Archive for the ‘British soldiers’ Category

“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.

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

“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

“To declare them all Prisoners of War”

HANNAH WINTRHOP continued her correspondence with MERCY OTIS WARREN. She reported in January 1778 that the British officers of the Convention Army, which had surrendered at Saratoga in 1777 and marched to Cambridge, “live in the most Luxurious manner Possible, rioting on the Fat of the Land, Stalking at Large with the self-importance of Lords of the Soil.”

The status of the British and Hessian troops quickly became a bone of contention. The Americans were not about to allow them to return to Europe as promised until the British government signed the Convention. Signing would have meant recognizing American independence and the British, unwilling to treat the Americans as anything but rebels, declined. As HANNAH WINTHROP wrote in February 1778 “an important order just arrivd, To declare them all Prisoners of War. O amazing reverse of Circumstances!” So prisoners of war they became.

According to the practice of the time prisoners of war were to be provided with food and supplies by their own authorities. For a time British General Henry Clinton based in New York sent some supplies. But these soon stopped and it fell to the American forces and local communities to provide for them. This quickly became a heavy burden, especially given the severe New England winter. It was therefore decided that the so-called Convention Army, now prisoners of war, should be moved south to Virginia, in late 1778, where the climate was less harsh and it would be less costly to maintain them. During the year the prisoners remained in Cambridge it is reckoned that 1,300 of the original 5,700 troops escaped. Many married local women and blended into the local population.

To return to HANNAH WINTRHOP, her husband died in 1779 and her letters to MERCY OTIS WARREN constantly allude to her grief. Looking forward, she hopes that Warren “would oblidge the world, for the Honor of America, with Her arrangement of facts, which will, certainly make as Conspicuous a Figure as any Else Era in the History of the World.” MERCY OTIS WARREN does write and publish a History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.(1805) HANNAH WINTHROP dies in 1790.

More about the relocation of the British and Hessian troops of the Convention Army in the next post.

The letters of Hannah Winthrop from which the quotations above are taken can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.

posted May 14th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: British soldiers,Cambridge,Clinton, General Henry,Convention Army,Hessians,Prisoners of war,Warren, Mercy Otis,Winthrop, Hannah Fayerweather

The Convention Army

In 1777, in an attempt to divide New England from the other colonies, British and Hessian forces, under Lieutenant General John (Johnny) Burgoyne, marched from Canada through the Champlain Valley and Lake George intending to rendezvous at Albany with General Henry Clinton’s troops coming up the Hudson River from New York City (which was occupied by the British) and another British contingent marching eastward from Lake Ontario. The plan failed. The help Burgoyne expected did not arrive. His troops fought two battles, at Bemis Heights and Saratoga in upstate New York; they were overwhelmed by superior American forces, and Burgoyne was forced to capitulate on October 17.

The victory is considered by many as the turning point of the Revolutionary War because it convinced the French that the Americans could fight and win battles against the British, and thus were deserving of French support. Without assistance from the French it is unlikely that the Americans could have won the war.

General Burgoyne and General Horatio Gates negotiated the Convention of Saratoga by which the surrendering forces, numbering 5,900, were marched under guard to Boston, the plan being to allow them to return to England contingent on a promise not to fight in America again. The so-called Convention Army wended its way eastward and reached Cambridge. HANNAH WINTHROP described the scene in a letter to her friend MERCY OTIS WARREN dated November 11. Her comments remind us that armies of that time were accompanied by many women camp followers. During the winter of 1777-78, ordinary soldiers were housed in crude barracks on Winter Hill and Prospect Hill in the vicinity of Cambridge. Officers lodged in private homes and in some buildings at Harvard where classes were suspended.

It is not a great while since I wrote my dear Friend on my disappointment in not paying her a Visit. Now methinks I hear her wondring how it is with her Cambridge Friends, who are at this time delugd with British & Hessian, what shall I call them? who are Prancing & Patrolling every Corner of the Town, ornamented with their glittering Side arms, Weapons of destruction. A short detail of our Situation may perhaps amuse you. you will be able to form a judgment of our unhappy Circumstances.

Last thursday, which was a very Stormy day, a large number of British Troops Came Softly thro the Town Via Watertown to Prospect hill. on Friday we heard the Hessians werto make a Procession in the same rout, we thot we should have nothing to do with them, but View them as they Passd. To be sure the sight was truly Astonishing, I never had the least Idea, that the Creation producd such a Sordid Set of Creatures in human Figure—poor dirty emaciated men, great numbers of women, who seemd to be the beasts of burthen, having a bushel basket on their back, by which they were bent double, the contents seemd to be Pots & kettles, various sorts of Furniture, children peeping thro gridirons & other utensils. Some very young Infants who were born on the road, the women barefoot, cloathd in dirty raggs Such Effluvia filld the air while they were passing, had they not been smoaking all the time, I should have been apprehensive of being Contaminated by them. After a noble Looking advanced Guard Genl J-y B n. headed this terrible group on horseback, The other Gl also, cloathd in Blue Cloaks. Hessians Waldecker Anspachers Brunswickers &c. &c. &c. followd on. The Hessian Gl gave us a Polite Bow as they Passd. Not so the British their Baggage Waggons drawn by poor half starved horses. But to bring up the rear, another fine Noble looking Guard of American Brawny Victorious Yeomanry, who assisted in bringing these Sons of Slavery to Terms, Some of our Waggons drawn by fat oxen, driven by joyous looking Yankees Closd the cavalcade. The Generals & other Officers went to Bradishs, where they Quarter at present. The Privates trudgd thro thick & thin To the hills, where we thot they were to be Confind, but what was our Surprise when in the morning we beheld an inundation of those disagreable objects filling our streets? How mortifying is it? they in a manner demanding our Houses & Colleges for their genteel accomodation. Did the brave G- Gates ever mean this? Did our Legislature ever intend the Military should prevail above the Civil? is there not a degree of unkindness in loading poor Cambridge, almost ruined before with This great army seem to be let loose upon us. & what will be the Consequence time will discover.

