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and heroic acts of the war. After the
traitor had fled to New York, the patriot
officers laid a plan to kidnap hun and carry
bim off" bodily to their camp. The execu-
tion of the plot was intrusted to John
Champe of Virginia, Sergeant-Major of Col-
onel Henry Lee's cavalry legion. Champe
deserted to the British, and was at once sent,
as he had hoped, to assist Arnold in recruit-
ing a corps of royalists and deserters. Watch-
ing the habits of the traitor, the Continental
soldier soon laid his plan and communicated
it to Lee. In the rear of Arnold's quarters
an ample garden stretched out to the river
and as far up as No. 9 Broadway, where it
communicated with a dark alley leading to
the water's edge. This garden was shaded
by huge trees, several of which were a hun-
dred feet in height, and one, a madeira nut,
which long siu^ived, had lateral branches
neariy as many feet in length. Under the
shade of these trees it was Arnold's habit
to walk late every night — thinking bitterly,
no doubt, of the dear price at which
be had won a British conmiission and a
hireling's gold. Champe, with two accom-
plices, had arranged to seize the traitor on
a certain night, gag and bind him, and carry



him in a boat, ready at hand, to the Ameri-
can camp. It is said that the devil always
helps his own. Whether Arnold received aid
firom this quarter or not, it is certain that on
the day fixed for the consummation of the
plot he changed his quarters, and the labor of
the patriots was lost. Champe subsequendy
made his escape and died peacefiilly at
home, long after the independence of the
struggling colonies was secured. How
Benedict Arnold sank into oblivion, history
has recorded.

The Kennedy house has changed some-
what fix>m its ancient appearance, though
retaining all of its old features. Its waUis,
windows and doors have not suflered fix>m
the rage for improvement, but the cupola
has disappeared, and another story has been
added, to increase its accommodations as a
hotel. Within its portals the antiquarian
will yet find much to interest him. Its
rooms still give evidence that they were
planned by an aristocrat, and were intended
for the profuse and elegant display of hos-
pitality. White marble mantel-pieces, carved
with friese of acanthus, and decorated with
heads crowned with curls and studded with
amaranths, betoken a taste then rare in the
colonies. The immense mirrors that reach
firom ceiling to floor are faded and shabby,
but they still tell the glory of the brave men
and fair women whose forms (mce flashed
before them. Up the broad staircases, brush-
ing the heavy mahogany balustrades now
black with age, swept the belles of loyalist



WASHDIGTON's PtMT IfBADQUARTRRS IN HSW YORK.

New York in dresses of India silk, " satin
petticoats," and high-heeled shoes, and the
gentlemen, elegant in attire of velvet, laced
neck-cloths and silken stockings. They are



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NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION.



all dust and ashes now, but the minor,
which a blow of a hostile musket-stock
might easily have shattered, still remains.
Perhaps some of the rich men whose daily
walk to business leads them in the vicinity
of the old Kennedy house and its next-door
neighbor, may think that it might be well to
have a museum of Revolutionary antiquities
in the vicinity of the Battery, and may
rescue these old buildings for Centennial pur-



" RICHMOND HILL.



poses. New York needs at least one such
center. It would fitly be placed on the spot
which so many femous feet have consecrated.

The first headquarters of Washington
in the city of New York was No. 180
Pearl street, opposite Cedar. It was the
family mansion of the De Peysters, and
the original contract for building it is
still in the family's possession. The house
was very spacious. The center and the
upper wing of the edifice were left standing
until a few years ago. Built of brick, cov-
ered with stucco, having a handsome tiled
roof and dormer windows, surrounded by
stately trees, and looking through heavy
shrubbery out upon the waters of the East
River, the house was an attractive spot, even
to the owner of a fine estate in Virginia.
In this house the American Commander-in-
Chief remained until summoned to meet with
Congress at Philadelphia, in the latter part
of May, 1776.

