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Based largely on the book of the same name, the blog is a kind of trailer for it and the primary source material it contains. An invitation, you might say … to eavesdrop on the lives of women writing 250 years ago … to become acquainted with 144 little-known but amazingly articulate chroniclers … and to discover a valuable new perspective on the Revolutionary Era.

The women featured lived between 1765 and 1799. But once you attune your ears to their way of writing, their voices easily leapfrog across the centuries. Read just a few sentences and you’ll find yourself back in time, entering their concerns, sharing their feelings. And what they have to say is always fascinating, often eye-opening, sometimes heart-rending.

Please bookmark the blog and visit regularly to see which writers and issues are being featured. There are two new posts weekly: on Monday and Thursday. And do explore those related to the many topics listed on the right. In addition to posts based on the book, others introduce the writings of women who didn’t make it into the book or who turn up as a result of ongoing research. To subscribe via email, click here. Leave a comment. Email a question. And enjoy your visits.

“many expect they will leave us in a very few days”

SARAH LOGAN FISHER continued with observations in her diary of Philadelphia during the British occupation of 1777-1778. Officers commandeered rooms in the homes of Philadelphians and stories circulated about their behavior with young ladies. Sarah had looked forward to the arrival of the British and was dis-heartened at their departure: the decision had been made, after the American victory at Saratoga and the subsequent French treaty with the Americans, to consolidate their forces in New York City.

December 30, 1777— …. an officer came to desire & insist on taking up his lodgings here, which I was obliged to consent to & gave him my front parlor to lodge in & removed all my furniture upstairs, & gave some more ordinary.

January 28, 1778— Lieutenant Apthorp, our lodger….appears to be an agreeable, modest young man, is about 22 & is the oldest of 14 children.

March 15, 1778— …. Very bad accounts of the licentiousness of the English officers in deluding young girls.

March 17, 1778— A great parade before General Howe’s door with the soldiers, it being St. Patrick’s Day, & the anniversary of my happy marriage.

March 25, 1778— Had my clothes stolen. [Sarah advertised in the Royal Pennsylvania Gazette for them, offering 10 guineas reward. They were not recovered.]

May 29, 1778— A fit of illness & many engagements has prevented me continuing my journal to this time…. My beloved husband returned to his welcome home the 29th of the 4th Mo. [April] with health of body & peace of mind….

And now another severe trial is likely to befall us. The English, who we had hoped & expected would have stayed & kept possession of the city, are near leaving us & it is said are going to New York, & we may expect some great suffering when the Americans again get possession. Great preparations are making for their going somewhere. All their baggage, provisions, stores of every kind are putting on board their ships, & many expect they will leave us in a very few days.

Sarah reports that three peace commissioners arrived in June “with very full powers to treat with the Americans.” The mission failed and the British continued their preparations for departure.

June 12, 1778— …. Took a ride in the afternoon … down the Neck. Saw great devastations indeed. Fences much destroyed, soldiers cutting the grass & bringing it away by horse loads—such is the wanton destruction that is made of our property. Apthorp, our lodger, tells me that he expects the whole army will leave the city in a few days….

June 18, 1778— This morning about 6 the grenadiers & light infantry left us & in less than a quarter of an hour the Americans were in the city. Judge, O any impartial person, what were my feelings at this time.

Sarah Logan Fisher’s “Diary of Trifling Occurrences” ends with this entry. Her journal gives a great deal of information about the British occupation of Phila-delphia from the point of view of a Quaker woman with loyalist sympathies. With small children at home, and an absent husband, Sarah managed as best she could.

Since she did not move in the same social circles as the elite of Philadelphia it is understandable that she has little to say about the busy social life of the upper classes who remained in the city—and would have disapproved of their frivolous pursuits in amy case. There was, of course, the usual card playing, gambling, drinking and visiting “ladies of the night” engaged in by idle soldiers. The officers of the occupying army, on the other hand, organized dinners, balls, horse races, theatrical productions, and other entertainments. All this while American forces were enduring the harsh winter at Valley Forge.

In the next post a glimpse of one of the most incredible extravaganzas ever seen in Philadelphia. Mounted and overseen by Major John André, it was intended to honor General William Howe who had resigned his commission and was returning to England.

Wainwright, Nicholas B., and Sarah Logan Fisher. “A Diary of Trifling Occurrences”: Philadelphia, 1776-1778.The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 82, no. 4 (1958), 460, 461, 462, 464, 465.

