1780 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 1780.

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



      January 1st

      A new year commences, but brings no relief to the sufferings and privations of our army. Our canvas covering affords but a miserable security from storms of rain and snow, and a great scarcity of provisions still prevails, and its effects are felt even at head-quarters, as appears by the following anecdote: “We have nothing but the rations to cook, sir,” said Mrs. Thomson, a very worthy Irish woman and house-keeper to General Washington.” – “Well, Mrs. Thomson, you must then cook the rations, for I have not a farthing to give you.” – “If you please, sir, let one of the gentlemen give me an order for six bushels of salt.”- ” Six bushels of salt! for what?” – “To preserve the fresh beef, sir.” One of the aids gave the order, and the next day his excellency’s table was amply provided. Mrs. Thomson was sent for, and told that she had done very wrong to expend her own money, for it was not known when she could be repaid. “I owe you,” said his excellency, “too much already to permit the debt being increased, and our situation is not at this moment such as to induce very sanguine hope.” – “Dear sir,” said the good old lady, “it is always darkest Just before day-light, and I hope your excellency will forgive me for bartering the salt for other necessaries which are now on the table.” Salt was eight dollars a bushel, and it might always be exchanged with the country people for articles of provision.

      The weather for several days has been remarkably cold and stormy. On the 3d instant, we experienced one of the most tremendous snow-storms ever remembered; no man could endure its violence many minutes without danger of his life. Several marquees were torn asunder and blown down over the officers’ heads in the night, and some of the soldiers were actually covered while in their tents, and buried like sheep under the snow. My comrades and myself were roused from sleep by the calls of some officers, for assistance; their marquee had blown down, and they were almost smothered in the storm, before they could reach our marquee, only a few yards, and their blankets and baggage were nearly buried in the snow. We are greatly favored in having a supply of straw for bedding; over this we spread all our blankets, and With our clothes and large fires at our feet, while four or five are crowded together, preserve ourselves from freezing. But the sufferings of the poor soldiers can scarcely be described, while on duty they are unavoidably exposed to all the inclemency of storms and severe cold; at night they now have a bed of straw on the ground, and a single blanket to each man; they are badly clad, and some are destitute of shoes. We have contrived a kind of stone chimney outside, and an opening at one end of our tents gives us the benefit of the fire within. The snow is now from four to six feet deep, which so obstructs the roads as to prevent our receiving a supply of provisions. For the last ten days we have received but two pounds of meat a man, and we are frequently for six or eight days entirely destitute of meat, and then as long without bread. The consequence is the soldiers are so enfeebled from hunger and cold, as to be almost unable to perform their military duty, or labor in constructing their huts. It is well known that General Washington experiences the greatest solicitude for the sufferings of his army, and is sensible that they in general conduct with heroic patience and fortitude. His excellency, it is understood, despairing of supplies from the commissary-general, has made application to the magistrates, of the state of New Jersey for assistance in procuring provisions. This expedient has been attended with the happiest success. It is honorable to the magistrates and people of Jersey, that they have cheerfully complied with the requisition, and furnished for the present an ample supply, and have thus probably saved the army from destruction.

      As if to make up the full measure of grief and embarrassment to the commander-in-chief, repeated complaints have been made to him that some of the soldiers are in the practice of pilfering and plundering the inhabitants of their poultry, sheep, pigs, and even their cattle, from their farms. This marauding practice has often been prohibited in general orders, under the severest penalties, and some exemplary punishments have been inflicted. General Washington possesses an inflexible firmness of purpose, and is determined that discipline and subordination in camp shall be rigidly enforced and maintained. The whole army has been sufficiently warned, and cautioned against robbing the inhabitants on any pretence whatever, and no soldier is subjected to punishment without a fair trial, and conviction by a court-martial. Death has been inflicted in a few instances of an atrocious nature; but in general, the punishment consists in a public whipping, and the number of stripes is proportioned to the degree of offence. The law of Moses prescribes forty stripes save one, but this number has often been exceeded in our camp. In aggravated cases, and with old offenders, the culprit is sentenced to receive one hundred lashes, or more. It is always the duty of the drummers and fifers to inflict the chastisement, and the drum-major must attend and see that the duty is faithfully performed. The culprit being securely tied to a tree, or post, receives on his naked back the number of lashes assigned him, by a whip formed of several small knotted cords, which sometimes cut through the skin at every stroke. However strange it may appear, a soldier will often receive the severest stripes without uttering a groan, or once shrinking from the lash, even while the blood flows freely from his lacerated wounds. This must be ascribed to stubbornness or pride. They have, however, adopted a method which they say mitigates the anguish in some measure: it is by putting between the teeth a leaden bullet, on which they chew while under the lash, till it is made quite flat and jagged. In some instances of incorrigible villains, it is adjudged by the court that the culprit receive his punishment at several different times, a certain number of stripes repeated at intervals of two or three days, in which case the wounds are in a state of inflammation, and the skin rendered more sensibly tender; and the terror of the punishment is greatly aggravated. Another mode of punishment is that of running the gauntlet: this is done by a company of soldiers standing in two lines, each one furnished with a switch, and the criminal is made to run between them and receive the scourge from their hands on his naked back; but the delinquent runs so rapidly, and the soldiers are so apt to favor a comrade, that it often happens in this way that the punishment is very trivial; but on some occasions, a soldier is ordered to hold a bayonet at his breast to impede his steps. If a non-commissioned officer is sentenced to corporeal punishment, he is always degraded to the soldier’s rank. The practice of corporeal punishment in an army has become a subject of animadversion, and both the policy and propriety of the measure have been called in question. It may be observed that the object of punishment is to exhibit examples, to deter others from committing crimes; that corporeal punishment may be made sufficiently severe as a commutation for the punishment of death in ordinary cases; it is more humane, and by saving the life of a soldier, we prevent the loss of his services to the public. In justification of the practice, it is alleged, also, that in the British army it has long been established in their military code, and it is not uncommon to sentence a criminal to receive a thousand lashes, and that they aggravate its horrors in the most cruel manner, by repeating the stripes from day to day, before the wounds are healed; and instances are not wanting of its having been attended with fatal consequences. On the other hand, it is objected that corporeal punishment is disreputable to an army; it will never reclaim the unprincipled villain, and it has a tendency to repress the spirit of ambition and enterprise in the young soldier; and the individual thus ignominiously treated, can never, in case of promotion for meritorious services, be received with complacency as a companion for other officers, These objections will apply to most other modes of punishment, and it remains to be decided, which is the most eligible for the purpose of maintaining that subordination so indispensable in all armies.

      Notwithstanding the numerous difficulties and discouragements with which our army have been compelled to struggle, we are happy to find that a considerable proportion of those soldiers whose terms of enlistment have lately expired, have reenlisted during the continuance of the war. It may seem extraordinary that those who have experienced such accumulated distress and privations, should voluntarily engage again in the same service. But amid all the toils and hardships, there are charms in a military life: it is here that we witness heroic actions and deeds of military glory. The power of habit and the spirit of ambition, pervade the soldiers’ ranks, and those who have been accustomed to active scenes, and formed their social attachments, cannot without reluctance quit the tumult and the bustle of a camp, for the calm and quiet of domestic pursuits. There is to be found, however, in the bosom of our soldiers the purest principles of patriotism: they glory in the noble cause of their country, and pride themselves in contributing to its successful termination. It is hoped they will not again be subjected to a starving condition.

      January 17th

      A detachment, consisting of about two thousand five hundred men, under the command of Major-General Lord Stirling, was a few days since sent off in about five hundred sleighs on a secret expedition. The sleighs were procured, and preparations made, under the pretence of going into the country after provisions. It is now ascertained that the object of the expedition was to attack the enemy in their works on Staten Island, by surprise. Our party passed over on the ice from Elizabethtown in the night, but the enemy having received intelligence of their design, retired into their strong works for safety, and the object of the enterprise was unfortunately defeated; they, however, brought off a quantity of blankets and stores. The snow was three or four feet deep, and the weather extremely cold, and our troops continued on the island twenty-four hours without covering, and about five hundred were slightly frozen, and six were killed by a party of horse, who pursued our rear-guard. A number of tents, arms, and a quantity of baggage, with several casks of wine and spirits, were brought off, with seventeen. prisoners.

      January 27th

      A party of the enemy made an excursion from Staten Island in the night, surprised our picket-guard, and succeeded in taking off a major and forty men. Our officers were censured for their conduct in not being sufficiently alert to guard against a surprise. We are now rejoicing in having a plentiful supply of provisions and a favorable prospect of a full supply in future. Our log huts are almost completed, and we promise ourselves very comfortable quarters for the remainder of the winter.

      A detachment of eighty men, levies and volunteers, under command of Captains Keeler and Lockwood, marched to Morrissania in the night, and made an attack on Colonel Hatfield. The colonel and his men took to the chambers, and fired out of the windows and down stairs at those who entered the house. Our party found it almost impossible to dislodge them till they set fire to the house by putting a straw bed into a closet while in blaze, which compelled them to jump out at the chamber-windows to avoid the flames. Colonel Hatfield, one captain, one lieutenant, and one quarter-master, and eleven private soldiers were taken and brought off.

      We are just informed that on the first of this month about two hundred soldiers of the Massachusetts line, who were stationed at West Point, pretending that their term of enlistment had expired, marched off with the intention of going home. A party of troops were despatched after them, and they were brought back. Several soldiers from other posts followed their example. The subject being investigated by the proper officers, it was found that many of them had several months to serve: some of these were punished, and the remainder returned to their duty. Those whose term had actually expired were discharged. During the present month a considerable number of deserters, both British and Hessians, have come from the enemy.


      Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson had the command of about two hundred and fifty men, as an advanced party, on our lines. He was instructed to be constantly alert and in motion, that the enemy might not be able to take advantage, and form a plan for his destruction. It happened, however, that a detachment of British, Hessians, and mounted refugees, were discovered advancing towards him, but on account of a very deep snow obstructing the road, they marched slowly, and Colonel Thompson resolved to defend his ground. The enemy’s horse first advanced, and commenced skirmishing till their infantry approached, when a sharp conflict ensued, which continued about fifteen minutes; some of our troops manifested symptoms of cowardice, and gave way. The enemy secured the advantage, and rushed on with a general shout, which soon decided the contest. The Americans lost thirteen men killed, and Captain Roberts, being mortally wounded, soon expired; seventeen others were wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson and six other officers, with eighty-nine rank and file, were made prisoners. Of the enemy, two officers and eighteen men were wounded, and five men killed. One of our men, by the name of Mayhew, of Massachusetts, was pursued by two of the enemy’s horse, the snow being almost up to his hips: they gained fast on him; he inquired if they would give him quarter; they replied, “Yes, you dog! we will quarter you,” and this was again repeated. Mayhew, in despair, resolving to give them a shot before he submitted to his fate, turned and fired at the first horseman, who cried out “The rascal has broken my leg!” when both of them wheeled round and rode off, leaving Mayhew to rejoice at his fortunate escape.

      February 14th

      Having continued to this late season in our tents, experiencing the greatest inconvenience, we have now the satisfaction of taking possession of the log huts, just completed by our soldiers, where we shall have more comfortable accommodations. Major Trescott, Lieutenant Williams, our pay-master, and myself, occupy a hut with one room, furnished with our lodging cabins, and crowded with our baggage.

      February 20th

      Two soldiers were brought to the gallows for the crime of robbery. One of them was pardoned under the gallows, and the other executed. The poor criminal was so dreadfully tortured by the horror of an untimely death, that he was scarcely able to sustain himself, and the scene excited the compassion of every spectator. It is hoped that this example will make such an impression as to deter others from committing similar crimes.


      The present winter is the most severe and distressing which we have ever experienced. An immense body of snow remains on the ground. Our soldiers are in a wretched condition for the want of clothes, blankets and shoes; and these calamitous circumstances are accompanied by a want of provisions. It has several times happened that the troops were reduced to one-half, or to one-quarter allowance, and some days have passed without any meat or bread being delivered out. The causes assigned for these extraordinary deficiencies, are the very low state of the public finances, in consequence of the rapid depreciation of the continental currency, and some irregularity in the commissary’s department. Our soldiers, in general, support their sufferings with commendable firmness, but it is feared that their patience will be exhausted, and very serious consequences ensue.


      A party of our troops being stationed on the line, under the command of Major Boyles, of the Pennsylvania line, was unfortunately surprised by the enemy in the night. The major defended himself in a house till he was mortally wounded, when he and his guard surrendered. The enemy set fire to several houses, and carried off about fifty of our men, and five or six officers, among whom is Ensign Thacher, of our regiment. The militia pursued, and retook a number of horses and a quantity, of valuable goods, which they had plundered from the inhabitants.

      April 19th

      The Chevalier de la Luzerne, minister of France, with another French gentleman, and Don Juan de Miralles, a gentleman of distinction from Spain, arrived at headquarters, from Philadelphia, in company with his Excellency General Washington. Major Trescott was ordered out with two hundred men, to meet and escort them to head-quarters, where two battalions were paraded to receive them with the usual military honors. Several of our general officers rode about five miles to meet the gentlemen, and their arrival was announced by the discharge of thirteen cannon. The foreign gentlemen, and their suites, having left their carriages, were mounted on elegant horses, which, with General Washington, the general officers of our army, with their aids and servants formed a most splendid cavalcade, which attracted the attention of a vast concourse of spectators. General Washington accompanied his illustrious visitors to take a distant view of the enemy’s position and works, on York and Staten Island, and of the different posts of our army, while preparations were making for a grand field review of our troops.

