Of the Capture of Ticonderoga: His Captivity and Treatment by the British by Allen, Ethan
OF THE CAPTURE OF TICONDEROGA
His Captivity and Treatment by the British
By Ethan Allen
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.
FIFTH EDITION, WITH NOTES
No apology need be offered for presenting a new Edition of the following Narrative, of one of the most remarkable men of the age in which he lived. It is given in the plain language of its self-educated author, without any alteration. The Senior publisher has been intimately acquainted with his widow, who died about ten years since, and has been assured by her that this narrative is printed as he wrote it without alteration; and, that it shows more of his true character, than all else ever written of him.
Little is known of the life of Col. Allen, but what is found in Biographical Dictionaries, Spark's American Biography, and his Memoirs written by Mr. Moore, from whose introduction the following just tribute to his memory is copied:
"Perhaps no individual, of equal advantages, and the station he occupied in life, contributed more towards establishing the independence of our country, than Ethan Allen, the subject of this memoir. The mass of the people among whom he resided, were rude and uncultivated; yet bold in spirit and zealous in action. It consequently followed, that no one, save a man of strong natural endowments--of much decision, energy and bravery, could control their prejudices and inclinations. Habit had rendered them familiar with danger, and impatient of restraint; hence, it followed, that no policy, unless proceeding from a source in which they had confidence, ever gained their approbation. Upon Allen, whose courage was undoubted, and whose zealous devotion to their interests was universally acknowledged, they implicitly relied. They had known him in adversity and prosperity--they had weighed him, and found nothing lacking. To friend or foe, he was ever the same unyielding advocate of the rights of man, and universal liberty. The policy, therefore he upheld, as beneficial to the common cause of American liberty, ever found strong and efficient supporters in the friends with whom he associated, and by whom he was known.
"From the commencement of our Revolutionary struggle, until its final close, Ethan Allen proved a zealous and strenuous supporter of the cause. Whether in the field or the council--whether at home, a freeman among the mountains of Vermont, or loaded with the manacles of despotism, in a foreign country, his spirit never quailed beneath the sneer of the tory, or the harsh threats of insolent authority. A stranger to fear, his opinions were ever given without disguise or hesitation: and, an enemy to oppression, he sought every opportunity to redress the wrongs of the oppressed. It is not to be supposed, however, that he was faultless. Like other men, he had his errors--like other men, his foibles. Yet he was not wilfully stubborn in either. When convinced of an erroneous position, he was ever willing to yield a victory; but, in theory, as in practice, he contested every inch of ground; and only yielded when he had no weapons left to meet his antagonist. This trait in his character serves, at least, to prove, that he was honest in his conclusions, however erroneous the premises from which they were deduced.
"Much error of opinion prevails among all classes of individuals, at the present period, in relation to the character of Col. Allen. He is generally viewed as a coarse, ignorant man, void of all the social feelings, and arrogant in all his pretensions. Even Mr. Dwight, in his "Travels in New England," reports him in this light; and deems him only worthy a brief and unjust notice in his work. In what manner Mr. Dwight came in possession of the facts upon which he predicated his conclusions, is beyond the knowledge of the author of this Memoir: but, certain it is, he has materially misrepresented the moral principles, and in fact, the general character of Col. Allen. It is presumed, however, that Mr. Dwight, like many other travelers, drew his inferences from the gossip of the people among whom he associated, without being at the trouble of extending his inquiries to a source from whence he might have derived every material fact in relation to the subject. In making this suggestion, the author would not be understood as attaching any particular blame to Mr. Dwight; but merely as correcting an _error of opinion_ which is quite too prevalent in our country."
Burlington, Vt. Aug. 1st, 1848
PUBLISHED IN 1807.
In announcing the publication of this little, simple, true, and unvarnished _narrative_, the publishers have complied with the wishes of a number of persons, who had a desire to keep in remembrance the hero of Ticonderoga, and the exploits he performed. It is believed that there is not a copy for sale in any bookstore in the United States; and the style of printing, at the time of its first appearance, which is now near thirty years since, was in so unimproved a condition, that it has never been seen but in the shabby dress of a large and ragged pamphlet. The events of those "troublous times" in which Col. Allen took a conspicuous part, are rendered doubly interesting from the lively, unadorned manner of his own narration. The high compliments which he pays to the prowess, uniform perseverance and resolution, manifested by the "Green Mountain Boys" of his native State, will no doubt be an inducement to them, and to his countrymen generally, to read and preserve this monument of him, and, as they con the pages of this "little book" which he has "left them," to imitate the coolness and courage of the deceased veteran.
The sufferings and cruelties borne by him and his fellow soldiers, frequently draw from him in the course of his _narrative_, a language the most severe, with respect to a country from whom we originated, with whom we are now at peace, and with whom it is our policy to continue on a friendly footing; but the candid and the feeling mind should make great allowance for the unparalleled situation of our affairs, for the sufferings of his handful of little "_Spartans_," for whom he felt a father's and a brother's affection. These circumstances must have given a deep coloring to the pencil which was portraying his own and his country's wrongs. On the whole, we think this little tract may be re-perused, with advantage and pleasure, by the aged, and read with much edification and entertainment by the young. As it is deemed that the very words, in every respect made use of by the Colonel, would be more acceptable to the reader, than any artificial decoration of style we shall invariably adhere to the original.
Induced by a sense of duty to my country, and by the application of many of my worthy friends, some of whom are of the first characters, I have concluded to publish the following narrative of the extraordinary scenes of my captivity, and the discoveries which I made in the course of the same, of the cruel and relentless disposition and the behaviour of the enemy, towards the prisoners in their power; from which the state politician, and every gradation of character among the people, to the worthy tiller of the soil, may deduce such inferences as they shall think proper to carry into practice. Some men are appointed into office, in these States, who read the history of the cruelties of this war, with the same careless indifference, as they do the pages of the Roman history; nay, some are preferred to places of trust and profit by the tory influence. The instances are (I hope) but rare, and it stands all freemen in hand to prevent their further influence, which, of all other things, would be the most baneful to the liberties and happiness of this country; and, so far as such influence takes place, robs us of the victory we have obtained at the expense of so much blood and treasure.
I should have exhibited to the public a history of the facts herein contained, soon after my exchange, had not the urgency of my private affairs, together with more urgent public business, demanded my attention, till a few weeks before the date hereof. The reader will readily discern, that a Narrative of this sort could not have been written when I was a prisoner. My trunk and writings were often searched under various pretences; so that I never wrote a syllable, or made even a rough minute whereon I might predicate this narration, but trusted solely to my memory for the whole. I have, however, taken the greatest care and pains to recollect the facts and arrange them; but as they touch a variety of characters and opposite interests, I am sensible that all will not be pleased with the relation of them. Be this as it will, I have made truth my invariable guide, and stake my honor on the truth of the facts. I have been very generous with the British in giving them full and ample credit for all their good usage, of any considerable consequence, which I met with among them, during my captivity; which was easily done, as I met with but little, in comparison of the bad, which, by reason of the great plurality of it, could not be contained in so concise a narrative; so that I am certain that I have more fully enumerated the favors which I received, than the abuses I suffered. The critic will be pleased to excuse any inaccuracies in the performance itself, as the author has unfortunately missed of a liberal education.
Bennington, March 25, 1779.
Ever since I arrived at the state of manhood, and acquainted myself with the general history of mankind, I have felt a sincere passion for liberty. The history of nations, doomed to perpetual slavery, in consequence of yielding up to tyrants their natural-born liberties, I read with a sort of philosophical horror; so that the first systematical and bloody attempt at Lexington, to enslave America, thoroughly electrified my mind, and fully determined me to take part with my country. And, while I was wishing for an opportunity to signalize myself in its behalf, directions were privately sent to me from the then colony, (now state) of Connecticut, to raise the Green Mountain Boys, and, if possible, to surprise and take the fortress of Ticonderoga. This enterprise I cheerfully undertook; and, after first guarding all the several passes that led thither, to cut off all intelligence between the garrison and the country, made a forced march from Bennington, and arrived at the lake opposite to Ticonderoga, on the evening of the ninth day of May, 1775, with two hundred and thirty valiant Green Mountain Boys; and it was with the utmost difficulty that I procured boats to cross the lake. However, I landed eighty-three men near the garrison, and sent their boats back for the rear guard, commanded by Col. Seth Warner, but the day began to dawn, and I found myself under a necessity to attack the fort, before the 'Ticonderoga Fort' is thus described in the American Encyclopedia:--Ticonderoga; a post-town of Essex county, New York, on the west side of the south end of Lake Champlain, and at the north end of lake George; twelve miles south of Crown Point, ninety-five north of Albany; population in 1820, 1493. There is a valuable iron mine in this township.--Ticonderoga Fort, famous in the history of the American wars, is situated on an eminence, on the west side of lake Champlain, just north of the entrance of the outlet from lake George into lake Champlain, fifteen miles south of Crown Point, twenty-four north of Whitehall; lon. 73 deg. 27! W.; lat. 43. deg. 30!. N. It is now in ruins. Considerable remains of the fortifications are still to be seen. The stone walls of the fort, which are now standing, are in some places, thirty feet high. Mount Defiance lies about a mile south of the fort, and Mount Independence is about half a mile distant, on the opposite side of the lake, in Orwell, Vermont.
It was built by the French, in the year 1756, and had all the advantages that art and nature could give it; being defended on three sides by water, surrounded by rocks, and where that fails, the French erected a breastwork nine feet high. The English and Colonial troops, under General Abercrombie were defeated here in the year 1758, but it was taken in the year following by General Amherst. It was surprised by Colonels Allen and Arnold, May 10, 1775. Was retaken by General Burgoyne in July, 1777, and was evacuated after his surrender, the garrison returning to St. Johns.
The rear could cross the lake; and, as it was viewed hazardous, I harrangued the officers and soldiers in the manner following:
"Friends and fellow soldiers, You have, for a number of years past been a scourge and terror to arbitrary power. Your valor has been famed abroad, and acknowledged, as appears by the advice and orders to me, from the General Assembly of Connecticut, to surprise and take the garrision now before us. I now propose to advance before you, and in person, conduct you through the wicket-gate; for we must this morning either quit our pretensions to valor, or possess ourselves of this fortress in a few minutes; and, inasmuch as it is a desperate attempt, which none but the bravest of men dare undertake, I do not urge it on any contrary to his will. You that will undertake voluntarily, poise your firelocks."
The men being, at this time, drawn up in three ranks, each poised his firelock. I ordered them to face to the right, and at the head of the centre-file, marched them immediately to the wicket-gate aforesaid, where I found a sentry posted, who instantly snapped his fusee at me; I ran immediately towards him, and he retreated through the covered way into the parade within the garrison, gave a halloo, and ran under a bombproof. My party, who followed me into the fort, I formed on the parade in such a manner as to face the two barracks which faced each other.
The garrison being asleep, except the sentries, we gave three huzzas which greatly surprised them. One of the sentries made a pass at one of my officers with a charged bayonet, and slightly wounded him: My first thought was to kill him with my sword; but in an instant, I altered the design and fury of the blow to a slight cut on the side of the head; upon which he dropped his gun, and asked quarter, which I readily granted him, and demanded of him the place where the commanding officer kept; he shewed me a pair of stairs in the front of a barrack, on the west part of the garrison, which led up a second story in said barrack, to which I immediately repaired, and ordered the commander, Capt. De La Place, to come forth instantly, or I would sacrifice the whole garrison at which the Capt. came immediately to the door with his breeches in his hand; when I ordered him to deliver me the fort instantly; he asked me by what authority I demanded it; I answered him "_In the name of the great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress._"* The authority of the Congress being very little known at that time, he began to speak again; but I interrupted him, and with my drawn sword over his head, again demanded an immediate surrender of the garrison; with which he then complied, and ordered his men to be forthwith paraded without arms, as he had given up the garrison. In the mean time some of my officers had given orders, and in consequence thereof, sundry of the barrack doors were beat down, and about one third of the garrison imprisoned, which consisted of the said commander, a Lieut. Feltham, a conductor of artillery, a gunner, two sergeants, and forty-four rank and file; about one hundred pieces of cannon, one thirteen inch mortar, and a number of swivels. This surprise was carried into execution in the grey of the morning of the tenth day of May, 1775. The sun seemed to rise that morning with a superior lustre; and Ticonderoga and its dependencies smiled on its conquerors, who tossed about the flowing bowl, and wished success to Congress, and the liberty and freedom of America. Happy it was for me, at that time, that the then future pages of the book of fate, which afterwards unfolded a miserable scene of two years and eight months imprisonment, were hid from my view.
* If the Colonel has expressed a little of his usual severity in this place, he might have remarked also, that neither of the authorities he mentioned were much known in a British camp.
But to return to my narration: Col. Warner, with the rear guard, crossed the lake, and joined me early in the morning, whom I sent off, without loss of time, with about one hundred men, to take possession of Crown Point, which was garrisoned with a sergeant and twelve men 5 which he took possession of the same day, as also upwards of one hundred pieces of cannon. But one thing now remained to be done, to make ourselves complete masters of lake Champlain; this was to possess ourselves of a sloop of war, which was then lying at St. Johns; to effect which, it was agreed in a council of war, to arm and man out a certain schooner, which lay at South Bay, and that Capt. (now general) Arnold* should command her, and that I should command the batteaux. The necessary preparations being made, we set sail from Ticonderoga, in quest of the sloop, which was much larger, and carried more guns and heavier metal than the schooner. General Arnold, with the schooner, sailing faster than the batteaux, arrived at St. Johns; and by surprise possessed himself of the sloop, before I could arrive with the batteaux; he also made prisoners of a sergeant and twelve men, who were garrisoned at that place.
* This name, which now calls to mind the idea of treason, at every mention of it, is "damned to everlasting fame." His early history, with his conduct during the revolution, is probably familiar to every school hoy. His subsequent life is thus described by Dr. Allen, in his American Biographical Dictionary.
"From the conclusion of the war to his death, Gen. Arnold resided chiefly in England. In 1786 he was at St. Johns, New Brunswick, engaged in trade and navigation, and again in 1790. For some cause he became very unpopular; in 1792 or 1793, was hung in effigy, and the mayor found it necessary to read the riot act, and a company of troops was called out to quell the mob. Repairing to the West Indies in 1794, a French fleet anchored at the same island; he became alarmed least he should be detained by the American Allies, and passed the fleet concealed on a raft of lumber. He died in Gloucester place, London, June 14, 1801. He married Margaret, the daughter of Edward Shippen of Philadelphia, chief justice, and a loyalist. General Greene, it is said, was his rival. She combined fascinating manners with strength of mind. She died at London, August 24, 1804, aged 43. His sons were men of property in Canada in 1829.--His character presents little to be commended. His daring courage may indeed excite admiration; but it was a courage without reflection and without principle. He fought bravely for his country and he bled in her cause; but his country owed him no returns of gratitude, for his subsequent conduct proved, that he had no honest regard to her interests, but was governed by selfish considerations. His progress from self-indulgence to treason was easy and rapid. He was vain and luxurious, and to gratify his giddy desires he must resort to meanness, dishonesty, and extortion. These vices brought with them disgrace; and the contempt, into which he fell, awakened a spirit of revenge, and left him to the unrestrained influence of his cupidity and passion. Thus from the high fame, to which his bravery had elevated him, he descended into infamy. Thus too he furnished new evidence of the infatuation of the human mind in attaching such value to the reputation of a soldier, which may be obtained, while the heart is unsound and every moral sentiment is entirely depraved."