Election Day

Will continue with more about the British occupation of Philadelphia as described by Sarah Logan Fisher in the next post.

But first things first. VOTE

Here’s how to FIND voting information.

posted November 6th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Election

“perhaps infernal would not be too harsh a name”

In the days that followed the occupation of Philadelphia by the British SARAH LOGAN FISHER described action in and around the city. She had heard that 3,000 fresh troops arrived at New York from England. And that General Burgoyne was “in full march for Albany, where he was expected to be in 24 hours.”

October 9, 1777— A most agreeable piece of intelligence to all the real well-wishers of America, & as great a damp to its pretended friends, such as Washington, the Congress, Council, & all the group of what shall I call them—perhaps infernal would not be too harsh a name, for surely their characters deserve to be stamped with the blackest dye—who wish to raise their own fortunes by sacrificing thousands of lives & the total ruin of their country.

We know, as Sarah did not, that Burgoyne and his forces would be defeated at Saratoga on the 17th of the month. Regarding her husband and the other Quakers being held in Virginia, Sarah faced the “the gloomy prospect of their long confinement.” She missed her Tommy; “the loss of his company embitters every pleasure.”

Meanwhile British attempts to capture American forts on either side of the Delaware so that supply ships could reach Philadelphia were not immediately successful and because they did not control the surrounding countryside their soldiers and the people of Philadelphia began to experience shortages of food, cord wood and other supplies. “The prospect of suffering for want is such that it is dreadful to think what the distresses of the poor people are & must be…. One woman walked 2 miles out of town only for an egg … a thing she could neither borrow or buy.”

November 1, 1777— …. But now after feeling & being very much discouraged at the prospect of want, & having lost our cow & no milk scarcely to be procured, not any of butter or eggs at any price, & the prospect of my children having nothing to eat but salt meat & biscuit, & but very little of that, sunk me almost below hope.

Luckily a friend, from outside the British lines, brought Sarah butter and eggs and another friend bought two cows for her at £15 apiece, alleviating somewhat her concern for her children as well as that concern “naturally arising from an expectation of being hourly confined to my chamber.”

November 5, 1777— ….Felt a little poorly, but ate a hearty supper & went to bed well. Next morning at 4 o’clock dear little Hannah born.”

In early December Sarah was very upset to hear that British forces engaged in skirmishes with Americans were “plundering and ruining many people. Those who had always been steady friends to government fared no better than the rest.”

December 25, 1777— Christmas Day. Sent for Sister Fisher and her little Tommy to come & dine with me on a fine turkey …. Heard an account today of our mill being burnt down.

December 26, 1777— …. Felt very anxious to know how I should get a supply of hard money when what I had was gone & had some thought of selling my best Wilton carpet to raise some.

Wainwright, Nicholas B., and Sarah Logan Fisher. “A Diary of Trifling Occurrences”: Philadelphia, 1776-1778.The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 82, no. 4 (1958), 451, 455, 456, 458, 459.

“an event I had so long wished to take place”

SARAH LOGAN FISHER finally gets her wish: the British take Philadelphia.

September 25, 1777— About 10 this morning the town was alarmed with an account that the English were on full march for the city & were at Germantown. People in very great confusion, some flying one way & some another as if not knowing where to go, or what to do. I was much favored not to be at all fluttered, tho’ it was an event I had so long wished to take place. We remained in expectation of them all day, but in the evening heard they were to encamp near the city & not come in till morning. The Night passed over in much quiet, tho’ many people were apprehensive of the city’s being set on fire, & near half the inhabitants, I was told, sat up to watch.

September 26, 1777— Rose very early this morning in hopes of seeing a most pleasing sight. About 10 the troops began to enter. The town was still, not a cart or any obstruction in the way. The morning had before been cloudy, but nearly the time of their entrance the sun shone out with a sweet serenity, & the weather being uncommonly cool for the time of year prevented their being incommoded with the heat. First came the light horse, led by Enoch Story & Phineas Bond [both Loyalists], as the soldiers were unacquainted with the town & different streets, nearly 200 I imagine in number, clean dress & their bright swords glittering in the sun. After that came the foot, headed by Lord Cornwallis. Before him went a band of music, which played a solemn tune, & which I afterwards understood was called “God save great George our King.” Then followed the soldiers, who looked very clean & healthy & a remarkable solidity was on their countenances, no wanton levity, or indecent mirth, but a gravity well becoming the occasion seemed on all their faces. After that came the artillery. & then the Hessian grenadiers, attended by a large band of music but not equal in fitness or solemnity to the other. Baggage wagons, Hessian women, & horses, cows, goats & asses brought up the rear. They encamped on the commons, & but for a few officers which were riding about the city. I imagine to give orders & provide quarters for their men, in 3 hours afterwards you would not have thought so great a change had taken place. Everything appeared still & quiet. A number of the inhabitants sat up to watch, & for fear of any alarm. Thus was this large city surrendered to the English without the least opposition whatever or even firing a single gun, which I thought called for great humility & deep gratitude on our parts.

