1779 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 1779.

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



      January 1st

      Colonel Gibson made an entertainment, and invited all the officers of his regiment to dine at his quarters in the country a short distance from camp. The table was amply furnished, and the guests did not separate till evening, when we were requested to resort to General Muhlenburg’s quarters. Here we were introduced to a number of ladies assembled to unite with the gentlemen in the ball-room; a very elegant supper was provided, and not one of the company was permitted to retire till three o’clock in the morning. Thus have the gallant Virginians commenced the new year.


      Having continued to live under cover of canvas-tents most of the winter, we have suffered extremely from exposure to cold and storms. Our soldiers have been employed six or eight weeks in constructing log huts, which at length are completed, and both officers and soldiers are now under comfortable covering for the remainder of the winter. Log houses are constructed with the trunks of trees cut into various lengths, according to the size intended, and are firmly connected by notches cut at their extremities in the manner of dovetailing. The vacancies between the logs are filled in with plastering consisting of mud and clay. The roof is formed of similar pieces of timber, and covered with hewn slabs. The chimney, situated at one end of the house, is made of similar but smaller timber, and both the inner and the outer side are covered with clay plaster, to defend the wood against the fire. The door and windows are formed by sawing away a part of the logs of a proper size, and move on wooden hinges. In this manner have our soldiers, without nails, and almost without tools, except the axe and saw, provided for their officers and for themselves comfortable and convenient quarters, with little or no expense to the public. The huts are arranged in strait lines, forming a regular, uniform, compact village. The officers’ huts are situated in front of the line, according to their rank, the kitchens in the rear, and the whole is similar in form to a tent encampment. The ground for a considerable distance in front of the soldiers’ line of huts is cleared of wood, stumps and rubbish, and is every morning swept clean for the purpose of a parade-ground and roll-call for the respective regiments. The officers’ huts are in general divided into two apartments, and are occupied by three or four officers, who compose one mess. Those for the soldiers have but one room, and contain ten or twelve men, with their cabins placed one above another against the walls, and filled with straw, and one blanket for each man. I now occupy a hut with our field officers, Colonel Gibson, Lieutenant-Colonel Brent, and Major Meriweather.

      February 4th

      A duel has lately been fought between a surgeon and an adjutant in General Scott’s brigade; the former received a bad wound, and the latter escaped with honor. “Who will hesitate,” says one, “to exchange a few shots with a friend to obtain the appellation of a gentleman of honor? If I kill my antagonist I have the satisfaction of settling a point of honor! If I receive a ball through my own heart, I die in the glorious cause of honor! ‘You have offended me in a delicate point,’ says an officer to his friend, ‘and I now demand of you the satisfaction of a gentleman: I have settled my affairs, and prepared myself to die, if that shall be my fate.’ – ‘Then,’ replied the other, ‘we cannot fight on equal terms, for I have not had time to do either.'”

      The anniversary of our alliance with France was celebrated in proper style a few days since near head-quarters, at Pluckemin. A splendid entertainment was given by General Knox and the officers of artillery. General Washington and his lady, with the principal officers of the army and their ladies, and a considerable number of respectable ladies and gentlemen of the state of New Jersey, formed the brilliant assembly. About four o’clock sixteen cannon were discharged, and the company collected in a large public building to partake of an elegant dinner. In the evening a very beautiful set of fire-works was exhibited, and the celebration was concluded by a splendid ball, opened by his Excellency General Washington, having for his partner the lady of General Knox.

      February 26th

      A party of the enemy made an attempt yesterday to surprise our troops stationed at Elizabethtown, under the command of General Maxwell, but the vigilance of the general prevented their success. They sent a party to capture Governor Livingston, of New Jersey, but in this attempt they were also frustrated. After burning and plundering a few houses, they returned to Staten Island, but were pursued by General Maxwell’s brigade, which occasioned the loss of a few men on each side.

      His excellency the commander-in-chief has long been in the practice of inviting a certain number of officers to dine at his table every day. It is not to be supposed that his excellency can be made acquainted with every officer by name, but the invitations are given through the medium of general orders, in which is mentioned the brigade from which the officer is expected. Yesterday I accompanied Major Cavil to head-quarters, and had the honor of being numbered among the guests at the table of his excellency, with his lady, two young ladies from Virginia; the gentlemen who compose his family, and several other officers.

      It is natural to view with keen attention the countenance of an illustrious man, with a secret hope of discovering in his features some peculiar traces of excellence, which distinguishes him from and elevates him above his fellow mortals. These expectations are realized in a peculiar manner in viewing the person of General Washington. His tall and noble stature and just proportions – his fine, cheerful, open countenance – simple and modest deportment – are all calculated to interest every beholder in his favor, and to command veneration and respect. He is feared even when silent, and beloved even while we are unconscious of the motive. The table was elegantly furnished, and the provisions ample, but not abounding in superfluities. The civilities of the table were performed by Colonel Hamilton and the other gentlemen of the family, the general and lady being seated at the side of the table. In conversation, his excellency’s expressive countenance is peculiarly interesting and pleasing; a placid smile is frequently observed on his lips, but a loud laugh, it is said, seldom, if ever, escapes him. He is polite and attentive to each individual at table, and retires after the compliments of a few glasses. Mrs. Washington combines in an uncommon degree great dignity of manner with the most pleasing affability, but possesses no striking marks of beauty. I learn from the Virginia officers that Mrs. Washington has ever been honored as a lady of distinguished goodness, possessing all the virtues which adorn her sex, amiable in her temper and deportment, full of benignity, benevolence and charity, seeking for objects of affliction and poverty, that she may extend to the sufferers the hand of kindness and relief. These surely are the attributes which reveal a heart replete with those virtues which are so appropriate and estimable in the female character.


      April 13th

      We have passed a winter remarkably mild and moderate; since the 10th of January, we have scarcely had a fall of snow, or a frost, and no severe weather. At the beginning of this month the weather was so mild that vegetation began to appear; the fruit-trees were budded on the 1st, and in full blossom on the 10th. In Virginia the peach-trees were in blossom on the 14th of February, but a small frost since has, it is feared, proved fatal to the fruit.

