Copyright
Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

. (page 81 of 163)
Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 81 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


VAM , OOKTLAMOT MANOR HOUSE, AT KlNC's BWDCB.

they were enraptured to find Mrs. Murray
and her beautiful daughters rc^dv to greet
them 'with a warm welcome. The parties
had once met in more peaceful days.

"William," said the fair Quaker matron,
"will thee alight and refiresh thyself at our
house?"

"I thank you, Mrs. Murray," said the



Digitized by



Google



466



NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



pleasuie-loving commander, '*but I must
first catch that rascally Yankee, Putnam.''

The Yankee General was not to be caught
this time, if woman's wit could save him,
even if the truth must be tortured into a shape
that should deceive in order to save life.
Very demurely the lady rejoined, in that plain
language of her sect which always carries
with it such an emphasis of truth :

'' Did'st thou not hear that Putnam had
gone ? It is late to try to catch him. Thee
had better come in and dine."

The invitation was seconded by the bright-
est smiles of the daughters, and Howe
wavered. Promising to pursue the hated
Yankees after he had dined, the British
commander alighted and entered the house,
where the fascinations of his charming hos-
tesses made him forget for hours the object
of his expedition. Putnam meanwhile was
flying up the Bloomingdale road, never dar-
ing to cfraw breath until he caught sight of
Washington's tents. Thacher, in his " Mili-
tary Journal," writes that it became a com-
mon saying among the American officers that
Mrs. Murray had saved Putnam's division.

The Miuray mansion was approached by
an avenue of magnolias, spruces, elms, and
Lombardy poplars, that led to a wide lawn,
and was bordered on either side by exten-
sive gardens. It was called " Belmont," and
is frequently spoken of by chroniclers of the
day as one of the loveliest spots on the
island. During the occupation of the city
by the British forces, it was crowded with
scarlet coats and powdered wigs. Major
Andr6 wrote of its chief attractions:

"I cannot pretend to do justice to the
Misses Murray."

Mrs. Robert Murray was a Miss Lindley,
of Philadelphia, a celebrated Quaker belle,
and her eldest son was Lindley Murray, the
noted grammarian. Having injured his spine
in early life by a gymnastic feat, it was for
his comfort tfiat Mr. Murray introduced in
New York the first state coach the colonists
had seen. It cost ^i 5. 14s., and was looked
upon as an aristocratic innovation by those
who could not afford such a luxury. Hence
the time-serving old merchant was moved to
speak of it as "a leathern con veniency ," hoping
thereby to stem the current of adverse criti-
cism. Mrs. Murray died not long after her
patriotic feat in saving the army of General
Putnam. Fashion has retained the name
of the family, and Murray Hill is known as
a center of wealth and culture.

In the colonial days it was held to be a
necessity that every gentleman of wealth



and position should have both a town aod
a country residence. The local maps of the
period show that this law was devoudf
observed by all who had the means to ioikv
it The upper portion of Manhattan Isimd



THB BLUB BBLL TAVKRM NBAB KINGS BXIDGB
(MOW STAMDOIG^

and the neighboring territory of Westchester
were dotted here and there with these dc-
gant country houses, in which something of
the baronial style of the motheiland was
observed. At Thirty-fourth street and Sec-
ond Avenue stood for neariy two handled
years the Kip house, which for a long time
after the British took possession of the ishiui
was used as headquarters by the officm
Not far distant were the Ketdtas maosioo
and the Watts house, looking out upon the
East River, and over to the wooded shores
of Newtown creek. Across the island, oo
the Hudson, were the country-seats of di-
ver Delancey, Clark and Scott ThcmasBW
residence of the Apthorpes, at Bloomingdak,
carried in its looks the evidence of itsowno^
wealth, and we find his generosity recorded
in 1760, when the newspapers of die day
reported that Charles Ward Apthorpe, mo-
chant, donated ;£ 100 to the sufifioers from
a great fire which had devastated the citf
of Boston. The house was erected in 1764.
The burial-place of the Apthoipcs, «s d
many of the old families whose names hsvt
become household words to New YoAer^
is the church-yard of Old Trinity* Some
of these old mansions yet stand, dioii|i>
mamly in such a state as opty testi6oft>
their past grandeur. The dinuig-ioom of
the old house built in 1.740 at Ninety-second
street and Ninth avenue, by Colonel Thonjfc
from material brought finom England* sdB
bears witness that floor, ceiling and sido
are of mahogany ; but it has forgotten tb
voices of Clinton and Hamilton, and ecboo
now only the music of Gennan singiDf
societies. Beyond were the manor hcwa
of Van Cortlandt, Phillipse, Whaitom ^
others, who experienced altematdVy dissf
the long war of the Revolution^ ttie ttudtf