Wainwright, Nicholas B., and Sarah Logan Fisher. “A Diary of Trifling Occurrences”: Philadelphia, 1776-1778.The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 82, no. 4 (1958), 449-50. Illustration by Henry Alexander Ogden (1856-1936).

“in him … [is] centered … too much of my earthly happiness”

SARAH LOGAN FISHER noted in the diary she kept in Philadelphia in July 1777 the high prices for spices, sugar, tea, and coffee. She heard rumors that the British fleet had left Sandy Hook, perhaps headed for New England. That the ships were empty and returning home. That they were off Egg Harbor “standing to the southward” coming there “to be a feint to draw Washington down here while they attack another place.” Sarah confessed to being mystified by General Howe’s intentions. “Strangely unaccountable is some of his conduct; perhaps time may unravel the mystery & justify his delays.”

On August 2 Sarah’s husband went to Stenton, the Logan family country estate, some 5 miles from Philadelphia. He reported upon his return that a dozen [American] officers of Colonel [Daniel] Morgan’s rifle regiment had taken possession of the house and that their men were scattered about in the barn and elsewhere. Although the Colonel assured Fisher that no harm would come to the property Sarah was fearful for she had heard that the American troops “commit many outrages on the people’s gardens, taking their apples, turning their horses into their mowing grounds & every other act of violence that a lawless banditti think fit to show.”

Sarah’s husband was a partner with his brothers in a mercantile and shipping enterprise; when he was away on “business of consequence” he was detained by a local magistrate. Sarah feared for his life. To her great joy he was released unscathed. A true Quaker she chided herself:

… the joy & surprise almost overcame me, for in him … [is] centered, I have sometimes been ready to fear, too much of my earthly happiness, for we are told that we are to keep your affections loose to all things here, & the manner of his being discharged was such an additional favor as I very much wish to live under a grateful sense of…. [His release] so unexpected and pleasing, cannot but excite in me humble thankfulness to Him who has all power in His hands, & gives or denies us blessings according as He sees they may tend to our benefit & improvement.

Later in August, the Fishers learned that the house in Stenton had been taken as a lodging place for George Washington and his entourage for two days.

This we were obliged to submit to, & about 12 the General came, attended by about 20 officers & a number of servants. They dined about 3 on a sheep they had got of the tenant & killed after they got there. They behaved civil, were very quiet, & Washiington appeared extremely grave & thoughtful.

On September 2, 1777, with British troops threatening the city, local authorities began to round up leading Quakers who were “suspected of Toryism”. Thomas Fisher was among them.

Three men came for him & offered him his parole to confine himself prisoner to his own house, which he refused signing. They then told him he must go with them, & be confined…. He refused going till he had seen the warrant. Upon which they read over a paper which they called one…. My Tommy thought it best to go quietly with them. without waiting to have a guard sent for him….

[Tommy] is likely to be torn from me by the hands of violence & cruelty, & I left within a few weeks of lying-in [Sarah is pregnant], unprotected & alone, without the sweet soother of all my cares to be with me in that painful hour. Oh, can any pen paint my feelings at this time….

September 13, 1777— Words can but faintly express the distress & anxiety of my [mind] since the day before yesterday when … my dearly beloved husband…. [and the others] were dragged into the wagons by force by soldiers employed for that purpose, & drove off surrounded by guards & a mob.

The Quaker men were sent some 300 miles away to Winchester, Virginia, where they were held for eight months. Their wives and children remained in Philadelphia to manage as best they could.

Wainwright, Nicholas B., and Sarah Logan Fisher. “”A Diary of Trifling Occurrences”: Philadelphia, 1776-1778.The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 82, no. 4 (1958), 439-40, 442-45, 447.


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