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“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).

posted October 16th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: British soldiers,Cornwallis, General Charles,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Hessians,Loyalists,Music,Philadelphia

“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.

posted October 12th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Fisher, Thomas,Howe, General Sir William,Morgan, Colonel Daniel,Philadelphia,Stenton,Washington, George

“the troops paraded thro’ the streets with great pomp”

In her diary SARAH LOGAN FISHER continued to record her activities throughout the winter, spring and into the summer of 1777: knitting, having tea with friends, and visiting her grandmother. She was elated by reports of skirmishes in what was called “the Jersies” in which the British were victorious, and reports that General “Johnny” Burgoyne had taken Fort Ticonderoga. Meanwhile Patriots in Philadelphia were preparing for an attack by the British.

April 13. 1777— …. An order came out today from the Board of War [Patriot group in Philadelphia] for men to go round the city & examine what salt provisions, rum, sugar, molasses, coffee &c each family had, & whatever they had more than sufficient for two or three weeks’ use was to be taken from them & applied to the use of the army, as they apprehended some of the inhabitants had stored up provisions for the use of Lord Howe. This arbitrary stretch of power needs no comments; the cruelty of it will sufficiently speak for itself.

Sarah reported on April 16 that martial law had been declared in Philadelphia. She complained as the requisitioning of stores continued.

April 21, 1777— This infernal scheme of robbing people of their private property is, they say, to prevent General Howe’s army being suppled by us. But the real reason is that the inhabitants may be distressed in such a manner as to be obliged to leave the city.

A reminder that an army was dependent on horses for transport and battle, Sarah learned that the British would not be able to move because forage was so scarce. “[T]hey must wait till the grass is a little grown that their horses may have something to feed on.” Sarah impatiently awaited the arrival of the British.

May 3, 1777— ….How often have we expected them to come to our deliverance, this & the other week, & yet still the time is prolonged … let me endeavor patiently to bear that part of the trial that is allotted to me ….

When the War Office demanded 1000 blankets from the Friends they said their “scruples of conscience” prevented them from assisting in the carrying on of war. Personal tragedy struck on June 1 when Sarah’s grandmother died.

June 1, 1777— This afternoon … dear Grandmother departed this life…. She fell like a shock of wheat, fully ripe, having lived to the age of 86 with great reputation, & had the satisfaction of looking back on her past life with pleasure, knowing it to be well spent.

In the entries for the next few days, Sarah speaks of meeting with her family to divide up her grandmother’s linen and china. She continues:

June 23, 1777— Morning at home cutting out 4 shirts for my Tommy….

July 4, 1777— This being the anniversary of the declaration of independence, at 12 o’clock the vessels were all hauled up & fired, & about 4 the firing of cannon began which was terrible to hear, and about 6 the troops paraded thro’ the streets with great pomp, tho’ many of them were barefoot & looked very unhealthy, & in the evening were illuminations, & those people’s windows were broken who put no candles in. We had 15 broken….and all this for joy of having gained our liberty.

Congress authorized a display of fireworks in Philadelphia in 1777 that concluded with thirteen rockets being fired on the commons.

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), 432-435. Article from the Virginia Gazette dated 20 July 1777.

posted October 2nd, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Fisher, Sarah Logan,Fourth of July celebration,Independence,Philadelphia,Quakers

“How amiable is his character…”

Continuing with remarks by SARAH LOGAN FISHER from her diary of Philadelphia in 1777 prior to the coming of the British, with her assessment of British General Sir William Howe and General George Washington.

February 7, 1777— In a low state of mind for writing, but find myself not quite easy to omit mentioning some of the visits that [have] been paid us on the sudden & unexpected departure of my dearly beloved mother…. [Mrs. William Logan died on January 30.]

February 19, 1777— Morning at home….Betsy Wall called to see me in the evening from the Jersies. She says they suffered very considerably from the Provincials. They took from them flour & pork to a large amount near £600, including some other things, & behaved with great insolence. They ordered all the flour to carried to Newtown, where they intend to fix Headquarters when they leave the Jersies, which will be as soon as Howe attempts to move, for they fly before him as they would from a ravenous lion. She also says that the English behaved with the greatest civility & ordered payment to be made for everything they took from them….

Here is a passage that drips with honey in praise of General Sir William Howe and British soldiers.

