1782 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 1782.

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



      The huts which we now occupy were erected the last winter by some of the Massachusetts troops, a short distance from the banks of the Hudson, and called New Boston; they afford us a very convenient and comfortable accommodation. Orders having been received for all the troops that have not gone through the small-pox to be inoculated, I commenced this business a few weeks since, and inoculated about two hundred, including women and children. Their accommodations were not such as their circumstances required; we were unprovided with proper articles of diet, and a considerable number were seized with putrid fever, which proved fatal in several instances.


      March 10th

      A singular incident occurred in the sixth regiment to-day. Two soldiers were eating soup together, and one forbid the other eating any more; as be did not desist, his comrade gave him a blow with his fist on the side of his bead, on which be fell to the ground and instantly expired. On close examination, I could discover no bruise or injury which could enable me to account satisfactorily for his death.

      An unhappy controversy has subsisted for some time between Captain H. and Lieutenant S., both of the first Massachusetts regiment. Captain H. was esteemed a man of modest merit and unexceptionable character; he has long commanded a company, and proved himself brave in the field and a good disciplinarian. Lieutenant S., though a good, active officer, is assuming, high-spirited, and values himself on what he deems the principles of honor and the gentleman. Having imbibed a strong prejudice against his captain, and probably calculating on promotion, he took unjustifiable liberties,and, in violation of honor of honor and decency, aspersed his character with unfounded calumnies. the friends of the parties interposed, and endeavored to effect a reconciliation. S. affected an acquiescence; in consequence of which, the contention apparently subsided. But still retaining in his breast the old grudge, he renewed his calumnies, and was determined to provoke his captain to a personal combat; and though contrary to his nature and to his principles, he was compelled to the alternative. Captain H. obtained a furlough, visited his friends in Massachusetts, made his will, and arranged his worldly affairs. Having returned to camp, it was agreed to meet in the field according to the rules of duelling. The tragical result is, that Captain H. received a mortal wound, and died in three hours after, and S. escaped with a wound in his arm. Thus has this imperious young man, to gratify a sordid passion, sent into eternity a man whom he ought to have respected as his superior in every point of view -deprived the public of a valuable officer, and a wife and three children of a husband and father. Barbarous and cruel murderer! you have violated the laws of God and man. Should you escape punishment in this life, what must be your doom in the awful day of retribution? The friends of Captain H. in Massachusetts manifested their abhorrence of this murderous deed, and endeavored by a legal process to bring S. to condign punishment. They procured a sheriff in the state of New York, where the crime was committed, who repaired to camp with assistance, took the opportunity when the regiment was on parade and demanded of the colonel that S. should be delivered up to the civil authority. The colonel reluctantly pointed out the man, the sheriff advanced towards him, and S., soldier like, unsheathed his sword and stood in defiance. The sheriff, unaccustomed to the sword, was intimidated, and finally retired from the field without the prisoner (In the year 1786, a regiment was raised in the state of Massachusetts for the purpose of an Indian expedition. Lieutenant S. presented his pretensions as a candidate for a commission, but notwithstanding a respectable recommendation from several general officers, the governor and council rejected the application with disdain.)


      April 5th

      Having completed the inoculation of the soldiers, and attended them through the small-pox, and my professional duty being considerably diminished, I have obtained a furlough for forty-five days to visit my friends in Massachusetts, and shall to-morrow commence my journey to Boston, in company with my friend Doctor Eustis.


      May 30th

      I returned to New Boston last evening from Boston, having been absent forty-four days, which is one day short my furlough; our journey to Boston occupied nine days, being impeded by foul weather and bad roads. We were on horseback, attended by a servant, and took our route through Connecticut and Providence. Here we spent a pleasant evening with Lieutenant-Governor Bowen; he and Doctor Eustis engaged in conversation respecting the properties of coffee; Governor Bowen asserted that it is a sedative, while the doctor contended for its stimulant effects, and he certainly had the best of the argument. Having arrived at Boston, Doctor Eustis kindly introduced me to his father’s family, where I received hospitable and polite civilities. I proceeded to Plymouth and Barnstable, where I had the satisfaction of a family interview, after an absence of four years. Great preparations are making at West Point, to celebrate the birth of the young Dauphin of France; being in alliance with his Most Christian Majesty, propriety requires that we should celebrate the joyous event of the birth of his first son. His Excellency General Washington has, in general orders, given an invitation to all officers of the army, and they are requested to invite any friends or acquaintance they may have in the country to participate in the grand festival.

