,) in which they disclaim all knowledge of the conduct of Governor Johnstone, in tampering with a member of Congress, till they read it in the newspapers. This paper contains ungenerous reflections on France, and intimates their astonishment that the Americans should prefer an alliance with France to a submission to the government of England. This, their last manifesto, has been published, and by permission of Congress circulated through the United States. It was addressed to the members of Congress, the members of the general assemblies or conventions of the several colonies, plantations, and provinces, and was to be in force forty days from the date. It offers a general or separate peace to the colonies, with the revival of their ancient government, secured against future infringements, and protected for ever from taxation by Great Britain, if they will relinquish their independence, break their faith with France, Congress having formed a treaty of alliance with that nation, and submit to the British yoke. These, if not the positive, are the implied terms on which they offer peace. But if their terms are not complied with, then we are to expect more severe expressions of British vengeance than we have hitherto experienced. Hostilities are, they say, to be conducted in a more rigorous and terrific form, that the United States may be rendered of less importance to the French king, their inveterate enemy, and our new ally. We are, therefore, if we persevere in our obstinacy, threatened with the cruel extremes of war, and a desolation of our country. This last manifesto contains a recital of what the commissioners term the blessings they are empowered to confer, and a warning of the continued train of evils to which the colonies are at present blindly and obstinately exposing themselves, &c., &c. The commissioners explicitly declared that they had neither authority nor inclination to acknowledge the colonies to be independent – and Congress having informed them “that they would treat with Great Britain on no other terms,” it put an end to the negotiation, and the commissioners, it is understood, are preparing to depart from the continent. The British government manifests extreme chagrin and disappointment on account of the prosperous career of the United States, and are very indignant that their conceited omnipotent authority should be so presumptuously called in question by those whom they still affect to consider in the light of dependent colonies.

      In their reply to the declarations of the commissioners, our Congress mentioned the causes which induced the people of America to array themselves in arms, that it was the oppressive and tyrannical measures of the British ministry; and after briefly reciting the cruelties that had hitherto been exercised by their troops and navy, acting against us, they add, “that since their incorrigible dispositions cannot be touched by kindness and compassion, it becomes the duty of Congress, by other means, to vindicate the rights of humanity,” and they conclude by saying, “that if our enemies presume to execute their threats, and persist in their present mode of barbarity, we will take such exemplary vengeance as shall deter others from a like conduct.” They appeal to that God who searches the hearts of all men for the rectitude of their intentions, and in his holy presence declare, “that as they are not moved by any light or hasty suggestions of anger or revenge, so through every possible change of fortune they shall adhere to this their determination.”


