Archive for the ‘Loyalists’ Category

The Philadelphia Jewess

Fourteen young Tory ladies were selected by Major John André as the “foremost in youth, beauty and fashion” in Philadelphia to participate in the Meschianza in May of 1778, a tribute to retiring General William Howe. Among them was REBECCA FRANKS. As he did with others in the group, André painted Rebecca’s portrait in miniature and penned several lines of poetry to go with it.

Rebecca Franks had Jewish ancestors. Her grandfather Jacob was a merchant and leader of the Jewish community in New York City; her father, David Franks, had moved to Philadelphia and married Margaret Evans, a member of a prominent family of Anglicans. Although David maintained his Jewish identity, his wife raised their five children to be Christians; two were baptized and four married non-Jews; the fifth did not marry. (David’s older sister Phila also married out of the faith, much to the sorrow of her parents; her husband was Oliver deLancy, a New York Loyalist and Anglican.) Despite her Christian upbringing and her mother’s faithful attendance at Christ Church, Rebecca Franks was frequently referred to as the “Jewish belle of the city.”

In 1782, Rebecca married an English officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson, the commander of the British outpost at Stony Point, New York, which he had been forced to surrender in 1779. She and her husband left for England shortly thereafter and settled in Bath. When Johnson was sent to Ireland to deal with rebels Rebecca went with him.

It was from a musty old castle in Killarney that she wrote to her friend (and her mother’s first cousin) “Willie” (Williamina) Bond who had married one of Washington’s officers, Gen. John Cadwalader. She is clearly nostalgic for Philadelphia and its exciting social scene. It is interesting to note that Rebecca and many other women in her social circle maintained friendships across oceans and political divides. Peggy Shippen was her friend before she married Benedict Arnold, when he defected, and afterward when she came to London. On the other hand, she did not much care for Ann Willing Bingham. Excerpts of Rebecca’s letter follow. Do notice an expression for pregnancy I have not encountered before.

February 19, 1784
Dear Mrs. Cad
The night before last I had the satisfaction of hearing from you, a pleasure I wish much more frequently I could enjoy. But the vile sea — how much happiness does it deprive us of — but most willingly wou’d I encounter its dangers to visit Phila[delphia] again — but alas — I fear I never can hope for that ALL your eloquence will not prevail while he can he will stay, either in Ireland (where we are now) or England, and his wife must obey.

I couldn’t help smiling at that part of yr letter that so gravely reprobates grandeur & dissipation — you are indeed consum’d Old Lady — now if I who have it not in my power to enjoy such things — was to rail against them the world might excuse me — but in you who have all the rich gifts of fortune ‘tis laughable really — Becky [Rebecca, a sister of Willie’s husband] tells me you are again in for the plate [pregnant], poor Toad. Why don’t you follow your Mother’s wise example — she always contrived matters so as only to be that way once in 7 years. . . . I can tell you very little of yr American acquaintances in London as I left the place last August & indeed when there I knew very little of them except Mrs. Arnold who always behav’d more like an affect-te sister than a common friend, she still continues the same. I hear every week or fortnight from her, she expects to be confin’d [give birth] the beginning of next Month. . . she was & is still more noticed and more liked than any American that ever came over. She is visited by people of the first rank & invited to all their houses.

Rebecca goes on to tell her friend how others of their acquaintance have been received in London society. A measure of popularity was the number of invitations to tea or a party a lady received, and of course the number of invitations she extended to other women. These rounds of visits took up much of the time of socially prominent women.

Mrs. P[enn] was too violent an American to have any intimacy with a British officer’s wife – she is lately lain of a son — Mrs. Bingham [Ann Willing, one of the most beautiful women in Philadelphia, married to William Bingham, said to be the richest man in America] arriv’d but a little while before I left London & while I was confin’d so did not see . . . her . . . [she] . . . spent part of the Summer at Brighthelmstone where she was much admired[;] in London She is not known & I hear has had but six ladys to visit her since her arrival. At first she talk’d of going to court and living away at a great rate but that Idea is now quite thrown aside & she finds an American in London & an American in their own country quite different beings. Mrs. Arnold is the only one who has been the least Notic’d . . . .

I blow your Spouse a kiss and mine blows you one at the same time . . . When you receive this may you be happily fix’d in D—r Phila. Which in spite of Everything I shall always prefer to every other place . . . Advise & tell me soon that you have given General C another son—kiss those you have already for your Sincerely Affecte
B Johnson

Returning to Bath after putting down the Irish rebellion, Henry Johnson was given a baronetcy; Rebecca became Lady Johnson. The couple had two sons, one of whom was killed at Waterloo. Rebecca died in 1823; she never did return to Philadelphia.

The painting of Rebecca Franks, courtesy of Naomi Wood Collection at Woodford Mansion. “Dear Mrs. Cad: A Revolutionary War Letter of Rebecca Franks,” Mark A. Stern, American Jewish Archives Journal; original at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Cadwalader Collection (#1454), Series 3X, Box 71, Williamina Bond Correspondence, Letter B. Johnson to Williamina B. Cadwalader, February 19, 1784.

posted December 15th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bingham, Anne Willing,Bond, Williamina (Willie),Britain,Cadwalader, General John,Childbirth,England,Franks, Rebecca,Friendship,Ireland,Johnson, Henry (British officer),London,Loyalists,Meschianza,Philadelphia,Social life,Stony Point Battlefield

“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.

posted October 24th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Daily life,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Food,Loyalists,Philadelphia,Quakers,Washington, George

“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

“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

“one of the finest Sights in the Universe”

In her commonplace book MILCAH MARTHA MOORE transcribed the following passage from the travel journal that ELIZABETH GRAEME (1737-1801) kept in which she describes being at sea and seeing the setting sun. The complete journal has not been found.

Remarks—on the Passage from Phila:a. to Liverpool June 1764.

I could not help observing, that whatever way the Ship moved she appeared to be in the Centre of a Circle, for the Sea seems to be a perfect Circle, surrounded by the Clouds, that look as if they bent down at the Edges to join it, so that our own Eyes form the Horizon, & like Self-Love, we are always placing ourselves in the Middle, where all Things move round us.—I saw the Sun set clear, for the first Time, I was reading Priam’s Petition to Achilles, for the Body of Hector, I think my Eyes were engaged in one of the finest Sights in the Universe, & my Passions, interested in one of the most pathetic that History or Poetry can paint.—

Graeme was reading a passage from the Iliad. When she returned from England she took up residence at the family home, Graeme Park, outside of Philadelphia. A noted hostess she held literary “attic salons” where many noted Philadelphians gathered—she met her husband-to-be, Hugh Henry Fergusson, at one of these. Fergusson worked for the British during the occupation of Philadelphia. When the British evacuated the city he went to England and urged his wife to join him there. But she had inherited Graeme Park when her parents died and was loath to give it up. Unfortunately, according to colonial law of “feme covert,” a wife’s property became her husband’s after their marriage. Because Fergusson was a Loyalist, Graeme Park was confiscated by the Pennsylvania government. After two years of petitioning Elizabeth finally regained the family home in 1781. But the upkeep proved to be such a financial burden that she was obliged to sell. She lived with friends, writing and publishing poetry, translating classical works, and sharing commonplace books with other women. She died in 1801.

Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: A Commonplace Book from Revolutionary America edited by Catherine La Courreye Blecki and Karen A. Wulf (University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 1997), pp 200-201. Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson’s commonplace book can be examined HERE. Note the use of quotation marks for passages she has copied.

posted July 28th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: "feme covert",Fergusson, Elizabeth Graeme,Loyalists,Moore, Milcah Martha,Ocean Voyages

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