      April 14th

      I accompanied several gentlemen to the village of Middle-brook, where a number of horses were offered for sale; I purchased a handsome young bay for six hundred dollars. This shows the depreciated value of the paper money, which we receive for pay; the horse could not be valued at more than eighty dollars in silver.

      April 16th

      The officers of our regiment provided a genteel entertainment, and invited Generals Woodford, Smallwood, and Muhlenburg, with all the officers of the Virginia line, as our guests. Our table was furnished with an ample variety of dishes, and the choicest liquors that could be procured.

      April 20th

      Five soldiers were conducted to the gallows, according to their sentence, for the crimes of desertion and robbing the inhabitants. A detachment of troops and a concourse of people formed a circle round the gallows, and the criminals were brought in a cart, sitting on their coffins, and halters about their necks. While in this awful situation, trembling on the verge of eternity, three of them received a pardon from the commander-in-chief, who is always tenderly disposed to spare the lives of his soldiers. They acknowledged the justice of their sentence, and expressed the warmest thankfulness and gratitude for their merciful pardon. The two others were obliged to submit to their fate; one of them was accompanied to the fatal spot by an affectionate and sympathizing brother, which rendered the scene uncommonly distressing, and forced tears of compassion from the eyes of numerous spectators. They repeatedly embraced and kissed each other, with all the fervor of brotherly love, and would not be separated till the executioner was obliged to perform his duty, when, with a flood of tears, and mournful lamentations, they bade each Other an eternal adieu – the criminal, trembling under the horrors of an untimely and disgraceful death – and the brother, overwhelmed with sorrow arid anguish for one whom he held most dear.


      May 1st

      Thirteen cannon have just announced the arrival of M. Gerard, the French minister, and a gentleman of distinction from Spain, by the name of Don Juan de Mirrilliars; and preparations are making to afford these foreign gentlemen an opportunity of reviewing our army.

      May 2nd

      The whole of our army in this quarter was paraded in martial array in a spacious field, and a stage was erected for the accommodation of the ladies and gentlemen spectators. At the signal of thirteen cannon, the great and splendid cavalcade approached in martial pomp and style. A very beautiful troop of light-horse, commanded by Major Lee, a Virginian, marched in front, then followed his excellency the commander-in-chief and his aids-de-camp, next the foreign ministers and their retinue, and the general officers of our army and their aids, closed the procession. Having arrived on the field of parade, the commander-in-chief, with the foreign ministers arid general officers, passed in front of the line of the army, from right to left, in review, and received the military honors due to their rank; after which, the gentlemen dismounted and retired to the stage, and took seats with Mrs. Washington, Mrs. Greene, Mrs. Knox, and a number of other ladies, who had arrived in their carriages. The army then performed the field manoeuvres and evolutions, with firing of cannon and musketry. The business of the day was closed by the troops deploying, and marching in front of the stage, and paying the marching salute to their excellencies. The whole performance was conducted with such marked regularity and precision, as to reflect great honor on the character of our army, and afford the commander-in-chief and the spectators the highest degree of satisfaction. On this occasion we cannot but pride ourselves on the conspicuous figure exhibited by our commander-in-chief. While mounted on his noble bay charger, his stature appears remarkable; and being a good horseman, he displays a lofty carriage, and benign dignity of demeanor, and I hope not to incur the charge of undue partiality, when I say, his appearance was incomparably more majestic and dignified than either of his illustrious visitors.

      May 14th

      Our brigade was paraded for the purpose of being reviewed by General Washington and a number of Indian chiefs. His excellency, with his usual dignity, followed by his mulatto servant Bill, riding a beautiful gray steed, passed in front of the line, and received the salute. He was accompanied by a singular group of savages, whose appearance was beyond description ludicrous. Their horses were of the meanest kind, some of them destitute of saddles, and old lines were used for bridles. Their personal decorations were equally farcical, having their faces painted of various colors, jewels suspended from their ears and nose, their heads without covering, except tufts of hair on the crown, and some of them wore dirty blankets over their shoulders waving in the wind. In short, they exhibited a novel and truly disgusting spectacle. But his excellency deems it good policy to pay some attention to this tribe of the wilderness, and to convince them of the strength and discipline of our army, that they may be encouraged, if disposed to be friendly, or deterred from aggression, if they should become hostile to our country.

      May 28th

      The Baron Steuben reviewed and inspected our brigade. The troops were paraded in a single line with shouldered arms, every officer in his particular station. The baron first reviewed the line in this position, passing in front with a scrutinizing eye; after which, he took into his hand the muskets and accoutrements of every soldier, examining them with particular accuracy and precision, applauding or condemning, according to the condition in which he found them. He required that the musket and bayonet should exhibit the brightest polish; not a spot of rust or defect in any part could elude his vigilance. He inquired also into the conduct of the officers towards their men, censuring every fault and applauding every meritorious action. Next he required of me, as surgeon, a list of the sick, with a particular statement of their accommodations and mode of treatment, and even visited some of the sick in their cabins. The baron has sustained the office of aid-de-camp to his Majesty the King of Prussia, and is now inspector-general with the rank of major-general in our army. He appears to be about fifty years of age, and is venerable and dignified in his deportment, rich and elegant in dress, having a splendid medal of gold and diamonds, designating the order of fidelity, suspended at his breast. He is held in universal respect, and considered as a valuable acquisition to our country. He is distinguished for his profound knowledge of tactics, his ability to reform and discipline an army – for his affectionate attachment to a good and faithful soldier, and his utter aversion to every appearance of insubordination and neglect of duty. The continental army has improved with great rapidity under his inspection and review.

      May 30th

      Dined with Major Storer, at his quarters in the country. Spent a few hours at General St. Clair’s quarters, with Dr. McKenzie and Major Dunn, and called on Colonel Scammel at the adjutant-general’s office.