      April 24th

      A field of parade being prepared under the direction of the Baron Steuben, four battalions of our army were presented for review, by the French minister, attended by his excellency and our general officers. Thirteen cannon, as usual, announced their arrival in the field, and they received from the officers and soldiers the military honors due to their exalted rank. A large stage was erected in the field, which was crowded by officers, ladies, and gentlemen of distinction from the country, among whom were Governor Livingston, of New Jersey, and his lady. Our troops exhibited a truly military appearance, and performed the manoeuvres and evolutions in a manner which afforded much satisfaction to our commander-in-chief, and they were honored with the approbation of the French minister, and by all present. After the gentlemen had received the standing salute in review, they dismounted and retired to the stage with the ladies, and the troops performed several evolutions, and paid the marching salute as they passed the stage. The minister of France was highly gratified, and expressed to General Washington his admiration at the precision of their movements, and the exactness of their fires, as well as the spirit and alacrity that seemed to pervade all ranks of the army. In the evening, General Washington and the French minister attended a ball, provided by our principal officers, at which were present a numerous collection of distinguished ladies and gentlemen of distinguished character. Fire-works were also exhibited by members of the artillery. It is much regretted that M. de Miralles is confined at head-quarters by indisposition. On the 25th, the whole army was paraded under arms, to afford M. de la Luzerne another opportunity of reviewing the troops; after which, he was escorted part of the way to Philadelphia. The Spanish gentleman remained dangerously sick of a pulmonic fever at head-quarters, and on the 28th he expired.

      April 29th

      I accompanied Doctor Schuyler to head-quarters, to attend the funeral of M. de Miralles. The deceased was a gentleman of high rank in Spain, and had been about one year a resident with our Congress, from the Spanish court. The corpse was dressed in rich state, and exposed to public view, as is customary in Europe. The coffin was most splendid and stately, lined throughout with fine cambric, and covered on the outside with rich black velvet, and ornamented in a superb manner. The top of the coffin was removed, to display the pomp and grandeur with which the body was decorated. It was in a splendid full dress consisting of a scarlet suit, embroidered with rich gold-Iace, a three-cornered gold-laced hat, and a genteel cued wig, white silk stockings, large diamond shoe and knee-buckles, a profusion of diamond rings decorated the fingers, and from a superb gold watch set with diamonds, several rich seals were suspended. His Excellency General Washington, with several other general officers and members of Congress, attended the funeral solemnities, and walked as chief mourners. The other officers of the army, and numerous respectable citizens, formed a splendid procession, extending about one mile. The pall-bearers were six field officers, and the coffin was borne on the shoulders of four officers of the artillery in full uniform. Minute-guns were fired during the procession, which greatly increased the solemnity of the occasion. A Spanish priest performed service at the grave, in the Roman Catholic form. The coffin was inclosed in a box of plank, and all the profusion of pomp and grandeur were deposited in the silent grave, in the common burying-ground, near the church at Morristown. A guard is placed at the grave, lest our soldiers should be tempted to dig for hidden treasure. It is understood that the corpse is to be removed to Philadelphia. This gentleman is said to have been in possession of an immense fortune, and has left to his three daughters in Spain one hundred thousand pounds sterling each. Here we behold the end of all earthly riches, pomp, and dignity. The ashes of Don Miralles mingle with the remains of those who are clothed in humble shrouds, and whose career in life was marked with sordid poverty and wretchedness.


      The officers of our army have long been dissatisfied with their situation, conceiving that we are devoting our lives to the public service without an adequate remuneration. our sacrifices are incalculably great, and far exceed the bounds of duty, which the public can of right claim from any one class of men. Our wages are not punctually paid, we are frequently five or six months in arrears, and the continental money which we receive is depreciated to the lowest ebb. Congress have established a scale of depreciation, by which the continental bills are valued at forty for one of silver, and at this rate they have resolved that all their bills shall be called in and a new emission shall be issued, and received at the rate of one for forty of the old emission. But the public confidence in paper money is greatly diminished, and it is with extreme difficulty that proper supplies can be procured to serve the pressing exigencies of our army. I have just seen in the newspaper an advertisement offering for an article forty dollars a pound, or three shillings in silver. This is the trash which is tendered to requite us for our sacrifices, for our sufferings and privations, while in the service of our country. It is but a sordid pittance even for our common purposes while in camp, but those who have families dependent on them at home, are reduced to a deplorable condition. In consequence of this state of things, a considerable number of officers have been compelled to resign their commissions. His Excellency General Washington, is perplexed with an apprehension that he shall lose many of his most experienced and valuable officers; and knowing the injustice which they suffer, he has taken a warm interest in their cause, and repeatedly represented to Congress the absolute necessity of making such provision as will encourage the officers to continue in service to the end of the war. This subject he has pressed with such earnestness and solicitude, as at length to effect the desired purpose. Congress have resolved that all officers of the line of the army who shall continue in service till the close of the war, shall be entitled to half-pay during life, and the depreciation of their pay shall be made good; and also that they shall receive a number of acres of land, in proportion to their rank, at the close of the war. This measure meets the approbation, and is satisfactory to those who are to be entitled to the provision; but it includes the officers of the line of the army only; it is not extended to the medical staff, and they consider themselves pointedly neglected. Why are the officers of the line allowed this exclusive act of justice – a compensation for the depreciation of the currency? If it is just for the line, what reasons can be assigned why the staff-officers should not be included, when the depreciation is known to be common to both? Equal justice should be the motto of every government. The officers on the staff have a right to think themselves treated with the most flagrant injustice.

      A committee have arrived in camp from Congress, for the purpose of investigating the circumstances and condition of the army, and of redressing our grievances, if in their power. The regimental surgeons and mates have convened, and chosen a committee of three, to wait on the committee of Congress, and to present for their consideration our complaints and grievances, and to inquire whether we are to be included in the resolve-making provision for regimental officers, and entitled to the emoluments granted to the line of the army? The committee replied, that they could not give a decisive answer, that the subject of our complaints did not come under their cognizance, but that they would make the proper representation to Congress.

      Our brigade was paraded for inspection and review by Baron Steuben, in the presence of his Excellency General Washington. The troops appeared to much advantage, and the officers received the thanks of the baron for the military and soldierly appearance of the men.

      May 10th

      Dined with Colonel Jackson, who entertained a party of gentlemen. Our table was not ornamented with numerous covers, our fare was frugal, but decent. Colonel Jackson possesses a liberal and generous spirit, and entertains his friends in the kindest manner. We sat at table till evening, enjoying the conversation of the learned Doctor Shippin, director-general of the hospital department, accompanied by Colonel Procter and Major Eustis. The Marquis de la Fayette has just arrived at head-quarters, lately from France. The safe return of this respectable personage is matter of joy and congratulation.

      May 26th

      Eleven soldiers are condemned to suffer death for various crimes, three of whom are sentenced to be shot; the whole number were prepared for execution this day, but pardons were granted by the commander-in-chief to those who were to have been shot, and the seven others, while under the gallows. This was a most solemn and affecting scene, capable of torturing the feelings even of the most callous breast. The wretched criminals were brought in carts to the place of execution. Mr. Rogers, the chaplain, attended them to the gallows, addressed them in a very pathetic manner, impressing on their minds the heinousness of their crimes, the justice of their sentence, and the high importance of a preparation for death. The criminals were placed side by side, on the scaffold, with halters round their necks, their coffins before their eyes, their graves open to their view, and thousands of spectators bemoaning their awful doom. The moment approaches when every eye is fixed in expectation of beholding the agonies of death – the eyes of the victims are already closed from the light of this world. At this awful moment, while their fervent prayers are ascending to Heaven, an officer comes forward and reads, a reprieve for seven of them, by the commander-in-chief. The trembling criminals are now divested of the habiliments of death, and their bleeding hearts leap for joy. How exquisitely rapturous must be the transition when snatched from the agonizing horrors of a cruel death, and mercifully restored to the enjoyment of a life that had been forfeited! No pen can describe the emotions which must have agitated their souls. They were scarcely able to remove from the scaffold without assistance. The chaplain reminded them of the gratitude they owed the commander-in-chief for his clemency towards them, and that the only return in their power to make, was a life devoted to the faithful discharge of their duty. The criminal who was executed had been guilty of forging a number of discharges, by which he and more than a hundred soldiers had left the army. He appeared to be penitent, and behaved with uncommon fortitude and resolution. He addressed the soldiers, desired them to be faithful to their country and obedient to their officers, and advised the officers to be punctual in all their engagements to the soldiers, and give them no cause to desert. He examined the halter, and told the hangman the knot was not made right, and that the rope was not strong enough, as he was a heavy man. Having adjusted the knot and fixed it round his own neck, he was swung off instantly. The rope broke, and he fell to the ground, by which be was very much bruised. He calmly reascended the ladder, and said, “I told you the rope was not strong enough: do get a stronger one.” Another being procured, he was launched into eternity.

      May 29th

      Four battalions of our I troops were paraded for review by the committee of Congress, in the presence of General Washington; they were duly honored with the military salute. We are again visited with the calamity of which we have so often complained, a great scarcity of provisions of every kind. Our poor soldiers are reduced to the very verge of famine; their patience is exhausted by complicated sufferings, and their spirits are almost broken. It is with extreme pain that we perceive in the ranks of the soldiers a sensible diminution of that enthusiastic patriotism, and that ardent attachment to our cause, by which they were formerly distinguished. Much praise is due to the officers of every grade, who make all possible exertions to encourage, to satisfy and to soothe the desponding spirits of the soldiery. Under the most trying circumstances, however, both officers and soldiers retain their full confidence in the wisdom and goodness of our illustrious commander-in-chief, whom they almost adore, looking up to him as children to an affectionate father, participating in the same sufferings. Another source of dissatisfaction is the great inequality subsisting among the soldiers respecting their pecuniary compensation. Those who enlisted at an early period, for a small bounty, now find in the ranks with themselves others who have recently enlisted for a bounty of more than ten times the nominal value. This, as may be supposed, excites the most poignant chagrin and disgust, and, with other causes of discontent, has produced a considerable degree of relaxation in discipline, and an unusual number of desertions from our ranks. An event still more alarming occurred on the 25th instant. Two regiments of the Connecticut line took the liberty to parade without their officers, and in the spirit of mutiny, resolved to march into the country to relieve themselves from present difficulties, and to furnish themselves with provisions at all hazards. Colonel Meigs, in attempting to restore order, received a blow from one of the mutineers. A brigade of Pennsylvanians was ordered to arrest their progress. The leaders were secured, and the two regiments were returned to their duty. Their complaints are, that they have too long served the public without any present, or prospect of future recompense; that their sufferings are insupportable, that their pay is five months in arrear, and that it is of no value when received. These circumstances are known to be substantially true, and in justice they ought, and undoubtedly will, be admitted in extenuation of the crime which they have committed. It is nevertheless indispensably important that every symptom of insubordination should be crushed as soon as discovered, lest the example become contagious, and involve the whole army in ruin.


      In consequence of some movements of the enemy, our brigade was ordered to Chatham. A party of the enemy, about five thousand strong, came out of New York on the 7th instant, to a place called Connecticut Farms, where they burned a few houses and plundered the inhabitants; but being opposed by General Maxwell’s brigade of Jersey troops, and the militia, who turned out with spirit, they soon retreated to Elizabethtown Point with some loss, and were pursued by our troops. In this little skirmish, the British General Stirling received a wound which it is supposed will prove mortal. A number of other officers and soldiers, on the side of the British, were killed and wounded, and twenty prisoners taken by our militia. Our loss does not exceed ten or twelve killed, and twenty or thirty wounded.

      Among the horrid and barbarous deeds of the enemy, one has Just been perpetrated, which will be an everlasting stigma on the British character. In the vicinity of the Connecticut Farms, state of New Jersey, resided the Rev. James Caldwell, a Presbyterian minister. This gentleman had uniformly taken an active part with his parishioners on the side of the Americans, in consequence of which he was marked for British vengeance. On the approach of the enemy, he retired into the country, leaving his lady with the care of the family, supposing that the customary respect for the female character would be a pledge for her safety. Mrs. Caldwell, soon after the approach of the royal troops to the house, and a young woman having Mrs. Caldwell’s infant in her arms, seated themselves on the bed, when a British soldier came to the house, and putting his gun to the window of the room, shot her through the breast, and she instantly expired. Soon after, an officer with two Hessian soldiers came and ordered a hole to be dug, the body to be thrown in, and the house to be set on fire. Thus was murdered an amiable and excellent lady, and the worth husband left with nine children, destitute of even a change of clothes, or any thing to render them comfortable. The house and every article belonging to this respectable family were consumed, together with the church and thirteen dwelling houses. The British, during their excursion, took the opportunity of distributing a number of hand-bills, containing a pompous account of the capture of Charleston, South Carolina, by Sir Henry Clinton, with the garrison commanded by Major-General Lincoln. This unfortunate event is now confirmed by Generals Arnold and Wayne, who have just arrived from Philadelphia. General Lincoln was posted in the town of Charleston, with a force consisting of between two and three thousand men, including militia and seamen. General Clinton, invested the town with a powerful fleet and an army of thirteen thousand strong. He proceeded with regular approaches, till he advanced within twenty-five yards of the American lines, and repeatedly demanded the surrender of the garrison. Through the very judicious management of General Lincoln, the siege was protracted from the 13th of April to the 12th of May; and during fifteen days of this time his troops were reduced to an allowance of six ounces of pork a man, and for the last six days to one and a half-pint of rice and three ounces of sugar a day. General Lincoln had to consult the interest and opinions of the inhabitants, which greatly increased his embarrassments. At length the lines of defence being almost entirely demolished, by an incessant bombardment and cannonade, the besieged were reduced to the last extremity; and being in hourly expectation of an assault, it was agreed between General Lincoln and the principal inhabitants that the town and garrison should be surrendered by capitulation. General Lincoln, in this most important transaction of his Iife, manifested a cool intrepidity, a zealous perseverance, and a presence of mind which proclaim him preeminently qualified to encounter the extreme difficulties and dangers, in which he was involved; and the terms of surrender were as honorable as could have been expected.