      The regiment of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Baylor, being posted on our lines near Tappan, their situation was betrayed by some tories, and a party of the enemy surprised them while in a barn, in the night, and massacred a part of them with circumstances of savage cruelty. The commander of the party who disgraced themselves by this foul deed, was the English General Grey. Colonel Baylor’s detachment consisted of one hundred and four horsemen; the attack was so sudden, that they were entirely defenceless, and the enemy immediately commenced the horrid work of slaughter; their entreaties and cries for mercy were totally disregarded by their savage foes. It has been well ascertained that the British soldiers were ordered by their inhuman officers to bayonet every man they could find, and to give no quarter. Major-General Lord Stirling, having by request ascertained the particulars respecting this execrable transaction, makes the following statement: “On its being intimated to me,” says his lordship, “that Congress were desirous to know the particulars of the massacre of Colonel Baylor’s regiment, I desired Dr. Griffith, surgeon and chaplain to General Woodford’s brigade, and who attended Colonel Baylor and the other wounded persons, to collect all the evidence he could of this barbarous affair. I have just now received collections on this subject.” The collection contains the affidavits and depositions of a number of soldiers belonging to that unfortunate regiment, who solemnly declare that after they had surrendered and asked for quarter, it was refused. Thomas Hutchinson, sergeant of the third troop, escaped unhurt; but heard the British soldiers cry out, “Sliver him!” repeatedly. Cullency, of the first troop, who received twelve wounds, says, “that when the enemy entered the barn where his troops lay, he and the men asked for quarter, and were refused; that the British captain, Bull, after inquiring how many of the rebels were dead, on being told the number, ordered all the rest to be knocked on the head, and that his orders were executed on five or six of the wounded.” Benson, of the second troop, received also twelve wounds; he declared he heard the men in the barn with him ask for quarter, which was returned with wounds and abusive language; he thought it in vain to ask for quarter himself, as he heard the soldiers reply to others that begged it, “that their captain had ordered them to stab all, and make no prisoners.” Thomas Talley, of the sixth troop, received six wounds; he declared) “that after the enemy had taken him and partly stripped him, the soldiers inquiring of their captain what should be done with him, he ordered him to be killed, and after that he received six wounds in his breast with their bayonets at different times.” Southward, of the fifth troop, says, that five men out of thirteen of their regiment, in the barn with him, were killed outright, and the rest, excepting himself, bayoneted; that he heard the British officer order his men to put all to death, and afterwards ask if they had finished all; that they offered quarters to some, who on surrendering themselves, they bayoneted.” The depositions of seven others, attested by Governor Livingston of New Jersey, confirm the above declarations. Mr. Morris, lieutenant and adjutant in Baylor’s regiment, received seven wounds; he declared that, on begging his life after he had surrendered, they replied, ” Yes, d-n you, we will give you quarters!” and then rushed on and stabbed him with their bayonets, and stripped him of all his clothes. It is a melancholy and awful consideration, that any unnecessary severity should be put in practice to aggravate the common horrors of war. Britain, who boasts of her bravery, her progress in the polite arts, and generosity of temper, has, in her manner of conducting the war in America, most infamously outraged all the laws of humanity, and set an example of savage brutality, detestable to every civilized people, and to every friend of human kind. They are destroying the character of their nation in the eyes of all the world. Witness their fatal prison ships, their murders in cold blood, their wanton burning and devastations, their licentious abuses, which exhibit a picture of barbarity scarcely to be credited among civilized nations. What then must be our situation, should our country ever be reduced to an absolute subjection to such a mean-spirited people? These considerations should awaken every motive that can animate a manly bosom, to despise every danger in repelling from our shores such barbarous invaders, and in humbling such unprincipled foes to our freedom.

      His excellency the commander-in-chief made a visit to our hospital; his arrival was scarcely announced, before he presented himself at our doors. Dr. Williams and myself had the honor to wait on this great and truly good man through the different wards, and to reply to his inquiries relative to the condition of our patients. He appeared to take a deep interest in the situation of the sick and wounded soldiers, and inquired particularly as to their treatment and comfortable accommodations. Not being apprised of his intended visit in time to make preparation for his reception, we were not entirely free from embarrassment, but we had the inexpressible satisfaction of receiving his excellency’s approbation of our conduct, as respects the duties of our department. The personal appearance of our commander-in-chief is that of the perfect gentleman and accomplished warrior. He is remarkably tall, full six feet, erect and well proportioned. The strength and proportion of his joints and muscles appear to be commensurate with the preeminent powers of his mind. The serenity of his countenance, and majestic gracefulness of his deportment, impart a strong impression of that dignity and grandeur which are his peculiar characteristics, and no one can stand in his presence without feeling the ascendancy of his mind, and associating with his countenance the idea of wisdom, philanthropy, magnanimity, and patriotism. There is a fine symmetry in the features of his face, indicative of a benign and dignified spirit.

      His nose is straight, and his eyes inclined to blue. He wears his hair in a becoming cue, and from his forehead it is turned back and powdered in a manner which adds to the military air of his appearance. He displays a native gravity, but devoid of all appearance of ostentation. His uniform dress is a blue coat, with two brilliant epaulettes, buff-colored under-clothes, and a three-cornered hat, with a black cockade. He is constantly equipped with an elegant small-sword, boots and spurs, in readiness to mount his noble charger. There is not in the present age, perhaps, another man so eminently qualified to discharge the arduous duties of the exalted station he is called to sustain, amidst difficulties which to others would appear insurmountable, nor could any man have more at command the veneration and regard of the officers and soldiers of our army, even after defeat and misfortune. This is the illustrious chief whom a kind Providence has decreed as the instrument to conduct our country to peace and to independence.

