Archive for the ‘Patriots’ Category

“our family found itself irreconcilably torn apart”

We often need to be reminded that the American Revolution was in great part a civil war. In that context it is useful to consider what went on in New Jersey. In 1776 George Washington and what remained of his army made the retreat and escape from the defeat in New York City into New Jersey and further south, engaging now and then with the British, achieving some morale-boosting encounters such as the Christmas Day attack on Hessian troops and success in the battle of Trenton. Armies and militias on both sides moved back and forth across the state, the British and Loyalists seeking forage and supplies (horses as well as soldiers had to eat) to maintain their garrisons and the Patriots attempting to prevent the looting and pillaging and carrying out raids on British positions.

In New Jersey, particularly in what was then Bergen County, in the northeastern corner abutting Rockland County in New York to the north and the Hudson River to the east, the War clearly divided families, friends and neighbors. Governor William Livingston declared “that the most northern County in the State is almost totally disaffected.” One of the clearest examples of the bitter divisions within families is that of the Demarests in Hackensack Township, not only with regard to the emotional costs engendered by broken relationships but also for the economic hardship resulting from the confiscation by the State of property owned by Loyalists. Here is Jane Demarest’s story, related in the first person from materials by her—the petition arguing against confiscation—and about her. While not strictly in her exact words this passage is true to the life and experience of this New Jersey woman.

I was born in 1743 and christened Jannetje Zabriskie by my parents, Albert and Tjelltje Akkerman Zaborisky of Bergen County. On March 13, 1761 I married David G. Demarest at Schrallenberg, Bergen County. When the Revolution broke out David’s family provided soldiers to both sides in the conflict. At least thirty five men are known to have served, two dozen on the Patriot side and another eleven fighting for the Crown. David and I disagreed on which side to support in the conflict. I was a staunch Patriot and was horrified when David enlisted on November 23, 1776 in Captain William Van Allen’s Company of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist battalion. He was soon after taken prisoner on December 6, possibly during a raid with his unit on Tappan. Somehow he was able to get back home, but on May 16, 1779 he left home and re-joined his Loyalist battalion, part of a body of about 1,000 British troops that entered Bergen County and drove away the picket at New Bridge that day. When David rejoined the Loyalists, I certainly did not follow him, but I still suffered the consequences for his actions. The State began the process to confiscate his estate, which unfortunately for me and my family, was in his name. In an effort to stave off confiscation, I quickly petitioned Governor Livingston and the legislature hoping to transfer the property title to our Patriot family members. I wrote that I had “incurred the reproaches and hatred” of my husband and many family members because of my “attachment to the interests of America” and my “zeal in instilling those principles” in my children. My eldest son, seventeen year old Guilliam, in spite of his father’s commands to the contrary, joined the Patriot Bergen County militia under the command of Colonel Theunis Dey, and served when called to defend the frontiers of the State. I desperately continued trying to preserve our property that the State was confiscating even though my son was fighting for the Patriot cause. David left the New Jersey Volunteers by 1780 and became one of the initial members of Thomas Ward’s Loyal Refugee Volunteers, raised to supply the British army with firewood. Little did David know that this choice would bring him into direct conflict with our son. The Loyal Refugee Volunteers supplemented their wages by conducting raids into Bergen County, making off with cattle and other plunder. David was one of the 110 defenders of the Bull’s Ferry Blockhouse attacked by General Anthony Wayne’s troops that following July, and was still listed on their rolls in 1782, as David Demerea, a name also used by the family. His actions brought an indictment for high treason in Bergen County that was published in The New Jersey Gazette on November 22, 1780. When the major fighting of the war moved south in 1781, the petit guerre taking place in Bergen County still directly [affected] our lives on a daily basis. For David it meant cutting wood on Bergen Neck and raiding up into Bergen County. For Gilliam, it meant defending against Loyalist raids by forces that might include his father. The Royal Gazette, the New York Loyalist paper, on August 1, 1781 carried news that a party of Loyal Refugees who penetrated as far as the New Bridge, near Hackensack, captured three notorious rebels, drove off their stock, and returned without firing a shot. The three “notorious Rebels” were Gilliam, John and Philip Demarest, and they had been taken prisoner by David G. Demarest’s battalion. Two of the three captured Demarests, John and Philip, were imprisoned for less than six months before being paroled home and soon after exchanged. But my son Gilliam remained a captive in the notorious Sugar House prison in New York City. David took advantage of this and tried to convince him to join the Refugees. Gilliam, though, resisted his father’s repeated requests (more like demands) and remained committed to the Patriot cause. He survived the prison, was exchanged and went back into the Patriot military service. Soon after he was wounded in the hand during an engagement, again with his father’s Loyalist troops. At the end of the war our family found itself irreconcilably torn apart. I never again returned to David and spent the rest of my life in the new United States, as did Gilliam. However, we lost the comfort of our three room stone home, confiscated by the State in retaliation for David’s Loyalist actions. And as for David? He left Bergen County for good in October 1782 and sailed with his corps to Nova Scotia, eventually settling in Upper Canada (modern Ontario) on free grants of land provided by the British. The American Revolution left our family either exiled or homeless, despite fighting for both the winners and losers.