      June 15th

      Major Lee, from Virginia, has just arrived in camp, with a beautiful corps of light-horse, the men in complete uniform, and the horses very elegant and finely disciplined. Major Lee is said to be a man of great spirit and enterprise, and much important service is expected from him. By a gentleman just from New York, we are informed that General Stirling died a few days ago of the wounds which he received in the skirmish with our troops on the 7th instant.

      June 16th

      A soldier of the Jersey line was hanged for attempting to desert to the enemy. This is one of those hardened villains who were pardoned under the gallows about three weeks since.

      June 19th

      Four emissaries from the enemy, were found concealed in a barn, belonging to a tory, in the vicinity of our lines; one of them, their leader, refused to surrender, and was killed on the spot. The other three were tried by court-martial, and being convicted as spies, were sentenced to be hanged. These unfortunate young men came to the gallows overwhelmed with the horrors of death. Their whole frames were thrown into a tremor, and they were tortured at the sight of the gallows and halters. They had flattered themselves that mercy would be extended to them, and that they would either be pardoned, or their lives be prolonged for a few days; but when they found that the executioner was about to perform his office, their mournful cries and lamentations were distressing beyond description. It has some where been noted, that a girl walked seven miles, in a torrent of rain, to see a man hanged, and returned in tears, because the criminal was reprieved; on the present occasion, a heart so full of depravity might have enjoyed an indulgence even to satiety.

      The enemy in New York are reported to be in motion, and we shall probably very soon be called to engage in battle. General orders are issued for the whole army to be in readiness to march at a moment’s warning. At six o’clock in the morning of the 23d, the alarm guns were fired, and the drums throughout our camp beat to arms, announcing the approach of the enemy; the whole army is instantly in motion, the scene to my contemplation is awfully sublime, yet animation and composure seem pervade every countenance. The present hour is undoubtedly pregnant with death and carnage; every arm is nerved for defence, and every heart, it is presumed, fortified to abide its destiny. Soon after the alarm, our advanced party, consisting of General Maxwell’s brigade and a few militia, discovered the enemy advancing towards the village of Springfield. A close engagement with the enemy’s advance immediately ensued; but being pressed by four times our number, General Maxwell, after an obstinate resistance, was obliged to retreat, till a reinforcement could arrive. Our brigade, commanded by General Stark, soon joined Maxwell, on the high ground near the village of Springfield. Colonel Angel’s regiment, of Rhode Island, with several small parties, were posted at a bridge over which the enemy were to pass, and their whole force, of five or six thousand men, was actually held in check by these brave soldiers for more than forty minutes, amidst the severest firing of cannon and musketry. The enemy, however, with their superior force, advanced into the village, and wantonly set fire to the buildings. We had the mortification of beholding the church, and twenty or thirty dwelling-houses and other buildings, in a blaze, and they were soon consumed to ashes. Having thus completed their great enterprise, and acquired to themselves the honor of burning a village, they made a precipitate retreat to Elizabeth Point, and the ensuing night crossed over to Staten Island. Our brigade was ordered to pursue the retreating enemy, but we could not overtake them; we discovered several fresh graves, and found fifteen dead bodies, which they left in the field, and which we buried. We were informed by the inhabitants, that they carried off eight or ten wagon-loads of dead and wounded. Our militia took fifteen prisoners. General Knyphausen was the commander, and his force consisted of five or six thousand men; the particular object of the expedition is not ascertained.; if it was to force their way to Morristown, to destroy our magazines and stores, they were disappointed; if to burn the village of Springfield, they are welcome to the honor of the exploit. Our troops were commanded by Major-General Greene; not more than one thousand were brought into action at any one time; their conduct was marked with the commendable coolness and intrepidity of veteran troops. Colonel Angel’s regiment, in a special manner, acquired immortal honor, by its unexamled bravery. In the heat of the action, some soldiers brought to me in a blanket Captain-Lieutenant Thompson of the artillery, who had received a most formidable wound, a cannon-ball having passed through both his thighs near the knee-joint. With painful anxiety, the poor man inquired if I would amputate both his thighs. Sparing his feelings, I evaded his inquiry, and directed him to be carried to the hospital tent in the rear, where he would receive the attention of the surgeons. “All that a man hath will he give for his life.” He expired in a few hours. While advancing against the enemy, my attention was directed to a wounded soldier in the field. I dismounted, and left my horse at a rail fence. It was not long before a cannon-ball shattered a rail within a few feet of my horse, and some soldiers were sent to take charge of the wounded man, and to tell me it was time to retire. I now perceived that our party had retreated, and our regiment had passed me. I immediately mounted, and applied spurs to my horse, that I might gain the front of our regiment. Colonel Jackson being in the rear, smiled as I passed him, but as my duty did not require my exposure, I felt at liberty to seek a place of safety. It may be considered a singular circumstance, that the soldier above mentioned was wounded by the wind of a cannon-ball. His arm was fractured above the elbow, without the smallest perceptible injury to his clothes, or contusion or discoloration of the skin. He made no complaint, but I observed he was feeble and a little confused in his mind. He received proper attention, but expired the next day. The idea of injury by the wind of a ball, I learn, is not new – instances of the kind have, it is said, occurred in naval battles, and are almost constantly attended with fatal effects.

      Our troops in camp are in general healthy, but we are troubled with many perplexing instances of indisposition, occasioned by absence from home, called by Dr. Cullen nostalgia, or home-sickness. This complaint is frequent among the militia and recruits from New England. They become dull and melancholy, with loss of appetite, restless nights, and great weakness. In some instances they become so hypochondriacal as to be proper subjects for the hospital. This disease is in many instances cured by the raillery of the old soldiers, but is generaIly suspended by a constant and active engagement of the mind, as by the drill exercise, camp discipline, and by uncommon anxiety, occasioned by the prospect of a battle.


      Our brigade marched from Short hills on the 25th of June, and arrived at Prackanes, Jersey, the 1st of July. I rode with Dr. Tenney and Captain Hughes about five miles, to take a view of the Passaic falls, called by some Totowa falls, which are represented as a great natural curiosity. The Passaic river runs over large rocky mountains covered with fir-trees. At this place an immense body of rock would totally interrupt its passage, had it not been by some stupendous power rent in several places from top to bottom, forming huge clefts, some of which are twenty or thirty feet wide, others not more than two or three, and from fifty to seventy feet deep. The depth of one of them, it is said, has never been ascertained. It is here that the whole torrent of the river falls perpendicularly, with amazing violence and rapidity, down a rocky precipice of seventy feet, with a tremendous roar and foaming. But being interrupted in its course, by craggy rocks, it turns abruptly to the right, and again to the left, and falling into huge cavities below, the whole torrent vanishes from our sight; but stepping to another precipice a few yards distant, we behold the same torrent emerging from its subterraneous course, and rushing into a large basin, or cavern, formed in the rock. This basin contains forty fathoms of water, And is never full, but its rocky walls on all sides ascend sixty feet above the surface of the water. Such is the astonishing depth of this receptacle, that the water neither foams nor forms whirlpools by the rushing current, but is calm and undisturbed. From this basin the water rushes through its outlet, reassumes the form of a river, and in majestic silence pursues its course towards the sea.

      In the afternoon we were invited to visit another curiosity in the neighborhood. This is a monster in the human form., He is twenty-seven years of age; his face, from the upper part of his forehead to the end of his chin measures twenty inches, and round the upper part of his head is twenty-one inches; his eyes and nose are remarkably large and prominent, chin long and pointed. His features are coarse, irregular, and disgusting, and his voice is rough and sonorous. His body is only twenty-seven inches in length, his limbs, are small and much deformed, and he has the use of one hand only. He has never been able to stand or sit up, as he cannot support the enormous weight of his head; but lies constantly in a large cradle, with his head supported on pillows. He is visited by great numbers of people, and is peculiarly fond of the company of clergymen, always inquiring for them among his visitors, and taking great pleasure in receiving religious instruction. General Washington made him a visit, and asked, “whether he was a whig or tory?” He replied, that “he had never taken an active part on either side.”

      July 5th

      I took an excursion a few miles into the country, to visit the surgeons of the flying hospital; took tea at their quarters, with a wealthy Dutch family, and was treated with great civility. They live in a style superior to the Low Dutch in general; the table was amply furnished with cherries, raspberries and other fruits, which abound in this country.

      July 10th

      The officers of our regiment and those of Colonel Webb’s united in providing an entertainment, and invited a respectable number of gentlemen of our brigade to dine; Dr. West and myself were appointed caterers and superintendents. We erected a large arbor, with the boughs of trees, under which we enjoyed an elegant dinner and spent the afternoon in social glee, With some of the wine which was taken from the enemy when they retreated from Elizabethtown. Our drums and fifes afforded us a favorite music till evening, when we were delighted with the song composed by Mr. Hopkinson, called, the “Battle of the Kegs,” sung in the best style by a number of gentlemen.

      July 14th

      An express has arrived at head-quarters, from Rhode Island, with the pleasing information of the arrival there of a French fleet, accompanied by an army of six thousand regular French troops, who are to cooperate with our army as allies in our cause. They are commanded by Count Rochambeau, a distinguished general in the French service.

      July 20th

      In general orders, the commander-in-chief congratulates the army on the arrival of a large land and naval armament at Rhode Island, sent by his Most Christian Majesty, to cooperate with us against the common enemy. The lively concern which our allies manifest for our safety and independence, has a claim to the affection of every virtuous citizen. The general with confidence assures the army, that the officers and men of the French forces come to our aid animated with a zeal founded in sentiment for us, as well as in duty to their prince, and that they will do every thing in their power to promote harmony and cultivate friendship; he is equally persuaded, on our part, that we shall vie with them in their good disposition, to which we are excited by gratitude as well as by common interest; and that the only contention between the two armies will be to excel each other in good offices, and in the display of every military virtue. This will be a pledge of the most solid advantage to the common cause, and a glorious issue to the campaign. The commander-in-chief has recommended to the officers of our army to wear cockades of black and white, intermixed, as a symbol of friendship for our French allies, who wear white cockades.

      July 22nd

      The officers of our regiment received an invitation to dine with Major-General Lord Stirling. We were introduced to his lordship by Colonel Jackson, and were received with great civility and politeness. Colonel Biddle and his lady were of the guests. Our entertainment was sumptuous and elegant. After the covers were removed, the servants brought in pails filled with cherries and strawberries, which were strewed over the long table; with these, and excellent wine, accompanied by martial music, we regaled ourselves till evening. This gentleman’s proper name is William Alexander, and he is a native of the state of New York. He visited Scotland in pursuit of the title and estate of an earldom, which he claimed as the rightful heir of his ancestor, who had this title, and a grant of Nova Scotia, anno. 1621. In this pursuit, he expended a large proportion of his fortune, but failed in obtaining an acknowledgment of his claim by the government; yet, by courtesy, he bears the title of Lord Stirling. He is considered as a brave, intelligent and judicious officer. In the battle on Long Island in August, 1776, he unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy; but it occasioned no impeachment of his character and conduct. He possesses the genuine principles of patriotism, and is strongly attached to General Washington. He disclosed to the commander-in-chief the intrigue of General Conway, when in 1777 he attempted to supersede his excellency, saying in his letter, “such wicked duplicity of conduct, I shall always think it my duty to detect.” In his personal appearance, his lordship is venerable and dignified; in his deportment, gentlemanly and graceful; in conversation, pleasing and interesting (His lordship died at Albany, January 15th, 1783, aged fifty-seven years.) He is said to be ambitious of the title of lordship. Being present at the execution of a soldier for desertion, the criminal at the gallows repeatedly cried out “the Lord have mercy on me!” his lordship with warmth exclaimed, “I won’t, you rascal, I won’t have mercy on you.”

      July 23rd

      Sunday I attended a sermon preached by Mr. Blair, chaplain of the artillery. The troops were paraded in the open field, the sermon was well calculated to inculcate religious principles and the moral virtues. His Excellency General Washington, Major-Generals Greene and Knox, with number of other officers, were present.


      Orders are given for the army to be in readiness for a movement.

      According to orders, our brigade marched from Prackanes on the 29th of July, and encamped at Paramus at night, fifteen miles. The men were exceedingly affected with the heat and fatigue. We marched on the succeeding day at two o’clock in the morning; at this early hour, the drums beat the reveille, which summons us from our hard beds and slumbers, in haste we roll up our travelling bed furniture, strike our tents, order them thrown into the wagons, mount our horses, and with a slow pace follow the march of our soldiers, bending under the weight of the burden on their backs. We arrived at the North River and crossed the ferry, August 1st, where we found the whole of our main army collecting to a point. All the troops from West Point that can be spared, and detachments from different stations, have formed a junction in this vicinity. Two brigades have been selected from the different regiments in the main army, to form a corps of light infantry, to be commanded by the Marquis de la Fayette. They have been reviewed by the commander-in-chief and other general officers, on the grand parade, and are pronounced to be as excellent a corps as can be produced in any army. The marquis is delighted with his command, and is at his own expense providing for them some extra equipments. It is understood that General Clinton has despatched a part of the British fleet and army on an expedition against our allies, the French fleet and army at Rhode Island. The whole of our army having crossed to the east side of the Hudson, it is conjectured that his excellency contemplates some important enterprise against the enemy at New York, or at least to compel General Clinton to recall his expedition from Rhode Island, for his own safety. Our commander-in-chief has ordered that the army disencumber itself of all heavy baggage, which, with the women and children, are to be immediately sent to West Point, and that the troops have constantly two days’ provisions cooked on hand, and hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment’s warning. Such is our condition for order and regularity, that the whole army, which occupies an extent of several miles, can be put in motion, and take up a line of march in less than one hour. The horses belonging to our baggage wagons and to the artillery are constantly in harness, and those belonging to the officers are kept in readiness; every man and every horse are taught to know their place and their duty. Marching orders, so soon as issued, are communicated to each brigade and regiment. The whole line of encampment resounds with martial music; all is bustle and activity, but free from confusion. The drums and fifes beating a march, the tents are instantly struck and thrown into wagons, the line of march commences, every subordinate officer and soldier follows his commander, and whether to rush into battle and encounter the dogs of war, or only to manoeuvre in the field, it is no man’s business to know or, inquire. The secret is where it ought to be, in the breast of him who directs our destiny, and whom it is out pride to obey. Such is the state and condition of a well-regulated and disciplined army, and such only can attain to military fame and glory. It is now ascertained, August 4th, that the formidable manoeuvre of our army has effected the object intended. The enemy’s expedition to Rhode Island has returned to New York, in consequence probably of the alarm excited for the safety of that city. Orders are now received for our army to recross the Hudson to the Jersey shore. Our brigade crossed the ferry in the night of the 5th, and encamped in a field about five miles from the ferry. The crossing of the whole army, occupied three days and nights, during which a vast number of large boats and floats were continually in motion. On the 6th, marched to Greenbush, and on the 7th and 8th, the whole army arrived and encamped at Orangetown. The light infantry, under the Marquis, is constantly advanced three miles in front of the army. The fatigue and extreme heat during this march, have produced very unfavorable effects on our troops, and they are now becoming sickly. Cholera-morbus, dysentery and remittent fevers, are the prevailing complaints, which demand all my attention.