It is worthy of remark that as soon as General Arnold had secured the prisoners on board, and had made preparations for sailing, the wind, which but a few hours before was fresh in the south, and well served to carry us to St. Johns, now shifted, and came fresh from the north; and in about one hour's time, General Arnold sailed with the prize and schooner for Ticonderoga. When I met him with my party, within a few miles of St. Johns, he saluted me with a discharge of cannon, which I returned with a volley of small arms. This being repeated three times, I went on board the sloop with my party, where several loyal Congress healths were drank.
We were now masters of lake Champlain, and the garrison depending thereon. This success I viewed of consequence in the scale of American politics; for, if a settlement between the then colonies and Great Britain, had soon taken place, it would have been easy to have restored these acquisitions; but viewing the then future consequences of a cruel war, as it has really proved to be, and the command of that lake, garrisons, artillery, &c., it must be viewed to be of signal importance to the American cause, and it is marvellous to me that we ever lost the command of it. Nothing but taking a Burgoyne with a whole British army, could, in my opinion, atone for it; and notwithstanding such an extraordinary victory, we must be obliged to regain the command of that lake again, be the cost what it will; by doing this Canada will easily be brought into union and confederacy with the United States of America. Such an event would put it out of the power of the western tribes of Indians to carry on a war with us, and be a solid and durable bar against any further inhuman barbarities committed on our frontier inhabitants, by cruel and bloodthirsty savages; for it is impossible for them to carry on a war, except they are supported by the trade and commerce of some civilized nation; which to them would be impracticable, did Canada compose a part of the American empire.
Early in the fall of the year, the little army under the command of Generals Schuyler and Montgomery, were ordered to advance into Canada. I was at Ticonderoga when this order arrived; and the Generals, with most of the field officers, requested me to attend them in the expedition; and, though at that time I had no commission from Congress, yet they engaged me, that I should be considered as an officer, the same as though I had a commission; and should, as occasion might require, command certain detachments of the army. This I considered as an honorable offer, and did not hesitate to comply with it, and advanced with the army to Isle-aux-Noix;* from whence I was ordered by the General, to go in company with Major Brown, and certain interpreters, through the woods into Canada, with letters to the Canadians, and to let them know that the design of the army was only against the English garrisons, and not the country, their liberties or religion; and having, through much danger, negotiated this business, I returned to the Isle-aux-Noix in the fore part of September, when Gen. Schuyler returned to Albany; and in consequence the command devolved upon Gen. Montgomery, whom I assisted in laying a line of circumvallation round the fortress of St. Johns.** After which I was ordered by the General, to make a second tour into Canada, upon nearly the same design as before; and withal to observe the disposition, designs and movements of the inhabitants of the country. This reconnoiter I undertook reluctantly, choosing rather to assist at the siege of St. Johns, which was then closely invested; but my esteem for the general's person, and opinion of him as a politician and brave officer, induced me to proceed.
I passed through all the parishes on the river Sorel,*** to a parish at the mouth of the same, which is called by the same name, preaching politics; and went from thence across the Sorel to the St. Lawrence, and up the river through the parishes to Longueil, and so far met with good success as an itinerant. In this round my guard were Canadians, my interpreter, and some few attendants excepted, On the morning of the 24th day of September I set out with my guard of about eighty men, from Longueil, to go to Laprairie**** from whence I determined to go to General Montgomery's camp; but had not advanced two miles before I met with Major Brown, who has since been advanced to the rank of a Colonel, who desired me to halt, saying that he had something of importance to communicate to me and my confidants; upon which I halted the party, and went into a house, and took a private room with him and several of my associates, where Col. Brown proposed that, "provided I would return to Longueil, and procure some canoes, so as to cross the river St. Lawrence a little north of Montreal, he would cross it a little to the south of the town with near two hundred men, as he had boats sufficient; and that we could make ourselves masters of Montreal." This plan was readily approved by me and those in council; and in consequence of which I returned to Longueil, collected a few canoes, and added about thirty English-Americans to my party, and crossed the river in the night of the 24th, agreeably to the proposed plan.
* A small island containing about 85 acres, ten miles north of the boundary lines of the States of New York and Vermont. It is strongly fortified, and completely commands the water communication from lake Champlain. Here the British had a small garrison.
** St. Johns is a thriving village, in the County of Chambly, situated at the north end of lake Champlain, on the west bank of the Sorel river, twenty-eight miles southward of Montreal. It is the port of entry and clearance, between the United States and Canada. It is now connected with the St. Lawrence river by a rail-road.
*** Sorel or Richelieu River, the outlet of lake Champlain, which after a course of about 69 miles north, empties into the St. Lawrence, in north lat. 46 deg. 10 min., and long. 72 deg. 25 min. west. Sorel fort, built by the French, is at the western joint of the mouth of this river.
**** Laprairie, a populous little village, on the river St. Lawrence, in Canada, eighteen miles north of St. Johns, and nine south-west af Montreal.
My whole party at this time, consisted of about one hundred and ten men, near eighty of whom were Canadians. We were most of the night crossing the river, as we had so few canoes that they had to pass and repass three times, to carry my party across. Soon after day-break, I set a guard between me and the town, with special orders to let no person whatever pass or repass them, another guard on the other end of the road, with like directions; in the meantime, I reconnoitered the best ground to make a defence, expecting Col. Brown's party was landed on the other side of the town, he having, the day before, agreed to give three loud huzzas with his men early in the morning, which signal I was to return, that we might each know that both parties were landed; but the sun, by this time, being nearly two hours high, and the sign failing, I began to conclude myself to be in premunire, and would have crossed the river back again, but I knew the enemy would have discovered such an attempt; and as there could not more than one-third part of my troops cross at one time, the other two-thirds would of course fall into their hands. This I could not reconcile to my own feelings as a man, much less as an officer: I therefore concluded to maintain the ground if possible, and all to fare alike. In consequence of this resolution, I despatched two messengers, one to Laprairie, to Col. Brown, and the other to l'Assomption, a French settlement, to Mr. Walker, who was in our interest, requesting their speedy assistance, giving them, at the same time to understand my critical situation. In the mean time, sundry persons came to my guards, pretending to be friends, but were by them taken prisoners and brought to me. These I ordered to confinement, until their friendship could be further confirmed; for I was jealous they were spies, as they proved to be afterwards. One of the principal of them making his escape, exposed the weakness of my party, which was the final cause of my misfortune; for I have been since informed that Mr. Walker, agreeably to my desire, exerted himself, and had raised a considerable number of men for my assistance, which brought him into difficulty afterwards, but upon hearing of my misfortune, he disbanded them again.
The town of Montreal was in a great tumult. General Carleton and the royal party, made every preparation to go on board their vessels of force, as I was afterwards informed, but the spy escaped from my guard to the town, occasioned an alteration in their policy, and emboldened Gen. Carleton to send the force which he had there collected, out against me. I had previously chosen my ground, but when I saw the number of the enemy as they sallied out of the town, I perceived that it would be a day of trouble if not of rebuke; but I had no chance to flee, as Montreal was situated on an island, and the St. Lawrence cut off my communication to Gen. Montgomery's camp. I encouraged my soldiery to bravely defend themselves, that we should soon have help, and that we should be able to keep the ground, if no more. This, and much more I affirmed with the greatest seeming assurance, and which in reality I thought to be in some degree probable.
The enemy consisted of not more than forty regular troops, together with a mixed multitude, chiefly Canadians, with a number of English who lived in town, and some Indians; in all to the number of near five hundred.
The reader will notice that most of my party were Canadians; indeed it was a motley parcel which composed both parties. However, the enemy began the attack from wood-piles, ditches, buildings, and such like places, at a considerable distance, and I returned the fire from a situation more than equally advantageous. The attack began between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, just before which I ordered a volunteer by the name of Richard Young, with a detachment of nine men as a flank guard, which, under the cover of the bank of the river, could not only annoy the enemy, but at the same time, serve as a flank guard to the left of the main body.
The fire continued for some time on both sides; and I was confident that such a remote method of attack could not carry the ground, provided it should be continued till night; but near half the body of the enemy began to flank round to my right; upon which I ordered a volunteer, by the name of John Dugan, who had lived many years in Canada, and understood the French language, to detach about fifty of the Canadians, and post himself at an advantageous ditch, which was on my right, to prevent my being surrounded: He advanced with the detachment, but instead of occupying the post, made his escape, as did likewise Mr. Young upon the left, with their detachments. I soon perceived that the enemy was in the possession of the ground, which Dugan should have occupied. At this time I had but about forty-five men with me; some of whom were wounded; the enemy kept closing round me, nor was it in my power to prevent it; by which means, my situation, which was advantageous in the first part of the attack, ceased to be so in the last; and being almost entirely surrounded with such vast unequal numbers, I ordered a retreat, but found that those of the enemy, who were of the country, and their Indians, could run as fast as my men, though the regulars could not. Thus I retreated near a mile, and some of the enemy, with the savages, kept flanking me, and others crowded hard in the rear. In fine, I expected, in a very short time to try the world of spirits; for I was apprehensive that no quarter would be given me, and therefore had determined to sell my life as dear as I could. One of the enemy's officers, boldly pressing in the rear, discharged his fusee at me; the ball whistled near me, as did many others that day. I returned the salute, and missed him, as running had put us both out of breath: for I conclude we were not frightened: I then saluted him with my tongue in a harsh manner, and told him that, inasmuch as his numbers were far superior to mine, I would surrender provided I could be treated with honor, and be assured of good quarters for myself and the men who were with me; and he answered I should; another officer, coming up directly after, confirmed the treaty; upon which I agreed to surrender with my party, which then consisted of thirty-one effective men, and seven wounded.
I ordered them to ground their arms, which they did.
The officer I capitulated with, then directed me and my party to advance towards him, which was done; I handed him my sword, and in halt a minute after, a savage, part of whose head was shaved, being almost naked and painted, with feathers intermixed with the hair of the other side of his head, came running to me with an incredible swiftness; he seemed to advance with more than mortal speed; as he approached near me, his hellish visage was beyond all description; snake's eyes appear innocent in comparison of his; his features extorted;* malice, death, murder, and the wrath of devils and damned spirits are the emblems of his countenance; and in less than twelve feet of me, presenting his firelock; at the instant of his present, I twitched the officer, to whom I gave my sword, between me and the savage; but he flew round with great fury, trying to single me out to shoot me without killing the officer; but by this time I was nearly as nimble as he, keeping the officer in such a position that his danger was my defence; but in less than half a minute, I was attacked by just such another imp of hell: Then I made the officer fly around with incredible velocity, for a few seconds of time, when I perceived a Canadian, who had lost one eye, as appeared afterwards, taking my part against the savages; and in an instant an Irishman came to my assistance, and drove away the fiends, swearing by Jasus he would kill them. This tragic scene composed my mind. The escaping from so awful a death, made even imprisonment happy; the more so as my conquerers on the field treated me with great civility and politeness.
*Probably meant to be distorted; though, from the description it would appear that his visage had been extorted from some "Gorgon or chimera dire."
The regular officers said that they were very happy to see Col. Allen: I answered them, that I should rather chose to have seen them at General Montgomery's camp. The gentlemen replied, that they gave full credit to what I said, and as I walked to the town, which was, as I should guess, more than two miles, a British officer walking at my right hand, and one of the French noblesse at my left; the latter of which, in the action, had his eyebrow carried away by a glancing shot, but was nevertheless very merry and facetious, and no abuse was offered me till I came to the barrack yard at Montreal, where I met general Prescott, who asked me my name, which I told him: He then asked me, whether I was that Col. Allen, who took Ticonderoga. I told him I was the very man: Then he shook his cane over my head, calling many hard names, among which he frequently used the word rebel, and put himself in a great rage. I told him he would do well not to cane me, for I was not accustomed to it, and shook my fist at him, telling him that was the beetle of mortality for him, if he offered to strike; upon which Capt. M'Cloud of the British, pulled him by the skirt, and whispered to him, as he afterwards told me, to this import; that it was inconsistent with his honor to strike a prisoner. He then ordered a sergeant's command with fixed bayonets to come forward, and kill thirteen Canadians, which were included in the treaty aforesaid.
It cut me to the heart to see the Canadians in so hard a case, in consequence of their having been true to me; they were wringing their hands, saying their prayers, as I concluded, and expected immediate death. I therefore stepped between the executioners and the Canadians, opened my clothes, and told Gen. Prescott to thrust his bayonets into my breast, for I was the sole cause of the Canadians taking up arms.
The guard, in the mean time, rolling their eye-balls from the General to me, as though impatiently waiting his dread commands to sheath their bayonets in my heart; I could, however, plainly discern, that he was in suspense and quandary about the matter: This gave me additional hope of succeeding; for my design was not to die, but to save the Canadians by a finesse. The general stood a minute, when he made me the following reply; "I will not execute you now; but you shall grace a halter at Tyburn, God damn you."
I remember I disdained his mentioning such a place; I was, notwithstanding, a little pleased with the expression, as it significantly conveyed to me the idea of postponing the present appearance of death; besides his sentence was by no means final, as to "gracing a halter," although I had anxiety about it, after I landed in England, as the reader will find in the course of this history. Gen. Prescott then ordered one of his officers to take me on board the Gaspee schooner of war, and confine me, hands and feet, in irons, which was done the same afternoon I was taken.
The action continued an hour and three quarters, by the watch, and I know not to this day how many of my men were killed, though I am certain there were but few. If I remember right, 7 were wounded; one of them, Wm. Stewart, by name, was wounded by a savage with a tomahawk, after he was taken prisoner and disarmed, but was rescued by some of the generous enemy; and so far recovered of his wounds, that he afterwards went with the other prisoners to England.
Of the enemy, were killed a major Carden, who had been wounded in eleven different battles, and an eminent merchant, Patterson, of Montreal, and some others, but I never knew their whole loss, as their accounts were different. I am apprehensive that it is rare, that so much ammunition was expended, and so little execution done by it; though such of my party as stood their ground, behaved with great fortitude, much exceeding that of the enemy, but were not the best of marksmen, and, I am apprehensive, were all killed or taken; the wounded were all put into the hospital at Montreal, and those that were not, were put on board of different vessels in the river, and shackled together by pairs, viz, two men fastened together by one hand-cuff, being closely fixed to one wrist of each of them, and treated with the greatest severity, nay as criminals.