Digitized by



Google



NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



467



mercies and terrible cruelties of Mend and
foe. On the Van Cortlandt estate, Nee-
maum, or Nimham, chief of the Stockbridge
Indians, perished in battle with sixty of his
braves, while fighting under the patriot flag
against the legions of Simcoe and Tarleton.

The good burghers of the last century
were men fond of their own comfort, and
they always sought substantial entertain-
ment when on their traveb
as well as at home. Their
inns were not noted for any
richness of architecture, but
they abounded in the best
of cheer and were solid and
substantial as well within as
vrithout One of the most
noted of these hostelries was
the Blue Bell tavern, which
was built upon the King's
Bridge road, a short distance
below Fort Washington.
Travelers knew it well and
loved its larder, which at
the time when the War for
Independence broke out
hadbecomeproverbial. The
old inn stands yet, remem-
bered only by the few who
partook of its hospitalities
before the Boston and
Albany stage-coach had dis-
appeared and when farmers
" baited " at its door. It has
forgotten its revolutionary memories; per-
haps, even that on the morning of the day
when the British troops evacuated New
YoriL, General Washington and Governor
Clinton stood before it while the army, with
uncovered heads, marched bjr. The old inn is
now but a rehcofa past civilization. The first
shriek of the locomotive's whistle consigned
it to oblivion. With a more ambitious tide,
but with no more of comfort, the modem
hotel has succeeded to its hospitality.

While the Americans occupied the city of
New York, they erected numerous fortifica-
tions on the shores of the island. The
largest of these was Fort Washington, situ-
ated on the highest eminence on the island,
above One Hundred and Eighty-first street,
on the Hudson River. It was built of earth,
was irregular in shape, and covered several
acres. On the promontory just below it,
Jeffery's Hook, a strong redoubt was erected,
and another was thrown up at about the
same distance to the north. Remains of
these works can yet be discovered by the
curious tourist Twenty-four heavy cannon,



besides smaller pieces and mortars, were
mounted in these fortifications. Early in
November, 1776, the British invested Fort
Washington, m which, after the evacuation
of the redoubts, the entire American gar-
rison was gathered. With all the reinforce-
ments the American commander received,
he could count but about two thousand
men, and he was assailed by fully thrice



APTHOKPB MANSION.



that number of well-drilled British soldiers
and Hessians. After a desperate fight he
was compelled to surrender, and the prisons
of New York, already gorged with the
patriots who had been captured on Long
Island, were crowded to repletion with the
hapless garrison of Fort Washington. Gen-
eral Washington, with Greene, Putnam and
Mercer, watched the <5onfiict firom the roof
of the Morris house. They had a narrow
escape fix)m capture, for within fifteen min-
utes after their departure the British troops
camped upon the lawn.

Great were the rejoicings of the loyalists
in New York when die news came that the
British army had gained undisputed pos-
session of the entire island. In spite of the
depression and loss occasioned by the great
fire of September 21st, all prepared for a
time of pleasure and gayety. A theater
was opened on John street, public balls
were arranged, and the wealthier merchants
opened their houses with lavish display to
their old masters. True, somebody suffered.
The Dutch churches were converted into



Digitized by



Google



468



NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION






prisons and store-houses. Wounded Hes-
sians filled the quaint old edifice in which
the Lutherans worshiped (at the north-east
comer of Frankfort and William streets),
and the ground in the rear was furrowed
wiA the graves of these wretched victims
of a monarch's avarice. Sub-
sequently this edifice became
a military prison, and its walls
re-echoed the sighs of starv-
ing patriots. The French
Huguenot church fared no
better, and a similar fate befell
the Brick Church and the
Friends' meeting-house. Only
one of these ecclesiastical
prisons remains standing —
the Middle Dutch Church,
on Nassau street, and it finds
a companion to recall the
bitter memory of its prison
experience in the old Rhine-
lander sugar-house, on the comer of WilKam
and Duane streets, whose dingy walls and
blackened beams form a fit accompaniment
to the tale of British barbarities. It is vain
to wish these venerable buildings a prolonged
existence, since the hand of the Destroyer
has already marked them for his own. It is
something, in this progressive age, to have
preserved them to the dawn of our Cen-
tennial.