February 24, 1777— Snowed all day very steady, & blew hard at northeast….Sammy Fisher … told us … that it is supposed this heavy snow will prevent General Howe’s moving his army as soon as many people wished for. His tenderness of disposition & humane benevolence of heart is such that he will never risk the health & lives of his men to gain any conquest that he can by a little delay when the spring advances complete with ease to himself & perhaps with very little loss to his army. How amiable is his character, how fit to rule is such a man who, constantly studious of the welfare of his people, is cautious of running them into any unnecessary danger where their lives might be in a manner sported away, yet when they are called into the field of battle the spirit of ancient heroism is again revived, & we may see the noble fire of loyal Britons glow in their breasts & sparkle in their eyes, panting to subdue the rebellious spirit that is now raised against the best of kings, & anxious to show the world how happy they are under his mild & gentle government which breathes with liberty & peace.

After her paean to Howe, Sarah Fisher condemns George Washington.

February 25, 1777— Morning busy knitting…. My Tommy showed me a paper which was taken from the York newspaper containing some excellent remarks on Washington’s Proclamation*, painting in high colors his treachery & deceit, & also his wishing his people to be guilty of perjury in coming to swear allegiance to him & the states of America after they had taken solemn oaths to the King. Can there be a greater instance of a heart depraved by ambition of the lowest kind than this, an ambition that wishes to raise his own fortune by the ruin of those whose souls have too much virtue not to oppose the violent & wicked measures now carrying on….

*Washington’s Proclamation (January 25, 1777 at Morristown) provided an opportunity for those who had supported the British cause to renounce their allegiance to the King and support the Patriots.

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): 427-29. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20089127. Illustration of General Howe: Anne. S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University.

posted September 25th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: British soldiers,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Howe, General Sir William,Loyalists,New Jersey,Patriots,Washington, George

“entreating Friends not to join in the present measure”

The marriage of SARAH LOGAN to Thomas Fisher in 1772 united two of the most important and wealthy families in Philadelphia. As Quakers the Fishers did not approve of violence and theoretically did not take sides in the American Revolution but their sympathies were clearly with the British. Sarah kept a diary that contains her observations on the Revolution and is an important source of information about life in Philadelphia under the control of Pennsylvania officials anticipating a British attack and later during the British occupation. Sarah’s father had recently died and she makes mention of him. She called her husband “Tommy”. They somehow received news of what was going on by word of mouth, by messengers, or by newspapers, such as they were.

November 30, 1776— …. men by order of the Committee of Safety* came for blankets; they took two by force….

* The Committee of Safety was established by the Pennsylvania Assembly in June 1775 and entrusted with the defense of the state.

December 2, 1776— Heard in the morning that [British General William] Howe’s army were on this side of Brunswick. The town in very great confusion. A party of armed men went about the city to shut up the shops & break up the schools, by an order of the Committee of Safety. Dined alone. In the afternoon a company of men came to take Tommy’s name down, & to look at our servant boy Jim, with the intention if he was big enough to take him by force for a soldier, but as he was under 15 they left him, tho’ they took several others not much older….

December 3, 1776— …. Many people moving out of town, but we are as yet preserved in stillness….Dined alone….Sup’d alone.

December 8, 1776— Morning at Meeting….After Meeting heard there was an express come to town last night with an account that Howe’s army were within 3 miles of Princeton & on his march….Stepped over in the afternoon to see Neighbor Evans who was in great distress for fear they should force her sons to the camp….

December 12, 1776— Busy in the morning mending clothes. Heard that 2 men-of-war were in the bay & that several vessels were seen off the Capes …. In the afternoon an edict came out signed by General Putnam*, warning all the inhabitants to be in their houses at 10 o’clock, at the peril of their being sent to jail, & that no physicians are to go out without a pass from Headquarters … which edict greatly alarmed the inhabitants….

* American General Israel Putnam of Massachusetts was the military governor Philadelphia. He ordered what was virtually a state of martial law.

December 13, 1776— …. General Putnam issued a proclamation declaring that any person that set fire to the city should be capitally punished. The evening before a bellman had gone through the city, ordering every person to go this day and assist in entrenching the city. If they did not, their effects were to be seized, but there were few people [who] obeyed the summons. I did not hear of one person going that I knew. Drank tea with my Tommy, who to me is always the best of company….