      On the 6th instant a dangerous mutiny was discovered among the soldiers of the Connecticut line. It had been conducted with so much address and secrecy, that it was on the point of execution before it was divulged. The defection was general in the line: the soldiers had determined at reveille the next morning to have marched from their cantonments with arms, &c., complete, for Fishkill, where they intended to take a number of field-pieces with ammunition and provisions, and proceed to Hartford, and there demand of the Assembly that justice which they consider their due. At the moment the officers were retiring to bed, a faithful soldier, who was a waiter, informed his officer that he could not retire to rest without divulging an event which would assuredly take place the next morning at day-light. The most guilty soldiers were immediately seized and confined, and the ringleader was sentenced to suffer death, which happily frustrated the whole design. It is but just to observe, that the Connecticut line of troops have during the war, except in this instance, conducted in a very exemplary and meritorious manner.


      Yesterday was celebrated the birth of the Dauphin of France, by a magnificent festival. The edifice under which the company assembled and partook of the entertainment was erected on the plain at West Point. The situation was romantic, and the occasion novel and interesting. Major Villefranche, an ingenious French engineer, has been employed with one thousand men about ten days in constructing the curious edifice. It is composed of the simple materials which the common trees in this vicinity afford. It is about six hundred feet in length and thirty feet wide, supported by a grand colonnade of one hundred and eighteen pillars, made of the trunks of trees. The covering of the roof consists of boughs, or branches of trees curiously interwoven, and the same materials form the walls, leaving the ends entirely open. On the inside, every pillar was encircled with muskets and bayonets, bound round in a fanciful and handsome manner, and the whole interior was decorated with evergreens, with American and French military colors, and a variety of emblems and devices, all adjusted in such style as to beautify the whole interior of the fabric. This superb structure, in symmetry of proportion, neatness of workmanship, and elegance of arrangement, has seldom perhaps been surpassed on any temporary occasion; it affected the spectators with admiration and pleasure, and reflects much credit on the taste and ability of Major Villefranche. Several appropriate mottos decorated the grand edifice, pronouncing benedictions on the dauphin and happiness to the two allied nations. The whole army was paraded on the contiguous hills on both sides of the river, forming a circle of several miles in open view of the public edifice, and at the given signal of firing three cannon, the regimental officers all left their commands, and repaired to the building to partake of the entertainment which had been prepared by order of the commander-in-chief. At five o’clock, dinner being on the table, his Excellency General Washington and lady and suite, the principal officers of the army and their ladies, Governor Clinton and his lady, and a number of respectable characters from the states of New York and New Jersey, moved from Major-General McDougall’s quarters through the line formed by Colonel Crane’s regiment of artillery to the arbor, where more than five hundred gentlemen and ladies partook of a magnificent festival. A martial band charmed our senses with music, while we feasted our appetites and gazed with admiration on the illustrious guests and the novel spectacle exhibited to our view. The cloth being removed, thirteen appropriate toasts were drank, each one being announced by the discharge of thirteen cannon and accompanied by music. The guests retired from the table at seven o’clock, and the regimental officers repaired to their respective commands. The arbor was, in the evening, illuminated by a vast number of lights, which being arranged in regular and tasteful order, exhibited a scene vieing in brilliancy with the starry firmament. The officers having rejoined their regiments, thirteen cannon were again fired as a prelude to a general feu de joie, which immediately succeeded throughout the whole line of the army on the surrounding hills; and being three times repeated, the mountains resounded and echoed like tremendous peals of thunder, and the flashing from thousands of fire-arms in the darkness of evening, could be compared only to the most vivid flashes of lightning from the clouds. The feu de joie was immediately followed by three shouts of acclamation and benediction for the dauphin, by the united voices of the whole army on all sides. At half-past eleven o’clock, the celebration was concluded by the exhibition of fire-works, very ingeniously constructed of various figures. His Excellency General Washington was unusually cheerful. He attended the ball in the evening, and with a dignified and graceful air, having Mrs. Knox for his partner, carried down a dance of twenty couple in the arbor on the green grass.

      June 20th

      Dined by invitation with Major-General Howe, at his quarters at Robinson’s house, with several respectable guests.

      June 23rd

      The officers of our regiment prepared an entertainment and invited a respectable party. At three o’clock we repaired to an arbor erected for the occasion, under which a long table was spread and a variety of dishes arranged in proper style; we prided ourselves on our camp dinner, as being almost on a par with that of a country gentleman. A band of military music attended, and we finished with toasts and songs in social glee.