      August 9th

      Dined with Baron Steuben, and spent the afternoon with the guests. The baron keeps a splendid table, and treats his visitors with polite attention. Captain William North, of our regiment, is one of the aids-de-camp of the baron, and has ingratiated himself so highly in his favor, that he treats him with all the affection of a son.

      A committee from Congress have again arrived in our camp, with the view of investigating the affairs of the army, to attend to complaints, and to redress grievances, so far as may be in their power; and they will find that their task and duty are not to be envied. The regimental surgeons and mates have deputed a committee to present a list of our grievances for their honors’ consideration. We claim of Congress the same emoluments and remuneration which are promised to the officers of the line of the army.

      August 14th

      Visited Dr. Cochran, our surgeon-general, at his quarters in the country, and thence proceeding to the light infantry encampment, took tea with Major Trescott and Captain Cushing. I accompanied a number of officers to Dobbs’ ferry, where our troops are engaged in erecting a block-house and batteries, to defend the passage at the ferry-way. The Hudson at this place is about three miles wide, so that no battery can prevent the enemy’s shipping from passing up the river from New York.

      August 20th

      Sunday, attended a sermon preached by Mr. Enos Hitchcock, chaplain of General Patterson’s brigade; the troops were assembled in the open field. Mr. Hitchcock is respected as a sensible and learned divine, of pure morals and correct principles. His patriotic zeal and ardent attachment to his country’s freedom, induced him to quit his people and domestic enjoyments at Beverly, Massachusetts, for the turmoil and fatigue of camp. I dined with my friends Dr. Skinner and Major Winslow. We are again visited with the alarming apprehension of a famine; no meat has been drawn for two days past; no money, no rum, and no contentment among our soldiers – great dissatisfaction prevails.

      August 25th

      The whole army in this quarter has decamped, the object and destination a secret; the conjectural object is to procure a supply of provisions and forage from the inhabitants between the lines, which otherwise would go to supply the wants of the enemy. All the sick and disabled are left in camp, and I am directed to take charge of those belonging to our brigade; but with this charge I am left entirely destitute of provisions. Feeling myself authorized to take a small supply from the inhabitants for immediate necessity, I required from a Dutchman four sheep from his farm; as he was offended and made some opposition, I was obliged to force them from him, giving a receipt, that he might recover a compensation from the public.

      August 28th

      Our army has returned from below, with a large quantity of forage, and provisions of various kinds taken from the disaffected inhabitants on the lines. This affords us an important relief, when almost in a starving condition. A small party of the enemy was discovered near the lines, a slight skirmish ensued, and they soon disappeared.

      August 29th

      I accompanied Captain W. to the village of Charlestown, met Major-General Schuyler and other gentlemen at a tavern, with whom we dined. Here I learned that a duel had just been fought between Lieutenant 0. and Mr. P., both of Colonel Maryland’s regiment of dragoons, and both of whom were yesterday on the most intimate terms of friendship. Mr. 0. killed his antagonist on the spot, and received a dangerous wound in his thigh. When I visited him, his wound had been dressed, and I was astonished at the calmness and composure with which he related all the particulars of this melancholy and murderous catastrophe, and the agonizing state of mind of his late friend in his dying moments. The duel originated in a trivial misunderstanding, which excited these close friends to assume the character of assassins, and to hazard life for life. Nor did 0. discover the least sorrow or remorse of conscience for having sacrificed the life of a friend and valuable officer to the mistaken points of honor!

      August 30th

      Another dreadful appeal has this day been made to the deadly combat on a point of honor. The parties were Lieutenant S. and Mr. L. a volunteer in the army; the latter gentleman fell, and instantly expired; his murderer escaped uninjured. Thus have two valuable lives been sacrificed within two days, to what is termed principles of honor, or rather to the vindictive spirit of malice and revenge. Is there no remedy for this fashionable folly, this awful blindness and perversion of mind, this barbarous and infernal practice, this foul stain on the history of man! The following anecdote is in point: The practice of duelling had become alarming in the Prussian army, and the great Frederic was desirous of checking its progress. Two officers of high rank had engaged to meet in personal combat. The king commanded that they should fight in his presence, and at a time and place which he appointed. When the parties appeared, they were astonished to find the whole army paraded to witness the combat, a gallows erected, and a halter and coffins prepared. The king now commanded that they should decide their fate in his presence, and that the survivor should be instantly hung on the gallows. The two champions were appalled, and glad to implore his majesty’s forgiveness; and this example proved an effectual remedy against duelling in the Prussian army.


      Intelligence of an unpleasant and distressing nature, has just reached us from South Carolina. Our southern army, under the command of Major-General Gates, has been totally defeated, in a general action with Lord Cornwallis, on the 19th of August. General Gates, as is reported, retreated with precipitation to the distance of eighty miles, to escape the pursuit of the enemy. This mortifying disaster gives a severe shock to our army, as it must be productive of the most important and serious consequences, as it respects the welfare of the Southern states.

      In his letter to the President of Congress, General Gates says: “In the deepest distress and anxiety of mind, I am obliged to. acquaint your excellency with the defeat of the troops under my command.” The letter states that the continental troops displayed their usual courage and
      bravery, but at the first onset of the enemy, the whole body of militia became panic-struck, were completely routed, and ran like a torrent, bearing all before them, and leaving the continentals to oppose the whole force of the enemy. This victory was not obtained without loss on the part of the foe, they having upwards of five hundred men, with officers in proportion, killed and wounded. The whole number of continental officers killed, wounded and missing, is forty-eight. Among the killed, is Baron de Kalb, a major-general; while leading on the Maryland and Delaware troops, he was pierced with eleven wounds, and soon after expired. He was a German by birth, a brave and meritorious officer, a knight of the order of military merit, and a brigadier-general in the armies of France. He had served three years, with high reputation, in the American army. General Gates’ command in this army is said to consist of three thousand, of which number were only nine hundred continental regulars. The royalists, under Lord Cornwallis, were upwards of three thousand two hundred, and a great part of them regular troops. This very unfortunate event has given an impression universally unfavorable to the character and conduct of General Gates, as he has disappointed the high expectations of the public. He is indeed a painful example of the vicissitudes of the fortune of war; but it ought not to be expected that an officer should be held accountable for the strokes of fortune; nor for the effects of superior force or address in the enemy. Considering the former high character and meritorious services of the general, we cannot justly suspect him to be chargeable with any deficiency in point of integrity or conduct, and time and investigation must decide how far he has been guilty of any culpable error.

      September 5th

      Our army marched from Orangetown, and encamped at Steenrapie, yesterday. It is mortifying that our stock of provisions is again exhausted; the soldiers have for several days drawn nothing but one pound of flour a man.

      September 8th

      I had again the honor of dining at the table of Baron Steuben, in company with a number of officers. Notwithstanding the scarcity of provisions in camp, the baron’s table continues to be well supplied; his generosity is unbounded.

      September 10th

      We are now lamenting the loss of Brigadier-General Poor, who died last night of putrid fever. His funeral solemnities have been attended this afternoon. The corpse was brought this morning from Paramus, and left at a house about a mile from the burying-yard at Hackensack, whence it was attended to the place of interment by the following procession: a regiment of light infantry, in uniform, with arms reversed; four field-pieces; Major Lee’s regiment of light-horse; General Hand and his brigade; the major on horseback; two chaplains; the horse of the deceased, with his boots and spurs suspended from the saddle, led by a servant; the corpse borne by four serjeants, and the pall supported by six general officers. The coffin was of mahogany, and a pair of pistols and two swords, crossing each other and tied with black crape, were placed on the top. The corpse was followed by the officers of the New Hampshire brigade; the officers of the brigade of light-infantry, which the deceased had lately commanded. Other officers fell in promiscuously, and were followed by his Excellency General Washington, and other general officers. Having arrived at the burying-yard, the troops opened to the right and left, resting on their arms reversed, and the procession passed to the grave, where a short eulogy was delivered by the Rev. Mr. Evans. A band of music, with a number of drums and fifes, played a funeral dirge, the drums were muffled with black crape, and the officers in the procession wore crape round the left arm. The regiment of light-infantry were in handsome uniform, and wore in their caps long feathers of black and red. The elegant regiment of horse, commanded by Major Lee, being in complete uniform and well disciplined, exhibited a martial and noble appearance. No scene can exceed in grandeur and solemnity a military funeral. The weapons of war reversed, and embellished with the badges of mourning, the slow and regular step of the procession, the mournful sound of the unbraced drum and deep-toned instruments, playing the melancholy dirge, the majestic mien and solemn march of the war-horse, all conspire to impress the mind with emotions which no language can describe, and which nothing but the reality can paint to the liveliest imagination. General Poor was from the state of New Hampshire. He was a true patriot, who took an early part in the cause of his country, and during his military career was respected for his talents and his bravery, and beloved for the amiable qualities of his heart. But it is a sufficient eulogy to say, that he enjoyed the confidence and esteem of Washington.

      September 11th

      We had a most violent shower of rain, accompanied with tremendous peals of thunder and lightning; we were obliged to quit our beds in the night, but no part of our marquee could shield us from the drenching rains – not a blanket about us remained dry.

      September 12th

      A soldier was executed for robbery; he was one of five who broke into a house with their arms, and robbed the inhabitants of a sum of money and many valuable articles. He conducted with fortitude at the gallows.

      September 13th

      The army was paraded to be reviewed by General Washington, accompanied by a number of Indian chiefs. his excellency, mounted on his noble bay charger, rode in front of the line of the army, and received the usual salute. Six Indian chiefs followed in his train, appearing as the most disgusting and contemptible of the human race; their faces painted of various colors, their hair twisted into bunches on the top of their heads, and dressed in a miserable Indian habit, some with a dirty blanket over the shoulders, and others almost naked. They were mounted on horses of the poorest kind, with undressed sheep skins, instead of saddles, and old ropes for bridles, These bipeds could not refrain from the indulgence of their appetites for rum on this occasion, and some of them fell from their horses on their return to head-quarters. This tribe of Indians is friendly to America, and it is good policy to show them some attention, and give them an idea of the strength of our army.

      September 20th

      The army decamped from Steenrapie this morning, and encamped at Orangetown, or Tappan. His Excellency General Washington, with the Marquis de la Fayette and General Knox, with a splendid retinue, left the camp on the 17th instant, bound to Hartford in Connecticut, to have an interview with the commanding officers of the French fleet and army, which have lately arrived at Rhode Island.

      I have just been introduced to three young clergymen, from Connecticut, Mr. Lockwood, Mr. Ely, and Mr. Joel Barlow; the latter is a chaplain in the Connecticut line, and is said to possess a poetical genius. Being present when he made a prayer in public, it was remarked that his performance was very ordinary, and it was replied that the gentleman had not been much accustomed to public performances, and that he was more calculated to attain to eminence in the art of poetry than in the clerical profession.

      September 21st

      Major-General Greene succeeds to the command of our army, in the absence of his Excellency General Washington. This gentleman is a native of the state of Rhode Island. His father was an anchor-smith, and his business in that line was very extensive. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and when about to engage in a military station, they remonstrated with him, as war was a violation of the established principles of their sect. But his patriotism and ardent zeal for the cause of liberty were irresistible, and he was, at the age of thirty, appointed a brigadier-general by his government in the year 1775. After the battle of Lexington, actuated by a native martial ardor, he repaired to Cambridge, and, with the troops under his command, joined the Continental Army under General Washington. General Greene has conducted in a manner to meet the expectations and full approbation of the public, and has been promoted to the rank of major-general. By his military talents, skill and judgment, he has acquired a character of the highest order, and is held in respect and estimation throughout the army, as second only to the commander-in-chief. It is the prevailing sentiment, that if in any event of Providence we should be deprived of our chief commander, General Greene is of all others the most suitable character to be his successor and in this sentiment there is the greatest reason to believe that the illustrious Washington himself would readily coincide.

