SAMMY THE FIFER
[Pg. 31] I was born in 1760 at Patton’s Furnace situated about ten miles from the town of Reading, in Berk’s County, Pennsylvania. My father’s name was Samuel Dewees, and was by trade a leather breeches maker. At the time of my birth however, my father was master collier at the above named furnace. I was the fourth child. John was the eldest, the rest with myself, were born in the order following: William, Elizabeth, Samuel, Powell, Thomas and David. All are dead, with the exception of myself and my brother Thomas, who now lives in Wayne County, Ohio.
Owing to difficulties always attendant upon poverty, my father sought places for all of his children; places where he had good reason to believe we would have been treated with kindness or else he would not have placed us there.
This seems to be a hard and sad alternative in any instance, but those having had the trials of poverty; who having had to contend with every species of poverty with which they have been rifely beset; who having had to struggle against the tides of ill fortune in a cold, oppressive and unfriendly world, when rearing a large family of small children, can best tell what a painful trial it is to break the family ties of kindred feeling and hourly intercourse by a separation thus, at a tender age.
I was nearly five years old when my father bound me to one Richard Lewis, a Tory Quaker who lived in what was then (and suppose is yet) called Poplar Neck in Berks County, Pa. He possessed (contrary to the nature in general of that virtuous people denominated Friends) but little of the milk of human kindness.
He treated me not only with harshness and rigid severity but with the most brutal and wanton cruelty. Cruelty which has stigmatized him and made him to appear to couple himself with my earliest associations of thoughts within my own mind in recollections as a demon, throughout a long life with which I have been blest by Almighty God.
I was undoubtedly, as most children are that are not blest with a proper culturing hand in youth, inclined to be mischievous—and Lewis was among the last of men (and his wife among the last of women) to make any allowance for the aberrations of juvenile nature. He kept a whip constantly laid up for me, and often, very often, used it, more to gratify a savage or fiendish and ferocious disposition of heart than to correct a fault, many of which were very trivial in themselves.
During the winter seasons whilst I was with him it was made my duty to tie up and fodder the cattle, to house the sheep, feed the hogs, cut fire wood, go to mill, etc. One winter night after having been in bed sometime, Lewis called out to me in a very surly tone, “Sammy!” I answered (as I was taught), “What?” He then said aloud, “Did thee put in all the sheep?” I replied that I did.
“Thee lies thee dog, come down here!” I jumped out of bed and put on my little sheepskin breeches and came downstairs. It was a bitter cold night, the snow was fully knee deep to a grown person and had a crust upon it. After I came downstairs I was in the act of putting on my stockings and shoes when he bawled out, “No thee dog, thee shall go without thy shoes and stockings.” And with a clout alongside of my head he drove me reeling out of the house into the snow barefooted.
I found some of the sheep out and after penning them up which was as quickly done as possible, I returned to the house almost frozen, my feet particularly, and with the blood trickling down my shins. Lewis, with a blow on my head, had sent me out of the house, but his work was not finished, until now. With another he sent me off crying to my bed, accompanying me on my passage thither with the epithets rascal, dog, etc.
At another time he called out at the top of his voice, “Sammy, Sammy!” I answered, “What?” and then neared him. “Go,” he said, “and draw a pitcher of cider.” I took the pitcher out of his hand and went down to the cellar and drew it full of cider, or rather more than full, for I could not shut the spigot. Knowing what I would get, I was very much scared and ran and left the cider running out of the barrel and pretty fast too. I was afraid to call or to run and tell him of the disaster, I ran up and left the pitcher in the room and took French leave for the moment.
Lewis hearing the cider running longer than necessary to fill the pitcher repaired to the cellar in double quick time and stopped it. He had no sooner ascended the cellar steps than he bawled out in an unusually angry tone, “Sammy, Sammy!” I then knew the time of day and having no protector to fly to I had to obey the citation of this monster of cruelty who took down his whip and set to work deliberately to plat a cracker and affix it to the lash. This cracker he tied full of knots ordering me at the same time to haul off my roundabout and jacket. This done, he set himself to work to beat me. He whipped me until he became tired. He then stopped a short while. After having rested himself he then examined my back when he stripped off my shirt. Seeing that it looked pretty well scarified already but yet not enough to glut his vengeance, he gave me a severe cut upon it when he had bared it and then bade me to be gone for a rascal and do my work.
At the time there was a shoemaker by the name of Gideon Vore, a Quaker who lived in Reading but who at this time was at work in the house of Lewis. He remonstrated sharply with Lewis against the cruel beating which he gave me. Lewis not taking it well, angry words ensued upon both sides. Vore being a pretty resolute fellow backed his just spirit and told Lewis plainly that he would soon see whether there was not a law to be had to protect me against such savage usage. He put on his coat immediately and started for Reading. Lewis, seeing he was determined, followed him out of the house and prevailed upon him to come back. I did not know upon what ground he succeeded in diverting him from his purpose, but suppose that he promised to Vore that he would not flog me so severely again.
Among the cattle of Lewis there was one, a steer which had a white spot on his forehead, and I having found a nest full of rotten eggs in the stable conceived the idea (as I was letting the cattle out one morning) of target firing. So setting to work, I blazed away at the white spot on the steer’s forehead. I stood at some distance from him and was amusing myself very much and proud too, that I could hit so near to the white spot as I did.
Lewis beheld the sport, innocent and harmless as it was, but he did not relish it very well. Not having a hand in that frolic he thought it was best for him to have one in which he could and where he could show himself off as principal actor and master of ceremonies too.
After beholding my sport of egg-shooting, he provided himself with a hickory weith and bawled out, “Sammy!” in a lusty manner. I answered, “What?” He cried out, “Come here!” I went to him. He then said, “Sammy, thee has had fine sport this morning and I want a little too.” He then ordered me to strip off my jacket. I did so, or rather he took it from off me. He then began to play away upon me with the hickory weith and I began to dance to its all inspiring music of unmerciful harshness and so we had it until both became tired.
If he had promised to Vore that he would not again flog me so severely, he broke his promise now, for in consequence of my having to endure such an unmerciful flogging at his hands, my back was well striped and exceedingly sore indeed.
There was a corn-husking one night at my master’s brothers. All in the family were invited and went but myself. I wished to go but the old man ordered me off to bed. The thing troubled me so much that it appeared it was the whole engrossing subject within my mind when asleep.
I at length arose out of my bed and started off undressed to go to the husking and fortunately was met more than half way, as they were returning home again, which must have been well on towards daylight. They took hold of me and found I was asleep. This was the first knowledge I had of my having been asleep, after which I was very cold.
At another time when I was engaged in driving the cattle out of the stable, there was one that I was much plagued with for I could not get it from the stable door. I picked up a piece of a knot of wood and let slip at it and knocked it down. My mistress seeing this took after me cudgel in hand and yelling like a savage. I ran off without the word “go” and streaked it into a rye field for shelter.
I heeled it through the rye which was then in blossom. She tried to heel it too but “couldn’t come it.” Once and a while I would pop my head above the rye in order to see where the old vixen was. When I perceived that she in her course or tacking was likely to overhaul me, I would slide into another point of the compass and ensure the safety of my person thereby. I had my sport in fooling her until almost night for I was determined not to surrender to petticoat government or authority in that instance.
Not being willing to return to the house that night, I pushed off in search of quarters which I obtained, for I billeted that night in a neighbor’s barn and was without a supper. Next morning my master’s son came after me. The owner of the barn understanding that I was there, talked with Lewis’ son about me and made him promise that I should not be whipped. Upon this condition I capitulated and went home with him, but if I did, I went trembling every step of the road; this because I knew something of the characters I had to meet.
When we arrived I was about to “catch it,” but young Lewis plead with his mother for nearly an hour ere she waived her intention. She very reluctantly agreed to bury the hatchet for a time and so I escaped punishment at that time. She might have agreed sooner to have let me slip, for nothing was more easy than to have given me two whippings at one and the same time thereafter, a game which she could play and which I understood very well. But she was satisfied with the armistice established on that occasion. This will not be wondered at, as it is natural for persons, particularly youths to put off the evil day as far as possible in the future.
I was sent one day to carry dinner to my master’s son where he was ploughing in one of the fields of the farm. When I had gone to the distance of two or three hundred yards from the house, I was met by a large boar belonging to Boston Murrier, who was one of our neighbors.
The boar advanced towards me with bristles erect and running sideways as is the attitude of battle among hogs. When I would stop, he would stop and champ and froth like a prancing charger would his bridle bit. When I would endeavor to go on (for I had a hope that I could have reached a fence not very far off, he would run sideways after me. I contended with him in this way for some time, but found it impossible to reach the fence. I then dropped my basket containing the dinner and had the hope that as I could run towards the house, he would have stopped to devour the contents thereof and let me go.
I started at full speed for the house and seeing my master’s daughter at the woodpile, I called aloud to her. The boar however did not stop to taste its contents but ran after me, overtook me and threw me down. The daughter called my master who was then in the house. They both ran accompanied by a large dog and succeeded in taking him off me, but not until he had sunk his tusks into my back so that a finger might have been thrust through into my inside. They succeeded with the help of the dog in catching him which when they did my master with a large stone broke off his tusks and some of his teeth and then let him run.
The belief was that had not help been thus afforded me, he would have torn me to pieces, and had it not been that my master’s daughter was at the time at the woodpile, I might have cried in vain, ere help would have been extended to me. This woman was married and lived in Reading, but was on a visit to her father’s at the time. She was quite another kind of woman when compared with her mother. She was always very kind to me when on visits to her father’s and upon this occasion manifested her joy in my rescue and was very tender to me in my then injured and helpless state.
Lewis sent Murrier word that if he still would permit the boar to run at large, he would shoot him wherever found. Murrier put him up to fatten, which no doubt secured the person of others from his fierce attacks thereafter.
Whilst I remained in the family of Lewis another accident befell me which came near ending my life. It happened in hay harvest. We were engaged in hauling hay and whilst taking in the last load into the barn, a son-in-law of Lewis’ drove the wagon wheels over a stump which pitched me off head-foremost against a rock and with such violence as to crack my skull. I was much injured by this accident for a time and must attribute it in a great measure to my own carelessness and contempt of danger. For after I had finished building the hay upon the wagon, I laid me down upon my back on the top of the load, an act that no person in his senses should at any time be guilty of. It was foolish in the extreme.
Servitude with these cruel-hearted people was very irksome to me. When I look back upon the scenes of hardships that I was made to endure, the continual scoldings meted out to me and the unmerciful corrections I received at their hands, I can but liken myself to a person in the midst of a den of rattlesnakes, afraid to move in any one direction for fear of encountering the venomous fangs or bite of those having the power over me.
My clothing was of the coarsest cast. I recollect that when linen collars and wristbands were put upon my coarse tow-linen shirts, I was very proud indeed. In eating I was often the subject of pot luck. Lewis had a nephew that lived with him some time and his victuals like mine were often begrudged, as the saying is. This lad was perhaps eighteen years old and I remember that the old man lectured him occasionally upon the art of eating. One day the old man was lecturing his nephew upon eating, trying perhaps to break my back over the shoulders of the nephew. Said he to his nephew, “Thee should always quit eating and rise from the table hungry.” “Indeed Uncle,” said the nephew. “I always eat until I am full and then I like to take a good chunk of pie with me in the fist to eat after that again, by way of a finish to my meal as a topper out.”
Chapter 4 [IV sic]
[Pg. 77] Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary War my father enlisted as a recruiting sergeant in the Continental Army. At the time of my father’s enlistment he lived in Reading, Pa. Sometime after his enlistment, he enlisted my two oldest brothers John and William and when he had enlisted a pretty good company of soldiers, he moved on and joined his regiment.
Shortly afterwards he fought at the Battle of Long Island. My mother and my two brothers accompanied him in this expedition to the north. In this battle the American loss was very great. The American troops however fought as bravely as at any battle during the war of the Revolution.
Shortly after the Battle of Long Island, the regiment to which my father and brothers were attached, laid with Washington at White Plains, and after his retreat from there, it was ordered on to Fort Washington. This fortress was attacked on the 16th of November, 1776, by four divisions of the enemy and at four different points. The garrison fought bravely whilst it had ammunition. When this became exhausted it capitulated. My father was wounded and by capitulation became a prisoner of war and was thrown into a prison ship where he endured great privations and sufferings.
When my brothers informed my mother of the situation of my father, she followed his destiny and threw herself into the British camp. She begged permission of the officers to go on board the prison ship and minister to his wants, relieve him in his sufferings and soothe him as far as practicable in his suffering conditions.
She begged this privilege of the British commander and officers for God’s sake, but for a long time they were deaf to her entreaties. After repeated importunities her request was at length granted. She was not very long on board the prison ship until she fell sick with disease contracted in her constant attendance upon my father amidst the sickening staunch arising within the ship. This sickness was owing to that great pestilential stench created by so many sick and wounded soldiers being huddled together in so confined a place as a prison ship.
My mother begged so hard of the officers in the midst of her sickness for the release of my father that they were induced at length to let him off upon parole of honor, as it was called, the purport of which was that he was not to be found bearing arms thereafter against Great Britain.
My father and mother in part recovered, set out in a weak state of health for home but upon reaching Philadelphia my mother was taken ill again and shortly afterwards died in that city.
Not long after the event of my mother’s death, my father reported himself at camp and joined the army again. But as he durst not fight against Britain with any degree of safety, it was thought most advisable to send him again to Reading in the capacity of a recruiting sergeant.
Whilst my father was at Reading obtaining recruits, he was informed of the cruel treatment I received from Lewis and family. He visited me and told me to come to town in the course of a few days thereafter. I did so. He then enlisted me as a fifer. At this time I suppose I was about or turned of 15 but quite small of my age. Soon after my enlistment, my father who had enlisted a good company of men marched them off to join his regiment which was stationed somewhere in Bucks County, Pa.
At this time the regiment being again full as to numbers was ordered on to West Point where there were a great many soldiers. Whilst we laid at West Point in the latter part of the summer of 1777 the American soldiers were busily engaged in building a great number of huts for winter quarters. They erected two rows which extended more than a mile in length. The parade ground which extended the whole length in front, was from 250 to 300 yards broad and was as level as the floor of a house. There were two or three brigades of soldiers there at that time, to the first of which our regiment was attached.
My father was ordered back from West Point to Reading again and from Reading he was appointed and ordered on to take charge of the sick and wounded soldiers on the Brandywine Creek in Chester County. Pa. Brandywine meeting house was at this time used as a hospital. My father marched thither and took charge of it as superintendent and I accompanied him.
We had not been very long at Brandywine meeting house before the Battle of Brandywine took place. This event occurred on the 11th of September 1777. Although General Washington and the Marquis (then General) de la Fayette and their brave troops were forced to retreat, yet Washington struck the iron whilst it was hot and did his part faithfully. He attacked the British infantry whilst in the act of fording the Brandywine creek at Chadd’s Ford, and had it not been for the great superiority of numbers upon the side of the British, advantages would have been great and decided. This Washington was well aware of, as the British soldiers when emptying their pieces could not load whilst they were in the stream for they could not procure a resting place for the butts of their muskets. Had they attempted to have done so their muskets would have been rendered useless by the water.
It was said after the battle that the waters of Brandywine were reddened with the blood of the slain soldiers of the British army. The battle was fought so near to the meeting house that the firing of cannon shattered the glass in the windows.
I remember well that the glass came rattling down constantly whilst any remained in the building. The wounded soldiers were brought in great numbers to the hospital. Those engaged in bringing them drove as fast as they could possibly drive under existing circumstances. Upon their arrival they would hastily lift the wounded out of the wagons, place them on the ground in front of the hospital and return as soon as possible to the field of carnage for another load.
To hear the wild and frantic shrieks of the wounded, the groans of the dying, and to see the mangled and bloody state of the soldiers upon the arrival of the wagons; to see the ground all covered over with the blood and blood running in numbers of places from the wagon-bodies, was enough to chill the blood in the warmest heart. To see the distorted features of those brave men, writhing in the most keen and inexpressible anguish, when harshness of handling or removing in haste became not only necessary but was tenderness in itself in efforts to save them from a lawless, inhuman and insulting cruel foe.
These were the hours of darkness and of sore trial. Those of us at the hospital carried the wounded soldiers into the meeting house as fast as we could and laid them to the hands of the surgeons who dressed their wounds as fast as possible and sent them off in wagons immediately afterwards towards Philadelphia. Oh, what a scene!
The skirmishing engagements and regular battle lasted from daylight until almost sunset. This battle was a hard one. The heat of the day was very oppressive, the men suffered severely and no doubt many soldiers died from exhaustion alone. The cry for water was the most distressing. Soldiers would come to soldiers and beg for God’s sake that they might receive but a little water to quench their burning thirst. Wherever canteens were beheld by these famishing soldiers slung upon others, a descent would be made upon them. In many instances when assurances were given that their canteens were empty, no credit would be given to the assertions, but the famishing soldiers would tear the canteens from off the shoulders of their possessors and examine them themselves ere they would be satisfied that they were empty.
Many of those unsatisfied and perishing heroes returned again to the battle and many no doubt died from exhaustion. Others fell dead on the battle field from the deadly arms of their enemies. Others fell covered with wounds and with glory contending with odds against them in defense of [their country].
My father and his soldiers were now under the command of Colonel George Ross of the 11th Regiment and remained at Brandywine meeting house for the purpose of burying the dead. This they continued to do until a body of British light horse were beheld coming up at full gallop. My father ordered his men to fly instantly to the woods, telling them at the same time to halt there until he should join them. He then bade me to run fast for the woods and take care of myself, whilst he was the last to leave.
I being pretty fleet of foot, I halted within sight until the light-horsemen rode up in front of the meeting house. I felt anxious to see what they would do. Upon halting they all dismounted. There was a dead soldier lying on a bench in front of the church, covered with a blanket. I saw a British horseman draw his sword as soon as he dismounted and advance to the bench and run it through the body of the dead soldier. The beholding of this spiritless action satisfied my curiosity and I “heeled it like a major” and was not the last of the party in gaining the wood.
Upon the horsemen taking the route we had taken we were again induced to take to our “scrapers.” I ran into a house where our Colonel had boarded and picked up a pair of boots that belong to him and carried them with me. The retreat was ordered to Philadelphia whither we were now bound. We all became scattered in the woods after dark and my father and myself took our course across Delaware County in the direction of Philadelphia.
We traveled some considerable distance that night and at last arrived at the house of a good American friend, a true friend to the weary and despised soldier. This man gave us a hearty welcome to his house, took us in and gave us to eat and drink. He then conducted us up to his garret and made us a bed upon the floor so that as he said, if any of the British scouters should come they might not be able to find us. Here we rested our weary limbs till almost daylight and then pushed on for Philadelphia barracks. We played rather hide-and-go-seek upon the road, keeping a constant look out for the British or British scouters, but we were not surprised by any of them on our route thither.
When we arrived at Philadelphia barracks, we found but a few soldiers there. I do not recollect whether General Washington arrived before or after us at Philadelphia but think that he did not arrive there before us as his march could not have been as rapid a one as ours.
He had halted at Chester for the night, only eight miles from the scene of action and had his artillery and baggage to retard his progress. It is therefore, questionable in my own mind whether he arrived at Philadelphia on the same day that we did.
Shortly after our arrival at Philadelphia, I carried the boots (I had brought with me) to Col. ______ who came to his door and received them from me. He said, “You are a fine little boy,” but never said as much as thank you, or offered me anything to eat or to drink as a remuneration for my trouble of carrying them so great a distance to him. After delivering his boots to him, I returned to the barracks scratching my head, wishing at the same time that I had given them to the old farmer that kept us in our flight to Philadelphia.
[Pg. 124] One day prior to our leaving Philadelphia, I was out taking a walk around the city. On my return to the barracks I espied some fine looking cabbage in a back lot. I mentioned this to my comrades and two of them and I agreed to go that night and procure a head apiece. Accordingly, after dark we sallied forth and entered the lot. I pulled up a head and was leaning upon the fence waiting for my companions. Whilst in this position I was surprised and taken prisoner by a strapping big Negro who clasped my body fast in his arms. At this moment my comrades ran away and left me in the lurch.
The Negro took me into the house, crying out at the same time, “I have got a thief! I have got a thief!” I had not only to beat this mortification, but another for he made me carry the head of cabbage into the house in my hand.
There happened to be some company with the man of the house that night and I was plagued a good deal by some of the gentlemen that composed the company. Some was for having “this” punishment inflicted upon me, and some was for inflicting “that.” The circumstance of the Negro having been bailiff and catching me as he did, created some fine sport for them.
The gentlemen of the house at length asked me my name. I told him it was Samuel Dewees. “Samuel Dewees?” said he. “Yes Sir,” was my reply. He then whispered to one of the persons present and then asked me where my father lived. I told him that he had lived in Reading. He then asked me what my father’s name was. I told him his name was Samuel Dewees. He next asked me what business my father followed. I answered that he was by trade a Leather Breeches Maker.
By these my answers to his interrogatories, he found that he and I were second cousins and he and my father were first cousins, his father’s father and my father’s father having been brothers. This man’s name was William Dewees who was then the High Sheriff of Philadelphia.
He, upon finding out the family connexion, did not strive as many do to deny the claim of kindredship, but told me to take my cabbage with me and to come back the next day and bring my knapsack with me. He said he would give me some bread, meat, potatoes, etc. I was very glad, however, to get off as I did and the least of my thoughts then were about returning. Still, I would have gone back again in a few days, but the British taking possession of Philadelphia in a few days thereafter, Sept. 26th, 1777, we were forced to fly from the barracks (situated in what is now the Northern Liberties and laid towards Kensington) and from Philadelphia. We were ordered on board of the shipping which contained the sick, as also the soldiers which had been wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. We immediately set sail up the Delaware river and landed at Princeton, Jersey. General Washington moved on with the main army to Lancaster.
The British after they took possession of Philadelphia and whilst they held it, committed great depredations upon the friends of liberty residing in the city and for some distance around it, farmers particularly, upon whose substance they were continually foraging.
I recollect of hearing of one farmer who lived in the Neck and who was continually harassed by marauding parties. He had made a kind of closet or safe under the first and second steps of the stairs leading to the loft, and was able to displace and place the front of the step in such a manner as to defy detection. In this his wife kept bread, meat, butter, etc., etc.
One day he was engaged in digging his potatoes which were of the finest kind. Having taken his cart out to the field, his wife and children had gathered of the potatoes which he had dug up and filled the cart body. In the after part of the day a party of British came and began to fill their knapsacks with the potatoes which the cart contained. At this time there were the potatoes of a number of rows dug and lying in little piles from one end of the field to the other. He told them if they were minded to take his potatoes he thought that they might content themselves and be very well satisfied to get them for the picking up from off the ground without taking those that his family had already gathered into the cart. They laughed at him for his presumption to talk to them in that style and showered upon him a deal of opprobrious [disgraceful] language as his remuneration for his counsel and potatoes.
After taking as many of his potatoes as they chose, they directed their steps towards his dwelling. He followed them thither. Their first demand was bread, meat, etc., and commenced ransacking in search thereof. He told them there was not any bread about the house. This would have stood good for aught they could have done in their search had not one among the youngest of his children, a child just able cleverly to talk, betrayed the place of its concealment. When he told them in the child’s presence and hearing that there was no bread about the house, the child cried out, “Yes, Father, there is bread in there,” pointing at the same time to the first step of the stairs.
This afforded the British soldiers a clue and they were not long in making themselves the masters of the secret deposits. With the bread, meat, etc., hid in this secret cupboard there was a large crock of very fine candied honey, all of which became their booty. It was all borne off by them to camp, leaving not as much in his house as a morsel of eatable kind to supply his children with a supper.
[Pg. 133] After retreating to Princeton from Philadelphia we did not lie long at that place. From Princeton we went to Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pa. [Pg. 134] Whilst we laid at Bethlehem I went frequently to the Nunnery which was used as a hospital to see the surgeons dressing the wounds of the wounded soldiers. Among the number I remember seeing two soldiers, one of the name of Samuel Smith, whose whole leg and thigh was dreadfully mangled by a cannon ball. The doctors amputated it close up to the body. Smith recovered and learned to be a tinker. I often seen him after the Revolution.
The other soldier was shot through the neck, the ball had passed in at one side and out at the other. He recovered, but his neck was always so stiff afterwards that when he wanted to turn his head to look in any direction, he had to turn his body therewith to enable him to do so. I often seen him also after the Revolution.
About this time, October or November 1777, the small pox broke out in portions of the army and my father was sent to take charge of the sick to a place where a considerable number of soldiers were encamped not far from Allentown, Bucks County, Pa. Upon my father’s reaching there, a large house that had belonged to a Tory was converted into a hospital. All the soldiers that had not been taken with the small pox were immediately inoculated. My father had a room in this building exclusively to himself and had the care of all upon him. He drew the rations for the soldiers and dealt out the same to them. He had to superintend the preparation of victuals, drinks, etc., for the sick and assisted in nursing them in their sufferings.
My father caused myself to be inoculated with the real small pox and I became very sick. The cause of this, however, was with myself. I did not restrain myself as I should have done, I did not keep from eating salt and strong victuals, I would sometimes partake heartily of my father’s cooked meals, etc. My appetite was keen and I left nothing undone in my endeavors to satisfy it. I even resorting to novel methods to obtain what was satisfying to it. One was to sharpen the end of a stick to a point and after fixing a piece of bread upon it, I would hide it behind my back and slip up to where some of the soldiers were engaged in cooking salt and fat meat. Watching an opportunity, I would dip my bread into their pans or kettles and then run away and feast myself upon it at my leisure.
I recollect that once my father had some excellent gammon cooked and had placed it for safekeeping in a cupboard which he had forgotten to lock. This I got at and ate it all, a mess sufficient for two hearty men. After this indulgence I fell very sick and remained so for some time or at least it was a good while before I recovered my health properly.
My sister Elizabeth was bound out about 10 miles off and my father having heard that she had had the small pox went for her and brought her to see me as also to attend me in my sickness. She remained here until I recovered, and I may state until we both left after the decease of my father which took place not long after he brought her to camp.
A word or two more relative to my sickness. I was very sick indeed and suffered much although there were in all but thirteen pocks [pox] upon me, the rest having struck in (or had not come out at all) in consequence of my own imprudence.
I had but got about again out of a sick bed when my father who was so constantly among the sick, fell sick himself and died in the course of three or four days after he was first attacked. I cannot recollect what the disease was, whether pleurisy or fever. I believe, however, that it was the latter. I remember that the disease was not small pox.
I have here a very singular circumstance to relate relative to my father. In the room occupied by my father there was a fireplace in which there was a fire, the weather being then rather cold. From that room we had to pass through another before we could gain the entrance that lead into the house. My father was very much deranged on the morning of the last day of his illness, so much so that it required two or three soldiers to keep him in his bed. Towards noon he had become somewhat easy and had fallen into a gentle sleep. During this interval of quiet, my sister and myself were sitting at the fire. When he awoke from sleep, he sprang suddenly from the bed upon which he lay and dashed out of the room, passed through the entry and out of the house.
All within ran after him in order to secure him and bring him back to his bed. The yard was a very large one and in it stood a very large barn. We hunted about in the yard and searched the barn over and over again but could not find him. There were a number of fields upon the place but there was one in front of the house, a very large one that extended from the house to the woods, and we searched for him in every direction but without success.
My sister and myself were sitting at the fire mourning about him and wondering as to what could have become of him. In the evening he was seen in the large field and near to the woods, distant from the house about half a mile. Whilst we were fretting about him within doors, all at once a soldier cried out, “Yonder is something white,” (he being without any article of clothing except his shirt) “near to the woods,” and said that it must be Dewees. He with the other soldiers ran and found that it was my father. They brought him back to the house immediately. Where he had been wandering none knew nor could any conjecture, but he must have been running about all the time for his skin was very much torn by briars and thorns. When he was brought back he was quite sensible.
It being late in the fall and weather quite cool, he was very cold when he returned. Those that brought him back made him sit down at the fire in order that he might become warmed. Whilst he sat down with us at the fire he perceived us crying and he told us that he was not long for this world and bade us not to mourn for him. He then tendered good counsel to us and commended us to the keeping of the God of Battles whom he said was the orphan’s God and would protect us and take better care of us than he could were he to remain with us.
Some of the soldiers then helped him to get into his bed again. His words were true, for he died that night. The soldiers upon the next day made a box (for coffins were things almost unknown among us), and placed him in it and buried him with the honors of war near to some bushes which grew a short distance from the house. Other soldiers lie buried near that spot also.
Whilst we were paying the last respect and duty to his remains, some unprincipled soldiers had entered the room we occupied and taken a number of articles from his knapsack. The razors, box, brush, etc., which had belonged to my father were among the missing. This we discovered when my sister and I were gathering up his little effects after we returned to the house preparatory to our setting out for the place where my sister lived.
We were now left orphans truly, in the camp of our country, and I may state without friends. To whom then could we look for proper protection? Upon the part of my father’s comrades there was manifested every disposition of kindness, but what could their united friendship accomplish for us? They were without money, the government had not the power to supply them therewith, and General Washington’s every mental strength was aroused in action to keep a naked and starving soldiery together.
My sister and my brother Thomas were both bound out in the same family. I do not recollect that it was a Quaker family in which they lived but believe that it was, as the inmates thereof had many of the habits of that people, this excepted; humane conduct, the offspring of an enlarged possession of the milk of human kindness. For the residence of this family, my sister and myself at length started, and where we arrived on the same day. In this family there was another bound boy beside my brother, and of about the same age of my sister. This boy and my sister were taken sick and about the same time. The sickness I do not know whether I ever understood properly what it was but I remember it was some kind of a fever. Their sick beds were in a room up stairs and my brother and myself made a fire in the room and attended them.
We didn’t realize that their sickness was of so dangerous a nature as to produce death. Not seeing any degree of fear or anxiety manifested upon the part of the family in their case, for the old people seldom visited them, my brother and self being young, wild and inexperienced were more ready to sally forth in mischievous style. No doubt this caused serious reflections and regrets to both of us afterwards. The two of them were flighty or delirious often, and it was fine sport to us to see them (after we would throw powder into the fire to scare them) jump and clamber against the wall of the room. When they would rise thus, we had to put them to bed by the dint of our strength. This conduct was highly imprudent and as injurious as it was imprudent. I don’t wish to be thought attempting to excuse or justify it, for I could not if I desired to do so. But it was by far more the effect of thoughtlessness and an unchecked spirit of good humored levity, than it was that of a wicked or wantonly cruel spirit.
My sister grew worse and on an evening not long after, she died. We had told the old people of her situation but they manifested no great concern. When she was dying we called them and they came up, but the vital spark was fast quitting its abode of clay. It sped its way to Him who is a Father to the fatherless, the orphan’s stay and the widow’s hope. The old people laid her out and had grave clothes and a coffin prepared, and on the next day they took her in a light wagon to the Meeting House about a mile off and they buried her in a grave yard attached thereto. My brother and myself accompanied them. This must have been late in the month of December, 1777, or January ’78. I remember that the weather was quite cold.
The boy, although he lay very low, recovered his health again. The old people, I recollect, bestowed a good deal more attention towards him after my sister’s death than they had previous. When I reflect now upon the little kindness manifested upon their part towards these two sufferers, I am ready to ask how can any persons in life that have come to the years of maturity, act so undutiful a part to those that lie upon a bed of languishment and death? But are there not those to be found still, wherever we go, that have by their own unfeeling conduct in this sad extremity—this trying and dark hour, the hour of sickness and death—stigmatized themselves as cruel in the eyes of the humane, generous and just?
Affection possessed by brothers towards sister, and by sisters toward brothers, how pretty, how manly, how womanly, how virtuous, how just, how all-pleasing in the sight of the Almighty Being. Let me exhort brothers, to watch faithfully over the sick beds of sisters and never for a moment to so far forget the duties you owe them as to treat them with indifference or cruel neglect, but to let a tender hand and tender speech be ever extended to them.
I don’t recollect whether there were sons and daughters belonging to the family or not, if there were I never saw any whilst I remained in it. I stayed there until towards spring. During my stay I helped to chop wood, feed and take care of the cattle, etc. I recollect one job which was mine twice each day, that of rubbing the legs of a mare with a rye-band that had the scratches.
Sometime about the first of March I enquired diligently for, and found that the army laid at Valley Forge. I told the man I homed with that I was going on to camp. He tried to dissuade me from my purpose. He said everything to me that it was possible for him to say in order to scare me or fill my mind with fear. I told him that I would go and that nothing upon earth should be able to keep me from joining my own regiment or some other one if I could but reach the army. When he found that I was determined to go, he gave me an eighteen-penny piece for all the labor I had performed for him during the winter.
I bundled up my little all and started early in the morning, bending my steps towards Valley Forge.