See the information about Jane Demarest HERE and in Braisted, Todd. Bergen County Voices from the American Revolution: Soldiers and Residents in Their own Words (Charlestown, S.C.: The History Press, 2012), which can be viewed HERE, in Chapter 5.

posted March 6th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Demarest, Jane,Hessians,Livingston, Governor William,Loyalists,New Jersey,Patriots,Washington, George

“The Sentiments of an American Woman”

Continuing the story of Esther De Berdt Reed: Esther was able to return to her home in Philadelphia in 1778 after the British left. She wrote to her brother Dennis in England in September 1779: “[A]fter danger’s past, how sweet is safety and peace—peace, I mean, as to own dwelling; and we are no longer obliged to leave our houses, or stay there with constant dread and apprehension. These are now past, I hope never to return. . . . ”
In May 1780, Esther Reed’s last child was born; he was named George Washington. While she was pregnant, concerned with the welfare of the troops, Esther suggested the idea of a subscription for the relief of the Continental soldiers and orchestrated a network of women to solicit sufficient funds for this purpose. Furthermore, to forestall any possible criticism of this undertaking, she published “The Sentiments of an American Woman” in which she reviewed the brave deeds of women throughout history and extolled the courage and self-sacrifice of the men in the Continental Army.

On the commencement of actual war, the Women of America manifested a firm resolution to contribute as much as could depend on them, to the deliverance of their country. Animated by the purist patriotism, they are sensible of sorrow at this day, in not offering more than barren wishes for the success of so glorious a Revolution. They aspire to render themselves more really useful; and this sentiment is universal from the north to the south of the Thirteen United States. Our ambition is kindled by the fame of those heroines of antiquity, who have rendered their sex illustrious, and have proved to the universe, that, if the weakness of our Constitution, if opinion and manners did not forbid us to march to glory by the same paths as the Men, we should at least equal, and sometimes surpass them in our love for the public good. . . .

Who knows if persons disposed to censure, and sometimes too severely with regard to us, may not disapprove our appearing acquainted even with the actions of which our sex boasts? We are at least certain, that he cannot be a good citizen who will not applaud our efforts for the relief of the armies which defend our lives, our possessions, our liberty? The situation of our soldiery has been represented to me; the evils inseperable from war, and the firm and generous spirit which has enabled them to support these. But it has been said, that they may apprehend, that, in the course of a long war, the view of their distresses may be lost, and their services be forgotten. Forgotten! never; I can answer in the name of all my sex. Brave Americans, your disinterestedness, your courage, and your constancy will always be dear to America, as long as she shall preserve her virtue.

We know that, at a distance from the theatre of war, if we enjoy any tranquility, it is the fruit of your watchings, your labours, your dangers. If I live happily in the midst of my family, if my husband cultivates his field, and reaps his harvest in peace; if, surrounded with my children, I myself nourish the youngest, and press it to my bosom, without being affraid of seeing myself seperated from it, by a ferocious enemy; if the house in which we dwell; if our barns, our orchards are safe at the present time from the hands of those incendiaries, it is to you that we owe it. And shall we hesitate to evidence to you our gratitude? Shall we hesitate to wear a cloathing more simple; hair dressed less elegant, while at the price of this small privation, we shall deserve your benedictions. Who, amongst us, will not renounce with the highest pleasure, those vain ornaments, when she shall consider that the valiant defenders of America will be able to draw some advantage from the money which she may have laid out in these; that they will be better defended from the rigours of the seasons, that after their painful toils, they will receive some extraordinary and unexpected relief; that these presents will perhaps be valued by them at a greater price, when they will have it in their power to say: This is the offering of the Ladies. . . .
by An American Woman

