Margaret Morris Biography | Women of the Revolution


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.

    Margaret Morris.


      A Journal – which has never been published, but of which a few copies were printed for private circulation many years since – kept during the Revolutionary war for the amusement of a sister, by Margaret Morris, of Burlington, New Jersey, presents a picture of the daily alarms to which a private family was liable, and of the persecution to which obnoxious individuals were subjected. The writer was a patriot in principle and feeling, but sympathized with the distresses she witnessed on both sides. She had, however, no liking for war, being a member of the Society of Friends. Her maiden name was Hill. Her father, Richard Hill, had been engaged in the wine trade, and lived long with his family on the island of Madeira. Her brother, Henry, accumulated a large fortune in the same business, and died of the yellow fever in Philadelphia. Margaret was eminently pious, and cheerful through many years of illness and suffering. In this character she is best remembered by her grandchildren and connections, among whom she was greatly beloved and venerated for her example of Christian benevolence and humble reliance on Providence in every trial. She was left a widow early in life, and died at the age of seventy-nine, at Burlington, in 1816. The sister for whom the journal was written was Milcah Martha Moore, the wife of Dr. Charles Moore, of Philadelphia.

      The following extracts are from the “Journal.”

      DECEMBER 16th, 1776:

      “About noon this day, a very terrible account of thousands coming into town, and now actually to be seen off Gallows Hill – my incautious son caught up the spy-glass, and was running towards the mill to look at them. I told him it would be liable to misconstruction, but he prevailed on me to allow him to gratify his curiosity. He went, but returned much dissatisfied, for no troops could he see. As he came back, poor Dick took the glass, and resting it against a tree, took a view of the fleet. Both were observed by the people on board, who suspected it was an enemy who was watching their motions. They manned a boat and sent her on shore.

      “A loud knocking at my door brought me to it. I was a little fluttered, and kept locking and unlocking that I might get my ruffled face a little composed. At last I opened it, and half a dozen men, all armed, demanded the key of the empty house. I asked what they wanted there; they replied – ‘To search for a d-d tory who had been spying at them from the mill.’

      “The name of a tory, so near my own door, seriously alarmed me; for a poor refugee, dignified by that name, had claimed the shelter of my roof, and was at that very time con cealed, like a thief in an augerhole. I rang the bell violently – the signal agreed upon if they came to search; and when I thought he had crept into the hole, I put on a very simple look and exclaimed –

      Bless me! I hope you are not Hessians !

      Do we look like Hessians ?’ asked one rudely.

      Indeed, I don’t know.

      Did you never see a Hessian ?

      No – never in my life; but they are men; and you are men; and may be Hessians for aught I know! But I’ll go with you into Colonel Cox’s house; though indeed it was my son at the mill; he is but a boy, and meant no harm; he wanted to see the troops.”

      So I marched at the head of them, opened the door, and searched every place; but we could not find the tory. Strange where he could be! We returned, they greatly disappointed; I pleased to think my house was not suspected. The Captain, a smart little fellow named Shippen, said he wished they could see the spy-glass. So Dick produced it, and very civilly desired his acceptance of it; which I was sorry for, as I often amused myself looking through it.

      “They left us and searched James Verree’s and the two next houses; but no tory could they find. This transaction reached the town, and Colonel Cox was very angry and ordered the men on board. In the evening I went to town with my refugee, and placed him in other lodgings. I was told to-day of a design to seize upon a young man in town, as he was esteemed a tory. I thought a hint would be kindly received; and as I came back, called upon a friend of his, and told him. Next day he was out of reach of the gondolas.”

      “DEC. 17th. More news ! great news ! very great news ! (J. V.’s). The British troops actually at Mount Holly ! guards of militia placed at London and York bridges – gondola-men in arms patrolling the street, and diligent search making for fire-arms, ammunition, and tories – another attempt last night to enter into R. Smith’s house. Early this morning, J. V. sent in, to beg I would let my son go a few miles out of town on some business for him. I consented, not knowing of the formidable doings up town; when I heard of it I felt a mother’s pangs for her son all the day; but when night came, and he did not appear, I made no doubt of his being taken by the Hessians. A friend made my mind easy, by telling me he had passed through the town where the dreadful Hessians were said to be ‘playing the very mischief,’ (J. V. again); it is certain there were numbers of them at Mount Holly, but they behaved very civilly to the people, excepting only a few persons who were actually in rebellion, as they termed it, whose goods, etc., they injured.

