Archive for the ‘Looting’ Category

“teach the Children to pronounce ‘Vicates’”

In December 1776, caught in the midst of military action in New Jersey by the Americans, the British, and the Hessians, MARGARET HILL MORRIS hoped that she, her sister and brother-in-law would be safe because they were Quakers. But this proved to be little protection. On the 20th a friend warned of advancing Hessians and advised Margaret “to put all things of gold & Silver out of thier way—& all linen too, or you’ll lose it.” To which Margaret responded “they pillaged none but Rebels—& we were not such, we had taken no part against them, &c— but that signified nothing, we should loose all &c. . . .

21th . . . more snow last Night. . . . get quite in the fidgets for News, send Dick to Town to collect some, he returns quite Newsless . . . W D [William Dillwyn, Margaret’s brother-in-law] —comes at last, tells us all we expected to hear, pleases us by saying we shall have timely notice of thier coming, gives a hint that the feeble & defenceless will find safety & protection, rank ourselves amongst the Number having no Man with us in the house—Determine not to be unprovided again, let them come, or not, as the Weather is now so cold, provisions will keep good several days—We pity the poor fellows who were obligd to be out last Night in the Snow. Repeat our Wishes that this may be a Neutral Island—quite sleepy—go to Bed, & burn a lamp all Night—talk as loud as usual & dont regard the creeking of the door—no Gondola Men listening about the Bank—before we retired to bed this Evening, an attempt was made to teach the Children to pronounce “Vicates” [Wie geht’s? or Hello] like a Dutch [Deutsch or German] Man. . . .

22nd . . . 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. . . .

24th. . . . We hear the Hessians are still at Holly, and our troops in possession of Church Hill a little beyond. The account of twenty-one killed the first day of the engagement and ten the next is not to be depended on, as the Hessians say our men run so fast they had not the opportunity of killing any of them. Several Hessians in town today. They went to Daniel Smith’s and inquired for several articles in the shop, which they offered to pay for. Two were observed to be in liquor in the street; they went to the tavern and, calling for rum, ordered the man to charge it to the king. We hear that two houses in the skirts of the town were broke open by the Hessians and pillaged.

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

In the next post Margaret learns what had happened on the 25th.

Selections are from In the Words of Women, pages 100-101 and from the National Humanities Center, Journal of Margaret Hill Morris of Burlington, New Jersey.

posted December 24th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Hessians,Looting,Morris, Margaret Hill,New Jersey,Quakers

“a pair of brass Candle-sticks”

The Battle of White Plains, New York, occurred on October 28, 1776. General Washington was moving his troops northward from New York City into Westchester County after having suffered a major defeat by the British. It proved impossible to defend his position in the village of White Plains and so he retreated further north, eventually crossing the Hudson River, marching through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Phoebe Oakley, fleeing her home, had stored her valuables at her brother-in-law’s house for safekeeping. Unfortunately the house was in White Plains near the site of the battle. it was plundered by American soldiers. Her complaint listed the items stolen:

a trunk filled with Linen & cloaths . . . five feather beads [beds] & bedding, one looking glass, one Copper Coffey-Kettle, with lamp and stand, two muffs in cases, a long blue cloth cloak, one pair of brass knobbed hand irons, one painted and one woolen floor-cloth, one copper Tea Kettle, two Pewter dishes & one dozen of plates, a whole set of Tea China, and a small red trunk . . . a pair of boots almost new, a pair of brass Candle-sticks and some books.

Some items were returned to her, but the rest disappeared.

Phoebe Oakley’s list can be found on page 62 of In the Words of Women.

posted May 4th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battles,Looting,Oakley, Phoebe

“such are the effects of War”

Families were not only separated by the Revolutionary War but their loyalties were often divided. Cornelia Bell lived in Bridgewater, New Jersey, and sympathized with the Patriots, while her brother Andrew, a lawyer, supported the British cause and was in New york City, serving as secretary to Sir Henry Clinton. Despite their differences the close ties between brother and sister were not broken. In a letter to her brother Cornelia commented on the impact of plundering armies.

“Bellfield” Jan’y 30th, 1777I am much oblig’d to you for the anxiety you express on my account concerning the British Troops penetrating this part of the country. Thank Heaven I have seen none of them yet and hope I never shall, though we have been in daily expectation of them for some time past; but from the character we have of them they will not be very desirable visitors, as they mark their own way with ruin and devastation. ’Tis impossible to picture the distress they have brought upon innocent families who have lain in their route, by plundering them of their property, not leaving them the necessaries of life; even Protections are no security, as they have been known to plunder those who have taken them and remain’d peaceably at their habitations. I think their proceedings in that way all very impolitic, as they make themselves many enemies who would otherwise have been their friends.

But such are the effects of War, and those who are so unfortunate as to live within their reach must submit. Gracious Heaven! avert those evils that are impending over our devoted heads and grant us Peace. I am not yet without my fears of their coming up this way, tho this neighborhood is swarming with troops from Crooks to Boundbrook, which I hope will keep them from disturbing our quiet. We are so fortunate as to have General [Philemon] Dickinson at our house. . . . General Dickinson is really an acquisition, for the little inconveniences we must unavoidably suffer are greatly compensated for by his easy, genteel behaviour and the pleasure his conversation affords. . . .
Your sincere, affect. Friend and Sister, Cornelia BellI enclose you General Washington’s Proclamation, which, perhaps, will be new to you and the American Crisis, a mere piece of scurrility.