      June 10th

      Smith’s Clove is a fine level plain of rich land, situated at the foot of the high mountains on the west side of Hudson River. It is about fourteen miles in the rear of the garrison at West Point, and surrounded on all sides by the highlands. The few families who reside here find a profitable employment in cultivating the fertile soil. Our brigade marched from quarters at Middle-brook on the 2d instant, and arrived at Morristown, where we received orders to leave all our heavy baggage, and proceed with all possible expedition, as the enemy was advancing towards West Point. Marched rapidly through Troy, Pompton and Ringwood, and on the 7th instant, encamped in the Clove. By a number of deserters from the enemy, information has been received that the greater part of the British army is advancing, and is now near King’s ferry, only thirteen miles below West Point; and that part of their fleet is proceeding up the river: their object is supposed to be the garrison at West Point. For the security of this very important post, General Washington has arranged his army as follows: Three divisions, consisting of the Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania troops, commanded by Major-Generals Lord Stirling, Baron de Kalb, and Major-General St. Clair, form the right wing, and is commanded by General Putnam as the senior major-general, and posted at Smith’s Clove. All the New England troops, including the militia, compose the left wing, and are so distributed at West Point and its vicinity, on the east side of the river, as to guard all the passes leading to the garrison. Our army thus posted is supposed to be adequate to the defence of the garrison against all the force which the enemy can bring in array against it; and such is the confidence among our officers, that many of them express a strong desire that the royal troops would afford an opportunity to try our strength and courage. Should this be the event, the struggle must indeed be violent, and the slaughter immense. The British commander, however, not deeming it prudent to hazard a battle, after a few days retired to New York.

      June 12th

      Two officers of our regiment have just had occasion to adjust an affair of honor. Captain E. had given offence to Captain H., and a challenge ensued. Captain E. was well apprised that if the ball from the pistol of his antagonist should pass through his heart, it would produce immediate death: of course it was most prudent to decline the hazardous combat. But the consequence is, he subjected himself to a contest of a less honorable nature. His antagonist inflicted the chastisement of the horse-whip. This he supported with wonderful fortitude and magnanimity; apprehending, probably, that powder and ball might prove more disastrous than the chastisement which he had received. But his brother-officers treated him with contempt, and threatened to hoot him out of camp. There is a kind of mechanical courage excited by the necessity of the occasion, which may push a coward to venture on an act of heroism. This fact was now exemplified; for Captain E., reduced to the alternative of retrieving his character in a spirited manner, or of quitting the army in disgrace, came to the desperate resolution of deciding his fate by facing his bold antagonist in single combat. The usual arrangements being made, my services as surgeon were held in requisition. The parties took their stand at ten paces, and each discharged his pistol. But behold, A harmless explosion! no blood shed, not even a hair of their heads injured. But the combatants conducted like gentlemen of honor: of course, harmony and mutual friendship were restored. Captain E. has the best cause of triumph, for he has rescued his character from the stigma of poltroon, to an honorable standing among the gentlemen officers.

      June 14th

      I rode with Major Meriweather to West Point; took our route through the woods, over abrupt and rocky mountains, almost impassable for our horses. Spent an hour at General Parsons’s head-quarters, then crossed the North River to Fishkill. The next day we recrossed at Fishkill-landing, and rode to New Windsor, thence we visited my friend Colonel Malcolm at his seat fourteen miles in the country. This gentleman, having resigned his office in the army, is beautifully situated on a farm west of the Hudson, retired from the bustle of war, and devoted to domestic affairs and rural enjoyments. We spent the night with this agreeable family, and Mrs. Malcolm received in the evening the visits of a number of ladies and gentlemen. We returned to our camp the next morning, and found the brigade under marching orders.

      June 16th

      We marched from Smith’s Cove through a thick wilderness, and over the prodigious highland mountains. My curiosity was excited by a vast number of huge rocks. marked with fissures and cavities, occasioned by some stupendous power beyond our comprehension. These, with various brooks, winding in every direction, among rude clefts and precipices, afford a singular and romantic landscape. Our path was narrow and rugged, and probably will not again be traversed but by savages and wild beasts. We arrived here in the evening without our baggage, and were obliged to seek lodgings among our friends. The next day dined with Dr. I. Thomas, and accompanied him to General Patterson’s quarters, where we spent the evening, and I was introduced to Major Haskill, aid-de-camp to General Patterson. He is a native of Rochester, and Dr. Thomas of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

      June 20th

      I have lately been favored with a letter from my friend Dr. D. Townsend, who is a surgeon in the military hospital at Providence, state of Rhode Island. He invites me to accept of the office of surgeon to the Massachusetts regiment, commanded by Colonel Henry Jackson, which is now stationed at that place. My principal inducement to exchange my present station for the proposed new appointment is, that Colonel Jackson and all his officers are from my native state, and there is a prospect of receiving some compensation in clothing and other articles to which I could have no claim while serving in the Virginia line. It is proper, and on many accounts convenient, that officers should serve in the line of their own state; and though I have enjoyed the most friendly intercourse, and numerous kind favors from the Virginians, yet I cannot but prefer the manners and habits of the New Englanders.

      June 21st

      The officers of our regiment invited a select number of officers of the Pennsylvania line to dine on sturgeon, a large fish which Major Meriweather caught in the North River. This fish is a favorite with the Dutch, at Albany, and is on that account by some called Albany beef; but in my view it is worse than horse beef, and it was merely an auxiliary to our table.

      June 24th

      I have just had the satisfaction, with a number of gentlemen, of viewing a remarkably large fat ox, which has been presented by some gentlemen in Connecticut to his Excellency General Washington. He is six feet seven inches high, and weighs on the hoof three thousand five hundred pounds, the largest animal I ever beheld.

      Having resolved to resign my commission in Colonel Gibson’s regiment, I shall in a few days commence my journey to Providence, and join the regiment commanded by Colonel H. Jackson. Colonel Gibson has favored me with a complimentary certificate of my services. It is with sincere regret that I bid adieu to those associates, for whom I have a strong attachment.


      July 1st

      Engaged to spend this evening with General Patterson and Dr. Crowell, and to breakfast with the Rev. Mr. Avery and Mr. Hitchcock, and shall immediately set off for Providence, in company with Dr. Skinner.