      Our brigade moved out of huts on the first instant, and encamped at Nelson’s Point, on the bank of the Hudson, opposite West Point.

      On the 4th, the anniversary of the declaration of our Independence was celebrated in camp. The whole army was formed on the banks of the Hudson on each side of the river. The signal of thirteen cannon being given at West Point, the troops displayed and formed in a line, when a general feu de joie took place throughout the whole army.

      A most barbarous and horrid transaction of the royal refugees, a few weeks since, has excited universal indignation throughout the army. It is the cruel murder of Captain Joshua Huddy, of New Jersey, who, being commanding officer of a detachment stationed at the block-house in Monmouth county, was attacked by a party of refugees from New York on Sunday, the 24th March, and after bravely defending himself till he had expended his ammunition, was taken prisoner and carried into New York. He was closely confined till April 8th, when, without even the form of a trial, he was told that he was ordered to be hanged; accordingly, on the 12th, he was carried over to the Jersey shore, by a party of refugees under the direction of one Captain Lippincot, and there hung on a tree, and left with the following label affixed on his breast: “We the refugees, having with grief long beheld the cruel murders of our brethern, and finding nothing but such measures daily carrying into execution – we, therefore, determine not to suffer without taking vengeance for the numerous cruelties; and thus begin, and, I say, may those lose their liberty who do not follow on, and have made use of Captain Huddy as the first object to present to your view; and further determine to hang man for man while there is a refugee existing. Up goes Huddy for Philip White.”

      The refugees pretend to justify this violent act by asserting that Captain Huddy, some time before, made prisoner of a certain Philip White, of their party, and after having maimed him, broke both his legs, and tauntingly bid him run. But this is a vile falsehood; it has been fully proved that Captain Huddy was closely confined a prisoner at New York at the time and for many days before White was taken. A letter dated at Freehold, Monmouth County, 15th April last, and published in the Trenton paper, relates that White was taken the last of March, and after tokens of surrendering as a prisoner, he took up a musket, and killed a son of Colonel Hendrickson; but being taken by some light-horse, and while they were conducting him to Freehold, he again attempted to make his escape; and being called on several times to surrender, and continuing to run, when leaping into a bog impassable by the horse, he received a stroke on his head with a sword which killed him instantly. The above facts were proved by affidavits of the persons who were present, and by the voluntary testimony of one Aaron, who was taken prisoner with the said White.

      The wanton execution of Captain Huddy so exasperated the inhabitants of that part of New Jersey, that they presented a respectful memorial to General Washington, claiming justice for the murder of one of their fellow citizens, or retaliation in case justice should be refused. General Washington immediately addressed Sir Henry Clinton on the subject, and assured him that unless the perpetrators of the murder were delivered up, he should be under the painful necessity of retaliating. In the meantime, all the general officers, and those commanding brigades or regiments, were ordered to assemble at General Heath’s quarters, to deliberate and decide on the following questions: 1st, Shall resort be had to retaliation for the murder of Captain Huddy? 2d, On whom shall it be inflicted? 3d, How shall the victim be designated? In order that each officer should be free from all bias and uninfluenced by each other, General Washington ordered that, without conversing on the questions, each one should write his own opinion, and address the same sealed up to the commander-in-chief. By this method his excellency obtained the spontaneous expression of the feelings of each individual officer, and they were unanimously of opinion that retaliation ought to be resorted to; that it should be inflicted on an officer of equal rank with Captain Huddy, and that the victim be designated by lot. Accordingly the painful alternative was adopted: the names of the British captains, our prisoners, were collected, a fair and impartial lot was drawn, and it fell on Captain Asgill, of the British guards, a gentleman of a noble English family, an only son of his parents, and only nineteen years of age, to be the unhappy victim. Next to the execution of Major Andre, this event occasioned the most painful sensations to the mind of the benevolent and humane Washington; his anxiety and poignant distress it is said were very visible. But still, firm and inflexible in his determination to obtain satisfaction, or pursue a course, that will tend to deter others from a repetition of crimes so derogatory to the laws of humanity, of war, and of justice, he addressed Congress on the subject, and communicated to that body the New Jersey memorial. They unanimously approved of the firm and judicious conduct of the commander-in-chief, and assured him of their firmest support in his purpose of exemplary retaliation.