I now come to the description of the irons, which were put on me: The hand-cuff was of the common size and form, but my leg irons, I should imagine would weigh thirty pounds; the bar was eight feet long, and very substantial; the shackles, which encompassed my ancles, were very tight. I was told by the officer, who put them on, that it was the king's plate, and I heard other of their officers say, that it would weigh forty weight. The irons were so close upon my ancles, that I could not lay down in any other manner than on my back. I was put into the lowest and most wretched part of the vessel, where I got the favor of a chest to sit on; the same answered for my bed at night; and having procured some little blocks of the guard, who day and night, with fixed bayonets, watched over me, to lie, under each end of the large bar of my leg irons, to preserve my ancles from galling, while I sat on the chest, or lay back on the same, though most of the time, night and day, I sat on it; but at length, having a desire to lie down on my side, which the closeness of my irons forbid, I desired the captain to loosen them for that purpose; but was denied the favor. The Captain's name was Royal, who did not seem to be an ill-natured man; but oftentimes said, that his express orders were to treat me with such severity, which was disagreeable to his own feelings; nor did he ever insult me, though many others, who come on board did. One of the officers, by the name of Bradley, was very generous to me; he would often send me victuals from his own table; nor did a day fail, but he sent me a good drink of grog.
The reader is now invited back to the time I was put in irons. I requested the privilege to write to General Prescott, which was granted. I reminded him of the kind and generous manner of my treatment of the prisoners I took at Ticonderoga; the injustice and ungentleman-like usage I had met with from him, and demanded better usage, but received no answer from him. I soon after wrote to Gen. Carleton, which met the same success. In the mean while, many of those who were permitted to see me, were very insulting.
I was confined in the manner I have related, on board the Gaspee schooner, about six weeks; during which time I was obliged to throw out plenty of extravagant language, which answered certain purposes, at that time, better than to grace a history.
To give an instance; upon being insulted, in a fit of anger, I twisted off a nail with my teeth, which I took to be a ten-penny nail; it went through the mortise of the bar of my hand-cuff, and at the same time I swaggered over those who abused me; particularly a Doctor Dace, who told me that I was outlawed by New York, and deserved death for several years past; was at last fully ripened for the halter, and in a fair way to obtain it. When I challenged him, he excused himself, in consequence, as he said, of my being a criminal; but I flung such a flood of language at him that it shocked him and the spectators, for my anger was very great. I heard one say, damn him, can he eat iron? After that, a small padlock was fixed to the hand-cuff, instead of the nail; and as they were mean-spirited in their treatment to me so it appeared to me, that they were equally timorous and cowardly.
I was after sent, with the prisoners taken with me, to an armed vessel in the river, which lay off against Quebec, under the command of Capt. M'Cloud, of the British, who treated me in a very generous and obliging manner, and according to my rank; in about twenty-four hours I bid him farewell with regret; but my good fortune still continued. The name of the Captain of the vessel I was put on board, was Littlejohn; who, with his officers, behaved in a polite, generous, and friendly manner. I lived with them in the cabin, and fared on the best, my irons being taken off, contrary to the order he had received from the commanding officer; but Capt Littlejohn swore, that a brave man should not be used as a rascal, on board his ship.
Thus I found myself in possession of happiness once more, and the evils I had lately suffered, gave me an uncommon relish for it.
Capt. Littlejohn used to go to Quebec almost every day, in order to pay his respects to certain gentlemen and ladies; being there on a certain day, he happened to meet with some disagreeable treatment, as he imagined, from a Lieut, of a man-of-war, and one word brought on another, until the Lieut, challenged him to a duel on the plains of Abraham. Capt. Littlejohn was a gentleman, who entertained a high sense of honor, and could do no less than accept the challenge.
At nine o'clock the next morning they were to fight. The Captain returned in the evening, and acquainted his Lieutenant and me with the affair. His Lieutenant was a high blooded Scotchman, as well as himself, who replied to his Captain that he should not want for a second. With this I interrupted him and gave the Captain to understand, that since an opportunity had presented, I would be glad to testify my gratitude to him, by acting the part of a faithful second; on which he gave me his hand, and said that he wanted no better man. Says he, I am a King's officer, and you a prisoner under my care; you must, therefore, go with me, to the place appointed in disguise, and added further; 'You must engage me, upon the honor of a gentleman, that whether I die or live, or whatever happens, provided you live, that you will return to my Lieutenant on board this ship.' All this I solemnly engaged him. The combatants were to discharge each a pocket pistol, and then to fall on with their iron hilted muckle whangers; and one of that sort was allotted for me; but some British officers, who interposed early in the morning, settled the controversy without fighting.
Now having enjoyed eight or nine days' happiness, from the polite and generous treatment of Captain Littlejohn and his officers, I was obliged to bid them farewell, parting with them in as friendly a manner as we had lived together, which, to the best of my memory, was the eleventh of November: when a detachment of General Arnold's little army appeared on point Levi,* opposite Quebec, who had performed an extraordinary march through a wilderness country, with design to have surprised the capital of Canada; I was then taken on board a vessel called the Adamant, together with the prisoners taken with me, and put under the power of an English Merchant from London, whose name was Brook Watson; a man of malicious and cruel disposition, and who was probably excited, in the exercise of his malevolence, by a junto of tories, who sailed with him to England; among whom were Col. Guy Johnson, Col. Closs, and their attendants and associates, to the number of about thirty.
*Levi, a point of land in the river St. Lawrence, opposite to the city of Quebec.
All the ship's crew, Col. Closs, in his personal behavior excepted, behaved towards the prisoners with that spirit of bitterness, which is the peculiar characteristic of tories, when they have the friends of America in their power, measuring their loyalty to the English King by the barbarity, fraud and deceit which they exercise towards the whigs.
A small place in the vessel, enclosed with white oak plank, was assigned for the prisoners, and for me among the rest. I should imagine that it was not more than twenty feet one way, and twenty-two the other. Into this place we were all, to the number of thirty-four, thrust and hand-cuffed, two prisoners more being added to our number, and were provided with two excrement tubs; in this circumference we were obliged to eat and perform the offices of evacuation, during the voyage to England; and were insulted by every black-guard sailor and tory on board, in the crudest manner; but what is the most surprising is, that not one of us died in the passage. When t was first ordered to go into the filthy inclosure, through a small sort of door, I positively refused, and endeavored to reason the before named Brook Watson out of a conduct so derogatory to every sentiment of honor and humanity, but all to no purpose, my men being forced in the den already; and the rascal who had the charge of the prisoners commanded me to go immediately in among the rest. He further added that the place was good enough for a rebel; that it was impertinent for a capital offender to talk of honor or humanity; that any thing short of a halter was to good for me; and that that would be my portion soon after I landed in England; for which purpose only I was sent thither. About the same time a lieutenant among the tories, insulted me in a grievous manner, saying that I ought to have been executed for my rebellion against New York, and spit in my face; upon which, though I was hand-cuffed, I sprang at him with both hands, and knocked him partly down, but he scrambled along into the cabin, and I after him; there he got under the protection of some men with fixed bayonets, who were ordered to make ready to drive me into the place aforementioned. I challenged him to fight, notwithstanding the impediments that were on my hands, and had the exalted pleasure to see the rascal tremble for fear; his name I have forgot, but Watson ordered his guard to get me into the place with the other prisoners, dead or alive; and I had almost as lieve die as do it, standing it out until they environed me round with bayonets; and brutish, prejudiced, abandoned wretches they were, from whom I could expect nothing but death or wounds; however I told them, that they were good honest fellows; that I could not blame them; that I was only in dispute with a calico merchant, who knew not how to behave towards a gentleman of the military establishment. This was spoken rather to appease them for my own preservation, as well as to treat Watson with contempt; but still I found they were determined to force me into the wretched circumstances, which their prejudiced and depraved minds had prepared for me; therefore, rather than die, I submitted to their indignities, being drove with bayonets into the filthy dungeon with the other prisoners, where we were denied fresh water, except a small allowance, which was very inadequate to our wants; and in consequence of the stench of the place, each of us was soon followed with a diarrhoea and fever, which occasioned an intolerable thirst. When we asked for water, we were, most commonly, instead of obtaining it, insulted and derided; and to add to all the horrors of the place, it was so dark that we could not see each other, and were overspread with body lice. We had, notwithstanding these severities, full allowance of salt provisions, and a gill of rum per day; the latter of which was of the utmost service to us, and, probably, was the means of saving several of our lives. About forty days we existed in this manner, when the land's end of England was discovered from the mast head; soon after which, the prisoners were taken from their gloomy abode, being permitted to see the light of the sun, and breathe fresh air, which to us was very refreshing. The day following we landed at Falmouth.
A few days before I was taken prisoner, I shifted my clothes, by which I happened to be taken in a Canadian dress, viz, a short fawn-skin jacket, double-breasted, an undervest and breeches of sagathy, worsted stockings, a decent pair of shoes, two plain shirts, and a red worsted cap; this was all the clothing I had, in which I made my appearance in England.
When the prisoners were landed, multitudes of the citizens of Falmouth, excited by curiosity, crowded to see us, which was equally gratifying to us. I saw numbers on the tops of houses, and the rising adjacent grounds were covered with them, of both sexes. The throng was so great, that the king's officers were obliged to draw their swords, and force a passage to Pendennis castle, which was near a mile from the town, where we were closely confined, in consequence of orders from General Carleton, who then commanded in Canada.
The rascally Brook Watson then set out for London in great haste, expecting the reward of his zeal; but the ministry received him, as I have been since informed, rather coolly; for the the minority in parliament took advantage, arguing that the opposition of America to Great Britain, was not a rebellion: If it is, say they, why do you not execute Col. Allen according to law? But the majority argued that I ought to be executed, and that the opposition was really a rebellion, but that policy obliged them not to do it, inasmuch as the Congress had then most prisoners in their power; so that my being sent to England, for the purpose of being executed, and necessity restraining them, was rather a foil on their laws and authority, and they consequently disapproved of my being sent thither. But I had never heard the least hint of those debates, in parliament, or of the working of their policy, until sometime after I left England.
Consequently the reader will readily conceive I was anxious about my preservation, knowing that I was in the power of a haughty and cruel nation, considered as such. Therefore, the first proposition which I determined in my own mind was, that humanity and moral suasion would not be consulted in the determining of my fate; and those that daily came in great numbers out of curiosity, to see me, both gentle and simple, united in this, that I would be hanged. A gentleman from America, by the name of Temple, and who was friendly to me, just whispered me in the ear, and told me that bets were laid in London, that I would be executed; he likewise privately gave me a guinea, but durst say but little to me.
However, agreeably to my first negative proposition, that moral virtue would not influence my destiny, I had recourse to stratagem, which I was in hopes would move in the circle of their policy. I requested of the commander of the castle the privilege of writing to Congress, who, after consulting with an officer that lived in town, of a superior rank, permitted me to write. I wrote, in the fore part of the letter, a short narrative of my ill-treatment; but withal let them know that, though I was treated as a criminal in England, and continued in irons, together with those taken with me, yet it was in consequence of the orders which the commander of the castle received from General Carleton; and therefore desired Congress to desist from matters of retaliation, until they should know the result of the government in England, respecting their treatment towards me, and the prisoners with me, and govern themselves accordingly, with a particular request, that if retaliation should be found necessary, it might be exercised not according to the smallness of my character in America, but in proportion to the importance of the cause for which I suffered. This is, according to my present recollection, the substance of the letter, inscribed,--"_To the illustrious Continental Congress_." This letter was written with a view that it should be sent to the ministry at London, rather than to Congress, with a design to intimidate the haughty English government, and screen my neck from the halter.
The next day the officer, from whom I obtained license to write, came to see me and frowned on me on account of the impudence of the letter, as he phrased it, and further added, 'Do you think that we are fools in England, and would send your letter to Congress, with instructions to retaliate on our own people? I have sent your letter to Lord North.' This gave me inward satisfaction, though I carefully concealed it with a pretended resentment, for I found I had come Yankee him, and that the letter had gone to the identical person I designed it for. Nor do I know, to this day, but that it had the desired effect, though I have not heard any thing of the letter since.
My personal treatment by Lieutenant Hamilton, who commanded the castle, was very generous. He sent me every day a fine breakfast and dinner from his own table, and a bottle of good wine. Another aged gentleman, whose name I cannot recollect, sent me a good supper. But there was no distinction in public support between me and the privates; we all lodged on a sort of Dutch bunks, in one common apartment, and were allowed straw. The privates were well supplied with fresh provisions, and with me took effectual measures to rid ourselves of lice.
I could not but feel, inwardly extremely anxious for my fate. This, I however, concealed from the prisoners, as well as from the enemy, who were perpetually shaking the halter at me. I nevertheless treated them with scorn and contempt; and having sent my letter to the ministry, could conceive of nothing more in my power but to keep up my spirits, behave in a daring, soldier-like manner, that I might exhibit a good sample of American fortitude.* Such a conduct, I judged would have a more probable tendency to my preservation than concession and timidity. This therefore, was my deportment; and I had lastly determined, in my mind, that if a cruel death must inevitably be my portion, I would face it undaunted; and, though I greatly rejoice that I returned to my country and friends, and to see the power and pride of Great Britain humbled; yet I am confident I could then have died without the least appearance of dismay.
* The British must doubtless have had a high idea of the personal prowess of Mr. Allen; and however superior their regular discipline might have appeared in their own eyes, yet they could not but respect his courage. To this intrepid spirit, and the esteem it must have excited, the Colonel probably owes his complimentary meals and his daily bottle of wine.
I now clearly recollect that my mind was so resolved, that I would not have trembled or shewn the least fear, as I was sensible it could not alter my fate, nor do more than reproach my memory, make my last act despicable to my enemies, and eclipse the other actions of my life. For I reasoned thus, that nothing was more common than for men to die with their friends around them, weeping and lamenting over them, but not able to help them, which was in reality not different in the consequence of it from such a death as I was apprehensive of; and, as death was the natural consequence of animal life to which the laws of nature subject mankind, to be timorous and uneasy as to the event and manner of it, was inconsistent with the character of a philosopher and soldier. The cause I was engaged in, I ever viewed worthy hazarding my life for, nor was I, in the most critical moments of trouble, sorry that I engaged in it; and, as to the world of spirits, though I knew nothing of the mode or manner of it, I expected nevertheless, when I should arrive at such a world, that I should be as well treated as other gentlemen of my merit.
Among the great numbers of people, who came to the castle to see the prisoners, some gentlemen told me that they had come fifty miles on purpose to see me, and desired to ask me a number of questions, and to make free with me in conversation. I gave for answer that I chose freedom in every sense of the word. Then one of them asked me what my occupation in life had been? I answered him, that in my younger days I had studied divinity, but I was a conjuror by profession. He replied, that I conjured wrong at the time I was taken; and I was obliged to own, that I mistook a figure at that time, but that I had conjured them out of Ticonderoga. This was a place of great notoriety in England, so that the joke seemed to go in my favor.
It was a common thing for me to be taken out of close confinement, into a spacious green in the castle, or rather parade, where numbers of gentlemen and ladies were ready to see and hear me. I often entertained such audiences with harangues on the impracticability of Great Britain's conquering the then colonies of America. At one of these times I asked a gentleman for a bowl of punch, and he ordered his servant to bring it, which he did, and offered it to me, but I refused to take it from the hand of his servant; he then gave it to me with his own hand, refusing to drink with me in consequence of my being a state criminal: However, I took the punch and drank it all down at one draught, and handed the gentleman the bowl: this made the spectators as well as myself merry.