      I left West Point, in company with Dr. Skinner, on the 2d instant, and on the 3d arrived at Crompond, where my favorite young horse was seized with the horse distemper and I was put to the cruel necessity of disposing of him for not one-half his real value. I Pursued our journey through Litchfield and Farmington, in Connecticut, and the next day reached Hartford, a well-built, handsome town on Connecticut river, and the capital of that state.
      Having crossed over to East Hartford, we found the whole country in a state of alarm in consequence of the enemy’s having landed at New Haven, and there committing depredations among the inhabitants. A spirit of revenge seemed to pervade the whole country, and the militia were marching from all quarters to encounter and arrest the progress of the invading foe. We passed through Windham, and arrived at this place on the 8th instant. Here I had an interview with my old friends Drs. Brown and Townsend, surgeons of the hospital. I was by Dr. Townsend introduced to Colonel Jackson and his officers, and I commenced my duty by visiting the sick soldiers of the regiment. The field-officers of this regiment are Colonel Henry Jackson, Lieutenant-Colonel David Cobb, and Major Lemuel Trescott. It is now learned that the party of the enemy that landed at New Haven was commanded by Governor Tryon, and consisted of three thousand men. They met with a powerful resistance from the militia, which occasioned skirmishing, and a considerable loss on each side. After plundering the inhabitants of Fairfield and Norwalk, they maliciously destroyed both these flourishing towns, with their houses of religious worship, by a general conflagration.

      July 13th

      Dined with Colonel Jackson, and in the afternoon rode with Major Trescott to Pawtuxet, a very pleasant ride of about five miles.

      July 21st

      By express from General Washington to General Gates, we are informed of a glorious victory, which a detachment of our army, commanded by the intrepid General Wayne, obtained over the enemy at Stony Point, situated on the banks of the North river. In consequence of this intelligence, thirteen cannon have been fired at the several posts in this department. Extract from General Gates’ orders:

      “PROVIDENCE, July, 21st, 1779.
      The general congratulates the army on the glorious success of Brigadier-General Wayne, and the gallant troops under his command, in taking by assault the enemy’s fortified post at Stony Point, and, with the point of the bayonet alone, forcing the garrison to surrender at discretion, not one man escaping. This signal and brilliant victory was gained with the loss of but fifteen men killed, and the general and eighty-three wounded, while, on the part of the enemy, five hundred soldiers and twenty officers were killed, wounded and taken prisoners, with all their cannon, arms, military-stores and provisions.”

      July 30th

      Dined at head-quarters with a number of gentlemen; was introduced to General Gates by Dr. Brown. General Gates is the commander-in-chief in this department; his capture of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, in 1777, has given him eclat and popularity as a brave and skillful warrior. He displays the complaisant manners of a gentleman; in conversation be is affable and interesting, but appears better versed in military tactics than in subjects appertaining to general science. He adopted the profession of arms in his early days, and his prowess and valor, as well as his zeal and partiality for our country, are incontestably established.

      Congress have recently passed the following resolve in favor of an American heroine: “That Margaret Corbin, who was wounded and disabled at the attack of Fort Washington, while she heroically filled the post of her husband, who was killed by her side, serving a piece of artillery, do receive during her natural life, or the continuance of the said disability, the one-half of the monthly pay drawn by a soldier in the service of these states and that she now receive, out of the public stores, one complete suit of clothes, or the value thereof in money.”

      Mr. T., an ensign in our regiment, has for some time discovered symptoms of mental derangement. He is frequently strolling abroad, and amusing people with his wit and humor, or arresting attention by his solemn appeals to the Deity. Yesterday he intruded himself at General Gates’ head-quarters, and after some amusing conversation, he put himself in the attitude of devotion, and prayed that God would pardon General Gates for endeavoring to supersede that god-like man Washington. The general appeared to be much disturbed, and directed Mr. Pierce, his aid-de-camp, to take him away. Whether this address provoked in the general a consciousness of the fact is uncertain, but the subject is of such a delicate nature that no man in his sober senses would have broached it to him.


      The British a few weeks since detached a force from Halifax, and established a post on Penobscot river, in the Province of Maine. Their force is supposed to consist of about one thousand men, under command of Brigadier-General Maclean, with several armed vessels, which occupy the river. This invasion of our territory has excited the greatest indignation, and all classes of people are burning with an ardent desire of revenge. The General Court of Massachusetts have planned an expedition, for the purpose of driving the invading foe from our shores. Such was their zeal and confidence of success, that it is said the General Court neither consulted any experienced military character, nor desired the assistance of any continental troops on this important enterprise – thus taking on themselves the undivided responsibility, and reserving for their own heads all the laurels to be derived from the anticipated conquest. They drafted one thousand five hundred militia, and appointed General Lovell, who acquired some reputation in Rhode Island, under General Sullivan, the last year, to command the expedition. They obtained of Congress the loan of the United States frigate Warren, of thirty-two guns, and with an unprecedented spirit of enterprise and industry, no less than nineteen continental, state, and private ships, and more than twenty transports, were specially equipped, and prepared to cooperate with the land forces destined for this service. With a laudable spirit of patriotism, and animated by the flattering prospect of success, thirty masters of merchant vessels in Newburyport honorably volunteered their services as common seamen. Captain Saltonstall was appointed commodore of the fleet, and took his station on board the Warren frigate. This combined force sailed about the 20th of July on their destined service, but having some reason to apprehend a failure of their enterprise, the General Court have applied to General Gates for permission for Colonel Jackson’s regiment to reinforce General Lovell, to which he has assented, and we are accordingly under marching orders.

      Colonel Henry Jackson, who commands our regiment, is a native of Boston; he is very respectable as a commander, is gentlemanly in his manners, strongly attached to military affairs, and takes a peculiar pride in the discipline and martial appearance of his regiment. Many of his officers are from Boston and its vicinity; they appear in handsome style, and are ambitious to display their taste for military life and their zeal to contend with the enemies of their country. Colonel Jackson, with his regiment, acquired reputation by their gallantry in the battle on Rhode Island, under General Sullivan. Our regiment consists of about four hundred men, in complete uniform, well disciplined, and not inferior to any in the continental army. We commenced a forced march from Providence on the 10th, and completed the forty miles in twenty-four hours. A severe rain all night did not much impede our march, but the troops were broken down with fatigue.