      General Washington was anxious to alleviate the melancholy condition of Captain Asgill as much as possible, and directed the officer of his guard to treat him with every tender attention and politeness which his rank, fortune, and connexions, together with his unfortunate state, demanded, that is not inconsistent with his perfect security. He ordered also that Captain Ludlow, Asgill’s friend, should be permitted to go into New York with such representations as they may please to make to Sir Guy Carleton, who has now succeeded Sir Henry Clinton as commander-in-chief of the British army. Captain Asgill, in addressing General Washington, thus expresses himself: “I cannot conclude this letter without expressing my gratitude to your excellency for ordering Colonel Dayton to favor me as much as my situation will admit of, and in justice to him I must acknowledge the feeling and attentive manner in which these commands have been executed.” How awful is the condition of this innocent young gentleman, doomed to suffer an ignominious death for the crime of an infamous miscreant who so justly deserves the halter! Dreadful indeed must be that suspense when one’s life is made to poise on a point so acute and delicate that an uncertain contingency shall decide the issue. General Washington having received information by letter, that a court-martial was appointed by Sir Henry Clinton, even before he received the letter of complaint, for the trial of Captain Lippincot and his abettors in the death of Captain Huddy, waited to be apprised of the issue, as Sir Guy Carleton had assured him of the fullest satisfaction. At length, however, the proceedings of the court-martial were communicated, and it was finished by the following declaration: “The court having considered the evidence for and against the captain, and it appearing, that, though Joshua Huddy was executed without proper authority, what the prisoner did, was not the effect of malice or ill will, but proceeded from a conviction that it was his duty to obey the orders of the board of directors of associated loyalists, and his not doubting their having full authority to give such orders, the court is of opinion that he is not guilty of the murder laid to his charge, and therefore acquit him.” Never perhaps was there a more complete burlesque on all courts of justice! never a more disgraceful proceeding to exculpate a criminal from merited punishment.

      It appeared in the course of the trial that Governor Franklin, president of the board of associated loyalists, gave Lippincot a verbal order to hang Captain Huddy without a trial, and without a crime alleged against him! The order is obeyed in the most unfeeling manner, yet the perpetrator is found not guilty, and therefore acquitted. Sir Guy Carleton requested of General Washington a passport for Chief-Justice Smith to repair to the American head-quarters in order to lay before the commander-in-chief the proceedings of the court-martial, with other documents and explanations which he had no doubt would be satisfactory. His excellency declined an interview with Mr. Smith, “as the question is purely of a military nature, and reducible to the single point whether the perpetrator of the wanton and cruel murder of Huddy is to be given up, or a British officer to suffer in his place.” But he proposed to send Major-General Heath to meet a British officer of equal rank, if agreeable to the English commander. This was also declined, and it appears that both Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Guy Carleton disapproved of the acquittal of Lippincot. Sir Guy, in a letter which accompanied the proceedings of the court, expressed in unequivocal terms to General Washington that, notwithstanding the acquittal, he reprobated the act, and gave assurances of prosecuting a further inquiry. Thus stands at present this very unfortunate affair, and Captain Asgill remains in custody to await the final issue.

      In order to avoid breaking the chain of this interesting narrative, I proceed, in anticipation in point of time, to the final conclusion of the melancholy catastrophe. General Washington on the 19th of August made a representation to Congress respecting the whole business for their consideration, and soon after directed that Captain Asgill be put on his parole at Morristown, till further orders; and he was allowed the indulgence of riding for his health and recreation several miles into the country in any direction, even within a few miles of the British lines, accompanied by his friend Major Gordon.