I expatiated on American freedom. This gained the resentment of a young, beardless gentleman of the company, who gave himself very great airs, and replied that he 'knew the Americans very well, and was certain that they could not bear the smell of powder.' I replied, that I accepted it as a challenge, and was ready to convince him on the spot, that an American could bear the smell of powder; at which he answered that he should not put himself on a par with me. I then demanded of him to treat the character of the Americans with due respect. He answered that I was an Irishman; but I assured him that I was a full blooded Yankee, and in fine bantered him so much, that he left me in possession of the ground, and the laugh went against him. Two clergymen came to see me, and, inasmuch as they behaved with civility, I returned them the same. We discoursed on several parts of moral philosophy and Christianity; and they seemed to be surprised that I should be acquainted with such topics, or that I should understand a syllogism, or regular mode of argumentation. I am apprehensive my Canadian dress contributed not a little to the surprise, and excitement of curiosity; to see a gentleman in England regularly dressed and well behaved would be no sight at all; but such a rebel as they were pleased to call me, it is probable, was never before seen in England.
The prisoners were landed at Falmouth a few days before Christmas, and ordered on board of the Solebay frigate, Capt. Symonds, on the eighth day of January, 1776, when our hand irons were taken off. This remove was in consequence, as I have been since informed, of a writ of habeas corpus, which had been procured by some gentlemen in England, in order to obtain me my liberty.
The Solebay, with sundry other men-of-war, and about forty transports, rendezvoused at the cove of Cork in Ireland, to take in provisions and water.
When we were first brought on board, captain Symonds ordered all the prisoners, and most of the hands on board to go on the deck, and caused to be read in their hearing, a certain code of laws or rules, for the regulation and ordering of their behavior; and then in a sovereign | manner, ordered the prisoners me in particular, off the deck, and never to come on it again; for, said he, this is a place for gentlemen to walk.
So I went off, an officer following me, who told me that he would show me the place allotted for me, and took me down to the cable tier, saying to me this is your place.
Prior to this I had taken cold, by which I was in an ill state of health, and did not say much to the officer; but stayed there that night, consulted my policy, and I found I was in an evil case; that a captain of a man-of-war was more arbitrary than a king, as he could view his territory with a look of his eye, and a movement of his finger commanded obedience. I felt myself more desponding than I had done at any time before; for I concluded it to be a government scheme, to do that clandestinely which policy forbid to be done under sanction of any public justice and law.
However, two days after, I shaved and cleansed myself as well as I could, and went on deck. The captain spoke to me in a great rage, and said: 'did I not order you not to come on deck?' I answered him, that at the same time he said, 'that it was the place for gentlemen to walk; that I was Colonel Allen, but had not been properly introduced to him.' He replied, G--d damn you, sir, be careful not to walk the same side of the deck that I do. This gave me encouragement, and ever after that I walked in the manner he had directed, except when he, at certain times afterwards, had ordered me off in a passion, and I then would directly afterwards go on again, telling him to command his slaves; that I was a gentleman and had a right to walk the deck; yet when he expressly ordered me off, I obeyed, not out of obedience to him, but to set an example to the ship's crew, who ought to obey him.
To walk to the windward side of the deck is, according to custom, the prerogative of the captain of the man-of-war, though he, sometimes, nay commonly, walks with his lieutenants, when no strangers are by. When a captain from some other man-of-war, comes on board, the captains walk to the windward side, and the other gentleman to the leeward.
It was but a few nights I lodged in the cable tier, before I gained an acquaintance with the master of arms, his name was Gillegan, an Irishman, who was a generous, and well disposed man, and in a friendly manner made me an offer, of living with him in a little birth, which was allotted him between decks, and enclosed with canvass; his preferment on board was about equal to that of a sergeant in a regiment. I was comparatively happy in the acceptance of his clemency, and lived with him in friendship till the frigate anchored in the harbor of Cape Fear, North Carolina, in America.
Nothing of material consequence happened till the fleet rendezvoused at the cove of Cork, except a violent storm which brought old hardy sailors to their prayers. It was soon rumored in Cork that I was on board the Solebay, with a number of prisoners from America; upon which Messrs. Clark & Hays, merchants in company, and a number of other benevolently disposed gentlemen, contributed largely to the relief and support of the prisoners, who were thirty-four in number, and in very needy circumstances. A suit of clothes from head to foot, including an overcoat or surtout, and two shirts were bestowed upon each of them. My suit I received in superfine broadcloths, sufficient for two jackets and two pair of breeches, overplus of a suit throughout, eight fine Holland shirts and stocks ready made, with a number of pairs of silk and worsted hose, two pair of shoes, two beaver hats, one of which was sent me richly laced with gold, by James Bonwell. The Irish gentlemen furthermore made a large gratuity of wines of the best sort, spirits, gin, loaf and brown sugar, tea and chocolate, with a large round of pickled beef, and a number of fat turkies, with many other articles, for my sea stores, too tedious to mention here. To the privates they bestowed on each man two pounds of tea, and six pounds of brown sugar. These articles were received on board at a time when the captain and first lieutenant were gone on shore, by the permission of the second lieutenant, a handsome young gentleman, who was then under twenty years of age; his name was Douglass, son of the admiral Douglass, as I was informed.
As this munificence was so unexpected and plentiful, I may add needful, it impressed on my mind the highest sense of gratitude towards my benefactors; for I was not only supplied with the necessaries and conveniences of life, but with the grandeurs and superfluities of it. Mr Hays, one of the donators before-mentioned, came on board, and behaved in the most obliging manner, telling me he hoped my troubles were past; for that the gentlemen of Cork determined to make my sea stores equal to those of the captain of the Solebay; he made an offer of live stock and wherewith to support them; but I knew this would be denied. And to crown all, did send me by another person, fifty guineas, but I could not reconcile receiving the whole to my own feelings, as it might have the appearance of avarice; and therefore received but seven guineas only, and am confident, not only from the exercise of the present well timed generosity, but from a large acquaintance with gentleman of this nation, that as a people they excel in liberality and bravery.
Two days after the receipt of the aforesaid donations, captain Symonds came on board, full of envy towards the prisoners, and swore by all that is good, that the damned American rebels should not be feasted at this rate, by the damned rebels of Ireland; he therefore took away all my liquors before-mentioned, except some of the wine which was secreted, and a two gallon jug of old spirits which was reserved for me per favor of lieutenant Douglass. The taking of my liquors was abominable in his sight; he therefore spoke in my behalf, till the captain was angry with him; and in consequence, proceeded and took away all the tea and sugar, which had been given to the prisoners, and confiscated it to the use of the ship's crew. Our clothing was not taken away, but the privates were forced to do duty on board. Soon after this there came a boat to the side of the ship, and captain Symonds asked a gentleman in it, in my hearing, what his business was? who answered that he was sent to deliver some sea stores to Col. Allen, which if I remember right, he said were sent from Dublin; but the captain damned him heartily, ordering him away from the ship, and would not suffer him to deliver the stores. I was furthermore informed that the gentlemen in Cork, requested of Captain Symonds, that I might be allowed to come into the city, and that they would be responsible I should return to the frigate at a given time, which was denied them.
We sailed from England the 8th day of January, and from the cove of Cork the 12th day of Feb'y. Just before we sailed, the prisoners with me were divided, and put on board three different ships of war. This gave me some uneasiness, for they were to a man zealous in the cause of liberty, and behaved with a becoming fortitude in the various scenes of their captivity; but those, who were distributed on board other ships of war were much better used than those who tarried with me, as appeared afterwards. When the fleet, consisting of about forty-five sail, including five men of war, sailed, from the cove with a fresh breeze, the appearance was beautiful, abstracted from the unjust and bloody designs they had in view. We had not sailed many days, before a mighty storm arose, which lasted near twenty-four hours without intermission. The wind blew with relentless fury, and no man could remain on deck, except he was lashed fast, for the waves rolled over the deck by turns, with a forcible rapidity and every soul on board was anxious for the preservation of the ship, alias, their lives. In this storm the Thunder-bomb man of war, sprang a leak, and was afterwards floated to some part to the coast of England, and the crew saved. We were then said to be in the Bay of Biscay. After the storm abated, I could plainly discern the prisoners were better used for some considerable time.
Nothing of consequence happened after this, till we had sailed to the island of Maderia, except a certain favor I had received of captain Symonds, in consequence of an application I made to him for the privilege of his tailor to make me a suit of clothes of the cloth bestowed on me in Ireland, which he generously granted. I could then walk the deck with a seeming better grace. When we had reached Maderia, and anchored, sundry gentlemen with the captain went on shore, who I conclude, gave the rumor that I was in the frigate; upon which I soon after found that Irish generosity was again excited; for a gentleman of that nation sent his clerk on board, to know of me if I would accept a sea store from him, particularly wine. This matter I made known to the generous lieutenant Douglass, who readily granted me the favor, provided the articles could be brought on board, during the time of his command; adding that it would be a pleasure to him to serve me, notwithstanding the opposition he met with before. So I directed the gentleman's clerk to inform him that I was greatly in need of so signal a charity and desired the young gentleman to make the utmost despatch, which he did; but in the meantime, captain Symonds and his officers came on board, and immediately made ready for sailing; the wind at the same time being fair, set sail when the young gentleman was in fair sight with the aforesaid store.
The reader will doubtless recollect the seven guineas I received at the cove of Cork. These enabled me to purchase of the purser what I wanted, had not the Captain strictly forbidden it, though I made sundry applications to him for that purpose; but his answer to me, when I was sick, was, that it was no matter how soon I was dead, and that he was no ways anxious to preserve the lives of rebels, but wished them all dead; and indeed that was the language of most of the ship's crew. I expostulated not only with the captain, but with other gentlemen on board, on the unreasonableness of such usage; inferring that, inasmuch as the government in England did not proceed against me as a capital offender, they should not; for that they were by no means empowered by any authority, either civil or military, to do so; for the English government had acquitted me by sending me back a prisoner of war to America, and that they should treat me as such. I further drew an inference of impolicy on them, provided they should by hard usage, destroy my life; inasmuch as I might, if living, redeem one of their officers; but the captain replied, that he needed no directions of mine how to treat a rebel; that the British would conquer the American rebels, hang the Congress, and such as promoted the rebellion, me in particular, and retake their own prisoners; so that my life was of no consequence in the scale of their policy. I gave him for answer that if they stayed till they conquered America, before they hanged me, _I should die of old age_, and desired that till such an event took place, he would at least allow me to purchase of the purser, from my own money, such articles as I greatly needed; but he would not permit it, and when I reminded him of the generous and civil usage that their prisoners in captivity in America met with, he said that it was not owing to their goodness but their timidity; for, said he, they expect to be conquered, and therefore dare not misuse our prisoners; and in fact this was the language of the British officers, till Burgoyne was taken;* a happy event! and not only of the officers but the whole British army.
* It was the plan of the British generals, to push a body of troops from New York, to join General Burgoyne at Albany, and by establishing a line of British posts on the Hudson, to intercept the intercourse between the New England and Southern States. While General Burgoyne was attempting to advance towards Albany, General Clinton with a force of three thousand men took possession of Fort Montgomery, after severe loss. General Vaughan, with a body of troops, on board of armed ships, sailed up the Hudson, as far as Livingston's manor, where he landed a party, burnt a large house belonging to one of the family; then sent a party to the opposite shore and laid in ashes the town of Kingston. But General Burgoyne, despairing of the junction between his army and the division from New York, surrounded by a superior army, and unable to retreat, consented to capitulate, and the 17th of October, surrendered to the American General. The detachment under General Vaughan returned to New York and the plan of the British commanders was totally frustrated.
I appeal to all my brother prisoners, who have been with the British in the southern Department, for a confirmation of what I have advanced on this subject. The surgeon of the Solebay, whose name was North, was a very humane, obliging man, and took the best care of the prisoners who were sick.
The third day of May we cast anchor in the harbor of Cape Fear, in North Carolina, as did Sir Peter Parker's ship, of 50 guns, a little back of the bar; for there was not depth of water for him to come into the harbor. These two men of war, and fourteen sail of transports and others, came after, so that most of the fleet rendezvoused at Cape Fear, for three weeks. The soldiers on board the transports were sickly, in consequence of so long a passage; add to this the small-pox carried off many of them. They landed on the main, and formed a camp; but the riflemen annoyed them, and caused them to move to an island in the harbor; but such cursing of riflemen I never heard.
A detachment of regulars was sent up Brunswick river; as they landed, they were fired on by those marksmen, and they came back next day damning the rebels for their unmanly way of fighting, and swearing that they would give no quarter, for they took sight at them, and were behind timber skulking about. One of the detachments said they lost one man; but a negro man who was with them, and heard what was said, soon after told me that he helped to bury thirty-one of them; this did me some good to find my countrymen giving them battle; for I never heard such swaggering as among Gen. Clinton's little army who commanded at that time; and I am apt to think there were four thousand men, though not two thirds of them fit for duty. I heard numbers of them say, that the trees in America should hang well with fruit that campaign for they would give no quarter. This was in the mouths of most who I heard speak on the subject, officer as well as soldier. I wished at that time my countrymen knew, as well as I did, what a murdering and cruel enemy they had to deal with; but experience has since taught this country, what they are to expect at the hands of Britons when in their power.
The prisoners, who had been sent on board different men of war at the cove of Cork, were collected together, and the whole of them put on board the Mercury frigate, Capt. James Montague, except one of the Canadians, who died on the passage from Ireland, and Peter Noble, who made his escape from the Sphynx man-of-war in this harbour, and, by extraordinary swimming, got safe home to New England, and gave intelligence of the usage of his brother prisoners. The Mercury set sail from this port for Halifax, about the 20th of May, and Sir Peter Parker was about to sail with the land forces, under the command of Gen. Clinton, for the reduction of Charleston, the capitol of South Carolina, and when I heard of his defeat in Halifax, it gave me inexpressible satisfaction.
I now found myself under a worse captain than Symonds! for Montague was loaded with prejudices against every body, and every thing that was not stamped with royalty; and being by nature underwitted, his wrath was heavier than the others, or at least his mind was in no instance liable to be diverted by good sense, humor or bravery, of which Symonds was by turns susceptible. A Capt. Francis Proctor was added to our number of prisoners when we were first put on board this ship. This gentleman had formerly belonged to the English service. The Captain, and in fine, all the gentlemen of the ship, were very much incensed, against him, and put him in irons without the least provocation, and he was continued in this miserable situation about three months. In this passage the prisoners were infected with the scurvy, some more and some less, but most of them severely. The ship's crew was to a great degree troubled with it, and I concluded that it was catching. Several of the crew died with it on their passage. I was weak and feeble in consequence of so long and cruel captivity, yet had but little of the scurvy.
The purser was again expressly forbid by the captain to let me have any thing out of his store; upon which I went upon deck, and in the handsomest manner requested the favor of purchasing a few necessaries of the purser, which was denied me; he further told me, that I should be hanged as soon as I arrived at Halifax. I tried to reason the matter with him, but found him proof against reason; I also held up his honor to view, and his behavior to me and the prisoners in general, as being derogatory to it, but found his honor impenetrable. I then endeavored to touch his humanity, but found he had none; for his prepossession of bigotry to his own party, had confirmed him in an opinion, that no humanity was due to unroyalists, but seemed to think that heaven and earth were made merely to gratify the King and his creatures; he uttered considerable unintelligible and grovelling ideas, a little tinctured with monarchy, but stood well to his text of hanging me. He afterwards forbade his surgeon to administer any help to the sick prisoners. I was every night shut down in the cable tier, with the rest of the prisoners, and we all lived miserable while under his power. But I received some generosity from several of the midshipmen, who in a degree alleviated my misery; one of their names was Putrass, the names of the others I do not recollect; but they were obliged to be private in the bestowment of their favor, which was sometimes good wine bitters, and at others a generous drink of grog.