December 19, 1776— Morning at home at work ….met with John Foulke, who told us that the disorder among the poor sick soldiers was better, that not above 3 or 4 died of a day, but that there had died 10 of a day, & that the smallpox was broken out among them, which he expected would make a great destruction, as not above one in 50 of the Maryland soldiers had had it, many of them not having a bed to lie on or a blanket to cover them ….

December 21, 1776— Morning at home at work …. Heard this day that Howe’s army were in many parts of the Jersies, plundered those that they looked upon as rebels, but were civil & kind to them that were friends to the government, & paid for what they took from them.

December 22, 1776— Morning at Meeting. An Epistle read from the Meeting of Sufferings, entreating Friends not to join in the present measure….

December 25, 1776— …. Morning at Monthly Meeting …. An extract from my dear father’s will was read, wherein he bequeathed £50 to the Women’s Meeting to be given to poor widows, a laudable example & worthy of imitation ….

December 27, 1776— This morning heard an account of the success of our American army against the English at Trenton on Christmas night, which was a very stormy night. Report says that General Washington crossed the river before day at the head of a large body of his army & surprised the Hessians & English before day, that there was not a sufficient number there to oppose them, & that they surrendered themselves prisoners to General Washington except what betook themselves to flight, with he took about 700 prisoners & some cannon with a thousand stand of arms. This piece of news greatly exalted our Whigs, & as much depressed the Tories, but I sincerely hope & believe that before long General Howe will subdue their rebellious spirit & give them but little reason to rejoice….

December 29, 1776— …. Dr. Bond* called here after Meeting & gave us a very melancholy account of the sick soldiers, & says they have the true camp fever which is near akin to the plague. He says 15 or 20 frequently die of a day, that they bury 8 or 10 in a grave, & not above a foot underground. He thinks the disorder will spread & that the inhabitants are in great danger….

* Dr. Thomas Bond was a distinguished Philadelphia physician who supported the patriot cause and volunteered his services.

December 30, 1776— Morning set off to go see Grandmother … but was interrupted by the way, & turned back by a multitude of people going to see the Hessian prisoners march to the barracks. Some people think about 700 marched, with some women & children. They looked but poorly clad, were dressed in blue, & their outside clothes appeared to be dirty. What is remarkable, they say there is not among them one English or Scotch prisoner, but all Hessians. This morning my Tommy conversed with the man who has the care of burying the sick soldiers. He says it is not true that the graves are so shallow, but that they die so fast that he cannot dig graves for them all, & so digs a large hole 15 feet square & 10 feet deep for them all, & so buries them two tier, & that the highest coffin is about five feet underground….

January 1, 1777— …. After supper my Tommy read me a paper called the American Crisis [by Thomas Paine], a most violent, seditious, treasonable paper, [written] purposely to inflame the minds of the people & spirit them on to rebellion, calling the King a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. Heard today that our army are going in great numbers towards Princeton, intending to make an entire conquest of the English, if they can.

January 4, 1777— …. This evening a paper came out from the Committee of Safety unlike anything I ever before heard of, except the Spanish Inquisition, declaring that every person who refused the Continental money should be liable for the first offense to forfeit the goods & a sum of equal value, for the second offense to forfeit the same & to be banished what they are pleased to call this state, to what place & in what manner they shall judge most proper, that all those who have been imprisoned & whose stores have been shut up by them on the account of their refusing it formerly are to be opened, & they are to be subject to this new law, after having experienced all the rigors of the old one—a most extraordinary instance of arbitrary power & of the liberty we shall enjoy should their government ever be established, a tyrannical government it will prove from weak & wicked men.

January 8, 1777— …. Morning went to meeting, which was silent. In the afternoon went to see Sally Allen at William Allen’s, where she had come a few days before, being turned out of her house by our troops because her husband had gone over to General Howe.

January 9, 1777— Morning at home viewing the eclipse of the sun….

More from SARAH LOGAN FISHER in the next post.

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): 414-21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20089127. Illustrations: A view of Philadelphia in 1777 by the artist Archibald Robertson—The New York Public Library Digital Collections; The Crisis by Thomas Paine; Continental money 1777.

posted September 19th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battle of Trenton,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Hessians,Howe, General Sir William,Money,Paine, Thomas,Philadelphia,Putnam, General Israel,Quakers,Smallpox,Tories,Washington, George

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