I cannot remember the state of the roads at this time but remember well, however, that my shoes were very bad. When I travelled more than half way to camp, I became quite weary and hungry and had resolved in my own mind that I would stop at the first house at which I should think likely to offer me something to eat.
I had not travelled far after I resolved thus until I met a soldier. I enquired of him the way and distance to Valley Forge encampment and asked him also relative to a house ahead at which I might be likely to obtain something to eat. He then asked me if I had any money. I told him I had none. He said he knew better and with that he caught hold of me and took my eighteen-penny piece out of my packet. I than started off from him and ran as hard as I could, being in a fretting humor at my loss as well as in consequence of being very hungry and nothing in my pocket to supply me with food.
Whilst running in this fretting mood, I met an officer who asked me what was the matter. I told him I was going on to join the army at Valley Forge and that I had been robbed by a soldier of an eighteen-penny piece which was all the money I had possessed, and that I was then very hungry and knew not what to do. He thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a five dollar note (I do not recollect whether it was Continental or States money) and handed it to me. He then bade me to hurry on beyond the first woods and that when I should get down to a bottom I would come to a tavern and bade me to call there and get something to eat and to drink. His kindness made a deep impression upon me, so much so that even now at this late day after a lapse of nearly 67 years, he sits on horseback before me as plainly as he did then—the generous hearted soldier on whose face the lofty frown of indignancy is strongly depicted.
After this officer gave me the money for which I thanked him, he put spurs to his horse and rode on in pursuit of the soldier. I then went on my way rejoicing in a heart overflowing with gratitude to so kind a friend as he was to me in the dark hour of my extremity. I soon arrived at the tavern and done as the officer had directed me, and soon had victuals served up before me. I told the landlord and his wife how badly the soldier had treated me. After I had made a hearty meal, I offered to pay them for it and some drink, but they would not take any money from me. Perhaps my having told them of the affair or that of my seeking the camp in my boyhood, or both induced them to refuse any remuneration.
I had not been a great while there and as I was about to start, I espied the same soldier that robbed me advancing towards the house and was all covered over in front with blood. Being no little afraid at seeing him in this plight, thinking at the same time that he might fall upon me by the way and kill me for having informed the officer of his conduct. I ran back through the house and went out a back door. I think that I did not stop running until I arrived at the encampment at Valley Forge. I never knew how it was that he became so bloody, but had good cause to believe that the officer who was so kind to me had overtaken him and struck and cut him with his sword, for when he left me he was very much exasperated at his dastardly conduct in robbing me (then a boy) of my money.
[Pg. 146] Upon my arrival at Valley Forge encampment I immediately enquired for the 11th regiment, it being (as I have before stated) the regiment to which my father and myself were attached. Having found where it laid, I went in search of a Sergeant Major Lawson, an old comrade of my father whom I soon found. He was very glad to see me but very sorry to hear of my father’s death.
I told Sergeant Lawson how ill I had fared through the past winter, how little compensation I had received, and of that little having been taken away from me. I next told him how generously I had been befriended by the officer that I met afterwards.
In the course of a day or two Sergeant Lawson made known my case to Colonel Richard Humpton who took me to be his waiter. With Colonel Humpton I fared very well. The Colonel was an Englishman and had held a Captain’s commission in the old British service in America, but upon the breaking out of the Revolution, he took his stand upon the side of the colonies and joined the patriotic army in defense of the rights and liberation of the colonies.
Colonel Humpton had a young lady with him whom he called his niece, but who became his wife in marriage shortly after the Revolutionary War was ended. This young lady he was in the habit of placing to home at some distance from the camp and from danger, and with her he placed me to wait somewhat upon her and to take care of her. Miss Elizabeth, although of high extraction, was quite unassuming and of industrious habits. She differed from the ladies generally of the present day. She did not think it unbecoming or degrading to understand and do the duties of housewifery. She did her own sewing and washed and done up her own, the Colonel’s and my linen, etc.
Relative to her acting the part of a washerwoman, I can speak confidently, for upon her wash days I always bore a part in her labors and washed for her (as the saying goes) like a major!
At one time he homed her in the family of a Dutchman not far from the Lehigh River. The Colonel sometimes joined us. The Dutchman was fond of fowling and often used an English gun belonging to the Colonel, the touch-hole of which was bushed with gold. There was a large pond (or mill dam) on or near to his farm and it was much visited by wild ducks. The Dutchman often rose before day and went out and laid in ambuscade and waited their approach. He being a good shot would often kill numbers of them and generally divided the spoils with the Colonel.
The next place where he placed her to home was near to Somerset Court House in Jersey. The Colonel had a wagon, four horses and a driver allowed him, and in this he sent his niece, myself and all his baggage to the above named place. The team was again driven to camp.
Whilst we homed at Somerset Court House a British officer had been captured and placed in the Court House which was guarded by American soldiers. One morning after getting out of bed about sun up, I noticed some men coming at a distance and thought that they were American light horse. I immediately ran down towards a large gate at the road side in order to see them, supposing at the same time that I might know some of them.
I had gotten within a rod or two of the road as the front passed me. They were moving very slowly and some of them looked at me. Casting my eyes towards the rear, I discovered by their regimental coats that they were British dragoons. I at this moment bethought me that I was dressed in a Fifer’s regiment coat and cap with horse or cow tail hanging thereon, and instantly dashed away at an angling direction across the field as swiftly as I could, not daring to look at or to stop at the house to awake Lady Elizabeth, but ran until I gained the elevation in the fields, towards the wood.
Quickly after I had commenced to take French Leave of them I looked around and discovered that they were moving very fast. Whether it was seeing me running at such a speed that caused them to gallop off so furiously as they did, I know not. They might have thought that I ran to give intelligence to some detachment of soldiers not far off and that they knew not was stationed in the neighborhood. But if they had thought that I was making an instrument of myself for this purpose, they might have hindered me by shooting me and there was the gate, at it they might have entered the field and captured or killed me.
When I arrived near to the woods I looked around me and discovered Somerset Court House all in a blaze. I feel confident that not more than 15 minutes had elapsed from the time they passed me until the Court House was thus enveloped in flames. Before they fired the building, they released the British officer and sent him off by another route.
Here I must remark that the Giver of all good was merciful to me in preserving me, an unarmed lad, and consequently without the power self defense, for the same marauding band of assassinators killed several unoffending and innocent persons in cold blood on that same day. Among the number was a young man who had been married but the day previous. I was in their power for I was within a shorter distance than pistol shot.
Shortly after I gained the woods, I beheld people with wagons containing their families and moveables fleeing from the town and from danger. I staid out all day and knew nothing of the fate of Miss Elizabeth until I returned in the evening. She upbraided me in a very harsh manner for leaving her and threatened that as soon as Colonel Humpton should arrive, she would get him to flog me severely.
The Colonel, however, commended me highly when he did arrive. He stated to her that I had acted with more sense and caution in the matter for her safety than she could or would have done herself. “For had Sammy ran to the house, they might have followed him, captured you and recovered my old British regimentals and papers which might have betrayed me into their power.”
She was of a forgiving disposition of heart and before he arrived she had no doubt revoked her hasty decision. She spoke to the Colonel of my conduct upon that occasion but did not ask him in my presence to chastise me for it.
The Colonel’s harshness at all times was of rather a momentary cast. It would not have been a matter of great surprise to myself if he had flogged me at her instance for upon the day of his arrival an accident occurred which was well calculated in itself to have fretted him. He had a very valuable slut [female dog] that he had brought from England with him and which his niece had with her on the farm where we resided.
A dog in the neighborhood which was in the habit of killing sheep was often seen lurking about the premises. I had determined to shoot him if possible and had procured a large leaden bullet which I had made into slugs for the purpose. With my piece loaded with these I laid in waiting for him.
He at length came near and the slut springing forward just as I was in the act of pulling the trigger of the gun received one of the slugs into her head just above one of her eyes which caused her to reel about for sometime. I thought at first that I had really killed her but she was but little injured by it. I recollect that the Colonel besides cutting the slug out of her head, pulled my ear well for me as my punishment for the injury I had done. This, however, was a much lighter punishment than that which I should have endured within my own breast had I been so unfortunate as to have killed her.
The Colonel always seemed to relent his conduct of severity towards me, and as certain as he dealt in any way harsh with me he would shortly afterwards sing out, “Boy!” When I would go to his room he would hand me a bowl containing some “good stuff”—liquor (of which he always kept the best) saying, “My lad, here is something to drink.” This was a habit so peculiar with him and so uniform that his cook would often say to me when the Colonel pulled or boxed my ears, “Sammy, I wish the old fellow would come home and you would do some mischief, for then we would get a good grog.” Folks were not much worse in heart then than they are now. But they were better fellows of their grog then than they are now. I could divide with the cook and the cook could as generously divide with me.
From Somerset Court House Colonel Humpton removed us to one Garret Van Zandt’s (not far from Coryell’s Ferry) whose farm was worked by one Eber Addis. Coryell’s Ferry is situated in Jersey not very far from Trenton.
The Colonel had a grey horse which had belonged to the adjutant of the regiment (his name was Huston) who had been shot from off him at the Battle of Germantown. Huston having been killed when in the rear of the line, it was supposed that he was shot by some of his own men. He was said to be a rascally and tyrannical officer and from the fact also of his having been often threatened by his own men (among themselves) that he would be the first to fall in battle. Huston after he was shot (although shot dead) hung sometime on the back or rump of his horse before he fell off. As some confusion took place in consequence of the great fog on the morning of the Battle of Germantown, it is possible that he may have fallen through mistake as others of the American soldiers did by the hands of their own companions in arms.
Whilst we were at Van Zandt’s, a boy belonging to Van Zandt (and about my own age) and myself undertook to run our horses at times and to jump them over a pair of bars in order (besides the amusement it afforded us) to see which could make the most lofty leaps, he upon a horse that belonged to Van Zandt and I upon the Colonel’s grey charger. With good judges and a purse up, I would have been sure of drawing it with the Colonel’s horse.
For this mischievous frolic of the boy and myself, I recollect that the Colonel not only reprimanded me harshly but in addition pulled my ear severely. The Colonel set great store by this horse and such maneuvers as ours might have rendered him useless, jumping him over such high obstacles, which was well calculated to break a leg or otherwise injure him. And besides this, we stood a good chance to have broken our own necks at the time.
[Pg. 152] >From Van Zandt’s I was detached for a time to Washington’s camp not far from Stoney Point. At this time (about the 1st of July 1779) an expedition was fitted out against Stoney Point, a strongly fortified post on the Hudson River. This expedition was entrusted to the brave General Anthony Wayne.
I was one of the musicians attached to the detachment. I do not recollect the number of men composing our detachment, but suppose it might have contained from 500 to 700 men. The number might have been much greater, and besides other covering detachments might have been out also.
When about to set out upon the march sometime in the afternoon, drums were beating, colors flying and soldiers huzzaing—each soldier full of spirit and entering largely into the spirit of the enterprise and full of expectation as to the wished results. The order was at length given to march and as we progressed therein we were ordered not to suffer our drums to make any noise and on each man was enjoined the most perfect silence.
A halt was called a little after sunset and I can recollect very distinctly that we were then so near to Stoney Point as to be able by climbing up into the tops of trees to behold the British soldiers walking backward and forward at the fort. I for one amused myself very much in eyeing them at a distance. General Wayne ordered the detachment on in silence, leaving the musicians (or at least a portion of them) myself included in the number behind him.
In going into battle it was customary for the Drum and Fife Majors to send a Field Drummer and Field Fifer along and among their duties this one, the beating a signal tune for an “advance,” another as a “retreat” and a third as a “parley,” etc.
As night closed in upon us our British brethren became totally lost to our view; more lost to view than we who were left behind could have wished. And whilst we were in the tops of trees and could behold them, we were wishing that we could have been permitted to have accompanied the detachment through all its movement. What our state of feelings would have been had we been along and the detachment made to smell powder in its war strength, I know not. However, I imagine that we would have strove to have joined in singing out (as they did upon a subsequent occasion) the long to be remembered watchword of “Remember the Paoli [Massacre].”
In the course of two or three hours the detachment returned to us again. The expedition proved a failure for in the midst of all the caution upon the part of our commander and the soldiers under his command, the British discovered them sooner than it was expected they would have done. Whether this was through the instrumentality of scouters or of their piquet guards, I do not remember.
General Wayne knew well that this was a remarkable strong position and knew well also the bold and hazardous nature of the enterprise. But he had the hope that he could have pushed his men on in quick time in order to gain the walls ere they should have been subjected to any great fire from the enemy. Our General being thus far frustrated in his design saw proper to abandon the design of attack for the then time being. He ordered a retreat to the American camp, but if he did, he successfully carried his purpose about two weeks afterwards in a second expedition on the night of the 15th of July. I was not permitted to join in this latter expedition, having been sent back (ere that day arrived) to Van Zandt’s again. Its execution was again given to General Wayne and the light infantry with a brigade as its cover and Major Lee and his dragoons as reconnoitering supporters. This was a daring assault and complete success crowned the bold effect.
The American soldiers preceded by a forlorn hope of 40 men in two divisions, having rushed forward up the precipice and gained the walls or outer barricades which consisted of several breastworks and strong batteries which were constructed. In advance of these and below them, two rows of abattis had been constructed also. The attack was made about midnight and the works taken by storm although the assaulters were subjected to a tremendous discharge of grape shot and musketry. General Wayne made a desperate attack with unloaded muskets and had therefore to depend for success entirely upon the bayonet’s point.
After a short but very obstinate defense the fortress was carried by storm and the garrison surrendered. Wayne killed 63 in the attack, among which were two officers, captured 543 British soldiers and became possessed of a considerable quantity of ordnance, ammunition and military stores.
This was a most gallant exploit—few if any were more so during the Revolutionary struggle. It was looked upon as among the most brilliant achievements of the American arms. Wayne (it was said) when passing through a deep morass previous to his gaining the bottom of the ledges of rocks upon which a portion of the detachment passed, sunk deep into the mire and in pulling his foot up, pulled it out of his boot. He then stooped down and plucked his boot out of the mud and carried it in his hand and pushed his men forward in his stocking foot, not even taking time to draw it on.
I do not recollect any thing that transpired worthy of notice after I returned to Van Zandt’s until I was again transferred from there by the orders of Colonel Humpton sometime during the fall of 1779 to some military post not far distant from West Point. There I remained for the most part (except when detached for a time to Crown Point) until after the execution of Major Andre, Adjutant General of the British army, who was hanged a spy in the fall of 1780.
[Pg. 159] When we arrived at West Point it seemed to me that there was nothing in the country but encampments and none other inhabitants but soldiers. It was a strong and important military post. Here the Commander had concentrated a very great force. Soldiers were often arriving and often departing. There were a number of forts in the vicinity of West Point—Forts Lee, Putnam, Arnold and Defiance.
These forts were situated on high bluffs near to and commanding the North River. Our encampment was on the high or level land nearly a mile from the river. There were two or three brigades of soldiers laid here. New Windsor (now perhaps called Newbury) was about 5 miles up the river and was a great apple market and to which many of us soldiers often repaired to purchase apples.
The parade ground attached to our encampment at this post was the prettiest I ever saw anywhere during the Revolution. The soldiers were quartered in log huts. These huts were built in two rows with 15 or 20 feet space between the rows and extended for more than a mile. Very many of these huts were built at the time I was there with my father in 1777. The duty of the “Camp-colour men” was to level the parade ground and keep it swept clean every day.
West Point was a strong military post. It is true it might have been captured by a very strong force even at this time, with all the military force concentrated there, but in consequence of there being so many forts along the river and other almost impregnable barriers, it could justly have been termed a strong position. Below or opposite to the lower forts a great iron chain was stretched across the river from shore to shore and rested upon buoys or upon timbers to bear it up to within a proper distance of the surface of the water. The object of placing this chain across the river was to bar the enemy’s shipping from ascending the river. I am fully of the opinion that each link composing this chain was from 3 to 4 feet in length and from 3 to 4 inches in thickness, and weighed _____ lbs.
This chain was sunk so as to be cleverly under water. It was quite amusing to behold large sturgeon pitching up above it and then be caught upon it and lie dashing and fluttering about for a considerable length of times before they would succeed in extricating themselves from their iron elevated position of uneasiness.
To all these impediments were added floating and stationary batteries upon which heavy ordnance were planted and which in an emergency would undoubtedly have been well manned. I should think that nature and art combined would have been heavily taxed and would have had hard work to have pushed a vessel up the river above where this great chain lay moored.
Colonel Humpton frequently took me with him whist at West Point and other military posts to ride “the patrols” at night. It being generally very late in the night when we would go these rounds, I very frequently got very sleepy and would linger behind him. When I would do this, he would stop his horse until I would ride up to him. He would then quietly reprimand me, telling me at the same time that I did not know the danger I was in and for me to keep close and quietly behind him.
This going the grand rounds the Colonel was quite fond of, although a dangerous duty, especially where there were ignorant and cowardly men set as piquet guards. As he would advance towards a piquet guard the piquet would hail him by calling out, “Who comes there?” Colonel Humpton would answer, “A friend.” The piquet would then cry out, “Advance friend and give the countersign.” The Colonel would then advance and make as though he would advance upon him and pretend to coax or pass him. The piquet would then call out, “Stand friend and give the countersign.” The Colonel would be at the end of his sport with each piquet guard at this point of time, he had to give the countersign, or the next moment receive the contents of the piquet’s musket.
This was a perilous duty. Oftentimes a promise of reward would be made to a piquet guard for permission to pass. Instances however were very rare, that of soldiers suffering officers or others to advance and bribe them from duty. There have been instances however of piquets having suffered themselves to be tampered with. Sometimes soldiers not knowing their duty thoroughly when asked by an officer (knowing him to be such) and thinking that they were bound to obey his orders, finally consented to give up their muskets when asked by officers to let them look at their pieces to see if they were in good condition, etc. Should the piquet do this, the officer would immediately call out to another piquet guard and have the delinquent taken under guard and would afterwards have him punished for his dereliction in duty.
A camp or piquet guard (piquet especially) receives the countersign and his duty is to know no man, nor suffer himself to be tampered with by privates, officers or others, no not even by the General of Division. His duty is made known to him and the nearer he adheres to the line of his duty, the more does he evince his possessing the lofty ingredients and character of a true soldier and the more will he endear himself to his brother soldiers and superior officers.
As I made a somewhat lengthy stay at West Point after visiting it this time, I will endeavor to describe to my readers some of our soldier doings. Each morning we (the fifers and drummers) had to play and beat the Reveille at the peep of day and then the Troop for roll call. After roll call, a number of men would be called out of each company as camp and piquet guards and so many for fatigue duty—these were called Fatigue Men.
A drummer was also chosen and was called Orderly Drummer of the Day. This drummer had his drum constantly lying on the parade ground during the day. Its place was generally where the colours were planted or in other words, where the American standard was erected on a pole similar to what is now known and called a Liberty Pole. When the Sergeant of the fatigue men called out, “Orderly Drummer,” this drummer repaired to the Sergeant immediately, who ordered him as follows: “Orderly Drummer beat up the Fatigue’s March.”
We had a name for everything, or rather tunes significant of duties of all kinds. To beat the “Point of War,” and “Out and Out,” or through from beginning to its end, which embraces all tunes significant of Camp Duties, Advances, Retreats, Parleys, Salutes, Reveilles, Tattoos, etc., etc., would consume nearly or altogether half a day, and to beat the Reveille properly, “The Three Camps,” which constituted the third or last part, would consume from the peep of day until after sunrise. There are many good Drummers and Fifers nowadays that would not know what the “Point of War” is or should mean. Nor do they know what should be played or beat for a Reveille properly. Some at Baltimore in 1813 and 1814 beat “Sally Won’t You Follow Me?” and other tunes quite as inappropriate.
At West Point (as at all other military posts) the musicians knew at once when a particular roll or march was named, what tune to play, and the soldiers all knew at all times what duty was to be performed upon the hearing of the musicians “beat up.” When the Orderly Drummer would beat up the Fatigue’s March, all soldiers chosen for the day would repair to their post, form into lines and were marched off immediately and set to work. There was always a great difference manifested in the manner of attending the calls, “Fatigue’s March,” and “Roast Beef.” The soldiers at the Fatigue’s call generally turned out slowly and down hearted to muster upon fatigue parade. When an officer would sing out, “Orderly Drummer, beat up the ‘Roast Beef,’” and the musician fairly commence it, the soldiers would be seen skipping, jumping and running from their tents and repair to where the rations were to be issued out. That there would be a difference manifested will not be wondered at when it is stated that the Fatigue Men had to muster for the purpose of going to labor, chop, dig, carry timber, build, etc., etc., whilst the others would turn out voluntarily to learn what they were to draw for breakfast, dinner, etc.
To each regiment there was a Quarter Master attached who drew the rations for the regiment and to each regiment belonged a Quarter Master’s Sergeant that drew the rations for and dealt them out to the companies or delivered them in charge of the Orderly Sergeants of companies.
The Quarter Master’s Sergeant at a proper hour would take [several] Sergeants and as many men as might be necessary and repaired to the store house and slaughterhouse which were built at the edge of the North River and extending some distance into the river. These buildings were very large. These men always took poles with them that were kept for the purpose of carrying meat upon to the camp. They took also camp kettles with them for to carry vinegar, whiskey, etc. in to the camp. These men on their return were marched in front of their respective companies. The “Roast Beef” would then be beat up and the men understanding the music (which is a signal for drawing provision) would hasten as before mentioned and stand ready to receive their quota.
The Orderly Sergeant of each company divided the meat into as many messes as were in each company (six men constituting a mess) and then a soldier was made to turn his back to the piles. The Sergeant would then put his hand upon or point to each pile separately and ask, “Who shall have this?” The soldier with his back to the mess piles then named the number of the mess or the soldier that was always considered as head of the mess, and in this way they proceeded until all was dealt out.
Every man in each mess drew (when it was to be had) a gill of whiskey each day and often salt and vinegar when these were to be had. Sometimes when flour was [not] scarce it would be drawn every day. Sometimes we would draw three day’s rations on one day and sometimes none at all for two days together. Sometimes we drew baker’s bread and always when it was to be had. Sometimes we drew sea biscuit.
I have been down at our slaughterhouse at times for the purpose of assisting in carrying the provisions to camp and I have seen a great many cattle drove into it at a time. I recollect that once we had to wait until the butchers would kill. They drove upwards of a hundred sheep into the slaughter house and as soon as the doors were closed, some of the butchers went to work and knocked the sheep down in every direction with axes, whilst others [butchers] followed and stuck or bled them. Others followed these, skinned them, hung them up and dressed them. A very short time elapsed from the time they commenced butchering them until our meat was ready for us.
I recollect having been there at another time when they were killing bullocks. They drove a very large and unruly bullock into the slaughterhouse. This fellow they could not knock down. They had given him a great number of very hard blows upon his forehead but could not fell him to the ground. He at length broke away from them and left the building by jumping through a window. The butchers pursued him, caught him and brought him back secured by means of a strong rope. One of the soldiers belonging to our party happened to say (unguardedly) that had he had the knocking of him down, he would have had him down in a much shorter time than they had consumed.
The butchers dropped the bullock and all, and took after him [the soldier], butcher knives in hand. When they made the dash at him, first he ran, and when followed by them he had the hardest kind of work to save himself by running. Had they caught him, they in their anger would undoubtedly have plunged their knives as deep into him as they were prepared to do into the bullock.
I have known great numbers of very fine and fat cattle slaughtered there but if I have, I have seen many more poor and indifferent ones killed there also. But with these we had to be content in the absence of better.
Often the Orderly Drummer would be ordered to beat up the “Adjutant’s Call.” The Adjutant, when called thus, would answer to the call by his presence and would then receive his orders from a superior officer. Sometimes the orderlies would be ordered to beat up the “Drummer’s (or Musician’s) Call” at the hearing of which we (fifers and drummers) would have to drop all and answer by our presence. Our duties upon such calls were various. Sometimes we would be required to beat the Long Roll, Roast Beef, the Troop or the General, and sometimes “The Rogue’s March,” and sometimes “The W____’s March.”
I recollect that one day the Orderly of the Day beat up the Drummer’s Call and we immediately mustered at our post. In a few minutes after we had reported ourselves by our presence, a Corporal came along with a file of men and we fell in by placing ourselves at the head or in front of them. He then marched us to the parade ground. After remaining there a few minutes, a woman of ill fame was brought in front of us. In a few minutes afterwards we received orders to march. As we started off we commenced playing and beating up the “W____’s March” after her until we arrived at the bank of the river.
A halt being called, she was then conducted by the Corporal into the river until they both stood in water nearly or altogether three feet in depth. Quite a scuffle ensued when the Corporal attempted to duck her by plunging her head under water. The Corporal after a number of trials at last succeeded in executing this part of the sentence passed upon her. He plunged her, head and all, three times under the water and then let her go. When she started off after coming out of the water, we gave her three cheers and three long rolls on the drum and then marched back without our fair Delilah, follower of Bapta goddess of Shame.
Such frolics as these were often made a part of our duties and which (being young as some of us were) were enjoyed very well. It was not only viewed as a necessary conduct of severity to this class of unfortunate women, but it became necessary at least that they should be removed from camp. That course of treatment, it must be admitted, was harsh even to these unfortunate females.
Early in the evening we had to beat up “The Retreat.” We played and beat the Retreat down and up the parade ground as far as our regiment extended for “roll call.” We had many tunes that we played and beat for Retreat. “Little Cupid” was often played and beat for a Retreat. At bedtime we had to beat the “Tattoo.” For Tattoo we had many tunes also. For roll call in the morning we had many tunes that we played and beat as “The Troop.”
There was a challenge given to box upon the part of one bully, and accepted upon the part of another. The combatants were James Reed of the 1st Brigade and Andrew Travis of the 2nd Brigade. They fought by permission of their officers. They met upon a flat piece of ground below the forts. They chose their seconds and judges who established certain rules or regulations by which they were to be governed in the fight. Among them this one, that they were not to strike each other in the face.
A large ring was formed by the large body of soldiers which had assembled to witness the fight. The combatants then entered the ring and commenced the fight. They began about 10 o’clock a.m. and fought hard, giving each other most tremendous hard knocks. During the fight they sat down to rest four or five times and each time they partook of refreshments. After resting in this way they would go at it again. They appeared to be very equally matched. Both stout, both strong and vigorous and full of ambitious metal.
I suppose they knocked each other down full twenty times. This fight lasted until near 3 o’clock p.m. Up to that hour it could not be told which was the best or most likely to bear away the palm of victory. Travis at length was forced to yield to Reed who, although not much of a better man, proved himself the best man of the two upon that occasion. After the fight ended, those that were of our brigade with Reed returned to camp wearing the laurels of victory.
Sometime after this there was a misunderstanding took place between Captain Steake and a Captain Smith. There was a challenge to fight a duel sent and accepted. Smith was an Irishman and was called the Irish Beauty from his being a remarkably handsome man.
On the morning of the day upon which they fought we were waiting for the morning gun to fire. As soon as the morning gun was fired we commenced beating the Reveille. Whilst we were thus engaged our Drum Major said to us, “Huzzah boys, rattle it off. We can see Captain Steake and Captain Smith fight a duel this morning!”
The parties were just at that moment going out to the field. As soon as we had done playing and beating the Reveille we started and ran speedily, but we were out of time for just as we were getting within sight of where they were, we heard the report of Captain Steake’s pistol. His ball had struck his antagonist in his right shoulder, causing his right arm and hand to fall down helpless or powerless at his side. And of course, his pistol fell also. Steake’s ball had taken effect so quick that Smith’s pistol remained undischarged. This was enough for Captain Smith at this time.
Captain Steake was a good shot. I have known him to fight several duels and never knew him miss his fire once. His balls always took effect. It was said that this or the one he fought afterwards was the seventh duel he fought. I don’t recollect of any of his shots ever proving fatal. Captain Steake was my Captain when I was finally discharged. He was a brave man.
I was detached to a place once during the Revolution which was called “The Hundred Acres.” It was perhaps that section of Delaware County now called “Old Hundred.” Whilst I laid at this place there was a very unfortunate and solemn affair transpired there.
There were two officers, a Second Colonel and a Major that were candidates for promotion to the post of First Colonel. The Major succeeded to the office of First Colonel and a high dispute arose between them and a challenge to fight a duel was given and accepted. They met upon the field of death and tossed up to determine which should have the first fire. The Major (elected First Colonel) won the great and decided advantage and they took their stations.
The distance that they were apart was but ten steps. The regulation was that each one when it should be his turn to fire was to stand with his back to the other and at the word “fire” was to wheel and fire. The First Colonel received the word, wheeled and fired and his antagonist fell mortally wounded. The First Colonel then stepped up to him and asked him if he would be reconciled to him, expressing at the same time his regret that the affair had gone on until it terminated so fatally.
The Second Colonel was determined (although in a dying state) to have his shot. The First Colonel then stepped off ten paces to his post and turning himself around, bared his breast by pulling his shirt bosom apart with both hands and said, “In the name of God, fire.” The Second Colonel was then bolstered up by his second and other officers, raised his pistol as far as he was able and fired, but not having strength to hold it high enough, the bullet struck the ground before it reached to where the First Colonel stood. The Second Colonel died immediately after he had discharged his pistol.
This duel caused a great deal of talk, both among the soldiers and among the citizens. Some applauded the deceased officer for his spunk, and others the living one for his honor which he had backed by so brave a contempt of death, prepared as he seemed to be to await in a cool and deliberate manner the hand of death truly raised against him.
There came to camp one day an old man and old woman with their family consisting of 24 children. The old people must have been nearly 80 years old. The eldest child I think was a daughter and walked next to the two old people and each of the rest according to his or her age from the eldest to the youngest. After they entered the encampment they walked down and up the parade ground before the soldiers and in the order I have described. The soldiers ran out of curiosity to see them as they had come for the purpose of getting some help. Most of the officers and some of the soldiers (that had money and they were few) gave them something. It was said that General Washington gave a considerable sum of money to them. I do not recollect whether they presented any other claim than their poverty and novelty of appearance.
I had never seen such a family previous but I have since. I had a brother-in-law by the name of John Cochell who was married to my first wife’s sister and who lived in Berks County, Pa., about 5 miles below Reading whose family consisted (at one time when my wife and myself were there on a visit) of 24 or 25 children; his wife however had five or six times twins at a birth.
When we lay 4 or 5 miles from (I think it must have been the) Passaic Falls in Jersey (although it is possible that it was near to Trenton Falls in York state) the soldiers went frequently to see the falls and then a great curiosity which was not far from the falls.
There was a poor family that had in it a son who was said to be upwards of thirty years old. I went with some soldiers to see him and beheld the most wonderful sight that I ever did behold in all my life. His body was chunky and about the size of a healthy boy of ten or twelve years old. He laid in a kind of cradle, but his head (although shaped like a human head) was like a flour barrel in size and it was common for one soldier to describe to others by comparing it to a flour barrel. It had to be lifted about (the body could not support it) whenever and wherever it had to be moved to. His senses appeared to be good and it was usual for us to say “He can talk like a lawyer.”
He would talk to every person that visited him. All the soldiers that visited him and that had any money would always give him something. It was said that General Washington when he went to see him gave his father the sum of four or five hundred dollars as a present to aid in his support. Although I have here attempted a description of his person and appearance, it beggered every description I can give as no person can conceive truly his appearance but those that seen him.
The soldiers would sometimes go to swim in the river on which the falls was situated. They were always cautioned not to go nearer to the falls than a certain distance then named, it being very dangerous to enter to river at any point nearer than that, as the “suck” was so great as to draw whatever might chance to fall therein over the falls.
It was said by old people in the settlement around the falls that an Indian had been drawn (with his canoe) by the suck and had been precipitated over the falls. His body (or parts) of it had been discovered afterwards. The water dashed wildly and swiftly over a precipice that seemed straight almost as the side of a wall and when it fell, it fell broken indeed among high and projecting rocks to which nature had given every ragged and picturesquely wild shape imaginable. The noise of this mighty dashing water could be heard for many miles in every direction around the falls.
Near to where we lay at some other place during the Revolution we frequently went to see a couple of dwarfs. They were male and female. The one was said to be 33 years old and the other two or three years older or younger, and which it was I cannot now recollect. They were both well on to 3 feet high but their bodies were very slender, their arms and hands were very small and their eyes were no larger than the eyes of a rat, but black as jet. The people called them “fairies.” Their parents were not very well off. It was also said of General Washington that when he visited them he gave their parents something clever to aid in supporting them. I suppose it was true for I never knew or heard of his closing his hands, but always understood that he gave liberally on all necessary occasions.