Terrible as was the condition of those
confined in the military prisons of New
York, the sufferings of those imprisoned on
the hulks were infinitely more horrible. Early
in the war a number of unseaworthy ships
were moored in the Wallabout and used for
the incarceration of American captives. The
most notorious of these hulks was the " Jer-
sey," whose evil repute has never been
matched except by the Black Hole of Cal-
cutta. Originally a sixty-four gun ship, the
"Jersey" was dismanded in 1776, and in
1780 she was sent to the Wallabout for the
reception of the prisoners. With a refine-
ment of cruelty her guard was composed of
bmtal Hessian soldiers. Frequently a thou-
sand Continental soldiers were confined on
board, and there they sickened, sank, and
died by scores. At night the hatches were
battened down, and the smothering prison-
ers slept in serried ranks, careless whether
they woke again or not, and made con^
scious of each day's return by the shout
of their jailer: "Rebels, tum out your
dead!"

History tells only in part the story of
thns*» sufferers, but some of the incidents



are most pitiful. Two young men, brotheo,
were confined in the "Jersey." The ddcr
took the fever and became delirious, (h
the night of his death he came to his senses,
spoke of his mother and begged for a litfle
water. His brother prayed the guard on



THE PKI80N SHIP *'JESSSY."

his knees for a cup of water, and thai offered
him a guinea for a bit of candle, that h€
might see his brother die. Both reqoe^
were refused. The survivor dosed his
brother's eyes in the dark, and then recorded
his vow: "If it please God that I regain
my liberty. 111 be a most bitter enemy."
Liberty came, he rejoined the army, and
when the war ended he had eight large and
one hundred and twenty-seven small notches
on his rifle-stock. His brother was avenged.
A poet of the period has written :

" But sach a train of endless woes abound.
So many mischiefs in these Hulks are found.
That on them all a poem to prolong
Would swell too high the horrors of our song-
Hunger and thirst to work our woe combiae.
And moldv bread, and flesh of rotten swine.
The mangled carcass and the battered biain.
The Doctor's poison and the Captain's gok.
The Soldier's musquet and the Steward's d^
The evening shackle and the noon-day ^reiL"

The " New Hampshire Gazette'" of Apri
26th, 1777, says:

" The enemy in New York continues to
treat the American prisoners with great bt^
barity. Their allowance to each man k^
three days is one poimd of beef, three wonn-
eaten, moldy biscuits, and a quan of sdl
water. The meat they are obliged toctt
raw, as they have not the smallest allowance
of Aiel. Owing to this more than saTi^r
cruelty, the prisoners die fiist, and in tst
small space of three weeks (during the ra-
ter) no less than 1,700 brave men perished.
Lieutenant Catlin narrates that he, with 1^5
men, was put on board the * Glasgow' ti



Digitized by



Google



NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



469



New York, on the 25th of December, 1777,
to be carried to Connecticut for exchange.
They were on shipboard eleven days,
crowded between decks, and twenty-eight
of their number died through iUness in that
brief space of time."

It was useless to endeavor to extend
a helping hand to the prisoners. Their
friends were denied admission, and supplies
sent to them were seized by Captain Cun-
ningham, the provost-marshal, and applied
to his own use. If the captives were sick
they were not allowed to send for a doctor,
nor were the^ admitted to a hospital, but
thev took theur own risk of life or death,
witn all the chances against them. Wives
who attempted to visit their husbands were
subjected to insults and blows, and many a
man died and made no sign to her whom
he most loved, in order to spare the outrage
of her feelings by British officers. The
authors of these cruelties have passed to judg-
ment at the bar of history, and the facts are
only recalled as witnesses to the price paid
for the independence of the colonies. What-
ever New York lost through the love of roy-
alty displayed by some of her wealthier sons,
was more than made up by the uncomplain-
ing fortitude of the diousands of patriot
prisoners who perished on her soil. Their
sorrows have sanctified for all time the busy
streets where trade holds undivided sway.
Above the din of traffic the people of to-day
hear the d)dng whisper of those who passed
from the filth of a prison pen to the ^ory of
martjrrdom, with only the regret that they
could not strike one more blow for fireedom.

