James P Snell.

History of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : online

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LIEUT. JAMES MOODY.

The most noted Tory in Sussex County during the
Revolutionary period was Lieut. James Moody, erro-
neously called " Bonnell" Moody. We have before
us his narrative, published in London in 1783,
wherein most of the achievements attributed by
tradition to " Bonnell" Moody are related and well
authenticated. The title of the work is, " Lieut.
James Moody's Narrative of his Exertions and Suf-
ferings in the Cause of Government since 1776 : Au-
thenticated by Proper Certificates." Among the
certificates appended is one signed by " William
Franklin, late Governor of New Jersey," and one
by Cortland Skinner, the British brigadier-general
in whose brigade Moody served, both as an ensign
and as a lieutenant. We give the latter entire, as
follows :

" I do hereby certify that Mr. James Moody came within the British
lilies in April, 1777, and brought in with him upwards of seventy men,
all of whom, except four, entered into my brigade; that ill June follow-
ing he was sent into the rebel country for the purpose of enlisting men
for His Majesty's service, with orders to continue there until a favorable
opportunity offered for him to disarm the rebels and arm the loyalists,
and, with what men ho could collect, to join the royal army, but he was
prevented iroill putting that plan into execution by our army's taking a
diiTereut route from what was expected; that Mr. Moody, being thus dis-
appointed, assisted by two of bis neighbors, soon after embodied about
an hundred men, with whom he attempted to join the British army, but
was unsuccessful ; that afterwards he made two successful excursions
into the rebel country, and brought with him from Sussex County about
sixty able-bodied recruits, nearly all of whom entered into my brigade ;
that alter this time ho made many trips into New Jersey and Pennsylva-
nia, and brought with him many good men, and gained many articles of
imperial] t intelligence concerning the movements of Col. Butler, the real
stateof the rebel country, tho situation and condition of the rebel armies
under command of their generals, Washington, Sullivan, etc.; and that
while Mr. Moody was under my immediate direction he also destroyed a
considerable magazine of stores near Black Point, taking prisoners two
colonels, one major, and several other officers, and broke open the Sussex
County jail, rescuing a number of loyalists that were imprisoned in it,
one of whom was under sentence of death ; besides performing many

" I also certify that in the month of October, 1777, the said Moody was
mustered as an ensign, but received no pay as such till April, 1778;
that he continued his exertionB under my directions till 1780, about
which time he was taken from the regiment, which prevented his being
appointed to a company in it, as it was in general believed the commander-
in-chief intended doing something better for him; that I have evory
reason to believe Mr. Moody received nothing from government to re-
ward him for his extraordinary services, or to indemnify him for his ex-
traordinary expenses, till 1780; that from the time of his joining the
army, in April, 1777, till his departure fur Europe, in May, 1782, he did
upon every occasion. exert himself with the utmost zeal in support of His
Majesty's cause in America; and, on the whole, that I believe all that is
related in his printed narrative to be true, without exaggeration.

tl London, January 30, 1783.

" Cortland Skinner,*
" Jirig.-General, tfce."

Moody was neither a native nor a resident of Sus-
sex County, nor is it anywhere stated to what part of
New Jersey he belonged, although tradition has as-
signed him to Hunterdon County. He tells us that

* Cortland Skinner was attorney-general and Speaker of tho House of
Assembly under the provincial government; he resided at Perth Ainboy.
At tho commencement of tho Revolution he accepted a commission from
tho British as brigadior-gouoral of a partisan or Tory brigade, and was
engaged in raising recruits in New Jersey. He went to England at the
close of the war.



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previous to going into the army he was " a plain con-
tented fanner, settled on a large, fertile, pleasant,
and well-improved farm of his own, in the best-culti-
vated and happiest country in the world." He came
to New Jersey to arrest Governor Livingston, but,
liinlin'_ r that Mr. Livingston had gone to Trenton to
meel the Assembly, he led his inch in Susses < kranty,
where one of them was captured by Maj. Robert
Hoops, to whom lie revealed the plot, and the scheme
for capturing the (lovernor was thwarted. This was
in .May, 1780, and seems to have been the first inci-
dent thai gave Moody notoriety in Sussex. His next
project was an attempt to Mow up the magazine at
Suekasuny, about fifteen miles hack of Morristown.
"But this," he says, "also proved abortive; for, not-
withstanding his having prevailed on some British

pris rs, taken with Hen. liurgoyne, to join him in

the enterprise, the alarm was now become so general,

and the terror so great, that they had increased their
guard around this magazine to the number of one
hundred and upwards." He had not i v than

Beven men mi an\ time during his operations in

Sussex County.