General Washington had urged those supporting the American cause to sign an oath of allegiance and those “who prefer the interest and protection of Great Britain” to “withdraw themselves and families within the enemy’s lines.” Thomas Paine’s The Crisis Number One with its famous opening line, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” was published on January 19, 1777.

Cornelia Bell’s letter can be found on pages 107-08 of In the Words of Women.

posted January 16th, 2014 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bell, Cornelia,British soldiers,Looting,Patriots,Washington, George

“… what the Canker worm dont eat the Locusts destroy.”

Catharine “Kitty” Livingston was the daughter of William Livingston, the governor of New Jersey, and sister to Sarah Livingston who married John Jay. The Jays’ son Peter Augustus was in her care at Liberty Hall, the Livingston home in Elizabethtown, when she wrote to his parents in November 1777, reporting that he had been successfully inoculated against smallpox. Peter was 22 months old at the time.

My Dear Sister & Brother
It is with very great pleasure I announce to you, the recovery of your little Boy from the Small Pox; please to accept of the Congratulations of the Family on the happy event. No person ever was more favor’d in that disorder, he had only one pustule, & scarce a days illness. The Dr. bid me tell you that he had behaved manfully thro the whole. … If Sally you have at any time felt a regret at having left him least he should be spoil’d, be assured there never was a better Child. I have my doubts if ever any equaled him in goodness, I have but one Complaint to lodge against him, & that is, that we cannot make him talk; it is something extraordinary in our Family; but I flatter myself he will prattle every thing before he leaves us. …

Kitty’s letter goes on to comment on the billeting of soldiers in her father’s house. Located in a hotly contested area, Liberty Hall had been occupied by American troops or Hessians depending on battle lines. Here Kitty complains about the former. The bullock guards she refers to were soldiers in charge of cattle intended to feed the army.

Yesterday I returned from Elizath. Gen. [Philemon] Dickenson is at that Post with between eight hundred & a Thousand Troops. My Fathers House for six weeks was made a Guard House, for a Bullock Guard the first instance I beleive of a Governors House being so degraded. I do not exaggerate In telling you the Guards have done ten times the mischief to the House that the Hessians did; they have left only two locks in the House taken off many pains of glass, left about a third of the paper hanging, burnt up some mahogany banisters, a Quantity of timber, strip’d the roof of all the lead, one of the men was heard to boast that he had at one heat taken 30 pd. of Lead off. The furniture that mamma left there when Sally & myself was last down is stolen except a few things of which there is only some fragments. It is as in the time of Pharoah what the Canker worm dont eat the Locusts destroy*. …
your truly Affectionate Sister

*This is a biblical reference (Joel 1:4) to a devouring army that leaves behind desolation and waste.

This excerpt is from Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston, compiled and edited by Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North, and Janet M. Wedge (Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, 2005), page 52. The illustration is from As We Were: The Story of Old Elizabethtown by Theodore Thayer (Elizabeth, New Jersey: Grassman Publishing Company for The New Jersey Historical Society, 1964). A large version of the map can be found HERE, courtesy of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.

posted May 3rd, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Hessians,Inoculation,Looting,Maps,Patriots

“No respite can I gain”

Annis Boudinot Stockton was one of the best known and accomplished poets in eighteenth century America. The wife of Richard Stockton, a prominent lawyer, delegate to the Continental Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, she presided over their home called “Morven,” near Princeton. During the Revolution the British ransacked Stockton’s estate, destroyed his library, drove off his stock, and took him prisoner. The ill effects of captivity and the stress of financial impoverishment took their toll on Stockton’s health, and he succumbed to cancer in 1781. “Confined to the chamber of a dear and dying husband,” Annis gave voice to her grief in this poem:


I.
Sleep, balmy sleep, has clos’d the eyes of all
But me! ah me! no respite can I gain;
Tho’ darkness reigns o’er the terrestrial ball,
Not one soft slumber cheats this vital pain.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
III.
While through the silence of this gloomy night,
My aching heart reverb’rates every groan;
And watching by that glimmering taper’s light,
I make each sigh, each mortal pang my own.
IV.
But why should I implore sleep’s friendly aid?
O’er me her poppies shed no ease impart;
But dreams of dear departing joys invade,
And rack with fears my sad prophetick heart.
V.
But vain is prophesy when death’s approach,
Thro’ years of pain, has sap’d a dearer life,
And makes me, coward like, myself reproach,
That e’er I knew the tender name of wife.
VI.
Oh! could I take the fate to him assign’d!
And leave the helpless family their head!
How pleas’d, how peaceful, to my lot resign’d,
I’d quit the nurse’s station for the bed.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 7, page 201. For information about Morven, click here.

posted February 2nd, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: British soldiers,Death,Looting,Marriage,Prisoners

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