Some Polite ones say, we ought not to look in them as Prisoners they are persons of distinguishd rank. perhaps we too must not View them in the light of enemys. I fear this distinction will be soon lost. Surprising that our Gl, or any of our Cl should should insist on the first University in America being disbanded for their more genteel accomodation, & we poor oppressd people seek an Assylum in the woods against a piercing Winter. where is the stern Virtue of an A[dam]s who opposd such an infraction in former days? who is there to plead our Cause? Pity. Pity it is our Assembly had not settled these matters before their adjournment It will be vastly more difficult to abridg them after Such an unbounded Licence. perhaps you may see some of them at Plimouth. for my part I think, insults Famine & a Train of evils present to View. Gl. B-n din’d a Saturday in Boston with Gl. Hh. He rode thro the Town properly attended down Court Street & thro the main street, & on his return walkt on foot to Charlestown Ferry Followd by as great a Number of Spectators as ever attended a pope & generously observd to an officer with him the Decent & modest behavior of the inhabitants as he passd, Saying if he had been Conducting Prisoners thro the City of London, not all the Guards of Majesty Could have prevented Insults. He likewise acknowledges [Benjamin] Lincoln & [Benedict] Arnold to be great Generals. It is said we shall have not Less than Seven thousand persons to feed in Cambridge & its environs, more than its inhabitants. Two hundred & fifty cord of wood will not serve them a week, think then how we must be distresst. wood is risen to £5.10 pr Cord. & little to be purchasd. I never thought I could lie down to sleep Surrounded by these enemies. but we strangely become enured to those things which appear difficult when distant.

The letter is at the Massachusetts Historical Society and can be accessed HERE. John Trumbull’s painting of the surrender at Saratoga was completed in 1821 and hangs in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

“Boston . . . busily employd in communicating the Infection”

Having returned to Cambridge from Concord, HANNAH WINTHROP wrote to her friend MERCY OTIS WARREN in July 1776. She described the condition of her home, the reopening of Harvard, and life in Boston after the British evacuation (pictured) on March 17.

Last Saturday afternoon we went into Boston the first time since our removal from Concord . . . . Our Barrack or Wigwam, or whatever name you may please to give it, when you see it unornamented with broken chairs & unleggd tables with the shatterd Etcetteras, is intirely at your service. . . . we breath as sweet an air as ever Cam [bridge], afforded, the peacefull shades & meandring river conspire to give us delight. The Sons of Harvard who are collected here seem to be as well Settled & as happy as if they had not known an interruption, with zeal they are attending the Philosophic Lectures.

What an unexpected Blessing! the change from the din of arms & the shrill Clarion of war. Come my Friend taste & see if your too much dejected spirits will not revive in this Salubrious Soil. . . .

As to Political matters, Consonant to my natural ingenuity they appear rather gloomy, but the Settlement of these important points I hope an opportunity for, when you make me happy & indulge me with Laying our Political heads together.

The reigning Subject is the Small Pox. Boston has given up its Fears of an invasion & is busily employd in
communicating the Infection. Straw beds & cribs are daily carted into the Town. That ever prevailing Passion of following the Fashion is as Predominant at this time as ever. Men Women & children eagerly Crouding to innoculate is I think as modish, as running away from the Troops of a barbarous George was the last Year. . . .

But ah my Friend I have not mentioned the Loss I have met with which lies near my heart the death of
my dear Friend the good Madam Hancock, A powerfull attachment to this life broken off, you who knew her worth can Lament with me her departure. Ah the incertainty of all Terristrial happiness. . . .
Yours in Affection
Hannah Winthrop

The British forces, threatened by cannon mounted on Dorchester Heights, left Boston in March 1776 for Nova Scotia. Many Loyalists departed as well; some blacks and Native Americans joined them. Those inhabitants who remained faced the scourge of smallpox. The disease had once again become widespread in 1775. George Washington, concerned for his troops, had advised them not to associate with Bostonians leaving the city during the siege. When the British evacuated they left behind their soldiers infected with the disease, which further fueled the outbreak. Washington sent an occupying force of 1,000 troops who had already had smallpox and were therefore immune. Many fearful residents sought to be inoculated, a precaution strongly recommended by Benjamin Franklin, in spite of possibly serious complications. Hannah Winthrop, rather scornfully, termed this surge of interest “modish.” In 1777, Washington ordered that new recruits who had not had smallpox be inoculated. It was one of the most important decisions he made as commander of the Continental Army.

The correspondence between Hannah Winthrop and Mercy Otis Warren is at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The letter in this post can be read in its entirety HERE. The illustration of the British evacuation is a German woodcut c. 1776. It is at the Library of Congress. The title page of Zabdiel Boylston’s An Historical Account of the Small-pox Inoculated in New England is from Wikimedia Commons.

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