Archive for the ‘Morris, Margaret Hill’ Category

“bless me I hope you are not Hessians”

More on MARGARET HILL MORRIS, following on the previous post, as she dealt with events in December 1776 when she was living with her sister Sarah Dillwyn in Greenbank, New Jersey on the Delaware River. During this time British, Hessian, and American troops were active in the area which, along with patriot vessels on the river, gave ample reason for alarm even though her family were Quakers. She was especially concerned as she was harboring a Loyalist in the house.

12th—The people of the gallies [Americans], Suspecting that some troops were yet either conceald in Town or in the Neighborhood of it, have been very Jealous of the inhabitants, who have been often alarmd with reports, that the City [Philadelphia] woud be Set on fire, Many have gone in haste & great distress into the Country, but we still hope, no Mischief is Seriously intended—A Number of Men landed on our Bank this Morning, & told us it was thier settled purpose to set fire to the Town—I begd them not to set my house afire—they askd which was my House, I showd it to them, & they said they knew not what hinderd them from fireing on it last Night, for seeing a light in the Chambers, they thought there were Hessians in it, & that they pointed the Guns at it Several times, I told them my Children were Sick, which obligd me to burn a light all Night—Tho they did not know what hinderd them from fireing on us, I did, it was the Guardian of the Widow & the Orphan, who took us into his Safe keeping, & preservd us from danger, oh—that I may keep humble, & be thankful for this, as well as other favors Vouch safed to my little flock—

13th—This day we began to look a little like ourselves again. The troops were removd some miles from Town as we heard. . . . but the Suspicions of the Gondola Men still continued, & search was made in & about the Town for Men distinguishd by the Name of Tories. . . . There was no appearance of the formidable Hessians. . . . some of the Gentlemen who entertaind the foreigners were pointed out to the Gondola Men—2 Worthy inhabtants were seizd upon & dragd on board—from the 13th to 16th we had various reports of the advancing & retireing of the Enemy—Parties of Armd Men rudely enterd the Houses in Town, & diligent search made for Tories, the 2 last taken releasd & sent on Shore.

About noon this day, (the 16) a very terrible account of thousands coming into Town—& now actually to be seen on Gallows Hill—My incautious Son [John] catchd up the Spy Glass, & was running to the Mill to look at them. I told him it wd be liable to misconstruction, but he prevaild on me to let him gratify his curiosity, & he went, but returnd much dissatisfyd, for no troops coud he see. As he came back poor Dick took the glass & resting it against a tree, took a view of the fleet—both of these was observd by the people on board, who suspected it was an Enemy that was watching thier Motions— They Mannd a boat & sent her on Shore—aloud knocking at my door brought me to it—I was a little flutterd & kept locking and unlocking that I might get my ruffled face, a little composd. At last I opend it, & half a dozen Men all Armd, demanded the keys of the empty House—I asked what they wanted there they said to Search for a D—-d tory who had been spying at them from the Mill—the Name of a Tory so near my own door seriously alarmd me—for a poor refugee [Dr. Jonathan Odell] dignifyd by that Name, had claimd the shelter of my Roof & was at that very time conceald, like a thief in an Auger hole*—

I rung the bell violently, the Signal agreed on, if they came to Search—& when I thought he had crept into the hole—I put on a very simple look & cryd out, bless me I hope you are not Hessians—say, good Men are you the Hessians? do we look like Hessians? askd one of them rudely—indeed I dont know; Did you never see a Hessian? no never in my life but they are Men, & you are Men & may be Hessians for any thing I know—but I’ll go with you into Col Cox’s [Colonel John Cox] house, tho indeed it was my Son at the Mill, he is but a Boy & meant no harm, he wanted to see the Troops—so I marchd at the head of them, opend the door, & searchd every place but we coud not find the tory—strange where he coud be—we returnd; they greatly disapointed, I pleasd, to think my house was not Suspected—the Capt smart little fellow Named Shippen [William Shippin] said he wishd he coud see the Spy glass—S D [Sarah Dillwyn] produced it—& very civilly desird his acceptance of it, which I was sorry for—as I often amusd myself in looking thro it—they left us, & Searchd [other] houses—but no tory coud they find.

