Archive for the ‘American soldiers’ Category

“perhaps infernal would not be too harsh a name”

In the days that followed the occupation of Philadelphia by the British SARAH LOGAN FISHER described action in and around the city. She had heard that 3,000 fresh troops arrived at New York from England. And that General Burgoyne was “in full march for Albany, where he was expected to be in 24 hours.”

October 9, 1777— A most agreeable piece of intelligence to all the real well-wishers of America, & as great a damp to its pretended friends, such as Washington, the Congress, Council, & all the group of what shall I call them—perhaps infernal would not be too harsh a name, for surely their characters deserve to be stamped with the blackest dye—who wish to raise their own fortunes by sacrificing thousands of lives & the total ruin of their country.

We know, as Sarah did not, that Burgoyne and his forces would be defeated at Saratoga on the 17th of the month. Regarding her husband and the other Quakers being held in Virginia, Sarah faced the “the gloomy prospect of their long confinement.” She missed her Tommy; “the loss of his company embitters every pleasure.”

Meanwhile British attempts to capture American forts on either side of the Delaware so that supply ships could reach Philadelphia were not immediately successful and because they did not control the surrounding countryside their soldiers and the people of Philadelphia began to experience shortages of food, cord wood and other supplies. “The prospect of suffering for want is such that it is dreadful to think what the distresses of the poor people are & must be…. One woman walked 2 miles out of town only for an egg … a thing she could neither borrow or buy.”

November 1, 1777— …. But now after feeling & being very much discouraged at the prospect of want, & having lost our cow & no milk scarcely to be procured, not any of butter or eggs at any price, & the prospect of my children having nothing to eat but salt meat & biscuit, & but very little of that, sunk me almost below hope.

Luckily a friend, from outside the British lines, brought Sarah butter and eggs and another friend bought two cows for her at £15 apiece, alleviating somewhat her concern for her children as well as that concern “naturally arising from an expectation of being hourly confined to my chamber.”

November 5, 1777— ….Felt a little poorly, but ate a hearty supper & went to bed well. Next morning at 4 o’clock dear little Hannah born.”

In early December Sarah was very upset to hear that British forces engaged in skirmishes with Americans were “plundering and ruining many people. Those who had always been steady friends to government fared no better than the rest.”

December 25, 1777— Christmas Day. Sent for Sister Fisher and her little Tommy to come & dine with me on a fine turkey …. Heard an account today of our mill being burnt down.

December 26, 1777— …. Felt very anxious to know how I should get a supply of hard money when what I had was gone & had some thought of selling my best Wilton carpet to raise some.

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), 451, 455, 456, 458, 459.

posted October 24th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,British soldiers,Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Daily life,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Food,Loyalists,Philadelphia,Quakers,Washington, George

“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

“the Blody flux”

JEMIMA CONDUCT, the young woman from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, once again writes about actions of the British.

Monday May first [1775]. this day I think is a Day of mourning we have word Come that the fleet is coming into Newyork also & to Day the men of our Town is to have a general meeting to Conlud upon measures Which may Be most Proper to be taken; they have Chose men to act for them & I hope the Lord will Give them Wisdom to Conduct wisely & Prudently In all matters.

In 1776, disease ravaged the area. “July 23, Did that Distressing Disorder the Blody flux Began to rage in this Neighborhood.” Jemima cites death after death: of friends and neighbors, adults and children, civilians and soldiers. “August the 16th, Then Died Jered freeman. he was taken Sick at newyork among the Sogers & was brought home & Died Soon After.” Some soldiers were killed in action, but more died as a result of sickness.

September 1776. We hear News from our army at Montigue & Several of them we hear is Dead. sense there Departure Benjamin Canfield & Stevan Morris, David Luis Died with the Camp Disorder & william acorn we hear was killed by the injuns; Sen Jabez freeman the Son of the Late Diseast John freeman is Dead, also Sias Heady Died up there with Sickness.