      On the 7th of October, General Washington, in a letter to the secretary of war, expressed his private opinion that Captain Asgill ought to be liberated from his duresse, and be permitted to return to his friends in England. Sufficient time had now elapsed since the arrest of Captain Asgill for the distressing intelligence to reach his parents, and to interest the attention and solicitude of almost all Europe. The father of young Asgill was languishing with mortal sickness. Lady Asgill, in the agony of her soul, with her family in the deepest distress and sorrow, prostrated themselves at the feet of their king and queen, to implore their compassion and assistance. She next had recourse to the beneficence of the illustrious sovereigns of France, through the medium of the celebrated Count de Vergennes, though the two nations were at war. Her incomparably pathetic and eloquent letter could not fail of producing the desired effect: it reached the hearts and interested the sympathies of those exalted philanthropists to whom it was addressed. A letter was immediately despatched from Count de Vergennes to General Washington, dated July 27th, and this was accompanied by that which the count had received from Lady Asgill. “Your excellency,” says the count, “will not read this letter (Lady Asgill’s) without being extremely affected. It thus affected the king and queen, to whom I communicated it. The goodness of their majesties’ hearts induces them to desire that the inquietudes of an unfortunate mother may be calmed and her tenderness reassured. – There is one consideration, sir, which, though not decisive, may have an influence on your resolution. Captain Asgill is doubtless your prisoner, but he is among those whom the arms of the king contributed to put into your hands at Yorktown. -Though this circumstance does not operate as a safeguard, it, however, justifies the interest I permit myself to take in this affair. – In seeking to deliver Mr. Asgill from the fate which threatens him, I am far from engaging you to seek another victim; the pardon, to be perfectly satisfactory, must be entire.” – Copies of these letters being transmitted with one from his excellency to Congress, they resolved, November 7th, that the commander-in-chief be directed to set Captain Asgill at liberty. A more grateful duty could scarcely be assigned; it relieved his mind from a weight which had long oppressed and preyed on his spirits. He immediately transmitted to Captain Asgill a copy of the resolve of Congress, accompanied with a passport for him to go into New York, and also a letter which closes as follows: “I cannot take leave of you, sir, without assuring you that, in whatever light my agency in this unpleasant affair may be viewed, I was never influenced through the whole of it by sanguinary motives, but by what I conceived to be a sense of my duty, which loudly called on me to take measures, however disagreeable, to prevent a repetition of those enormities which have been the subject of discussion. And that this important end is likely to be answered without the effusion of the blood of an innocent person is not a greater relief to you than it is; sir, to

      Your most obedient, humble servant,


      *From the “Historical and Literary Memoirs and Anecdotes, selected from the Correspondence of Baron de Grimm and Diderot:”

      “You can well remember the general interest Sir Asgill inspired, a young officer in the English guards, who was made prisoner and condemned to death by the Americans in reprisal for the death of Captain Huddy, who was hanged by the order of Captain Lippincot. The public prints all over Europe resounded with the unhappy catastrophe, which for eight months impended over the life of this young officer. The extreme grief of his mother, the sort of delirium which clouded the mind of his sister at hearing of the dreadful fate which menaced the life of her brother, interested every feeling mind in the fate of this unfortunate family. The general curiosity, with regard to the events of the war, yielded, if I may so say, to the interest which young Asgill inspired, and the first question asked of all vessels that arrived from any port in North America, was always an inquiry into the fate of this young man. It is known that Asgill was thrice conducted to the foot of the gibbet, and that thrice General Washington, who could not bring himself to commit this crime of policy without a great struggle, suspended his punishment; his humanity and justice made him hope that the English general would deliver over to him the author of the crime which Asgill was condemned to expiate. Clinton, either ill obeyed, or insensible to the fate of young Asgill, persisted in refusing to deliver up the barbarous Lippincot. In vain the king of England, at whose feet this unfortunate family fell down, had given orders to surrender up to the Americans the author of a crime which dishonored the English nation; George III was not obeyed. In vain the United States of Holland entreated of the United States of America the pardon of the unhappy Asgill; the gibbet, erected in front of his prison, did not cease to offer to his eyes those dreadful preparatives more awful than death itself. In these circumstances, and almost reduced to despair, the mother of the unfortunate victim bethought herself that the minister of a king armed against her own nation might succeed in obtaining that which was refused to her king. Lady Asgill wrote to the Count de Vergennes a letter, the eloquence of which, independently of oratorical forms, is that of all people and all languages, because it derives its power from the first and noblest sentiments of our nature.

      “The two memorials which are subjoined, merit being preserved as historical monuments.