Sometime in the first week of June, we came to anchor at the Hook off New York, where we remained but three days; in which time governor Tryon, Mr. Kemp, the old attorney general of New York, and several other perfidious and over grown tories and land-jobbers, came on board. Tryon viewed me with a stern countenance, as I was walking on the leeward side the deck with the midshipmen; and he and his companions were walking with the captain and lieutenant, on the windward side of the same, but never spoke to me though it is altogether probable that he thought of the old quarrel between him, the old government of New York, and the Green Mountain Boys. Then they went with the captain into the cabin, and the same afternoon returned on board a vessel, where at that time they took sanctuary from the resentment of their injured country. What passed between the officers of the ship and these visitors I know not; but this I know that my treatment from the officers was more severe afterwards.
We arrived at Halifax not far from the middle of June, where the ship's crew, which was infested with the scurvy, were taken on shore, and shallow trenches dug, into which they were put, and partly covered with earth. Indeed every proper measure was taken for their relief. The prisoners were not permitted any sort of medicine, but were put on board a sloop which lay in the harbor, near the town of Halifax, surrounded with several men of war and their tenders, and a guard constantly set over them, night and day. The sloop we had wholly to ourselves except the guard who occupied the forecastle; here we were cruelly pinched with hunger; it seemed to me that we had not more than one third of the common allowance. We were all seized with violent hunger and faintness; we divided our scanty allowance as exact as possible. I shared the same fate with the rest, and though they offered me more than an even share, I refused to accept it, as it was a time of substantial distress, which in my opinion I ought to partake equally with the rest, and set an example of virtue and fortitude to our little commonwealth.
I sent letter after letter to captain Montague, who still had the care of us, and also to his lieutenant, whose name I cannot call to mind, but could obtain no answer, much less a redress of grievances; and to add to the calamity, near a dozen of the prisoners were dangerously ill of the scurvy. I wrote private letters to the doctors, to procure, if possible, some remedy for the sick, but in vain. The chief physician came by in a boat, so close that the oars touched the sloop that we were in, and I uttered my complaint in the genteelest manner to him, but he never so much as turned his head, or made me any answer, though I continued speaking till he got out of hearing. Our cause then became deplorable. Still I kept writing to the captain, till he ordered the guards, as they told me, not to bring any more letters from me to him. In the meantime an event happened worth relating. One of the men almost dead with the scurvy, lay by the side of the sloop, and a canoe of Indians coming by, he purchased two quarts of strawberries, and ate them at once, and it almost cured him. The money he gave for them was all the money he had in the world. After that we tried every way to procure more of that fruit, reasoning from analogy that they might have the same effect on others infested with the same disease, but could obtain none.
Meanwhile the doctor's mate of the Mercury came privately on board the prison sloop and presented me with a large vial of smart drops, which proved to be good for the scurvy, though vegetables and some other ingredients were requisite for a cure; but the drops gave at least a check to the disease. This was a well-timed exertion of humanity, but the doctor's name has slipped my mind, and in my opinion, it was the means of saving the lives of several men.
The guard, which was set over us, was by this time touched with the feelings of compassion; and I finally trusted one of them with a letter of complaint to governor Arbuthnot, of Halifax, which he found means to communicate, and which had the desired effect; for the governor sent an officer and surgeon on board the prison sloop, to know the truth of the complaint. The officer's name was Russell who held the rank of lieutenant, and treated me in a friendly and polite manner, and was really angry at the cruel and unmanly usage the prisoners met with; and with the surgeon made a true report of matters to governor Arbuthnot, who, either by his order or influence, took us next day from the prison sloop to Halifax jail, where I first became acquainted with the now Hon. James Lovel, one of the members of Congress for the state of Massachusetts. The sick were taken to the hospital, and the Canadians, who were effective, were employed in the King's works; and when their countrymen were recovered from the scurvy and joined them, they all deserted the king's employ, and were not heard of at Halifax, as long as the remainder of the prisoners continued there, which was till near the middle of October. We were on board the prison sloop about six weeks, and were landed at Halifax near the middle of August. Several of our English-American prisoners, who were cured of the scurvy at the hospital, made their escape from thence, and after a long time reached their old habitations.
I had now but thirteen with me, of those who were taken in Canada, and remained in jail with me in Halifax, who, in addition to those that were imprisoned before, made our number about thirty-four, who were all locked up in one common large room, without regard to rank, education or any other accomplishment, where we continued from the setting to the rising sun, and, as sundry of them were infected with the jail and other distempers, the furniture of this spacious room consisted principally of excrement tubs. We petitioned for a removal of the sick into the hospitals, but were denied. We remonstrated against the ungenerous usage of being confined with the privates, as being contrary to the laws and customs of nations, and particularly ungrateful in them in consequence of the gentleman-like usage which the British imprisoned officers met with in America; and thus we wearied ourselves, petitioning and remonstrating, but to no purpose at all; for general Massey, who commanded at Halifax, was as inflexible as the devil himself, a fine preparative this for Mr. Lovel, member of the Continental Congress.
Lieutenant Russell, whom I have mentioned before, came to visit me in prison, and assured me that he had done his utmost to procure my parole for enlargement; at which a British captain, who was then town-major, expressed compassion for the gentlemen confined in the filthy place, and assured me that he had used his influence to procure their enlargement; his name was near like Ramsey. Among the prisoners there were five in number, who had a legal claim to a parole, viz. James Lovel, Esq., captain Francis Proctor, a Mr. Howland, master of a continental armed vessel, a Mr. Taylor, his mate, and myself.
As to the article of provision, we were well served, much better than in any part of my captivity; and since it was Mr. Lovel's misfortunes and mine to be prisoners, and in so wretched circumstances, I was happy that we were together as a mutual support to each other, and to the unfortunate prisoners with us. Our first attention was the preservation of ourselves and injured little republic; the rest of our time we devoted interchangeably to politics and philosophy, as patience was a needful exercise in so evil a situation, but contentment mean and impracticable.
I had not been in this jail many days, before a worthy and charitable woman, by the name of Mrs. Blacden, supplied me with a good dinner of fresh meats every day, with garden fruit, and sometimes with a bottle of wine: notwithstanding which I had not been more than three weeks in this place before I lost all appetite to the most delicious food, by the jail distemper, as also did sundry of the prisoners, particularly a sergeant Moore, a man of courage and fidelity. I have several times seen him hold the boatswain of the Solebay frigate, when he attempted to strike him, and laughed him out of conceit of using him as a slave.
A doctor visited the sick, and did the best, as I suppose, he could for them, to no apparent purpose. I grew weaker and weaker, as did the rest. Several of them could not help themselves. At last I reasoned in my own mind, that raw onion would be good. I made use of it, and found immediate relief by it, as did the sick in general, particularly sergeant Moore, whom it recovered almost from the shades; though I had met with a little revival, still I found the malignant hand of Britain had greatly reduced my constitution with stroke upon stroke. Esquire Lovel and myself used every argument and entreaty that could be well conceived of in order to obtain gentleman-like usage, to no purpose. I then wrote Gen. Massey as severe a letter as I possibly could with my friend Lovel's assistance. The contents of it was to give the British, as a nation, and him as an individual, their true character. This roused the rascal, for he could not bear to see his and the nation's deformity in that transparent letter, which I sent him; he therefore put himself in a great rage about it, and showed, the letter to a number of British officers, particularly to captain Smith of the Lark frigate, who, instead of joining with him in disapprobation, commended the spirit of it; upon which general Massey said to him do you take the part of a rebel against me? Captain Smith answered that he rather spoke his sentiments, and there was a dissention in opinion between them. Some officers took the part of the general, and others of the captain. This I was informed of by a gentleman who had it from captain Smith.
In a few days after this, the prisoners were ordered to go on board of a man of war, which was bound for New York; but two of them were not able to go on board, and were left at Halifax; one died; and the other recovered. This was about the 12th of October, and soon after we had got on board, the captain sent for me in particular to come on the quarter deck. I went, not knowing that it was captain Smith, or his ship, at that time, and expected to meet the same rigorous usage I had commonly met with, and prepared my mind accordingly; but when I came on deck, the captain met me with his hand, welcomed me to his ship, invited me to dine with him that day, and assured me that I should be treated as a gentleman, and that he had given orders, that I should be treated with respect by the ship's crew. This was so unexpected and sudden a transition, that it drew tears from my eyes, which all the ill usage I had before met with, was not able to produce nor could I at first hardly speak, but soon recovered myself and expressed my gratitude for so unexpected a favor; and let him know that I felt anxiety of mind in reflecting that his situation and mine was such, that it was not probable that it would ever be in my power to return the favor. Captain Smith replied, that he had no reward in view, but only treated me as a gentleman ought to be treated; he said this is a mutable world, and one gentleman never knows but it may be in his power to help another. Soon after I found this to be the same captain Smith who took my part against general Massey; but he never mentioned anything of it to me, and I thought it impolite in me to interrogate him as to any disputes which might have arisen between him and the general on my account, as I was a prisoner, and that it was at his option to make free with me on that subject, if he pleased; and if he did not, I might take it for granted that it would be unpleasing for me to query about it, though I had a strong propensity to converse with him on that subject.
I dined with the captain agreeable to his invitation, and oftentimes with the lieutenant, in the gun-room, but in general ate and drank with my friend Lovel and the other gentlemen who were prisoners with me, where I also slept.
We had a little berth enclosed with canvass, between decks, where we enjoyed ourselves very well, in hopes of an exchange; besides, our friends at Halifax had a little notice of our departure, and supplied us with spirituous liquor, and many articles of provision for the cost. Captain Burk, having been taken prisoner, was added to our company, (he had commanded an American armed vessel) and was generously treated by the captain and all the offices of the ship, as well as myself. We now had in all near thirty prisoners on board, and as we were sailing along the coast, if I recollect right, off Rhode Island, captain Burk, with an under officer of the ship, whose name I do not recollect, came to our little berth, proposed to kill captain Smith and the principal officers of the frigate and take it; adding that there were thirty-five thousand pounds sterling in the same. Captain Burk likewise averred that a strong party out of the ship's crew was in the conspiracy, and urged me, and the gentleman that was with me, to use our influence with the private prisoners, to execute the design, and take the ship with the cash into one of our own ports.
Upon which I replied, that we had been too well used on board to murder the officers; that I could by no means reconcile it to my conscience, and that, in fact, it should not be done; and while I was yet speaking, my friend Lovel confirmed what I had said, and farther pointed out the ungratefulness of such an act; that it did not fall short of murder, and in fine all the gentlemen in the berth opposed captain Burk and his colleague.
But they strenuously urged that the conspiracy would be found out, and that it would cost them their lives, provided they did not execute their design. I then interposed spiritedly, and put an end to further argument on the subject, and told them that they might depend upon it, upon my honor, that I would faithfully guard captain Smith's life. If they should attempt the assault, I would assist him, for they desired me to remain neuter, and that the same honor that guarded captain Smith's life, would also guard theirs and it was agreed by those present not to reveal the conspiracy, to the intent that no man should be put to death, in consequence of what had been projected; and captain Burk and his colleague went to stifle the matter among their associates. I could not help calling to mind what captain Smith said to me, when I first came on board; "This is a mutable world, and one gentleman never knows but that it may be in his power to help another." Captain Smith and his officers still behaved with their usual courtesy, and I never heard any more of the conspiracy.
We arrived before New York, and cast anchor the latter part of October, where we remained several days, and where captain Smith informed me, that he had recommended me to admiral Howe and general Sir Wm. Howe, as a gentleman of honor and veracity, and desired that I might be treated as such. Captain Burk was then ordered on board a prison-ship in the harbor. I took my leave of captain Smith, and with the other prisoners, was sent on board a transport ship, which lay in the harbor, commanded by captain Craige who took me into the cabin with him and his lieutenant. I fared as they did, and was in every respect well treated, in consequence of directions from captain Smith. In a few weeks after this I had the happiness to part with my friend Lovel, for his sake, whom the enemy affected to treat as a private; he was a gentleman of merit, and liberally educated, but had no commission; they maligned him on account of his unshaken attachment to the cause of his country. He was exchanged for a governor Phillip Skene of the British. I was continued in this ship till the latter part of November, where I contracted an acquaintance with the captain of the British; his name has slipped my memory. He was what we may call a genteel, hearty fellow. I remember an expression of his over a bottle of wine, to this import: "That there is a greatness of soul for personal friendship to subsist between you and me, as we are upon opposite sides, and may at another day be obliged to face each other in the field." I am confident that he was as faithful as any officer in the British army. At another sitting he offered to bet a dozen of wine, that fort Washington would be in the hands of the British in three days. I stood the bet, and would, had I known, that that would have been the case; and the third day afterwards we heard a heavy cannonade, and that day the fort was taken sure enough. Some months after, when I was on parole, he called upon me with his usual humor, and mentioned the bet. I acknowledged I had lost it, but he said he did not mean to take it then, as I was a prisoner; that he would another day call on me, when their army came to Bennington. I replied, that he was quite too generous, as I had fairly lost it; besides, the Green-Mountain-Boys would not suffer them to come to Bennington. This was all in good humor. I should have been glad to have seen him after the defeat at Bennington, but did not. It was customary for a guard to attend the prisoners, which was often changed. One was composed of tories from Connecticut, in the vicinity of Fairfield and Green Farms. The sergeant's name was Holt. They were very full of their invectives against the country, swaggered of their loyalty to the king, and exclaimed bitterly against the "cow'ardly yankees," as they were pleased to term them, but finally contented themselves with saying, that when the country was overcome, they should be well rewarded for their loyalty out of the estates of the whigs, which would be confiscated.
This I found to be the general language of the tories, after I arrived from England on the American coast. I heard sundry of them relate that the British generals had engaged them an ample reward for their losses, disappointments and expenditures, out of the forfeited rebels' estates. This language early taught me what to do with tories' estates, as far as my influence can go. For it is really a game of hazard between whig and tory. The whigs must inevitably have lost all, in consequence of the abilities of the tories, and their good friends the British; and it is no more than right the tories should run the same risk, in consequence of the abilities of the whigs. But of this more will be observed in the sequel of this narrative.
Some of the last days of November, the prisoners were landed at New York, and I was admitted to parole with the other officers, viz: Proctor, Howland and Taylor. The privates were put into filthy churches in New York, with the distressed prisoners that were taken at Fort Washington; and the second night, sergeant Roger Moore, who was bold and enterprising, found means to make his escape with every of the remaining prisoners that were taken with me, except three, who were soon after exchanged. So that out of thirty-one prisoners, who went with me, the round exhibited in these sheets, two only died with the enemy, and three only were exchanged; one of whom died after he came within our lines; all the rest, at different times, made their escape from the enemy.
