Archive for the ‘Howe, General Sir William’ Category

“this bit of superb frivolity” the Meschianza

Reading SARAH LOGAN FISHER’s diary, it is difficult to appreciate the “bright” side (for some) of the British occupation of Philadelphia. The inhabitants were short of provisions. Firewood was scarce, as was hard cash. Officers moved into houses abandoned by Whigs (without their consent), or they requested (demanded) rooms in the homes of Tory sympathizers. The poor suffered terribly as did American prisoners held by the British. Some Loyalists were disappointed by the treatment they received. And Quakers were dismayed by the revelry of the soldiers.

For the upper classes, however, the winter season (1777-1778) was one of gaiety. There were assemblies, balls, dinners, plays, concerts, and parades. Quite the social whirl in fact. On Monday nights people flocked to the theater to see, in the audience, General William Howe with his supposed mistress Mrs. Elizabeth Loring, whose husband Joshua had been appointed commissary general to the prisoners in Philadelphia. The ladies welcomed news of the latest fashions and went shopping for fabrics and baubles brought from England. Hoops were in, and hairdressers were in demand.

Major John André (1751-1780), a writer of prose and poetry as well as an artist, was one of the chief organizers of what may have been Philadelphia’s largest and most elaborate public spectacle, the Meschianza—the word is a play on the word for medley in Italian. It took place on May 18, 1778 to bid farewell to General William Howe who had submitted his resignation and was returning to England. (It was likely that Howe had been relieved of his command for his failure to come to the assistance of General John Burgoyne and was therefore considered responsible for Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga in October of 1777.)

The cost of the extravaganza was enormous, in part underwritten by twenty-two of the general’s officers who contributed £3,312. It lasted eighteen hours with some 400 military and Loyalist attendees, for whom elaborate tickets were designed by André. (Howe’s crest is shown along with a motto; cannons, swords, drums, flags, and other military equipment decorate the borders.)

The celebration included a flotilla of decorated barges, cannon salutes, a military parade, fireworks displays, testimonials, a mock Medieval jousting tournament, a lavish banquet, and a fancy-dress ball. Events were staged in the mansion Walnut Grove and its grounds, an estate abandoned by Patriot Joseph Wharton. The ball was held in a large canvas tent whose interior walls André adorned with mirrors and scenery. For the contest between Knights of the Blended Rose and Knights of the Burning Mountain he designed the costumes of the participants as well as those of the young ladies (Peggy Shippen among them) over whose beauty the knights were competing. André wrote and illustrated a commemo-rative program dedicated to Peggy Chew, one of Philadelphia’s belles who had taken his fancy. Her great-granddaughter described the manuscript:

Faded and yellow with age, the little parchment vividly calls up before us the gallant young English officer, eager and full of keen interest, throwing himself with youthful ardor, with light-hearted seriousness, into this bit of superb frivolity. On the cover he has outlined a wreath of leaves around the initials ‘P.C’, and he has made a water color sketch to show the design and colors of his costume as a knight of the ‘Blended Rose,’ and that of his brother . . . who acted as his esquire and bore his shield, with its quaint motto, ‘No rival.’

See an earlier post about the British occupation of Philadelphia HERE.

For the quotation see Old Time Belles and Cavaliers by Edith Tunis Sale, p 141, accessed HERE.
For a description of the Meschianza see Social Life During the British Occupation by Darlene Emmert Fisher HERE on page 251.
The ticket shown is held by The Library Company of Philadelphia, a gift of Mrs. John Meredith Read, 1900.
The print of Major John André is based on one of his self portraits. For additional information see the publication Quarto of the Clements Library Associates, pages 6 and 7, HERE.
Also David S. Shields and Fredrika J. Teute. “The Meschianza: Sum of All Fêtes.” Journal of the Early Republic 35, no. 2 (2015): 185-214. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 30, 2018).

posted November 30th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: André, Major John,Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Chew, Peggy,Entertainments,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Howe, General Sir William,Meschianza,Philadelphia,Shippen, Peggy

“many expect they will leave us in a very few days”

SARAH LOGAN FISHER continued with observations in her diary of Philadelphia during the British occupation of 1777-1778. Officers commandeered rooms in the homes of Philadelphians and stories circulated about their behavior with young ladies. Sarah had looked forward to the arrival of the British and was dis-heartened at their departure: the decision had been made, after the American victory at Saratoga and the subsequent French treaty with the Americans, to consolidate their forces in New York City.

December 30, 1777— …. an officer came to desire & insist on taking up his lodgings here, which I was obliged to consent to & gave him my front parlor to lodge in & removed all my furniture upstairs, & gave some more ordinary.

January 28, 1778— Lieutenant Apthorp, our lodger….appears to be an agreeable, modest young man, is about 22 & is the oldest of 14 children.

March 15, 1778— …. Very bad accounts of the licentiousness of the English officers in deluding young girls.

March 17, 1778— A great parade before General Howe’s door with the soldiers, it being St. Patrick’s Day, & the anniversary of my happy marriage.

March 25, 1778— Had my clothes stolen. [Sarah advertised in the Royal Pennsylvania Gazette for them, offering 10 guineas reward. They were not recovered.]

May 29, 1778— A fit of illness & many engagements has prevented me continuing my journal to this time…. My beloved husband returned to his welcome home the 29th of the 4th Mo. [April] with health of body & peace of mind….

And now another severe trial is likely to befall us. The English, who we had hoped & expected would have stayed & kept possession of the city, are near leaving us & it is said are going to New York, & we may expect some great suffering when the Americans again get possession. Great preparations are making for their going somewhere. All their baggage, provisions, stores of every kind are putting on board their ships, & many expect they will leave us in a very few days.

Sarah reports that three peace commissioners arrived in June “with very full powers to treat with the Americans.” The mission failed and the British continued their preparations for departure.

June 12, 1778— …. Took a ride in the afternoon … down the Neck. Saw great devastations indeed. Fences much destroyed, soldiers cutting the grass & bringing it away by horse loads—such is the wanton destruction that is made of our property. Apthorp, our lodger, tells me that he expects the whole army will leave the city in a few days….

June 18, 1778— This morning about 6 the grenadiers & light infantry left us & in less than a quarter of an hour the Americans were in the city. Judge, O any impartial person, what were my feelings at this time.

Sarah Logan Fisher’s “Diary of Trifling Occurrences” ends with this entry. Her journal gives a great deal of information about the British occupation of Phila-delphia from the point of view of a Quaker woman with loyalist sympathies. With small children at home, and an absent husband, Sarah managed as best she could.

Since she did not move in the same social circles as the elite of Philadelphia it is understandable that she has little to say about the busy social life of the upper classes who remained in the city—and would have disapproved of their frivolous pursuits in amy case. There was, of course, the usual card playing, gambling, drinking and visiting “ladies of the night” engaged in by idle soldiers. The officers of the occupying army, on the other hand, organized dinners, balls, horse races, theatrical productions, and other entertainments. All this while American forces were enduring the harsh winter at Valley Forge.

In the next post a glimpse of one of the most incredible extravaganzas ever seen in Philadelphia. Mounted and overseen by Major John André, it was intended to honor General William Howe who had resigned his commission and was returning to England.

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), 460, 461, 462, 464, 465.

posted November 11th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: André, Major John,British soldiers,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Howe, General Sir William,Philadelphia,Quakers

“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

“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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