[Pg. 176] A large detachment of soldiers were sent on from West Point to Crown Point in order to strengthen that post and add to the strength of that portion of the northern army. I accompanied this body of troops in that expedition in the capacity of a regular Fifer in the ____ regiment. Owing to our having to pass through a great portion of wilderness country and by means of poor roads often very deep and miry and leading through almost impassable swamps, we endured much hardship and often that of great want.
From the great distance that Crown Point laid from the middle theatre of war, provisions whilst we laid there were often extremely scarce. In fact, sometimes we had to subsist for days without a mouthful of anything to eat. This was not confined to one particular post, but it was general, as well near to the first great Independence ground Philadelphia, as at the far off out posts.
In addition to the want of food, the army was suffering for want of clothing and the want of ammunition with which the soldiers, although enduring every privation could not have protected themselves without. But we considered ourselves well off when we were blessed with rations sufficient to make tolerably satisfying meals. We considered ourselves well off in the midst of hardships when we were where we could draw a gill of liquor per day occasionally.
When we drew fresh meat we did not always draw salt to preserve it or use with it. During the war we drew more liquor and vinegar when in the vicinity of cities or large towns than when removed to any great distance from them. We indeed (I may state) drew more abundantly (if it were to be had at all) of everything else. Sometimes we drew two day’s rations at a time. Sometimes when near to towns where baker’s bread could be obtained, it would be procured for us. At West Point we drew bread very often. Sometimes we drew soap. I have known however, that no soap would be drawn for six months at a time. We have often procured white clay and used it as soap in washing our shirts, pantaloons, etc.
I recollect that when we laid at Carlisle barracks, we procured white clay and mixed it up like mortar and made it into large balls and after they would become dry we would rub them on our pantaloons like to buff balls upon buckskin breeches. By their use thus, we made them for a time almost white as chalk. This mode of washing or metamorphosing dirty wearing apparel into clean, might suit some particular characters not very particular nowadays, but not the generality of folks. This mode of washing or rather painting of dirty clothes, if introduced now would be considered by our tidy housewives and their rosy cheeked lassies of daughters rather a dry and very odd kind of wash indeed.
At times when we drew biscuit, we were scarce of everything else and were then in the midst of hard times. Sometimes we had one biscuit and a herring per day and often neither the one nor the other. Sometimes we had neither the one nor the other for two days at a time, and in one or two instances nothing until the evening of the third day.
This was previous to our drawing a biscuit and a herring each day, the biscuit was made of “shipstuff” and they were so hard that a hammer or a substitute therefor was requisite to break them. This or throw them to soak in boiling water. Upon these, a biscuit and a herring each day, the soldiers lived until their mouths broke out with scabs and their throats became as sore and raw as a piece of uncooked meat. This was very annoying and oppressive and was called the scurvy.
The soldiers at length determined to kick against the receipt of herrings. We all drew our herrings and saved them for a day or two and then collected them at one place on the parade ground. We fastened them upon long poles and some of the soldiers carried them upon their shoulders around and up and down the parade ground whilst we (the musicians) played and beat “The Rogue’s March” after them. After we had endeavored to Fish Drill our officers enough, we left our fish lying upon the parade ground to undergo an “official” inspection and repaired quietly and orderly to our quarters.
The officers made a great ado about the matter but the soldiers were determined not to yield anything. This course of independent burlesquing at the expense of the “finny” tribe of unwelcome guests brought us a load or two of dried clams in a very few days thereafter.
The clams had been taken out of the shells and then put upon strings and dried as farmers’ wives dry their apples in the chimney corners and in the sun. Every man drew four or five inches of dried clams. They were very dry and would rattle one against another like to pebble stones and were seemingly as hard. When boiled however, they would swell out and become soft and as large nearly as when they had been first strung. Our process was to boil them and then break up some ship biscuit and throw them into our camp kettles and would make a kind of soup out of them and believed ourselves to have been blessed with pretty fair living considering the times and situation of the army.
Sometimes whilst we laid at West Point, Fort Ticonderoga and at other military posts, we drew what was called “state’s stores.” I don’t know why they were called by this name unless it was that these goods were donations from store keepers made to their respective State Governments, and then from the State Governments to the United State’s Government, for the use of the army in general. From these state’s stores we drew coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate, soap, tobacco, pepper and other articles that were very serviceable to us. ([Footnote:] Nothing could be more acceptable to us than tobacco. It was hard doing without it or its substitute. I have known soldiers to chew leaves of various kinds and also roots, some would use Calamus as a substitute for tobacco.)
It was considered a great thing among us to draw rations thus. This good fortune came but seldom, perhaps once in six months we fared this well. A shorter period, however, might have elapsed at times between, but oftener a longer elapsed than a shorter one.
Nothing of consequence that I recollect of transpired whilst we laid at Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Something like skirmishing would occur occasionally. It was in consequence of some diversion or feint having been made by one of the British commanders that we had been detached there. The necessity of this force at that point having been done away with and we [were] needed in a more enlarged sphere, we were ordered back again to West Point. I do not recollect our route from West Point to Crown Point, neither can I recollect by what route we returned. I remember, however, of having been at Fort Schuyler a short time, but whether it was at this time or not I cannot now state.
[Pg. 186] After our arrival at West Point, which was perhaps sometime in June, 1780, several expeditions were made for various purposes. I recollect that when we encamped out for sometime when on one expedition, General Washington led the army in person.
Washington was not always to be seen (like to many of the other officers of the army) crossing our pathways daily. Sometimes his labors would keep him out of our sight for a week or for two weeks at a time. So, it may also be stated, of La Fayette, who was the bosom friend and soldier brother of our beloved chief. When these two great chiefs were seen separate and apart from all the other officers and in close and quiet converse together, then it was customary for soldier to say to soldier, “Now, boys, look out for a skirmish or a battle with the British.” “There is something brewing. I’ll warrant you, there is some plans laying.” “You’ll see, there is some grand exploit on foot now.” “Hazza boys, keep a sharp look out,” etc., etc.
These camp byewords uttered on these occasions were not idle words, for so certain as Washington and La Fayette were seen thus, as certain it was that a skirmish or a battle ensued or some expedition was made and something worthy of remark transpired shortly afterwards.
Before an expedition of any kind was made, General Washington (if it was possible) would procure the services of a Minister of the gospel to preach to the army upon the Sabbath. This was another sure signal that some struggle was about to be made by the Commander-in-Chief. A signal so certain that the soldiers relied upon it with as much certainty as if they had received orders to march or had known the purport of the expedition.
When a minister was obtained, it was customary to make some elevation upon which the preacher stood by nailing up a board or two at some distance from the ground. Sometimes a few logs would be rolled together or piled up one upon the other. Sometimes an empty hogshead would be laced on end and a board or two laid crossways upon the head and a few steps of some kind erected along side of it to enable the minister to get upon it. The soldiers would be formed into a large circle around the spot occupied by the minister and after stacking their arms, they would stand on their feet or sit down upon the ground as would best suit them until the minister would deliver his discourse.
I recollect whilst upon this expedition that General Washington had procured the services of a minister who was quite a small man. A hogshead was placed on end and the men formed into a large circle around it. Within the ring the officers (among them Generals Washington and La Fayette) were seated in groups immediately around where the preacher was to stand. The man of God mounted the hogshead and after praying and singing, commenced his discourse. He had proceeded to a considerable length therein and became quite enlisted in his own discourse. He was feeling no doubt the force of what he said, and was moving about with somewhat of a warmth upon the hogshead when the head of the hogshead had become somewhat loose. It gave way and he fell down into the hogshead. He being low of stature the upper chime [rim] of it almost hid his head from the view of the soldiers.
He continued to jump up and to show his head above the hogshead and still preached on. This caused quite a hearty and loud laugh among the soldiers. The officers immediately jumped to their feet. Some assisted him in getting out and replaced him upon the hogshead, (which was done by placing a board across the top of it) while others succeeded in quieting the soldiers and restoring order in all parts of the circle.
This accident happened towards the heel of his discourse. When matters were again adjusted, the minister mounted the hogshead again and proceeded with his discourse as if nothing had happened until he finished his sermon and made a final close of the exercises. The place where this happened I do not now recollect.
Sometime previous (I think) to the treason of Arnold we went to what was called The Battle of the Block House. After the army arrived before that British post, it commenced bombarding it in fine style. The cannon balls and bombs flew thick against it. It was too strong, however, for us.
After playing upon it for a long time and to no purpose, we raised the siege and returned to camp. This block house was well fortified and besides, it was full of refugee Negroes which kept up a constant firing with musketry upon us from port holes at the top of the fortification and which fires done us considerable injury.
I recollect one among the killed. He was shot above the shoulder on one side, the ball having passed in as stated and came out on the other side just above the hip joint. This poor fellow had been discharged but a day or two before we marched to the attack, but had patriotically volunteered and joined in the expedition. His name was Zeigler. He was buried with others and with “the honors of War.” Some of his comrades took his clothes with them to camp in order to give them to his friends who lived not far from West Point encampment.
We started to return from this siege or from where we had been encamped to West Point. There was one of our men, a tailor who had at the time, the stuff of a pair of pantaloons of mine which I had given him to make up for me and which bye-the-bye I never recovered again. As we were returning to West Point, he deserted from the army and was going at the top of his speed to join the British.
He was pursued by cavalry and others. When they neared him he fired (having a musket with him) at his pursuers and his ball cut off a rein of an officer’s bridle. After he had discharged his musket at the officer, he was captured and brought back. They hung him without a court martial or without being tried, even “by the drum head.”
We being on the march at the time, continued it until noon. A halt being called, we sat down and engaged ourselves in eating a bite of bread and cold beef. The musicians occupying the centre of the column on its march, we had therefore no opportunity of knowing what was going on in front.
After we had rested and refreshed ourselves, we were ordered on. We had not marched far until we beheld this deserter hanging over the road, he having been suspended to the limb of a tree. We marched directly under where he hung. There were some refugee Negroes that had been captured in a house in our route. The officers ordered the Negroes to hang him.
As I before stated, this deserter had been hung without the benefit of a trial. His offense was punished with immediate death. There were none in the army, excepting the soldiers in front, that knew anything of his execution until they beheld him hanging overhead in their march. The army moved on and left him hanging, a warning to all that beheld him. It is likely, however, that after the army passed that fatal spot, some of the soldiers were secretly detached to bury him. If this was the case, it never came to the ears of the soldiers composing the army that was engaged in that expedition.
At another time we were upon a march to or from some place, the name of which and the object of the expedition is now altogether gone from my mind. We had taken a refugee Tory whom the officers had placed on the march with the provo guard. The night after he was captured, one of our soldiers deserted and was directing his course to the British camp, which was not very far distant. He was pursued immediately by three or four light horsemen who overtook him near the British lines. He having his musket with him, took deliberate aim at one of the light horsemen and shot him dead.
This was no sooner done than another of the horsemen fired and killed him. They then cut off his head and brought it to the camp. The next day the soldiers were ordered to build a gallows and placed the head of the deserter on a sharp pin (stuck into one of the posts) with his face turned inwards. They then hanged the refugee Tory upon the gallows and after he was dead, they took him down and cut his head off. They then placed it on another pin stuck in the other post, turning his face inwards and towards the face of the deserter.
The gallows was built in a yard in front of an old Tory’s house. We left the gallows standing and decorated as above described for the Tories to look at and rejoice over. They were prohibited from cutting it down, a job that they would have had few scruples to have done if they had been sure that no American’s eye would be upon them.
In our march we came to a place (not now recollected) and encamped for a few days. Whilst we laid here, a soldier was tried for some crime he had committed and was to receive seven hundred lashes or death, and in case he was to survive that tremendous flogging, he was to be drummed out of camp. He was brought out to the whipping post and we (musicians), fifers and drummers, were summoned forward and ordered to strip off our coats. The prisoner was then stripped (his shirt being taken off as well as coat and jacket) and tied up to the post by the Fife and Drum Majors.
This done, the Drum Major with his rattan in his hand handed the cat-o’-nine-tails to one of the musicians whose duty it is with the rest of the musicians to inflict this kind of punishment at all times. The Drum Major then said to the first (into whose hands he had put the cat-o’-nine-tails), “Give him five lashes and well laid on.” This done, the Major cried “Stop,” and then bade him hand the cat-o’-nine-tails to another in order that he should do likewise. Thus the “cat” passed from one to another and from each, whilst he held it, to the back of the sufferer until he received the seven hundred lashes, the number of lashes contained in the sentence of the Court Martial.
Here it is to be observed, that any musician striking with a light hand at any time for the purpose of favoring the prisoner, such musician would have received on his own back the rattan in the hand of the Drum Major, and that well laid on too. The Drum Major has no merciful manner in the execution of his duty, but gives it as hard as he would be able to draw it upon the back of the delinquent musician.
When this prisoner was thus whipped, he was found to be still living. He was then untied and laid down with his face to the ground and then pack salt strewed over his back. They then took a small paddle board and patted it down, beating it thus into the gashes, and then laid him by for awhile until he recovered a little. The salt was put upon it thus, after all, in mercy to him (to cleanse his wounds and enable them to heal), cruel as it would seem.
When he recovered sufficiently to enable him to march, we then had to escort him in playing and beating the Rogue’s March after him. We escorted him thus to some distance from the camp. It was admitted by all that the poor fellow had his discharge upon his back. He never returned again, or at least I never saw him more. In an instance like this, before fifty lashes would be given, the back of the sufferer would be all cut and like a jelly, and the cat-o’-nine-tails would get so bloody and heavy that another cat-o’-nine-tails would be substituted for it, and so on until the flogging would be ended. It would have been far better for the sentenced soldier to have been whipped with one only, for using other ones in the way I have described, caused fearful looking lacerations and dreadful sufferings. The cords being dry and small when first used, they penetrated deeper into the gashes made in the flesh than the cords would have done had only one been used.
About this time we were ordered back into quarters at West Point.
[Pg. 204] Sometime after we returned to West Point, a circumstance transpired which nearly cost me my life.
There was a vessel laden with apples lying near the New England shore. Myself and comrades were very anxious to become possessed of some of them. As none of the musicians but myself could swim to any great distance, I volunteered to swim across the river for that purpose. I placed a knapsack upon my back and put the money into the lining of my cap and plunged into the river and swam across to the vessel.
When I arrived on the deck of the vessel, all hands were surprised when I asked them for apples. Some of them cried out, “Where the d____l did you come from?” I told them I had come from West Point encampment for the purpose of buying apples, stating at the same time that I had brought money along to pay for them, as also a knapsack to carry them over in. The master of the vessel then filled my knapsack with apples for which I paid him his price.
He and the hands aboard fastened my knapsack upon my back and assisted me in descending the wooden steps to the water’s edge. To the steps there were ropes attached on each side to hold on by. When I had descended the steps to the edge of the water, the master and crew of the vessel advised me not to venture, saying that I would be drowned and offered to carry my apples and self over the river in their boat. This offer I rejected, being perhaps a little vain of my abilities as a swimmer. But if I was a little proud of my performances, I possessed something worth being proud of, for no man I ever met could out go me in swimming. It seemed to me that I could walk (tread) in the water, as long and as far as it might please me, and could swim upon my back any distance I chose to swim to.
Notwithstanding the generous offer made to me by the crew, I dashed off into the water in fine spirits and swam off with my load and succeeded in reaching better than half way across the river. I do not recollect the width of the river at West Point, but suppose I had swam fully half a mile.
All at once a monster of a sturgeon jumped up out of the water very near to me and made a great splashing and noise about me. Being frightened at this moment, thinking it might be a shark, I began to pull away for life. This swimming in so hurried and hard a manner caused me to let water into my throat which strangled me very much and I began to sink. But as a kind Providence would have it, the tide was out at the time and when I began to sink, I found bottom with my feet. This so encouraged me at the moment that my strength renewed itself and by making a powerful effort, I succeeded in reaching the land and my comrades in safety with my apples.
As is with the jack tar in a storm, it was with me then. This made a deep impression for the moment, but I suppose it was soon lost in making our eager repast, that of feasting upon my cargo of mellow and delicious apples. The ship’s crew cheered tremendously when they saw me reach the shore in safety.
The musicians had a certain duty besides camp duty to perform daily. Sometimes once each day and sometimes twice, we had to repair with the Drum and Fife Majors to a short distance from the camp and practice in playing on the fife and in beating on the drum. The Fife Major taught the fifers and the Drum Major the drummers. There were, however, grown musicians that had not to attend these musical drills. Some of them though accompanied us and assisted the Drum and Fife Majors in teaching. There was one of this class, a fifer named Brown who was a British deserter. He was a capital fifer. Brown frequently assisted the Fife Major in his duties of teaching.
When I lived in Wormelsdorf, Pa., after the Revolution and previous to the Whiskey Insurrection, Brown passed through there as an enlisted soldier in a company of regulars, which was bound westward in its march to join General Wayne’s army in its expeditions against the Indians down the Ohio River.
When this duty of practicing upon the fife and drum was ended (it being done early in the forenoon in general or else late in the afternoon) we were then at liberty generally to amuse ourselves by strolling out in different directions and for various purposes. Oftentimes we made up companies and went to the river to bathe or to fight a sham battle in the river.
There was a large round rock (flat upon the top) in the Hudson River and which stood within 30 or 40 yards of the shore. It was quite a perpendicular rock at the sides. When the tide was out it was generally bare for the most part. Sometimes when the tide was not very high, a foot or so of some parts of its surface would show itself above the water. We called this our Fort.
We musicians and others of the younger soldiers would often make up companies, appoint our Captains and other officers, and repair to this rock to have sport in taking and retaking this Fort from each other. I being among the best of the swimmers was always chosen to belong to that company which was to act the part of the besiegers.
We made large balls of grass by twisting it and winding it like yarn into a ball. One party would take possession of it and the men of the other party would swim up as a squadron abreast and endeavor to take it by storm. When we came near, our bombardment and a general action took place. We would pelt those upon the rock with our grass balls whilst they in return would pelt us.
If we could succeed in getting upon the rock we would grapple with its possessors and defenders and succeeded often in pushing them off from the top of the Fort. Sometimes when clinched thus, several pairs would plunge over its sides into the water together. When this happened to be the case, all knew their duty to themselves and to each other, and would instantly relinquish their holds one upon the other. If a number succeeded in reaching the top of the rock, all those upon it would often (after consuming their ammunition) jump off into the water. Which done, the besiegers became the besieged in turn and the besieged (that was) became the besiegers. This mode of warfare afforded us much good sport. Sometimes we would dive from off its top. Other times we would stand on its edge and turn somersets into the water.
Owing to the hill rising very bluff and high from the shore, the water at this place was very deep. I recollect in diving down along side of this rock that its sides were perpendicular like to a wall of a house. Sometimes when we were there and in the midst of our pleasant sport, the Orderly Drummer at camp would beat up the Drummer’s Call. Each musician would (upon hearing the first tap of the drum) plunge into the water, swim swiftly to shore and then be all splutter, for after picking up his clothes, each would dress the best way he could as he ran for camp.
When the tide made strong to the shore it acted as conqueror in taking possession of our Fort, and would not permit us to play upon its surface. At such a time its top would often be many feet under water. When this was the case, we recreated ourselves by performing in some other way. Hopping, jumping and running often afforded us plenty of amusement.
I remember when General Arnold was fired after, that I (with other musicians) was engaged in swimming in the Hudson River. Hearing the Orderly at camp beating up the Drummer’s call, we hurried our clothes on, dressing indeed as we ran, and made all the haste we could until we reached the camp. Shortly after our arrival at camp, the alarm guns (cannon) were fired and upon our hearing the third of which, we beat up To Arms, To Arms.
As soon as the news of Arnold’s treachery reached the Forts, alarm guns were fired. The first gun in cases of alarm is a token, and when the second gun is fired, all are in readiness to hear the third fired. The Fife and Drum Majors have their musicians in readiness, and the moment the third gun is fired, the musicians instantly strike or beat up the air or tune To Arms.
In this case (at West Point) the second gun very soon followed the first and the third sooner than the second. None in camp could imagine what it was; what such tremendous roaring of cannon could be indicative of. The largest cannon mounted in the fort was the one made choice of to vomit out execrations against Arnold and Tories. Also warnings to the three brigades lying at and near to West Point, as well also to others at a somewhat remote distance, but not so far as to be out of the hearing of it.
The firing of three cannon so loud and so quick in succession caused a dreadful commotion in the whole line of extended camps. The musicians belonging to the whole army (myself included among the number) at the instant the third gun was fired, played and beat up the tune To Arms, To Arms. In less than five minutes, the whole of the two or three brigades were in line and under arms, the field officers all mounted on horseback and at their posts awaiting the orders of the Commanding General, as also a knowledge of what had given rise to so hasty an alarm. We were not long, however, under arms before the much desired knowledge was bestowed in being officially announced unto us—that of the traitorism of General Benedict Arnold and the capture of Major John Andre, his spy. At this intelligence, the whole army was (as it were) convulsed. We stood almost day and night upon our arms, for I suppose three days and three nights at least.
Major Andre was tried, convicted and condemned to death as a spy. He desired a soldier’s death—to be shot, but this could not be granted to him. He was at length ordered out for execution. It was a solemn time.
[Pg. 220] I (with other fifers) was notified by my Fife Major (Alexander McKinley) to be in readiness to play the Dead March. On the day of his execution, the whole of the army at West Point were put in motion and marched arms in hand to the gallows where they were formed into a great circle at some distance around it. We musicians were then attached to the provo guard and marched off to the provo guard house. The guard received the prisoner Andre and conducted him within the circle and to the foot of the gallows while we playing the Dead March all the way from the provo guard house to the gallows.
After he arrived at the gallows, a considerable time elapsed before his execution took place. This time was spent in conversing with the American officers. The officers sympathized greatly with him and great sorrow pervaded the whole army. Officers and privates were to be seen shedding tears. One great regret was manifested by all, this that one so brave, frank and honorable should have been sacrificed through the perfidy of Arnold.
At length the fatal moment arrived and he ascended the ladder. He was resigned to his fate but not to the mode, but intimated that it would be but a momentary pang. He was then asked by the officers if he had anything more to say. He answered, “Nothing, but to request that you will witness to the world that I die a brave man.”
He was at this moment standing up upon the ladder. All things being then in readiness, the signal was given, the ladder was turned over from under him and Andre was launched into an eternal world.
[Pg. 225] Sometime after the execution of Major Andre I was again ordered by Colonel Humpton to Van Zandt’s. Here was the last place and last time I recollect of seeing Miss Elizabeth, the Colonel’s niece. From Van Zandt’s I was transferred by the orders of the Colonel to Princeton where I remained until about the close of the year 1780.
When the mutiny took place in the Pennsylvania and Jersey lines, although (and as will shortly appear), I was not of the mutiny party, I claimed a discharge at the hands of Colonel Humpton. I thirsted for a more noble theatre of action than that of truckling at the heels of, and to the will and mandate of a woman. This I state with due deference to the sex and I think I will be considered as doing so in all sincerity when my readers are informed (as I intend they shall be), that I have been many years blessed with the presence and companionship of the fourth woman with whom I have lived in the capacity of husband, for I have had four wives.
I had been disappointed in being in many enterprises, skirmishes and battles in which my whole soul was enlisted, and once patriotically fired thus, it was gall to me when I was not suffered to participate in the conquests and glories pertaining to them. When I claimed a discharge of Colonel Humpton it was not for the purpose of getting out of the army and abandoning that post that was glory to me to fill. No! But it was in order that I might get properly into the army and follow its destinies. Notwithstanding that I was left by the Colonel with his niece, I was at many military posts. With her I fared very well, I had enough to eat and was better provided for in this respect and for clothes than I was when in the camp, but a soldier’s glory was my delight, even with the pinchings of hunger as its accompaniment.
When I claimed a discharge of Colonel Humpton at Princeton, he refused to grant me one, but gave me a furlough to go on to Philadelphia. He had drawn all my pay, a part of which he paid me when he gave me a furlough. This however he refused to do too, until I declared in a peremptory manner that I would leave him. The Colonel (I may state) had always treated me very well. But in this instance, I believed that I had cause to complain for he had promised me my discharge. This promise he had made to me before the soldiers had gone. But after they had departed he refused it, saying that I was better in the army than out of it. Had I obtained my discharge, I could and in all probability would have done as thousands did—enlist again.
At the instance of Major Greer, after my arrival at Philadelphia I joined (I believe) the 10th Regiment, Major Greer having tendered me an invitation to come and live with him in the capacity of a waiter. I, being destitute of friends and having but a small sum of money in my possession, I readily accepted it and commenced at once the labours incident to my new department. In a few days after attaching myself to him, we rode up to Carlisle, Pa., where the Major was in attendance at all balls given in Carlisle, Shippensburg, Chambersburg and at other places. I was favored with (as I and others considered) the best horse and enjoyed myself very well. The Major would attend a ball in Chambersburg on one evening, ride back to Carlisle on the next day, and be in attendance at another on that evening in Carlisle.
I was always in the habit of carrying different kinds of liquor at his instance to the room on these occasions, and always had an opportunity of taking my toll, interest or freight-pay before starting with my loads. Apple toddy was a great drink in those days and I was no way backward in tasting as much as I considered necessary or pleased me to drink, my will in this matter was my only sovereign.
From Carlisle we were ordered on to Lebanon to join our Regiment. Here I was regularly attached to the regiment in the capacity of fifer. Major Greer complimented and commended me highly upon my performing so well that when we drew our clothing, he carried out his preference for me in his action, for whilst the rest of the young musicians drew their coats of coarse, red cloth, he drew for me a fifer’s scarlet couloured fine cloth coat.
I was not in the capacity of waiter to Major Greer whilst in Lebanon except when he went upon fishing excursions, then he was sure to call for me and press me into his service.
Whilst we lay at Lebanon, a circumstance transpired worthy of notice. A Sergeant who was known by the appellation of Macaroney Jack, a very intelligent, active, neat and clever fellow had committed some trivial offense. He had his wife with him in camp who always kept him very clean and neat in his appearance, she was washerwoman to a number of soldiers, myself among the number. She was a very well behaved and good conditioned woman.
The officers for the purpose of making an impression upon him and to better his conduct, ordered him to be brought from the guard house, which done, he was tied up and the drummers ordered to give him a certain number of lashes upon his bare back. The intention of the officers was not to chastise him.
When he was tied up he looked around and addressed the soldiers, exclaiming at the same time, “Dear brother soldiers, won’t you help me?” This in the eyes of the officers savored of mutiny and they called out, “Take him down,” “Take him down.” The order was instantly obeyed and he was taken back to the guard house again and handcuffed. At this time there were two deserters confined with him.
On the next or second day after this we were ordered on to York, Pa., where upon our arrival we encamped upon the common below the town. Upon our arrival, our three prisoners were confined in York jail. In a few days after we arrived at York, a soldier of the name of Jack Smith and another soldier whose name I do not now remember, were engaged in playing “long bullets.” Whilst thus engaged some of the officers were walking along the road where they were throwing the bullets. The bullets passing near to the officers, they used very harsh language to Smith and his comrade who immediately retorted by using the same kind of indecorous language. A file of men was immediately dispatched with orders to take Smith and his comrade under guard and march them off to York jail.
In three or four days after these arrests were made, a Sergeant of the name of Lilly was arrested. He was also a very fine fellow and an excellent scholar, so much so, that much of the regimental writing fell to his lot to do, and for which he received a remuneration in some way. This Sergeant having become intoxicated had quarreled with one or more of his messmates and upon some of the officers coming around to enquire what the matter was, found him out of his tent. The officers scolded him and bade him to go into his quarters. Lilly having been much in favor and knowing his own abilities and the services rendered, was (although intoxicated) very much wounded and could not bear to be thus harshly dealt with and used language of an unbecoming kind to his superior officers. The officers immediately ordered him to be taken to York jail.
On the next day in the morning we beat up The Troop. After roll call we were ordered to beat up The Troop again. The whole line was again formed and I think the orders were for every soldier to appear in line with his knapsack on his back. I suppose that at this time there were parts of three regiments, in all 800 or 1000 men laying at York, the whole of which was commanded by Colonel Butler. The whole body (sentinels, invalids, etc., excepted) when formed were marched to the distance of about half a mile from the camp and there made to stand under arms. Twenty men were then ordered out of the line and formed into marching order and all the musicians placed at their head. After remaining a short time in a marching posture, the order of Forward was given. We were then marched direct to the jail door. The prisoners six in number were then brought out and their sentence (which was death) was read to them.
At this time it was thought that none in the line save the officers knew for what the provo guard was detached. But it appeared afterwards that previous to the firing which was the means of launching four out of the six into eternity, the matter of rescuing them was whispered among the soldiers. But they did not concert measures in time to prevent the awful catastrophe which they meditated, by an act of insubordination upon their part.
After the sentence of death was read to the condemned soldiers at the jail door, we then marched them out and down below town, playing the Dead March in front of them. We continued our march full half a mile and halted on a piece of ground (common) adjoining a field of rye which was then in blossom. This was sometime in the early part of June 1781.
After a halt was made, the prisoners were ordered to kneel down with their backs to the rye field fence. Their eyes were then bandaged or covered over with silk handkerchiefs. The officer in command then divided his force of 20 men into two platoons. The whole was then ordered to load their pieces. This done, 10 were ordered to advance and at the signal given by the officer (which was the wave of his pocket handkerchief), the first platoon of 10 fired at one of the six. Macaroney Jack was the first shot at and was instantly killed.
The first platoon was then ordered to retire and reload and the second platoon of 10 ordered to advance. When the signal was again given, Smith shared the same fate but with an awfulness that would have made even devils to have shrunk back and stood appalled. His head was literally blown in fragments from off his body. The second platoon was then ordered to retire and reload whilst the first was ordered to advance. At the same signal they fired at the third man. The second platoon then advanced and fired to order at Sergeant Lilly whose noble soul was instantly on the wing.
The arms of each had been tied above their elbows with the cords passing behind their backs. Being tied thus, enabled them to have the use of their hands. I ventured near and noticed that Macaroney Jack had his hands clasped together in front of his breast and had both of his thumbs shot off. The distance that the platoons stood from then at the time they fired could not have been more than ten feet. So near did they stand that the handkerchiefs covering the eyes of some of them that were shot were set on fire. The fence and even the heads of rye for some distance within the field were covered over with blood and brains.
After four were shot, we musicians with a portion of the twenty men were ordered to march and were then conducted up to the main line of the army. After our arrival there, the whole line was thrown into marching order and led to his horrid scene of bloody death. When the troops advanced near to the spot they displayed off into double file and were then marched very near to the dead bodies, as also to those still on their knees waiting the awful death that they had every reason to believe still awaited them. The order was for every man to look upon the bodies as he passed and in order that the soldiers in the line might behold them more distinctly in passing, they were ordered to counter march after they had passed and then marched as close to them upon their return.
The two deserters that were still in a kneeling posture were reprieved, the bandages taken from their eyes, then untied and restored to their respective companies.
A number of men were ordered out to dig a large grave. The bodies of the four dead soldiers were then wrapped up in their blankets and buried together therein. This last sad duty performed, the soldiers were all marched back to their quarters in camp.
My readers may imagine to what a pitch this sad scene was heightened in sorrow when I state that on our way from the jail to the place of execution, those sentenced were crying, pleading and praying aloud. Women were weeping and sobbing over the unhappy fate of those doomed to death, and the wife of Macaroney Jack was screaming and almost distracted. On the way she attempted to run into the line or provo guard, to where her husband was walking, but was hindered by an officer who felled her to the ground with his sword, he having struck her with the side of it.
The execution of these men by Colonel Butler and his officers was undoubtedly brought about by a love of liberty—the good of country and the necessity of keeping a proper subordination in the army in order to ensure that good ultimately. Mutiny had shewn itself at many of the military posts within the United States. The conduct of the Pennsylvania and Jersey lines in the revolt at Morristown in Jersey had occurred but the year before and fresh in the memory of all having knowledge of the operations of the army.
Still, the destruction of these men seemed like a wanton destruction of human life. The soldiers at York were afraid to say or to do anything, for so trivial appeared the offenses of these men that were shot, that they knew not what in the future was to be made to constitute a crime.
I recollect for myself that for some considerable time after this, if I found myself meeting an officer when out of camp, I would avoid coming in contact with him if I possibly could do so by slipping a short distance to one side. Not that I was afraid of an officer more than of a private whilst I done my duty, but fearing lest they might construe my conduct in some way or other into an offense.
All disposition of mutiny was entirely put down by these steps of cruelty. There were (no doubt) many times during the Revolution that such executions were called for and highly necessary. And perhaps there was an evidence as well as a conviction before the minds of the officers composing the Court Martial in their case that we know not of that demanded the punishment of death. But to state in a word, it was a mournful day among the soldiers and hard and stony indeed were the hearts that were not deeply affected in witnessing this distressing execution of their fellow soldiers.