Mary Morris wrote to her friend Catharine Livingston about the plan and her part in it:

I dare say you have heard of the Ladys plan for raiseing a Subscription for the Army. I will enclose you one of them but there is an Alterration taken place instead of waiting for the Donations being sent the ladys of each Ward go from dore to dore & collect them. I am one of those, Honourd with this business. Yesterday we began our tour of duty & had the Satisfaction of being very Successful. There were two ladys that were very liberal One 8000 dollars & 10000. . . .

Many men were scandalized by women soliciting door to door, deeming it unseemly. Many made fun of the effort. But it seemed to have worked wonderfully well. By July 4, 1780, Esther Reed wrote General Washington that the ladies had raised “200,580 dollars, and £625 6s. 8d. in specie, which makes in the whole in paper money 300,634 dollars.” She was also proud of the fact that the contributors were from all levels of society: from a black woman, Phillis, to Adrienne de Noailles, Marquise de Lafayette.
Read about Washington’s reaction in the next post.

The material quoted is taken from In the Words of Women, pages 131-32.

posted October 29th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Morris, Mary White,Patriots,Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Washington, George

“we are struggling for our liberties”

In a letter to her brother dated 28 October 1775, Esther De Berdt Reed, back in Philadelphia, expanded on the mood of the times.

It is with particular pleasure I now sit down to write to my dear Dennis, as I am free from the fear of any prying intruder; the thought that my late letters have been subjected to such curiosity has been a painful restraint upon me, and perhaps I have not been cautious enough in what I have written, but so it is, and if I have committed treason, it must remain. . . . [Mr. Reed’s] service has proved of so much consequence in the councils of the Camp, that he has devoted himself to the service of the public, and I doubt not it will give him as much pleasure in the recollection as any occurrence in his life; —indeed, my dear Dennis, the cause in which he is engaged is the cause of Liberty and virtue, how much soever it may be branded by the names of rebellion and treason. But I need not vindicate or explain the motives of our conduct to you. . . . It seems now to depend on the reception of our last Petition from the Congress to the King, if that should be so considered as to lay a foundation for negotiation, we may be again reconciled,—if not, I imagine WE SHALL DECLARE FOR INDEPENDENCE, and exert our utmost to defend ourselves. This proposition would have alarmed almost every person on the continent a twelvemonth ago, but now the general voice is, if the Ministry and Nation will drive us to it, we must do it, rather than submit, after so many public resolutions to the contrary. In this case . . . no trade can be carried on between the two countries. . . .
My dear little girl . . . has again recovered her usual health, but she is of so delicate a constitution, that she often droops and alarms me. My son Joseph and daughter Hetty are both well. Mama keeps her health and spirits amazingly. Mr. Reed has recovered his by his journey to the Camp. Everybody tells me he is grown so fat I should hardly know him on his return, which I expect will be one day this week. He has been gone from home above four months; his business has suffered not a little, but in such times like these every person must sacrifice something. . . . Adieu, my dear Dennis,—think of us often; remember we are struggling for our liberties and everything that is dear to us in life.
I am ever, most affectionately,
Yours, E. Reed

Joseph Reed gave up a lucrative law practice in Philadelphia to become the secretary and aide-de-camp to General George Washington. He held the rank of colonel.

The letter can be found on pages 96-97 of In the Words of Women. Reed’s portrait is by Charles Willson Peale, engraved by John Sartain.

posted October 22nd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Patriots,Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph,Resistance to British,Washington, George

“Where sleeps the Virtue & Justice of the English Nation?”

This post is a repeat of one dated February 6, 2012 as it properly belongs in this extended examination of Esther DeBerdt Reed. In July, 1775, increasing danger as well as the poor health of her daughter Martha forced Esther to move in with a friend in Green Bank (Burlington), New Jersey, and from there to Perth Amboy. After George Washington asked her husband Joseph Reed, now a lieutenant colonel with the Pennsylvania troops, to be his military secretary, he was absent from home a great deal. In this letter to her brother in England she shows herself to be a staunch supporter of the American cause.