      Major-General Schuyler, having for more than a year been suspended from military command, in consequence of his concurrent responsibility respecting the evacuation of Ticonderoga, in July, 1777, has at length undergone his trial by a court-martial, of which Major-General Lincoln was president, and is acquitted, with the highest honor, of the charge exhibited against him. This excellent officer has finally obtained that justice which, from undue prejudice, has so long been denied him.

      Major-General Arthur St. Clair has also by the same court been acquitted with the highest honor of the charge exhibited against him, of evacuating the post at Ticonderoga. His masterly defence before the court is admired for the display of superior intellect, sound principle, pure integrity, and correctness of judgment. General St. Clair, it is presumed, will never receive an adequate compensation for the unmerited contumely which he has experienced from Congress and the public. It is the height of injustice to subject a man of established character to suffer in reputation and in sensibility, merely from surmise and suspicion; and the injury is greatly aggravated when the accused is long held up to public odium, and not permitted to adduce evidence in his own vindication. General St. Clair has frequently been heard to express a consciousness of the uprightness and propriety of his conduct, and to despise the vague censure of an uninformed populace; and when Burgoyne was advancing into the country, he said he had the most sanguine hope that the progress of the enemy would be checked, and that he should have the satisfaction to experience that, though he had lost a post he had eventually saved the state. This hope he has realized in its fullest extent, by the event that the British commander and army, to whom he surrendered a post, has since been compelled to submit as captives to our army. General St. Clair was an officer in the army of General Wolfe, and was in the battle in which that celebrated commander was slain on the Plains of Abraham. He was estimated as a young officer of merit, capable of obtaining a high grade of military reputation. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, in 1775, he was, without his solicitation, appointed to the office of colonel, and he marched with his regiment into Canada, where he rendered very important services. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of major-general, and on all occasions supported an honorable distinction, and shared largely in the confidence and friendship of the commander-in-chief.


      November 3rd

      Having made a visit to Fishkill, I returned in company with Dr. Treat, our physician-general, and found a large number of gentlemen collecting to partake of an entertainment, by invitation of Brigadier-General Muhlenburg, who occupies a room in our hospital. The guests consisted of forty-one respectable officers, and our tables were furnished with fourteen different dishes, arranged in fashionable style. After dinner, Major-General Putnam was requested to preside, and he displayed no less urbanity at the head of the table than bravery at the head of his division. A number of toasts were pronounced, accompanied with humorous and merry songs. In the evening we were cheered with military music and dancing, which continued till a late hour in the night. General Muhlenburg was a minister of a parish in Virginia, but participating in the spirit of the times, exchanged his clerical profession for that of a soldier. Having In his pulpit inculcated the principles of liberty and the cause of his country, he found no difficulty in enlisting a regiment of soldiers, and he was appointed their commander. He entered his pulpit with his sword and cockade, preached his farewell sermon, and the next day marched at the head of his regiment to join the army, and he does honor to the military profession.

      November 10th

      Having for a long time served in the hospital department, and having no claim to promotion there, I resolved to relinquish that station, and accept the appointment of surgeon to the first Virginia state regiment, commanded by Colonel George Gibson. Being introduced to the officers of the regiment, I received a polite invitation to take my quarters in the marquee with Colonel Gibson and his lieutenant-colonel, William Brent. Thomas Meriweather is his major.

      November 18th

      Rode to the village of Fishkill, breakfasted with Dr. Treat and Colonel Hayes, and waited on Dr. John Cochran, who is now in close attendance on the Marquis de la Fayette, who is dangerously sick with a fever.

      November 23rd

      We have now had a long respite from battles and skirmishes, the season for the campaign is about expiring, and no one can boast of having achieved deed’s of much fame and glory. As we are stationed at a considerable

      distance from the enemy at New York, we feel secure from the annoyance of the dogs of war; and military duty not being very urgent, our officers appear disposed to relax in their discipline, and contract a habit approaching to dissipation. They have adopted the practice of giving suppers alternately, with music and dancing through half the night. These are the favorite amusements of the Virginia and Maryland officers, but they do not accord precisely with my own views of time well spent, though I am frequently enticed to a participation in their banqueting revels.

      November 24th

      I accepted an invitation to dine with Captain Carter, at West Point. He is a gentleman of independent fortune, and lives in splendid style. His guests were numerous and highly respectable, and the entertainment rich and arranged with taste.