      We reached Boston-neck at sun-rising, and near the entrance of the neck is a tavern having for its sign a representation of a globe, with a man in the act of struggling to get through it; his head and shoulders were out, his arms extended, and the rest of his body inclosed in the globe. On a label from his mouth was written, “Oh how shall I get through this world?”, This was read by the soldiers, and one of them exclaimed, “List, d–n you, list, and you will soon get through this world! Our regiment will all be through it in an hour or two, if we don’t halt by the way.”

      We are treated by the gentlemen of this town with great attention and respect. They have generously presented to Colonel Jackson and the officers of his regiment a hogshead of Jamaica spirits and a cask of wine. For the soldiers they have collected a liberal sum of money, which is distributed among them. A public dinner is to be provided at the Bunch of Grapes tavern for the officers, before our departure. The transports are in preparation to receive our troops on board.

      On the 14th, our regiment marched through the town to the Long Wharf, and embarked on board the transports, receiving as we passed through King Street the cheers of the inhabitants. After the regiment had embarked, the officers, according to previous arrangement, returned to the Bunch of Grapes tavern, where a liberal and elegant entertainment had been provided, and where we were politely received by a number of respectable gentlemen of the town. Having dined and enjoyed a number of songs over the cheering glass, wishing success to the Penobscot expedition, we repaired on board our respective transports, awaiting a fair wind for our voyage. Our transports are the Rising Empire, a brig carrying eight guns, two sloops, and one schooner. Our convoy is the ship Renown, of fourteen guns, and a brig of sixteen guns. About four o’clock on the 15th instant, the Renown, our convoy, fired her signal-guns for sailing, on which our little fleet weighed anchor, and after giving three cheers, which were returned by a concourse of people on the wharves, and by a French ship in the baror, we sailed after our convoy, but dropped anchor near Castle William, by reason of contrary winds.

      August 17th

      In the evening we obeyed the signal-guns, and were beating against contrary wind off Cape Anne till the 19th, when we fell in with a small boat off the Isle of Shoals, which had been despatched with the unwelcome intelligence that our fleet at Penobscot had been attacked by the British, and was totally defeated and destroyed, and that our land forces, under General Lovell, were also entirely defeated and dispersed. Orders were received for our fleet to put into Portsmouth harbor for safety, as several British ships were supposed to be in pursuit of us.

      August 21st

      Our regiment disembarked and encamped at Kittery; being Sunday, I accompanied several of our officers to the Reverend Mr. Hemmenway’s church; he is a sensible and animating preacher, displaying considerable eloquence and much orthodoxy. In his fervent prayers, he was not forgetful of the calamities of war, and the righteous cause in which we are engaged. Here we have a confirmation of the unfortunate failure of the Penobscot expedition, which is a source not only of universal regret, but of infinite chagrin and mortification among all who bad been concerned in the plan.

      August 27th

      Having received orders to march to Falmouth, (now Portland,) left Kittery on the 23d instant, and on the 27th entered this town in martial order, and were received with marks of the greatest joy and satisfaction, as the inhabitants were under serious apprehensions of a visit from the British. We behold here only the relics of a town, which a few years since was very respectable and flourishing. It was the capital of the province of Maine, and enjoyed the happy prospect of becoming one of the most important seaports in New England. But in October, 1775, the inhabitants opposed the landing of a British vessel with ship timber, which so enraged Admiral Graves, that he sent Captain Mowat with several ships of war, demanding of the inhabitants to deliver up all their artillery and small arms. On refusal to comply with this demand, the enemy opened a severe cannonade, which soon set fire to the town, and no less than four hundred and eight houses, stores and other buildings, were consumed to ashes. A large number of seamen and mariners were landed, but the people having collected in considerable force, compelled the enemy to retreat to their boats, with the loss of several men.

      By several gentlemen just returned from Penobscot, I have obtained the following particulars respecting the failure of the expedition. On the arrival of General Lovell, instead of one thousand five hundred militia, nine hundred only could be collected; it was resolved, however, in a council of war, to make an attempt to achieve the object of the expedition; accordingly, on the 28th of July, the militia, with about three hundred marines, were disembarked, and soon effected a landing under a height which rose almost perpendicularly from the banks of the river, on the summit of which the enemy’s advanced guard was posted under cover of a wood. Our militia were opposed by about an equal number of the enemy, whom they bravely encountered and drove within their works; but we suffered a loss of several officers of merit, and about one hundred of the militia and marines were killed and wounded. It now became a subject of consideration whether it was expedient to storm the enemy’s principal works, but in a council it was decided that our force was inadequate to the object. It was at this juncture supposed that by a vigorous cooperation of our navy, a complete victory might have been obtained, and the most urgent and pressing entreaties were made to Commodore Saltonstall for the purpose, but he declined, and continued in a state of pusillanimous inactivity, thereby proclaiming himself totally incompetent to the important trust with which, most unfortunately, he had been invested.

      On the 14th instant, Sir George Collier, with a sixty-four-gun ship and five frigates, arrived from New York. General Lovell, on receiving this intelligence, ordered all his troops, with the artillery and baggage, to be embarked on board the transports, which, with our whole fleet, moved up the Penobscot River, pursued by the British. On the near approach of the enemy, our vessels were abandoned; two of them fell into the hands of the enemy, the remainder were burned and blown up. General Lovell and General Peleg Wadsworth, the second in command, both of whom have the reputation of brave men, now dispensed with all command of the troops, as did Saltonstall of the seamen. The soldiers separated from their officers, and every individual was seeking his own safety, wandering in the wilderness, suffering fatigue, hunger, and vexation, till after much difficulty they reached the settlements on the Kennebec; a few of their number indeed actually perished in the wilderness. Thus disgracefully has ended the famous Penobscot expedition, which, had a competent force been provided, might have terminated to the glory of Massachusetts. Those concerned in the plan or its execution, a few individuals excepted, were publicly execrated. The expense attending the expedition is immense. The fleet was invaluable, and its loss is altogether irreparable. It was extremely fortunate for our regiment that we were detained two or three days on our passage by contrary winds; had there been no impediment to our voyage, we must inevitably have fallen into the hands of the enemy.