      September 26th

      At three o’clock this morning an alarm was spread throughout our camp. Two regiments from the Pennsylvania line were ordered to march immediately to West Point, and the whole army to be held in readiness to march at a moment’s warning. It was soon ascertained that this sudden movement was in consequence of the discovery of one of the most extraordinary events in modern history, and in which the interposition of Divine Providence is remarkably conspicuous. It is the treacherous conspiracy of Major-General Arnold, and the capture of Major John Andre, adjutant-general to the British army. The army being paraded this morning, the following communication in the orders of General Greene was read by the adjutants to their respective regiments:

      “Treason, of the blackest dye, was yesterday discovered. General Arnold, who commanded at West Point, lost to every sentiment of honor, of private and public obligation, was about to deliver up that important post into the hands of the enemy. Such an event must have given the American cause a dangerous, if not a fatal wound; happily the treason has been timely discovered, to prevent the fatal misfortune. The providential train of circumstances which led to it, affords the most convincing proofs that the liberties of America are the object of Divine protection. At the same time that the treason is to be regretted, the general cannot help congratulating the army on the happy discovery. Our enemies, despairing of carrying their point by force, are practising every base art to effect by bribery and corruption what they cannot accomplish in a manly way. Great honor is due to the American army, that this is the first instance of treason of the kind, where many were to be expected from the nature of our dispute; the brightest ornament in the character of the American soldiers is, their having been proof against all the arts and seductions of an insidious enemy. Arnold has made his escape to the enemy, but Major Andre, the adjutant-general in the British army, who came out as a spy to negotiate the business, is our prisoner.”

      West Point is situated in the midst of the highlands, on the west side of the Hudson, sixty miles above New York, and seven below Fishkill. It is a strongly-fortified castle, which, with its dependencies, is considered by General Washington as the key which locks the communication between the Eastern and Southern states; and of all the posts in the United States, this is the most important.

      The position is remarkably well calculated by nature for a defensive post, being on a bend of the river, with rocky ridges rising one above another, and the lofty summit is covered with a range of redoubts and batteries, planned by the most skillful engineers. The most elevated and formidable fortress is erected on a natural platform of rocks, very steep, and almost inaccessible on every side; this is called “Fort Putnam,” from the general who had the principal share in its plan and construction. It overlooks the whole plain below, and commands a landscape-view thirty miles in extent, the Hudson having the appearance of a vast canal, cut through huge mountains. As additional security, an iron chain of immense strength is thrown across at the short bend of the river, and fixed to huge blocks on each shore, and under the fire of batteries on both sides the river. The links of this chain are about twelve inches wide, and eighteen long, the bars about two inches square. It is buoyed up by very large logs, of about sixteen feet long, pointed at the ends to lessen, their opposition to the force of the current at flood and ebb tide. The logs are placed at short distances from each other, the chain carried over them and made fast to each by staples. There are also a number of anchors dropped at proper distances, with cables made fast to the chain to give it a greater stability. Such is the formidable state and strength of this post, that it has received the appellation of the American Gibraltar, and when properly guarded, may bid defiance to an army of twenty thousand men. General Arnold was well apprised of the great importance of this fortress; no position in America could afford the British greater advantages. It commands the whole extent of country on the Hudson, from New York to Canada, and secures a communication between the Eastern and Southern states.

      From the commencement of the American war, General Arnold has been viewed in the light of a brave and heroic officer, having exhibited abundant proof of his military ardor and invincible temper. He has fought in various battles, with an intrepid gallantry which cannot be exceeded, and it is from his bravery in the field, more than any intrinsic merit, that his character and fame have been established. His meritorious services have been amply rewarded by his promotion to the rank of major-general, but his name will now be transmitted to posterity with the marks of infamy, and the pages of our history tarnished by the record of crimes of the most atrocious character by a native of our land. After the evacuation of Philadelphia by the British, Arnold was appointed to the command in that city, and such was his conduct, as respects both his official station and individual concerns, that his former standing and important services could no longer shield him from public odium and the just censure of the government. Being afterward, by his own solicitation, intrusted with the command of the post at West Point, he engaged in a secret correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton, and actually agreed to put him in possession of this very important garrison. The British general, ever ready to avail himself of treachery to accomplish an object which he could not achieve by the strength of his arms, selected Major John Andre, his adjutant-general and aid-de-camp, to have a personal interview with the traitor, to mature the plan, and make arrangements for the surrender of the post. A British, sloop-of-war, called the Vulture, came up the North river, and anchored near King’s ferry, about twelve miles below West Point. On board of this vessel were a Colonel Robinson, and Major Andre, under the assumed name of John Anderson. A communication was now maintained between Arnold and the persons on board the Vulture, without exciting the least suspicion of treasonable designs. But a personal interview was found necessary, and the place chosen for this purpose was the beach near the house of Joshua Smith, Esquire, who has long been suspected of a predilection for the British interest. In the night of the 21st instant, Smith, by the desire of Arnold, went with a boat, rowed, by some men employed on his farm, and brought Major Andre, alias John Anderson, on shore, where he was received by Arnold, and conducted to the house of Smith, within our lines. Andre remained concealed at Smith’s house till the following night, when he became extremely anxious to return on board the Vulture; but the boatmen, whom Arnold and Smith had seduced to bring him on shore the preceding night, could not be prevailed on to reconduct him on board, as the Vulture had been driven from her station by a cannon on shore. Finding it impossible to procure a boat and men for the purpose, it was resolved that Andre should return to New York by land, to which he reluctantly submitted, as the only alternative, to escape the danger into which he had been betrayed. For this hazardous attempt Arnold and Smith furnished him with a horse, and with clothes, in exchange for his military uniform; and Arnold gave him a passport under the fictitious name of John Anderson, as being on public business. Thus prepared, and accompanied by Smith part of the way, he proceeded on his journey. The passport served his purpose till he got beyond all our out-posts and guards without suspicion. They lodged together at Crompond that night, and Smith having given him directions about the road, left him the next morning, within about thirty miles of New York. Having arrived at Tarrytown, however, near the lines of the royal army, Andre was arrested by one of three men, who were patrolling between the out-posts of the two armies. He held his horse, by the bridle, till his two companions came from their concealment to his assistance. This was the moment which was to decide the fate of the adjutant-general of the royal army. Alarmed and disconcerted, instead of producing his passport, he asked where they belonged? They replied, “To below,” alluding to New York. “And so do I,” said. Andre; “I am a British officer, on urgent business, and must not be detained.” He was soon, however, undeceived, and confounded on being obliged to yield himself a prisoner, and finding his passport, though having the authority of Arnold’s signature, availed him nothing. His captors, suspecting that they had taken a valuable prize, resolved to hold him in durance, and realize his worth. The unfortunate prisoner now produced his gold watch, and said, “This will convince you that I am a gentleman. and if you will suffer me to pass, I will send to New York, and give you any amount you shall name, in cash, or in dry goods;” (English goods were, at that time, more valuable than gold or silver. It has in general been understood, that Andre offered his captors his horse, his purse, and a valuable watch, but Dr. Eustis assures me that the above are the facts, as stated to him by Isaac Van Vert, who first stopped Andre.) and, pointing to an adjacent wood, “you may keep me in that wood till it shall be delivered to you.” All his offers, however, were rejected with disdain, and they declared that ten thousand guineas, or any other sum, would be no temptation. It is to their virtue, no less glorious to America than Arnold’s apostacy is disgraceful, that his detestable crimes are discovered. Their names are John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Vert.

      Congress resolved “That they have a high sense of the virtuous and patriotic conduct of John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Vert, In testimony whereof, ordered, that each of them receive annually, two hundred dollars in specie, or an equivalent in the current money of these states, and that the Board of War be directed to procure each of them a silver medal, on one side of which shall be a shield with this inscription, Fidelity, and on the other, the following motto, Vincit amor Patriae, and forward them the commander-in-chief, who is requested to present the same with a copy of this resolution, and the thanks of Congress for their fidelity and the eminent service they have rendered their country.”

      Taking their prisoner into the bushes, to undergo a search and examination, they found, concealed in his boots, the important papers, containing exact returns of the state of the forces, ordnance and defences at West Point and its dependencies, with critical remarks on the works, with a return of the number of troops at West Point, and their distribution; copies of confidential letters from General Washington, &c., &c., all in the hand-writing of General Arnold. Besides which, it is ascertained that the traitor carried with him to the interview a general plan of West Point and its vicinity, and all the works, and also particular plans of each work on a large scale, elegantly drawn by the engineer at that post. But these were not given up to Major Andre; it is supposed they were to be delivered at a future time. The captors now very properly delivered their prisoner, with the papers found on him, into the hands of Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson, the commanding officer on our lines. Andre, with the view, no doubt, of giving Arnold an opportunity to escape, had the address to induce Colonel Jameson to inform the traitor, by letter, that John Anderson was taken on his way to New York. It is probable that Colonel Jameson had not examined the papers in his possession, or it may well be supposed that, having such ample evidence before him, he would have hesitated before complying with this request; but, unsuspicious of treachery, and under the embarrassment of the moment, as though his mind was bewildered, or devoid of reason, he immediately despatched an express to Arnold, at Robinson’s house, with the intelligence.

      After sufficient time had elapsed for Arnold to receive the information and make his escape, Major Andre declared himself to Colonel Jameson to be the adjutant-general of the British army. Sensible of the finesse which had been practised on him, Colonel Jameson now despatched an express to meet General Washington, on his return from Hartford to Arnold’s quarters, with an account of the capture of Major Andre, and the papers which were found on him, and this was accompanied by a letter from the prisoner, disclosing to his excellency his real character and condition, and relating the manner of his capture, &c. It unfortunately happened that the express took a different road, and missed of meeting the commander-in-chief, and Arnold first received the information about ten o’clock on the morning of the 15th instant. At this moment Major Shaw and Dr. McHenry, two of his excellency’s aids, had arrived, and were at breakfast at Arnold’s table. His confusion was visible, but no one could devise the cause. Struck with the pressing danger of his situation, expecting General Washington would soon arrive, the guilty traitor called for a “horse, any one, even if a wagon horse” – bid a hasty adieu to his wife, and enjoined a positive order on the messenger not to inform that he was the bearer of a letter from Colonel Jameson, and having repaired to his barge, he ordered the coxswain with eight oarsmen to proceed down the river, and he was soon on board the Vulture, which Andre had left two nights before, and which immediately sailed with her prize for New York. General Washington arrived about twelve o’clock, and was informed that Arnold had absented himself, saying he was going to West Point, and should soon return. His excellency passed over the river to view the works there; but, not finding Arnold at his post, he returned, in the hope of meeting him at his quarters. But here he was again disappointed, for no person could account for his absence. Mrs. Arnold was now in her chamber, in great agitation and distress, deprived of her reason, and Dr. Eustis in attendance. At a lucid interval she inquired of the doctor if General Washington was in the house, desiring to see him. Believing that she intended to say something which would explain the secret of Arnold’s unaccountable absence, be hastened below, and conducted the general to her chamber, who remained no longer than to hear her deny that he was General Washington, and to witness the return of her distraction. His excellency sat down to dine, but soon rose from table with apparent agitation, called out Colonel Lamb, the commander of artillery at West Point, and expressed to him his suspicion that Arnold had deserted to the enemy. In less than two hours it was ascertained that the conjecture was too well founded, for the despatches arrived from Colonel Jameson, with an account of the capture of Major Andre, accompanied by his own letter of confession. Major Andre was conducted to West Point, and thence to headquarters at Tappan; and a board, consisting of fourteen general officers, is constituted and directed to sit on the 29th instant, for his trial. It was to be expected that Sir Henry Clinton would make every possible overture and exertion, with the hope of rescuing his friend, and the adjutant-general of his army, from an ignominious death. Accordingly he addressed General Washington, claimed the release of Major Andre, alleging that he ought not to be considered in the character of a spy, as he had a passport from, and was transacting business under the sanction of General Arnold; but arguments so obviously absurd and futile could have no influence, and the prisoner was ordered before the military tribunal for trial, and the following are the particulars of their proceedings.

      Major Andre, adjutant-general to the British army, was brought before the board, and the following letter from General Washington to the board, dated “Head-Quarters, Tappan, September 29th, 1780,” was laid before them and read:

      “GENTLEMEN: Major Andre, adjutant-general to the British army, will be brought before you, for your examination. He came within our lines in the night, on an interview with Major-General Arnold, and in an assumed character; and was taken within our lines, in a disguised habit, with a pass under a feigned name, and with the inclosed papers concealed on him. After a careful examination, you will be pleased as speedily as possible to report a precise state of his case, together with your opinion of the light in which he ought to be considered, and the punishment that ought to be inflicted. The judge-advocate will attend to assist in the examination, who has sundry other papers relative to this matter, which he will lay before the board.

      “I have the honor to be, gentlemen,
      your most obedient and humble servant,


      “To the Board of General Officers, convened at Tappan.”

      The names of the officers composing the board were read to Major Andre, with the following letter of his to General Washington-namely:

      “SALEM, 24th September, 1780.

      SIR: What I have as yet said, concerning myself, was in the justifiable attempt to be extricated; I am too little accustomed to duplicity to have succeeded.

      “I beg your excellency will be persuaded, that no alteration in the temper of my mind, or apprehension for my safety, induces me to take the step of addressing you, but that it is to secure myself from an imputation of having assumed a mean character for treacherous purposes or self-interest – a conduct incompatible with the principles that actuated me, as well as with my condition in life.

      “It is to vindicate my fame, that I speak, and not to solicit security.

      “The person in your possession is Major John Andre, adjutant-general to the British army.

      “The influence of one commander in the army of his adversary is an advantage taken in war. I agreed to meet, on ground not within the posts of either army, a person who was to give me intelligence; I came up in the Vulture man-of-war, for this effect, and was fetched by a boat from the shore to the beach: being there, I was told that the approach of day would prevent my return, and that I must be concealed till the next night. I was in my regimentals, and had fairly risked my person.

      “Against my stipulation, my intention, and without my knowledge beforehand, I was conducted within one of your posts. Your excellency may conceive my sensation on this occasion, and will imagine how much more I must have been affected by a refusal to reconduct me back the next night, as I had been brought. Thus become a prisoner, I had to concert my escape. I quitted my uniform, and was passed another way in the night, without the American posts to neutral ground, and informed I was beyond all armed parties, and left to press for New York. I was taken at Tarrytown by some volunteers.

      “Thus, as I have had the honor to relate, was I betrayed into the vile condition of an enemy in disguise within your posts.