      Letter from Lady Asgill to the Comte de Vergennes.
      “SIR: If the politeness of the French court will permit a stranger to address it, it cannot be doubted but that she who unites in herself all the more delicate sensations with which an individual can be penetrated, will be received favorably by a nobleman who reflects honor not only on his nation, but on human nature. The subject on which I implore your assistance, is too heart-rending to be dwelt on; most probably, the public report of it has already reached you; this relieves me from the burthen of so mournful a duty. My son, my only son, dear to me as he is brave, amiable as he is beloved, only nineteen years of age, a prisoner of war, in consequence of the capitulation of Yorktown, is at present confined in America as an object of reprisal. – Shall the innocent share the fate of the guilty? Figure to yourself, sir, the situation of a family in these circumstances. Surrounded as I am with objects of distress, bowed down by fear and grief, words are wanting to express what I feel, and to paint such a scene of misery: my husband, given over by his physicians some hours before the arrival of this news, not in a condition to be informed of it; my daughter attacked by a fever, accompanied with delirium; speaking of her brother in tones of wildness, and without an interval of reason, unless it be to listen to some circumstances which may console her heart. Let your sensibility, sir, paint to you my profound, my inexpressible misery, and plead in my favor; a word, a word from you, like a voice from Heaven, would liberate us from desolation, from the last degree of misfortune. I know how far General Washington reveres your character. Tell him only that you wish my son restored to liberty, and he will restore him to his desponding family; he will restore him to happiness. The virtue and courage of my son will justify this act of clemency. His honor, sir, led him to America; he was born to abundance, to independence, and to the happiest prospects. Permit me, once more, to entreat the interference of your high influence in favor of innocence, and in the cause of justice and humanity. Despatch, sir, a letter from France to General Washington, and favor me with a copy of it, that it may be transmitted from hence. I feel the whole weight of the liberty taken in presenting this request; but I feel confident, whether granted or not, that you will pity the distress by which it was suggested; your humanity will drop a tear on my fault, and blot it out for ever.

      “May that Heaven which I implore grant that you may never need the consolation which you have it in your power to bestow on

      Second Letter of Lady Asgill to the Compte de Vergennes.
      “SIR: Exhausted by long suffering, overpowered by an excess of unexpected happiness, confined to my bed by weakness and languor, bent to the earth by what I have undergone, my sensibility alone could supply me with strength sufficient to address you.

      “Condescend, sir, to accept this feeble effort of my gratitude. It has been laid at the feet of the Almighty; and believe me, it has been presented with the same sincerity to you, sir, and to your illustrious sovereigns; by their august and salutary intervention, as by your own, a son is restored to me, to whom my own life was attached. I have the sweet assurance that my vows for my protectors are heard by Heaven, to whom they are ardently offered; yes, sir, they will produce their effect before the dreadful and last tribunal, where I indulge in the hope that we shall both appear together; you to receive the recompense of your virtues; myself, that of my sufferings. I will raise my voice before that imposing tribunal, I will call for those sacred registers in which your humanity will be found recorded. I will pray that blessings may be showered on your head, on him who, availing himself of the noblest privilege received from God – a privilege no other than divine – has changed misery into happiness, has withdrawn the sword from the innocent head, and restored the worthiest of sons to the most tender and unfortunate of mothers.

      “Condescend, sir, to accept this last tribute of gratitude due to your virtuous sentiments. Preserve this tribute, and may it go down to your posterity as a testimony of your sublime and exemplary beneficence to a stranger, whose nation was at war with your own; but these tender affections have not been destroyed by war. May this tribute bear testimony, to my gratitude long after the hand that expresses it, with the heart, which at this moment only vibrates with the vivacity of grateful sentiments, shall be reduced to dust; even to the last day of my existence, it shall beat, but to offer all the respect and all the gratitude with which it is penetrated. “THERESA ASGILL”

      REMARKS – The Baron de Grimm has unfortunately been led to make an erroneous statement respecting the treatment of Captain Asgill, which ought in justice to be corrected. It is difficult to account for his assertion that, “It is known that Asgill was thrice conducted to the foot of the gibbet, and thrice General Washington, who could not bring himself to commit this crime of policy without a great struggle, suspended his punishment;” and again, “the gibbet, erected in front of his prison, did not cease to offer to his eyes those dreadful preparatives more awful than death itself.” I can with the fullest confidence affirm, that a gibbet never was erected for Captain Asgill at any period of his confinement, and that no preparations whatever were made for his execution, except a secure confinement for a short period, during which the utmost tenderness and polite civilities were bestowed on him, and for these he expressed his grateful acknowledgments in his letter to General Washington. It would be preposterous to suppose that the commander-in-chief could act a farcical part by exhibiting the machines of death, when it was altogether problematical whether an execution would be the final resort, and surely nothing could be less characteristic of Washington, than wantonly to torture the feelings of a prisoner with the horrors of death.