      “This evening every -gondola-man sent on board with strict orders not to set a foot on the Jersey
      shore again-so far, so good.”

      “DEC. 27th. This evening about three thousand of the Pennsylvania militia and other troops landed in the Neck, and marched into town with artillery, baggage, etc., and are quartered on the inhabitants.

      “An officer spent the evening with us, and appeared to be in high spirits, and talked of engaging the English as a very trifling affair – nothing so easy as to drive them over the North River, etc.; not considering that there is a God of battle as well as a God of peace, who may have given them the late advantage, in order to draw them out to meet the chastisement that is reserved for them.”

      “DEC. 29th. This morning the soldiers at the next house prepared to depart; and as they passed my door, they stopped to bless and thank me for the food I sent them. I received it not as my due, but as belonging to my Master, who had reached a morsel to them by my hand.”

      The journal continues, at a later period –

      “JUNE 14th, 1777.

      By a person from Bordentown, we hear twelve expresses came in there today from camp. Some of the gondola-men and their wives being sick, and no doctor in town to apply to, they were told Mrs. Morris was a skillful
      woman, and kept medicines to give to the poor; and notwithstanding their late attempts to shoot my poor boy, they ventured to come to me, and in a very humble manner begged me to come and do something for them. At first I thought they might design to put a trick on me, get me aboard their gondola, and then pillage my house, as they had done some others; but on asking where the sick folks were, I was told they were lodged in the Governor’s house. So I went to see them; there were several, both men and women, very ill with a fever; some said, the camp or putrid fever. They were broke out in blotches; and on close examination, it appeared to be the itch fever. I treated them according to art, and they all got well. I thought I had received all my pay when they thankfully acknowledged my kindness; but lo ! in a short time afterwards a very rough ill-looking man came to the door and asked for me. When I went to him he drew me aside, and asked if I had any friends in Philadelphia. The question alarmed me, supposing. there was some mischief meditated against that poor city; however, I calmly said, I have an ancient father, some sisters, and other near friends there.’

      ‘Well,’ said the man, ‘do you wish to hear from them, or send any thing by way of refreshment to them ? If you do, I will take charge of it, and bring you back any thing you may send for.’ I was very much surprised, and thought, to be sure, he only wanted to get provisions to take to the gondolas; but when he told me his wife was one of those I had given medicine to, and this was the only thing he could do to pay me for my kindness, my heart leaped with joy, and I set about preparing something for my dear absent friends. A quarter of beef, some veal, fowls and flour, were soon put up; and about midnight the man called and took them aboard his boat. He left them at Robert Hopkins at the Point, whence my beloved friends took them to town.

      Two nights afterwards, a loud knocking at our front door greatly alarmed us, and opening the chamber window, we heard a man’s voice, saying, “Come down softly and open the door, but bring no light.”

      There was something mysterious in such a call; but we concluded to go down and set the candle in the kitchen.

      When we got to the front door, we asked, ‘Who are you?’

      “The man replied, ‘A friend; open quickly.’ So the door was opened; and who should it be but our honest gondola-man, with a letter, a bushel of salt, a jug of molasses, a bag of rice, some tea, coffee, and sugar, and some cloth for a coat for my poor boys; all sent by my kind sisters!

      “How did our hearts and eyes overflow with love to them, and thanks to our Heavenly Father, for such seasonable supplies ! May we never forget it ! Being now so rich, we thought it our duty to hand out a little to the poor around us, who were mourning for want of salt; so we divided the bushel, and gave a pint to every poor person who came for it – having abundance left for our own use. Indeed, it seemed to us as if our little store was increased by distribution, like the bread broken by our Saviour to the multitude.”

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