“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.


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