It is possible that Moody may have occupied cer-
tain Caves 1 hiding-places, and possibly " Moody's

Bock" may have bee e of them. He speaks of

having been pursued and sought, ac 'ding to the

strong language. of Scripture, as "a partridge in the

mountains." "But," he says, "wandering in deserts
and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the

earth, by the blessing of God, he still eluded all

these researches." His exploit of opening the jail at

New ton is thus related:*

" Returning again to Sussex County, he now heard
that several prisoners were confined on various sus-
picions and charges of loyalty in the jail of that
county, and thai one of them was actually under sen-
tence of death. This poor fellow was one of Bur-
goync's soldiers, charged with crimes of a civil nature,

oC which, however, be was believed to be innocenl

Mr. Moody took with him six men, and late at ffighl

entered the country town. . . . The inhabitants of

the town were but too generally disaffected. This
suggested the necessity of stratagem. Coming to the
jail, the keeper called out from the window of an

upper room and demanded what their business wa-.

The ensign instantly replied he had a prisoner to
deliver into his custody. 'What! one of Uoodift

fellows'.'' said the jailer. ' Vis,' said the ensign.

On his inquiring what the name of this supposed

prisoner was, one of the party, who was well known
to the inhabitants Of that place, personated the char-
acter of a prisoner and sp ike lor himself. The jailer
gave him some ill language, but, notwithstanding,

scenic. 1 highly pleased with the idea of having so

potorious a Tory in his custody. <>n the ensign's



•Tho iiurciiiv,. i- ■ ( i . i t . ■ modest, always q n in lha

tii ic I pcnon,as "tho ensign" Hi U i>."



urging him to conic down and take care of the man.

he peremptorily refused, alleging that, in consequence

Of Moody's being OUt, he had received striei ,,.

open his doors to no man after sunset, and that, there-
fore, he must wait till morning. Finding that this
talc would nit take, the ensign now changed hie note,

and in a -tern t told him, ' Sirrah, the man who

now speaks to you is Moody. I have a strong party
with me; and if you do not this moment deliver up
your keys, I will instantly pull down your house
all. nit your ears.' The jailer vanished in a moment.
On this Mr. Moody's nun. who were well skilled in
Indian war-whoop, made the air resound with BUCh a

variety of hi. hi, us yells as soon left them nothing to
fear from the inhabitants of New Town, which, though
the county town, consists only of twenty or thirty
houses. 'The Indians! the Indians are come I' said
the panic-struck people : and happy were they who

could soonest .-cape into the woods. While *t li.-e

things were thus going on the ensign had made his

way through the easement, and was met by a pris-
oner, whom he immediately employed to procure him
a light. The vanished jailer was now again pro-
duced, and most obsequiously hide. I Mr. Moody

to tin' dungeon of the poor wretch under sentence of
death. . . .

"There is no possibility of describing the agony of

I his man when, On being so suddenly aroused, he saw
i" i'H, him a man in arms. . . . The first and the only
idea thai occurred to him was that, as many of the

ii. iei- of government had been privately executed in
prison, the person he saw was his executioner. <>n
Mr. Moody's repeatedly informing him of his mistake,

and that he was i ic to release him in the name of

King George, the transition from such an abyss ,,t
wretchedness to so extravagant a pitch of joy had
wellnigh overcome him. Never before had the writer
i" . u present at so affecting a scene. ... In such cir-
cumstances, it was with some difficulty that the ensign
got him away. At length, however, hi- eh. tins were

i"i on. and he. with all the rest who chose to avail

themselves of the opportunity, was conducted into

safely, notwithstanding a warm pursuit of several
days."

Mood] gives no details of the " warm pursuit," but
says the prisoner whom be rescued "was afterwards

actually executed On the same sentence on which he

bad before been victed, though he left the world

with the most soh urn asseverations of his innocence
a- to the crime of which he had been accu-.

cepting only an unshaken allegiance to his sovereign.''