      The tour of duty at Dobbs’ ferry having fallen to our regiment, we marched from Nelson’s Point on the 24th, crossed the river at King’s ferry, and on the 25th encamped near the block-house at this place. This afternoon a flag of truce arrived here from New York with despatches for General Washington, which were immediately forwarded to him,


      August 5th

      Flags are passing and repassing from this post to New York and back every day, and several gentlemen have been permitted to come out of that city. By the intelligence which they bring, corroborating those which we receive from other sources, commissioners are sent from the court of London to Paris, where they are to meet French and American commissioners for the important purpose of negotiating a general peace. May God grant them success in bringing to America an honorable peace and national independence! A very considerable number of deserters have come out from New York within these few days past.

      August 31st

      The army marched from their different quarters this morning and encamped at Verplank’s point in the evening. Part of the troops came down the river in boats, which, being in motion and in regular order on the water, made a most beautiful appearance. I shall to-morrow commence a journey to Philadelphia, for the purpose of receiving a sum of money at the American Bank, for the payment of our regiment.


      September 10th

      I returned last evening from Philadelphia, where I met my very respectable friends Dr. Treat and Dr. Benney of the hospital, with whom I dined. Drank tea and spent the evening with Dr. Andrew Craige, our apothecary-general. The next day dined with Mr. James Lovell, lieutenant and adjutant of our regiment. Here I had the pleasure of being introduced to two celebrated characters, Dr. John Jones, of Philadelphia, and the honorable Robert Morris, the great American financier. Dr. Jones formerly resided in the city of New York, where he was “distinguished for his professional merit, urbanity of manners, and moral excellence.” As a surgeon, Dr. Jones is considered at the head of the profession in the United States, and his reputation has been considerably extended by a valuable work, entitled, “Plain Remarks on Wounds and Fractures,” which he published in the year 1775 for the particular benefit of the surgeons of our army, and which has been received with universal approbation. Mr. Morris stands preeminent as a citizen, merchant and patriot, and the public are greatly indebted to him for his unrivaled efforts as superintendent of the finances of the United States, by which the public interest has been greatly promoted. I waited on Major-General Lincoln, secretary at war, to obtain an order on the bank for the money which was the object of my visit, but was disappointed, as the state of the bank would not admit of any discount. General Lincoln introduced me to Mr. Osgood, a member of Congress from Massachusetts.

      September 14th

      The whole army was paraded under arms this morning in order to honor his Excellency Count Rochambeau on his arrival from the southward. The troops were all formed in two lines, extending from the ferry, where the count crossed, to head-quarters. A troop of horse met and received him at King’s ferry, and conducted him through the line to General Washington’s quarters, where, sitting on his horse by the side of his excellency, the whole army marched before him, and paid the usual salute and honors. Our troops were now in complete uniform, and exhibited every mark of soldierly discipline. Count Rochambeau was most highly gratified to perceive the very great improvement which our army had made in appearance since he last reviewed them, and expressed his astonishment at their rapid progress in military skill and discipline. He said to General Washington, “You have formed an alliance with the King of Prussia. These troops are Prussians.” Several of the principal officers of the French army, who have seen troops of different European nations, have bestowed the highest encomiums and applause on our army, and declared that they had seen none superior to the Americans.

      September 16th

      Dined with Major-General Howe, with a number of officers of our line, and on the 17th dined with Baron Steuben in company with Generals Howe, Patterson, and a number of French officers. The baron is never more happy than when he is manifesting his generous friendship and benevolence.


      Eight battalions have been selected from the army to perform some grand manoeuvres and a review. The evolutions and firings were performed this day with that regularity and precision which does them honor, and which received the full approbation of the numerous spectators, and of the American and French officers who were present.

      October 30th

      At reveille on the 26th instant, the left wing of our army, under the command of General Heath, decamped from Verplank’s point and marched to the highlands; took our lodging in the woods, without covering, and were exposed to heavy rain during a night and day. Thence we crossed the Hudson to West Point, and marched over the mountain called Butter Hill; passed the night in the open field and the next day reached the ground where we are to erect log huts for our winter-quarters, near New Windsor.


      November 10th

      I attended the funeral of my late worthy friend, Ensign Trant. This young gentleman at the age of eighteen came over from Ireland about two years since, and on his arrival in Boston was appointed an ensign in our regiment. Having a taste for military life, he had acquired considerable reputation as an officer, and was esteemed for his amiable temper and disposition, his liberal and generous sentiments, and his polite and gentlemanly manners. He suffered a lingering illness of eight months. Renouncing all hope of recovery, he conquered the terrors of death, and acquired a remarkable degree of patience and resignation during the last weeks of his extreme suffering. His remains were decently interred in the garrison at West Point, and were followed to the grave by his Excellency General Washington and a very respectable procession.