I now found myself on parole, and restricted to the limits of the city of New York, where I soon projected means to live in some measure agreeably to my rank, though I was destitute of cash. My constitution was almost worn out by such a long and barbarous captivity. The enemy gave out that I was crazy, and wholly unmanned, but my vitals held sound, nor was I delirious any more than I had been from youth up; but my extreme circumstances, at certain times, rendered it politic to act in some measure the madman; and in consequence of a regular diet and exercise, my blood recruited, and my nerves in a great measure recovered their former tone, strength and usefulness, in the course of six months.
I next invite the reader to a retrospective sight and consideration of the doleful scene of inhumanity, exercised by general Sir William Howe, and the army under his command, towards the prisoners taken on Long Island, on the 27th day of Aug. 1776; sundry of whom were, in an inhuman and barbarous manner, murdered after they had surrendered their arms; particularly a general Odel, or Woodhull, of the militia; who was hacked to pieces with cutlasses, when alive, by the light horsemen, and a captain Fellows, of the continental army, who was thrust through with a bayonet, of which wound he died instantly. Sundry others were hanged up by the neck till they were dead; five on the limb of a white oak tree, and without any reason assigned, except that they were fighting in defence of the only blessing worth preserving. And indeed those who had the misfortune to fall into their hands at Fort Washington, in the month of November following, met with but very little better usage, except that they were reserved from immediate death to famish and die with hunger; in fine the word rebel, applied to any vanquished persons, without regard to rank, who were in the continental service, on the 27th of August aforesaid, was thought, by the enemy, sufficient to sanctify whatever cruelties they were pleased to inflict, death itself not excepted; but to pass over particulars which would swell my narrative far beyond my design.
The private soldiers, who were brought to New-York, were crowded into churches, and environed with slavish Hessian guards, a people of a strange language, who were sent to America for no other design but cruelty and desolation; and at others, by merciless Britons whose mode of communicating ideas being intelligible in this country, served only to tantalize and insult the helpless and perishing; but above all, the hellish delight and triumph of the tories over them, as they were dying by hundreds. This was too much for me to bear as a spectator; for I saw the tories exulting over the dead bodies of their murdered countrymen. I have gone into the churches, and seen sundry of the prisoners in the agonies of death, in consequence of very hunger, and others speechless, and very near death, biting pieces of chips; others pleading for God's sake, for something to eat, and at the same time, shivering with the cold. Hollow groans saluted my ears, and despair seemed to be imprinted on every of their countenances. The filth in these churches, in consequence of the fluxes, was almost beyond description. The floors were covered with excrements. I have carefully sought to direct my steps so as to avoid' it, but could not. They would beg for God's sake for one copper, or morsel of bread. I have seen in one of these churches seven dead, at the same time, lying among the excrements of their bodies.
It was a common practice with the enemy, to convey the dead from these filthy places, in carts, to be slightly buried, and I have seen whole gangs of tories making derision, and exulting over the dead, saying, there goes another load of damned rebels. I have observed the British, soldiers to be full of their black-guard jokes, and vaunting on those occasions, but they appeared to me less malignant than tories.
The provision dealt out to the prisoners was by no means sufficient for the support of life. It was deficient in quantity, and much more so in quality. The prisoners often presented me with a sample of their bread, which I certify was damaged to that degree, that it was loathsome and unfit to be eaten, and I am bold to aver it, as my opinion, that it had been condemned, and of the very worst sort. I have seen and been fed upon damaged bread, in the course of my captivity, and observed the quality of such bread as has been condemned by the enemy, among which was very little so effectually spoiled as what was dealt out to these prisoners. Their allowance of meat (as they told me) was quite trifling, and was of the basest sort. I never saw any of it, but was informed, that bad as it was, it was swallowed almost as quick as they got hold of it. I saw some of them sucking bones after they were speechless; others, who could yet speak, and had the use of their reason, urged me, in the strongest and most pathetic manner, to use my interest in their behalf; for you plainly see, said they, that we are devoted to death and destruction; and after I had examined more particularly into their truly deplorable condition, and had become more fully apprized of the essential facts, I was persuaded that it was a premeditated and systematical plan of the British council, to destroy the youths of our land, with a view thereby to deter the country, and make it submit to their despotism; but that I could not do them any material service, and that, by any public attempt for that purpose, I might endanger myself by frequenting places the most nauseous and contagious that could be conceived of. I refrained going into churches, but frequently conversed with such of the prisoners as were admitted to come out into the yard, and found that the systematical usage still continued. The guard would often drive me away with their fixed bayonets. A Hessian one day followed me five or six rods, but by making use of my legs, I got rid of the lubber. Some times I could obtain a little conversation, notwithstanding their severities.
I was in one of the church yards, and it was rumored among those in the church, and sundry of the prisoners came with their usual complaints to me, and among the rest a large boned, tall young man, as he told me, from Pennsylvania, who was reduced to a mere skeleton; he said he was glad to see me before he died, which he expected to have done last night, but was a little revived; he furthermore informed me, that he and his brother had been urged to enlist into the British, but both had resolved to die first; that his brother had died last night, in consequence of that resolution, and that he expected shortly to follow him; but I made the other prisoners stand a little off, and told him with a low voice to enlist; he then asked, whether it was right in the sight of God! I assured him that it was, and that duty to himself obliged him to deceive the British by enlisting and deserting the first opportunity; upon which he answered with transport that he would enlist. I charged him not to mention my name as his adviser, lest it should get air, and I should be closely confined, in consequence of it. The integrity of the suffering prisoners is hardly credibly. Many hundreds, I am confident, submitted to death, rather than to enlist in the British service, which, I am informed, they most generally were pressed to do. I was astonished at the resolution of the two brothers particularly; it seems that they could not be stimulated to such exertions of heroism from ambition, as they were but obscure soldiers; strong indeed must the internal principle of virtue be, which supported them to brave death, and one of them went through the operation, as did many hundred others. I readily grant that instances of public virtue are no excitement to the sordid and vicious, nor, on the other hand, with all the barbarity of Britain and Heshland awaken them to a sense of their duty to the public; but these things will have their proper effect on the generous and brave. The officers on parole were most of them zealous, if possible, to afford the miserable soldiery relief, and often consulted with one and another on the subject, but to no effect, being destitute of the means of subsistence, which they needed; nor could the officers project any measure, which they thought would alter their fate, or so much as be a means, of getting them out of those filthy places to the privilege of fresh air. Some projected that all the officers should go in procession to general Howe, and plead the cause of the perishing soldiers; but this proposal was negatived for the following reasons, viz: because that general Howe, must needs be well acquainted, and have a thorough knowledge of the state and condition of the prisoners in every of their wretched apartments, and that much more particular and exact than any officer on parole could be supposed to have, as the general had a return of the circumstances of the prisoners, by his own officers, every morning, of the number which were alive, as also the number which died every twenty-four hours; and consequently the bill of mortality, as collected from the daily returns, lay before him with all the material situations and circumstances of the prisoners; and provided the officers should go in procession to general Howe, according to the projection, it would give him the greatest affront, and that he would either retort upon them, that it was no part of their parole to instruct him in his conduct to prisoners; that they were mutining against his authority, and by affronting him, had forfeited their parole; or that, more probably, instead of saying one word to them, would order them all into as wretched confinement as the soldiers whom they sought to relieve; for, at that time, the British, from the general to the private sentinel, were in full confidence, nor did they so much as hesitate, but that they should conquer the country. Thus the consultation of the officers was confounded and broken to pieces, in consequence of the dread, which at that time lay on their minds, of offending Gen. Howe; for they conceived so murderous a tyrant would not be too good to destroy even the officers, on the least pretence of an affront, as they were equally in his power with the soldiers; and, as Gen. Howe perfectly understood the condition of the private soldiers, it was argued that it was exactly such as he and his council had devised, and as he meant to destroy them it would be to no purpose for them to try to dissuade him from it, as they were helpless and liable to the same fate, on giving the least affront; indeed anxious apprehensions disturbed them in their then circumstances.
Mean time mortality raged to such an intolerable degree among the prisoners, that the very school boys in the streets knew the mental design of it in some measure; at least, they knew that they were starved to death. Some poor women contributed to their necessity, till their children were almost starved, and all persons of common understanding knew that they were devoted to the cruelest and worst of deaths. It was also proposed by some to make a written representation of the condition of the soldiery, and the officers to sign it, and that it should be couched in such terms, as though they were apprehensive that the General was imposed upon by his officers, in their daily returns to him of the state and condition of the prisoners; and that therefore the officers, moved with compassion, were constrained to communicate to him the facts relative to them, nothing doubting but that they would meet with a speedy redress; but this proposal was most generally negatived also, and for much the same reason offered in the other case; for it was conjectured that Gen. Howe's indignation would be moved against such officers as should attempt to whip him over his officers' backs; that he would discern that himself was really struck at, and not the officers who made the daily returns; and therefore self-preservation deterred the officers from either petitioning or remonstrating to Gen. Howe, either verbally or in writing; as also the consideration that no valuable purpose to the distressed would be obtained.
I made several rough drafts on the subject, one of which I exhibited to the colonels Magaw, Miles and Atlee, and they said that they would consider the matter; soon after I called on them, and some of the gentlemen informed me that they had written to the general on the subject, and I concluded that the gentleman thought it best that they should write without me, as there was such spirited aversion subsisting between the British and me.
In the mean time a colonel Hussecker, of the continental army, as he then reported, was taken prisoner, and brought to New-York, who gave out that the country was almost universally submitting to the English king's authority, and that there would be little or no more opposition to Great-Britain. This at first gave the officers a little shock, but in a few days they recovered themselves; for this colonel Hussecker, being a German, was feasting with general De Heister, his countryman, and from his conduct they were apprehensive that he was a knave; at least he was esteemed so by most of the officers; it was nevertheless a day of trouble. The enemy blasphemed. Our little army was retreating in New-Jersey, and our young men murdered by hundreds in New-York. The army of Britain and Heshland prevailed for a little season, as though it was ordered by Heaven to shew, to the latest posterity, what the British would have done if they could, and what the general calamity must have been, in consequence of their conquering the country, and to excite every honest man to stand forth in the defence of liberty, and to establish the independency of the United States of America forever. But this scene of adverse fortune did not discourage a Washington. The illustrious American hero remained immoveable. In liberty's cause he took up his sword. This reflection was his support and consolation in the day of his humiliation, when he retreated before the enemy, through New-Jersey into Pennsylvania. Their triumph only roused his indignation; and the important cause of his country, which lay near his heart, moved him to cross the Delaware again, and take ample satisfaction on his pursuers. No sooner had he circumvallated his haughty foes, and appeared in terrible array, but the host of Heshland fell. This taught America the intrinsic worth of perseverance, and the generous sons of freedom flew to the standard of their common safeguard and defence; from which time the arm of American liberty hath prevailed.*
* The American army being greatly reduced by the loss of men taken prisoners, and by the departure of men whose inlistments had expired, General Washington was obliged to retreat towards Philadelphia; General Howe, exulting in his successes, pursued him, notwithstanding the weather was severely cold. To add to the disasters of the Americans, General Lee was surprised and taken prisoner at Baskenridge. In this gloomy state of affairs, many persons joined the British cause and took protection. But a small band of heroes checked the tide of British success. A divisions of Hessians had advanced to Trenton, where they reposed in security. General Washington was on the opposite side of the Delaware, with about three thousand men, many of whom were without shoes or convenient clothing; and the river was covered with floating ice. But the general knew the importance of striking some successful blow, to animate the expiring hopes of the country; and on the night of December 25th, crossed the river, and fell upon the enemy by surprise, and took the whole body consisting of about nine hundred men. A few were killed, among whom was colonel Rahl the commander.
This surprise and capture of the Hessians enraged the enemy, who were still vastly more numerous than the continental troops. They therefore collected, and marched from Princeton, to attack general Washington, who was then at Trenton, having previously left a detachment from their main body at Princeton, for the support of that place. This was a trying time, for our worthy general, though in possession of a late most astonishing victory, was by no means able to withstand the collective force of the enemy; but his sagacity soon suggested a stratagem to effect that which, by force, to him was at that time impracticable. He therefore amused the enemy with a number of fires, and in the night made a forced march, undiscovered by them, and next morning fell in with their rear-guard at Princeton, and killed and took most of them prisoners. The main body too late perceived their rear was attacked, hurried back with all speed, but to their mortification, found that they were out-generalled and baffled by general Washington, who was retired with his little army towards Morristown, and was out of their power.* These repeated successes, one on the back of the other, chagrined the enemy prodigiously, and had an amazing operation in the scale of American politics, and undoubtedly was one of the corner stones, on which their fair structure of Independency has been fabricated, for the country at no one time has ever been so much dispirited, as just before the morning of this glorious success, which in part dispelled the gloomy clouds of oppression and slavery, which lay pending over America, big with the ruin of this and future generations, and enlightened and spirited her sons to redouble their blows on a merciless, and haughty, and I may add perfidious enemy.
* On the 2d of January, 1777, Lord Cornwallis appeared near Trenton, with a strong body of troops. Skirmishing took place, and impeded the march of the British army, until the Americans had secured their artillery and baggage; when they retired to the southward of the creek, and repulsed the enemy in their attempt to pass the bridge. As General Washington's force was not sufficient to meet the enemy, and his situation was critical, he determined, with the advice of a council of war, to attempt a stratagem. He gave orders for the troops to light fires in their camp, (which were intended to deceive the enemy,) and be prepared to march. Accordingly at twelve o'clock at night the troops left the ground, and by a circuitous march, eluded the vigilance of the enemy, and early in the morning appeared at Princeton. A small action ensued, but the British troops gave way. A party took refuge in the college, a building with strong stone walls, but were forced to surrender. The enemy lost in killed, wounded and prisoners, about five hundred men. The Americans lost but few men; but among them was a most valuable officer, general Mercer.
Farthermore, this success had a mighty effect on General Howe and his council, and roused them to a sense of their own weakness, and convinced them that they were neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Their obduracy and death-designing malevolence, in some measure, abated or was suspended. The prisoners, who were condemned to the most wretched and crudest of deaths, and who survived to this period, though most of them died before, were immediately ordered to be sent within Gen. Washington's lines for an exchange, and, in consequence of it, were taken out of their filthy and poisonous places of confinement, and sent from New-York to their friends in haste; several of them fell dead in the streets of New-York, as they attempted to walk to the vessels in the harbor, for their intended embarkation. What numbers lived to reach the lines I cannot ascertain, but, from concurrent representations which I have since received from numbers of people who lived in and adjacent to such parts of the country, where they were received from the enemy, I apprehend that most of them died in consequence of the vile usage of the enemy. Some who were eye witnesses of that scene of mortality, more especially in that part which continued after the exchange took place, are of opinion, that it was partly in consequence of a slow poison; but this I refer to the doctors that attended them, who are certainly the best judges.
