Archive for the ‘Hessians’ 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 Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON (1748-1840) was the oldest daughter of William Livingston and Susannah French. (The couple had thirteen children.) Her father was the governor of New Jersey, a member of the Continental Congresses, and a brigadier general in the New Jersey militia. Susan, her younger sisters, Sarah and Catharine (Kitty), known as “the three graces,” were very popular. Sarah became the wife of John Jay in 1774. The Livingstons often had the care of Peter Augustus, the couple’s son, during the war. Susan wrote her sister Sarah on November 1, 1777 in care of John Jay who was in Kent, Connecticut at the time. The letter contains details of the military activity in the area and around Philadelphia as well as family news. (The Livingston home, Liberty Hall in Elizabethtown, was looted and damaged during the Revolution by both sides.)

Dearly beloved Sarah
I am in expectation of the arrival of the Post every moment, he usually comes in on Friday Evening, and returns next Morning as he goes no further than Morris Town. . . . I do not know where to direct to you; we are afraid Mr. Jay has lost all his Clothes that were at Kingston. Mama says if your warm Petticoat is lost, she can spare you one, rather than you should suffer for want of it.

Papa has been home since Sunday Evening, the Accounts he brought are old now, and not worth writing, on the 23d Inst. 5 or 6 Men of War, warped through an opening they had made in the lower Cheveaux de Frieze*, and came up to attack our Fort and Ships and Gallies but they found the Navigation so difficult, that they set Fire to the Augusta of 64 and the Apollo of 32 Guns, and the rest made the best of their way back again. A few days before 2500 of the Enemy (most of them Hessians) under the command of Count Donolp. attacked Fort Mercer or Red Bank, and were soon obliged to retreat in a most shameful and confused manner, leaving behind them killed and wounded 1500. The Count is a Prisoner—they also left 12 pieces of Artillery.

The 22nd our Troops attempted a stroke upon a detachment of six Regiments lying at Grays Ferry [near Philadelphia] where they had thrown a Bridge over the River. They marched all night and reached the Ground about Sunrise, but the Birds were flown, they had suddenly the preceding night deserted the Post, left all their works unfinished and broke up the Bridge. To day Sen’night there was a very warm Engagement, but reports respecting it are so vague, and contradictory, I cannot pretend to give you any account of it.

The Articles of Capitulation that appeared in Loudons last Paper are not relished this way, neither by Whigs, nor Tories, the latter say if Mr. Burgoyne was in a Situation to obtain such Terms he ought to have fought, the Former say if Burgoyne was obliged to surrender at all, Gates might have brought him to what Terms he pleased, so that it looks as if the two Generals wished to avoid fighting. The troops will go home and Garrison the Forts abroad, and let those Garrisons come to America—so it will be only an exchange of Men.

The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow next week. He is now a fit subject for it, his blood is well purified, he has pretended to inoculate him often, so he will not be afraid of it. You know old Woodruff, that carts for us, his Son that lived next door to Dr. Darby, died a few days ago of the Small pox the natural way, and now his Widow and Child have it, the old Man has never had it, he stayed in the same House with his Son till a day or two before he expired, they are not entitled to much pity, for they say the Avarice of the old Man prevented their being inoculated. The Child will perish with it, it is thought.

. . . . Our house is a Barrack there was a whole Artillery Company in it, so I expect every thing will be destroyed.

We have not heard from B[rockhol]st [her brother]** since the last action to the Northward. (I have no doubt but his Letters have miscarried) but Mama has allmost persuaded herself he is among the Slain, and if there was any mourning to be purchased, I do not know but she would exhibit a dismal Spectacle of bombazeen and crepe. . . .

We had the Taylor here (that you engaged) these three weeks, which has kept Kitty tightly employed. She is his Journey-woman. Mr. Jay’s green suit is turned. Papa has brought home a Cargo of broken things, so that we have not eat the bread of Idleness since you left us. . . .

I think this scrawl as it is . . . entitles me to a few Lines from your fair hand. This I submit to you and whether you write or not, I am yours most Affectionately.

* An object of timber and spikes placed in a river to rip the hulls of vessels attempting to pass
** Brockholst was a lieutenant colonel and an aide-de-camp to General St. Clair in 1776 and 1777.

Susan makes reference to the battle of Saratoga which the Americans under General Horatio Gates won over the British and Hessian forces under General John Burgoyne. The Articles of Capitulation were very generous allowing what was called the Convention Army to to return to Britain on the condition that they not serve again in America. Both Gates and Burgoyne were criticized as Susan notes. Can you imagine a man, especially a buttoned-up one like John Jay, wearing a green suit!!

Source: John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, 1745-1780, edited by Richard. B Morris (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 445-47.

posted October 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Clothes,Gates, General Horatio,Hessians,Inoculation,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Brockholst,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",New Jersey,Philadelphia,Saratoga,Smallpox,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“there is a God of Battle, as well as a God of peace”

As the year 1776 came to a close, MARGARET HILL MORRIS confessed to fluctuating emotions: pity for the soldiers of all sides and gratitude that her family had a roof over its head. On December 27, news was received about an action that took place on Christmas night. Here is what she wrote in her journal.

Washington had had an engagement with the Regulars on the 25th early in the Morning, taking them by surprize, killd fifty, & took 900 prisoners. The loss on our side not known, or if known, not sufferd to be publick.—It seems this heavy loss to the Regulars was oweing to the prevailing custom among the Hessians of getting drunk on the eve of that great day which brought peace on Earth & good Will to Men—but oh, how unlike Christians is the Manner in which they Celebrate it, can we call ourselves Christians, while we act so Contrary to our Masters rules—he set the example which we profess to follow, & here is a recent instance that we only profess it; instead of good will, envy & hatred seem to be the ruling passions in the breasts of thousands. This evening the 27th about 3000 of the Pensylvania Militia, & other Troops landed in the Neck, & marchd into Town with Artillery, Baggage &c, & were quarterd on the inhabitants, one Company were lodged at J Vs & a guard placed between his house & ours, We were so favord as not to have any sent to our House. An Officer spent the Evening with us, & appeard to be in high spirits, & talkd of engaging the English as a very triffling affair, Nothing so easy as to drive them over the North River &c—not considering there is a God of Battle, as well as a God of peace, who may have given them the late advantage, in order to draw them out to meet the Chastisement that is reservd for them.