      A melancholy event has recently been announced from South Carolina – Colonel John Laurens, a man of estimable value, has been slain in a rencounter with the enemy near Charleston. He was the son of Henry Laurens, Esq., late president of Congress, and our ambassador to Holland. He had been employed on a special mission to France, to obtain a loan for the United States, in which be was successful. The enemy having detached a party into the country to procure provisions, Colonel Laurens, ever foremost in danger, joined the party of continentals as a volunteer, to counteract their object, and while advancing on the enemy with great intrepidity, he received a mortal wound. His death is universally lamented, more especially at this late period, when the contest is supposed to be near a termination. No eulogy can exceed the merit of this noble and very useful officer.

      A very extraordinary and melancholy event has recently been announced from England. The ship called the Royal George, of one hundred and eight guns, commanded by Admiral Kempenfelt, being careened on one side to receive some necessary repairs, was by a sudden gust of wind forced over, and her gun-ports being open, she instantly filled with water, and went to the bottom. The admiral himself was writing at his table in the cabin, and with about one thousand souls was lost; among them were about three hundred women and children. Admiral Kempenfelt was about seventy years of age, and was considered, in point of professional knowledge and judgment, one of the first naval officers in Europe. A victualler alongside was swallowed up in the whirlpool occasioned by the sinking of the ship.

      The campaign is now brought to a close, and no glorious deeds have been achieved; not a gun has been fired between the two armies during the campaign, and the prospect of peace is so favorable and encouraging, that our Congress have passed a resolve to discharge a considerable part of the army on the 1st day of January next. The supernumerary officers are to retire on the establishment provided by Congress, and are to be entitled to all the emoluments with those who continue in service till peace shall be proclaimed.


      December 15th

      Dined with my friends Drs. Townsend, Eustis and Adams, at the hospital, in company with Generals Gates and Howe, and their aids, Dr. Cochran, our surgeon-general, and several other officers. Our entertainment was ample and elegant.

      December 19th

      I partook of another entertainment at Dr. Eustis’ quarters, New Boston. Our guests were General McDougall and his aids, Colonels Jackson, Crane, &c. General Alexander McDougall is the son of a Scotchman, whose employment was that of a milk-man in the city of New York, and the son was sometimes his assistant. The general at an early period was distinguished among those who had adopted the whig principles, and known to be a zealous advocate for freedom. Principle and a sense of duty led him to the field of contest, and in August, 1776, he was by Congress appointed a brigadier-general, and by his intelligence and active spirit he has acquired a reputable standing as a general officer. He displays much of the Scotch character, is affable and facetious, often indulging in pleasantry, and adverting to his national peculiarities and family origin; at the close of which, he adds, “Now, gentlemen, you have got the history of Sawney McDougall, the milk-man’s son.”

      December 25th

      The time is now approaching when, according to a resolve of Congress, a reduction of the army is to take place, and it is optional with me to continue till peace is actually proclaimed and our army entirely disbanded, or to retire from service on the new establishment, by which I shall be entitled to the same emoluments with those who remain. Having duly deliberated on the subject, I have come to the resolution of bidding a final adieu to the scenes of military life, and have resigned my commission in favor of Dr. Shute. It is with inexpressible reluctance that I contemplate a separation from numerous friends with whom I have so long associated in the most harmonious and pleasing intercourse. Engaged in the same glorious and honorable cause, encountering together the same perils, suffering unparalleled hardships and privations, and participating in the most interesting scenes and events, our mutual and cherished attachments are no less ardent than the ties of brotherly affection. Friendship formed under such circumstances, and cemented by purity of sentiment, must prove as lasting as our days on earth, and we shall ever cherish a sincere interest in the welfare of the companions of our military career. It will be to me a source of infinite satisfaction during the remainder of my days, that I have shared in the toils and perils of war during seven years and a half, in defence of my country and its freedom, and that the mighty struggle terminates in peace and the establishment of our national Independence. This momentous event should be considered as a rich blessing which Providence bestows on us for the benefit of the present and many future generations. It is incumbent on me to express my unfeigned gratitude to the All-wise Author and Preserver of men, that he has been pleased to confer on me innumerable blessings, and preserved my life and health during a long period while exposed to the greatest hardships and imminent perils.

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