Amboy Septr 8th 1775You will see by the date of this my dear Dennis that I am from home; the health of my dear Girl which always suffers in the Summer Months was the Chief reason of my coming here. I find it very beneficial to her & pleasant for myself. . . . My dr Mr. R . . . . is . . . there amidst all the confusion & horrors of War, before this time you knew our dreadful situation, here indeed & every Southern Province. We only here the Sound, but it is such a one, as sometimes shakes my firmness & resolution, but I find the human Mind can be habituated to all most anything, even the most distressing Scenes, after a while become familiar.
I am happy that Mr. R’s situation at the Camp is the most eligable he coud have been placed in, his accomodations, with the General [Washington], in his Confidence, & his Duty in the Councils, rather than the Field. While his person is safe from danger I chearfully give up his profitts in Business (which were not trifling) & I acquies without repining at his being so long absent from me. I think the Cause in which he is engaged so just, so Glorious & I hope will be so victorious that private interest & pleasure may & ought to be given up without a murmur.
But where sleeps all our Friends in England? Where sleeps the Virtue & Justice of the English Nation? will nothing rouse them? or are they so few in Number & small in Consequence that tho’ awake, their voice cannot be heard for the multitude of our Enemies—how strange woud this Situation of things have appeared even in Prospect a few years ago? coud we have forseen it when we parted in England it would probably have prevented that Seperation. We might often, if we coud forsee Events provide against approaching evils, but I believe it is right we shoud not, for tho our private happiness might have been promoted, yet our Country woud not been benefited, for at this time she requires all her friends & has a right to expert services from such heads & hearts as can most conduce to her Safety. We impatiently wait to hear what effect the Battle of Bunker Hill has both on our friends & Enemies. A few weeks I suppose will let us know. . . .
I take it for granted that I am writing to some curious person in office & that my Letter, insignificant as it is, will be open’d before you get it. One from Mr. Lane Secry of the Jersey Society to Mr. R came here with the seal quite broke as if it was done on purpose to shew they dare & woud do it.
I hope it is no Treason to say I wish well to the cause of America tho’ guess Treason is not now tho’t much of—however I am safe in telling you how much my love is kept alive tho’ at this distance & with what undiminished Affectn I am Ever truly Yours,
No Reason sign name now

The excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 4, pages 95-96.

posted October 19th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battles,Britain,Children,Patriots,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph,Washington, George

“what is to be the fate of this once rising country”

Over time the tone of the letters of Esther De Berdt Reed to her brother Dennis in England began to change. She became more sympathetic to the patriot cause, eventually becoming a committed supporter. She wrote to Dennis on 2 November 1774 of the determined resistance to the Parliamentary Acts which Americans perceived as depriving them of their rights as Englishmen.

when I tell you I have another daughter, you will not wonder that I have this time been a little negligent in answering letters. I assure you my hands are pretty full of business. Three children seem to take up all my time and attention. . . .
Many people here are very sanguine in their expectations that the Acts will be repealed immediately. . . . The People of New England . . . are prepared for the worst event, and they have such ideas of their injured Liberty, and so much enthusiasm in the cause, that I do not think that any power on earth could take it from them but with their lives. The proceedings of the Congress will show you how united the whole continent is in the cause, and from them you may judge of the sense of the people. . . .

She wrote again on 13 February 1775:

[Mr. Reed’s] business requires so much head work. . . . This with his late attention to politics has engrossed him more than common. . . . Of politics, I suppose you will expect me to say something, though everything now must come from you, and we are anxious to know what is to be the fate of this once rising country. It now seems standing on the brink of ruin. But the public papers will tell you everything, and Mr. Reed will also write you on the subject, so that little will be left for me to say, only that the people are in general united. The Quakers are endeavouring to steer a middle course, and make perhaps a merit of it to Government at home. How far their conduct will answer, I don’t know, but it is despised here. One great comfort I have is, that if these great affairs must be brought to a crisis and decided, it had better be in our time than our childrens. . . .
I love to think of England and of old times, perhaps I may see it again. It is surely a noble country, but such wishes and hopes I must keep concealed: perhaps they had better not rise at all. . . . adieu. Believe me, ever most assuredly and affectionately,
Yours, E. Reed

The above excerpts can be found on page 95 of In the Words of Women.

posted October 15th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Children,New England,Patriots,Philadelphia,Quakers,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

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