cent., postponing another part without interest for ten years, and
the remainder bearing an immediate interest at three per cent.
The foregoing, with arrears of six years interest being added,
and with some other unsettled claims, made the whole debt
amount to ninety -four millions, which soon went up to par !
The statesmen of the Revolution were weU disposed to pay
their paper obligations, and alleged, that they also had the ability
to do so : but against these, stood the inability of the people to
pursue the profitable employments of peaceful times, and there-
fore their inability to pay taxes, even if the Congress had had the
power to impose them. They could only recommend the measure
to the States. They had all agreed at one time to exact an impost
of 5 per cent., on all imported goods, but Rhode Island resisted
the measure to the last, and without unanimity it could not be
The campaign of 1778 and '79, with an army of thirty to forty
thousand men, was sustained by emissions of paper money to the
amount of 135,000,000 of dollars. Thus "making it by wagon
loads !" In the same time, the amount of specie received into the
public treasury was but 151,666 dollars, a weight but about a ton
of coal if all put into a cart for its carriage !
It has been said that so great a sinkhig of paper money, was
not so injuriously felt among the people as might be imagined ; â€”
and it has been reasoned thus, viz. : The largest sum by which
they could have been aflected, might be estimated at 300,000,000
at 20 for one, which is only half of the rate fixed by Congress.
This would give 15,000,000 of sound money ; and this, having
been a currency for six years, gives an annual average of
2,500,000 ; which, to a population of 3,000,000, would make, in
point of fact, a poll tax of but about one dollar to each ; or if they
be estimated by families of six persons each, would be an annual
loss, to such severally, of but five dollars each ! So easy is it by
figures to diminish losses, which we of the present generation
have never felt! Yet it was a painful and onerous loss to our
forefathers, now all gone beyond its influence !
Those who are minutely curious on this matter may consult,
with profit, a late paper in the proceedings of the Philosophical
Society of Philadelphia, by Samuel Breck, Esq.
In the course of the use and depreciation of such money, it
became in time a matter of fun with many to show their levity
of spirit, at their loss thereby, by pasting it up, as ornaments in
their workshops, and sometimes, by pasting much of it together
to form head caps and vestments of it, for street display, &c. Yet
poor as it was in the end, it was for its time, the sign of that
money, wherewith they worked out their independence. Abun-
dant as it once was, few of the bills are now to be found ; and
Incidents of the JVar at New York.
therefore, to make the present exhibition of a bill of the first
emission, becomes in itself a curiosity, and as such is here given to
the inspection of the reader.
This Bill entitles the s
Bearer to receive Seven I
Spanish milled Dollars, ',
or the value thereof in i
Gold or Silver, accord- I
I ing to a Resolution of '^
Congress, passed at Phil- '^
addphia, November 29,
'S3IJV0700 a3^j.ijvn :ihx
INCIDENTS OF THE WAR AT NEW YORK.
-" this to show
Mankind, the wild deformity of war!"
New York city having been held during the term of the revo-
lution as a conquered place, and also as the chief military post
of British rule, it becomes matter of interest and curiosity to the
present generation to revive and contemplate the pictorial images
of those scenes and facts which our fathers witnessed in those
days of peril and deep emotion. I give such as I could glean.
The spirit of opposition in us began before the revolution
The first theatre in Beekman street, (now where stands the
house No. 26,) was pulled down in 1766, on a night of entertain-
ment there, by the citizens, generally called " Liberty Boys."
The cause arose out of some ofi"ence in the play, which was
cheered by the British officers present, and hissed and condemned
by the mass of the people. About the same time the people
seized upon a press barge, and drew it through the streets to the
Park commons, where they burnt it.
After the war had commenced and New York was expected
to be captured, almost all the Whig families, who could sustain
Incidents of the War at New York. 325
the expense, left their houses and homes to seek precarious
refuge where they could in the country. On the other hand,
after the city was possessed by the British, all the tory families
who felt unsafe in the country made their escape into New York
for British protection. Painfully, family relations Avere broken ;
families as well as the rulers took different sides, and " Greek met
Greek" in fierce encounter.