On his return to the city, Washington
made his headquarters at the house and
estate known and renowned as Richmond
Hill. This mansion, reared far out of town
by an opulent citizen, achieved its highest
notoriety in connection with Aaron Burr,



who made his residence there at the time of
his duel with Alexander Hamilton. The
house was built in 1760 by Abraham Mor-
tier, who was then Paymaster-General of
the royal forces in Amenca, and was a very
wealthy gentleman. His estate comprised
about one hundred acres, and the grounds
about the house, which was a roomy and
substantial structiu-e, were laid out witli
rare taste, and were said to compare favor-
ably with celebrated country-seats in
England. Far "out of town" as the
house was in that day, it was actually
situated near the present intersection
of Charlton and Varick streets. A
hundred years ago its nearest neigh>
bors were the residences of Warren on
the north and Lispenard toward the
south-west, each of which was almost
a mile distant. In the absence of its
loyal owner, General Washington
occupied the Richmond Hill house as
his headquarters in the summer of
1776. He was succeeded by Sir Guy
Carleton, who made it a favorite ren-
dezvous for his brother officers and
the wealthier people of the city.
Other noted men, among whom was
Sir Grenville Temple, were domiciled
here after peace had been declared
with England, but with no occur-
rences was the stately mansion so closely
identified as (later in its existence) with the
marriage of Burr's gifted and ill-fated daugh-
ter Theodosia, and with the miurderous quar-
rel which resisted in the death of Alexander
Hamilton. The house ceased to be attractive
to those who would otherwise have admired
it as a home, and it became a hotel, whose
ample garden was the scene of many a large
pleasure party. When streets were cut through
the estate, the building was moved to Charl-
ton street near Varick, and served in turn as
an inn, a theater, a circus, and a saloon, untO
the decree went forth for its demolition.
Those New Yorkers who were young men
thirty years ago (it will hardly do yet to
designate them as old) will recall with eager
zest the dances that were held on winter
evenings in the great ball-room of the Rich-
mond Hill mansion.

There is no true son of New York that
will not join in the regret of the antiquarian
that time has spared so few of these old
monuments of our colonial prosperity and
wealth. One after another they have fallen
at the touch of the street commissioner, the
bidding of fashion, or the conscienceless
demand for improvement. It is but a few



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NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



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years since the old Beekman mansion was
one of the landmarks of the city, and yoimg
people listened with delight to the legends
with which their elders had invested it.



BEBlUflAN MANSION.



Now it has disappeared, and the writer of
our Centennial literature must be content
with telling inquirers that it stood east of
First Avenue, between Fifty-first and Fifty-
second streets. In olden time it was known
by every New Yorker that its fine lawn
reached down to the King's Bridge road,
and its windows looked out upon Turtle Bay.
In structure it was plain, but massive, being
solidly built of thick planks filled in with
brick. It had two stones and a basement,
and was surmounted by an old-fashioned
shingle roof. This plainness was to be
expected at the hands of its builder, Gerardus
Beekman. He was a descendant
of William Beekman, who came
to New Amsterdam with Gov-
ernor Peter Stuy vesant, and took
a prominent part in the affiiirs of
the colony in his day. The de-
scendant built in 1763 this snug
"bowerie" of the Beekmans at a
point distant enough from the busy
little city to lose its clamor, and
yet near enough to enjoy the
sight of its growth. Here, em-
bedded in gardens, with fertile
farms about it on either side, and
with the river near at hand, what
could a family sanctuary fiirther
desire? A contemporary witness, Baroness
Reidesel, wrote of the place in 1780, that it
left nothing for a tenant to desire. The
English Governor at that time assigned it



to her as a residence, her husband having
commanded the Hessians who were taken
prisoners at Saratoga. In glowing colors she
depicts the beauties of farm, and garden, and
greenhouse, and the interior of
this elegant colonial residence.
The rooms were spacious, adorn-
ed with black marble mantels
bearing elaborate carvings of
scroll and foliage. The fire-
places were ornamented with
Dutch tiles, representing Scrip-
tural subjects. Elijah in his
chariot of fire was the story of
one artist, and others had seized
upon the history of the Prodigal
Son and the perils of the Apos-
tles, to impress a moral on the
beholder while they delighted him
with an odd exhibition of their art
True, the laws of perspective were
grossly violated at times, but
nothing more costly could be
found in the colony, and it bore
the additional merit of having
been imported across the ocean. The build-
ing was taken down in 1874, but the drawing-
room mantel and the Dutch tiles have been
preserved in their entirety at the rooms of
the Historical Society. One of the rooms
was interesting as the place where Andr6
passed his last night in New York.