*a secret, windowless room entered through the back of a closet; a warning bell, activated by a knob near the front door, hung nearby.
†John Cox, a Philadelphia businessman, owner of Batsto (site of an iron furnace), which supplied the Continental Army with cannon shot and bomb shells, kettles, etc. He and his wife Esther Bowes Cox were also friends of Esther DeBerdt Reed.

Margaret Hill Morris’s account continues in the next post.

The passages quoted can be found on page 98-100 of In the Words of Women. Dr. Jonathan Odell’s likeness is from the New York Public Library. Odell eventually fled to England but returned to his family in America after some years.

posted December 21st, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Hessians,Morris, Margaret Hill,New Jersey,Philadelphia,Tories

“a large number of Hessians were advancing”

Continuing the account of MARGARET HILL MORRIS of events during December 1776 when she and her children were living with her sister in the small town of Greenbank, New Jersey on the Delaware River, where British, Hessian and American troops were active:

11th. After various reports from one hour to another of light-horse approaching, the people in town had certain intelligence that a large body of Hessians were come to Bordentown, and we might expect to see them in a few hours. About 10 o’clock in the morning of this day, a party of about 600 men [American militia] marched down the main street. As they passed along, they told our doctor and some other persons in the town that a large number of Hessians were advancing and would be in town in less than an hour. . . . On the first certainty of their approach, J. L. [John Lawrence] and two or three others thought best, for the safety of the town, to go out and meet the troops. He communicated his intention to one of the [American] gondola captains, who approved of it and desired to be informed of the result.

The gentlemen went out, and though the Hessian colonel spoke but little English, yet they found that, upon being thus met in a peaceable manner on behalf of the inhabitants, he was ready to promise them safety and security, to exchange any messages that might be proper with the gentlemen of the galleys [commanders of the American naval vessels]. In the meantime he ordered his troops to halt. They remained in their ranks between the bridge and the corner of Main Street, waiting an answer from on board. J. L. and T. H. [T. Hulings] went down to report what had passed, and told Captain Moore [leader of the American militia] that the colonel had orders to quarter his troops in Burlington that night, and that if the inhabitants were quiet and peaceable and would furnish him with quarters and refreshment, he would pledge his honor that no manner of disorder should happen to disturb or alarm the people. Captain Moore replied that, in his opinion, it would be wrong in such a case to fire on the town, but that he would go down and consult with the [American] commodore and return an answer as soon as might be.

Accepting the offer of Loyalist Dr. Jonathan Odell to act as an interpreter (both men spoke French), the Hessian colonel gave these instructions.

He desired the doctor to tell the gentlemen of the town to the same purport as above, with this addition: that he expected there would be found no persons in the town in arms; nor any arms, ammunition, or effects, belonging to persons that were in arms against the king, concealed by any of the inhabitants; that if any such effects were thus secreted, the house in which they were found would be given up to pillage; to prevent which it would be necessary to give him a just and fair account of such effects, which account he would forward to the general, and that if we acted openly and in good faith in these respects, he repeated his assurances, upon the honor of a soldier, that he would be answerable for every kind of disorder on the part of his troops. They remained in profound silence in their ranks, and the [Hessian] commandant with some of his officers came into town as far as J. L.’s, where they dined, waiting the [American] commodore’s answer.

A mini-flotilla of American war vessels patrolled the Delaware River during the winter of 1776-1777. Morris often described them. In the illustration of armed vessels on Lake Champlain in October of 1776 are examples of both galleys and gondolas. GALLEYS, such as the Washington (second from left) were round-bottomed, two-masted vessels, designed to be rowed or sailed, carrying up to ten long guns. GONDOLAS, such as the New York (third from right) were narrow flat-bottomed, single-masted boats, also designed to be rowed or sailed, carrying a small number of guns. (The vessel at center is the schooner Royal Savage.)