Upon the best calculation I have been able to make from personal knowledge, and the many evidences I have collected in support of the facts, I learn that, of the prisoners taken on Long-Island, Fort Washington, and some few others, at different times and places, about two thousand perished with hunger, cold and sickness, occasioned by the filth of their prisons, at New-York, and a number more on their passage to the continental lines. Most of the residue, who reached their friends, having received their death wound, could not be restored by the assistance of physicians and friends; but like their brother prisoners, fell a sacrifice to the relentless and scientific barbarity of Britain. I took as much pains as my circumstances would admit of, to inform myself not only of matters of fact, but likewise of the very design and aims of General Howe and his council. The latter of which I predicated on the former, and submit it to the candid public.
And lastly, the aforesaid success of the American arms had a happy effect on the continental officers who were on parole at New-York. A number of us assembled, but not in a public manner, and with full bowls and glasses, drank Gen. Washington's health, and were not unmindful of Congress and our worthy friends on the continent, and almost forgot that we were prisoners.
A few days after this recreation, a British officer of rank and importance in their army, whose name I shall not mention in this narrative, for certain reasons, though I have mentioned it to some of my close friends and confidants, sent for me to his lodgings, and told me, "That faithfulness, though in a wrong cause, had nevertheless recommended me to Gen. Sir William Howe, who was minded to make me a colonel of a regiment of new levies, alias tories, in the British service; and proposed that I should go with him, and some' other officers, to England, who would embark for that purpose in a few days, and there be introduced to Lord G. Germaine, and probably to the King; and that previously I should be clothed equal, to such an introduction, and, instead of paper rags, be paid in hard guineas; after this, should embark with Gen. Burgoyne, and assist in the reduction of the country, which infallibly would be conquered, and, when that should be done, I should have a large tract of land, either in the New-Hampshire grants, or in Connecticut, it would make no odds, as the country would be forfeited to the crown." I then replied, "That, if by faithfulness I had recommended myself to Gen. Howe, I should be loth, by unfaithfulness, to lose the General's good opinion; besides, that I viewed the offer of land to be similar to that which the devil offered Jesus Christ, To give him all the kingdoms of the world, if he would fall down and worship him; when at the same time, the damned soul had not one foot of land upon earth." This closed the conversation, and the gentleman turned from me with an air of dislike, saying, that I was a bigot; upon which I retired to my lodgings.*
Near the last of November, I was admitted to parole in New-York, with many other American officers, and on the 22d of January, 1777, was with them directed by the British commissary of prisoners to be quartered on the westerly part of Long-Island, and our parol continued. During my imprisonment there, no occurrences worth observation happened. I obtained the means of living as well as I desired, which in a great measure repaired my constitution, which had been greatly injured by the severities of an inhuman captivity. I now began to feel myself composed, expecting either an exchange, or continuance in good and honorable treatment; but alas! my visionary expectations soon vanished. The news of the conquest of Ticonderoga by general Burgoyne,** and the advance of his army into the country, made the haughty Britons again feel their importance, and with that, their insatiable thirst for cruelty.
The private prisoners at New-York, and some of the officers on parole, felt the severity of it. Burgoyne was to them a demi-god. To him they paid adoration: in him the tories placed their confidence, "and forgot the Lord their God," and served Howe, Burgoyne and Knyphausen,*** "and became vile in their own imagination, and their foolish hearts were darkened," professing to be great politicians and relying on foreign and merciless invaders, and with them seeking the ruin, bloodshed and destruction of their country; "became fools," expecting with them to share a dividend in the confiscated estates of their neighbors and countrymen who fought for the whole country, and the religion and liberties thereof. "Therefore, God gave them over to strong delusions, to believe a lie, that they all might be damned."
* This conduct of Colonel Allen, though springing from duty, ought not to be passed over without tributary praise. The refusal of such an offer and in such circumstances, was highly meritorious. Though the man of strict honor, and rigid integrity, deems the plaudit of his own conscience an ample reward for his best actions, it is a pleasing employment, to those who witness such actions, to record them. It is an incentive to others to 'go and do likewise.'
** In June, 1777, the British army, amounting to several thousand men, besides Indians and Canadians, commanded by general Burgoyne, crossed the lake and laid siege to Ticonderoga. In a short time, the enemy gained possession of Sugar Hill, which commanded the American lines, and general St. Clair, with the advice of a council of war, ordered the post to be abandoned. The retreat of the Americans was conducted under every possible disadvantage--part of their force embarked in batteaux and landed at Skenesborough--a part marched by the way of Castleton; but they were obliged to leave their heavy cannon, and on their march, lost great part of their baggage and stores, while their rear was harassed by the British troops. An action took place between colonel Warner, with a body of Americans, and general Frazer, in which the Americans were defeated, after a brave resistance, with the loss of a valuable officer, colonel Francis.
*** Knyphausen, a Hessian general.
The 25th day of August, I was was apprehended, and, under pretext of artful, mean and pitiful pretences, that I had infringed on my parole, taken from a tavern, where there were more than a dozen officers present and, in the very place where those officers and myself were directed to be quartered, put under a strong guard and taken to New-York, where I expected to make my defence before the commanding officer; but, contrary to my expectations, and without the least solid pretence of justice or a trial, was again encircled with a strong guard with fixed bayonets, and conducted to the provost-goal in a lonely apartment, next above the dungeon, and was denied all manner of subsistence either by purchase or allowance. The second day I offered a guinea for a meal of victuals, but was denied it, and the third day I offered eight Spanish milled dollars for a like favor, but was denied, and all I could get out of the sergeant's mouth, was that by God he would obey his orders. I now perceived myself to be again in substantial trouble. In this condition I formed an oblique acquaintance with a Capt. Travis, of Virginia, who was in the dungeon below me, through a little hole which was cut with a pen-knife, through the floor of my apartment which communicated with the dungeon; it was a small crevice, through which I could discern but a very small part of his face at once, when he applied it to the hole; but from the discovery of him in the situation which we were both then in, I could not have known him, which I found to be true by an after acquaintance. I could nevertheless hold a conversation with him, and soon perceived him to be a gentleman of high spirits, who had a high sense of honor, and felt as big, as though he had been in a palace, and had treasures of wrath in store against the British. In fine I was charmed with the spirit of the man; he had been near or quite four months in that dungeon, with murderers, thieves, and every species of criminals, and all for the sole crime of unshaken fidelity to his country; but his spirits were above dejection, and his mind unconquerable. I engaged to do him every service in my power, and in a few weeks afterwards, with the united petitions of the officers, in the provost, procured his dismission from the dark mansion of fiends to the apartments of his petitioners.
And it came to pass on the 3d day, at the going down of the sun, that I was presented with a piece of boiled pork, and some biscuit, which the sergeant gave me to understand, was my allowance, and I fed sweetly on the same; but I indulged my appetite by degrees, and in a few days more, was taken from that apartment, and conducted to the next loft or story, where there were above twenty continental, and some militia officers, who had been taken, and imprisoned there, besides some private gentlemen, who had been dragged from their own homes to that filthy place by tories. Several of every denomination mentioned, died there, some before, and others after I was put there.
The history of the proceedings relative to, the provost only, were particular, would swell a volume larger than this, whole narrative. I shall therefore only notice such of the occurrences which are mostly extraordinary.
Capt. Vandyke bore, with an uncommon fortitude, near twenty months' confinement in this place, and in the mean time was very serviceable to others who were confined with him. The allegation against him, as the cause of his confinement, was very extraordinary. He was accused of setting fire to the city of New-York, at the time the west part of it was consumed, when it was a known fact, that he had been in the provost a week before the fire broke out; and in like manner, frivolous were the ostensible accusations against most of those who were there confined; the case of two militia officers excepted, who were taken in their attempting to escape from their parole; and probably there may be some other instances which might justify such a confinement.
Mr. William Miller, a committee man, from West Chester county, and state of New York, was taken from his bed in the dead of the night by his tory neighbors, and was starved for three days and nights in an apartment of the same gaol; add to this the denial of fire, and that in a cold season of the year, in which time he walked day and night, to defend himself against the frost, and when he complained of such a reprehensible conduct, the word rebel or committee man was deemed by the enemy a sufficient atonement for any inhumanity that they could invent or inflict. He was a man of good natural understanding, a close and sincere friend to the liberties of America, and endured fourteen months' cruel imprisonment with that magnanimity of soul, which reflects honor on himself and country.
Major Levi Wells, and Capt.. Ozias Bissel, were apprehended and taken under guard from their parole on Long-Island, to the provost, on as fallacious pretences as the former, and were there continued till their exchange took place which was near five months. Their fidelity and zealous attachment to their country's cause, which was more than commonly conspicuous was undoubtedly the real cause of their confinement.
Major Brinton Payne, Capt. Flahaven, and Capt. Randolph, who had at different times distinguished themselves by their bravery, especially at the several actions, in which they were taken, were all the provocation they gave, for which they suffered about a year's confinement, each in the same filthy gaol.
A few weeks after my confinement, on the like fallacious and wicked pretences, was brought to the same place, from his parole on Long-Island, Major Otho Holland Williams now a full Col. in the continental army. In his character are united the gentleman, officer, soldier, and friend; he walked through the prison with an air of great disdain; said he, "Is this the treatment which gentlemen of the continental army are to expect from the rascally British, when in their power? Heavens forbid it!" He was continued there about five months, and then exchanged for a British Major.
Johny Fell, Esq. now a member of Congress for the state of New-Jersey, was taken from his own house by a gang of infamous tories, and by order of a British General was sent to the provost, where he was continued near one year. The stench of the gaol, which was very loathsome and unhealthy, occasioned a hoarseness of the lungs, which proved fatal to many who were there confined, and reduced this gentleman near to the point of death; he was indeed given over by his friends who were about him, and himself concluded he must die. I could not endure the thought that so worthy a friend to America should have his life stolen from him in such a mean, base, and scandalous manner, and that his family and friends should be bereaved of so great and desirable a blessing, as his further care, usefulness and example, might prove to them. I therefore wrote a letter to George Robertson, who commanded in town, and being touched with the most sensible feelings of humanity, which dictated my pen to paint dying distress in such lively colors that it wrought conviction even on the obduracy of a British General, and produced his order to remove the now honorable John Fell, Esq. out of a gaol, to private lodgings in town; in consequence of which he slowly recovered his health. There is so extraordinary a circumstance which intervened concerning this letter, that it is worth noticing.
Previous to sending it, I exhibited the same to the gentleman on whose behalf it was written, for his approbation, and he forbid me to send it in the most positive and explicit terms; his reason was, "That the enemy knew, by every morning's report, the condition of all the prisoners, mine in particular, as I have been gradually coming to my end for a considerable time, and they very well knew it, and likewise determined it should be accomplished, as they had served many others; that, to ask a favor, would give the merciless enemy occasion to triumph over me in my last moments, and therefore I will ask no favors from them, but resign myself to my supposed fate." But the letter I sent without his knowledge, and I confess I had but little expectations from it, yet could not be easy till I had sent it. I may be worth a remark, that this gentleman was an Englishman born, and from the beginning of the revolution has invariably asserted and maintained the cause of liberty.
The British have made so extensive an improvement of the provost during the present revolution till of late, that a very short definition will be sufficient for the dullest apprehensions. It may be with propriety called the British inquisition, and calculated to support their oppressive measures and designs, by suppressing the spirit of liberty; as also a place to confine the criminals, and most infamous wretches of their own army, where many gentlemen of the American army, and citizens thereof, were promiscuously confined, with every species of criminals; but they divided into different apartments, and kept at as great a remove as circumstances permitted; but it was nevertheless at the option of a villainous sergeant, who had the charge of the provost, to take any gentleman from their room, and put them into the dungeon, which was often the case. At two different times I was taken down stairs for that purpose, by a file of soldiers with fixed bayonets, and the sergeant brandishing his sword at the same time, and having been brought, to the door of the dungeon, I there flattered the vanity of the sergeant, whose name was Keef, by which means I procured the surprising favor to return to my companions; but some of the high mettled young gentlemen could not bear his insolence, and determined to keep at a distance, and neither please nor displease the villain, but none could keep clear of his abuse; however, mild measures were the best; he did not hesitate to call us damned rebels, and use us with the coarsest language. The Capts. Flahaven, Randolph and Mercer, were the objects of his most flagrant and repeated abuses, who were many times taken to the dungeon, and there continued at his pleasure. Capt. Flahaven took cold in the dungeon, and was in a declining state of health, but an exchange delivered him, and in all probability saved his life. It was very mortifying to bear with the insolence of such a vicious and ill-bred, imperious rascal. Remonstrances against him were preferred to the commander of the town, but no relief could be obtained, for his superiors were undoubtedly well pleased with his abusive conduct to the gentlemen, under the severities of his power; and remonstrating against his infernal conduct, only served to confirm him in authority; and for this reason I never made any remonstrances on the subject, but only stroked him, for I knew that he was but a cat's paw in the hands of the British officers, and that, if he should use us well, he would immediately be put out of that trust, and a worse man appointed to succeed him; but there was no need of making any new appointment; for Cunningham, their provost marshall, and Keef, his deputy, were as great rascals as their army could boast of, except one Joshua Loring, an infamous tory, who was commissionary of prisoners; nor can any of these be supposed to be equally criminal with Gen. Sir William Howe and his associates, who prescribed and directed the murders and cruelties, which were by them perpetrated. This Loring is a monster!--There is not his like in human shape. He exhibits a smiling countenance, seems to wear a phiz of humanity, but has been instrumentally capable of the most consummate acts of wickedness, which were first projected by an abandoned British council clothed with the authority of a Howe, murdering premeditatedly, in cold blood, near or quite two thousand helpless prisoners, and that in the most clandestine, mean and shameful manner, at New-York. He is the most mean spirited, cowardly, deceitful, and destructive animal in God's creation below, and legions of infernal devils, with all their tremendous horrors, are impatiently ready to receive Howe and him, with all their detestable accomplices, into the most exquisite agonies of the hottest regions of hell fire.*
* The publishers would suppress sortie of the language and expressions Col. Allen occasionally makes use of, but presuming the reader to make all reasonable allowance, both for the style and the matter, it was thought most eligible to give the narrative in the very dress furnished by the author.
The 6th day of July, 1777, Gen. St. Clair, and the army under his command, evacuated Ticonderoga, and retreated with the main body through Hubbardton into Castleton, which was but six miles distant, when his rear-guard, commanded by Col. Seth Warner, was attacked at Hubbarton by a body of the enemy of about two thousand, commanded by General Fraser. Warner's command consisted of his own and two other regiments, viz. Francis's and Hale's, and some scattering and enfeebled soldiers. His whole number, according to information, was near or quite one thousand; part of which were Green Mountain Boys, about seven hundred out of the whole he brought into action. The enemy advanced boldly, and the two bodies formed within about sixty yards of each other. Col. Warner having formed his own regiment, and that of Col. Francis's did not wait for the enemy, but gave them a heavy fire from his whole line, and they returned it with great bravery. It was by this time dangerous for those of both parties, who were not prepared for the world to come; but Colonel Hale being apprised of the danger, never brought his regiment to the charge, but left Warner and Francis to stand the blowing of it, and fled, but luckily fell in with an inconsiderable number of the enemy, and to his eternal shame, surrendered himself a prisoner.