For his daring hardihood in intercepting the di-

patches sent to Washington in the spring of 1781,

Moody was made a lieutenant, having. ;h he Bays,

" served more than a year as a volunteer witl t any

pay, and almost three years as an ensign." At one
lime , Mi \ is, 1781), while attempting his capture on

the Hudson River, about seventy men were in pursuit
of him. He had no other means of escape than to



60



SUSSEX AND WAKREN COUNTIES, NEW JERSEY.



climb the steep side of a hill. Long before he had
reached the summit a number of the men had so
gained upon him as to be within fifty yards, and he
received one general discharge of musketry, and
" thought it little short of a miracle that he escaped
unwounded. The bullets flew like a storm of hail
around him ; his clothes were shot through in several
places ; one ball went through his hat, and another
grazed his arm. Without at all slackening his pace
he turned and discharged his musket, and by this shot
killed one of his pursuers. Still they kept up their
fire, each man discharging his piece as fast as he could
load; but, gaining an opportunity of soon doubling
upon them, he gave them the slip, and in due time
arrived once more safely in New York."

For some time he was a prisoner under Benedict
Arnold when the latter had command at West Point,
and was kept in what he describes as a most sickly
and loathsome prison-pen, excavated in the side of a
rocky ledge and covered with loose plank so dis-
jointed that the rain poured in and made the bottom
of it a pool of mud, while it kept him for several days
drenched to the skin and obliged him to lie at night
in a bed equally saturated with water, which con-
sisted of straw and some blankets, barely kept above
the wet and muddy bottom of the cell by a few boards
laid across sticks. His fare consisted of dumplings
made of musty flour and boiled in a vessel with
tainted meat. He petitioned to Washington for re-
lief, and that noble-hearted patriot sent an order for
the amelioration of his wretched condition.

The only description which Moody gives of himself
is incidental. He had a friendly loyalist in New Jer-
sey whom he sometimes induced, for convenience, to
personate him. This man, he says, came one night to
the house of a certain " pompous and important jus-
tice of the peace" and raised an alarm. The justice
came out, and, espying, as it was intended he should,
a tall man, his fears convinced him that it was Moody,
and he instantly betook himself to the woods. The
next day the rumor was spread abroad that Moody
was in that part of the country, and the militia was
brought down from the fort, where he really was, with
a view of capturing him where he was not ; and so
he gained his coveted opportunity for waylaying the
mail or express containing all the dispatches of Wash-
ington relating to the interview with Count Rocham-
beau. Afterwards, at two or three different times, he
intercepted and seized the messengers bearing impor-
tant letters and dispatches. He had in command
under him a younger brother, who captured the mail
in Pennsylvania. The name of this younger brother
we nowhere find, although he was subsequently hung
in Philadelphia.

The greatest plot of Moody, perhaps, was his at-
tempt to rob the archives of Congress through the aid
of one Addison, an Englishman, who had been em-
ployed as clerk in the State-House under Secretary
Thomson. This Addison entered into the plot as an



assumed loyalist, agreeing to meet Moody and his
party and give them access to the State-House, where
the papers and records were kept. Instead of doing
so, however, when Moody and his party, after encoun-
tering incomparable perils, had reached Philadelphia,
and were, as they supposed, within reach of the cov-
eted prize, Addison betrayed them into the hands of
the authorities. Moody, more shrewd than the others,
had foreseen this, and had taken the precaution to
conceal his agency in the matter, remaining behind
at the ferry-house after crossing the Delaware, and
sending his brother and the others forward with Ad-
dison. Some little delay occurred in making the
arrest of the younger Moody and the others, during
which the lieutenant, passing himself off for an officer
in a New Jersey brigade (by which was understood a
patriot officer) and being fatigued, sought rest in an
upper chamber of the ferry-house. He was in this
situation, lying upon a bed, but anxious and vigilant,
when the military surrounded the house. What fol-
lowed we give in his own language :