In the course of a few days after this melancholy occurrence, Colonel Butler received orders to join General Washington somewhere towards the south, but I think it was in the vicinity of Yorktown, Virginia. When the main body moved on, I with five or six drummers and fifers with some invalids and raw recruits were left at York.
I was billeted at a public house near to the Court House which was kept by one Zeigler. I drew my rations and handed them to the family. I lived here (I may state) at home, for I ate at the table with the family, and was treated as one of the family. Having nothing to do as duty except to practice some in playing the fire, I done many little jobs for the family.
I remained at York until sometime in January, 1782, when orders were received for us to march on to Lancaster, Pa. In obedience thereto, we set out on the march immediately. Our detachment consisted of a Sergeant, ten or a dozen of privates, Fife Major, Drum Major and five or six musicians other than myself. When we arrived at the Susquehanna River opposite to where Columbia now stands, we found the river full of drifting ice and were compelled to remain on the York side of the river until next morning. We billeted at the old Ferry tavern house. It was a very cold and keen freezing night, so much so that against morning the river was shut and we were enabled to cross it upon the ice. Each man carried a long pole in his hand and all gained the Lancaster side of the river in safety.
We did not remain very long at Lancaster, being ordered about to different military posts. In the course of these changes, I do not recollect anything that transpired of any great importance until I again returned to Carlisle barracks, nor can I recollect at what post I separated from Major Greer.
Some persons have an idea that the post of a fifer or a drummer is a very easy one. This is altogether an error and founded on ignorance. A fifer or drummer has to fill the orders issued and he may be detached in time of war in twenty different directions in a month. When upon the march in an expedition against an enemy, the musician occupies a more dangerous post than any officer in the detachment, save the commander, and when in line of battle his position is not to be envied. In a word, the whole duty of a musician is therefore not only a laborious one, but one of the greatest hazard and danger.
My memory at one day could have kept, and did keep pace, with all these movements or changes from place to place. But not having at any time in my life penned anything with the view of publishing a history of my life, and besides having entered the army when young, it cannot be expected that I can be as explicit in my statements as I might otherwise be at this late day.
I have been (as before stated) at a very great number of military posts or encampments during the war, the names of which when I hear them I know very well that I was once quite familiar with them and their locations too. But now, their locations, the time of repairing to them and the objects for which I was detached to them are like shades or as imperfect or indistinctly remembered dreams. And of course my recollection of such places, the times of visiting them and the objects of those visits cannot be other than vague within my mind. This much, however, is established in my recollection beyond a doubt. I have been sent to play detachments off to different places and again I have been sent to play detachments from recruiting posts and other places into the different encampments where we laid.
I recollect of marching through Baltimore and then to some military post a considerable distance to the south, but where I am unable to state now. It must have been pretty far south. The place where we were encamped was near to a very deep and still water. It seemed as though there were great freshets there sometimes, for there had been great quantities of driftwood such as large trees, logs, limbs and brush swept out to the land and heaped up together into huge piles.
Alligators were very numerous there and the soldiers were forbidden to go into the waters for the purpose of bathing and swimming. All night the alligators would lie on the top of the water with their jaws open or rather with their upper jaws laid back towards or resting upon their backs. When their mouths or jaws would become covered with flies or mosquitoes (which abounded in that place), they would slap their upper jaws down upon their lower ones, making at the same time a very great noise. This they would continue to do during the whole night, first one, then another, and often very many within hearing all at the same time.
Crocodiles were talked of also, as infesting those waters. Perhaps it was to deter the soldiers from venturing into the waters that caused this to be said. I was one day strolling along the water’s edge and something very large dashed into a great heap of the drift of brush and logs. Before I could see its shape, it was all in among the rubbish except about three feet of its hinder part, the thickest part of which was fully as thick as the thickest part of the thigh of an ordinary sized man. At the moment I heard it, I remember very well that I thought of crocodiles and jumped to one side or back and then made myself scarce in the shortest time possible. I never knew what it was nor could I rightly conjecture. Sometimes I thought it might have been a crocodile and at other times an alligator, and at other times I thought that it might have been a very large snake or water serpent of some kind.
Having returned to Carlisle, a number of us that had known each other before met together at that place. I remember of having been told by some of them of a melancholy circumstance that had happened sometime after Colonel Butler had marched to the south.
One of the soldiers that belonged to his command and who was quite a young man, had deserted and was flying to the British lines. He was brought back and instead of being placed in the provo guard house as soldiers generally are that are to be tried for their lives, for those whose punishments were not death, they were generally placed in the custody of the camp guards.
This deserter was “tried by the Drum Head.” It was done in this manner generally: a circle was formed and the drum placed upon the ground as a table upon which the writing necessary and the sentence were written. This deserter was tried after this manner and his sentence was that he should be shot. A certain number of men were ordered out with loaded pieces and he was blind folded and made to kneel down. The signal was given to fire and eight or nine balls penetrated his body. But instead of his being killed momentarily by them, as would be expected, to the astonishment of all present, he begged (poor fellow) that they would but let him live until next morning in order that he might pray for himself. Whilst he was imploring for this at the hands of the officers, an officer stepped up to him with a loaded pistol in his hand and made an end of his cries and sufferings by shooting him through the head.
The soldiers who had witnessed this sad affair and from whom I received the account, said it was the most revolting spectacle they had ever witnessed during the Revolutionary War.
I will now inform my readers of the cruel usage meted out to many of the soldiers at Carlisle barracks—meted out by some of the most cruel of officers that could be found anywhere in the armies of my country. The names of these officers I cannot give at this late day. But in order to show that those officers differed from the generality of the officers in the American service, I now state we had to flog more at the barracks of Carlisle than at any three or four military posts that I was ever at during the Revolution.
Myself and three other musicians (drummers and fifers) received at one time 12 lashes each upon our bared buttocks. The cause of this was as follows: we were engaged one day in washing our clothes at the spring and they, it must be admitted, were very full of lice. When we were engaged in washing our clothes at the spring a soldier came and began to abuse one of our fifers. We ran to the support of our comrade and gave the fellow a kind of a rough-and-tumble flogging and tumbled him down into a ditch which was nearby and put one of his knees out of joint. Apart from this we did him no great injury otherwise. We daubed his face over with soap or white clay and rolled him about a little. It was rough treatment it is true but we did not meditate to injure him materially.
The next day as we were outside the camp practicing in playing the fife and beating the drums, we beheld our Fife Major and the Adjutant of the regiment coming towards us. Noticing that the Fife Major had something under his coat, I began to smell a rat as did also others of our company. It was not long until I found that my apprehensions were correct. We were all called up and our sentence read to us, which was that we were to whip one another.
I was the first ordered to strip and prepare to ride a sort of a jockey race. A large drummer was ordered to take my two hands and arms over his shoulder and hoist me up upon his back. He did so and the cat-‘o-nine-tails was handed to another who was ordered to give me twelve lashes. I thought when I had theory alone as my guide, the receipt of twelve lashes would be nothing—the veriest trifle. But when theory was reduced to practice and I the object by which it was to be tested, I found out that it was a serious matter. When I was made to take the first lesson or rather to receive the first cut, I thought it could not be less severe than the receipt of boiling lead would have been upon the part affected and I began to kick and sprawl like a cat and to bawl out lustily.
I threw the big drummer off his feet and broke for the mountains running for my life. The officers called out aloud, “Come back,” “Come back.” I yielded and came back but it was because I could not do otherwise. I returned begging for quarters all the way, but begging was in vain. The big fellow shouldered me again but when he did, I threw him a second time and broke away again. They caught me and mounted me upon my stumbling charger a third time and gave me my allowance of twelve lashes and three in addition to make the count good and for my kicking against my judges, executioners and the cat-‘o-nine-tails.
Another was then hoisted (it was the one that whipped me), and as I had received more than I wanted, I had no idea of receiving the Major’s rattan upon my back for remissness in duty. I am fully persuaded that I gave him 12 lashes as hard as he gave to me. The two others had to lash each other as my comrade and myself had done. This was law and we had to abide by the decisions of that law and call it justice and equity, or at least we had to be satisfied therewith.
Our officers had a whipping post erected on the centre of the parade ground. Near to the foot of the post a wooden peg was drove into the ground, the top of which stuck out of the ground about ten or twelve inches and was as sharp as the tip of a person’s middle finger. Sometimes the soldiers after being flogged were made to stand on the tip or point of this peg ten or fifteen minutes each, with one foot and it bare; and the other foot raised up and held in one hand whilst the other hand would be tied up to the whipping post. This was called picketing.
They had also a large face and hollow head made, upon which they fixed a large pair of horns which made the head and face (to use the phrase) to look like old Nick himself. This head and face was lined inside with sheep skin which had the wool on, the woolly side of which was out and made to fit or lie against the face of the wearer when it was put on him. The woolly side they covered over with grease and lamp black.
They also had a large buffalo skin for a body. When a soldier would become intoxicated or commit crimes of a more trifling nature, the officers would order out the “Buffaloe Daddy,” and clap it on him and girt it around him with rope. This rope they brought down and fastened to one foot or leg and the other end was used as his tether and was about ten or twelve feet in length.
He would be kept in limbo-mask, thus, for hours or more. The musicians were required to play whilst he was kept moving about to make him sweat. During these fantastic exercises, it was sometimes so hot in the sun that we would be ready almost to faint but it was fine fun for the officers lying in the shade—fun, yes, and they enjoyed it well.
After the hour thus occupied would expire, the Buffaloe Daddy was taken off. The lamp black and grease having by that time fastened themselves completely to his sweaty face, they caused him to look like a teaze-major to a congregation of blacksmith’s shops. [Footnote: Teazer is the name given to the man employed to keep up the fires by feeding them with coal or wood in Glass Houses where glass of all kinds is manufactured.] The moment his mask was pulled off, tremendous loud laughter and hazing were raised by the soldiers who would assemble to witness this humorous sort of camp fandango. His appearance as a matter of course, would have justified a priest of Bramin in laughing heartily. After this, our duty was to play him several times down and up the parade ground in order to show him off to the best advantage to the officers and soldiers occupying the barracks.
We generally carried the laugh and huzza from the head to the foot, and from the foot to the head of the parade ground.
At one time a drummer of ours whose name was Robert Mitchell, was in town (Carlisle) and stole a shirt which belonged to a gentleman of some note in the place. Next day a search was made in the barracks and the shirt was found in poor Bob’s knapsack. Bob was immediately conveyed to the guard house. He was tried and sentenced to be whipped. In a few days thereafter we (musicians) were ordered out to the woods to collect hickories—rods 3, 4 and 5 feet in length. Sometimes we cut and brought bundles of them on our shoulders tied up like sheaves of wheat.
Upon our return to camp with our rods, the Long Roll was beat up, and the soldiers, amounting in number to about 500, were formed into two rows, leaving a space like a narrow lane between them. The soldiers were all faced inwards, that is, facing each other. We then carried our bundles along this lane and distributed them, each man pulled a rod out of our bundles. Poor Bob then had to strip off to the buff—his coat, vest and shirt, and all ready, he had to run the gauntlet.
He ran down, up and down again, which was three times through. Each time, each man struck him once or more on his bared back as he passed. The duty of all was to strike at him and hard too, but some perhaps were not able to do more than touch him. Supposing 500 men to give three cuts each, would equal 1500 lashes. They cut the poor fellow so severely that splinters an inch long were pulled out of his back with pincers. After the splinters were pulled out, his back was washed with salt and water. This was a severe cure, but was of great service, notwithstanding its severity in its application.
There were many soldiers detected at times in a very merciful kind of fraud, that of cutting or nicking their rods so that when in the act of striking, they would fall back and often to pieces in their hands and do no injuries to the runner. Such as were at any time caught at this or in striking lightly in order to not hurt the prisoner were dealt with in a harsh manner, even to the receiving (sometimes) a number of lashes themselves.
It was highly necessary that a proper subordination should be established in every department of the army and should all have refused to obey the orders as to inflicting punishment, no punishment could have been inflicted and consequently no subordination would have existed. That the punishments were more cruel and greater in amount than necessary in many instances, I think I can safely assert.
Some time after Mitchell received his severe castigation, there were two soldiers (brothers) deserted. They were taken up and lodged in Carlisle jail. They were tried for desertion and condemned to death. Upon the day of their execution the troops were formed and marched out fully a mile from the barracks. The Dead March was played from the time we left the barracks until we arrived at the gallows. They were both hung up at the same time. One died in about the usual time, but the other could not die. In order to cause death, the soldiers whose duty it was made to hang them pulled his feet and legs until the rope was lengthened and it was thought that the rope would have broken. Still, they could not cause him to die.
The one already dead they cut down and buried, but they left the other hanging. A guard was left at the gallows and we then marched back to the barracks. The guard did not return until it was near night, in consequence of his not having died until it was nearly sundown. This was one of the most painful sights that I ever witnessed. It was about 10 o’clock when he was swung off and he had hung in a dying state until almost sundown.
[Pg. 242] News arrived at the War Department that the Indians were butchering the inhabitants up and along the Juniata River and the valley of Qhish-a-quo-quillas in the more remote interior of Pennsylvania. As a result, a detachment of between three and four hundred men composed of the remains of several regiments at Carlisle barracks received marching orders.
To this detachment there were five fifers and five drummers attached (myself among the former). Our march was what was called a “forced march,” we having to march night and day until we entered the “wilderness.” After several days’ marching through the wilderness we arrived at a settlement. We halted one rainy day at an old waste-house and barn. Here we encamped. The day was quite a wet one. We were ordered to run or mould bullets and make cartridges. As soon as we had finished this job, we had to commence the march again, although it was raining heavy. This the officers were induced to do in consequence of their having received intelligence that the Indians were murdering the whites not very far ahead of us.
We had both flankers and scouters out constantly. We at length came across the Indians, or rather they came across us. Notwithstanding, all the precaution used in detaching flankers and scouters, the Indians would give us a shot (from their ambuscades) and yell and then be off unseen like snakes in the grass. They popped off one of my comrades, a drummer, close behind where I was marching in front of the detachment. We made a halt long enough to bury him, or rather a portion of the detachment moved on in pursuit whilst this duty was performed. This done, we closed up again and pursued our march in the same regular manner as before. There were not any of the Indians killed at the time of their attacks upon us that I recollect of.
After we arrived at the settlements at the mouth of the valley of Qhish-a-quo-quillas, our scouters brought in some Indian scalps, and after we had ascended the valley some distance and formed our camp on the Qhish-a-quo-quillas Creek, our scouting parties came in occasionally with a few scalps.
The Indians in the course of a few weeks, finding us too strong for them, retreated westward and left the settlers in the peaceful possession of that section of the country. We laid in the valley from three to four weeks. Our loss at the hands of the enemy was but three men killed. Here I must state that besides the narrow chance I ran when the drummer was killed near to me upon the march, I ran a seemingly narrower chance for my life whilst we were encamped in the valley.
The officers would not allow any of the men to stroll to any distance outside of the camp. There were piquet guards stationed at the outposts which were established at a short distance from the camp guards. Being very fond of fishing, I would occasionally venture out some two or three hundred yards from the camp line. Dividing my fish always with some of the officers made me somewhat of a privileged character, and they would suffer me to steal out when they would not suffer others to do so. They always cautioned me, however, by telling me to be upon the alert and to break for the camp the moment I should hear or behold anything that might cause me to suspect that Indians were about.
I was busily engaged in fishing at the distance of two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards above the camp at Qhish-a-quo-quillas Creek, a stream something in size like (as near as I can remember) to the Yellow Breeches Creek in Cumberland County, Pa. I had caught some fish, among them some very handsome mountain trout, and fortunately happened to think that I was venturing too far, when looking up I espied a very large Indian at some distance from me. At the instant I beheld him I dropped my fishing rod and left my fish and, being unarmed, I became very much frightened and heeled it for life until I reached the camp.
Being young, strong and active, I soon left him in the distance and gained the encampment. There was a scouting party dispatched immediately, but it returned without beholding or capturing him. He thinking perhaps as I did that it was most safe to be off: (I being unarmed am free to confess I did not wait to see whether he was armed or not).
Some of the officers and myself went with the scouting party as far as to where I beheld him and then I recovered my fishing tackle and the fish I had caught. In our passage thither we found that I had leaped over lying trees four and five feet high, bounding from twelve to eighteen feet at a bound. In proof of this, I observe that after the Revolutionary War was ended, I have often jumped a stake and rider fence six feet high in harvest times with a sickle in my hand, and at a running jump I could clear an eighteen or twenty foot pole with ease.
This may look full as a statement, but it must stand as truth with those acquainted with jumping, when I state that I could at a standing jump on a floor clear a ten foot pole at any time, standing with my toes to it at one end and clearing it with my heels at the other. When running from the Indian I can safely assert that I jumped from two to four feet higher and bounded farther by several feet than I ever knew myself to do either before or since.
It had been the delight of many of the officers at various military posts before this happened to start me as a fox. After I would start off to personate Reynard, they would send out a dozen or two other soldiers to personate hounds in the chase. I was swift of foot and could always elude my pursuers and could return to camp before them and without being caught. I was always called the young Quaker, owing to my saying Thee and Thou. Oftentimes when the officers wanted me to gratify them in bearing a part in fox and hound sport, they would call out, “Quaker,” “Quaker.” I would answer, “What does Thee want?” They would then sing out, “Thee and Thou, The Quaker’s brown cow!” (I thought it quite a shame to say “you” to any person. It was all Thee and Thou with me instead of Sir), “We want you to be the fox for we have some fast hounds to send out in pursuit today.” I knew I could run fast and was therefore ready generally to turn Reynard.
Great care was at all times manifested by the officers of the detachment whilst it laid in Qhish-a-quo-quillas valley with regard to the planting of piquet guards and with regard to their hailing whatever might be looked upon as approaching them. They received strict orders, also, with regard to their firing thereat or of sounding the alarm. They were also (as I have before stated), very strict with the men with regard to their strolling outside of the camp or piquet guards in any one direction. The officers well knew they had a wary and wiley foe to contend with or to defend against.
At another time I ventured to the distance of 300 or more yards down the stream and below the camp for the purpose of fishing. I had not been long engaged in fishing and had just caught a trout, the largest I ever saw anywhere, when all at once a terrible noise issued from the top of a high knob of the mountain opposite to where I then was. Before I had properly secured my fish, a huge rock which seemed to be about the size of an outdoor bake oven came whirling and leaping down the precipice in its fearful majesty, riving and smashing the trees that stood in its course with tremendous crashings until it dashed headlong into the creek below where I stood; causing a smoke or vapour to ascend like a cloud or fog all around where it entered the stream. Whether it was that it had acquired a heat in consequence of the great velocity with which it descended from the top of the high knob of the mountain that caused such a cloud of fog or steam, I know not.
When I first heard it I thought it best to watch for what was coming. As I beheld it coming I waited until I saw it leap into the water. Then the idea of Indians was more forcibly impressed upon my mind. It had been but a few days before that I had encountered one and concluded they were not very far from me. With fear upon me on all sides and believing myself encircled with dangers, I immediately secured my large trout by putting my fingers through its gills and “took to my scrapers,” saying in my own mind (as I bounded away) to the Indians in accordance with the old Indian saying, “No catchee, no habbee,” and soon found myself in camp again.
I had not ceased running after I entered the camp when I was met by an officer who said to me, “Fifer, will you let me have that trout?” “Yes, Sir,” was my reply; well knowing that being the indulged, I dared not say no. “Well, fifer,” said he, “you are a clever fellow.” He then took the fish and I started towards my quarters. “Stop, my good fellow,” said he. “Go and fetch your canteen and then come with me to my quarters.” I went and got my canteen and he then took me to his marquee and filled my canteen with “good stuff.” This pleased my messmates more than all the fish in the creek would have done, for we had not had a drop of liquor to drink for the space of two weeks previous. A good drink at this time helped us to forget our cares, particularly the Indians that were skulking around us in the bushes and among the rocks of the mountains.
It was the opinion of the officers and men in camp that this was a stratagem of the Indians. It was believed that the Indians supposed that the rock they sent down the mountain side would have dashed through the camp below and cut its road by killing all that might be in its way. They having supposed (no doubt) that the camp was immediately below in a line with the direction which they had given to the rock when they started it in a “heave, yo heave” down the steep sided mountain. Scouting parties were sent out in several directions but they returned without becoming possessed of any intelligence relative to the Indians.
After remaining in the valley for the space of three or four weeks, the Indians having left that section of country and all was quiet again, we broke up our encampment and set out on our march for Carlisle. We broke up our camp this time without much (if any) formality. We returned to Carlisle by another route than that which we had taken on our passage out. We arrived at Carlisle in something like a week after we commenced our march homeward.
[Pg. 259] There was a soldier of the name of Glenn that had deserted from our detachment as we marched out to the Juniata and who was taken by some of our men as we were returning from the expedition. We had brought him on with us and lodged him in the jail at Carlisle. He was soon afterwards tried for desertion, or as it was often termed “for his life.” He was found guilty of desertion and sentenced to run the gauntlet.
We musicians were ordered out to the woods to collect whips. We cut and carried four or five large bundles to the barracks. The soldiers, amounting in all to near 600, were ordered out and formed into two rows and faced inwards, making a lane between the rows such as I have before described. Glenn was then made to strip off his coat, vest and shirt. He then started down this lane formed by the soldiers and as he passed slowly along (for he was not permitted to run), he was guarded by four soldiers with fixed bayonets, two before and two behind to cause him to walk instead of run.
He was forced to walk three times through in this manner. Every soldier cut and slashed at the poor fellow from one end of the line to the other for three successive turns. After receiving this awfully severe flagellation, there were a number of splinters of a great length pulled out of his flesh with pincers. Afterwards, his back was washed with salt and water; and a sore back he had too, the sight of it was sufficient to melt the heart of a stoic into tenderness.
After he recovered he deserted again, was caught and brought back and lodged in Carlisle jail a second time. He was again tried for his life and sentenced to be hung. A gallows was erected at the distance of about half a mile from the barracks. When the day of his execution arrived, we “played” the soldiers out to the gallows where they formed into a large circle around it. We then had to play the provo guard to the jail in order to receive the prisoner. He and some more prisoners were brought out and placed in the custody of the provo guard. We then marched, playing the Dead March after them till we arrived at the gallows. An officer then read Glenn’s sentence to him.
After doing of which, he took a rope and stepped towards a soldier that was one of the prisoners we had brought from the jail. He handed it to him, bidding him at the same time to take it and fasten it around Glenn’s neck and hang him. This man, or as he was called, “old soldier,” sternly replied, “I won’t do it.” The officer then in a rage drew his sword and dashed forward to where the old soldier stood. As he advanced, the soldier coolly and fearlessly opened his shirt bosom with both hands and baring his breast, said, “Run me through, kill me, shoot me down, do anything with me you please, but hang Glenn I will not.” He repeated again, emphatically and with all the sternness and dignity of mien [bearing] and fearlessness possible for man to possess naturally or by acquirement, or able to exercise in a just path, “I WILL NOT DO IT!”
The officer then called to the Fife Major and bade him to go to the barracks and bring the rope and cat-o’-nine-tails. These were brought and the old soldier was ordered to strip off his coat, jacket and shirt. As soon as this was done he was tied up and we musicians were ordered to strip off our coats and fall into line. The cat-o’-nine-tails was then handed to me and I was commanded to give him five lashes, well laid on. I did it, but with a heart bleeding inwardly for the gallant veteran. Glad, yes greatly rejoiced would I have been if I could have spared his back the gashes I had to assist in making , by striking lightly, but there was no flinching. I was not alone in possessing feelings of tenderness that could not be shewn or expressed. After I had given him the first five lashes, I handed the cat-o’-nine-tails to the next to me in the line and he, when he had given him five, handed them to another. And so we proceeded until we gave him one hundred lashes. I remember well that when the old soldier was untied, he stepped towards the officer that had ordered him to be flogged and said, “Thank you, thank you.”
After the soldier was disposed of, the officer took the rope in one hand, a loaded pistol in the other and stepped up to one other of the soldier-prisoners. He commanded him to take the rope and put it around Glenn’s neck and hang him, stating at the same time (his arm elevated) if he dared to refuse he would blow his brains out. The soldier replied, “I suppose I must do it.” He then took the rope from the officer and advanced to Glenn and fixed it around his neck. Glenn was then conducted up a ladder, and all things adjusted, he was now about to be swung off. A few moments more and the silver cord would have been loosed and the captive spirit set at liberty. But hark! What sounds are those that break upon the ear from the distance? Who is this, that is born as it were with the speed of the winds?
A moment or two before he was (or as I may state, as he was about) to be swung off, a horseman was seen coming as hard as his horse could come. This man was calling aloud and waving a white pocket handkerchief in the air. This caused a suspension, momentarily, of the deathly operations in which all were more or less engaged.
As soon as the herald drew near, he pulled out a paper and rode up to an officer and handed it to him. It proved to be a reprieve for Glenn. It appeared that Glenn’s father lived neighbor to General Washington, and the family was always in the confidence of Washington. His father being a very respectable man, Washington was induced by these considerations and the pleadings of that father (and perhaps of his mother) to spare the son.
Had it not been for the circumstance of the soldier-prisoner persisting with such unshaken firmness in his refusal to act as the executioner of a brother soldier, the soul of Glenn would have been in eternity two or more hours before. It was two hours or more before the messenger arrived with his reprieve for we certainly spent three hours (if not more) from the time we arrived at the gallows until we left it. After the reprieve was read aloud, Glenn was ordered down from off the ladder and restored to his company.
The line of march was then formed and we were marched back to the barracks. When we returned again to the barracks it was nearly roll call in the evening. The soldier who so nobly refused to hang Glenn was restored to his company also. The rest of the prisoners were ordered again to the guard house.
[Pg. 264] Shortly after Glenn’s reprieve, we received orders to march on to Lancaster, PA., to aid in taking charge of a great number of British prisoners that had been marched thither. After our arrival at Lancaster, I was again put under the command of Major Greer.
The American soldiers at Lancaster erected stockades for the prisoners. A large plot of ground was enclosed as by a garden fence. The palings were planks 4 or 5 inches thick and extended in height about 30 feet. Inside of these stockades, barracks were erected and at every corner outside, a house was built, one or two of which were occupied by drummers and fifers and the other two were used as guard houses. At the distance of about a half a mile stood the barracks in which the American soldiers were stationed.
The British officers (many in number) who were prisoners of war at Lancaster, were permitted to wear their swords. These officers were full of cash and frolicked and gamed much. One amusement in which they indulged much was playing at ball. A ball alley was fitted up at the Court House where some of them were to be seen at almost all hours of the day.
When I could beg or buy a couple of old stockings, or two or three old stocking feet, I would set to work and make a ball. After winding the yarn into a ball, I went to a skin-dresser and got a piece of white leather with which I covered it. When finished, I carried it to the British officers who would “jump at it” at a quarter of a dollar. Whilst they remained at Lancaster, I made many balls in this way and sold them to the British officers and always received a quarter a piece.
Some of these officers (the British field officers) had several very fine English horses, and that were good runners too. Our officers used to run the American horses against theirs upon small bets and would so manage it as that the English horses won the stakes. The American officers by a little management in this way soon found out the bottom of their own horses, as well as that of the English ones.
The American officers would get the English officers to run their horses against time on small bets. When they found out the greatest speed of the English horses, they then went off some little distance where they would be out of view of the English officers, and ran their (American) horses a like distance and against the same time. After they had done this, they would know what the English horses could do and what their own could do also. The American officers would then take on heavy bets and win them. At last they made up large purses to be run for. The British officers depending upon the bottom of their horses, which they still thought could not be beaten, “forked over” their yellow boys (gold) largely into the purses.
I recollect that our officers, by their Yankee Jonathan management, were always able to beat John Bull with their American chargers. Major Varnum’s (American) horse came out first and won the first purse. Major Greer’s (American) horse came out second and won the second purse, whilst John Bull came out last and among the missing. Or at least his shiners (guineas) were missed and a good many of them too, they having absquatulated [escaped] and sought refuge in the pockets of the American officers (as the transferred captives of the captured) to whom they were of signal service. This was fine fun for the American soldiers and citizens of Lancaster, for they (the soldiers) laid claim to the merit of their horses in mettle and speed, as they were able to do to the merit of their own bravery upon the battlefields of their country.
If the American soldiers were proud of this, and exulted therein, it was a source of great humiliation to the British officers and soldiers that were possessed of a too boastful a nature at best. The British officers having been permitted to wear their swords and to associate with the American officers, caused them to become haughty and turbulent. This very honorable indulgence extended to them upon the part of the American officers, they could not stand, they therefore became saucy and this led to an end of such privileges.
Whilst the game of ball was coming off one day at the Court House, an American officer and a British officer who were among the spectators, became embroiled in a dispute. The British officer priding himself (and putting himself) upon the use of the sword, appealed to it and instantly drew it. The American officer upon seeing this, instantly thrust his hand into his pocket in order to draw out a pistol. The moment the British officer perceived this, he took to his heels and ran.
When the American officer was taking the pistol from his pocket, it caught in some way in the lining and before he succeeded in getting it out, the British officer had gained the door of the public house in which he boarded. Just at the instant he was entering the door, our officer drew upon him and the ball struck the cheek of the door near to his head. An inch or two lower down and further towards the centre of the passage would have laid him sprawling over his boasted weapon.
This caused a mighty uproar in the town and this British officer, with several other British officers that backed him as their modern Don Quixote (that found that he was not engaging a wind mill), were immediately arrested, disarmed and imprisoned in Lancaster jail. They were released, however, from their confinement in the course of two or three days and their liberties restored to them again, but with this exception: that they were not allowed to wear their swords. This, none other of the British officers were permitted to do again, whilst they remained at Lancaster.
There was a young Indian of the ______tribe of friendly Indians who had a kind of straggling quarters amongst us. He was passionately fond of music, but good for nothing but to steal, lie and to do mischief of all kinds. He came very near being the instrument to deprive me of my right arm all my life, if not of my life itself.
I and another fifer had gone into Lancaster one night and did not return until a late hour. As we were returning to our quarters, this Indian came running after us. He had a box of case knives and forks which he had stolen out of a gentleman’s house in Lancaster. We knew they were stolen and we began to scold him in order to make him carry them back again. He went off from us and we thought he had gone to do as we had bid him; but it appeared he carried them into the barracks and hid them under the floor.
On the next morning a complaint was made and at roll call a search was instituted. In making the search, the box was found hidden under the floor. This Indian was immediately arrested and put into the guard house. We having had to pass the sentinel late the night before, were of course known by him and he had named us as having come in at a late hour the night previous and about the same time that the Indian had returned. We were consequently arrested and placed in the guard house also.
We being put into the same guard room with the Indian, I began to curse him and perhaps struck him or struck at him for bringing us into the difficulty and for causing us to be thus unjustly dealt with and unhappily situated. He snatched up his tomahawk and “let slip” at me, and sunk it into my right arm at the elbow joint. Some of the prisoners caught hold of his tomahawk and wrestled it out of his hand, or likely he would have repeated the blow. The prisoners pulled off my coat quickly and when they stripped up my shirt sleeve in order to look at the gash, they found that he had sunk the tomahawk into the joint and severed it and discovered also that the joint water was running out of the wound. A chain and a fifty-six was immediately fastened to one of his legs and this he had to carry about with him wherever he moved to within the room or out of it.
In the course of a few days we had our trial and as nothing could be proved against us, and in consequence of his having confessed that he had stolen them himself and said we had not been with him, we were both acquitted and discharged immediately. This Indian thief was then tried and sentenced to receive fifty lashes on his bared back and to be drummed out and away from the barracks. The first part of his sentence was executed and then the guard with fifers and drummers led by a Corporal, escorted him out and off some distance, playing and beating the Rogue’s March after him.
I recollect that sometime previous to his having stolen the box of knives and forks, he had been caught stealing chickens from a man that lived in Lancaster. This man missed chickens often and in order to detect and secure the thief, he had conceived the idea of doing so by the use of the following means:
He fastened the one end of a cord to the legs of one of the fowls in the hen roost and passed the cord into his bedroom and attached a bell to that end at the head of his bead. Hearing the bell jingle very loud one night, he jumped out of his bed and ran to his hen roost and captured our Indian who turned to be the thief that had so often borne away his chickens. As soon as he caught him he commenced giving him a most unmerciful flogging which he had to stand and take, after which he drove him off.
In a few days after, the officers heard of it and would have flogged him for stealing, but considering that the owner had constituted the whole court—witness, judge, jury and executioner—and had let him off. He had not come to the barracks to complain against him and they let him slip at that time. I saw this Indian after the Revolutionary War was ended, in Philadelphia where he was acting in the capacity of a boss or journeyman chimney sweep.
