“my heart almost died within me”

MARGARET HILL MORRIS, a struggling widow with four children, had moved in with her sister who was the wife of a Quaker missionary in New Jersey. In December 1776, Margaret decided to keep a journal “for the amusement” of another sister, Milcah Martha Moore, who was living nearby having left Philadelphia when it was threatened by the British. During this turbulent time—General Cornwallis was moving across New Jersey, the British had blockaded the Delaware River, and General Washington and his troops had fled into Pennsylvania—Margaret tried to tread a fine line between patriot and loyalist, distressed by the suffering she saw around her. The house in which she lived overlooked the Delaware River allowing her to observe the goings on as vessels called row-galleys or gondolas patrolled or bombarded.

December 6th, 1776Being on a visit to my friend M S. at Haddonfield. I was preparing to return to my Family, when a Person from Philada told us the people there were in great Commotion, that the English fleet was in the River & hourly expected to sail up to the City; that the inhabitants were removing into the Country, & that several persons of considerable repute had been discoverd to have formd a design of setting fire to the City, & were Summoned before the Congress and strictly injoind to drop the horrid purpose—when I heard the above report my heart almost died within me, & I cried surely the Lord will not punish the innocent with the guilty, & I wishd there might be found some interceeding Lotts & Abrahams amongst our People. . . . I thought of my S D. [Sarah Dillwyn, her sister] the beloved Companion of my Widowd State—her Husband at the distance of some hundred miles from her—I thought of my own lonely situation, no Husband to cheer, with the voice of love, my Sinking spirits. My little flock too, without a Father to direct them how to Steer,—all these things crouded into my mind at once, & I felt like one forsaken—a flood of friendly tears came to my relief—& I felt an humble Confidence, that he, who had been with me in six troubles would not forsake me now—While I cherishd this hope my tranquility was restord, & I felt no Sensations but of humble Acquiescense to the Divine Will—& was favord to find my Family in health, on my Arrival, & my Dear Companion not greatly discomposd, for which favor I desire to be made truly thankful—

8th. Every day begins & ends with the same accounts, & we hear today the Regulars are at Trenton—some of our Neighbors gone, & others going, makes our little Bank look lonesome; but our trust in Providence still firm, & we dare not even talk of removing our Family. . . .

More from Margaret Hill Morris in the next post.

The passages quoted can be found on page 98 of In the Words of Women and in the Journal online HERE.

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