. . . [T]he commodore had received intelligence of a party of Hessians having entered Burlington . . . and had ordered up four galleys to fire on the town wherever any two or three persons should be seen together. Captain Moore met and hailed them . . . but the wind was so high that he was not heard or not understood. The four gondolas came up, and the first of them appearing before the main street, J.L., T.H.,and W.D. went down upon the wharf and waved a hat—the signal agreed on with Captain Moore for the boat to come ashore and give the commodore’s answer in peace. To the astonishment of these gentlemen, all the answer they received was first a swivel shot. Not believing it possible this could be designedly done, they stood still, and J.L. again waved his hat and was answered with an 18 pounder. Both these fires, the gondola people have since told us, were made with as good aim as could be taken, as they took it for granted it was at the Hessians they fired. However, as it was impossible to conjecture that such conduct could have happened or to suspect such a mistake, ’tis no wonder the town was exceedingly alarmed, looking upon it in the light of a cruel as well as unprovoked piece of treachery.

Upon this news, the [Hessian] commandant rose calmly from table, and his officers with him went out to eight or ten men who had come to the door as a small bodyguard. He turned to the doctor as he went into the street and said he could easily dispose of his people out of the possibility of danger, but that much mischief might be done to the town and that he would take a view of the gondolas and see what measures might be necessary on his part, but that he should be sorry to be the occasion of any damage or distress to the inhabitants. He walked down the street and sent different ways three sentinels in Indian file together to view and report to him what they saw.

These being now and then seen at different times induced the people on board [the naval vessels] to believe that the houses were full of Hessians, and a cannonade was continued till almost dark in different directions, sometimes along the street, sometimes across it. Several houses were struck and a little damaged, but not one living creature, either man or beast, killed or wounded. About dark the gondolas fell down a little way below the town, and the night was passed in quiet.

While all this tumult was in town, we, on our peaceful bank, ignorant of the occasion of the firing, were wondering what it could mean, and unsuspecting of danger, were quietly pursuing our business in the family, when a kind neighbor informed us of the occasion and urged us to go into the cellar as a place of safety. We were prevailed on by him to do so, and remained there till it ceased.

The quoted passages are from National Humanities Center, 2010: nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/. “The Revolutionary Journal of Margaret Morris of Burlington, N.J., December 6, 1776, to June 11, 1778.” The illustration by C. Randle is also from this source.

posted December 17th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Hessians,Loyalists,Morris, Margaret Hill,New Jersey

“my heart almost died within me”

MARGARET HILL MORRIS, a struggling widow with four children, had moved in with her sister who was the wife of a Quaker missionary in New Jersey. In December 1776, Margaret decided to keep a journal “for the amusement” of another sister, Milcah Martha Moore, who was living nearby having left Philadelphia when it was threatened by the British. During this turbulent time—General Cornwallis was moving across New Jersey, the British had blockaded the Delaware River, and General Washington and his troops had fled into Pennsylvania—Margaret tried to tread a fine line between patriot and loyalist, distressed by the suffering she saw around her. The house in which she lived overlooked the Delaware River allowing her to observe the goings on as vessels called row-galleys or gondolas patrolled or bombarded.

December 6th, 1776Being on a visit to my friend M S. at Haddonfield. I was preparing to return to my Family, when a Person from Philada told us the people there were in great Commotion, that the English fleet was in the River & hourly expected to sail up to the City; that the inhabitants were removing into the Country, & that several persons of considerable repute had been discoverd to have formd a design of setting fire to the City, & were Summoned before the Congress and strictly injoind to drop the horrid purpose—when I heard the above report my heart almost died within me, & I cried surely the Lord will not punish the innocent with the guilty, & I wishd there might be found some interceeding Lotts & Abrahams amongst our People. . . . I thought of my S D. [Sarah Dillwyn, her sister] the beloved Companion of my Widowd State—her Husband at the distance of some hundred miles from her—I thought of my own lonely situation, no Husband to cheer, with the voice of love, my Sinking spirits. My little flock too, without a Father to direct them how to Steer,—all these things crouded into my mind at once, & I felt like one forsaken—a flood of friendly tears came to my relief—& I felt an humble Confidence, that he, who had been with me in six troubles would not forsake me now—While I cherishd this hope my tranquility was restord, & I felt no Sensations but of humble Acquiescense to the Divine Will—& was favord to find my Family in health, on my Arrival, & my Dear Companion not greatly discomposd, for which favor I desire to be made truly thankful—

8th. Every day begins & ends with the same accounts, & we hear today the Regulars are at Trenton—some of our Neighbors gone, & others going, makes our little Bank look lonesome; but our trust in Providence still firm, & we dare not even talk of removing our Family. . . .