      “Having avowed myself a British officer, I have nothing to reveal but what relates to myself, which is true, on the honor of an officer and a gentleman.

      “The request I have to make your excellency, and I am conscious I address myself well, is that in any rigor which policy may dictate, a decency of conduct towards me may evince that, though unfortunate, I am branded with nothing dishonorable, as no motive could be mine but the service of my king, and as I was involuntarily an impostor.

      “Another request is, that I may be permitted to write an open letter to Sir Henry Clinton, and another to a friend for clothes and linen.

      “I take the liberty to mention the condition of some gentlemen at Charleston, who, being either on parole or under protection, were engaged in a conspiracy against us. Though their situation is not similar they are objects who may be set in exchange for me, or are persons whom the treatment I receive might affect.

      “It is no less, sir, in a confidence in the generosity of your mind, than on account of’ your superior station, that I have chosen to importune you with this letter. I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir your excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant,

      “JOHN ANDRE, Adjutant-General.

      “His Excellency General Washington, &c., &c., &c.,

      And on being asked whether he confessed or denied the matters contained in this letter, he acknowledged the letter, and in addition stated, that he came on shore from the Vulture sloop-of-war, in the night of the 21st of September, instant, somewhere under the Haverstraw mountain. That the boat he came on shore in, carried no flag, and that he had on a surtout-coat over his regimentals, and that he wore his surtout-coat when he was taken. That he met General Arnold on the shore, and had an interview with him there. He also said, that when he left the Vulture sloop-of-war, it was understood he was to return that night; but it was then doubted, and if he could not return, he was promised to be concealed on shore in a place of safety till the next night, When he was to return in the same manner he came on shore; and when the next day came, he was solicitous to get back, and made inquiries in the course of the day how he should return; he was informed he could not return that way, and he must take the route he did afterwards. He also said, that the first notice he had of his being within any of our posts, was his being challenged by the sentry, which was the first night he was on shore. He also said, that in the evening of the 22d of September, instant, he passed King’s ferry, between our posts of Stony and Verplank’s Points, in the dress he is at present in, and which he said was not his regimentals, and which dress he procured after be landed from the Vulture, and when he was within our post, and that he was proceeding to New York, but was arrested at Tarrytown, as he has mentioned in his letter, on Saturday, the 23d of September, instant, about nine o’clock in the morning.

      The board having interrogated Major Andre, about his conception of his coming on shore under the sanction of a flag, he said, that it was impossible for him to suppose he came on shore under that sanction, and added, that if he came on shore under that sanction, he certainly might have returned under it.

      Major Andre having acknowledged the preceding facts, and being asked whether he had any thing to say respecting them, answered, he left them to operate with the board.

      The examination of Major Andre being concluded, he was remanded into custody.

      “The board having considered the letter from his Excellency General Washington, respecting Major Andre, adjutant-general to the British army, the confession of Major Andre, and the papers produced to them, report to his excellency the commander-in-chief the following facts, which appear to them relative to Major Andre. First, that be came on shore from the Vulture sloop-of-war, in the night of the 21st of September, instant, on an interview with General Arnold, in a private and secret manner. Secondly, that he changed his dress within our lines, and under a feigned name, and disguised habit, passed our works at Stony and Verplank’s Points, in the evening of the 22d of September, instant, and was taken the morning of the 23d of September, at Tarrytown, in a disguised habit, being then on his way to New York; and when taken he had in his possession several papers which contained intelligence for the enemy. The board having maturely considered these facts, do also report to his Excellency General Washington, that Major Andre, adjutant-general to the British army, ought to be considered as a spy from the enemy, and that agreeably to the law and usage of nations it is their opinion he ought to suffer death.


      “NATHANIEL GREENE, Major-General and President.
      ST. CLAIR,
      R. HOWE,
      SAMUEL H. PARSONS, Brigadier- General.

      JOHN LAWRENCE, Judge Advocate General.”

      “HEADQUARTERS, September 30th, 1780.

      “The commander-in-chief approves of the opinion of the Board of General officers, respecting Major Andre, and orders that the execution of Major Andre take place to-morrow, at five o’clock P. M.”

      During the trial of this unfortunate officer, he conducted with unexampled magnanimity and dignity of character. He very freely and candidly confessed all the circumstances relative to himself, and carefully avoided every expression that might have a tendency to implicate any other person. So firm and dignified was he in his manners, and so honorable in all his proceedings on this most trying occasion, that he excited universal interest in his favor. He requested only to die the death of a soldier, and not on a gibbet. The following is a copy of a very pathetic letter from Major Andre to General Washington, dated

      “TAPPAN, October 1st, 1780.
      “SIR: Buoyed above the terrors of death by the consciousness of a life devoted to honorable pursuits, and stained with no action that can give me remorse, I trust that the request I make to your excellency at this serious period, and which is to soften my last moments, will not be rejected. Sympathy towards a soldier will surely induce your excellency and a military tribunal to adapt the mode of my death to the feelings of a man of honor. Let me hope, Sir, if aught in my character impresses you with esteem towards me – if aught in my misfortunes marks me as the victim of policy, and not of resentment – I shall experience the operation of these feelings in your breast by being informed that I am not to die on a gibbet.

      “I have the honor to be your excellency’s
      most obedient and most humble servant,
      “JOHN ANDRE,
      “Adjutant-General to the British army.”

      This moving letter, as may be supposed, affected the mind of General Washington with the tenderest sympathy, and it is reported that he submitted it to a council of general officers, who decided that as Major Andre was condemned as a spy, the circumstances of the case would not admit of the request being granted, and his excellency, from a desire to spare the feelings of the unfortunate man, declined making a reply to the letter.


      October 1st

      l went this afternoon to witness the execution of Major Andre: a large concourse of people had assembled, the gallows was erected, and the grave and coffin prepared to receive the remains of this celebrated but unfortunate officer; but a flag of truce arrived with a communication from Sir Henry Clinton, making another and further proposals for the release of Major Andre, in consequence of which the execution is postponed till tomorrow, at twelve o’clock.

      The flag which came out this morning brought General Robertson, Andrew Eliot and William Smith, Esquires, for the purpose of pleading for the release of Major Andre, the royal army being in the greatest affliction on the occasion. The two latter gentlemen, not being military officers, were not permitted to land, but General Greene was appointed by his excellency to meet General Robertson at Dobbs’ ferry, and to receive his communications. He had nothing material to urge, but that Andre had come on shore under the sanction of a flag, and therefore could not be considered as a spy. But this is not true; he came on shore in the night, and had no flag, on business totally incompatible with the nature of a flag. Besides, Andre himself, candidly confessed on his trial that he did not consider himself under the sanction of a flag. General Robertson, having failed in his point, requested that the opinion of disinterested persons might be taken, and proposed Generals Knyphausen and Rochambeau as proper persons. After this he had recourse to threats of retaliation on some people in New York and Charleston, but he was told that such conversation could neither be heard nor understood. He next urged the release of Andre on motives of humanity, saying, he wished an intercourse of such civilities as might lessen the horrors of war, and cited instances of General Clinton’s merciful disposition; adding that Andre possessed a great share of that gentleman’s affection and esteem, and that he would be infinitely obliged if he was spared. He offered that, if his earnest wishes were complied with, to engage that any prisoner in their possession, whom General Washington might name, should immediately be set at liberty. But it must be viewed as the height of absurdity that General Robertson should, on this occasion, suffer himself to be the bearer of a letter which the vile traitor had the consummate effrontery to write to General Washington. This insolent letter is filled with threats of retaliation, and the accountability of his excellency for the torrents of blood that might be spilled if he should order the execution of Major Andre. lt should seem impossible that General Robertson could suppose that such insolence would receive any other treatment than utter contempt.

      October 2nd

      Major Andre is no more among the living. I have just witnessed his exit. It was a tragical scene of the deepest interest. During his confinement and trial, he exhibited those proud and elevated sensibilities which designate greatness and dignity of mind. Not a murmur or a sigh ever escaped him, and the civilities and attentions bestowed on him were politely acknowledged. Having left a mother and two sisters in England, he was heard to mention them in terms of the tenderest affection, and in his letter to Sir Henry Clinton, he recommended them to his particular attention.

      The principal guard officer, who was constantly in the room with the prisoner, relates that when the hour of his execution was announced to him in the morning; he received it without emotion, and while all present were affected with silent gloom, he retained a firm countenance, with calmness and composure of mind. Observing his servant enter the room in tears, he exclaimed, “Leave me till you can show yourself more manly!” His breakfast being sent to him from the table of General Washington, which had been done every day of his confinement, he partook of it as usual, and having shaved and dressed himself, he placed his hat on the table, and cheerfully said to the guard officers, “I am ready at any moment, gentlemen, to wait on you,” The fatal hour having arrived, a large detachment of troops was paraded, and an immense concourse of people assembled; almost all our general and field officers, excepting his excellency and his staff, were present on horseback; melancholy and gloom pervaded all ranks, and the scene was affectingly awful. I was so near during the solemn march to the fatal spot, as to observe every movement, and participate in every emotion which the melancholy scene was calculated to produce. Major Andre walked from the stone house, in which he had been confined, between two of our subaltern officers, arm in arm; the eyes of the immense multitude were fixed on him, who, rising superior to the fears of death, appeared as if conscious of the dignified deportment which be displayed. He betrayed no want of fortitude, but retained a complacent smile on his countenance, and politely bowed to several gentlemen whom he knew, which was respectfully returned. It was his earnest desire to be shot, as being the mode of death most conformable to the feelings of a military man, and he had indulged the hope that his request would be granted. At the moment, therefore, when suddenly he came in view of the gallows, be involuntarily started backward, and made a pause. “Why this emotion, sir?” said an officer by his side. Instantly recovering his composure, he said, “I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode.” While waiting and standing near the gallows, I observed some degree of trepidation; placing his foot on a stone, and rolling it over and choking in his throat, as if attempting to swallow. So soon, however, as he perceived that things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon, and at this moment he appeared to shrink, but instantly elevating his head with firmness, he said, “It will be but a momentary pang,” and taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, the provost-marshal, with one, loosely pinioned his arms, and with the other, the victim, after taking off his hat and stock, bandaged his own eyes with perfect firmness, which melted the hearts and moistened the cheeks, not only of his servant, but of the throng of spectators. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head and adjusted it to his neck, without the assistance of the awkward executioner. Colonel Scammel now informed him that he had an opportunity to speak, if he desired it; he raised the handkerchief from his eyes, and said, “I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man.” The wagon being now removed from under him, he was suspended, and instantly expired; it proved indeed “but a momentary pang.” He was dressed in his royal regimentals and boots, and his remains, in the same dress, were placed in an ordinary coffin, and interred at the foot of the gallows; and the spot was consecrated by the tears of thousands.

      In the autumn of 1821, the remains of Major Andre were disinterred, and transported to England.

      Thus died, in the bloom of life, the accomplished Major Andre, the pride of the royal army, and the valued friend of Sir Henry Clinton. He was about twenty-nine years of age, in his person well proportioned, tall, genteel and graceful. His mien respectable and dignified. His countenance mild, expressive and prepossessing, indicative of an intelligent and amiable mind. His talents are said to have been of a superior cast, and, being cultivated in early life, he had made very considerable proficiency in literary attainments. Colonel Hamilton, aid-de-camp to General Washington, having had an interview with him, entertains an exalted opinion of his character. In the line of his profession, Major Andre, was considered as a skilful, brave and enterprising officer, and he is reported to have been benevolent and humane to our people who have been prisoners in New York. Military glory was the mainspring of his actions, and the sole object of his pursuits, and he was advancing rapidly in the gratification of his ambitious views, till by a misguided zeal he became a devoted victim. He enjoyed the confidence and friendship of Sir Henry Clinton, being consulted in his councils and admitted to the secrets of his cabinet. The heart of sensibility mourns when a life of so much worth is sacrificed on a gibbet. General Washington was called to discharge a duty from which his soul revolted; and it is asserted that his hand could scarcely command his pen; when signing the warrant for the execution of Major Andre. But however abhorrent in the view of humanity, the laws and usages of war must be obeyed, and in all armies it is decreed that the gallows shall be the fate of spies from the enemy. It was universally desired that Major, Andre should experience every possible favor and indulgence, consistent with his peculiar circumstances, but it was well considered that, should he be indulged in his request to be shot, it would imply that his case admitted of extenuation, and it might be doubted whether in justice he ought to be convicted as a spy. The British general himself has not hesitated to execute several persons of the same description sent from our army into New York.

      It is with the highest degree of satisfaction, that I am enabled to copy the following interesting narrative, vouched by Major-General Hull, of Newton, from Hannah Adams’ History of New England. Let the reader draw the striking contrast between the conduct of the royalists and the Americans, on an occasion where the duties of humanity and benevolence, were equally and imperiously demanded.

      “The retreat of General Washington left the British in complete possession of Long Island. What would be their future operations, remained uncertain. To obtain information of their situation, their strength and future movements, was of high importance. For this purpose, General Washington applied to Colonel Knowlton, who commanded a regiment of light infantry, which formed the van of the American army, and desired him to adopt some mode of gaining the necessary information. Colonel Knowlton communicated this request to Captain Hale, of Connecticut, who was then a captain in his regiment. This young officer, animated by a sense of duty, and considering that an opportunity presented itself by which he might be useful to his country, at once offered himself a volunteer for this hazardous service. He passed in disguise to Long Island, examined every part of the British army, and obtained the best possible information respecting their situation and future operations.

      “In his attempt to return, he was apprehended, carried before Sir William Howe, and the proof of his object was so clear, that he frankly acknowledged who he was, and what were his views.

      “Sir William Howe at once gave an order to the provost-marshal to execute him the next morning.