Mr. Brower, who saw the British force land in Kipp's bay as
he stood on the Long Island heights, says it was the most im-
posing sight his eyes ever beheld. The army crossed the East
river, in open flat boats, filled with soldiers standing erect ; their
arms all glittering in the sunbeams. They approached the Bri-
tish fleet in Kipp's bay, in the form of a crescent, caused by the
force of the tide breaking the intended line of boat after boat.
They all closed up in the rear of the fleet, when all the vessels
opened a heavy cannonade.
The British troops, under Sir Wm. Howe, landed, on Sunday
the 15th Sept., 1776, at the point of rocks a few hundred yards
from the ancient Kipp house, they being protected in their land-
ing, by the cannon of the ships of war. They then had a skir-
mish with the Americans in the rear of that house.
The old Kipp house, being one of respectable grandeur in that
time, and the family absent as whigs, was taken for the use of
British officers of distinction. Therein have dined and banqueted.
Sir Wm. Howe, Sir H. Clinton, Lord Percy, Genl. Knyphausen,
jMajor Andre, &c. In 1780 the same house was occupied as the
quarters of Col. Williams of the 60th Royal Americans â€” a regi-
ment which had been raised as early as 1755 for the old French
war. It is remembered, that at that house, Maj. Andre once gave
for his song at the dinner repast â€”
" Why, soldiers, why,
Should we be melancholy boys,
Whose business '/is to die,'''' &c.
That was his last dinner at New York, and in ten short days
thereafter, he was himself a prisoner, and devoted for destruction
as a spy !
The old Kipp house, constructed of Holland brick, was erected
in 1641, and is still standing as a remarkable relic of the past,
and as having been owned by the same respectable family to the
present day ! Soon it must go, with all the rest, to follow the rage
of innovation and change ! Americans, as yet, can't consent to
the perpetuity of old things ! Formerly devoted to the necessary
change of every thing around us, as a new country requiring
improvement, we have gone into the extreme of making all things
neiv, even after the time for making them is fully past !
I shall herein endeavour to mark the localities of position occu-
pied by the British, especially of residences of distinguished
326 Incidents of the War at New York.
officers, and also of those suffering prison-houses and hospitals
wliere our poor countrymen sighed over their own and their
All the Presbyterian churches in New York were used for
military purposes in some form or other. I suspect they were
deemed more whiggish in general than some of the other churches.
The clergymen of that order were in general throughout the war,
said to be zealous to promote the cause of the revolution. The
aMethodists, on the contrary, then few in number, were deemed
loyalists, chiefly from the known loyalism of their founder, Mr.
Wesley. Perhaps to this cause it was that the society in John
street enjoyed so much indulgence as to occupy their church for
Sunday night service, while tlie Hessians had it in the morning
service for their own chaplains and people.
The British troops were quartered in any empty houses of the
Whigs which might be found. Wherever men were billeted,
they marked it.
The middle Dutch church in Nassau street, was used to impri-
son 3000 Americans. The pews were all gutted out and used as
fuel. Afterwards they used it for the British cavalry, wherein
they exercised their men, as a riding school ; making them leap
over raised windlasses. At the same place they often picketed
their men, as a punishment, making them bear their weight on
their toe on a sharp goad. At the same place, while the prison-
ers remained there, Mr. Andrew Mercein told me he used to see
the " Dead Cart" come every morning, to bear off six or eight of
The old sugar-house, which also adjoined to this church, was
filled with the prisoners taken at Long Island ; there they suffered
much, they being kept in an almost starved condition.
This starving proceeded from different motives ; they wished
to break the spirit of the prisoners, and to cause their desertion,
or to make the war unwelcome to their friends at home. On some
occasions, as I shall herein show, the British themselves were
pinched for supplies ; and on other occasions the commissaries
had their own gain to answer, by withholding what they could
from the prisoners. I could not find, on inquiry, that Americans
in New York were allowed to help their countrymen unless by
stealth. I was told by eye witnesses of cases, where the wounded
came crawling to the openings in the wall, and begging only for
one cup of water, and could not be indulged, the sentinels saying,
" we are sorry too, but our orders have been, ' suffer no commu-
nication in the absence of your officer.' "
The north Dutch church in William street was entirely gutted
of its pews, and made to hold two thousand prisoners.
