Archive for the ‘Washington, George’ 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

Ona Judge “Never Caught . . . . “

I am looking forward to reading the first full-length nonfiction account of the escape of Ona Judge known as Oney, a dower slave belonging to Martha Washington, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (New York: Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, 2017). Ona was the daughter of Betty, a seamstress, and Andrew Judge, a white indentured tailor at Mount Vernon. See previous posts here, here, and here. Oney became a skilled seamstress and was taken by Martha to Philadelphia, the capital of the United States during Washington’s presidency, to be her personal maid. Oney escaped, fled to New Hampshire, and married a seaman Jack Staines. Washington went to great lengths to try to recover her. Without success.

Eric Foner, a historian whom I admire, has called the book “a fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom in the flawed republic he helped to found.”

Historic sites in recent years have introduced exhibitions and tours on the theme of slavery; Mount Vernon’s “Lives Bound Together” runs through September 2018.

posted February 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Judge Staines, Ona "Oney",Philadelphia,Slaves/slavery,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“Your Excellency’s Old Devoted Servant”

ELIZABETH THOMPSON was seventy-two years old when she accepted the position of housekeeper to George Washington and his military family. The Irish widow exhibited the stamina and vigor of a much younger woman, following Washington as he moved up and down the northeastern coast. Her duties included overseeing the cooking, cleaning, and the washing of clothes, as well as supervising female servants in the General’s household for which she received “50 £ New York money” a year. She replaced MARY SMITH who left (or was discharged) shortly before it became known that she was part of a loyalist group whose intention was to help the British secure New York City.( Above is Mary Smith’s signature indicating she had received of Caleb Gibbs $216 for the use of Washington and his family.)

Washington had asked the help of Colonel James Clinton in finding a replacement for Mary, as he was “entirely destitute” of a housekeeper, and had heard good reports of Thompson. He hired her but she served for less than a year (July 1776 to April 1777) when she was let go because the spring campaign was about to begin. Apparently Martha Washington was upset when she learned that her husband had dismissed Thompson without consulting her and urged him to rehire her, if not for his military household then for Mount Vernon. Mrs. Thompson was located and agreed to return—to army headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey.

Mrs. Thompson proved to be more than competent in discharging her many responsibilities—quite amazing considering that she could neither read nor write. When she retired in 1781 she was asked to “assist in the enquiries and examination” of a new cook. Washington preferred a German, “a Person that has an understanding in the business, who can order, as well as get a dinner; who can make dishes, and proportion them properly, to any Company which shall be named to him. . . .” Apparently someone satisfactory was found.

When Mrs. Thompson left Washington’s employ, the General invited her to come and live at Mount Vernon but she was too infirm to make the trip. On October 10, 1783 John Trumbull, writing for Elizabeth Thompson, sent a letter to George Washington.

Sir,
When I had the favour of seeing your Excellency at Princeton you desired that I should make an Account for my Services in your Family to be laid before the Financier.

I came in to Your Excellency’s Service as Houskeeper in the month of June 1776 with a Zealous Heart to do the best in my Power. Although my Abilities had not the Strength of my Inclinations Your goodness was pleased to approve and bear with me untill December 1781 when Age made it necessary for me to retire.

Your Bounty and goodness in that time bestowed upon me the sum of £79 ..6..8 which makes it impossible for me to render an Account: my Service was never equal to what your Benevolence has thus rated them.

And being now in my Eightieth Year should I ever want, which I hope will not be the Case, I will look up to Your Excellency for Assistance where I am sure I will not be disappointed.

And that the Father of Mercies may pour on you his Choicest Blessings shall ever be the Prayer of
Your Excellency’s
Old Devoted Servant
Elizabeth Thompson

Thompson applied for and, in 1785, received a lifetime pension from the Continental Congress for her service: £100 a year. She died in 1788.

Frank e. Grizzard, Jr. George! a Guide to All Things Washington (Mariner Companies, Inc., 2005), 305; see entry on Thompson HERE. See also the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799; Elizabeth Thompson to George Washington, October 10, 1783. 373-74. For further information check the Mount Vernon SITE.

posted January 6th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Employment,Smith, Mary,Thompson, Elizabeth,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“he will make thee a good husband”

After DOLLEY PAYNE TODD recovered from yellow fever and the death of her husband and her younger son in 1793 she began to be seen in Philadelphia society once again. Soon she received a note from a friend conveying a request from Aaron Burr that she meet James Madison who very much wanted make her acquaintance. The two met at her home and soon the attentions of the “great little Madison” (he was 5′ 4″) resulted in talk of an engagement. According to a memoir compiled by Dolley’s grand niece the rumor reached the President and Mrs. Washington. The niece recounted a conversation said to have taken place when Mrs. Todd and Martha Washington met.