The bloody flux or dysentery is characterized by bloody diarrhea. The “Camp Disorder” is likely typhus. It is heartbreaking to read Jemima’s list of the dead. It goes on and on, year after year, and is a reminder of the fragility of life at that time and the ineffectiveness of treatment. What is also impressive is the way sickness and death were borne: always regarded as God’s will, to be accepted. Gratitude was expressed for those who had been spared.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 52, 59, 60, 61. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Condict, Jemima,Death,Illness,Medicine

“What sad Havock will this dreadful War make . . . “

Here are the remaining entries for January 1777 from the journal of MARGARET HILL MORRIS.

3d—This Morning between 8 & 9 oClock we heard very distinctly, a heavy fireing of Cannon, the sound came from towards Trenton, about noon a Number of Soldiers, upwards of a thousand came into Town in great Confusion, with Baggage & some Cannon—From these Soldiers we learn there was a smart engagement Yesterday at Trenton, & that they left them engaged near Trenton Mill, but were not able to say which side was Victorious. They were again quarterd on the inhabitants, & we again exempt from the Cumber of having them lodged in our house—Several of those who lodged in Col Co [Colonel Cox] house last Week, returnd to Night, & askd for the key—which I gave them, About bed time I went in the next house to see if the fires were safe, & my heart was melted with Compassion to see such a number of my fellow Creatures lying like Swine on the floor fast aSleep, & many of them without even a Blanket to cover them. It seems very strange to me that such a Number shoud be allowd to come from the Camp at the very time of the engagement, & I shrewdly Suspect they have run away for they can give no account why they came, nor where they are to March next.

6th [actually the 4th]—the accounts hourly coming in are so Contradictory & various, that we know not wch to give credit to. We have heard our people have gaind another Victory, that the English are fleeing before them, some at Brunswick—some at Prince Town. . . . a Number of Sick & wounded brought into Town, calls upon us to extend a hand of Charity towards them—Several of my Soldiers left the next house, & returnd to the place from whence they came, upon my questioning them pritty close, I brought several to confess they had ran away, being scared at the heavy fireing on the 3d—There were several pritty innocent looking lads among them, & I simpathized with thier Mothers when I saw them preparing to return to the Army.

5th—. . . . We are told to day that Gen. [Hugh] Mercer is killd, & Mifflin wounded—What sad Havock will this dreadful War make in our Land. . .

9th. . . . We hear Washington has sent to buy up a Number of Stoves, from whence it is Conjectured he is going into Winter Quarters—The Weather very cold, more snow falling has almost filld the River with Ice & we expect it will be strong enough to Walk over in a day or two. . .

11th—the Weather very cold—& the River quite shut—I pity the poor Soldiers now on thier March, many of whom will probably lay out in the fields this cold Night—What cause have I for gratitude that I & my household are Shelterd from the Storm. [Margaret Hill Morris was living near Burlington which is located in the lower section of the map.]

In January, George Washington, with what was left of the Continental Army, set up winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey. Morristown was a particularly good strategic location—defensible, protected by the Watchung Mountains, the Ramapo Hills, the Hudson Highlands, and swamplands to the east—from which Washington could monitor British activity in New York, the Hudson River, and Philadelphia as well as the surrounding area in New Jersey. After losses in the recent battles, the expiration of enlistments, and desertions, the army had shrunk to a new low. In order to reorganize, discipline was tightened and recruitment were was increased by the offer of cash bonuses and, for those who enlisted for the duration, a bounty of land to be claimed after the war. Washington also undertook a plan of mass inoculation against smallpox including not only the troops but also the civilian population. Washington and his forces remained in Morristown until May.

Source for quoted passages: In the Words of Women, pages 102-03. The map is from Morristown—A Military Capital of the American Revolution, by Melvin J. Weig, with assistance from Vera B. Craig, National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 7, Washington, DC, 1950, reprinted in 1961, page 5, online HERE.

posted January 4th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Inoculation,Morris, Margaret Hill,Morristown, New Jersey,New Jersey,Washington, George

“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

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