The Quaker meeting in Pearl street was converted into an
The old French church was used as a prison.
, Incidents of the War at New York. 327
Mr. Thomas Swords, told me they used to bury the prisoners
on the mount, then on the corner of Grace and Lumber streets. It
was an old redoubt.
Cunningham was infamous for his cruelty to the prisoners, even
depriving them of life, it is said, for the sake of cheating his king
and country by continuing for a time to draw their nominal
rations ! The prisoners at the Provost, (the present debtors' prison
in the Park,) were chiefly under his severity, (my father among
the number for a time.) It was said he was only restrained from
putting them to death, five or six of them of a night, (back of the
prison-yard, where were also their graves,) by the distress of cer-
tain women in the neighbourhood, who, pained by the cries for
mercy which they heard, went to the commander-in-chief, and
made the case known, with entreaties to spare their lives in future.
This unfeeling wretch, it is said, came afterwards to an ignomi-
nious end, being executed in England, as was published in Hall
and Sellers' paper in Philadelphia. It was there said, that it came
out on the trial that he boasted of having killed more of the
king's enemies by the use of his oivn means than had been
effected by the king's arms ! â€” he having, as it was there stated,
used a preparation of arsenic in their flour.
Loring, another commissary of prisoners, was quite another
man, and had a pretty good name. Mr. Lennox, the other, being
now a resident of New York, I forbear any remarks.
There was much robbing in the city by the soldiery at times.
In this. Lord Rawdon's corps and the king's guards, were said
to have been pre-eminent.
The British cast up a line of entrenchments cpiite across from
Corlear's Hook to Bunker's Hill, on the Bowery road, and placed
gates across the road there. The Hessians, under Knyphausen,
were encamped on a mount not far from Corlear's Hook.
Mr. Andrew Mercein, who was present in New York when
most of the above mentioned things occurred, has told me several
facts. He was an apprentice with a baker who made bread for
the army, and states, that there was a time when provisions, even
to their own soldiery, were very limited. For instance, on the
occasion of the Cork provision fleet overstaying their time, he has
dealt out sixpenny loaves, as fast as he could hand them, for " a
hard half dollar a-piece !" The baker then gave ^20 a cwt. for
his flour. They had to make oat meal bread for the navy. Often
he has seen Is. a pound given for butter, when before the war it
was but 2s.
When Cornwallis was in difficulties at Yorktown, and it
became necessary to send him out all possible help, they took the
citizens by constraint and enrolled them as a militia. In this ser-
vice Mr. Mercein was also compelled, and had to take his turns
at the fort. There they mounted guard, &c. in military attire,
just lent to them for the time, and required to be returned. The
328 Incidents of the War at New York.
non-commissioned officers were generally chosen as tories, but
often without that condition. JNIr. Mcrcein's Serjeant was whig-
gish enough to have surrendered if he Iiad had the proper chance.
There were some independent companies of Tories there.
It was really an affecting sight to see the operations of the
final departure of all the king's embarkation ; the royal band
beat a farewell march. Then to see so many of our countrymen,
Avith their women and children, leaving the land of their fathers
because they took the king's side, going thence to the bleak and
barren soil of Nova Scotia, was at least affecting to them. Their
hearts said, "My country, with all thy faults I love thee still."
In contrast to this, there followed the entry of our cheered and
weather-beaten troops, followed by all the citizens in regular
" Oh ! one day of such a welcome sig^ht,
Were worth a whole eternity of lesser years."
Then crowded hoyne to their own city, all those who liad been
abroad, reluctant exiles from British rule ; now fondly cherishing
in their hearts, " this is my own, my native land."
The Hessian troops were peculiarly desirous to desert so as to
remain in our country, and hid themselves in every family where
they could possibly secure a friend to help their escape. 'Twas
a lucky hit for those who succeeded, for they generally got ahead
as tradesmen and farmers, and became rich. The loss to Eng-
land in the " wear and tear" of those Hessians formed a heavy
item. It is on record that the Landgrave of Hesse was paid for
15,700 men lost, at Â£30 a head, Â£471,000 (being more than two
millions of dollars) ; paid to his agent, Mr. Van Otten, at the
Bank of England, in 17S6.