      September 3rd

      Two armed vessels, accompanied by two others, being perceived approaching this harbor, excited a great degree of consternation among the inhabitants, but it was soon ascertained to be our two continental frigates, the Boston and the Dean, returning from a cruise with two prizes of very considerable value, and having on board two hundred soldiers for the British army, and stores and goods to a large amount.

      The inhabitants of this town have shown us numerous marks of respect and generous hospitality. A respectable committee of the town have invited our officers to a tavern to partake of a treat of punch and wine, in company with a number of respectable inhabitants, and we experience many other polite civilities, indicating a disposition to contribute to the comfort and happiness of those who are serving the great cause of our common country. Orders are now received from General Gates for our regiment to return immediately to Boston.

      Commenced our march from Falmouth on the 7th instant; passed through Scarborough, Kennebunk and York, to Portsmouth, in New Hampshire. At York, all the officers of our regiment were politely invited to an elegant breakfast, with the genteel and hospitable family of Mr. Sewall, Having crossed the ferry at Portsmouth on the 10th, we encamped on the common. A number of gentlemen of this town treated us with buckets of punch at the ferry-way, and as we passed through the streets. This attention was extremely grateful during the heat and fatigue of the day. We had the satisfaction of visiting the seventy-four-gun ship on the stocks near this town; she will be ready for sea in June next. This is the first seventy-four ever built in America. On the 12th, crossed the ferry at Newbury, and marched to Ipswich Hamlet, passing through Salem; we reached Cambridge on the 14th, and encamped on the common. Accompanied a number of ladies and gentlemen to view the colleges, and were admitted to the library-room and museum. From Cambridge we marched to Dorchester Point, where we embarked in boats, crossed over to the castle, and encamped. On the 18th, went with Colonel Jackson to Boston to attend the funeral of a Mr. Deshon, a brother-mason. A procession of one hundred and twenty of the brethren preceded the corpse, and added greatly to the solemnity of the occasion.

      Walking in the street, I met with James Otis, Esq. He has for some time labored under an unhappy mental derangement. I had no expectation that I should be recognized by him, but he accosted me in a very familiar manner by my Christian name, and inquired about my connexions. He was inquisitive respecting the affairs of the army, and wished to be informed whether I had on any occasion been exposed to personal danger, and whether my courage had failed me. A friend related to me the following anecdote, which he received from O. W. Esq., who was present on the occasion: Mr. Otis invited several respectable gentlemen to dinner; in carving at table, he observed a fish not sufficiently boiled, which drew from him some expressions of disapprobation. His lady retorted with an air of ill-humor. Mr. Otis, wishing to avoid altercation, waived his rebuke till dinner was finished, when he rendered thanks to God that, among other favors, the guests had escaped the danger of having their noses snapped off at table.

      A particular account of the briIliant achievement in the capture of the fortress at Stony Point, by General Wayne, has been obtained. Stony Point is a strongly-fortified post on the west bank of the Hudson, near King’s ferry. The possession of this post is of vast importance to either army, as it completely commands the great road, and the ferry way which affords communication between the middle and eastern states. This fortress has lately been visited by Sir Henry Clinton in person, and by his orders strengthened, and rendered, as supposed, entirely defensible. General Washington was extremely desirous to dislodge the enemy from this position, and to Brigadier-General Wayne he intrusted the hazardous enterprise. At the head of his detachment of light-infantry, consisting of one thousand two hundred, he marched about fourteen miles, reached the vicinity of the fort at eleven o’clock in the evening of July the 16th, and, instantly prepared for the assault. He peremptorily ordered that every man should advance in silence with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets. A soldier disobeyed his order, and began to load his piece; the order was repeated, and he persisted in the resolution to load, on which an officer instantly run him through the body with his sword. On no occasion is a strict obedience to orders more indispensable than at this critical moment; had a single gun been fired, the victory might have been lost, or the slaughter been immense. The plan being adjusted, one hundred and fifty volunteers under Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury, a French gentleman, formed the van of the right column, and one hundred volunteers, under Major Stuart, composed the van of the left column, each of which was preceded by a forlorn hope of twenty picked men, commanded by Lieutenants Gibbon and Knox, for the express purpose of removing the abatis and other obstructions. At about twenty minutes after twelve, the columns advanced to the assault, and such was the impetuosity of the troops, that in the face of a most tremendous and incessant fire of musketry and cannon loaded with grape-shot, they forced their way at the point of the bayonet, surmounted every obstacle, and both columns met in the centre of the enemy’s works nearly at the same instant. Colonel Fleury first entered the fort, and struck their standard with his own hand. Major Posey was the first to give the watch-word, “The fort’s our own.” General Wayne, in his letter to the commander-in-chief, extols highly the brave conduct of his officers and men, and particularizes Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury, Major Stuart, Colonels Butler, Hull, Meigs and Febiger, for their exemplary valor and intrepidity. Lieutenant-Colonel Hay was wounded in the thigh, while fighting with firmness in the heat of the action. General Wayne himself received a slight wound in his head, but, supported by his aids, he entered the fort with the troops. The truly brave are ever ambitious of distinguishing themselves by a nice observance of the laws of humanity and generosity towards the conquered foe. It is highly creditable to our troops, that they conducted towards the prisoners with a humane forbearance, which is directly the reverse of the conduct of the British on too many similar occasions; they disdained to take the lives of those who were in their power, and calling for mercy; not an individual suffered after their surrender, and this will account for the few of the enemy killed on this occasion; being about one hundred killed and wounded. The continentals had fifteen killed and eighty-three wounded. The number of prisoners was five hundred and forty-three. Colonel Johnson, commander of the fort, and several other officers, were among the number. It is remarkable that out of the twenty men who formed the forlorn hope, under Lieutenant Gibbon, seventeen were killed or wounded.