Having caught cold in my arm, it swelled to an enormous size and caused the right breast to be very much swollen also. The doctors ordered it to be poulticed often. They would come and look at it, but they did nothing for me and it became worse instead of better. They came one evening and consulted with one another and the result of their conference was that my arm must come off. They agreed to meet next morning for the purpose of cutting it off.
An elderly lady who was present and who lived not far off, expressed her regret that a hearty young lad such as I was, should lose my arm. She persuaded me to go home with her, promising me at the same time that she would take care of me and do all that she could for me, stating also, that she knew she could cure it.
I went home with her that evening, which, had I not done, would have undoubtedly subjected me to the loss of an arm on the next morning. The first thing she did was to get water and filled a large kettle. She brought it to a boiling heat with which she filled a large tub and steeped a parcel of herbs in it. She then placed me in a sitting posture over the tub, covering me well with blankets. After steaming and sweating me in this way for a long time, she then put me to bed.
She anointed my arm with grease or oil of some kind and rubbed it well. She then made up a large poultice of leaven and applied to it. By the next morning the swelling had drawn down so much to my hand, that my fingers nearly bursted asunder. In the course of a short time, she scattered all the swelling and healed the cut at the elbow.
This good old lady was a great blessing to me through my after life up to the present time and this will but terminate with my life. It was providential that she was thrown across my way at that particular point of time, for (as I have before stated), had she not visited me, the doctors would have amputated it the next morning as they had agreed to do.
Although my arm has been stiff ever since, it never has hindered me to play the fife providing that I always placed my fingers over the holes of my fife before I would put it to my mouth. There was an old man, a camp doctor, at the barracks who was passionately fond of music. Often after we would get done beating the Reveille, he would ask us to go over to his quarters and play and beat awhile for his amusement. He took quite a liking to me and happening to notice me one morning fixing my fingers upon the holes of my fife before I placed it to my mouth, and the difficulty I labored under of bringing my right hand up to my mouth. He asked the Fife Major what was the cause of my doing so. The Fife Major told him all about it.
The doctor then observed to me that had I informed him of it long before, that he could have done something for me and would have given me some stuff that would have made it supple, but that now he could do no more than strengthen it. He said he would give me a stuff that would make it stronger than the other. He took me in and placed a plaster upon it, some of which was still on it at the end of three months after he put it on. The old doctor I believe made good his word, for my right arm has been a great deal stronger than the left ever since.
Having caught cold in my arm, it swelled to an enormous size and caused the right breast to be very much swollen also. The doctors ordered it to be poulticed often. They would come and look at it, but they did nothing for me and it became worse instead of better. They came one evening and consulted with one another and the result of their conference was that my arm must come off. They agreed to meet next morning for the purpose of cutting it off.
An elderly lady who was present and who lived not far off, expressed her regret that a hearty young lad such as I was, should lose my arm. She persuaded me to go home with her, promising me at the same time that she would take care of me and do all that she could for me, stating also, that she knew she could cure it.
I went home with her that evening, which, had I not done, would have undoubtedly subjected me to the loss of an arm on the next morning. The first thing she did was to get water and filled a large kettle. She brought it to a boiling heat with which she filled a large tub and steeped a parcel of herbs in it. She then placed me in a sitting posture over the tub, covering me well with blankets. After steaming and sweating me in this way for a long time, she then put me to bed.
She anointed my arm with grease or oil of some kind and rubbed it well. She then made up a large poultice of leaven and applied to it. By the next morning the swelling had drawn down so much to my hand, that my fingers nearly bursted asunder. In the course of a short time, she scattered all the swelling and healed the cut at the elbow.
This good old lady was a great blessing to me through my after life up to the present time and this will but terminate with my life. It was providential that she was thrown across my way at that particular point of time, for (as I have before stated), had she not visited me t, the doctors would have amputated it the next morning as they had agreed to do.
Although my arm has been stiff ever since, it never has hindered me to play the fife providing that I always placed my fingers over the holes of my fife before I would put it to my mouth. There was an old man, a camp doctor, at the barracks who was passionately fond of music. Often after we would get done beating the reveille, he would ask us to go over to his quarters and plan and beat awhile for his amusement. He took quite a liking to me and happening to notice me one morning fixing my fingers upon the holes of my fife before I placed it to my mouth, and the difficulty I labored under of bringing my right hand up to my mouth. He asked the Fife Major what was the cause of my doing so. The Fife Major told him all about it.
The doctor then observed to me that had I informed him of it long before, that he could have done something for me and would have given me some stuff that would have made it supple, but that now he could do no more than strengthen it. He said he would give ma a stuff that would make it stronger than the other. He took me in and placed a plaster upon it, some of which was still on it at the end of three months after he put it on. The old doctor I believe made good his word, for my right arm has been a great deal stronger than the left ever since.
The British prisoners were sent off to some military post not now recollected. As I did not accompany the detachment sent with them, I am the less able to remember to what point they were removed to.
After they had started, I frequently amused myself with a bow and arrows, in shooting at rats in the stockades. This kind of sport I enjoyed very well. One day I shot one which was nearly the size of a cat. I had shot my arrow through his body and he bit off the arrow. I followed him up and finally clubbed him to death.
There were millions and tens of millions of fleas in the cellars. I have very often rolled up my trousers above my knees and ran down into the cellars and up again as hard as I could “heel it,” and my legs would be so covered as to be black with them. When I would run out of the cellars I would take my hands and push them down along my legs as a person would stockings, and then clear myself as fast as I could to some distance from them. This besides being sport for myself, was fine fun for lookers on.
On the return of the American troops (sent off with the British prisoners), Captain Steake’s company was ordered to march on to Reading to take charge of the Hessian prisoners that laid there and march them off to Elizabethtown Point in Jersey in order that an exchange of prisoners should be made with the British. Pat Coner, drummer, and myself, fifer, to Captain Steake’s company had to accompany them. All things being in readiness, we marched off with the tune of “Over the Hills and Far Away.”
When upon the march to Reading, we halted one day at a tavern about noon. Our officers they took their dinners and grog at the tavern, whilst we sat down and took a bite such as we had out in front of the house. After we had finished eating our cold hunger “check,” I walked out a little distance from the rest of the company. Whilst reconnoitering, I espied a fine looking peacock sitting upon the top of the barn. Ogling his beautiful feathers, I thought that I must have some of them.
I could throw a finger stone to a certain distance at a mark with almost as much precision as I could shoot a rifle ball. I searched around and found a stone that I thought would suit my purpose exactly. So “letting slip” at him I hit him as near as might be to the spot I wanted to “tap” him and he came tumbling down along the roof of the barn and fell to the ground. I ran and caught him before he was able to recover himself and pulled out his splendid feathers. These I doubled and rolled up as tenderly and nicely as I could so as not to break them, and then stowed them away in my knapsack. I had but just finished my business of plucking, when I was called to beat up the Long Roll. We set out immediately on the march again and I never sent a doctor back to see how the poor patient peacock fared in his short tail ailment.
We marched to within three miles of Reading that afternoon and remained until the next morning. Before we resumed our march in the morning, we were ordered each man to put on clean clothes with which we had provided ourselves before we started out from Lancaster. I divided my peacock feathers with Pat Coner and we decorated our caps in fine style with peacock plumes. They were much admired by the officers and men, but none of them knew where they had been procured, and I, not choosing to tell tales out of school, did not take the trouble to inform them.
All being in readiness we took up the line of march for Reading. When we crossed the bridge over the Schuylkill and was about to enter the town I struck up the air called “The Boyne Water.” The streets everywhere were filled with people, and as that place had been my old home, I could overhear some that knew me say as we marched through the town, “There goes little Sam Dewees.” “Look there fellows, there’s little Sam Dewees,” etc. At this time I must have been twenty-one or two but very small for my age.
After we had marched through the town we were led up near to where the prisoners laid and were billeted that night. As soon as we were dismissed, one of my old comrades who lived about three miles from Reading stepped up and took me by the hand. He invited me to go home with him and stay all night. I told him I could not go. He insisted on my accompanying him. I then told him I durst not go without the permission of my officers and that I thought they would not let me go were I to ask them.
He went to Captain Steake and plead so hard with him that he at length consented for me to go with him, but told him that I must be back at the break of day to play the Reveille and if not, I should be punished.
I then went with him to his home where meeting with others with whom I was acquainted, I was quite happy indeed. I played the fife for their amusement a long while. Being quite merry, (girls and boys), we enjoyed ourselves very well and sat up singing and playing the fife until a very late or rather an early hour, for we did not retire to bed until it was nearly two o’clock in the morning. Owing to this, we all overslept ourselves.
When I awoke it was broad day light. I up and ran as swiftly as I could and not without trembling with fear, for I thought of the punishments I had seen inflicted at Carlisle Barracks for trivial offenses. Notwithstanding the haste I made, I had the mortification when I arrived at the billeting ground to behold the company in line and upon parade. The Captain brandished his sword about and gave me a few curses for disobeying orders and then told me to “fall in.” This was a signal to me that a pardon was granted and that it was all over for this time. The order of “fall in” relieved me altogether.
We then marched to where the Hessian prisoners lay. Our company then divided and formed a line on each side of the road. The prisoners were then placed in the centre, a guard in front and another in the rear. The officers and music preceding the front guard. In this order we set out on the march and continued to play until we were ordered to march at ease.
After this we had good times, for there was a “band” among the prisoners and our officers allowed it to play during our march. Owing to this, we had to play but very little all the way.
Nothing of any great consequence transpired from the time we set out from Reading until we arrived at Elizabethtown Point. We did not remain long at the latter place but returned back immediately to Lancaster rejoicing. When we arrived at Lancaster we found that the soldiers we had left there when we marched away had all drawn three months pay and their discharge too. Then every man went to his home or where he pleased to go until settlement day. The place appointed for settlement was in Philadelphia. I was among the first that entered the army in 1776 after Independence was declared, and now among the last discharged. As soon as I received my discharge I went on to Poplar Neck within three miles of Reading and hired with _____ Lewis, who was a brother to my old master, and at that place I remained until the settlement day was approaching. I then set out for Philadelphia.
[Pg. 274] After reaching Philadelphia, I chose a man of the name of George Saval to act in the capacity of Agent or Guardian for me, giving him a power of attorney to receive all monies due me by the government. Saval went with me and I bound myself to one George Cooper, a skin dresser, who was located at the corner of Market and Fourth streets, Philadelphia. Saval drew all my pay and cheated me out of every cent of it. This practice is followed by guardians yet, and to speak without regard to truth, it is highly credible for them to cheat orphans and widows out of their all, especially out of that hard earned by themselves, as this money was by myself.
Of the Hessian prisoners captured at Red Bank below Philadelphia and at other places, quite a number of them staid in this country, took them wives and settled in different parts of the United States. There were many of them that commenced business for themselves in Philadelphia. There was one who kept a tavern in Market Street, not far from Cooper’s dwelling. One evening a journeyman belonging to our shop asked the apprentices in the shop and myself to take a walk with him. We did so and in passing by the tavern of the Hessian, he invited us to go in with him saying that he would treat us each to a mug of beer.
The Hessian’s establishment was pretty well fitted up. He had a large bulk or bow window in front which was very well stocked with liquors of different kinds. His bar was quite a large one at that early day in this country. When we entered, we found quite a company of Hessians seated in the bar room drinking and smoking. The journeyman advanced to the bar and called for beer. The Hessian landlord then jumped up in a rage and ordered him out of his house, saying at the same time that he had no beer for him. The journeyman replied, “I have come in civilly and what I call for I will pay you for.” The landlord seized the bar of the door and played away at him, and we being few in number, of course retreated into the street, not relishing at all the reception we had met with.
I thought that such barefaced Tory injustice ought to be rewarded in some shape or other, and as the balance of power was altogether against us, there was no such thing as carrying the “fort” by storm. His surly, unjust and insulting conduct and wanton assault was too much for those to stand, that had stood in defense of the liberties and laws of the country. Not being able to whip with justice in law and by it, I thought I would try whether I could not take the law into my own hands for a moment or two and whip him in the use of physical strength well applied. So I looked around for a something and got hold of a brick-bat with which I let slip at his bar or bulk window. Happening to strike the sash about the middle of the window, I dismantled all the guns of “Captain Alcohol” and his would be supreme “foreign Commander.” The cannons (bottles) that stood charged and ready at the port holes (window) were knocked about so tremendously, bursted and were by my four pound cannonade so that their powder and balls (liquor) were knocked out at the muzzles and at other places, and scattered every which way causing great destruction among bottles, glasses, etc., in the fort and confusion among the Hessian ranks therein. For my own part I took care of number one and heeled it home like a good fellow. The watchman captured the jur [journeyman] and marched him off to the watch house where he was retained all night.
The next morning the other apprentices with myself were summoned to appear before a Magistrate. When we arrived at the Magistrate’s office we found the Hessian landlord, our Master and journeyman and a great many more that had collected to hear the trial and enjoy the fun. Said my master to me, “Well Samuel, what have you to say for yourself?” “What do you know about this matter?” I told him I could tell something about it. I was then qualified.
I stated that on the evening previous our journeyman asked us boys to take a walk with him and that we had done so. That as we were passing the tavern of this Hessian, (pointing at the same time to the Hessian landlord), in Market Street . . . At the word Hessian, he jumped up in a great rage to strike me, but he had to sit down again. The Magistrate told him if he did not sit down and hush up he would commit him to jail immediately.
When he sat down I proceeded to state that the journeyman had invited us to go into this Hessian’s Tavern and drink some beer with him. That when we entered, we found a number of Hessians there. That they were drinking, smoking, etc., and stated that the “jur” called for a half a gallon of beer but the Hessian landlord told him to “Gleer ouse!” and said, “I cot no beer for yooz!” Upon which, the jur had replied that he came in civilly and intended to pay for the beer, and then stated that the Hessian landlord picked up the bar of the door and beat him out of his house, and afterwards heard a great rattling at the window and among the bottles, etc., over the floor of the bar room. That I had also heard a great noise and confusion about the Hessian’s tavern door, and that I was positive that the jur could not and did not throw anything at the house or at his window. If I could state this positively, I state as positively now, that I kept the knowledge as to who did throw the bat to myself. The other apprentices stated in substance what I had stated.
The Hessian landlord had to pay all costs, mend his window, replenish it with bottles and glasses and fill them with liquors at his own expense into the bargain.
There are scrapes in which men are sometimes caught, the results of which are often regretted very much afterwards, but this I have to regret yet. I have voluntarily engaged in every emergency in which my country has been thrown, and when its peace has been jeopardized, either by a foreign or domestic foe, I have raised my voice to assert her rights and the supremacy of the laws and have always backed that voice by my presence and actions upon duty in the field. To be thus treated by a set of men who had come as hirelings to fight against and butcher the inhabitants of my country . . . and who had acted more cruel than the wild savages of the forests . . . .
Descendants of many of these cruel hearted and bloody beasts I know very well. Some of them, in the language of the day, “are great men” in the country. It would be hard, it is true, at this late day to stigmatize the descendants of such by a personal identification and by bestowing a knowledge of their close alliance by blood to such, especially if good republican friends to the institutions of my country. It would certainly be unjust to offer to saddle upon these the horrid crimes of their mean and despicable bloody and blood-thirsty forefathers.
I staid with my master (Cooper) until he lost his health and was forced to relinquish his business of skin dressing. When he did so, he gave to me my indentures. I then went and bound myself to a boot and shoe maker and continued to work constantly at the business for the space of _____ years. When I became free, I went up the country to my old neighborhood within three miles of Reading and worked at boot and shoe making for some time.
I must have returned to Poplar Neck from Philadelphia sometime during the summer of 1785. The people of that neighborhood, believing that I was a kind of a no-scare fellow and not afraid to stay by myself anywhere, earnestly solicited me to go out to _____ valley (away beyond the broad mountain) with a drove of hogs. I was to remain with them until they should fatten up upon the chestnuts and acorns, with which the woods of that region of country abounded. I at length consented to go upon certain conditions, to which they all agreed. The neighbors then began to gather up all their hogs to one place, as a drover would preparatory to his starting with his drove of hogs to seek a market. Some owned five, some eight, others ten, others twelve, and some fifteen each. In all about seventy. Each man put a small bell on one of his hogs. They provided me with a good rifle gun and all other necessaries for this hog expedition and campaign.
All things being in readiness for the move, we started and several of the owners accompanied me for the purpose of assisting me to drive the hogs to the valley and to assist me in constructing a wilderness shantie as a lodging or dwelling place.
We drove them across the _____ mountain which was all a wilderness and then over the Broad mountain (which was seven miles wide at the top) and down into the valley. We had to drive them through a number of pine swamps which were deep and miry. We had no road, not even a path. I recollect we had to cross and recross the Schuylkill River eight or ten times in the short distance of one mile.
At a considerable distance up the valley, we halted, and about 300 yards from the great road that passed up the valley, they built me (by the side of the trunk of a very large lying tree) a kind of shed-fashioned house. They made a number of puncheons [split logs hewn smooth on the split side only] and with these they built my house in the following manner. They laid a log on the ground at the distance of eight or ten feet from the large tree and parallel with it. On these two they pinned puncheons for a roof. They then closed in the sides with puncheons also, leaving a kind of a doorway for me to go in and out at.
In this I homed, cooked my victuals and I slept in it also. This done, the hog owners returned home, leaving me a kind of a Robinson Crusoe or a Selkirk, “monarch of all I could survey.” And besides, being now a hog boss, I was like Crusoe, boss pretty much of the wilderness, going about to and fro and up and down, unmolested like to old Nick when he was persecuting good old Job.
Here I homed between one and two months happily and undisturbed except by the wolves, etc. Almost every night whilst I staid in this wilderness, I could hear them at the distance of two or three hundred yards from my “hotel,” growling and howling as if a pack of hounds were on the chase after a fox. Bears will attack, kill and devour hogs, but wolves will not. Had my charge been sheep instead of hogs, the wolves would have attacked them without any ceremony. I had, therefore, upon the score of my charge of hogs nothing to fear. As to myself, I only wished that they would come near enough to enable me to get a shot at them.
Every morning after preparing and eating my breakfast, my duty was to visit my hogs. I called them to me and after collecting them thus, threw them a little corn and then counted my flock. One morning I missed two that belonged to a poor man in the neighborhood from which I had brought my drove. I had told him to bring them in to the hog rendezvous and I would take them out to the valley and bring them back again free of cost.
After I missed these two hogs, I took my gun upon my shoulder and started off in search of them. I crossed the broad mountain and at about ten miles distance from my quarters, I came to a tavern. Here I enquired whether hogs such as I described had been seen about there and was told that none of the description I gave had been seen. I staid at the tavern all night.
There had fallen a snow during the night of about two inches in depth. I had beheld many deer but had never been able to get a shot at any but one. In the morning I told the landlord that I believed I would go out awhile in search of deer, that there being snow, I might possibly come across a deer track and that I should not stay out very long. It was not very cold, this I recollect, from the fact of my not having any stockings on. I had not gone very far until I fell upon the track of a buck which I followed slowly, thinking to come up with him. But it began to thaw and the snow was then melted. I lost his track and then gave up the chase.
By this time a great fog had arose and I thought to return to the tavern, but could not find the way. I traveled about until it was near night and then heard a shot. This is a rule among hunters; when one is supposed to be lost, a rifle is fired three times in succession. The lost one, if he hears the shots, fires his gun in answer. And so they proceed, each continuing to fire as they near each other until they shall be able to meet.
My rifle having got wet with the water still upon the bushes, I could not give an answer. I ran as fast as I could towards where the shots were fired and blew loudly upon my charger [a tin tube closed at one end used to contain powder sufficient for a rifle load], thinking that the person shooting might possibly hear me. It seemed to me that in the midst of all my exertions, I was getting further off from the reports of the gun. I stopped and tried to strike up a fire but my strivings were all in vain, my tow being wet. I flashed away half of my powder and was forced to give it up.
It then began to rain and the night became very dark. I went into a pine swamp and sat me down at the root of a large pine tree. The night became that dark that I could not see my hand before my face. I then covered myself up as well as I could with my coat and sought a cure for all my troubles in sleep. Still ruminating, I found fatigue and hunger had no agency in lulling me to sleep. Owing to the crowd of thoughts with which my mind was filled, I got completely past my sleep. Sometime in the night I heard something coming at about three or four rods distance from me. As it trod upon the brush or sticks lying in its way, I could hear them cracking and snapping as when one would break sticks over the knee.
At this moment I did not know what to do. I could not fire my rifle or else I would have fired towards it. I then thought I would halloo and did so, and very loud too. I then sat as still as a mouse and listened, but could not hear it move in any direction. Being very much fatigued, as well as hungry and cold and the night far advanced, I began to doze in spite of my every exertion to keep awake. I at length fell asleep and when I awoke for the first time, I found it was broad day light, and I do assure my readers that I felt extremely glad that it was so.
In conversation afterwards with an old and experienced hunter, I gave him a history of the affair. He was of opinion that it was a panther. He described their conduct in exact accordance with what I had heard on that night. He said that by scent it had gotten on my track and was following me. He said that when I heard it breaking the brush or sticks under its feet, it was then scenting or smelling around in search of what it had looked for as its prey and then when I halloed, it had squatted, ready for a jump. He stated that had I halloed once more, it would have sprung upon me instantly, but that I having sat so still afterwards, it became intimidated and ashamed or shy, and in the course of awhile thereafter had sneaked softly and quietly away.
From the place where I slept all night, I could not tell what course to steer. I climbed up into a tree, thinking that I might discover the road that passed by the tavern, but I was unable to see far in any direction on account of the great fog with which the whole forest was enveloped. I came down the tree again and thought that my best plan would be to keep down the branch (spring rivulet), for as I thought it might run into the Schuylkill River. And by following the stream I might finally be able to get to a settlement, for I altogether despaired of being able to find my cabin. Upon a review of this design, I thought it would not do, as the rivulet, in its zigzag course might run a hundred miles or more before it would (through deep creeks) empty itself into the Schuylkill.
I travelled about for some considerable time and could find no road nor prospect of one. I then returned to the same place where I had left in the morning. By this time the fog began to break away and I climbed up into the same tree and looked eagerly in all directions, and thought I could see an opening or clear spot away in the distance upon the top of a mountain. I descended from the tree and pushed on as hard as I could for the opening I had beheld and found that it was the opening through which the road had passed.
Having found the road, I was now as much perplexed as ever, for it was near night and I did not know which end of the road to take to enable me to reach the tavern. I reasoned the matter closely in my own mind and resolved to take the end, which I did, thinking at the same time that if I missed the tavern, I might find my cabin. After concluding thus, I set out upon the road and heeled it as hard as I could, which I suppose was not at a very fast gait for I was almost exhausted with fatigue and for the want of food, having been now almost two days and a night without anything to eat.
I happened to take the right end of the road and found myself approaching the tavern just as it was getting dark. After recognizing it as the tavern in the opening in the wilderness as I approached, I was greatly rejoiced indeed. The family was very glad to see me, as they all believed from the first that I was lost and feared that I would perish. The landlord asked me if I had heard the report of a gun. I told him that I had. He then told me that the firing I had heard was done by himself in order that I might have been enabled to find my way back again. I told him that I had done my best and had ran as fast as I could to try to make for where I had heard the firing but could do not. I then told him that I was very hungry.
The women hurried and prepared some victuals for me and being very hungry, I ate as a starving man, so greedily and so much that they made me cease, telling me at the same time that I would injure myself and make myself sick. If I had never thought so before, I thought it now that victuals were worth the trouble at least of eating them.
Next day I pushed on for my residence in the wilderness and found upon my arrival that all was safe as when I had left it. Upon arriving, I fell to eating and continued to do so until I completely satisfied my appetite; after doing of which, I went out in search of my hogs and found all doing well. In a few days after my return, the poor man’s two hogs which were lost and which had also lost me, came back and joined themselves to the flock again.
One night, sometime after I had returned, I cooked and ate my supper and then retired to my pallet as hearty and well as I had been at any time during my stay previous. I may state too, that I slept soundly on that night. But when I awoke in the morning, I found one of my legs drawn up so much that the heel of my foot was almost touching my hip. I crawled up and out of bed as well as I could, my leg drawn up as I have described. What to do, I knew not. I crawled about and prepared me a little breakfast.
After I ate my breakfast, with the use of a stick or sticks in my hands, I hopped over the three hundred yards that laid between me and the road. This journey, short as it seemed, consumed a good while in accomplishing. I then sat down by the road side in order to wait until some person would pass by. And as good luck would have it (Providence, I should state), two persons from the neighborhood in which my employers lived, came along. These men had been up at a place called Cattawissa and were on their way home. They alighted from their horses and examined my leg but they could not tell what was the matter with it. They said it was very strange, the way that I was affected. They could not say what was best to do, it appeared like a very great risk to remain there in the wilderness by myself. I asked them if they would call upon some of my employers as soon as they should get home and tell them of my situation, and that they should come and take me and the hogs home as the hogs were already too fat. They promised me that they would do this the first thing after getting home.
They were as good as their word for in the course of three, four or five days at most, my employers arrived at my “mansion.” By the time they came, I had some little use of my leg and was able to hobble about with more ease to myself. We gathered all the hogs together, having the same number as at first, less two. One of these had got its back broken by the falling of a limb of a tree. The other was quite a small one and was killed and ate by travellers (as we supposed), for we found the entrails lying by the side of the road.
We then commenced our zigzag march on our return home, leaving our chestnut country which exceeded anything of the kind I had ever seen. After a storm, I could have gathered or rather scraped them up by double handfuls. I left my “pavilion” for the wolves to billet in as their reward for the fine growling music they afforded during my stay in the neighborhood. We had to move very slow on our march homewards in consequence of our hogs being so very fat. We arrived at home and all safe in the course of five or six days. Being now at home, I set about to doctor myself and in a short time recovered the perfect use of my leg again. I have never undertook such a jaunt and job since and I am quite sure that I shall never undertake another such again.
It is true, I was very happy in my lonely abode. Although very fond of a social life, yet there is something so exquisitely peaceful and happy in the true solitude of deep woods, that the soul becomes spell-bound, and lingers in leaving.
[Pg. 286] Having in the preceding chapter informed my readers of my return to Poplar Neck, I now state that I continued to work at my trade (boot and shoe making) in this neighborhood for about four years. A portion of this time I lived in the family of a son of James Lewis and in the meantime took me a wife. I married a young woman of the name of Elizabeth Ettzel who was the daughter of a Swiss farmer. This woman bore me two children whilst I remained in the neighborhood, Henry, born 28th of June 1788 and Sarah, born 21st of July 1790.
In the spring of 1791, I removed with my family to Wormellsdorf, then Berks County, Pa., and took charge (as foreman) of a boot and shoe shop belonging to Conrad Stouch, to whom I was brother-in-law. Here I remained about a year. Then upon advisement I purchased a lot of ground, built me a house and commenced the boot and shoemaking business upon my own account. The people were better satisfied with my work than they were with the work done by Stouch. This was the cause of my setting up the business for myself.
Although the Revolutionary War was ended and the benign blessings of peace were scattering themselves far and wide over the face of the country, yet with the end of the war, the patriotic spirit did not end. The young men of the infant Republic everywhere were organizing themselves into volunteer military companies. The young men of Wormellsdorf and adjoining country fired with the same spirit of patriotism, organized themselves into a volunteer company and chose me for their Captain.
In 1793, if my memory serves me right, General Washington when President of the United States made a tour through the eastern part of Pennsylvania passing through Reading, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Chambersburg, etc. After leaving Reading, he came to Wormellsdorf where he stopped for the night. He arrived late in the evening and put up at the public house of my brother-in-law Stouch. Hearing that Washington had arrived, I ran around and collected about thirty of my men and placed them under arms, each man having in accordance with my orders, provided himself with a powder horn containing powder enough to fire fifteen or twenty rounds as a salute to President Washington. By the time we were in readiness it was nearly dusk.
I had a capital drummer, but no fifer, and I could not think of marching my men to salute the great and good Washington without having music as it should be. I resolved that I would play the fife myself. I therefore sheathed my sword, appointed my First Lieutenant Captain, in part, and myself fifer pro tem. I then placed myself by the side of my drummer on the right of my company. When matters were thus arranged, we marched up to Stouch’s Hotel, then the quarters of President Washington, and drew up in line in front of the house.
I then brought my men to an order and as soon as President Washington appeared at the door of the hotel, I quickly commanded my men to shoulder arms and then ordered them to present arms. I then had to assist the drummer (by playing the tune on the fife for him) to beat the appropriate salute. It was common in those days and I believe it is still done, when beating the salute, for the ensign or flag-bearer to wave the flag at certain rolls of the drum. By the time that the musical salute was ended, President Washington had gained a position on the steps in front of the door of the hotel. He then asked for (or who was) the Captain of the company. I drew my sword and stepped towards him and saluted him with the usual salute of the sword. I then stepped up to him and with my sword in one hand and my fife in the other, observed to him as follows, “Sir, I am both Captain and Fifer. I have a good drummer Sir, but no fifer and could not think of tendering military honors to you in a patched up or lame way, and concluded in the absences of a fifer, to play the fife myself. My name is Dewees.”
“Captain Dewees, you have been in the Revolutionary War?” “Yes, Sir,” said I. He then said, “You have played the fife during the war?” I told him that I had. He said that he knew by the tunes we had played and by the manner in which they were played that I had been in the Continental service. He then complimented me upon my having sacrificed my station (that of Captain), to gratify his ear with the well to be remembered airs so often heard during the Revolution in the camps of his country.
He then observed, “Captain Dewees you are disposed to pay great respect to me, for which I am extremely obliged to you as also to the officers and men composing your company. But there has been so much respect paid to me on my whole route, at Reading especially, that I feel rather unpleasant when in the receipt of it. I know, sir, that it is earnestly done.” [A footnote was inserted: He had been informed by the landlord that preparations were making to fire fifteen or twenty rounds as a salute at the door of the hotel at which he then stopped.]
“Although I have not done less than any man, I have always tried to serve my country faithfully, fearlessly and nobly, whether when in the field or out of it and in doing this, I have but done my duty to my country and countrymen, posterity and to my God. Still sir, I don’t wish to damp your patriotic ardour, nor the patriotic ardour of a single member of your company. Nor am I to be understood, sir, as wishing to damp the generous and patriotic feelings of the men and women citizens of Wormellsdorf now present as spectators. Nor do I wish, Captain Dewees, to be viewed as despising your tender of honors. Nor do I wish you, sir, to understand me as forbidding you to fire a salute, but I would respectfully request that it may be dispensed with. And if it will be agreeable to you and your men, that of granting my request, I hope that a salute will not be fired.”
I replied, “General Washington, if it is your desire that we shall not fire a salute, there shall not be a gun fired.” I then addressed myself to my men and stated that not a man would be permitted to fire a gun.
President Washington then requested me to march my men into the house. I did so. He then ordered different kinds of liquor to be set out and invited us to partake with him of whatever kinds of liquor we should care to drink. I then asked my men to come forward and partake of the President’s treat and observed that they should take a civil drink, and for each to do so in a quiet and respectful manner. After all had drank, I gave them strict orders also that no man should behave in an uncivil, rude or noisy manner; that we had called, out of respect, to tender respect and honors to his Excellency, the President, and all things should now be conducted in a respectful and quiet manner.
The President told the landlord to charge the liquor he had ordered to his bill, thanked us in a kind manner for the honors we had done him, bowed to us, bade us good night, and then retired to his room. I do not pretend to state that the President’s language was the precise words I have used, but it was tantamount thereto.
As soon as the President retired, I then ordered my drummer, and I may add myself (for I assisted), to beat up the Long Roll. This done, the men paraded at their posts and kept by Wierech Seltzer, where we enjoyed ourselves in dancing awhile. We dispersed (I suppose) at a late hour, but the orders which I gave that mirth and sociability should reign throughout the evening were most happily obeyed. Nothing transpired to mar the patriotic pleasure which each member of my company set out determined to enjoy. Not even the President’s wish as regarded a salute, this of itself was not a disappointment for he was a lover of quiet and every man yielded spontaneously to what he so anxiously desired.
Whilst I lived in this place (Wormellsdorf), I went up to Sellin’s Grove and from thence I rode out to Sunbury, Pa. I had an acquaintance living beyond Seelin’s Grove of the name of Himmelbriech, whom I called to see. Whilst I halted at his house, he proffered to conduct me to an Indian mound that was in his neighborhood. I went with him to look at it.
Its width at its base was about fifty feet. This mound was as round as a charcoal pit and something in shape like to a sugar loaf. Its height was from fifteen to twenty feet and was flat or level on top. There was a tree stood upon the top about sixteen inches thick at the butt. This tree was dead. The top and perpendicular or rather conical surface of this mound was overgrown with briars or blackberry bushes. It yielded a fine crop of berries that season. The berries were ripe and very delicious and I partook heartily of them.