      November 25th

      Dined with General Muhlenburg, in company with several Virginia officers, and, as usual, closed the day with music and dancing.

      November 27th

      Visited my friends at Fishkill, and by the request of Colonel Gibson I waited on the Marquis de la Fayette. The colonel furnished me with a letter of introduction and his compliments, with inquiries respecting the marquis’s health. I was received by this nobleman in a polite and affable manner. He is just recovering from a fever, and was in his chair of convalescence. He is nearly six feet high, large, but not corpulent, being not more than twenty-one years of age. He is not very elegant in his form, his shoulders being broad and high, nor is there a perfect symmetry in his features; his forehead is remarkably high, his nose large and long, eyebrows prominent, and projecting over a fine animated hazel eye. His countenance is interesting and impressive. He converses in broken English, and displays the manners and address of an accomplished gentleman. Considering him a French nobleman of distinguished character, and a great favorite of General Washington, I felt myself highly honored by this interview.


      December 15th

      At a settlement called Cherry Valley, about sixty miles above Albany, Colonel Alden, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, was stationed with about two hundred and fifty continental troops, to protect the inhabitants from the incursions of the frontier enemy. It is now announced that a body consisting of about seven hundred Indians, tories and soldiers assaulted our party, massacred Colonel Alden, several of the inhabitants, men, women and children, and made prisoners of the lieutenant-colonel and many of the inhabitants. The account states that one hundred and eighty of the surviving inhabitants had neither house nor provisions, were almost naked, and destitute of money to provide necessaries.

      Our division, commanded by General Putnam, marched according to general orders from our encampment near Robinson’s house, 28th November; arrived at King’s ferry, twelve miles, and encamped; 29th, crossed the North river in batteaux, and pitched our camp on the Jersey shore; 30th, marched twelve miles only, in a severe storm of snow and sleet, encamped near the small town of Kakiat. December 1st and 2nd, passed through Paramus and Aquackanock, twenty-six miles. These towns are inhabited chiefly by Dutch people; their churches and dwelling-houses are built mostly of rough stone, one story high. There is a peculiar neatness in the appearance of their dwellings, having an airy piazza supported by pillars in front, and their kitchens connected at the ends in the form of wings. The land is remarkably level, and the soil fertile; and being generally advantageously cultivated, the people appear to enjoy ease and happy competency. The furniture in their houses is of the most ordinary kind, and such as might be supposed to accord with the fashion of the days of Queen Anne. They despise the superfluities of life, and are ambitious to appear always neat and cleanly, and never to complain of an empty purse.

      Pursued our route on the 3d, passed through Westfield and part of Newark, a handsome village situated on a river of that name, which is navigable to New York, distance eight miles. In this village there is a public academy and several handsome churches. This is the garden of New Jersey, it is a most delightful country, uniformly level, and every acre abundantly productive. 4th, marched through Springfield, a small but handsome English town. Encamped near the village of Scotch Plains, Here we received orders by express from head-quarters to, halt, in consequence of some movement of the enemy in New York. 9th, ordered to resume our march; passed through Quibbletown and the village of Middle-brook. In this vicinity we are erecting log huts for our winter-quarters.

      I called at a house with Colonel Gibson and other officers to view a phenomenon in the human form – a child that has grown to an enormous size at the age of seven years; he measures three feet six inches round his breast and three feet nine inches round his belly, his limbs and joints are proportionably large, and he weighs one hundred and thirty pounds. I was informed by the boy’s mother that she discovered in him an extraordinary growth when two years old, since which he has increased very rapidly. He enjoys good health, and is not deficient in capacity.

      December 30th

      Our officers have not permitted the Christmas days to pass unnoticed, not a day without receiving invitations to dine, nor a night without amusement and dancing. I dine today with General Muhlenburg. Our soldiers are constantly employed in cutting down trees and building log huts for our winter’s accommodation, and we are obliged to live in our uncomfortable tents till they can be completed. This is appropriated as a day of Thanksgiving throughout the state. Our brigade was paraded in the field to attend divine service. Dr. Belmain, our chaplain, delivered a judicious sermon, well adapted to the occasion, adverting to the great cause in which we are engaged, and enjoining a grateful reverence to the Almighty Ruler of the universe, and a faithful discharge of the duties incumbent on us in our several stations.

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