" Seizing his pistols, he instantly ran down stairs
and made his escape. He had not got a hundred
yards from the house when he saw the soldiers enter
it. A small piece of wood lay before him, in which
he hoped at least to be out of sight, and he had sprung
the fence in order to enter it. But it was already
lined by a party of horse, with a view of cutting off
his retreat. Thus surrounded, all hopes of flight were
in vain, and to seek for a hiding-place in a clear, open
field seemed equally useless. Drowning persons are
said to catch at straws : with hardly a hope of es-
caping so much as a moment longer undiscovered, he
threw himself flat on his face in a ditch, which yet
seemed of all places the least calculated for conceal-
ment, for it was without weeds or shrubs, and so shal-
low that a quail might be seen in it. Once more he
had reason to moralize on the vanity of all human
contrivance and confidence ; yet, as Providence or-
dered it, the improbability of the place proved the
means of his security. He had lain there but a few
minutes when six of his pursuers passed within ten
feet of him, and very diligently examined a thickety
part of the ditch which was but a few paces from him.
With his pistols cocked, he kept his eye constantly on
them, determining that, as soon as he saw himself to
be discovered by any one of them, he would instantly
spring up and sell his life as dearly as might be, and,
refusing to be taken alive, provoke, and if possible
force, them to kill him. . . . From the ditch they went
all round the adjacent field, and as Lieut. Moody some-
times a little raised his head he saw them frequently
running their bayonets into some small shocks of In-
dian corn-fodder. This suggested to him an idea that
if he could escape till night, a place they had already
explored would be the surest shelter for him. When
night came he got into one of these stacks, . . . where
he remained two nights and two days without a
morsel of food, for there was no corn on the stalks,



SUSSEX AND WARREN COUNTIES TX THE INVOLUTION.



G1



and, which was infinitely more intolerable, without
drink."

The sequel is that on the fifth day after his .-<:i[>.-
froin the ferry-house he reached a point op the Dela-
ware where he found a boat, and, taking advantage of
the flood-tide, rowed up the river till be thought he
was out of danger, and by the assistance of friendly
loyalists made his escape again to New York. UN
brother, whose fate he greatly lamented, was impris-
oned in the new jail-dungeon at Philadelphia, and
was executed, at the age of twenty-three, Nov. l.'i,
1781.

Moody was invited to England by Sir Henry Clin-
ton, and there wrote his " Narrative," which was
published in London in 1783.

II.— PROMINENT MEN OP SUSSEX AND WARREN
IN THE REVOLUTION.

We incorporate into this chapter on the Revolution
some brief notice of the men of Sussex and Warren
who were prominent actors in the scenes of that
period.

Gen. Wiii.i \m Maxwell, the chairman of the
Sussex County Committee of Safety, was a brigadier-
general in the army of Washington, and a noble sol-
dier and patriot. He served in the French war of
17of>-.)!l as an ollieer of provincial troops, was with
Braddock when that general was defeated at Fort l)u
Quesne, and fought under Wolfe at the taking of
Quebec, lie was afterwards attached to the Commis-
sary Department and was posted at Mackinaw, hold-
ing the rank of colonel. Assoon as he heard that the
colonies had resolved upon resistance to the Crown be
resigned his commission in the British army and

marched on fool to Trenton, where be tendered bis
services to the Provincial Congress, then in session.
They were accepted and a colonel's commission be-
stowed upon him, with orders to raise a battalion to
inarch to Quebec. He succeeded in enlisting a line
b "ly of men. and was engage I in recruiting when the

Sussex County Committee of Safety was formed, in
August, i77o. He took up his line of march accord-
ing to orders, but the defeat of Montgomery occurred

before he could possibly reach I.Juebec, and nothing
remained but for him to return to headquarters. He
was soon alter raised to the rank of brigadier-general,

and served with distinction in the baitle, of German-
town, Monmouth, Brandy wine, Springfield, Wj ing,

and elsewhere. 1 1 is personal frankne-s and the ab-
sence Of all haughtiness in his manners made him a
great favorite with the soldiers, but his merit-, as is

too often the ease, excited envy, Some of the offici r

who boasted a more aristocrat ie lineage than he Could

claim showed much jealous; of his advancement, and

in 1782, when one of this idass succeeded in obtaining

l iron tot ion over him, he resigned his commission. He
enjoyed in a high degree the special regard of Gen.
Washington, who frequently eulogized him in his let-
ters. Unfortunately for biographical purposes, Gen.



Maxwell'- house took fire just after the close of the

Revolution, and all his valuable paper-, together with

his correspondence, were destroyed.

The following inscription, written by his friend and
compatriot Governor Howell, of New Jersey, is placed
over the remains of this gallant oilier in the grave-
yard of the First Presbyterian church of Greenwich

township :

" Beneath iLii Marlde
Litx the i-«ly ..r

BMOADIBE-GKXERAL Wimim MiVM'lll,

Bldesttouol John anil Anne Unxwell, of the towmblp of
Greenwich, Connty >>i Stwex unit Suite of Nen Ji

who departed il.i- lire

On Ihe 4th ..r November, in tie- year "f our Lord, 1700,

1 ti the 63d yeai ol

In the Revolutionary War which established the [udependence of the

United Stat.*

Hi- took an curly and acUve part;

A dlellngntabed military partisan,

lie rose thmngli ifthe American Army

To the rank .,f Brigadier-General J

A Genuine Patriot,

i thin and decided Friend

Tc the Corutlmtlon and Goven ul ol lil« Conntry;

In private 1 i r.- he «;is equally devoted to n
And lo the good ,.r ihe Community "f which he was a member,
An honorable and charitable Man,

A warm iumI alTei n tte Friend,

A zealous advocate of the frutltntions, and
pron iter of the
Intereeta of the Christian Religion."