More from Margaret Hill Morris in the next post.

The passages quoted can be found on page 98 of In the Words of Women and in the Journal online HERE.

posted December 14th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Cornwallis, General Charles,Morris, Margaret Hill,New Jersey,Philadelphia,Washington, George

“on the 25th early in the Morning “

Margaret Hill Morris, the eighth daughter of Dr. Richard and Deborah Moore Hill of Maryland was raised by her older sister Hannah in Philadelphia. At twenty-one, she married William Morris, Jr., a dry-goods merchant, who died in 1765, leaving her with three small children and expecting another. After struggling for some years to provide for her family, Margaret decided to move in with her sister Sarah Moore Dillwyn, wife of the Quaker preacher George Dillwyn, who lived in Green Bank, New Jersey. The house overlooked the Delaware River. Another sister Milcah Martha Hill Moore lived nearby. As warring factions approached Philadelphia, people fled their homes seeking safety. Milcah Moore moved her family north of Philadelphia. Margaret began a Journal to amuse her sister, commenting on events that were unfolding around her. The Journal begins in early December 1776, as General Cornwallis and his army marched through New Jersey, the British fleet blockaded the Delaware, and General Washington and his troops fled into Pennsylvania. On the river near Margaret Morris’s house “galleys” or “gondolas” of the Pennsylvania navy were positioned to prevent the crossing of British troops. Here are several entries from Morris’s Journal in late December.

. . . to day (the 22d) we hear Gen: Howe is at trenton, & it is thought there will be an engagement soon. . . . We hear this afternoon that our Officers are afraid thier Men will not fight & wish they may all run home again. A peaceable Man ventured to Prophesy to day, that if the War is continued thro the Winter, the British troops will be scard at the sight of our Men, for as they Never fought with Naked Men, the Novelty of it, will terrify them & make them retreat, faster than they advanced to meet them, for he says, from the present appearance of our ragged troops, he thinks it probable, they will not have Cloaths to cover them a Month or 2 hence. . . .

26th—the Weather very stormy. . . . a great Number of flat Bottom Boats gone up the River, we cant learn where they are going to

27th—a letter from Gen [Joseph] Read to his br[other: Bowes Reed]—informing him that Washington had had an engagement with the Regulars on the 25th early in the Morning, taking them by surprize, killd fifty, & took 900 prisoners. The loss on our side not known, or if known, not sufferd to be publick.—It seems this heavy loss to the Regulars was oweing to the prevailing custom among the Hessians of getting drunk on the eve of that great day which brought peace on Earth & good Will to Men—but oh, how unlike Christians is the Manner in which they Celebrate it, can we call ourselves Christians, while we act so Contrary to our Masters rules—he set the example which we profess to follow, & here is a recent instance that we only profess it; instead of good will, envy & hatred seem to be the ruling passions in the breasts of thousands. This evening the 27th about 3000 of the Pensylvania Militia, & other Troops landed in the Neck, & marchd into Town with Artillery, Baggage &c, & were quarterd on the inhabitants, one Company were lodged at J Vs & a guard placed between his house & ours, We were so favord as not to have any sent to our House. An Officer spent the Evening with us, & appeard to be in high spirits, & talkd of engaging the English as a very triffling affair, Nothing so easy as to drive them over the North River &c—not considering there is a God of Battle, as well as a God of peace, who may have given them the late advantage, in order to draw them out to meet the Chastisement that is reservd for them.

The Journal entries above can be found on pages 101-102 of In the Words of Women.

posted December 25th, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “on the 25th early in the Morning “, CATEGORIES: Hessians,Holidays,Morris, Margaret Hill,Philadelphia,Washington, George

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