This mound must have contained a great number of Indian bodies. This could be discovered by forcing a stick into it some little distance and thereby breaking off some of its side. Jaw and other bones could be seen. I recollect that some of the jaw bones I saw were filled with teeth that appeared to be very sound. Himmelbriech stated to me that if I could spare the time to do it, he would conduct me to anther about a mile farther down the valley, and which (he said) was a much larger one than the one I have described.
The tradition (he said) in that country was that one nation of Indians had fallen upon another one and pursued it to the grounds adjacent to these mounds. There they had a horrible battle, the pursuing nation cutting off the pursued one totally, and that those of one nation had been buried in one of these mounds, and those of the other nation in the other mound. Both of these mounds had once been much wider and higher than they were at the time I beheld the one I here describe. It is reasonable to suppose this, for heavy rains, snows and freezings for a great number of years would in time greatly reduce the diameter as well as the height of both.
[Pg. 293] In the fall of 1793 I disposed of my house and lot in Wormellsdorf and in the spring of 1794 I removed my family to Harrisburg, Pa. I was not long at Harrisburg until it became known to some of the leading men there that I could play the fife. Lawyers Fisher, Dentzell, Elder and a store keeper of the name of Reitzell and others of the citizens were engaged in raising and organizing a volunteer military company. Lawyer Fisher was elected Captain; Lawyer Dentzell, Ensign; Reitzell, First Lieutenant; and ______Second Lieutenant.
The company was a large one and each member uniformed and equipped himself in handsome style. Captain Fisher found out the residence of a drummer of the name of Warriour who then lived some two or three miles from Harrisburg. Warriour had been a British Drum Major but had at an early state of the Revolutionary struggle, deserted from the British and joined himself to the Continental Army and had beat the drum for it until the end of the war. Warriour was chosen Drum Major in Captain Fisher’s company and I was chosen Fife Major. Warriour was decidedly the best drummer that I ever had seen or heard beat during the Revolution. His music was not of the loudest kind, but it was sharp, clear, well-timed and rich in its spirit-stirring melodies.
About this time an insurrection broke out into an open rebellion in the western counties of Pennsylvania. [Quoting from Hale’s United States, page 214, verse 47th]:
“The tax which had been imposed upon spirits distilled within the country, bearing heavily upon the people in the western counties of Pennsylvania, produced there disaffection and disturbance. All excise taxes, of which this was one, being considered hostile to Liberty, great exertions were made to excite the public resentment against those who should willingly pay it, and especially against the officers appointed to collect it.
“In September 1791 a large meeting of malcontents was held at Pittsburg at which resolutions, encouraging resistance to the laws were passed; and subsequently other meetings were held at which similar resolutions were adopted. Committees of correspondence were also appointed to give unity of system in their measures and to increase the number of their associates.”
A tremendous meeting of the insurgents was held at Braddock’s fields. They marched to and from there in organized companies and with music and every demonstration of martial pomp.
About this time the insurrection was causing a great alarm throughout the country. President Washington had issued his proclamation but it was not regarded. Captain Fisher’s company, in order to be prepared for an emergency, paraded every Monday and Saturday and spent a long time each day in drilling themselves.
Warriour, our Drum Major acted as “Fugelman” to the company. I had seen many a Fugleman previous, but none that I had ever seen upon that duty excelled him therein. He could toss and whirl his musket in any shape or direction he chose and as high as he chose. In the midst, however, of all his perfections as Drummer and Fugleman, he was like to many another bright genius, he had one fault, among faults. He could at no time (of himself) guard himself (if at all within his reach) against taking a too hearty drink.
For my own part I can state I have always used liquor. And when I had it most at will throughout all my services in the Revolution (thanks be to him who gave me the power), I was always able to use it in such a manner as not to abuse myself with it. I may have been somewhat overcome with it at times, but never from excessive fondness for it, but from being in company and becoming a little forgetful. I have always (and do now) believe its injury to be in the abuse of its use and not in its use. I know that it has been as a sovereign remedy with myself in very many particular instances. I am now (as I always have been and intend to be) in the habit of keeping liquor in my house. I intend to use it in a proper manner, I state for myself.
Captain Fisher’s company of volunteers organized in Harrisburg was composed of the most patriotic intelligent, respectable and wealthy young men of the town and vicinity and prided themselves very much in exercising and perfecting themselves in the school of the soldier. When there were any (it is always the case in the formation of new companies) of the members slow in learning their “facings” and that could not handle their muskets and maneuver as well as others, or that were awkward in their file or platoon marchings, steppings, wheeling, etc., these would be detached from the company and to every squad of four men, one well or better versed in military knowledge than themselves would be detached with them to teach them. These would march to the distance of eight or ten rods from the company and there be schooled by their appointed military instructors. As the formation of an “awkward squad,” as it was always called, was a habit throughout the Revolution, Warriour and myself advised its adoption by Captain Fisher and it was not long before it was acknowledged to be a superior method of conducting the school of the soldier.
Captain Fisher on parade days always requested me to have an eye on Warriour, to act in the capacity of guardian to him, and if possible, to keep him from taking too hearty a glass. I always strove to obey him in this and satisfy his wishes. Sometimes when Warriour would not hearken well enough to my counsels, he would make a stagger occasionally. I would say to him in a plain good humored way, “Warriour you are drunk now. You must not drink anymore for awhile. If you do, Captain Fisher will be very much mortified for you will be staggering wherever we march to.”
As soon as we would march and beat around to Captain Fisher, Warriour was sure to lodge his complaint against me to the Captain, saying, “Captain, what do you think? Sammy says I am drunk.” The Captain and myself understood each other. The Captain would laugh and say, “Why Sammy, Warriour is not drunk. Why, what do you mean? I think he is very cautious today. He is going to do us all honor as well as himself today” etc., etc.
He believed the Captain altogether sincere in what he said. The Captain’s soothing manner towards him and seeming upbraiding of myself stimulated him to a more temperate use of liquor throughout the day and had a far better effect than harsh upbraiding would have had.
[Quoted from Hanna’s Glory of Columbia] “The insurrectionary spirit in the western part of Pennsylvania, northwestern part of Virginia and northwestern part of Maryland burst into a blaze and burned tremendously. It broke forth into a most daring revolt. The people were determined to resist the laws at all hazards. They attacked the house of the Collector or Inspector of the excise, who having received a small reinforcement from the Fort at Pittsburg, defended himself resolutely for a short time against five hundred insurgents, having caused them to retreat for a time.
“They fired the buildings. Major Kirkpatrick, the commander of a small number of regulars, marched out of the building and surrendered. The inspector succeeded in getting out of the house unperceived by the insurgents and effected his escape. The Chief Marshall, when executing the duties of his office, that of serving processes upon the open and acting insurgents, and upon a number of distillers that refused to comply with the requisitions of the law, was fired at, but fortunately escaped injury. He was captured, but upon his pledging himself not to serve any more processes west of the Alleghany Mountain, he was released. He, with the Collector and others, were forced to abandon the country precipitately.
“Whilst these scenes were enacting, President Washington was concentrating an army at Carlisle (distant eighteen miles from Harrisburg), and at _______ in Virginia for the purpose of quelling this insurrection. The President had sought to restore order, and bring about a proper submission to the laws through the instrumentality of every other possible conciliatory means. But bold threats of defiance were openly made, and no course was left him but to employ a strong military force and march to the scene of resistance to the General Government.”
Captain Fisher’s volunteer company was called on and it volunteered to a man, for the purpose [of] going in the proposed expedition. It still remained, however, at Harrisburg until the time that the concentrated army of the east was about to move on from Carlisle westward.
During our stay at Harrisburg, there were a number of companies passed through that place on their way to Carlisle. I have gone out a mile or two often to play in escort for companies coming in. I played the fife for one company that came from Lancaster commanded by Captain Keims with whom I was very well acquainted. I played one or two (and perhaps more) companies in that came from Philadelphia and some from Jersey.
At the time that the British had possession of New York during the Revolutionary War, a drummer of the name of Martin Benner deserted from the American lines and joined the British. The American army laid on the opposite side of the Hudson River from New York or on the Brooklyn side. As soon as it was ascertained that he had deserted, a number of soldiers were dispatched after him with orders to bring him back dead or alive. Being closely pursued, he plunged into the river and commenced to swim across. The soldiers fired upon him without a single shot taking effect. Some of the soldiers that shot at him told me that they had taken deliberate aim at him, as they had been ordered to do, in case he should not halt. He was a great swimmer and could swim upon his back as fast as he pleased. The moment he beheld the flash of their guns he would dive like a loon and by dodging in this way, he was enabled to gain the opposite side of the river in safety and joined the British standard. Drum Majors have told me that there was not a better drummer in the American army and that he could beat the loudest drum of any musician they had ever heard beat. He was then a young man, very stout, active and strong.
One day I was sent for to play a company of regular soldiers into Harrisburg that was on its way to join Wayne’s army in the West. The fifer of this company I think had fallen sick. When I went out to where the company had halted, who does the reader imagine I found the drummer of this company to be? It was none other than Martin Benner who was then an enlisted soldier in the United States army.
When I first met him I observed to him that I certainly knew his face and asked him if he had not been in the regular service during the Revolutionary War. He told me he had and asked me if I had ever known a drummer at West Point of the name of Martin Benner. I told him I had known him very well and observed you are he. He said he was. He then asked me not to say anything about him, saying it is all over now. I promised him that I would not. He was going against the Indians and I supposed could not do any injury to the army to which he was about to be attached.
Taking this view of his case, I made myself the more easy or indifferent about him. But had we been at war with Great Britain, I would have forgotten old acquaintanceship and would have informed upon him very soon and would have had him taken up and dealt with in accordance with the laws of my country.
There was a company of Light Horsemen came into Harrisburg from Philadelphia and made a halt for a few days. There was a member of this company that was very much troubled in mind and when the company moved on to Carlisle it left him behind at Bumbauch’s in Harrisburg, then a tavern kept by Boyer. This Light Horseman had his horse with him and hung about there for several days until the fatal circumstance transpired which I am about to relate.
I had an acquaintance by the name of Youse in Harrisburg who called at my house about sun up one morning and asked me to go over to Boyer’s and take a glass of bitters. I stepped over with him and after we had taken our drink we sat down in the bar room. Whilst setting there in conversation, the Light Horseman came in and called for a glass of liquor. After he drank his glass he stepped out of the room into the entry and entered a back parlor on the opposite side of the entry from the bar room and closed the door after him. It being early in the morning, the window shutters were still closed.
In a very few minutes after he left the bar room, we heard a very great noise. Youse jumped and exclaimed aloud, “What is that? I believe the back sheds have all fallen down.” We all started to run out back by passing through the entry. Whether it was that smoke came out at the parlor door and that caused Youse to stop and open it, I do not recollect, but upon his opening it, the room was discovered to be full of smoke. Youse rushed in for the purpose of opening the back shutters but had not proceeded far through the smoke and darkness of the room until he stumbled over the dead body of the Light Horseman. It was discovered (as soon as the light of day was thrown into the room), he had blown his own brains out.
He was a gunsmith by trade and had made his own pistols. These he had charged heavily. It was supposed (and no doubt justly) that he had held the muzzle of one pistol to one side of his head and the muzzle of the other to the other side and had discharged them both at the same instant. By this arrangement he had blown off the whole of the upper part of his head, and his blood and brains were scattered upon the ceiling and upon the floor in every direction.
My readers may imagine what the loads were like when I state that the pistols had been thrown from his hands in opposite directions with such violence against the walls as to break the cock from off one, and making quite an indent in the wall at the same time. When the other pistol struck against the wall, it dug a hole out of it.
We buried him on the hill not far from where the capitol now stands. I think we did not bury him with the honors of war. I recollect however, that we placed his pistols crossways and his sword lengthways across them upon his coffin and above or over his breast. >From papers found upon his person his name was obtained. His horse, clothing, etc., were sent in the course of a few days thereafter to his wife at Philadelphia. The person sent with them found upon his arrival at Philadelphia, that upon the same morning and about the same hour this Light Horseman’s wife had committed suicide also by drowning, she having thrown herself into the Delaware River at Market Street wharf.
This singularly horrid tragedy in two acts, the scene of one laid in Harrisburg and the other at Philadelphia, with the distance of one hundred miles intervening between, and both performed in one and the same hour, made a deep impression upon the minds of all hearing thereof and was for a time as all other horrid affairs are, the whole talk among all classes.
It appeared (from a letter or papers in his possession or from information otherwise obtained), that he had volunteered against the will of his wife who was much opposed to his joining the expedition. This troubled him very much and the farther he went from his home, the more it appeared had he been troubled and harassed by it. On the other hand, it appeared that the farther he went from home, the more had his wife become troubled in mind until both had resolved on ending their own lives, which they did do.
Captain Fisher’s company being about to move on to Carlisle, I then broke up housekeeping. This was in consequence of the ill health of my wife who at this time was rather sickly owing to her late confinement and the death of her infant. I put my household goods into the house of a French barber by the name of Rongee who accompanied us in the expedition to Pittsburg. I sent my wife off by stage to her father’s or at least by stage to Reading which was within three miles of her father’s.
Previous to our marching, His Excellency Thomas Mifflin, Governor of Pennsylvania, arrived from his farm near Reading and paid to each man in the corps the sum of six dollars. This sum each man was to leave with his family. Whether this was out of his own private purse or on account of the State of Pennsylvania, I do no know, but I recollect that it was said at the time that the Governor had made a present of six dollars to every man for the purpose above stated.
Captain Fisher received orders for his company to march on to Carlisle. We all got in readiness, paraded through the principal streets of Harrisburg, and then marched for Carlisle. When we left Harrisburg, we crossed over the Susquehanna River in flats [shallow boats]. The banks of the river on the town side were covered with women and children and there were great weeping and mourning indeed. Our country called and duty was clearly spread out before our eyes. We had, therefore, to steel our hearts against the cries of mothers and children and brave up against the tide of weeping and wailing by playing and beating up merrily, “Charley Over the Water.” This we continued to do until Harrisburg was partly lost in the distance behind us.
As my readers’ tastes are as varied as a soldier’s life, and a soldier’s tastes as varied as the tastes of my readers, I must indulge a possessed spirit of levity upon the part of some of my readers and amuse them occasionally.
About midway between Harrisburg and Carlisle we pushed upon a lot of very fine hogs belonging to some of the farmers nearby. The hogs becoming scared, threw off the reins of self-government, throwing themselves upon their own resources (heels) in an emergency, and dashed first one way and then another. Some trying to run round the soldiers on both sides of the road whilst others opened lanes for themselves by running in a zigzag manner through the troops which gave way on their approach.
One there was, however, a very large wild Germany boar kind of a chap, one altogether worthy of a generalship among the race of porkers, that threw himself upon his own adventurous spirit, agility, strength and heels. This fellow came direct to the charge, turning neither to the right hand or to the left. He dashed headlong amongst us, accompanied with his musical “Booch, booch, booch,” and happening to run between the legs of a stout bodied, but short and bandy-legged little member of the company. He lifted him (the soldier) instantly from off his feet and ran away with him.
As he was borne along (musket, knapsack and all), with great rapidity, it was a thing altogether impossible for our little soldier to turn himself in his saddle, and had therefore to content himself in riding with his face towards the hog’s tail instead of towards his head. This raised a fine laugh. But a much better or greater one was in reserve by “Mr. Porker,” to be enjoyed at the expense of our little soldier. For after carrying him some distance, he lunged with him on his back into a deep mud hole, carrying him pretty nearly into the middle of it. Then in his rearing and pitching efforts to go ahead, he threw his military rider over his rump and upon the broad of his back, all fours into the mud and water.
This piece of hog drollery afforded us fine sport and was well enjoyed by us, although we had gravity pretty well seated upon our countenances in consequence of our having so lately left our homes and our friends behind us. If it afforded us a lot of fun, it was enjoyed at “Tommy Thumb’s” expense; Tommy, who often thereafter had to bear the jestings of his brother soldiers upon the subject. He was often inquired at if he did not wish to meet a drove of hogs, or if he did not want a ride—saddle, bridle and spurs—to enable him to have a hog gallop, etc. Sometimes when plagued about it, he became very much displeased and wished that the devil would again go into the hogs and drown them all in the sea. But sometimes he would join heartily in the laugh against himself.
All being provided with a change of clothing, the little fellow’s appearance was soon changed by a change of apparel (as was our own also), for when we found ourselves nearing Carlisle, every man uniformed himself afresh by putting on clean clothing in accordance with the orders received
Upon our arrival at Carlisle, we pitched our tents upon the commons beyond the spring and very soon after the camp was formed, ten or twelve men were detached from our company to join General Washington’s Quarter Guard. President Washington had arrived but that day or the day previous at Carlisle. He had been there, however, several times previous to our marching thither. Warriour and myself played the detached portion of our company up to the Court House where the General’s Quarter Guard was stationed and then returned to camp.
In a few days after our arrival at Carlisle, President Washington issued his orders for all to be in readiness to march. On the next or on the second day thereafter in the morning, we were ordered to beat up “The General.” This was a signal tune. As soon as we would commence to play it, all the men would set themselves about pulling up the tent pins and arranging matters for a general strike. At a certain roll in this tune (called The General) all things being in readiness, the tents would be all thrown down in one direction and all fall at once, in the same moment or as nearly so as could be done. This done, some of the soldiers would then engage in rolling them up, whilst others would carry them to the wagons and pack them, camp kettles, etc., etc., therein.
For the amusement and use of my young readers I will here insert a part of two old verses (now recollected), which was set to the tune of “The General:”
Come brave boys, it is almost day, Strike your tents and march away.
Don’t you hear the General say, Strike your tents and march away.
During the Revolutionary War I have seen all forms dispensed with when upon the march. I have often known that in less than an hour after we have pitched our tents or formed our camp, and before we could provide a morsel of something for ourselves to eat, hungry and worn down too with fatigue at the same time, we have had to beat up The General. At such a time as this, a herald would be seen flying on horseback through our camp, urging all to diligence in striking of tents and packing them up. This without any regard being paid to ceremony, and then we would have to be off at what is called a “forced march.” This, when intelligence would arrive to us that the British were within a few miles and were advancing upon us; this, when we were few in number compared with our adversary and therefore, not prepared to give him battle.
After we had beaten up The General, our tents were all struck to the ground at the signal, rolled up and they with all other camp equipage packed away in our baggage wagons. When this task was accomplished the Long Roll was then beat up and all formed into a line. The army then formed by regiments into marching order, then marched and formed the line in the main street of Carlisle. The regiment to which Captain Fisher’s company was attached, was formed in the main line of regiments and upon the right of that line. Captain Fisher’s company occupying the right of that regiment constituted the extreme right of the entire line and rested in the main street opposite the Court House. The rear of the main column or line rested at a great distance from town on the old Philadelphia road and beyond the “Gallows ground.”
This line, besides being formed preparatory to the march, was also established for the purpose of passing the review. All the officers were at their posts in front of the line in order to receive and salute the Commander-in-Chief and suite.
President Washington, the Governors (of states) then at Carlisle, formed at the head of the line. The brigade and field officers that accompanied the President and Governors, took their positions in that line preparatory to the review.
All things being in readiness, the President and suite moved on to a review of the troops. The method of salute was: each regiment as the Commander-in-Chief and suite drew near, was ordered to “present arms.” Field officers, Captains, Lieutenants, etc., in line in advance of the troops saluted by bringing the hilts of their swords to their faces and then throwing the points of their swords towards the ground at some little distance from their bodies on their right side. The musicians at the same time playing and beating a salute. The flag bearers at a certain roll of the drum would also salute by waving their colours to and fro. The musicians in this grand line of military varied very much in their salutes. Some drummers no doubt knew what tune was a salute and could have beaten it well, but their fifers could not play it. And some fifers knew how to play it, but their drummers could not beat it. An acquaintance of mine of the name of Shipe who played the fife for a company from Philadelphia could have played it and well too, (for many a time we had played it together during the Revolution), but his drummer knew nothing about it. Some musicians played and beat one thing and some another. One fifer I recollect (within hearing distance of us) played Yankee Doodle and his drummer no doubt beat it well too, but it was not a salute.
When President Washington and his suite arrived at our regiment, I struck up and Warriour beat “The Old British Grenadier’s March,” which was always the music played and beat and offered to a superior officer as a salute during the Revolutionary War. This tune had a great many “flams” and rolls to it. President Washington eyed us keenly as he was passing us and continued to do so even when he had passed to some distance from us.
After this duty was performed upon the part of the soldiers, President Washington in conversation with the officers, asked Captain Fisher if his musicians (Warriour and myself) had not been in the Continental service during the Revolution. Captain Fisher informed him that we had been. Upon which the President replied that he had thought so from the manner of playing and beating. He observed that we performed the best of any in the army, and were the only musicians that played and beat the old (or usual) Revolutionary salute, which he said was as well played and beat as he had ever heard it during the Revolution. Captain Fisher was very proud of our having so far excelled as to obtain the just praise of the President. He said to us upon his return, “Boys you have received the praise of President Washington today for having excelled all of the musicians in the line in playing and beating up Washington’s favorite Revolutionary salute. He says not a musician in the whole army has played it today but yourselves.” If Captain Fisher was proud of Washington’s commendation of us, my readers may judge that we were not less proud of it than himself.
[Pg. 309] In the course of an hour or two after the troops had been reviewed by President Washington at Carlisle, the order of “forward,” was given. The whole army then took up its line of march westward, and in the evening of that day it reached Mount Rock and encamped. This place was about seven miles from Carlisle. The next day we passed through Shippensburg and reached Strawsburg at the foot of the mountain where we encamped. I do not recollect whether we remained at this place longer than a night or not, but think that we were a day and two nights encamped there before we began to ascend the mountain.
I remember that whilst we were at Strawsburg, a member of one of the Philadelphia companies stole a hog from a farmer. I cannot recollect, however, whether it was a living one or a dead one, but believe it was a butchered one. Complaint was lodged against him, he was arrested and placed under guard in which situation he remained until after we reached Bedford.
We broke up our encampment at Strawsburg and set out upon the march up the mountain. It is nothing to travel over the mountains now to what it was then. The roads were both narrow and steep as well as crooked. Owing to the zigzag nature of the road, soldiers in the front could behold very many soldiers towards the rear, and the soldiers in the rear could behold many of the soldiers that marched between it and the front. This march not being a forced one, ample time was given us to ascend to its summit. Nature had strewn her moss-covered seats about in profusion upon its side and we, grateful to her for the favour, occupied them often in our laborious journey as well upon this mountain as others upon all the other mountains which laid in our way between Cumberland valley and Pittsburg.
When we were going down Sideling hill, one of our soldiers that had taken sick and that had been placed in one of the baggage wagons, died. We made a halt long enough to bury him. A kind of a grave was dug, but when we came to bury him it was found that a spring had issued forth which had filled the hole more than half its depth with water. A quantity of bushes was then cut down and placed in it. On these, wrapped up in his blanket and without a coffin we laid him. We played the Dead March to the spot and interred him with all the military honors that circumstances permitted us to bestow upon him. Truly, he found a soldier’s lonely and quiet grave, or rather a grave in a lonely and quiet place. Although no wife nor children were there to wail aloud in their lament the loss of husband and father, there were friends there. If no gushings of tenderness were there, there was sadness around and many a heart was bowed in resignation to the will of God. We bore him in our sober sorrow for the dead, to his lonely and final resting place in the mountain wilderness, mid rocks and trees, and left him to repose in his long, long sleep mid the chantings of birds and the gurglings of mountain rills.
In marching over the first mountains, I was taken with fever and ague, and upon its commencing to rain, I obtained permission from Captain Fisher to walk on ahead to a little town that lay in our way. Here I obtained the comforts of a roof, fire, etc., and was (I may state) at home in part, until the army arrived and encamped.
From here we resumed our march in the morning and after a toiling march of several days over mountains and valleys in which we endured different kinds of hardships, we arrived at Bedford.
Sometime after our arrival at that place, portions of our army were reorganized. Here we lost our Captain Fisher who was promoted to the rank of Major. Lieutenant Retzell became our Captain and Ensign Dentzell became Lieutenant. After these changes were made we had to hold an election for Ensign. A member of the company whose name I have forgotten, except that we always called him Pete, was very anxious to be elected Ensign. Pete was a rattle brained, good humored and good hearted clever sort of fellow. He ran from one to another electioneering for himself. “Come Bill, you’ll vote for me, won’t you? Dave’s agoing to.” “Tom, you and Joe will make me Ensign, won’t you?” “Here, Sam, come along and give us a hoist. You may as well do it as Jim, he’s agoing it to the nines.” Seeing the fellow’s industry in electioneering for himself, we voted for him and elected him, and easily too, for he had no opposition.
There were many worthy, active and intelligent members of the company that might have been proposed, but there were not any in the company that wanted the office. Pete had all the benefits arising out of the exercise of the military franchise within the company. Lawyer Elder, a clever fellow and much beloved by the company could have had the office at a word, had he but consented to have been a candidate.
One day whilst we lay at Bedford, I received a message with orders (I being then Fife Major) to bring my music up to one of the officer’s marquees. I told the person sent to me to inform the officer that I had no fifer, but that I would go myself. Warriour and myself played and beat up to the officer’s quarters. We were then placed at the head of two or three file of men and marched off by a Sergeant (who had his orders) to the jail. When we halted at the jail door, our Strawsburg hog thief was brought out and handed over to the Sergeant of the guard who had notified us that when we should march with our charge, we should beat the Rogue’s March.
When our prisoner was properly positioned, we received the order of “forward,” and as we stepped off, we commenced to beat the Rogue’s March after him. He was then conducted through the camp and out of town about a mile. We then discharged him with several real huzzas loud and long, and then by three cheers or long rolls of the drum. After he had gotten some little distance off from us (far enough to ensure his security providing his heels would prove true to him), he threw out the challenge of defiance to the whole of us. To have judged of his strength by his words, he could have thrashed the whole army then at Bedford. Besides threatening to maul us all, he stated that he was very glad that he was that far upon his road towards home. He then bade us an extremely polite adieu in Billingsgate slang, and then heeled it until he was out of sight. The departure of this modern Goliath was even more sportive than his presence and conduct had been previous.
Shortly after this, there was intelligence received that the “Whiskey Boys” in great numbers were lying in ambush awaiting our approach. Some believed the report, others scouted at the idea. The whole army received an ample supply of ammunition. The rifle companies were ordered to mould a great number of bullets, and much preparation was made to repel any attack which the insurgents might feel disposed to make. The orders to prepare to march upon a certain day was given. Each man drew a double or triple quantity of provisions and received orders to cook the same.
All things being in readiness, we then took up the line of march and pushed for the Alleghany mountain. I do not recollect anything worthy of notice until we were descending the western base of the Alleghany mountain in our approach to the “Glades.” Here we had a hard time of it. It was now November and the weather was not only quite cold but it was windy and rain was falling. By an oversight we were pushed on a considerable distance in advance of our baggage wagons. At length we halted to an old waste barn that we supposed belonged to some one of the insurgents, for had it not been so, our army would not have been permitted to burn the fences thereon.
We collected rails and built fires, but owing to the rain and the marshy nature of that section of the country, the ground around our fires with our continual tramping became quite miry. Tramping about in order to dry and keep ourselves warm, made our situation about the fires quite an uncomfortable one, for we were oftentimes shoe-mouth deep in mud and water. There was an old house as well as a barn upon these premises. These the officers laid hold of and billeted in. Their condition however, was not the most comfortable one in the world, although they had the name of having a roof over their heads. The night was a very dark one and the weather was cold and the rain was a remarkably cold one. It is true it did not freeze but Jack Frost and his binding powers could not have been far off.
I went out into the woods and groped about in the dark in search of a hollow tree or hollow log into which (had I found one) I was determined to crawl and quarter for the night, but I groped about in vain. The ground out from the fires was so wet (it being covered with water) that it was impossible to lie down, and the ground around the fires was so much like to a morter bed, that it was impossible to lie down there. None of the soldiers then dared to lie down.
Our Sutler arrived with his wagon sometime after midnight. A short while after his arrival, I espied a “fockle” or handful of straw lying near to his wagon. This I went and picked up and then hunted for a dry spot to lied down on. But it was Hobson’s choice, mud and water or nothing. I at length spread out my straw upon the ground. When I had placed my knapsack in the baggage wagon, I had kept my blanket out and had carried it with me. In this I wrapped myself as well as I could and laid me down upon my handful of straw to sleep. This was not long done until worn out Sammy forgot all his sorrows, sufferings and cares and fell soundly asleep.
When I awoke in the morning, my head was half buried in mud and water. My readers may judge of my resting place when I inform them that I combed the mud from within the hair of my head with my fingers. I had plenty of money, but here it was in a manner useless to me and not worth more than would be the stones of the field. For nothing of an eatable kind could be procured except “hardware,” alias “good stuff.”
I took four canteens (my own among the number) and went to the Sutler’s wagon and had them filled. For the four canteens full (a little over a gallon) I paid the Sutler four silver dollars and was very well satisfied to get it even at that exorbitant price. Captain Alcohol in this particular instance was of great service to myself and messmates as also to some of our neighboring messmates. In those days of hardships, sufferings and dangers, we did not single ourselves out and drink behind the doors and swear “we didn’t taste the creature,” as too many of the people do nowadays. In this instance we came up to Captain Whiskey with a bold front, in open day and acknowledged his potent spell and superior worth in our proper use of him. This was a dreadful night’s rest with us all, and had not each man had a bite of something to eat with him in his haversack, we would have been much worse off indeed, for our baggage wagoners did not reach us until near 10 o’clock in the next morning.
No blame could attach itself to our wagoners, for they had been at work all night in doubling, trebling and quadrupling their teams of horses in helping each other through the swamps, which were in a manner almost altogether impassable. But we did think rather hard of our officers for pushing us so far in advance of our baggage wagons. In this, however, we might have been wrong, as they could not have conceived any idea of the wagoners encountering such difficulties as they did in passing through the swamps. Another thing was obvious, this that our having entered them in our march on foot, no encamping ground could have been procured short of where we had halted. Miserable as it was, it must be viewed as excellent ground, compared with that which lay between there and the Alleghany mountain.
My readers may judge of the land’s surface and of the state of the roads through the glades when I inform them that when some of the wagons arrived in the forenoon at where we halted the night previous, they had each from twelve to twenty horses attached to them, and the axle trees were sweeping or shoving the mud and water before them as they moved onwards. None but regular wagoners could have navigated these mud swamps, and none but regular teamsters or men acquainted with bad roads, or roads in their worst state, can conceive the impassable state of the roads through the glades in the year 1794. Those wagoners who drove the two mile lane near Pittsburg from 1806 to 1815 or 16 can form some conception as to the state of the glade roads during the fall of ’94.
Upon the arrival of our baggage wagons we were ordered to beat up The Troop. This done, all the soldiers fell into line, the rolls were called, we stacked our arms and were then dismissed.
The Quarter Master in our regiment then dealt out the provisions for each company. The meat which fell to our lot was the poorest we had drawn from the time we had started from Harrisburg. It was that of a cow which he had procured, and which in all probability had but dropped her calf. This idea was strengthened by that of her having been a milch cow. This meat was so poor and clammy that (in the language of soldiers respecting poor meat) if it had been thrown against a board fence, it would have stuck fast. Poor as it was, we had to hurry and cook it, and poor indeed was that drawn by other companies, if poorer than that drawn by ours. After we had prepared and ate our breakfast (which was not until nearly or altogether twelve o’clock A.M.) we placed the balance in our haversacks and then beat up the Long Roll. The line of march was soon formed, the word “forward” was given, and we then resumed our march towards the Laurel Hill.
Owing to the late rain, the road was still very bad, and we were unable to proceed very far that day before night was setting in upon us. A halt was called and our baggage wagons not being far behind us, we were not long before we had our tents pitched, and in the enjoyment of all the comforts that our circumstances could afford us. Not having had any comfort or sleep the night previous, we were in a condition each, to make full hands at the business of sleeping. We laid down early and enjoyed a tolerable night’s rest.
As soon as we partook of breakfast next morning, we beat up the Long Roll and marched off in better spirits than we had the day previous. We continued our march until we arrived on the top of Laurel Hill mountain. Here a halt was ordered and each soldier seated himself and partook of a bite of cold victuals.
After we had finished our repast, an officer called out to me, requesting me to bring my drummer along with me and play him a few good tunes. Warriour and I then went to where this officer and others were seated taking their cold bite and “good stuff.” They invited us to take a little of the creature with them, which we did without making any wry faces about it. They then asked us to give them some of our best tunes. We did so, and doing it, we of course done our best. As we were thus engaged, some of them joined in a dance, and began to skip about, and trip it as orderly, lively and airy as if they had been in a ball room.
