“Row on boys”

Sarah Matthews Osborn, wife of Aaron, a blacksmith, whom she had married “during the hard winter of 1780” in Albany, New York, accompanied her husband when he re-enlisted as a commissary guard on condition that she would be permitted to ride in a wagon or on horseback. That first winter, they resided at West Point. Sarah Osborn’s deposition applying for her husband’s pension (in 1837) gives a vivid picture of life with the Continental Army.

While at West Point, deponent [Sarah] lived at Lieutenant Foot’s, who kept a boarding house. Deponent was employed in washing and sewing for the soldiers. Her said husband was employed about the camp. She well recollects the uproar occasioned when word came that a British officer had been taken as a spy. She understood at the time that Major André was brought up on the opposite side of the river and kept there till he was executed. On the return of the bargemen who assisted [Benedict] Arnold to escape, deponent recollects seeing two of them, one by the name of Montecu, the other by the name of Clark. That they said Arnold told them to hang up their dinners, for he had to be at Stony Point in so many minutes, and when he got there he hoisted his pocket handkerchief and his sword and said, “Row on boys,” and that they soon arrived in Haverstraw Bay and found the British ship. That Arnold jumped on board, and they were all invited, and they went aboard and had their choice to go or stay. And some chose to stay and some to go and did accordingly.
When the army were about to leave West Point and go south, they crossed over the [Hudson] river to Robinson’s Farms [the property of Beverly Robinson] and remained their for a length of time to induce the belief . . . that they were going to take up quarters there, whereas they recrossed the river in the nighttime into the Jerseys and traveled all night in a direct course for Philadelphia. . . . In their march for Philadelphia, they were under command of Generals Washington and [James] Clinton.

Sarah Osborn continues her story in the next post.

Part of the deposition quoted above is from In the Words of Women, page 153. The illustration of Benedict Arnold is at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photos Division.

posted March 17th, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: American soldiers, Camp followers, Military Service


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