The conflict was very bloody. Col. Francis fell in the same, but Col. Warner, and the officers under his command, as also the soldiery, behaved with great resolution. The enemy broke, and gave way on the right and left, but formed again, and renewed the attack; in the mean time the British grenadiers, in the center of the enemy's line, maintained the ground, and finally carried it with the point of the bayonet, and Warner retreated with reluctance. Our loss was about thirty men killed, and that of the enemy amounting to three hundred killed, including a Major Grant. The enemy's loss I learnt from the confession of their own officers, when a prisoner with them. I heard them likewise complain, that the Green Mountain Boys took sight. The next movement of the enemy, of any material consequence, was their investing Bennington,* with a design to demolish it, and subject its Mountaineers, to which they had a great aversion, with one hundred and fifty chosen men, including tories, with the highest expectation of success, and having chosen an eminence of strong ground, fortified it with slight breast works, and two pieces of cannon; but the government of the young state of Vermont, being previously jealous of such an attempt of the enemy, and in due time had procured a number of brave militia from the government of the state of New-Hampshire, who, together with the militia of the north part of Berkshire county, and state of Massachusetts, and the Green Mountain Boys, constituted a body of desperadoes, under the command of the intrepid general Stark, who in number were about equal to the enemy. Colonel Herrick, who commanded the Green Mountain Rangers, and who was second in command, being thoroughly acquainted with the ground where the enemy had fortified, proposed to attack them in their works upon all parts, at the same time. This plan being adopted by the general and his council of war, the little militia brigade of undisciplined heroes, with their long brown firelocks, the the best security of a free people, without either cannon or bayonets, was, on the 16th day of August, led on to the attack by their bold commanders, in the face of the enemy's dreadful fire, and to the astonishment of the world, and burlesque of discipline, carried every part of their lines in less than one quarter of an hour after the attack became general, took their cannon, killed and captivated more than two-thirds of their number, which immortalized general Stark, and made Bennington famous to posterity.
* The Americans had collected a quantity of stores at Bennington; to destroy which as well as to animate the royalists and intimidate the patriots, general Burgoyne detached colonel Baum, with five hundred men and one hundred Indians. Colonel Breytnan was sent to reinforce him, but did not arrive in time. On the 16th of August, general Stark, with about eight hundred brave militia men attacked colonel Baum, in his entrenched camp about six miles from Bennington, and killed or took prisoners nearly the whole detachment. The next day colonel Breyman was attacked and defeated. In these actions, the Americans took about seven hundred prisoners, and these successes served to revive the spirits of the people. This success however was in part counterbalanced by the advantages gained on the Mohawk by colonel St. Leger; but this officer, attacking fort Stanwix, was repelled, and obliged to abandon the attempt.
Among the enemy's slain was found colonel Baum, their commander, a colonel Pfester, who headed an infamous gang of tories, and a large part of his command; and among the prisoners was major Meibome, their second in command, a number of British and Hessian officers, surgeons, &c. and more than one hundred of the aforementioned Pfester's command. The prisoners being collected together, were sent to the meeting-house in the town, by a strong guard, and Gen. Stark not imagining any present danger, the militia scattered from him to rest and refresh themselves; in this situation he was on a sudden attacked by a reinforcement of one thousand and one hundred of the enemy, commanded by a governer Skene, with two field pieces. They advanced in regular order, and kept up an incessant fire, especially from their field pieces, and the remaining militia retreating slowly before them, disputed the ground inch by inch. The enemy were heard to halloo to them, saying, stop Yankees! In the meantime, Col. Warner, with about one hundred and thirty men of his regiment, who were not in the first action, arrived and attacked the enemy with great fury, being determined to have ample on account of the quarrel at Hubbardton, which brought them to a stand, and soon after general Stark and colonel Herrick, brought on more of the scattered militia, and the action became general; in a few minutes the enemy were forced from their cannon, gave way on all parts and fled, and the shouts of victory were a second time proclaimed in favor of the militia. The enemy's loss in killed and prisoners, in these two actions, amounted to more than one thousand and two hundred men, and our loss did not exceed fifty men. This was a bitter stroke to the enemy, but their pride would not permit them to hesitate but that they could vanish the country, and as a specimen of their arrogancy, I shall insert general Burgoyne's proclamation:--
By John Burgoyne, Esq. Lieutenant-General of his Majesty's armies in America, Colonel of the Queen's regiment of light dragoons, Governor of Fort William in North-Britain, one of the Representatives of the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament, and commanding an army and fleet employed on an expedition from Canada, &c. &c. &c.
The forces entrusted to my command are designed to act in concert and upon a common principle, with the numerous armies and fleets which already display in every quarter of America, the power, the justice, and, when properly sought, the mercy of the King.
"The cause, in which the British arms are thus exerted, applies to the most affecting interests of the human heart; and the military servants of the crown, at first called forth for the sole purpose of restoring the rights of the constitution, now combine with love of their country, and duty to their sovereign, the other extensive incitements which spring from a due sense of the general privileges of mankind. To the eyes and ears of the temperate part of the public, and to the breasts of suffering thousands in the provinces, be the melancholy appeal, whether the present unnatural rebellion has not been made a foundation for the completest system of tyranny that ever God, in his displeasure, suffered for a time to be exercised over a froward and stubborn generation.
"Arbitrary Imprisonment, confiscation of property, persecution and torture, unprecedented in the inquisitions of the Romish Church, are among the palpable enormities that verify the affirmative. These are inflicted by assemblies and committees, who dare to profess themselves friends to liberty, upon the most quiet subjects, without distinction of age or sex, for the sole crime, often for the sole suspicion, of having adhered in principle to the government under which they were born, and to which, by every tie, divine and human, they owe allegiance. To consummate these shocking proceedings, the profanation of religion is added to the most profligate prostitution of common reason; the consciences of men are set at nought; and multitudes are compelled not only to bear arms, but also to swear subjection to an usurpation they abhor.
"Animated by these considerations, at the head of troops in the full powers of health, discipline, and valor; determined to strike where necessary, and anxious to spare where possible, I by these presents invite and exhort all persons, in all places where the progress of this army may point; and by the blessing of God I will extend it far to maintain such a conduct as may justify me in protecting their lands, habitations and families. The intention of this address is to hold forth security, not depredation to the country. To those whom spirit and principle may induce to partake of the glorious task of redeeming their countrymen from dungeons, and re-establishing the blessings of legal government, I offer encouragement and employment; and upon the first intelligence of their associations, I will find means to assist their undertakings. The domestic, the industrious, the infirm, and even the timid inhabitants I am desirous to protect, provided they remain quietly at their houses; that they do not suffer their cattle to be removed, nor their corn or forage to-be secreted or destroyed; that they do not break up their bridges or roads: nor by any other act, directly or indirectly, endeavour to obstruct the operations of the king's troops, or supply or assist those of the enemy. Every species of provision brought to my camp, will be paid for at an equitable rate, and in solid coin.
"In consciousness of Christianity, my royal master's clemency, and the honor of soldiership, I have dwelt upon this invitation, and wished for more persuasive terms to give it impression. And let not people be led to disregard it by considering their distance from the immediate situation of my camp.--I have but to give stretch to the Indian forces under my direction, and they amount to thousands, to overtake the hardened enemies of Great Britain and America: I consider them the same wherever they may lurk.
"If, notwithstanding these endeavours, and sincere inclinations to effect them, the phrensy of hostility should remain, I trust I shall stand acquitted in the eyes of God and man, in denouncing and executing the vengeance of the state against the wilful outcasts. The messengers of justice and of wrath await them in the field; and devastation, famine, and every concomitant horror that a reluctant but indispensible prosecution of military duty must occasion, will bear the way to their return."
"By order of his Excellency the Lieut. General,
"Robert Kingstoni Sec.
"Camp near Ticonderoga, 4th July, 1777."
Gen. Burgoyne was still the toast, and the severities towards the prisoners were in great measure increased or diminished, in proportion to the expectation of conquest. His very ostentatious Proclamation was in the hand and mouth of most of the soldiery, especially the tories, and from it, their faith was raised to assurance. I wish my countrymen in general could but have an idea of the assuming tyranny, and haughty, malevolent, and insolent behavior of the enemy at that time; and from thence discern the intolerable calamities which this country have extricated themselves from by their public spiritedness and bravery. The downfall of Gen. Burgoyne,* and surrender of his whole army, dashed the aspiring hopes and expectations of the enemy, and brought low the imperious spirit of an opulent, puissant and haughty nation, and made the tories bite the ground with anguish, exalting the valor of the freeborn sons of America, and raised their fame and that of their brave commanders to the clouds, and immortalized Gen. Gates with laurels of eternal duration. No sooner had the knowledge of this interesting and mighty event reached His Most Christian Majesty, who in Europe shines with a superior lustre in goodness, policy and arms, but the illustrious potentate, auspiciously influenced by Heaven to promote the reciprocal interest and happiness of the ancient kingdom of France, and the new and rising states of America, passed the great and decisive decree, that the United States of America, should be free and independent. Vaunt no more, Old England! consider you are but an island! and that your power has been continued longer than the exercise of your humanity. Order your broken and vanquished battalions to retire from America, the scene of your cruelties. Go home and repent in dust and sackcloth for your aggravated primes. The cries of bereaved parents, widows and orphans, reach the heavens, and you are abominated by every friend to America. Take your friends the tories with you, and be gone, and drink deep of cup of humiliation. Make peace with the princes of the house of Bourbon, for you are in no condition to wage war with them. Your veteran soldiers are fallen in America, and your glory is departed. Be quiet and pay your debts, especially for the hire of the Hessians. There is no other way for you to get into credit again, but by reformation and plain honesty, which you have despised; for your power is by no means sufficient to support your vanity. I have had opportunity to see a great deal of' it, and felt its severe effects, and learned lessons of wisdom and policy, when I wore your heavy irons, and bore your bitter revilings and reproaches. I have something of a smattering of philosophy, and understand human nature in all its stages tolerably well; am thoroughly acquainted with your national crimes, and assure you that they not only cry aloud for Heaven's vengeance, but excite mankind to rise up against you. Virtue, wisdom and policy are in a national sense, always connected with power, or in other words, power is their offspring, and such power as is not directed by virtue, wisdom and policy never fails finally to destroy itself as yours has done.--It is so in the nature of things, and unfit that it would be otherwise; for if it was not so, vanity, injustice, and oppression, might reign triumphant forever.
* General Burgoyne, after collecting his forces and stores, crossed the Hudson with a view to penetrate to Albany. But the American army being reinforced daily, held him in check at Saratoga. General Gates now took the command, and was aided by the generals Lincoln and Arnold. On the 19th of September, the Americans attacked the British army, and with such bravery, that the enemy could boast of no advantage, and night put an end to the action. The loss of the enemy was about five hundred. General Burgoyne was confined in a narrow pass--having the Hudson on one side and impassable woods on the other--a body of Americans was in his rear--the boats he had ordered to be burnt, and he could not retreat-- while an army of thirteen thousand men opposed him in front. On the 7th of October, the armies came to a second action, in which the British lost General Frazer, with a great number of officers and men, and were driven within their lines. On the part of the Americans the loss was not great, but generals Lincoln and Arnold were wounded.
I know you have individuals, who still retain their virtue, and consequently their honor and humanity. Those I really pity, as they must more or less suffer in the calamity, in which the nation is plunged headlong; but as a nation I hate and despise you.
My affections are Frenchified. I glory in Louis the sixteenth, the generous and powerful ally of these states I am fond of a connection with so enterprising, learned, polite, courteous and commercial a nation, and am sure that I express the sentiments and feelings of all the friends to the present revolution. I begin to learn the French tongue, and recommend it to my countrymen, before Hebrew, Greek or Latin, (provided but one of them only are to be attended to) for the trade and commerce of these states in future must inevitably shift its channel from England to France, Spain and Portugal; and therefore the statesman, politician and merchant, need be acquainted with their several languages, particularly the French, which is much in vogue in most parts of Europe. Nothing could have served so effectually to illuminate, polish and enrich these states as the present revolution, as well as preserve their liberty. Mankind are naturally too national, even to a degree of bigotry, and commercial intercourse with foreign nations, has a great and necessary tendency to improve mankind, and erase the superstition of the mind by acquainting them that human nature, policy and interest, are the same in all nations, and at the same time they are bartering commodities for the conveniences and happiness of each nation, they may reciprocally exchange such part of their customs and manners as may be beneficial, and learn to extend charity and good will the whole world of mankind.
I was confined in the provost-goal at New-York, the 26th day of August, and continued there to the 3d day of May, 1778, when I was taken out under guard, and conducted to a sloop in the harbor at New-York, in which I was guarded to Staten-Island, to general Campbell's quarters, where I was admitted to eat and drink with the general and several other of the British field officers, and treated for two days in a polite manner. As I was drinking wine with them one evening, I made an observation on my transition from the provost criminals to the company of gentlemen, adding that I was the same man still, and should give the British credit, by him (speaking to the general) for two days good usage.
The next day colonel Archibald Campbell, who was exchanged for me, came to this place, conducted by Mr. Boudinot, the then American commissary of prisoners, and saluted me in a handsome manner, saying that he never was more glad to see any gentleman in his life, and I gave him to understand that I was equally glad to see him, and was apprehensive that it was from the same motive. The gentlemen present, laughed at the fancy, and conjectured that sweet liberty was the foundation of our gladness: so we took a glass of wine together, and then I was accompanied by general Campbell, colonel Campbell, Mr. Boudinot and a number of British officers, to the boat which was ready to sail to Elizabeth-town-point. Meanwhile I entertained them with a rehearsal of the cruelties exercised towards our prisoners; and assured them that I should use my influence, that their prisoners should be treated, in future, in the same manner, as they should in future treat ours; that I thought it was right in such extreme cases, that their example should be applied to their own prisoners; then exchanged the decent ceremonies of compliment, and parted. I sailed to the point aforesaid, and, in a transport of joy, landed on liberty ground, and as I advanced into the county, received the acclamations of a grateful people.
I soon fell into company with colonel Sheldon, of the light horse, who in a polite and obliging manner accompanied me to head quarters, Valley Forge, where I was courteously received by Gen. Washington, with peculiar marks of his approbation and esteem, and was introduced to most of the generals, and many of the principal officers of the army, who treated me with respect, and after having offered general Washington my further service in behalf of my country, as soon as my health, which was very much impaired, would admit, and obtain his license to return home, I took my leave of his excellency, and set out from Valley Forge with General Gates and his suit for Fishkill, where we arrived the latter end of May. In this tour the general was pleased to treat me with the familiarity of a companion, and generosity of a lord, and to him I made known some striking circumstances which occurred in the course of my captivity. I then bid farewell to my noble general and the gentlemen of his retinue, and set out for Bennington, the capital of the Green Mountain Boys, where I arrived the evening of the last day of May to their great surprise; for I was thought to be dead, and now both their joy and mine was complete. Three cannon were fired that evening, and next morning colonel Herrick gave orders, and fourteen more were discharged, welcoming me to Bennington, my usual place of abode; thirteen for the United States, and one for Young Vermont.
After this ceremony was ended we moved the flowing bowl, and rural felicity, sweetened with friendship, glowed in each countenance, and with loyal healths to the rising States of America, concluded that evening, and, with the same loyal spirit, I now conclude my narrative.