      “The order was accordingly executed in a most unfeeling manner, and by as great a savage as ever disgraced humanity. A clergyman, whose attendance he desired, was refused him; a Bible for a moment’s devotion was not procured, though he requested it. Letters which, on the morning of his execution, he wrote to his mother and other friends, were destroyed; and this very extraordinary reason given by the provost-marshal, that the rebels should not know that they had a man in their army who could die with so much firmness.’

      “Unknown to all around him, without a single friend to offer him the least consolation, thus fell as amiable and as worthy a young man as America could boast, with this as his dying observation, ‘that he only lamented he had but one life to lose for his country.’ How superior to the dying words of Andre! Though the manner of his execution will ever be abhorred by every friend to humanity and religion, yet there cannot be a question but that the sentence was conformable to the rules of war, and the practice of nations in similar cases.

      “It is, however, a justice due to the character of Captain Hale, to observe, that his motives for engaging in this service were entirely different from those which generally influence others in similar circumstances. Neither expectation of promotion nor pecuniary reward induced him to this attempt. A sense of duty, a hope that he might in this way be useful to his country, and an opinion which he had adopted, that every kind of service necessary to the public good became honorable by being necessary, were the great motives which induced him to engage in an enterprise by which his connexions lost a most amiable friend and his country one of its most promising supporters.’

      “The fate of this unfortunate young man excites the most interesting reflections. To see such a character, in the flower of youth, cheerfully treading in the most hazardous paths, influenced by the purest intentions, and only emulous to do good to his country, without the imputation of a crime, fall a victim to policy, must have been wounding to the feelings even of his enemies.

      “Should a comparison be drawn between Major Andre and Captain Hale, injustice would be done to the latter, should he not be placed on an equal ground with the former. Whilst almost every historian of the American Revolution has celebrated the virtues and lamented the fate of Andre, Hale has remained unnoticed, and it is scarcely known that such a character ever existed.

      “To the memory of Andre, his country has erected the most magnificent monuments, and bestowed on his family the highest honors and most liberal rewards. To the memory of Hale not a stone has been erected, nor an inscription to preserve his ashes from insult.”

      Could Arnold have been suspended on the gibbet erected for Andre, not a tear or a sigh would have been produced, but exultation and joy would have been visible on every countenance. But General Clinton suffers the vile and infamous traitor to elude the hand of justice, and even bestows on him a reward for his crime. It may perhaps be suggested, that in this last act of his life Major Andre derogated from his character and station. That the laurels to adorn the brow of a soldier, can only be acquired in the field of battle, and not by encouraging acts of treason, by bribery and corruption. Surprise and strategem, it is well known, constitute a valuable part of the art of war, by which many important objects are effected, and by some it is said that when acts of treason are practised, the infamy devolves on the head of the traitors alone. In the present instance, it is supposed that Arnold made the first overture. It is well understood that Sir Henry Clinton enjoined it on Andre to transact the business on board the Vulture, and it was his own determination not to land on our shore; but such was the management of Arnold and his confederate, Smith, that he was actually compelled, contrary to his own judgment and intention, to come within our lines, and this circumstance alone placed him in the character of a common spy. The commander-in-chief was generously disposed to compassionate his unhappy condition, and to soothe and mitigate his sorrow, and every officer in the army was actuated by feelings of sympathy and tenderness towards him. The base and perfidious Arnold is held in the utmost abhorrence and detestation throughout our army, and his person, with the garrison at West Point into the bargain, would have been a dear purchase to Sir Henry for the life of his valuable friend and adjutant-general.

      West Point is now become a very celebrated and memorable spot, by the attempt of the royal general to obtain possession of it through the defection and treachery of one of our officers, and the defeat of the conspiracy. Arnold was well apprised of its importance, and it was obviously his design to strike a fatal blow to the cause of his native country, and it was his intention that it should cost the British nothing more than the price of his own villany and treason. He had actually removed a New York regiment from the point to the plain on the east side of the river, and sent off a number of soldiers from the garrison to cut wood at a distance, and disposed and arranged the remaining troops in such manner that little or no opposition could have been made, and an ‘immediate surrender would have been inevitable, or our troops must have fallen a sacrifice. Deplorable indeed would have been the event, the loss of this highly important garrison with some of our best officers and men, the immense quantity of ordnance and military stores, together with the prodigious panic and gloom which at this critical period must have pervaded the whole people, could scarcely have failed of being productive of consequences overwhelming the physical powers and energies of our country. But we are saved by a miracle, and we are confounded in awful astonishment. In a private letter, General Washington thus expresses himself respecting this transaction:

      “In no instance since the commencement of the war has the interposition of Providence appeared more remarkably conspicuous than in the rescue of the post and garrison at West Point. How far Arnold meant to involve me in the catastrophe of this place, does not appear by any indubitable evidence, and I am rather inclined to think he did not wish to hazard the more important object, by attempting to combine two events, the lesser of which might have marred the greater. A combination of extraordinary circumstances, and unaccountable deprivation of presence of mind in a man of the first abilities, and the virtue of three militia-men, threw the adjutant-general of the British forces, with full proof of Arnold’s intention, into our hands, and but for the egregious folly or the bewildered conception of Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson, who seemed lost in astonishment, and not to have known what he was doing, I should undoubtedly have gotten Arnold. Andre has met his fate, and with that fortitude which was to be expected from an accomplished man and a gallant officer; but I mistake if Arnold is suffering at this time the torments of a mental hell. He wants feeling. From some traits of his character which have lately come to my knowledge, he seems to have been so hacknied in crime, so lost to all sense of honor and shame, that while his faculties still enable him to continue his sordid pursuits, there will be no time for remorse.”

      For the sake of human nature, it were to be wished that a veil could be for ever thrown over so vile an example of depravity and wickedness. Traitor! you never can know the precious enjoyment of a quiet conscience! While you sleep, your heart must be awake, and the voice of Andre must thrill through your very soul. Though you may console yourself that you have escaped the gallows, a consciousness of your crimes and the infamy and contempt which will for ever await you, must incessantly harrow and torment your spirit, rendering you of all villains the most wretched and miserable. The only atonement in your power to alleviate your poignant mental misery, is a humble and hearty confession, and to implore in sincerity the forgiveness of Heaven!

      Our brigade and three others decamped from Orangetown on the 7th instant. Our tents and baggage were sent up the Hudson in boats and we took our route through the highlands. The road was almost impassable through a thick wood and over high mountains, constantly intersected by prodigious rocks, running brooks and deep valleys. We arrived at West Point on the evening of the 8th, distance thirty-two miles; the troops much fatigued, and our tents not arrived, took our sleep for the night on the ground in the woods and on the 9th, encamped on the plain, near the banks of the river. General Greene is now the commander of this garrison, and good order takes place of the confusion occasioned by Arnold’s elopement.

      Joshua Smith, Esquire, the confederate of Arnold, has been tried by a court-martial of which Colonel Henry Jackson was president; the evidence against him and his own confession go to prove that he went on board the Vulture, in the night, and brought on shore a gentleman who was called John Anderson, to have an interview with General Arnold; that he secreted him in his house, furnished him with a horse and change of clothes, and that he accompanied him through our out-posts, and directed him into the proper road to New York. All this, he pleads in his defence, was by the express desire of General Arnold, who assured him that his object was to obtain some important intelligence from New York, which would be highly advantageous to the public interest. He considered himself, therefore, in the character of a confidential agent in the employment of Arnold, without suspicion of treasonable conduct in this officer. This pretence is plausible, and it is his good fortune that no positive evidence could be produced to countervail his assertions. Though his actions appear criminal, yet it is possible his motives and views may have been laudable. The want of positive evidence, therefore, of his criminality, prevented his conviction; but so strong was the circumstantial proof of his guilt, that it was deemed proper that he should be kept in confinement. Being seized with indisposition, from apprehension and anxiety of mind, I was requested to visit him in his prison. I found him very conversable, and he immediately entertained me with a relation of the particular circumstances of his case, which agreed substantially with the above statement. He promised to show me his written defence, produced at his trial, but no future opportunity occurred. He pretended that it was unjust and cruel that he should be deprived of his liberty, when no evidence of guilt could be produced against him. He was soon removed to some prison in the country; after which, his lady arrived, expecting to find him here. I received a polite billet, requesting I would wait on her at the house of my friend Major Bowman, where I was introduced to her and to Mrs. B. and her daughter, with whom I took tea and spent the evening. Mrs. Smith was grievously disappointed that her husband was removed; she was very solicitous to be informed of the particular circumstances which attended him in his illness, and whether he was dejected in spirits, and politely thanked me for my attention to him. She appears to be an accomplished and interesting woman, but is in much distress for the fate of her husband. She could not conceal her natural partiality and bias in his favor, and would willingly have left the impression which Arnold wished to make, when in his letter to General Washington’ he says of his wife, “she is as good and as innocent as an angel, and is incapable of doing wrong.”

      Smith was for several months in confinement; but either from a want of vigilance in his keeper, or the indifference of the proper authority, he was at length allowed to escape to New York.

      October 15th

      I have just returned from Orangetown, in company with Captain Hunt, of our regiment, where I was called to visit his brother, who was left sick when we marched from that place. We dined with Doctors Eustis and Townsend at the hospital on our way, and with Captain Livingston, a respectable officer, commanding at Stony Point, on our return.

      October 20th

      Major-General Greene has been ordered to the southward, to take command of the American army in the Carolinas, and Major-General Heath succeeds to the command of this post.

      We have the mortifying intelligence that the enemy has laid waste a great part of the fertile country above Saratoga, and likewise the vicinity of Schenectady. The party consisted of Indians, tories, and Canadians, commanded by Sir John Johnston. General Van Rensselaer, with the militia and some new levies, engaged the enemy at Fox’s mills, Tryon county, and after a very severe action of three-quarters of an hour, forced them to give way and cross the river, leaving their plunder, baggage and prisoners, which they had taken, behind them. One hour of daylight would have given us the whole party. The action was general and vigorous; we have to lament the loss of Colonel Brown, who was killed in skirmishing with the enemy. The devastation committed by this savage party is found to be very important, as it respects the inhabitants of the north. It is estimated at two hundred dwellings, one hundred and fifty thousand bushels of wheat, with a proportion of other grain and forage. The same party destroyed also the town of Schoharie, but the inhabitants fortunately secured themselves in the fort.

      Official intelligence is received of a very brilliant exploit of our militia in North Carolina. The famous royal partizan, Major Ferguson, was at the head of about one thousand four hundred British troops and tories. Colonels Campbell, Cleveland, Williams, Shelby and Sevier, brave and enterprising officers, had collected detached parties of militia, and by agreement the whole were united, and formed a body amounting to near three thousand. Colonel Campbell was appointed their commander. They immediately marched in pursuit of Major Ferguson, and came up with him advantageously posted, at a place called King’s mountains. No time was lost in making a vigorous attack, and giving the enemy a total defeat, in which Major Ferguson and one hundred and fifty of his men were killed, eight hundred made prisoners, and fifteen hundred stand of arms taken, with a trifling loss on our side, excepting the brave Colonel Williams, who received a mortal wound after being crowned with honor.

      Congress have resolved that the regular army of the United States, from and after the first day of January, 1781, shall consist of four regiments of artillery, forty-nine regiments of infantry, exclusive of Colonel Hazen’s, called “the Congress’ own regiment,” and one regiment of artificers. The respective states are to furnish their quotas as proportioned by Congress. And as, by the foregoing arrangement, many deserving officers may become supernumerary, Congress resolved that, after the reform of the army takes place, the officers shall be entitled to half-pay for seven years in specie or other current money equivalent, and to have grants of land at the close of the war, agreeably to the resolution of the 16th September, 1776.

      A scarcity of provisions is again complained of in camp.

      It has long been the desire of General Washington to make some arrangement with General Clinton for an exchange of prisoners; but many difficulties have attended to prevent the accomplishment of the object. A partial exchange has now been effected; Major-General Lincoln, who was taken at Charleston, has been exchanged for Major-General Phillips, captured at Saratoga. General Thompson and a number of other American officers, who have long been prisoners, are also liberated by exchange.


      November 1st

      A most tremendous storm of wind, snow and hail has continued almost incessantly for two days. Many of our tents were levelled with the ground, and officers and men exposed without a shelter.

      November 2nd

      This is a day of public Thanksgiving throughout the state of New York, on occasion of the discovery of Arnold’s conspiracy.

      November 3rd

      A soldier has been executed to-day for desertion and persuading others to follow his example.

      A large detachment of troops has been ordered by General Heath to be in readiness, with two days’ provisions cooked, to march on a foraging expedition, under command of Brigadier-General Stark. The detachment crossed the Hudson on the 21st instant, and paraded on Nelson’s point, where they were reviewed by the Marquis de Chastellux, one of the generals of the French army at Newport. It is understood that the object of the expedition is to procure a quantity of forage from the farms on the neutral ground, between the two armies, towards King’s-bridge. After the review, the marquis crossed over to West Point, where his arrival was announced by the discharge of thirteen cannon. The detachment marched about ten miles, and took lodgings on the ground in the woods, beside large fires. In the night a severe storm of rain came on, that drenched our troops, and becoming more violent the next day, rendered the roads extremely bad, and our march very uncomfortable; we reached North Castle, seventeen miles, and lodged in the woods, where our fires did not secure us from suffering much by wet and cold.

      November 23rd

      Marched to West Farms, near West Chester, within eight miles of the enemy’s works at King’s-bridge. Here we kindled numerous fires in open view of the enemy, and in the evening the troops were ordered to leave the fires and retire back about two miles, and remain under arms prepared for battle; but the enemy made no advances.

      November 24th

      Another severe storm of rain, which continued through the day; we, however, began to march at sun-rise, on our return, but soon halted, and took shelter under the bushes near White Plains. In this comfortless situation, we continued through the day and night. The next day, the storm continuing, I was so fortunate as to crowd into a house with some officers for shelter.