After the disastrous defeat of the Ameri-
can forces on Long Island, August 27th,
1776, it became necessary that Washington
should know something definite about the
movements of the British forces. A council
of ofticers decided that a spy should be
dispatched to gain this information, and it



MAJOIt ANDRE'S ROOM, BEBKMAM MANSION.

was evident that the person chosen must be
not only brave, but a man of military talent
and good judgment The choice fell upon
Captain Nathan Hale, of Coventry, Con-



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NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION.



necticut, an officer of the gallant Connecti-
cut regiment known as " Congress's Own."
Without hesitation the young man placed
his life at th« disposal of his country, and
went to the house of Robert Murray, on
Murray Hill (where Washington had his
headquarters on the fourteenth of Septem-
ber), to receive his orders. Arrested at
Huntington, Long Island, through the
instrumentality of a cousin who was boimd
to him by many an act of kindness, he was
brought to General Howe, at the Beekman
House, Sept 2 1, 1776. The British General
did not stoop to the form of a court-martial,
but told his captive that he would be hanged
the next day, and only accorded him the
privilege of writing to his mother and sisters
that he was to meet a spy's fate. Captain
Cunningham, the brutd provost-marshal,
refused to grant him the services of a cler-
gyman, denied him the use of a Bible, and
destroyed before his eyes the letters he had
written to his relatives. Then, with the loud
roll of drums they sought cruelly, but in
vain, to drown the last words of the hero-
martyr : " I only regret that I have but one
life to give for my country." Traditions do
not agree as to the place of Captain Hale's
execution. One account says that he was
hanged on an apple-tree in Rutgers' orchard,
near the present intersection of East Broad-
way and Market street, while other living
audiorides used to point to an aged butter-
nut tree standing before the Beekman House
and marking the fifth mile fix)m Whitehall,
as the locality.

The inhumanity exhibited by the Bnti3^
officers to Captain Nathan Hale stands out
in striking contrast with the forbearance and
generosity shown by the Americans in the
case of Major John Andr^. It was not until
nine days after his capture that the British
spy was hanged, and in the meantime he
had been supplied with every possible com-
fort, and had been treated with the most
distinguished consideration. The tears of
those who had been his enemies in arms
bedewed his ^ve, and their sympathies
found expression in kindly letters to his
mother and sisters. Andr6 had, also, the
lion's share of honor in death. His King
testified his gratitude by a handsome monu-
ment in Westminster Abbey, near the Poet's
Comer. When will New York do like
honor to the brave young soldier whose
sacred ashes were thrust into an unknown
grave in her soil? It is not asking too
much now of a city whose people gave hhn
no sympathy in his last hour, that somewhere



Nathan Hale should be honored as was fas
fellow-soldier Richard Montgomery. She
to whom Hale's last thoughts of love wot
out was worthy of all the affi^on he had
lavished upon her, and she never forgot him.
For three-quarters of a century shetdkd
on, wrinkled and bent and £uling, but be£ne
her unfading memory always stood Nadua
Hale, with the bloom upon his chedL that
was there when he spoke his last goo<U^
and with the fire of patriotism sdukana
his youthful figure into a glorious mnabwff
Years after her beloved bad met iJptA
death, she yielded to the impoftnalfitf
one who had long loved her sOerttlyi dn
the advice of her friends, and was a0i.
But she never fcngot Seventy-five "gtm
after Captain Hale had given lus lifelili
country, she who had been betrothed Mllfai
was summoned to her rest Hie meflSHer
found her ready and glad to go, for siie w
been waiting patienUy many a long yeu.
Waiting, and for whom? During the ddir-
ium of her last illness she repeatedly called
to "Nathan," and talked to him of die days
when they had last been together, and w^
his name upon her lips ^e passed into
eternity to meet him.

The batde of Long Island, which led
indirectly to the capture and executiooof
Nathan Hale, was the first great disasterthat
had befallen the patriot arms. Ctinton and
Howe had announced tiieir purpose ^ rocei-
ing the "rebels" in the fiek^ where nogreat
disparity of nunlbers would exist, and where
they would have the advantage in dril
equipments and artillery. This result vas
more than achieved before the close of
August in the second ^ear of the war. Tea
thousand British soldiers, wdl armed, with
forty cannon, landing on the lower Long
Island shore, drove back into the East Kytf
five thousand Continental soldiers, killing
and wounding about 550, and taking i»i^
prisoners. It was a terril^e disaster, and its
consequences threatened to be appalling
Fortunately, two days afterward the Amen-
cans were enabled to take advantage d »
heavy fog and cross the East River to New
York wimout the loss of a man. Their foo
slumbered all unconscious, within hcarrog
distance of the patriot camp, waking odf
to find themselves cheated of their prty.
As they emerged from the trmches tfaej
could see the nimble Continentals DtfrdBni
up finom the ferry landings to the Rntg0^
farm, exulting bevond measure ffl tf^
escape. Though the soldiers might iqoi^
at a temporary piece of good forttme, "^