As shown in the illustration, captured Hessian soldiers were paraded through the streets of Philadelphia. It was hoped that their appearance would boost morale and aid in the recruitment of Continental soldiers.

The passage comes from In the Words of Women, page 101. The illustration of the captured Hessian soldiers can be found here.

posted December 28th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Battles,Hessians,Morris, Margaret Hill,Washington, George

“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

“bless me I hope you are not Hessians”

More on MARGARET HILL MORRIS, following on the previous post, as she dealt with events in December 1776 when she was living with her sister Sarah Dillwyn in Greenbank, New Jersey on the Delaware River. During this time British, Hessian, and American troops were active in the area which, along with patriot vessels on the river, gave ample reason for alarm even though her family were Quakers. She was especially concerned as she was harboring a Loyalist in the house.

12th—The people of the gallies [Americans], Suspecting that some troops were yet either conceald in Town or in the Neighborhood of it, have been very Jealous of the inhabitants, who have been often alarmd with reports, that the City [Philadelphia] woud be Set on fire, Many have gone in haste & great distress into the Country, but we still hope, no Mischief is Seriously intended—A Number of Men landed on our Bank this Morning, & told us it was thier settled purpose to set fire to the Town—I begd them not to set my house afire—they askd which was my House, I showd it to them, & they said they knew not what hinderd them from fireing on it last Night, for seeing a light in the Chambers, they thought there were Hessians in it, & that they pointed the Guns at it Several times, I told them my Children were Sick, which obligd me to burn a light all Night—Tho they did not know what hinderd them from fireing on us, I did, it was the Guardian of the Widow & the Orphan, who took us into his Safe keeping, & preservd us from danger, oh—that I may keep humble, & be thankful for this, as well as other favors Vouch safed to my little flock—

13th—This day we began to look a little like ourselves again. The troops were removd some miles from Town as we heard. . . . but the Suspicions of the Gondola Men still continued, & search was made in & about the Town for Men distinguishd by the Name of Tories. . . . There was no appearance of the formidable Hessians. . . . some of the Gentlemen who entertaind the foreigners were pointed out to the Gondola Men—2 Worthy inhabtants were seizd upon & dragd on board—from the 13th to 16th we had various reports of the advancing & retireing of the Enemy—Parties of Armd Men rudely enterd the Houses in Town, & diligent search made for Tories, the 2 last taken releasd & sent on Shore.

About noon this day, (the 16) a very terrible account of thousands coming into Town—& now actually to be seen on Gallows Hill—My incautious Son [John] catchd up the Spy Glass, & was running to the Mill to look at them. I told him it wd be liable to misconstruction, but he prevaild on me to let him gratify his curiosity, & he went, but returnd much dissatisfyd, for no troops coud he see. As he came back poor Dick took the glass & resting it against a tree, took a view of the fleet—both of these was observd by the people on board, who suspected it was an Enemy that was watching thier Motions— They Mannd a boat & sent her on Shore—aloud knocking at my door brought me to it—I was a little flutterd & kept locking and unlocking that I might get my ruffled face, a little composd. At last I opend it, & half a dozen Men all Armd, demanded the keys of the empty House—I asked what they wanted there they said to Search for a D—-d tory who had been spying at them from the Mill—the Name of a Tory so near my own door seriously alarmd me—for a poor refugee [Dr. Jonathan Odell] dignifyd by that Name, had claimd the shelter of my Roof & was at that very time conceald, like a thief in an Auger hole*—

I rung the bell violently, the Signal agreed on, if they came to Search—& when I thought he had crept into the hole—I put on a very simple look & cryd out, bless me I hope you are not Hessians—say, good Men are you the Hessians? do we look like Hessians? askd one of them rudely—indeed I dont know; Did you never see a Hessian? no never in my life but they are Men, & you are Men & may be Hessians for any thing I know—but I’ll go with you into Col Cox’s [Colonel John Cox] house, tho indeed it was my Son at the Mill, he is but a Boy & meant no harm, he wanted to see the Troops—so I marchd at the head of them, opend the door, & searchd every place but we coud not find the tory—strange where he coud be—we returnd; they greatly disapointed, I pleasd, to think my house was not Suspected—the Capt smart little fellow Named Shippen [William Shippin] said he wishd he coud see the Spy glass—S D [Sarah Dillwyn] produced it—& very civilly desird his acceptance of it, which I was sorry for—as I often amusd myself in looking thro it—they left us, & Searchd [other] houses—but no tory coud they find.

*a secret, windowless room entered through the back of a closet; a warning bell, activated by a knob near the front door, hung nearby.
†John Cox, a Philadelphia businessman, owner of Batsto (site of an iron furnace), which supplied the Continental Army with cannon shot and bomb shells, kettles, etc. He and his wife Esther Bowes Cox were also friends of Esther DeBerdt Reed.

Margaret Hill Morris’s account continues in the next post.

The passages quoted can be found on page 98-100 of In the Words of Women. Dr. Jonathan Odell’s likeness is from the New York Public Library. Odell eventually fled to England but returned to his family in America after some years.

posted December 21st, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Hessians,Morris, Margaret Hill,New Jersey,Philadelphia,Tories

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