      November 26th and 27th

      Marched twenty miles each day, and reached our former station at this place before night.

      The country which we lately traversed, about fifty miles in extent, is called neutral ground, but the miserable inhabitants who remain, are not much favored with the privileges which their neutrality ought to secure to them. They are continually exposed to the ravages and insults of infamous banditti, composed of royal refugees and tories. The country is rich and fertile, and the farms appear to have been advantageously cultivated, but it now has the marks of a country in ruins. A large proportion of the proprietors having abandoned their farms, the few that remain find it impossible to harvest the produce. The meadows and pastures are covered with grass of a summer’s growth, and thousands of bushels of apples and other fruit are rotting in the orchards. We brought off about two hundred loads of hay and grain, and ten times the amount might have been procured, had teams enough been provided. Those of the inhabitants of the neutral ground who were tories, have joined their friends in New York, and the whigs have retired into the interior of our country. Some of each side have taken up arms, and become the most cruel and deadly foes. There are within the British lines banditti consisting of lawless villains, who devote themselves to the most cruel pillage and robbery among the defenceless inhabitants between the lines, many of whom they carry off to New York, after plundering their houses and farms. These shameless marauders have received the names of Cow-boys and Skinners. By their atrocious deeds they have become a scourge and terror to the people. Numerous instances have been related of these miscreants subjecting defenceless persons to cruel torture, to compel them to deliver up their money, or to disclose the places where it has been secreted. It is not uncommon for them to hang a man by his neck till apparently dead, then restore him, and repeat the experiment, and leave him for dead. One of these unhappy persons informed me that when suffering this cruel treatment, the last sensation which he recollects, when suspended by his neck, was a flashing heat over him, like that which would be occasioned by boiling water poured over his body; he was, however, cut down, and how long he remained on the ground insensible, he knows not. A peaceable, unresisting Quaker, of considerable respectability, by the name of Quimby, was visited by several of these vile ruffians; they first demanded his money, and after it was delivered, they suspected he had more concealed, and inflicted on him the most savage cruelties, in order to extort it from him. They began with what they call scorching, covering his naked body with hot ashes, and repeating the application till the skin was covered with blisters; after this, they resorted to the halter, and hung the poor man on a tree by his neck; then took him down, and repeated it a second, and even a third time, and finally left him almost lifeless.

      November 30th

      It is now well understood that our detachment, under the pretext of a foraging expedition, was intended by the commander-in-chief to cooperate with the main army in an attempt against the enemy’s post on York Island. Boats, mounted on travelling carriages, have been kept with the army all the campaign. The Marquis de la Fayette, at the head of his beautiful corps of light-infantry, constantly advancing in front, was to have commenced the attack in the night, and the whole army was prepared to make a general attack on the enemy’s works. by some movement of the British vessels, or other cause, known only to the commander-in-chief and his confidential officers, this noble enterprise was unfortunately defeated. The campaign is now brought to a close, without effecting any very important object. We have several times offered the enemy battle, but they refuse to accept the challenge. The marquis suffers on this occasion the most painful disappointment. He had spared no pains or expense to render his corps of infantry as fine a body of troops as can be produced in any country; every officer under his command received from him a present of an elegant sword, and the soldiers were put in uniform mostly at his expense. The officers cheerfully seconded his endeavors to perfect the men in discipline, and a noble spirit of emulation universally prevailed among them. The marquis viewed this corps as one formed and modelled according to his own wishes, and as meriting his highest confidence. They were the pride of his heart, and he was the idol of their regard, who were constantly panting for an opportunity of accomplishing some signal achievement, worthy of his and their character. This brilliant corps is now dissolved, and the men have rejoined their respective regiments, and we are soon to retire into the wilderness to prepare for winter-quarters.

      Intelligence is received from Boston that his Excellency John Hancock has been elected by the people of the state of Massachusetts the first governor under their new constitution. This event affords universal satisfaction, and has been announced in Boston by public rejoicing, firing of thirteen cannon, military parade, feu de joie, and elegant entertainments.

      It is with inexpressible satisfaction that we learn, the patriotic ladies of Philadelphia and its vicinity, have distinguished themselves by a generous and liberal regard to the sufferings of our soldiery, and have engaged in the benevolent work of raising contributions among themselves, and stimulating others, for the purpose of affording a temporary relief for the soldiers on service in that vicinity. I extract from the newspapers the sentiments of an “American Woman,” addressed to American ladies relative to the subject, which should be recorded for the honor of the sex:

      “On the commencement of actual war, the women of America manifested a firm resolution to contribute as much as could depend on them to the deliverance of their country. Animated by the purest patriotism, they are full of sorrow at this day in not offering more than barren wishes for the success of so glorious a revolution. They aspire to render themselves more really useful; and this sentiment is universal, from the north to the south of the Thirteen United States. Our ambition is kindled by the fame of those heroines of antiquity, who have rendered their sex illustrious, and have proved to the world that, if the weakness of our constitution, if opinion and manners did not forbid us to march to glory by the same path as the men, we should at least equal, and sometimes surpass them in our love for the public good. I glory in all that my sex have done that is great and commendable. I call to mind with enthusiasm and with admiration all those acts of courage, of constancy and patriotism, which history has transmitted to us:, the people favored by Heaven, preserved from destruction by the virtues, the zeal and the resolution of Deborah, of Judith, of Esther – the fortitude of the mother of the Maccabees, in giving up her sons to die before her eyes – Rome saved from the fury of a victorious enemy by the efforts of Volumnia and other Roman ladies – so many famous sieges where the women have been seen forgetting the weakness of their sex, building new walls, digging trenches with their feeble hands, furnishing arms to their defenders, they themselves darting the missile-weapons on the enemy, resigning the ornaments of their apparel, and their fortune, to fill the public treasury, and to hasten the deliverance of their country; burying themselves under its ruins; throwing themselves into the flames, rather than submit to the disgrace of humiliation before a proud enemy.

      “We are certain that he cannot be a good citizen, who will not applaud our efforts for the relief of the armies, which defend our lives, our possessions, our liberty. The situation of our soldiery has been represented to me; the evils inseparable from war, and the firm and generous spirit which has enabled them to support these. But it has been said that they may apprehend that, in the course of a long war, the view of their distresses may be lost, and their services be forgotten. Forgotten! never; I can answer in the name of all my sex. Brave Americans, your disinterestedness, your courage, and your constancy, will always be dear to America, so long as she shall preserve her virtue.

      “We know that at a distance from the theatre of war, if we enjoy any tranquillity, it is the fruit of your watchings, your labors, your dangers. If I live happy in the midst of my family; it my husband cultivates his field, and reaps his harvest in peace; if, surrounded with my children, I myself nourish the youngest, and press it to my bosom, without being afraid of seeing myself separated from it by a ferocious enemy; if the house, in which we dwell, if our barns, our orchards, are safe at the present time from the hands of the incendiary; it is to you that we owe it. And shall we hesitate to evidence to you our gratitude? shall we hesitate to wear a clothing more simple; hair dressed less elegantly, while, at the price of this small privation, we shall deserve your benedictions, Who among us will not renounce with the highest pleasure those vain ornaments, when she shall consider that the valiant defenders of America will be able to draw some advantage from the money which she may have laid out in these? – that they will be better defended from the rigors of the seasons; that after their painful toils they will receive some extraordinary and unexpected relief; that these presents will perhaps be valued by them at a greater price, when they will have it in their power to say, This is the offering of the ladies! The time has arrived to display the same sentiments which animated us at the beginning of the revolution, when we renounced the use of teas, however agreeable to our taste, rather than receive them from our persecutors; when we made it appear to them that we placed former necessaries in the rank of superfluities, when our liberty was interested; when our republican and laborious hands spun the flax and prepared the linen intended for the use of our soldiers; when, exiles and fugitives, we supported with courage all the evils which are the concomitants of war. Let us not lose a moment: let us be engaged to offer the homage of our gratitude at the altar of military valor; and you, our brave deliverers, while mercenary slaves combat to cause you to share with them the irons with which they are loaded, receive with a free hand our offering, the purest which can be presented to your virtue.”

      After this publication, the ladies divided the city of Philadelphia into districts, and a select number visited every house, and received the contribution. The method proposed of distributing their bounty to the troops was through the medium of Mrs. Washington, but in her absence, through that of her husband, the father and friend of the soldiery. From the kind and generous exertions of these ladies, the soldiers received at one time two thousand one hundred and seven shirts, made by their own hands; and in another paper it is mentioned that the sum total of the donations received by the ladies of Philadelphia, in their several districts, for the American army, amounts to three hundred thousand seven hundred and sixty-six dollars in paper currency. Such free-will offerings are examples truly worthy of imitation, and are to be considered as expressions of kindness and benevolence, which ought to be recorded to the honor of American ladies.


      December 1st

      Our brigade is now ordered into the woods, in the highlands, in the rear of West Point, where we are to build log-huts for winter cantonments. We are again subjected to numerous privations and difficulties, to support which requires all our patience and fortitude. The soldiers, though very miserably clad, have been for some time obliged to bring all the wood for themselves and officers on their backs, from a place a mile distant, and almost half the time are kept on half-allowance of bread, and entirely without rum. Twelve or fourteen months pay are now due to us, and we are destitute of clothing and the necessaries of life. The weather is remarkably cold, and our tents are comfortless.

      December 10th

      For three days I have not been able to procure food enough to appease my appetite; we are threatened with starvation. That a part of our army, charged with the defence of a post so highly important to America, should be left in such an unprovided and destitute condition, is truly a matter of astonishment; and unless a remedy can be found, our soldiers will abandon the cause of their country, and we must submit to the yoke of Great Britain, which we so much abhor.

      December 20th

      During the last ten days we have experienced almost continued storms of rain, high winds, and disagreeable fogs. Our canvas dwellings afford us but little protection against such powerful, assailants; they are frequently rent asunder, and we are almost overwhelmed with inundation.

      A very spirited and honorable enterprise has lately been planned and executed by Major Talmadge, of Colonel Sheldon’s regiment of dragoons. The enemy having large magazines of forage and stores in the vicinity of Fort St. George, on Long Island, he resolved to hazard the attempt to seize them by surprise. Fort St. George was stockaded, and covered a large spot of ground, having a square redoubt, with a ditch and abatis. With about eighty dismounted dragoons, under Captain Edgar, and eight or ten on horseback, Major Talmadge passed the Sound, where it was about twenty miles from shore to shore, marched across the island in the night with such facility and address, that his enterprise was crowned with complete success. The enemy were not alarmed till too late to make much resistance; seven, however were killed and wounded, and the remainder, amounting to fifty-four, among whom were one lieutenant-colonel, one captain and a subaltern, were made prisoners. The fort was demolished, two armed vessels were burned, and a large magazine of hay, said to be three hundred tons, with stores to a large amount, shared the same fate. Major Talmadge recrossed the Sound With his brave party without the loss of a man. The commander-in-chief was so well pleased with this exploit, that he recommended Major Talmadge to the notice of Congress, and they voted him their thanks for his, brave and spirited conduct.

      The extraordinary patience and fortitude which have hitherto been so honorably displayed by our officers and soldiers under their complicated distresses, appear now to be exhausted. From repeated disappointments of our hopes and expectations, the confidence of the army in public justice and public promises is greatly diminished, and we are reduced almost to despair.

      The present crisis is alarming. Regimental officers are continually resigning their commissions, and a large proportion of those who remain have pledged themselves to follow their example, unless a redress of grievances can soon be obtained. Nothing short of what we conceive to be justly our due, a comfortable and permanent support, will retain our officers, however ardent their desire to serve their country. They exclaim, “Let others come and take their turn! we have served years longer than we expected, and have acquitted ourselves of duty.” All the general officers belonging to New England have united in a memorial to their respective state governments, complaining of our grievances, and requesting immediate relief and security for the future. This memorial, being put into the mail, was taken from the Fishkill post-rider by some emissary from the enemy, and has been published in the New York papers, by which our forlorn situation has been exposed, and much exultation occasioned among those who are watching for our destruction.

      The resolution of Congress for a new arrangement of the army was not conformable to the expectations of the officers, and caused uneasiness among them. The commander-in-chief saw that a storm was gathering, and thought it prudent on this occasion to communicate his opinion to Congress on the best means to avert it. On the 11th of October, he informed Congress, “that the general topic of declamation in the army is, that it is as hard as dishonorable for men who had made every sacrifice to the service, to be turned out of it, at the pleasure of those in power, without an adequate compensation. Too many of the officers wish to get rid of their commissions, but they are not willing to be forced to it.”

      The commander-in-chief, in his communication to Congress, suggests the policy of making ample provision, both for the officers who stay and for those who are reduced. He recommended what he thought would be the most economical, the most politic, and the most effectual provision, half-pay for life. “Supported,” the general says, “by a prospect of a permanent dependence, the officers would be tied to the service, and would submit to many momentary privations, and to the inconveniences which the situation of the public service make unavoidable. If the objection drawn from the principle that this measure is incompatible with the genius of our government, be thought insurmountable, I would propose a substitute, less eligible in my opinion, but which may answer the purpose: it is to make the present half-pay, for seven years, whole pay for the same period, to be advanced at two different payments, one half in a year after the conclusion of peace, the other half in two years after.”

      His excellency also takes notice of the injuries and inconveniences which attend a continual change of officers, and consequent promotions in the army.

      Soon after Congress were possessed of the sentiments of General Washington, they resolved, “that the commander-in-chief and commanding officer, in the northern department, direct the officers of each state to meet and agree on the officers for the regiments to be raised by their respective states, from those who incline to continue in service, and where it cannot be done by agreement, to be determined by seniority; and make return of those Who are to remain, which is to be transmitted to Congress, together with the names of the officers reduced, who are to be allowed half-pay for life. That the officers who shall continue in service to the end of the war, shall also be entitled to half-pay during life, to commence from the time of their reduction.

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