It is estimated that 11,000 of our Americans from the British
prisons, were interred at the Wallabout, the place of the present
Navy Yard. In cutting down the hill for the Navy Yard, they
took up as many as thirteen large boxes of human bones; which,
being borne on trucks under mourning palls, were carried in pro-
cession to Jackson street on Brooklyn height, and interred in a
charnel-house constructed for the occasion, beneath three great
drooping willows. There rest the bones of my grandfather, borne
from the StromboUo's hospital ship three days after his arrival.
" Those prison ships where pain and penance dwell,
Where death in tenfold vengeance holds his reign,
And injur'd ghosts there unaveng'd complain.""
Two of the burnt hulks of those ships still remain sunken near
the Navy Yard ; one in the dock, and one, the Good Hope, near
Finder's Islandâ€” all 'â€¢ rotten and old, e'er filled with sighs and
Our ideas of prisons and prisoners, having ourselves been never
Incidents of the War at New York. 329
confined, are too vague and undefined in reading of any given
mass of suffering men. To enter into conception and sympathy
with the subject, we must individuahze our ideas by singling out
a single captive ; hear him talk of his former friends and happy
home ; see him pennyless, naked, friendless, in pain and sickness,
hopeless, sighing for home, yet wishing to end his griefs by one
last deep sigh. With Sterne's pathos, see him notch his weary
days and nights ; see the iron enter his soul ; see him dead ; then
whelmed in pits, neglected and forgotten. Such was the tale, if
hidividually told, of 11,000 of our suffering countrymen at New
In February 1781, David Sprout, commissary of naval pri-
soners, puts forth a letter to Abraham Skinner, the American
commissary of prisoners, wherein he endeavours to palliate and
exculpate the British from alleged severity and cruelty to prisoners
at New York ; he says he put up bills in the ships to tell each
man his allowance "of good, sound, wholesome provisions," and
begged their own officers to see them attended to. The sick and
dying on board the Jersey, proceeded, he says, from their own dirt,
nastiness, and want of clothing â€” says that in the Good Hope, a
bulk head by his orders was made, so as to berth the officers abaft
and the men before it, and two large stoves were furnished â€” that
to the hospital ship, the same equipment was made, and every sick
or wounded person furnished with a candle and bedding, and
surgeons were appointed to take care of them ; after which, " the
prisoners maliciously and wickedly burnt this best prison ship in
the world." He adds that he has offered to exchange prisoners
man for man, but the Congress, he says, requires first the return
to America of such prisoners as had been taken on the coast, and
sent to England. One is glad to see even such a show of huma-
nity as the letter plausibly enough set forth ; nevertheless the
men suffered, died, and were whelmed in pits to the number of
11,000 ! This speaks loudest and bitterest.
Our officers had far better fare ; they had money or credit ;
could look about and provide for themselves : could contrive to
make themselves half gay and sportive occasionally. Capt. Gray-
don of Philadelphia, who has left us amusing and instructive
memoirs of sixty years of his observing life, having been among
the officers and men (2,000) captured at Fort Washington near
New York, and held prisoners, has left us many instructive pages
concerning the incidents at New York while held by the British,
which ought to be read by all those who can feel any interest in
such domestic history as I have herein endeavoured to preserve.
Having thus introduced Capt. Graydon to the reader, I shall
conclude this article with sundry observations and remarks de-
rived from him, to wit : â€”
After our capture (says he,) we were committed, men and offi-
cers, to the custody of young and insolent officers; we were
330 Incidents of the War at New York.
again and again taunted as "cursed rebels," and that we should
all be hanged. Repeatedly we were paraded, and every now and
then one and another of us was challenged among our officers as
c/eserte?\i; aflecting thereby to consider their common men as good
enough for our ordinary subaltern officers. Unfortunately for
our pride and self-importance, among those so challenged was
here and there a subject fitted to their jibes and jeers. A little
squat militia officer, from York county, with dingy clothes the
worse for wear, was questioned with " What, sir, is your rank ?"
when he answered in a chuff and firm tone, "a keppun sir f^
an answer producing an immoderate laugh among "the haughty
Britons." There was also an unlucky militia trooper of the same
school, with whom the officers were equally merry, obliging him
to amble about for their entertainment on his old jade, with his
odd garb and accoutrements. On being asked what were his
duties, he simply answered, " it was to flank a little and bear
tidings." It must be admitted, however, that there were, at the
same time, several gentlemen of the army into whose hands he
afterwards fell, or with whom he had intercourse, who were alto-
gether gentlemanly in their deportment and feelings.