      General Washington’s letter to Congress applauds the conduct of all the officers and men; but he names particular officers, whose situation placed them foremost in danger, which rendered their conduct more conspicuous. Lieutenants Gibbon and Knox, he observes, who commanded the advanced parties, or forlorn hope, acquitted themselves as well as it was possible. With respect to General Wayne, he observes, “that his conduct throughout the whole of this arduous enterprise, merits the warmest approbation of Congress; he improved on the plan recommended by me, and executed it in a manner that does signal honor to his judgment and to his bravery. In a critical moment of the assault, he received a flesh-wound in the head, with a musket-ball, but continued leading on his men with unshaken firmness.” His excellency informed Congress that two flags and two standards were taken, the former belonging to the garrison, the latter to the 17th regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Hull, at the head of four hundred light-infantry, displayed a noble gallantry, for which he received the thanks of General Wayne and of Washington.

      As distinguishing marks of approbation, Congress directed that a gold medal, emblematical of the action, be presented to Brigadier-General Wayne, and a silver one to Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury and Major Stuart, and brevets of captain given to Lieutenants Gibbon and Knox, and that the value of the military stores taken, should be divided among the gallant troops who reduced Stony Point, in such a manner as the commander-in-chief should prescribe.

      The fortifications at Paulus Hook, on the west side of North River, opposite New York City, was taken by Major Lee of the horse. The garrison made a faint resistance and surrendered. Major Southerland and about fifteen of his men escaped to a small block-house. The approach of day, and the vicinity of the main body of the enemy, made it impossible to bring off any stores. The continentals had possession of all the artillery and magazine; the prisoners were one hundred and thirty-four, rank and file, and seven officers; about forty were killed. Major Lee’s loss is said to be very few in killed and wounded; four only is the number mentioned.

      According to orders from General Gates, our regiment left Castle William on the 26th, and arrived at Providence on the 28th instant, and encamped at Fox’s Point. Sunday I rode with several officers to Pawtuxet, to attend the religious services of the celebrated Mr. Murray, whose professed doctrine is the universal salvation of mankind. Mr. Murray is not admitted into the pulpits of the orthodox clergy; his peculiar sentiments are revolting to the consciences, and repugnant to the belief of a large proportion of the people of New England. In this village the people are destitute of an ordained minister. The audience was numerous, and the preacher peculiarly eloquent; freely and solemnly declaring the sentiments which he has adopted, and quoting various portions of Scripture to enforce a belief in the opinion which his own conscience and judgment approve.

      General Prescott, who was taken at Rhode Island by Colonel Barton, on his route through Connecticut, called at a tavern to dine; the landlady brought on the table a dish of succotash (boiled corn and beans). The general, unaccustomed to such kind of food, with much warmth exclaimed “What? Do you treat us with the food of hogs?” and taking the dish from the table, emptied the contents over the floor. The landlord, being informed of this, soon entered with his horsewhip, and gave the general a severe chastisement. After the general was exchanged, and he resumed his command on the island, the inhabitants of Nantucket deputed Dr. Gilston to negotiate some concerns with General Prescott, in behalf of the town. Prescott treated the doctor very cavalierly, and gave as the cause, that the doctor looked so like that d—-d landlord who horsewhipped him in Connecticut, that he could not treat him with civility.

      When the Count D’Estaing’s fleet appeared near the British batteries, in the harbor of Rhode Island, a severe cannonade was commenced, and several shot passed through the houses in town, and occasioned great consternation among the inhabitants. A shot passed through the door of Mrs. Mason’s house, just above the floor. The family were alarmed, not knowing where to flee for safety. A negro man ran and sat himself down very composedly, with his back against the shot-hole in the door, and being asked by young Mr. Mason why he chose that situation, he replied, “Massa, you never know two bullet go in one place.”


      October.-Information is received that the enemy are preparing to evacuate the town of Newport. They have burned the light-house, blown up some of their works, and embarked their heavy baggage.

      October 16th

      It is ascertained that the British have abandoned the town of Newport, and that some of our troops have taken possession of the town. It is but justice to remark that the enemy left the town in good condition, and that they treated the inhabitants with civility. They left a large quantity of hay, wood, and military stores. Our regiment is under marching orders.


      In obedience to orders, we marched from Providence on the 8th instant, passing through the towns of Coventry, Windham, Bolton, Hartford, Woodbury, and Newtown, and arrived at Danbury, (Conn.,) on the 23d. Our regiment is united with General Stark’s brigade, the whole of which is now billeted in private houses. Danbury was formerly a flourishing town, but the principal part of it has been destroyed by the enemy. A soldier having anointed himself for the itch, with mercurial ointment, last night, was found dead this morning; and another suffered the same fate, in consequence of drinking six gills of rum. Our troops have suffered greatly by snow and rain, and excessively bad travelling, since we left Providence.


      Our brigade left Danbury on the 5th instant. It snowed all the afternoon, and we took shelter in the woods at Cortland’s manor. Having no other shelter than bushes thrown together, we passed a very cold, uncomfortable night. Marched the next day through a deep snow, and took lodgings at night in private houses at Crompond; marched again early, crossed the Hudson at King’s ferry, and proceeded twenty miles, it being late at night before our men could all find accommodations in the scattering houses and barns on the road. I visited my friend Doctor S. Findley, of General Glover’s brigade, and being invited to breakfast, the only food be could furnish was coffee, without milk or sugar, and meagre beef-steaks, without bread or even salt. Such has been for some time the unaccountable scarcity of provisions in the main army. We marched to Pompton on the 9th, and on the 14th reached this wilderness, about three miles from Morristown, where we are to build log-huts for winter-quarters. Our baggage is left in the rear, for want of wagons to transport it. The snow on the ground is about two feet deep, and the weather extremely cold; the soldiers are destitute of both tents and blankets, and some of them are actually barefooted and almost naked. Our only defence against the inclemency of the weather, consists of brush-wood thrown together. Our lodging the last night was on the frozen ground. Those officers who have the privilege of a horse, can always have a blanket at hand. Having removed the snow, we wrapped ourselves in great-coats, spread our blankets on the ground, and lay down by the side of each other five or six together, with large fires at our feet, leaving orders with the waiters to keep it well supplied with fuel during the night. We could procure neither shelter nor forage for our horses, and the poor animals were tied to trees, in the woods for twenty-four hours without food, except the bark which they peeled from the trees. Lieutenant W. and myself rode to Morristown where we dined, and fed our starving horses at a tavern. General Washington has taken his head-quarters at Morristown, and the whole army in this department are to be employed in building log huts for winter-quarters. The ground is marked out, and the soldiers have commenced cutting down the timber of oak and walnut, of which we have a great abundance. Our baggage has at length arrived, the men find it very difficult to pitch their tents on the frozen ground, and notwithstanding large fires, we can scarcely keep from freezing. In addition to other sufferings, the whole army has been for seven or eight days entirely destitute of the staff of life; our only food is miserable fresh beef, without bread, salt, or vegetables.