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NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



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officers were not a little perplexed. It
seemed evident to the most experienced of
the American leaders that if the land and
naval forces made a combined attack on the
city of New York, the place would have to
be abandoned. The patriots had no navy.



THS XOCBK MORItlS MANSION.



their artillery was very inferior, their men
were discouraged by defeat, and desertions
were frequent Here was enough almost to
dishearten Washington. Sectional feelins
divided the troops, insubordination prevailed
largely, and greed was found in many where
patriotism was expected. Men plundered
alike friend and foe, and inferior officers
showed an utter disregard for integrity
and morality. It is not a pleasant picture
to contemplate, but New York saw it all in
the days that followed the defeat on Long
Island. Good men grew dispirited, and
wondered whether the prize in Qontempla-
tion were worth the present sacrifice.

As early as September 2d General Wash-
ington wrote to Congress that he would be
unable to hold New York, and asked
whether it would be advisable in that case
to bum the city so as to prevent its afford-
ing winter quarters to the enemy. History
does not tell us whether the American
commander expressed an opinion on the
point It only lets us know that such men as
General Greene and John Jay eamesdy
advised the use of the torch. Congtess raised
its voice against the measure, as it had hope
of regaining the city ; but the hope was not
fulfilled until peace was declared. Mean-
while the torch of an incendiary had in part
accomplished the work of destruction which
patriotic New Yorkers then advised and
desired. This point settled, the Continental
araiy prepared to evacuate the city, and two
weeks afler the battle of Long Island the



main body of the army, accompanied by
several hundred patriot refugees, removed
to the neighborhood of King's Bridge. Put-
nam was left in the city with a garrison of
four thousand men, having his headquarters
at the Kennedy House, while Washington
made his headquarters at the
residence of Colonel Roger
Morris.

It was a strange chance that
led the American General to this
roof. The loyalist owner, who
had deserted his home at the
approach of the men in buff and
blue, was Washington's old com-
panion in arms, and his wife
wasthebeautifiil Mary Phillipse,
to whose hand it was said that
Washington had once aspired.
The world had changed since
then, and had driven these friends
far asunder. Colonel Morris and
his wife were devoted to the
royal cause, and they had fled
at the approach of their enemies, to the
country residence of Colonel Beverly Rob-
inson m the Highlands. From the home
of the fugitives Washington issued the
orders which resulted in the brilliant skir-
mishes at McGowan's Pass and Harlem
Plains. The Morris mansion stands yet,
unaltered amid the great change that has
swept over all its surroundings, massive, ele-
fi;ant and imposing. Modem New York
knows it best, probably, as the residence of
Madame Jumel, the eccentric widow of
Aaron Burr. It stands on the heights that
overlook Harlem River, a litde below the
High Bridge, and the view from its windows
is superb.

There is one incident connected with
Washington's brief sojourn at the Morris
mansion which deserves to be recalled from
its legendary oblivion. While inspecting
the works thrown up at Harlem for the pro-
tection of his army, the American com-
mander was struck with the skill displayed
in the disposition of a certain fort which
was in charge of a young captain of artillery.
On making inquiry it turned out that the
name of the officer in question was Alex-
ander Hamilton, of whom General Greene
had previously spoken to his superior in
terms of high praise. Washington sought
the acquaintance of the youth — Hamilton
was then but nineteen — and at that time
the friendship began which linked their lives
together.

It was about this time that Lord Howe



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NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



sought a peaceful adjustment of the difficul-
ties between Great Britain and her colonies,
proposing a conference for this purpose
with a deputation from Congress. As he
refused to recognize the authority of that
body, and as Congress could not appoint
its members to confer with the British com-
mander in their private capacity, a com-
mittee was sent to inquire his authority for
action. The committee consisted of Ben-



latter expressed his regret that the diacoi*
sion had been fruitless, saying that it woidd
give him great pain to make war upon tliose
for whom he had such high pcfsonat
regard. There was a spice of sarcasm in
Franklin's laughing rej^y :

" I feel thankful to your Lordship for your
regard ; the Americans, on their part, will
endeavor to lessen the pain you may feel by
taking good care of themselves."