At this beginning period of the war, most things on the Ameri-
can side were coarse and rough. Maryland and Philadelphia
county put forward young gentlemen as officers of gallant bearing
and demeanor ; but New England, and this, then seat of war,
was very deficient in such material. In many cases subaltern
officers at least could scarcely be distinguished from their men
other than by their cockades. It was not uncommon for colonels
to make drummers and fifers of their sons. Among such the eye
looked around in vain for the leading gentry of the country.
Gen. Pntnam could be seen riding about in his shirt sleeves, with
his hanger over his open vest : and Col. Putnam, his nephew,
did not disdain to carry his own piece of meat, saying, as his ex-
cuse, " it will show our officers a good lesson of humility." On
the whole Capt. Graydon says, "I have in vain endeavoured to
account for the very few gentlemen, and men of the world, that
at this time appeared in arms y)'o/;i this country, which might
be considered as the cradle of the revolution. There was here
and there a young man of decent breeding in the capacity of an
aide-de-camp or brigade major ; but any thing above the con-
dition of a clown in the regiments we came in contact with, was
truly a rarity." Perhaps the reason was, that when the people
had the choice of their officers, they chose only their equals or
comrades. A letter of Gen. Washington to Gen. Lee, makes
himself merry with such mean officers ; and Gen. Schuyler, who
was of manly and lofty port, was actually rejected for that reason
by the New England troops as their commander. [Vide Mar-
shall's Washington.] Even the Declaration of Independence,
Incidents of the War at New York. 331
when read about this time at the head of the armies, did not receive
the most hearty acclamations, though ostensibly cheered for the
sake of a favourable report to the world. Some under voices
were heard to mutter, " now we have done for ourselves." It
was a fact, too, that at this crisis whiggism declined among the
higher classes, and their place was seemingly filled up by numbers
of inferior people, who were sufficiently glad to show uniforms
and epaulettes as gentlemen who had never been so regarded
As the prisoners were marched into the city, they disparagingly
contrasted with their British guard. Our men had begun to be
ragged, or were in thread-bare flimsy garments ; whereas every
thing on the British soldier was whole and complete. On the
road they were met by soldiers, trulls, and others, come out from
the city to see " the great surrender of the rebel army." Every
eye and every person was busy in seeking out " Mr. Washing-
ton." There he is, cried half a dozen voices at once. Others
assailed them with sneers. When near the city, the officers were
separated from the men, and conducted into a church, into which
crowded a number of city spectators. There the officers signed
paroles, and were permitted afterwards to take their lodgings in
the city. The men were confined in churches and sugar-houses,
where they suffered much.
The number of American officers who were thus brought into
New York was considerable, and many of them boarded together
at Mrs. Carroll's, in Queen street, a winning cheerful lady, who
had enough of influence and acquaintance with Col. Robertson,
the conmiandant of the city, to get hold of a good deal of news
calculated to interest and serve her lodgers. In the city at this
time were such American officers as Colonels Magaw, Miles,
Atlee, Allen, Rawlins, &c. ; Majors West, Williams, Burd, De-
Courcey, &c. , and Captains Wilson, Tudor, Davenport, Forrest,
Edwards, Lennox, Herbert, &c.
Such officers took full latitude of their parole, in traversing the
streets in all directions with a good deal of purposed assurance.
One of them, on one occasion, wearing his best uniform, to the
great gaze and wonderment of many, actually ventured disdain-
fully to pass the Coffee House, then the general resort of the
British officers. At other times, when the Kolch water was
frozen over, and was covered with British officers, who thought
themselves proficients in skating, it was the malicious pleasure of
some of our officers to appear and eclipse them all. The officers
occasionally met with cordial civilities and genteel entertainment
from British officers with whom they came in contact ; for, in
truth, the latter valued their personal gentility too much to seem