These officers had their horses tied up to the bushes and trees near to where they then were. Among the horses, there was one that I had frequently noticed on the way. The officer that owned and rode him would often jump him over large logs and limbs of trees. He would clear them always, and in doing so, would leap like a deer. Whilst we were playing and the officers dancing, this horse was prancing to the music with seeming delight. I heard the officers talking with each other about him. One said he was old and another said he was not. They then asked the officer that owned him if he knew how old he was. He replied that he did. He said that his father had raised him from a colt and that he was thirty-three years old the last spring season then past. I believed then that this horse was the handsomest, most active and showy one in the whole army.
After the officers had done dancing, we were ordered to beat up the Long Roll upon which the men formed and we moved onwards. We next made a halt at Greensburg in Westmoreland county, and the next halt that we made was not from the Bullock Plains, known by many as Braddock’s Fields. When we arrived at Braddock’s Fields, we formed our camp and laid there a few days. Whilst there, the soldiers, many of them, amused themselves by climbing up into the trees for the purpose of cutting out leaden bullets which had been lodged there in 1755 when General Braddock was defeated by the Indians in the campaign that year.
From Braddock’s Fields we moved on to Fort Pitt (now Pittsburg) and encamped within a mile of the town. Whilst we laid at Fort Pitt I obtained permission to visit the town every day or two. The old Fort (Du Quesne) which had been built for the protection of this post, I do not recollect whether it was occupied by any of our troops, but believe it was not. It was so built as to command the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers above, and at their junction, as also the Ohio river below. The hills around Pittsburg, particularly those on the opposite sides of both rivers were very high. The hills above Pittsburg and between the two rivers were (some of them) quite high and were called by different names such as Grant’s Hill, Scotch Hill, Forbe’s Fields, etc.
Instead of being met as was threatened by a formidable foe, we saw nothing in the form of enemies. The disaffected (those that organized themselves) had disbanded and gone quietly to their homes.
The insurrectionary spirit was every day growing weaker and weaker, and in proportion as this had manifested itself, the insurgent force had diminished. Mustering from 7 to 10,000 men only, and they promiscuously and hastily drawn from their homes, young and old without proper leaders, proper discipline, military stores, etc., etc., they had thought it altogether futile to attempt to resist (or cope with) a well disciplined army of upwards of 15,000 strong. After a number of the more active leaders were captured and handed over to the proper authorities to be dealt with according to the laws of the land, the expedition was considered at an end.
The main body of the army was then withdrawn from Pittsburg and the surrounding country and were marched on their way homewards. Many who sought discharges obtained them, some of these enlisted in the United States regular service and marched on to join General Wayne who was then engaged in a war with the Indians on the Miamis in Ohio. A journeyman shoemaker whom I had had in my employ and who was with us, enlisted then and I never saw or heard tell of him afterwards. Others deserted and remained in the West, and a great many died and lie buried at different places within the country surrounding Pittsburg.
Whilst at Fort Pitt, my attention was attracted one day by a great crowd of soldiers and citizens. I drew near for the purpose of learning the cause of such a concourse of people. I perceived that the crowd was viewing a tavern sign. The tavern keeper had commenced the business but a short time before and had put up a sign, upon which was painted “St. Clair’s Defeat,” which had occurred on the 4th of November, 1791.
The sign board upon which this bloody massacre was painted was full twenty feet in length. On both its sides, whites and Indians were painted. Some of the whites were represented as bearing up against the tide of savage ferocity. Others, both whites and Indians were represented as falling in death. Indians were represented as firing, scalping and tomahawking the whites. General Butler (under whose command I had been at York, Pa., during the Revolutionary War) was represented as wounded and leaning against a tree, and an Indian before him with a tomahawk in one hand and a scalping knife in the other, springing towards him to complete the work of death. Indians were represented also as taking aim and firing from behind trees and logs. Whites were also shown as falling, some one way and some another. On each side of this sign board, I suppose there were two or three hundred whites and Indians represented.
This sign must have cost the landlord a great sum of money, but I suppose our soldiers alone more than paid for it, for there were crowds of them to look at it whilst we were encamped at Pittsburg and most of them spent their money pretty freely in patronizing his house.
[Pg. 319] The weather had been very bad much of the time during our stay at Pittsburg. Rain and snow, with clear weather, would be seen twice or three times in one day. Portions of the time and the weather, I may state, continued bad for the most part until we arrived at home. I suffered more from exposure to cold, cold rains, chilling damps, wet and deep roads during this expedition, than I had at any time during the Revolutionary War.
I was very unwell when we arrived at Greensburg on our return homewards. At this place a horse was put into my possession to be delivered at Strawsburg, situated at the eastern base of the mountains in Cumberland valley. After this good fortune attended me, I obtained permission to travel on ahead of the army.
I started from Greensburg in fine spirits. Indeed, I went on my way rejoicing greatly. The thoughts of home, wife, kindred and friends are of themselves sufficient to animate and buoy up the way-worn traveler's spirits under the most distressing fatigues.
After climbing and descending alternately for a number of days together the different mountains which laid between Greensburg and the Cumberland valley, I at length arrived at Strawsburg, where I delivered the horse that had served, carried and eased me so much on my return journey.
Setting out from Strawsburg in Franklin county, Pa., it was not long until I reached Harrisburg. A number of days elapsed before Captain Fisher’s (then Dentzell’s) company arrived at Harrisburg.
This company broke up soon after and I removed to Reading in Berks county, Pa., Poor Warriour, our drummer, was drowned not long afterwards. Drowned and perished together. He was going home one night much intoxicated and laid him down in a little hollow or very low spot in a field and fell into a (dead drunk) sleep. That night a heavy shower came on and filled the low spot in which he laid with water, so much so, as to drown him. Unfortunate end to poor Warriour, who otherwise possessed a heart in which much of the milk of human kindness had its abode.
Sometime after I went to Reading I procured two horses and a sled and set out for Harrisburg. I loaded up my household stuff and conveyed it down to Reading, intending to make that place my home. I was not long a resident of that town before I joined Captain Keims’ volunteer company in the capacity of fifer. This company was composed of the most respectable young men (mechanics, lawyers, store keepers and farmers) of Reading and its neighborhood.
Here as before, I had a Revolutionary drummer, one who had belonged to my own regiment during the Revolution. We called him Daddy Jack. Indeed, I never heard or knew (as I recollect of) any other name for him. He was a very hard favored fellow and had a mouth in size more like to that of a horse than a human. When he would laugh he was all mouth and opened it like an alligator. Oftentimes he would laugh purposely to set those around him to laughing, and when he knew we were laughing at him, he would join in with us and laugh heartily and seemed to enjoy the sport very well. Daddy Jack, I may state was a drummer in full, for he understood well the whole minutiae or science of drumming.
At the time that John Adams, President of the United States, was authorized by Congress to augment the regular army, I was hired to play the fife in a recruiting excursion by a Lieutenant Worrell of the United States service, who then rendezvoused at Reading. The Captain’s name was Faughner and resided in Easton, Pa. Lieutenant Worrell procured ______ to beat the drum. This drummer (not Daddy Jack) was a very good one. As he and I had been employed by General Bowers of Reading to learn some young lads to play the fife and beat the drum, I of course had a good opportunity of knowing whether he was a good musician or not.
Lieutenant Worrell procured a horse and wagon and took a Sergeant, a drummer and myself into it, and started off towards the headwaters of the Delaware river. I think our place of rendezvous was somewhere in Wayne County, Pa. There was a large building erected for our use. We obtained some recruits while on our way thither. After our arrival at our station near to the town of ______, we gave the inhabitants good music, with Reveille in the morning and Tattoo at night.
Owing to this perhaps and the music we made when marching through the town (which we did daily) we soon began to haul in recruits very fast. He that hath not music in himself, the poet says, is fit for treason, villainies and spoils. We were in great favor with the people of the town and the surrounding neighborhoods, particularly the girls who were very fond of hearing us play some of our choice tunes. They, with their love-sick swains as their conductors, were no ways backward to visit our quarters during afternoons and evenings and request a few of our best airs on our spirit-stirring fife and drum. Having the ears of our youthful, pretty and innocent visitors hanging on our music, my readers may suppose our efforts to please were none of the most feeble.
We were not a very long while at the post until we had a company gathered together. Soon after our company was completed, we received orders to march off. As soon as Reveille was beat on the morning of our march, we were ordered to hasten with our breakfast. This done, we received orders to beat up the Long Roll. The men then formed ranks and the roll was called. It being known to the inhabitants of the town that we were to march away upon that morning, many of them came and bade us farewell.
In the course of the morning, we were ordered forward. We marched down to Easton where as I have already stated, Captain Faughner lived. Previous to our entering that place, Lieutenant Worrell came to me and asked me to play “Burns’ Farewell,” through the town. I did so and never was music enjoyed better by the citizens of any place than ours was upon that occasion. At the time there were a great number of Free Masons resided in Easton, and it is known to most of my readers that “Burns’ Farewell” is a Masonic air. As soon as we struck up this favorite air, the streets through which we passed were crowded with men, women and children.
We marched on, down to the ______ and the men came to an order. After each man received half a gill of liquor, we then marched down to the barracks which were located near to the bridge. Here the men remained; but myself, Lieutenant Worrell took with him to his quarters. Whilst we laid in Easton (which was sometime) I had to go to the barracks night and morning, in order to play for the beating of Tattoo and Reveille.
I never was in a place at any time before or since where the people were so fond of martial music as in Easton. Every morning when we would beat the Reveille, there would be a crowd of men and boys collected to hear us, among them were many of the first men of the town. Some of these gentlemen spoke to our officers and obtained permission for my drummer and myself to go to their houses and play and beat the Reveille, “Burns’ Farewell,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Hail Columbia,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” etc., etc., for their ladies who were highly delighted with our music.
We had several houses to visit every morning and evening. At these, our moveable musical rendezvous, the ladies of a dozen or more families would collect to hear us. This was a profitable as well as a delightful employment for us, for we were well paid for our services, as we received a dollar or two on every occasion. This was very well, for it answered us for spending money. We were no ways churlish with our music and the ladies were as little so with their money. Besides, this and our duty at the barracks, we had to play and beat up and down the streets every morning, and we were always asked at some point or other (where we halted) to play “Burns’ Farewell.”
Such pleasures as these were very precarious, for in the midst of our joy, we were ordered on to join our regiment at Elizabethtown Point in Jersey. The inhabitants of Easton were very sorry at parting with us, and we, having been used so well (for I never was treated so well at any other place) were as sorry to part with them. When acting in the capacity of waiter to Major Greer during the Revolutionary War, I thought I enjoyed the “best kind of times,” but those enjoyments were short lived beside the pleasures derived from so mutual an intercourse as existed with the people at Easton. The men were all like brothers, and the women all like sisters. If one family partook of our special musical treats, those of a dozen or twenty families were invited to be in attendance thereat, and we musicians had the good countenance of all, and great kindness shown us in the treatment we received at their respective houses.
The day appointed for our departure came. We paraded early and got in readiness for the march. Many of the ladies and gentlemen of Easton visited us. We played a number of their favorite airs and then bidding them an affectionate farewell, we marched off to join our regiment at Elizabethtown Point. By the time we arrived and joined the regiment at that place, my time had expired. I wished to return home again, but the Colonel of the regiment insisted so much upon my staying one month longer, and he having offered me great wages, I was induced to accept his offer, and agreed to stay another month.
Colonel _____ had a double object in my detention. There was not a good fifer in the regiment, and as there had been several lads enlisted but a short time previous as fifers and drummers, he wanted me to assist in instructing them. This, although a laborious task, yet so far as I was concerned, I cheerfully contributed in perfecting them in the art of playing and beating.
Elizabethtown Point! Who that was ever there in the harvest or in the gathering of mosquitoes has or will ever forget it. I had been once on an expedition a good ways to the south, but I never met with a place where mosquitoes were marshaled in such formidable hosts, as at Elizabethtown Point. Every morning at reveille we had to have three or four boys with bushes in their hands to stand by us to brush off the mosquitoes whilst we performed upon the fifes and drums. A boy at a blacksmith’s shop never plyed his horse-tail fly driver, whilst the smith would be shoeing a horse, with more faithfulness than our boys had to brandish their bushes about against the half grown gallinippers [mosquitoes]. When practizing or when playing and beating Tattoo, we very often burnt dry cow dung. Between the heat and the great smoke (the greater the smoke the better), we were enabled to perform without their annoying us much.
Not long after I had made my second engagement, I obtained permission to go to the city of New York to procure some note (music) books. I crossed over (I think it was then called) to Staten Island, and after traveling about five miles I came to a tavern. Here, as I stopped to take a drink, the landlord asked me where I was going to. I told him I was bound for the city of New York. He then informed me that there was a very great sickness in the city, and asked me if I was not afraid to go there. I replied that I was not afraid of catching the disease, but perhaps my ignorance of its awful ravages and my own previous good health both conspired to make me more brave or stout hearted than I should have been.
I asked the landlord how far it was to the city. He replied it was four miles to the crossing place. I then started on and reached the ferry. This place was then called the Watering Place, it being the place where the shipping took in their supplies of fresh water preparatory to their going out to sea. There was a very large building at this place and perhaps a number of scattering houses. There was a tavern house here also.
There were hundreds of Ladies and Gentlemen here who had fled from the city for the purpose of keeping out of the way of the sickness. I was very hungry and asked at the tavern for something to eat, but I was not listened to, or rather was not attended to, and not furnished with what I then stood very much in need of indeed.
Perhaps it was at this place as it is at too many taverns nowadays. “TRAVELLERS REST” on the sign boards, but when there are what are termed fashionable people about, many of whom are known by the true appellation of Dandies—fashionable blackguards—who are very obsequiously waited upon, the poor traveler hungry and weary is neglected. Gentlemen, back your promulgated principles of equality with better and more appropriate actions. One man’s money is just as good as that of another and he that asks civilly for what he stands in need of, and is ready to pay for the same, has an equal claim although covered with rags. No man puts up a sign and spreads abroad the intelligence that he intends to keep a house exclusively for those that shall appear to have much, although far less is their possessions. A good man says, I will serve the public faithfully and shall not know any one man’s money from that of another. This is republicanism and the principles of republicanism carried out faithfully are the principles of justice.
At the Watering Place, there was a shed erected like to a brickyard shed and over one hundred yards in length. This shed was filled with bales of cotton. I pulled a handful of cotton out of one of the bales in order to look at it and at the moment thought of some purpose to which I could convert it and then put it into my pocket. I then went to the ferry and asked if I could get across to the city. I was told that the vessel was just then in sight. I do not recollect now where the ferry was located, but remember that I could see the city or a part of it.
At this place there were a great many Negroes waiting for the boat. These (as I learned afterwards) were hired to bury all the dead bodies landed there. As soon as the boat touched the shore, I saw one dead body thrown out with as little ceremony as if it had been a “beef’s pluck.” The moment it was thrown “wallup” upon the ground, a number of the Negroes hoisted it up and bore it away for interment.
The sight knocked me up to a stand instantly and frightened me very much. I instantly beat up my retreat, gave up all notion of visiting New York at this time, and determined at once to return. It was at this time, nearly sunset, but by “heeling it right smartly” in pushing for the tavern at which I had stopped, I can assure my readers that I was not long in reaching it. The distance was (as before stated) four miles. When I returned to this tavern, I told the landlord what I had seen and the cause of my return. I told him I was very hungry, wanted my supper and lodging and asked him if he would keep me all night. “To be sure I will,” was his reply. This pleased me very much, for I was afraid he might be as saucily disposed towards me as the landlord at the Watering Place.
I told my host that I was very hungry. He said I should have my supper in a short time. I then took a drink and not long after, I was called to supper. Being very hungry, I partook of the victuals not only heartily but with a relish. After I ate super, the landlord and I fell into a conversation during which I asked him the reason why such great quantities of cotton were stored up in the sheds I had seen at the Watering Place. He said that all ships were prohibited from carrying any cotton into the city, for that the sickness was supposed to have been carried there by means of the cotton at the first.
At hearing of this, I jumped up and went out hastily and threw away from me the handful of cotton I had in my pocket. When I returned to the house I said nothing about my having had any of it about me, for I thought if he had known that I had any of it with me he would not have suffered me to stay all night in his house.
Being very much fatigued, I retired to bed and rested very well that night and started off for the camp again in the morning, quite grateful for the kind treatment I had received, notwithstanding that I had paid for all I had received.
After my return to camp at Elizabethtown Point, I continued to play the fife for the regiment until my month expired. During this time, I spent a good deal of my time in teaching the boys (I have before alluded to) to play the fife. Colonel ______, Lieutenant Worrell and several other officers were very anxious for me to stay longer with them. I told them that I wished to return to see my wife and children and therefore could not think of staying any longer away from them.
At this time there was a young man enlisted in the regiment who was the son of a very wealthy and highly respectable man. His father had bestowed upon him a very liberal classical education. On account of his intelligence, he was appointed a Sergeant in one of the companies comprising the regiment.
The father and mother of this young man came to camp with an expectation that they could buy him off. Their efforts however were all made in vain. The officers told his father if he could get me to stay in his son’s place (which would have suited the officers very well), they would then let him go home with him and the mother. The father and mother made a proposition to me immediately. They offered me the sum of one hundred dollars and all his pay and his clothes if I would but consent to take his place. I told them I could not think of doing it as I had my own family that was as dear to me as their son could be to them to attend to. They plead very hard with me, but I informed them that it was not worth their while to ask me any more about it. I stated I had been long enough an enlisted soldier in the Revolutionary War and that I was determined never to enlist again, and that I now had a family that looked up to me for protection and support and must return to it again. Then and not till then did their importunities cease.
The officers then paid me off and I procured myself a good horse and returned to my home in Reading. Although I had done very well and had taken a clever little sum of money home with me, I missed my luck after all, in not accepting the offer made me by the Sergeant’s parents, for in about a month after, the army was disbanded. Had I known that I could have had my discharge so soon, I would have had a hundred dollars (besides his pay) more with me in my pocket to take home. But I found my family well and was then in the bosom of it, and was in all respects contented.
[Pg. 329] In the fall of 1798, the spirit of resistance to the general government began to show itself in many parts of the country. I believe it was in consequence of the Alien and Sedition laws, and the levying of additional taxes.
There was a farmer of the name of Epply who lived about three miles from Reading who was an influential and wealthy man. Epply stood in the front rank of the Liberty Boys in that section of the country. The insurgents rendezvoused on his farm and erected a Liberty Pole in front of his house. There was a company of Light Horse commanded by a captain Slow sent on from Lancaster with orders to cut it down.
When the company arrived on the farm of Epply and within sight of the Liberty Pole, Captain Slow was surprised to find upwards of one hundred riflemen under arms and guarding the pole. Finding that he had too few men to contend against this force, he retired without making any effort to fill the measure of his orders.
He returned with his company to Reading and obtained a reinforcement and moved on a second time to execute his orders. When he arrived within sight of the Liberty Pole a second time, the insurgents finding that Slow’s force was augmented and too strong for them to contend against, gave way and dispersed in all directions. Captain Slow and his force then moved up to the pole which was immediately cut down. These prompt measures put an end to the movements of the Liberty Boys in the neighborhood of Reading.
After Capt. Slow returned the second time to Reading a printer in town whom I knew very well, published an article in his newspaper derogatory to the character of Slow as a gentleman and as a soldier. Slow who was a large and powerful man no sooner beheld it, than he went and bought a cowhide and went to the printing office. He took hold of the printer and dragged him across the street to the Market house which was opposite to the printing office and cowhided him severely. There was not any person interfered nor did any person say anything against it, for the printer was looked upon as the aggressor.
About this time another insurrection had broke out in Northampton County, Pa., which was known (as was the last above named) by the appellation of the “Liberty Boys.”
There was a company of United States regulars stationed at Reading and was commanded by Captain Shoemaker. There was another, a volunteer company which was commanded by Captain Keim and to which (as I have before stated) I belonged. These two companies received orders to march on to Northampton County to aid in quelling the insurrectionary spirit that had broken out in that quarter.
On the evening before we marched, I was ordered to bring my drummer to the Court House at an early hour next morning and to then beat the Reveille. We were up and in readiness long before daylight. Just as day began to break, we beat up the Reveille, after which we went home and ate our breakfast. After we had ate our breakfast we went to our Captain’s Quarters and received orders to beat up The General down and up the streets of the town and then to beat up The Troop. We done so. The men then formed ranks and the rolls were called, after which they were dismissed for an hour with orders to be there at the roll of the drum and all to be then ready to march off.
When the hour expired, we beat up the Long Roll down and up the streets. The men formed a second time and at the word “forward,” we marched off with a merry double drag so that we could not hear the crying of women and children, many of whom were weeping sorely.
I do not recollect the route by which we marched to Northampton but I recollect we stopped at the town of _____ and encamped two or three days. I had played the fife so much at this place that I began to spit blood and became very ill. Captain Keim, Lawyers, Bittle and Scull took me to a house and procured a room in which there was a good bed into which they put me. They then brought Doctor _____ to see me and he administered medicine to me. Keim, Bittle and Scull brought their blankets with them and laid on the floor in the same room with me and attended to me as brothers would have attended a brother. By the aid of the Doctor’s medicine and the kind nursing treatment I received from the persons I have named, as also from the family in which I was placed, I was restored to health again in a few days and able to play the fife as usual.
We marched again and arrived at Millerstown in Northampton County and encamped on the common-ground near to the town. Captain Keim’s and Captain Shoemaker’s companies constituted all the foot soldiers that lay in Millerstown. Here we had little to do as duty and less fighting. Our military force was a vast one, and to use the phrase, there was no end to Light Horsemen. It seemed as if there were more here than I had seen in all my life previous. Every day we could see Light Horse companies coming in with droves of insurgents whom they had captured. These prisoners as fast as the Light Horse captured them, were marched off to Norristown on the Schuylkill River above Philadelphia.
Captain Frees, the leader or chief of the Liberty Boys in Northampton County, was an extremely wary fellow. Some of the Light Horsemen were continually in pursuit of him. He being one of the most active and stout men in the country and very fleet on foot, he would shew himself frequently to three, four or more Light Horsemen just in order to have sport with them. This it was said he often done and after keeping them in hot pursuit of him for some time, would make good his retreat to his fastnesses or mountain thickets and thereby ensure his escape. To do this, was said to be play for him.
But well as he could imitate Sampson of old in escaping, he was betrayed into the hands of his pursuers at last by a woman. There was a woman in the neighborhood at whose house Frees and some of his men frequently rendezvoused. With respect to his betrayal she came Delilah over him completely. At the time of his capture he had visited her house and as he had done previous in his confidence in her, he did now. He threw down his pistols upon a table in one of the rooms in her house. He then walked about quite unconcerned, he having not the least suspicion of her possessing a treacherous spirit towards him.
She was employed as an accessory in the furtherance of a plot which was being laid for his apprehension. No doubt she was well paid for the part she took in the transaction, although for the good, the peace and welfare of the country, it was necessary that he should be captured. But in her yielding herself as an instrument to accomplish, reflects no credit upon her as a woman in whom he had placed the most implicit confidence, and under whose roof (as regarded herself) he had always considered himself perfectly safe.
What will not a woman do, who is base enough at heart to sacrifice affections at the shrine of her mercenary interests? Dear as the sex ought to be held in the estimation of every honorable man, it must be said however, that such women could not be controlled by the agency of any honorable or virtuous principle and would stop at nothing.
When Captain Frees was quite at ease in his own mind and perfectly at home within himself, she had a number of men concealed. After she had locked or fastened all the outer doors of her house, she cried to our American Sampson that the Philistines were upon him, and at her signal the concealed soldiery rushed into the room, sprung upon him and secured him. He was immediately conveyed to prison to await a trial for treason.
After the capture of Frees, we were ordered to march to a place four or five miles off. It being late in the evening when we received marching orders, we did not get under way before dark. Shortly after night set in, we were marched off in silence. Soon after starting we commenced to ascend a mountain. When near to the top of it, the officers called a halt and ordered that every man should load his piece, stating that there was a body of Liberty Boys but a short distance ahead of us, and for every man to hold himself in readiness for action.
We then moved forward until we gained the summit of the mountain. When we arrived at this commanding spot upon the mountain, we beheld a great many fires lighted up along the foot of the next ridge. Now was the time to tell who was a soldier—who was brave and who was a coward. Some became very sick and others became very lame. Some complained of one thing and some complained of another. The baggage wagons having arrived, these self-sick and self-lamed fellows were crammed into them and we then began to descend the mountain.
I smelt a rat but said nothing. I believed it was all a sham and just done to try the spunk of the men. We continued our march until we arrived at the fires, and there being no enemy about, the soldiers were ordered to stack their arms. Soon after, our baggage wagons drove up and then Surgeon Green to whom the scheme was known. He went to them with medicine for the purpose of administering it to the sick, but finding nothing wrong with their pulses, legs, feet or stomachs, informed them that they were getting better very fast and were all likely to do well. After pitching our tents, we took a bite to eat and as it was now well on to morning, we laid us down and slept soundly until day break.
We arose and beat the Reveille. After the men formed the line and the rolls were called, we then drew our rations. Our invalid soldiers of the night before were all upon the ground and stood ready to receive as full a ration each, as the most healthy, sound and able bodied man in the whole army. O cowardice! Many are the enemies you conjure up in the imaginations of men.
We laid at this place perhaps a week. There being a general review of all the troops engaged in the expedition about to be held not far from Millerstown, we were ordered back to that place for the purpose of joining in the review. There were from 6,000 to 10,000 Light Horseman present and constituted one of the most grand and imposing sights I had ever beheld anywhere. It appeared to a person occupying the centre of the line as though the right and left wings of the line were endless.
Shortly after we were reviewed by the Commander-in-Chief of all the forces in the field (peace being restored, or rather the insurrectionary spirit quelled, and the Government having no more call for our services), we were marched on our return towards Reading where upon our arrival we were immediately discharged.
Captain Frees in the course of some time received his trial, was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. His sentence was approved. A gallows was erected in Quakertown, not far from his residence. The day proposed for his execution having arrived, he was conducted to the gallows. It was said (for I was not present) that he marched as bold and undaunted thither as a lion. He was reprieved, however, when on or under the gallows
Captain Frees was a fearless man, and in a better cause, his innate daring courage would have shewn as conspicuous as it would have been eminently serviceable. He was of rather an amiable disposition, his deportment civil and obliging. I have often played long bullets with him in Quakertown since, and he was rather too much for me. He was the only man I could have met with, out of perhaps five hundred, that could gain anything from me in the game of long bullets.
The next event I have to record is one that was a mournful event. Deep and heart-felt sorrow pervaded all ranks and conditions of persons in the United States, Tories excepted. It seemed as if the great fountains of tenderness were broken up and the gloriously bright ark of Republicanism was dashing tempest tossed in fearful hopings against hope (as to the future) upon its mighty bosom. A leader, a saviour, a founder, a father, a patriot, a cherished and loved head and protector of his Columbia was gone. News arrived at Reading that the great and good Washington, first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen was no more.
The news seemed like a dream, although all knew that it was but too fearfully true. But such was the fact, it could scarcely be believed. Washington dead? He was mortal, he could not be retained in life; the wishes and prayers of millions could not have arrested the strong arm of the King of Terrors. Washington, although sincerely loved by a grateful people, had nevertheless to bow to the stern monarch of the grave, but in descending to his tomb, he carried with him in his death the high and anguish wrought, sorrowful feelings and faithful affections of a distressed and mourning people.
Immediately after the arrival of this sad news, a public meeting was held at the Court House in Reading, and arrangements made for a funeral procession. The Free Masons met at their Lodge, and made arrangements to join in the procession. A bright and exemplary brother had gone from a mystic Lodge upon earth, to join in membership with that Grand Lodge of transplendent and unconcieved of brilliancy, holiness and glory above, and now, that the last funeral tribute was about to be paid, they could not be idle
Two companies of volunteers, one commanded by Captain Keims, were ordered out. The procession formed in the following order: the military in front, then the coffin, then the order of Masons, then civil officers, and then the citizens. The procession was fully a mile in length. It moved to a large church in Reading where the military, Masons and many of the citizens entered. The military moved (preceded by the music) and placed the coffin in an aisle in front of the pulpit. There were from twelve to twenty ministers of the gospel present on the occasion. A funeral oration was delivered, after which the procession moved through Philadelphia street and through some others of the principal streets of Reading, and then to a grave yard where the coffin carried in the procession, was deposited with military honors in the tomb, and with as much solemnity as though the body of beloved Washington had been enshrined within it.
It was a day of mourning surely. His immense services were known, his worth was acknowledged, the Republic was in its infancy, and none could offer a guarantee that in an emergency, another Washington could be found to lay hold of the helm of the ship of States and steer her into the port of safety.
[Pg. 336] In the year _____ I removed my family to Peddlehouzer, a small town situated in Lancaster county. Here I was employed by one Philip Coplin to keep his race horses.
At one time we were returning from a journey, having two race horses (and a mare that I was then riding) with us. We stopped not far from Lancaster, and where there were two side or summer roads alongside of the turnpike. Said Coplin to me, “Suppose we try the mare that you are riding in order to see how she will run with the Crab horse.” This horse had never been beaten. I told him if he wished to know her bottom, I would run her against his horse.
At the time I had a blanket under my saddle and entirely forgot to take it off. Our race rider gave us the word “go” and we started. The mare did well, but whilst at full speed (owing to the blanket) my saddle turned and I was dashed head forward on the hard and stony turnpike. Coplin and our rider carried me to the fence on one side of the road. He stated afterwards that to all appearance, I was dead. The mare ran into Lancaster at full speed with the saddle hanging under her belly.
The rider staid with me whilst Coplin mounted his horse and started post haste to Lancaster for a physician. On the way, however, he met a number of persons running, who supposed some person had been killed. Among those he met, there was a doctor who was conveyed as quickly to me as possible. When the doctor was engaged in examining my head, I possessed some little consciousness for the first time. Upon opening my eyes and seeing a crowd standing about me, I asked them what they were about.
I then heard the doctor say that the scull was cracked, but that there was no danger. He then sewed up the gash which had been made on the left side of the crown of my head. As he was doing this, I asked him what the matter was, but he told me to hold still a little while. After the doctor had finished dressing my head, a number of them carried me into Lancaster, and on the next day Coplin took me to my home in Peddlehouzer. It was not very long before my head healed, but I had a continual headache for more than two months afterwards.
I lost my first wife who died in _____ on the 4th of December 1806. I had but one child living (a son) whom I bound, sometime after my wife’s decease, to a Tailor of the name of Bumbarger in Lancaster. I then made sale of my household goods and set out to travel through old and new Virginia and through ______. I was absent from two to three years.
After my return from Virginia I married a young woman of the name of Lydda Sprenkle, whose parents lived in ______.
When I lived in Lancaster about the year 1810, I owned a horse and chair and there was a man sent to me who lived in the town of Sunbury in Northumberland County, Pa., who wished me to convey him to his home. He offered to compensate me liberally, and I agreed to convey him thither. I told him, however, that I had just traded for the horse and did not know whether he would work or not, but that I was about to try him in harness, and if he would work, I would accept his offer.
I harnessed my horse and hitched him to the chair and drove him up and down the street and found that he worked very well, except that he was a little too spirited in harness. We immediately got in readiness and started for Sunbury, stopping that night in Harrisburg. The next morning we started on our journey again. We stopped and took something to drink at Coxtown, a small place five miles above Harrisburg on the Susquehanna river.
The road laid on the bank of the river and quite high above the water, perhaps thirty or forty feet. The side of the hill below the road was exceedingly steep and was covered with rocks and trees. I had no martingale on my horse. About one hundred yards from the shore of the river there was an island where there were some wood choppers at work. We happened to have our attention arrested somewhat, and were looking in the direction of the choppers, when all at once my horse took fright at the rattling of the chair on the rough road (as we supposed) and sprang furiously forward. I could have held and managed him, but my passenger seized one rein or side of the lines next to the river for the purpose of assisting me to hold him. This pulled him towards the bank and over we went and down into the river.
Had we gone over a rod or two further along the road, we would have been smashed to pieces upon the huge and ragged rocks, but as Providence would have it, where we struck the river beach, it abounded with sand. I clambered up to my feet the best way I could and dashed in to save my horse from being drowned, but found that I could not lift my arm for it was out of place.
The wood choppers having seen us dashing down the steep, and beholding our perilous situation at the bottom, jumped into their boat and came in a very short time to our help. They lifted my horse up and brought him out of the water. Strange to relate, he was not hurt. We were in a pretty pickle, my passenger grunting like a porker and I scolding like a Xantippe’s wife, and the wood choppers swearing that they would not take the same ride and chance for the town of Harrisburg and the whole country around it.