      It is a circumstance greatly to be deprecated, that the army, who are devoting their lives and every thing dear to the defence of our country’s freedom, should be subjected to such unparalleled privations, while in the midst of a country abounding in every kind of provisions. The time has before occurred when the army was on the point of dissolution for the want of provisions, and it is to be ascribed to their patriotism, and to a sense of honor and duty, that they have not long since abandoned the cause of their country. The heroic fortitude with which our officers and soldiers support their distresses, proclaims their fidelity and intrinsic merit. Besides the evils above mentioned, we experience another in the rapid depreciation of the continental money, which we receive for our pay; it is now estimated at about thirty for one. It is from this cause, according to report, that our commissary-general is unable to furnish the army with a proper supply of provisions. The people in the country are unwilling to sell the produce of their farms for this depreciated currency, and both the resources and the credit of our Congress appear to be almost exhausted. The year is now closed, and with it expires the term of enlistment of a considerable number of our soldiers; new conditions are offered them to encourage their reenlistment during the war; but such are the numerous evils which they have hitherto experienced, that it is feared but a small proportion of them will reenlist. Should these apprehensions be realized, the fate of our country, and the destiny of its present rulers and friends, will soon be decided.

      It has hitherto been our grievous misfortune, that the several states have attempted to supply their quota of the army by short enlistments. No fact is more susceptible of demonstration, than that enlisting or draughting men for nine months or one year never fails of being attended with disappointment and a train of pernicious consequences. General Washington has, from the beginning of the contest, most pointedly protested against it, and labored with unwearied assiduity to induce the states to adopt a more just and permanent system. By the present mode, the strength of the army is continually precarious and fluctuating; the recruits have scarcely time to learn the discipline and police of a camp, before they are at liberty to return to their farms, and their places are supplied by others who require the same course of instruction. The consequence is, that but a small proportion of our troops are inured to actual service, they are continually liable to camp diseases, and are undeserving of confidence in the most critical moments of the campaign. Another discouraging circumstance attending this mode of recruiting the army is, the great inequality of the bounties given to the soldiers at different times, and the disparity in the provision made by the several states, which occasions murmurs and discontent among their respective troops. It is consistency and stability that give character and efficiency to an army, and this has ever been the great desideratum in the view of our commander-in-chief. The state of Massachusetts, in order to fill up their regiments, have offered a bounty of three hundred dollars, in addition to the continental bounty of two hundred dollars, to induce men to enlist for three years, or during the war.

      Intelligence has been received from Savannah, Georgia, which city has for some time been in the possession of the enemy, under command of General Prevost. Major-General Lincoln is commander-in-chiet of our army in that department. The Count D’Estaing had arrived there with a French fleet and a body of troops. With these forces, combined with the Americans, the two commanders, after having besieged the city for some time, resolved on the almost desperate resolution of possessing it by assault. The allied force consisted of between four and five thousand men. General Lincoln and Count D’Estaing led their respective troops to the lines of the enemy, with the most signal firmness and intrepidity, and faced their fire for about fifty-five minutes, when they were repulsed with considerable loss. Count D’Estaing received two slight wounds; more than six hundred of his brave troops, and about one hundred and seventy continentals were killed or wounded. Count Pulaski, a brigadier-general in our service, at the head of two hundred horsemen, was in full gallop, with the intention of charging the enemy in the rear, when he received a mortal wound. This gentleman was a Polander, of distinguished rank and character; having viewed the American cause in a favorable light, he offered his services to our Congress, who appointed him to the rank of brigadier-general. He has by his active and enterprising spirit rendered essential service to our army, and his death is universally lamented.

      During the siege of Savannah, an event occured, singularly honorable to an enterprising individual, which should never be forgotten. A captain of Colonel Delany’s battalion of refugee troops, with about one hundred American royal regulars, was posted near a river twenty-five miles from Savannah, where were four armed British vessels, manned with about forty sailors. Colonel John White, of the Georgia line, was desirous of the honor of capturing this party; his whole force, however, consisted of no more than six volunteers, including his own servant; it was only by a well-concerted stratagem, therefore, that he could hope for success. In the night, he kindled a number of fires, in different places, and exhibited the appearance of a large encampment, and having arranged his plan, he summoned the captain to surrender, threatening his entire destruction, by a superior force, in case of a refusal. Intimidated, and deceived by appearances, the captain immediately signified his readiness to comply with the demand, and made no further defence. The American captain, White, bad now the satisfaction, by his peculiar address, to see the whole of the prisoners, amounting to one hundred and forty, divest themselves of their arms, and submit to himself and his six volunteers. The prisoners were afterwards safely conducted by three of the captors for twenty-five miles through the country, to an American post. During the present month, one Hessian lieutenant and seven Hessian soldiers, and four British, deserted from the enemy at New York. The lieutenant pretended to desire to enter our service as a volunteer, but deserters are generally suspicious or worthless characters, undeserving of attention. One of the British deserters pretended to be a prophet, but probably a disguised spy.

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