Capt. John Maxwell, a brother of the general,
was anotherof the brave and noble patriot- ..I' Su-sc\.
Iii the darkest hour of the Revolutionary conflict,

when Washington had been forced lo evacuate New
York and was retreating hither and thither 1 1
lb. Jerseys, when his wom-OUt troops dropped oil'
daily, and when his force- became so reduced in num-
bers that it is said lie could call every man under him
by name, Maxwell appeared with one hundred men,
recruited in Greenwich and the neighboring town-
ships, and tend-rcd their service to the gnat chief-
tain. It was upon thi- occasion that Washington,
surprised and gratified, exclaimed, " What ! one hun-
dred men. good and true, from Sussex 1" importing

that he was agreeably astonished, — that,
while the people of the counties which were pecu-
liarly exposed to the ravages of ihe British troops
wcii' falling away from him, lho-c in the interior had

infection, as lie supposed might be ihe

case, but remained in adversity, as th.-\ had been in

prosperity, " good and true."

Thi- an icdote, which involves a irrcat compliment,
has been distorted by t hi' slanderer- of Susses patriot-
ism into a precisely opposite meaning, having been
adduced a- proof that Washington did not think
there were a hundred honest patriots in Bus

Nothing, probably, could have been further from the

opinion of Washington, or, at least, if In- had Buch

an opinion, nothing Could have been further from the
tact-, as the r.. ,,rd- of the time- abundantly show.






62



SUSSEX AND WARREN COUNTIES, NEW JERSEY.



We quite agree with Mr. Edsall that, even had Wash-
ington doubted the integrity of the people of this
section, he would not have proclaimed it in the face of
a body of men deserving the highest commendation
for the prompt and ready manner in which they came
to his succor in a dark and trying moment. Wash-
ington was neither precipitate in forming a judgment,
nor was he ungrateful for even the smallest services
rendered him by any of the people of the colonies.
He often went out of his way to notice and commend
very humble persons for the smallest offerings of help
or intelligence that could assist in any way the great
cause which lay so near his own heart. He was, in-
deed, the most remarkable man in this respect whom
America has ever produced, and was loved and ven-
erated by thousands for that very trait of character.
Those, therefore, who distort his meaning in this in-
stance, reflect dishonor upon the memory of Wash-
ington.

" Capt. Maxwell's company proved a valuable ac-
cession to the American army ; they were efficient in
aiding to turn the tide of the Revolution at Trenton,
and did good service in the conflict at Assanpink and
in the sanguinary battle at Princeton."

The following inscription upon the tombstone of
this sterling patriot, in the Greenwich churchyard,
briefly recites his history and records his worth :

'•In Memory of

John Maxwell, Esq.,

Second son of John and Anne Maxwell.

He was born in the County of Tyrone, Ireland,

Nov. 2.'), a.d , 173!),

And at an early age emigrated with his father

To New Jersey.

He. was a Lieutenant in the First Company raised in Sussex

County, for the defense of his adopted Country

In the Revolutionary War;

And soon after, in the darkest hour of her fortunes,

joined the army of General Washington as a Captain of a

Company of Volunteers.

He was engaged iu the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine,

Germantown, Monmouth, and Springfield,

And ever distinguished himself as a brave ami able officer.

Having served bis Country iu various

Civil and military offices,

And faithfully discharged his various duties

As a Soldier, Citizen, and a Christian,

He closed a long and useful life at bis residence

At Flemington,

February loth, a.d. 1828,

In the Eighty-Ninth Year of bis Age."

Thomas Anderson, clerk of the Sussex County
Committee of Safety, was born about 1742 or 1743,
and was consequently about thirty-three years of age
at the time the Declaration of Independence was
signed. After the war broke out he remained iu the
county, ferreting out the Tories and bringing them to
the alternative either of giving their adhesion to the



Online LibraryJames P SnellHistory of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : → online text (page 15 of 190)