The wood choppers took the horse and chair fully a half mile up along the river shore before they could ascend with them to the road again. They told the landlord at the tavern we went to of the great accident that befell us, who said he never had heard of such a scrape in his life. I was afraid to trust my horse in the chair any more, and so did not know what to do. The landlord said that he had a good horse, very strong, and which would not scare. He observed that if my horse was a good riding horse, he would exchange with me until my return. He said he had to go but to _____’s town between that time and my return and my horse would answer his purpose. I accepted his kind offer, had his horse hitched up, and away we then started and stopped that night at a town called Halifax. We were off next morning bright and early, as we were desirous to reach Sunbury early the next morning in order to be in time for the races which were to come off upon that day in Sunbury.
There was a poor man who lived near to the race ground whose wife had been confined but the night previous. This man had to start down the river with a raft on the morning of the races. He had a little girl five or six years old. The nurse (whom he had left with his wife) arose early and kindled a fire in the kitchen, after which she dressed the little girl, and having occasion to go to a neighbor’s house for milk, left the little girl alone in the kitchen. It being a cold morning, the child (as was supposed) stood too near to the fire for the purpose of warming itself and its apron took fire. The fire then communicated itself to its other clothing which were composed of cotton. She then ran out of the house and the wind caused her clothing to burn faster and drove the blaze with a more violence against her body which was burned (its outside) to a crisp. This caused her death. Most of the people of Sunbury ran to see this distressing sight. There was a collection made upon the race course and about one hundred dollars were raised for the mother.
The next morning I started for home and after passing through Halifax, I met with the father of the little girl that was burned to death. I asked him if he had heard from home and he said he had not. I observed you have not heard then of the sad accident which has happened. No, was his reply and he asked me eagerly what it was. I then told him that his little girl had been burned to death. Upon hearing this, he hung down his head and wept sore. I thought it best to tell him, and seeing that it made such an impression upon him, I felt very unpleasant myself and was glad to part with him and pursue my journey homewards.
When I arrived at the home of my friend, the landlord who had furnished me with a horse, I found he was very pleased with my horse and I, being as well pleased with his, we were induced to knock up a trade and make an exchange of horses for good, which we did. I then started for home very well satisfied indeed. When relating at home my great accident and miraculous escape, I caused quite a surprise.
[Pg. 340] On the 1st of April 1813 I removed my family to Manchester, situated on the turnpike road leading from Baltimore to Carlisle and in Baltimore (now Carrol) county, Maryland. As a second war was raging in this time, every nerve of the friends of Liberty and Independence was braced in noble exertions to give countenance and support to the measures of the general and State’s Governments for defense. The clarion of war had been loudly and voluntarily (although reluctantly) sounded in the declaration of war on the 18th of June 1812. It then behooved the friends of justice, Liberty, free trade and sailors rights to rally around their dearest constitutional freedom and stand ready to repel the invading attacks of a foreign oppressor.
As I have before stated, the war was raging when I removed to Manchester in Maryland and it seemed like old times. There was that to defend and maintain which I had contributed something towards gaining in the dark days of a severe Revolutionary struggle. I felt as though I ought to stand erect once more in defense of a waving Star Spangled Banner, my home and the free institutions of my country. Although considerably above the age of forty-five I hired to play the fife for a recruiting party in the town of Hanover in York county, Pa. At that place I remained until a considerable number of men were enlisted. I played the company off towards Carlisle barracks and then returned to my home at Manchester.
Shortly after my return to Manchester, Captain Hively’s company of Volunteer Riflemen of _____ were called on to go to Baltimore. There were some of the members of this company that were trembling with fear and were willing to give a pretty fair price for substitutes. I engaged to go in the room of a member of the name of Stone Syfert [Stonesifert?]. I would have gone in some capacity or other and I thought that I might as well take his money and go in his place. Syfert was not a fifer, but I being such was immediately called into that service, for which I received an additional sum besides his pay.
All things being in readiness, we marched direct to Baltimore (distant 30 miles) and were then marched down to North Point where we encamped. We were not many days at North Point. There being no call for us there, we were marched back and encamped at Chinquepin Hill. We were not long here however, until we were discharged. We all returned immediately to our homes at and near to Manchester.
We were not very long at home until a call was made upon the militia of Baltimore and other counties in Maryland. This draft caused another great bustle about Manchester and substitutes were again in great demand. This time I engaged for one Andrew Schaeffer a member of Captain Kerlinger’s Company. Schaeffer was not a fifer either, but I was called as before to do duty in the musical department. We received marching orders and again set out for Baltimore. When we arrived at that place we were marched out to Chinquepin Hill where we pitched our tents. We did not lie here very long until we were again discharged and sent home.
The next spring (1814) my second wife died and her decease was immediately followed by the death of one of my children.
After being subjected to these bereavements, I sold off my household goods, purchased a horse and started (intending to go) out to the State of Ohio to make search for my brother Thomas, who I was informed had removed there. My horse becoming lame I was unable to proceed farther than Bloody Run, a few miles below Bedford, Pa. I put up at Moyers’ Hotel. The landlord used me very well and procured pasture for my horse. Finding that on account of the lameness of my horse I would be forced to abandon my design for a time, I set in to work at shoemaking. Here I remained until another “rumpus”—another call was made upon the militia. I immediately “packed kit” and started back to Manchester, Maryland.
Upon my return I found that the troops of Manchester and its neighborhood had already gone down to Baltimore. I mounted my horse immediately and rode down to their camp which was situated above Baltimore and near to the Fall’s Road. I called to see Captain Showers of Dug Hill District. He desired me to come and play the fife for his company, but his not offering me as much pay as I believed myself entitled to, I did not consent to stay. Still, if I had had my clothes with me and my horse at home, I would have staid. Thus circumstanced, I concluded to go home to Manchester and then return again to Baltimore. The troops returned to Manchester before I was able to join them, they having been again discharged soon after I was at camp.
The races at Bladensburg (for so was the retreating called) had commenced, the news of which, the burning of the Capitol, with the call and orders to march, caused a great commotion throughout the county. At Manchester and surrounding neighborhoods there was quite a confusion—a gloom was cast upon the face of society generally.
I again set out for Baltimore and attached myself to Capt. Showers’ company. The militia and volunteer troops were pouring in from all quarters. I had a son in Lancaster whom as I have before stated that I had bound out to learn the tailoring business. He was now free and was among the drafted militia from Lancaster lying at this time at Baltimore. Here he remained until the war ended.
Sometime after peace was established Captain Hook was recruiting in Baltimore and William (my son) enlisted in the regular service. Captain Hook’s company was ordered on to Pensacola, in Florida, and was then attached to Captain Wagers’ company of Light Dragoons.
When William’s time had nearly expired, I received a letter from Captain Wagers which informed me that my son William Dewees for his good conduct as a soldier, would shortly be appointed Ensign of the company. But how short lived are our best hopes and brightest expectations. In a few weeks after receiving Captain Wagers’ first letter containing this cheering intelligence, I received from him a second letter sealed with two black seals which informed me of my son’s death, and that the whole camp was in mourning for him. My readers may now see what myself and family have endured for the liberties and prosperity of our common country.
But to return to my account of military operations on and about Chinquepin Hill and Baltimore. Whist we lay here I had to play for two regiments, and besides doing this, I had to play for some others upon some particular occasions. I had to play the Reveille at the break of day and at sunrise the Long Roll, the signal for them to form ranks and answer to their names. This is called Roll Call. After breakfast I had to play for the beating up of the troop down and up the parade grounds. Then play the guards to their stations, and often the Fatigue Men when marched off to duty. Sometimes I had to play the Piquet Guards out to Bear Creek and sometimes to North Point. Then I (with my drummer) would have to hurry back and play the Long Roll again, a signal to summon the men on parade, preparatory to their going through with their maneuvers or military evolutions which generally consumed an hour or two. At three o’clock in the afternoon I had to play the Long Roll again for the exercising of the men with arms in hand, in learning the manual exercises. Then about sundown I had to play the Retreat, down and up the parade grounds for roll call. At nine o’clock at night I had to play Tattoo, a signal for all to retire at rest.
Sometimes I was sent for to play the Roast Beef for other regiments. At other times I was sent for to play the Rogue’s March. There were few musicians in the militia and among some of the volunteers from different parts of the country that could play many of these tunes. I was almost every hour of the day upon duty.
Whilst at Baltimore, I done double and treble duty and more. The time of the Western Expedition or Whiskey Insurrection, I had a great deal to do in the way of playing the fife, but at Baltimore, I played (at times) more in one day than I ever played in six at any time in all my life previous—Revolutionary War and all. So my readers may judge whether I had good times or bad ones at Baltimore. I can state, however, that it was necessary and was therefore my duty.
The day of the Battle of North Point was a sore day for some poor fellows that stood their ground whilst other cowardly rascals ran off and cleared themselves for home, with all the speed possible for cowards to muster or call to their aid, to assist them in sacrificing honor, country, Liberty and all.
On the night of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, large fires were built by the British in order as was supposed to deceive the Americans. We could distinctly see them whilst they were walking around them. Whilst this was done at the British camp, a large body of troops was dispatched on board of boats with muffled oars to enter the city by the Spring Gardens. The boats were discovered by the commanders of [our] batteries, who ordered a brisk fire to be kept up against them. After the first discharge of cannon, the cries of the British for quarters were loud and piteous indeed. Our brave buckskins had no time to listen to their cries for quarter, but gave it to them hotter and hotter. As a result, the whole detachment consisting of about twelve hundred men were either driven to the bottom, there to find a watery grave, or retreated precipitately by descending the stream. None were captured, and judging from the unprecedented numerous cries for quarters, it is to be supposed and justly that the whole body perished in its wild and hazardous scheme.
[Pg. 345] During the battle, bombardments and skirmishes, our regiments with many others laid in waiting within the entrenchments. These were filled with mud and water almost mid-leg deep, for it rained much of the time and the nights were very dark and foggy. At other times, I could see a good many more company officers as well as more field officers. I did not behold a single officer belonging to the [Maryland?] county troops during those nights of suffering and danger except Major George Timanus. I may do others injustice, but not willingly.
He ministered to our necessities and had it not been for this manly, kind hearted and brave officer, our men would have suffered much more than they did. He came along the entrenchments with baskets containing bread and liquor and ordered the sergeants to give every man to eat and drink. The Major always asked for me.
I recollect that on one occasion, the Major asked for me and was told that my drummer and myself had gotten muskets and were standing in the entrenchments. He then called out, “Dewees! Dewees!” I answered him. Coming along the embankment opposite to where I was, he asked me what I was doing there. I told him we thought we could make music and fight a little too, if it should be necessary. He then bade us to come up on the embankment and take something to eat and something to drink, which I can assure my readers we very willingly did, for a more acceptable thing could not have been then offered to us.
He then asked us to play, “Yankee Doodle.” There was more danger in being up there [on the embankment] than there was perhaps in being down in the entrenchments, but we did not care, and so we went to work and played and beat the Major’s favorite air in our best style which pleased him very much.
There was a very lengthy rope walk near to the entrenchments. This it was thought the British might get behind or into and use as a kind of bulwark which, had they done, they could have annoyed us very much by their fires, and by its aid could have prevented us from playing properly upon them in return. This walk was [set on fire] by orders of the Commanding General at Baltimore. As soon as daylight appeared next morning, there was a great laugh raised among the soldiers in the entrenchments. One would say to another, you look as black as “cuffee”—just like a Negro, and that one would reply and say, “You are as black as the devil yourself.” Properly speaking one could not laugh at another without laughing at himself. It is true we were a dark looking set of fellows.
That we were thus blacked, was owing to the black smoke created by the burning of such great quantities of rope, rosin, tar, pitch, etc., etc. deposited in the rope walk. The very black smoke being swept by the current of air all along the entrenchments alighted upon our faces in its aerial flight and caused the metamorphose as above stated. The burning of this rope walk created a very brilliant light whilst it lasted, and was the occasion (no doubt) of great alarm to many of the inhabitants of the city and surrounding country that beheld it at a distance and knew not the cause. And perhaps it gave accelerated speed to the heels of some great cowards too.
[After the Battle of North Point] the farmers near to the battle ground gathered up two wagon bodies full of dead bodies that had lain scattered and unburied through the woods. These dead soldiers had belonged to both armies. The farmers brought them to camp and laid them upon the ground in the form of a ring. This, I think, was the cause of a good many soldiers deserting the night after. I observed one of the Red Coats that had a face as large as the top of a half bushel. He had been a large bodied man when living, but now, by being so swollen, he was a much larger one.
There were a number of women came to search for husbands, sons and brothers. There was one, as she neared the ring of dead bodies, recognized the body of her husband. She screamed awfully and exclaimed, “My God, there is the body of my dear husband!” His bowels were lying beside his body. Others were recognized by other women as belonging to them in different relations. I cleared myself, for I could not endure the heart-rending cries of the women when in possession of their insupportable grief. Some of these dead bodies may have been taken away by friends and interred in graveyards, but most of them were buried immediately in Potter’s Field that was close to where they had been placed for recognition by their friends.
There were a number of British soldiers that had deserted shortly after the British had first landed who had came and joined the American standard. When the British prisoners captured at or after the Battle of North Point were marched through the American camp, some of the deserters that had enlisted in the American service either spoke to the British prisoners or were recognized by them.
The captured British soldiers commenced to curse and damn the deserters in round terms for traitors, cowards, etc. “Oh you d____d turncoats.” “You treacherous cowards! Let a man always stick to his country.” “Let a man be a man and not turn against his country and fellow soldiers and act the d____d coward and traitor,” etc., etc.
Here I must relate a circumstance or two of rather a humorous cast that transpired one evening when we were occupying the entrenchments. The whole of the men were made to go through their exercises of sham-firing. This was to drill them and prepare them for receiving the British in their attack which was hourly expected.
There was one company whose Captain was really sick, (some officers only feigned to be so) and had been for a week previous. In the absence of the Captain, the Lieutenant had the command but was so terribly scared that he could not give the word of command. I believe he tried to do so but could not be heard by the men. One part to be performed was to step up out of the entrenchments and go through with the motion of firing.
Seeing such a coward, and also that the men were in a very awkward situation, I stepped up and said to the men, “I will give you the word of command.” The proffer was very readily accepted by the company. The arrangement was that the front rank of each company was to advance, step up out of the entrenchment, and from behind breastwork, go through the motions of firing. This done, the rear rank was then to advance and do likewise whilst the front rank should retire to reload. This maneuvering was performed in a sham way but for the purposed of perfecting the men in the art of firing.
The company in accordance with my orders had performed thus (the front and rear ranks) alternately for some time, when Major Timanus, who was passing along the line at the time, called out, “Dewees, what are you doing here? Is there no officer here to command this company?” I answered, “Yes, there is one,” pointing at the same time to the Lieutenant, “but he cannot speak. He is almost scared to death.”
“D___n him!” said Timanus. Then brandishing his sword said, “I have a notion to cut off his cowardly head.” “No,” said I, “I know that if the British comes, he will run. But never mind, I have a good pistol in my belt and it has a good bullet and three buckshot in it. I shall watch him and as soon as he offers to run, I shall shoot him in his rear.” “No,” said Timanus. “D___n him. Shoot him in the head, for cowards that won’t stand for their country in the time of her greatest danger ought to be shot down as dead as bullocks.”
I am not to be understood as giving this as the Major’s precise language, but it was tantamount thereto; language that was responded to by most or all of the members of the company. My readers may judge of the pusillanimous “thing” (for I cannot call him a soldier) when I state that he stood like a marble statue and never opened his mouth to the Major or myself, either to applaud or excuse his own cowardly conduct. This fellow I had known for some little time previous, and he was a bold, boisterous, bragging fellow among his men when immediate danger did not threaten us. He was always bragging, boasting and brave, or at least wanted others to esteem him as such.
A piquet guard had been chosen a few days before in the morning, and in the course of the afternoon was ordered to march down near to the mouth of ______ Creek. Syfert (drummer) and myself were detached from our company to play them towards the place of their destination, ceasing to beat, however, after being distant from the camp a mile or two.
A Captain whose name I do not now recollect, but who was a gentlemanly officer, a soldier, and a brave one too, was the commander of the piquet guard upon that occasion. This officer understood his duty well, for I had a perfect knowledge of what an officer’s duty was, or should be upon such occasions. Knowing this, I am the better able to make this acknowledgment for the Captain. When this guard was chosen, the Lieutenant I have alluded to was appointed to bear a part in planting it as a piquet.
We commenced our march downwards and arrived at a farm house near to the river and to where the piquets were to be planted. The inmates of the family were extremely glad to see us arrive and gave us a hearty welcome. The man of the house was a farmer and was quite patriotic in spirit, kind and clever. He told the women of his family to put on their kettles and to bring some of the best of their hams and boil them quickly and prepare victuals for us. He then sent off some of his Negroes immediately for a keg of grog. Some of the farmers of the present day, were they similarly circumstanced, would either choose to be caught with a sheep upon their backs each, or let the British in, rather than go to the same expense, or do the same “abominable act” as many of them would no doubt call it.
In good season, he gave us both to eat and to drink and then bestowed upon us the liberty of his house to billet in. After we had refreshed ourselves, the Captain marched off with half of our number in silence and planted it as a piquet guard. The Lieutenant remained with us at the house with orders to march the other half off at midnight to relieve the piquets which the Captain had set.
When twelve o’clock arrived, Syfert, my drummer, came to me where I was lying asleep upon a bench in front of the house and awoke me. He told me that the Lieutenant had ordered him to bring me and for us then to beat up the Long Roll. I said, “My God, why would he ask us to do such a thing as this?” I told him to tell the Lieutenant that I would not do any such thing and forbid him (Syfert), upon the peril of his life, to beat it.
The Lieutenant then came himself and ordered me to play for Syfert. I told him plainly that I would not, stating at the same time that his duty was to form his men in silence and for none to speak above their breath by the way. He insisted on me to play the fife and I persisted in saying that I would not, and that Syfert should not use a drumstick upon his drum. He then formed his men and went and brought a lighted candle and a fire brand; this was to relight the candle with, in case it should go out. The candle he handed to Syfert and the fire chunk he offered to me, but I refused to take it from him. I told him he should take neither candle nor a fire chunk with him, but he persisted in doing so, saying that it was too dark to go without a light. I told him I would not carry it; he said I should do it. I at length took the fire chunk and we then started.
We had not gone but a few yards until I stuck the chunk of fire its whole length down into a mud hole and left it there. I then blew out the candle which was in the hands of Syfert. The Lieutenant stopped immediately, called a halt and asked me where my fire chunk was. I told him plainly that I had stuck it into a mud hole and that he should not have any light at all. For that if there were British anywhere about, they could see a light a great way off and that if they would behold our light, they would at once dispatch a detachment to surprise and capture us. I told him again that it was his duty to march his men off to their posts and plant them with the greatest caution and in the greatest silence.
Whilst I was lecturing him thus in the dark, the Captain who had seen the light, came running as hard as he could to meet us. He exclaimed, “In the name of God, why have you a light here?” I told him that there had been both a light and a chunk of fire but that I had stuck the chunk into a mud hole and had blown out the light. The captain was much pleased with me for what I had done and stood behind my every act and justified them. I told him of the Lieutenant’s wanting us to beat the British in “index” tune, in order that they might know exactly our where and whereabouts and come and take us prisoners. This (my refusal) he justified also in a manly and soldierly manner. He was much displeased with the Lieutenant for his cowardly and imprudent conduct.
The Captain then lead us down and relieved the piquet guard upon duty by planting his men in their stead, and then returned with us and his relieved portion of the guard to the farmhouse. He left the Lieutenant (who had little or nothing to do) to hide himself and tremble until daylight.
On our return to the house, I found myself very weary and sleepy. I looked around for some place to lie down, or rather for something to lie upon. I found a kind of a pallet in the kitchen which belonged to one of the wenches. On this I laid me down, and in a very few minutes fell fast asleep and slept soundly till the morning.
As soon as it was day, the piquet guard was brought off and very soon after, we marched for camp again, not making any music until arriving well on towards our encampment. When we had gotten far enough from the house where we had billetted, we then cheered our cowardly and “all-scared” Lieutenant’s spirits (for certainly they needed cheering), by a “Row, row, dow, did, dee, diddee, dow, dow, dow” in our own style of performing
It was said by some of our men in the morning that when on piquet guard the past night, they had heard distinctly the muffled oars of the British barge-men in the passage over the river in the night. Piquet guards were always chosen after roll call in the morning, and were under the control of the Officer of the Grand Rounds or Officer of the Day. I frequently assisted in playing the piquet guards out some distance from the camp and in again, but never was called on to accompany them to that far point of their destination again.
I recollect of a very humorous incident occurring with one of the guard whilst we laid at Baltimore. One night two or three officers were going the Grand Rounds in order to try the guards. A young man, a Dutchman, was one of the guard and he had been told by the Sergeant of the relief guard, and perhaps by some of the soldiers on guard duty with him, that he being young and inexperienced, must take good care or that those coming in the night would coax or force him out of his musket and would take it away from him.
During the night when he heard the officers approach, who were going the Grand Rounds, he ran to a kind of a ditch that was nearby and hid his musket. Upon their near approach, he hailed them with “Who comes there?” They answered, “Grand Rounds,” and advanced and gave the countersign. The officers asked him what he had done with his musket. “Ah,” said he, “youz neet nod dink dil kits myne muzgit. I hiz hit mine muzgit.”
The officers could not think what to make of the fellow and his conduct, for his language was strange, truly. They called for the Sergeant of the guard and the poor fellow was then put under guard for his offense. His determination and conduct, although strange, was begotten by a good motive, that of not suffering his musket to be taken away from him. Not like the Lieutenant, full of cowardice and no care as to what his duty was, he wanted to do his duty, and thought that he was doing it most faithfully when hiding his musket. He was, however, often afterwards the subject of much sport at the hands of the soldiers who knew him, for they would often plague him when they met him with the expression, “Youz neet nod dink dil kits myne muzgit,” etc.
I obtained liberty at one time to go into Baltimore. I met with some companions who with myself stopped at Merkle’s Hotel. We all got a little tipsy and returned to camp about four o’clock in the afternoon. Believing that I would be put under arrest, I thought I would take the “whip hand” of my officers and save myself from being escorted to the guard house. When I went to the guard house to surrender myself, the sergeant of the guard would not receive me, but watching my opportunity I “slipped” in and sat down.
I was not very long there until Major Timanus came and asked me what I was doing there. I told him. He then asked me to go to my tent with him. I told him I would not and that I should remain where I was. He coaxed me to go and I started with him. He took me to my tent and told me to lie down on my nice little bed that was waiting for me. I then laid me down, but after he went away, I got up and went out again. The Major came after me a second time, and then took me to his marquee and made me lie down there, which I did, and my spree ended therewith.
One day previous to the landing of the British at North Point, the commanding officers at Baltimore took it into their heads (which was all right) to fire alarm guns (cannon) on Federal Hill. Upon hearing the first gun, Syfert, my drummer, and myself got in readiness. The second was fired and caused a terrible splutter among some of the soldiers in the different camps and among (I may state) cowardly officers too. A soldier belonging to the company to which I was attached, came running and enquiring “Where is my tent?” “Where is my tent?” He was so scared as not to be able to recognize his where and whereabouts.
I told my Drum Major, Syfert, who was not very well experienced in camp matters that if the third gun should not be fired, there would be no danger to be apprehended; but still, for him to hold himself in readiness to follow me instantly in beating To Arms, To Arms, should the third gun be fired. In this instance not very far from where I was, there were drummers and fifers that would have beat any other tunes than the proper one, and some officers would have had this done, had I not pointed out to them the duty of musicians upon such occasions.
During our stay at Chinquepin Hill, I was sent for from another camp. I immediately repaired thither and found that the officers wanted me to play the Rogue’s March after a soldier.
The soldiers of that camp were ordered to form a ring, which they did. There were three prisoners then brought out of the guard house and conducted into the ring. The sentence of one was read, a soldier pretty well advanced in years. He was told that his punishment was death by the law, but that as he was up in years, he would be dealt with in a lenient manner—that he was forgiven and therefore restored to his station in his company. He thanked the officers for the merciful manner in which he had been dealt with and then left the ring to go to his quarters.
The sentence of a second was read. He was a little fellow and then a soldier, but was habited in a sailor’s wide pantaloons and roundabout. He sentence had been death by the law too, but had been changed to that of having to receive five cobbs upon his buttocks. This sentence he appeared quite satisfied with, for he expected to receive a far greater punishment, if not death itself.
One of the corporals or one of the musicians observed that a barrel must be brought to lay him across in order that he might be properly cobbed. General Stansbury observed, “O! I suppose he can stoop down long enough to receive that number of cobbs.” “O yes Sir, yes, Sir, yes Sir!” said the sailor. “You need not trouble yourselves to go for a barrel for I can stoop down that long.” The drummer to whom this duty was assigned was of the name of Blufford, and beat the drum for a company from somewhere about Reisterstown in Baltimore county. But not being much of a drummer, his knowledge of these matters was very limited.
The cobbing board (a kind of paddle such as boys use in playing cat ball at school, made out of a piece of thick oak, but perforated with holes) was placed in his hands. He then stepped up to a drummer belonging to one of the Baltimore companies and asked him, “How shall I strike him? Hard or light?” The Baltimore drummer replied, “You must strike him as hard as you can, for it you don’t, you will play the devil with yourself.” Blufford was left-handed and when the little sailor stooped down to receive his five cobbs, he struck him with all his might and knocked the little fellow from off his feet and forward some distance and on his head. This threw him almost upon his back by way of a summerset. The little fellow soon regained his feet and, scratching the part affected, with a very rueful and expressive countenance, exclaimed, “D____n my eyes!” “Come, come,” said General Stansbury, “No swearing, no swearing.” The General then turned himself to Blufford and said, “Drummer, don’t strike him so hard.” Blufford then gave him the other four much lighter. This done, the little sailor was then told that he was at liberty and was restored to his station in his company, so he moved off, laughing heartily among hearty laughers, for the execution of his sentence had created great laughing among the soldiers.
The sentence of the third prisoner was then read to him. He was then informed that his sentence was death by the law too, but that it had been commuted to that he was to ride the wooden horse for fifteen minutes, whilst it would be borne upon the shoulders of two stout men. In addition a musket would be tied to each foot and then he be drummed off and away from the camp with the Rogue’s March beat after him. The crime he had committed was of the same kind of the little sailor’s with this difference. The little sailor had taken the bounty twice, but he I think had taken it three times.
Muskets were then fastened, one to each foot, and he was then placed on the wooden horse or rail which was very sharp edged indeed. Two stout soldiers then hoisted the rail with the prisoner upon it to their shoulders and moved along with him. He was not more than cleverly up until he began to quake like to an aspen leaf. General Stansbury who was a very kind and mercifully disposed man, observed to his brother officers that it was “too hard,” and cried out (when he had not sat more than four minutes on his wooden horse), “Let him down. Let him down.” They did so.
We were then ordered to beat up the Rogue’s March, but the little sailor’s cobbing match had so affected my risible [causing laughter] organs, and so completely stored me with laughing propensities, that it was some time before I could commence to play. The word “forward” was given and we moved off, our rail rider ahead of us and guarded by a file or two of soldiers. The little sailor popping afresh into my mind frequently as we marched along, I would as frequently make a balk through a rising laugh and it was with the greatest difficulty that I could restrain myself.
We marched out to the extreme of Chinquepin Hill and sent him off with three cheers and three rolls of the drum. He then gave us (as was usual on occasions of the kind) a parting blessing and a polite farewell.
Soon after this we were all discharged and sent home. This last expedition to Baltimore, I suppose, put an end forever to my soldiering upon this earth.
On my return from Baltimore, I kept my home in Manchester. After sometime I married my third wife whose maiden name was Susan Stevor. This wife brought me two children, a son and a daughter, whose names are Andrew and Mary. They are still living.
My third wife Susan has been deceased about twenty-four years. About five years after her decease, I married my fourth (present) wife. Her maiden name was Julian Fowble, but when I married her, her name was Julian Kelly. She was then a widow with one child. This wife I obtained within a few miles of Manchester.
With this wife I now reside in the neighborhood of Hampstead, and distant about two miles therefrom. Hampstead lies on the Turnpike road leading from Baltimore to Carlisle and is distant from Baltimore twenty-six miles.
I have two wives, two fathers-in-law, two mothers-in-law, one child, one grandchild and a great many of my three wives’ relations lying in the graveyard at Manchester. I expect that ere long myself and my fourth wife will be laid in the same burying grounds, and pray a Merciful God, that we may all rise at the last day, to Life everlasting, and to the Praise of the Eternal God, the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
* * *
[Two years afterwards]
OBITUARY OF CAPTAIN SAMUEL DEWEES
Carroll County Democrat, Westminster, Md. August 13, 1846
Another Revolutionary Soldier Gone
Departed this life, at his residence near Hampstead, Carroll County, Md., on Thursday evening last, the 6th inst., Capt. Samuel Dewees, a soldier of the American Revolution, aged about 86 years. He was born near Reading, Berks County, Pa., about the year 1760. His father's name was Samuel Dewees; and he was the fourth child in a family of six children.
His father entered the service of his country early in the Revolution, and was dangerously wounded and taken prisoner by the British, at the capture of Fort Washington. He was confined for some time, previous to his discharge on parole, in a British Prison ship, where he was faithfully attended by his wife, the mother of Capt. Dewees. She died, shortly after their release, from disease contracted in the loathsome Prison Ship.
The father of Capt. Dewees, not being permitted to enter active service whilst on parole, was engaged as a recruiting officer. In this capacity he enlisted three of his sons, including the subject of this notice, who was the youngest of the three. He was then about 15 years old, and was regularly entered as a Fifer.
This was some months previous to the battle of Brandywine, which occurred September 11th, 1777. He witnessed that battle, being engaged with his father in taking care of the wounded at the Brandywine Meeting House, in the immediate vicinity of the battle ground. He remained with the army throughout the war, and witnessed many of the stirring scenes of that trying and eventful time. He was present at the execution of Major Andre, and played the "dead march" on that occasion.
After the war he was elected Captain of a volunteer company in Berks county, Pa. He was engaged also in an expedition against the Indians in the interior of Pennsylvania—also in the expedition to suppress the "Whiskey Insurrection." At the breaking out of the last war he resided at Manchester, now in this county; and though over age, volunteered for the defense of Baltimore, when assailed by the British and acted as Fife Major of his regiment.
He was ever ready at the call of his country and took peculiar pride in celebrating the anniversary of American Independence. On the last 4th of July he attended the celebration at Manchester on horse back; and few thought, from his appearance, that it would be his last. But he is now gone; and no longer will stand among his friends and neighbors, as a relic of the Revolution. He will be long remembered for his strict integrity, and many excellent qualities.
The history of his life and services, was published in 1844 but, instead of being a solace to him in his old age, it involved him in pecuniary and other troubles which perplexed him greatly. With this exception he went down to the grave in peace honored by all that knew him. For many years he received a pension from the United States, and also one from Pennsylvania, for his Revolutionary services.
Some years ago he attached himself to the Lutheran Church, at Manchester, and there is reason to believe that his last moments were tranquilized by the sweet consolations of Religion. His remains were deposited at the church yard in Manchester on Saturday last, with the honors of war, by the "Manchester Infantry" under Capt. J. Shower. An eloquent and highly appropriate funeral discourse was delivered on the occasion by the Rev. Mr. Schwartz of Manchester. May he rest in peace.
Fifer of the Revolution
Extracted and re-titled by Vee L. Housman from the book:
A HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF CAPTAIN SAMUEL DEWEES,
A NATIVE OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND SOLDIER OF THE REVOLUTIONARY AND LAST WARS,
ALSO, REMINISCENCES OF THE REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE
(Indian War, Western Expedition, Liberty Insurrection in Northampton County, Pa.) and Late War with Great Britain.
IN ALL OF WHICH HE WAS PATRIOTICALLY ENGAGED.
The whole written (in part from manuscript in the hand writing of Captain Dewees,) and compiled
BY JOHN SMITH HANNA Embellished with a lithographic likeness of Captain Dewees, and with eight wood-cut engravings, illustrative of portions of the work.
Joy there is in contemplating noble worth,
Worth often neglected and despised,
Worth that oft in hours dark stood forth,
As thunderbolts of war—yea eagle eyed.
BALTIMORE: Printed by Robert Neilson, No. 6, South Charles Street
1844 Entered according to the Act of Congress in the Year 1843, by Captain Samuel Dewees, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court, Maryland
CAPT. SAML. DEWEES
Lith of Ed Weber & Co., Baltimore
(Copy of the photograph always kept in the family Bible of Thomas DeWees
Copy made June 1961. The same picture is on the Frontispiece of the book"