“Dolly,” said Mrs. Washington, “is it true that you are engaged to James Madison? ” The fair widow, taken aback, answered stammeringly, *’No,” she “thought not.” ” If it is so,” Mrs. Washington continued, “do not be ashamed to confess it: rather be proud; he will make thee a good husband, and all the better for being so much older. We both approve of it; the esteem and friendship existing between Mr. Madison and my husband is very great, and we would wish thee to be happy.”

It seems there was substance to the rumor. Dolley and James Madison were married in September of 1794 in her sister’s home, Harewood, in Virginia. After the wedding celebration the couple resided in the Madison home, Montpelier, but by the end of the year they were back in Philadelphia. At Madison’s request Dolley shed her Somber Quaker attire and joined in the gaiety of the Philadelphia social scene.

Source: The Memoirs and Letters of Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison, President of the United States, edited by her Grand-Niece (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., The Riverside Press, Cambridge: 1886) 14-17. Dolley’s portrait, dated 1804, is by Gilbert Stuart and is in the Library of Congress.

posted September 22nd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Courtship,Madison, Dolley,Madison, James,Marriage,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“Mrs. Adams’s drawing room”

ELIZABETH STODDERT, the daughter of Rebecca and Benjamin Stoddert, President Adams’s secretary of the navy, wrote to her aunt in January 1800 from Philadelphia describing the memorial held there for George Washington who had died in December.

There was a funeral eulogium last Thursday pronounced by General Lee, and the most splendid procession ever seen in America. . . . Mamma was not well enough to go to the procession. . . .
I must not omit to tell you, that though mama has not been as yet to wait on Mrs. Adams, that good and handsome old lady called to see her this afternoon, with her daughter Mrs. Smith, and brought more plum-cake for the children than all of them could eat. You may be sure after this she is a great favorite of the whole family.

REBECCA STODDERT wrote to her sister on February 23, 1800 of her visit to Mrs. Adams levée.

. . . . I have been to . . . Mrs. Adams’s drawing room, which was a very full one, and well worth going to . . . . Mrs. Adams was extremely kind. . . . she not only desired me to move from a window where I was sitting, but in the course of the evening sent to me to know if I would have some drops. From my pale looks she took it in her head that I was going to faint, which brought a little red to my cheeks. . . .
I have been kindly and prettily asked by both Mr. and Mrs. Liston [Robert Liston was the British minister plenipotentiary to the United States] to go to their house the public day of having company, which is something like Mrs. Adams’s drawing room, only that Mrs. Liston sometimes has dances and at others cards. She mentions in the winter when they commence, and that is looked upon as an invitation, and all of her acquaintances go that choose it or that wish to show her respect. I go because I respect them both extremely.

Mrs. Stoddert wrote again in April 1800:

I saw Mrs. Washington when she was in Philadelphia for the first time in my life. I visited her in the morning at Mrs. Powell’s where she stayed, and in the evening she very politely called on me, but I could not prevail on her to stay to tea. She left the city the next morning, and is expected to return the first of May, when I hope I shall see her again. She appears to be a mild, lady-like woman. I should like to hear her sing. I am sure I have heard she excelled in both playing and singing.

Congress met in Washington for the first time in the fall of 1800. In 1791, it had passed the Residence Act designating an area along the Potomac River as the site of the capital of the United States. (It was in the center of the country at that time.) Land was donated from both Maryland and Virginia and the city to be built there was called Washington, often referred to as the “Federal City.” It was in an unfinished state when Abigail Adams took up a brief residence in the president’s house. See her amusing description of its condition she penned to her daughter Nabby.
When Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, Mrs. Stoddert briefly returned to her home in Georgetown but she and her husband shortly moved to Bostwick in Maryland which Rebecca had inherited from her father. She died there in 1802. The family’s finances were much reduced by Benjamin Stoddert’s speculation in land by the time he died in 1813. Husband and wife are buried in Addison Chapel in St. George’s County, Maryland.

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, pages 815, 817-18. Henrietta Liston’s portrait is by Gilbert Stuart, 1800. My colleague and friend Louise North has compiled and edited The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2014). It is a great read.

posted May 16th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Capital of the United States,Philadelphia,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams,Stoddert, Benjamin,Stoddert, Elizabeth,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes,Washington, George

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