WASHINGTON S PAKEWELL TO HIS OFFICSKS.



jamin Franklm, John Adams and Edward
Rutledge, and they met Lord Howe at his
headquarters, onStaten Island, on the nth
of September, 1776. It appeared, on con-
sultation, that the only condition of peace
proffered by the British was the unhesitating
return of the colonies to their allegiance,
and these terms the Congressional commis-
sioners rejected with great firmness. Frank-
lm and Howe had become intimately
acquainted in London during the preceding
year, and at the dose of the confl^pence the



Foiled in his endeavor to perveit tlir
patriotism of the leaders. Lord Howe im-
mediately issued a proclamation promabg
his protection to all citizens who should take
the oath of allegiance to the Crowa. Db-
heartened by the disasters that had laldj
fallen upon the American arms, more thv
nine hundred of the inhabiumts of Nev
York came forward and ranged themsdws
under the British flag. The crisb tned the
hearts of the peopl' to the uttermost It is
probable that in the city the numoicil



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NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



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majority was on the side of the King, but
the long list of patriots comprised the names
of most of the men of integrity and influ-
ence whose possessions were wholly on this
side of the Atlantic Personal interest was
strong at first, but, in the end, patriotism
had its triumph.

Four days after the fruidess conference of
the commissioners. Lord Howe made a
landing on Manhattan Island and endeav-
ored to sever the Continental army with the
view of capturing its divided fragments in
detail. The movement was almost a suc-
cess. Washington's army was scattered
between the Batteryand King's Bridge. Two
divisions of the enemy landed at Turde and
Kip's Bays and easily drove the American
militia before them, but lost the fruits of
their victory by leisurely marching down the
Elast River road to the city. The fleet on
the Hudson contented itself with a cannon-
ade of the Bloomingdale road that did little
harm. Washington saw at a glance the
danger that threatened his army. At the
first sound of the cannonade at Kip's Bay,
he rode down among the afirighted militia-
men, and, in a paroxysm of rage at their
panic, dashed his hat upon the ground and
threatened the fugitives with death. Drawn
firom the field of battle by one of his aides,
he at once sent word to
Putnam to retreat to Har-
lem, and take measures to
concentrate his entire forces
on Harlem Heights. Gen-
eral Putnam was forced
to abandon his heavy can-
non and many of his
stores, and, even thus, his
flight was impeded by a
throng of fugitives, men,
women, and children, with
their baggage. Guided by
Aaron Burr he made a
rapid march along the
Hudson, happily escaping
discovery until he had
reached the Bloomingdale
road, and finally reaching
camp with a comparatively
insignificant loss. The
day was hot, the fugitives were fidriy panting
with thirst and fatigue, but Putnam on his
foaming charger flew firom one end of the
line to the other, entreating, urging, and
dealing in stout objurgations until his charge
had passed, at night-fall, the American
pickets on the heights of Hariem.

Neither soldier nor fugitive knew how



narrow had been the escape of Putnam's
army that day. When Sir William Howe,
accompanied by Clinton and Tryon, had
landed at Kip's Bay with the main body of
the British army, they struck across to the
Middle Road, intending to make their camp
on the heights of Inclenbturg, midway
between New York and Harlem. They
reached the road at a point just opposite to
where Putnam was stealing along, under
cover of the woods that skirted the Hudson,
to rejoin Washington. There was a house
near by, fix)m whose upper windows they
might easily have discovered the dust created
by the rapid march of the "rebels," and fix)m
its cupola the gleam of bayonets would have
been plainly visible. The Americans were
not distant, indeed, but there was another and
more insidious io^ near at hand. Close to
the Middle Road, at a point now designated
by the corporation as Fifth Avenue and Thir-
ty-seventh street, stood the unpretentious but
exceedingly comfortable mansion of Robert
Murray, a Quaker merchant of approved
loyalty to the Crown, as well as of large
wealth. Fortunately the shrewd merchant
could not control the feelings of his house-
hold, and his wife and daughters were ardent
patriots. When Lord Howe and his staff
reached the edge of the Quaker's gardens



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 80 of 163)