The flower of the British army was quar-
tered in New York. The streets wefe radi-
ant with the red coats of the grenadiers, the
plaids and plumes of the Highlanders, and
the gaudy uniform of Waldeck, and were
continually active with the stirring scenes of
war. At first the presence of British gold
seemed to bring prosperity. Local trade
was brisk, and the hearts of householders
were made happy by successfid forays of the
soldiers into the rich farming districts that
had hitherto supplied the market It was
pleasant to see the wagons returning heaped
up with produce which had been gathered
without the formality of payment The
loyalists of the day deemed that they had
done wisely in trusting to a King whose Par-
liament could vote inexhaustible supplies of
gold for carrying on the war, rather than to
dabble with die paper currency of the Con-
tinental Congress, which had so largely
expanded with each successive session of



that body, that its fiiture wortUessness could
readily be foreseen. But the followers of
royalty reckoned without their host There
came a time when they had bitter reason to
remember their error in judgment. The
patriot forces began to overrun die neighbor-
mg territory and cut off supplies. In one
''dry summer" beef sold for three shillings
per pound; turkeys brought half a guinea
each; oysters were held at sixteen shillings
the hundred, and potatoes could not be
bought for less than half a guinea per busheL
It is no wonder that tmder these circum-
stances the "refugee poor" suffered so terri-
bly that the " New York Poor Lottery" was
instituted for their benefit, and the theater
was put under contribution.

Sometimes, too, the cold pinched terribly.
In the "hard winter" of 1779-80, both the
East and Hudson rivers were frozen so
solidly as to be traveled by teams, and can-
non were dragged over the frozen bay, from
Fort George to Staten Island. There was
at the time such a dearth of fiiel in the city
that fences, sheds, and abandoned houses
were torn down to supply the want of cord-
wood. It happened, also, that the want of
provisions kept pace with die scarcity of fire-
wood, and all but the privileged class were
put on short allowance. Potatoes rose to a
guinea a bushel, and oatmeal biscuits were
counted out to the British troops. Yet New
York at this time was not in a state of siege,
nor was it threatened by an armed enemy.
It was merely experiencing the truth of
the patriot promise that the land should be
made a desert before it would be siurendered
to a king. Perhaps, however, the royalists
were congratulating themselves that they
were not so badly off as their enemies. They
found abundant subject for ridicule in the
condition of the Continental currency, and
appreciated the joke much more keenly than
the officers and men who received the paper
tokens as payment for their services, Riv-
ington's "Royal Gazette" of December 2 2d,
1779, says: "Monday se'night was offered
for sale at the Coffee- House, a Congress bill
of 70 dollars ; the first bidder offered three
shillings New York currency for it, the next
6d. more, and it went on at 6d. more till 6s.
6d. The bidders began then with coppers,
and came up to 7s. and 3 coppers ; at last
they offered krthings, and the 70 dollar bill
was knocked off for eight shillings and three-
pence halfpenny." It must be remembered,
in this connection, that the British Govern-
ment had printed and issued large quantities
of counterfeit Continental currency, and



Digitized by



Google



470



NEW YORK IN THE REVOLUTION



onr fust paper cunency was disastrously '
inflated from both sides of the house.

One cannot but wonder whether William
the Fourth of England ever learned that a
plot was laid for his abduction during his
visit to New York in the spring of 1782.
The Prince was a young and reckless mid-
shipman, given to flirtation, and to the ine-
briation which found vent in wrenching ofi*
door-knobs ; and it probably never occurred
to him that in his person the ** rebels" would
find a hostage worth having. The project
originated with Colonel Matthias Ogden of
the Jersey line, and the intention was to
surprise Uie Pnnce and his commissioned
p;uardian, Admiral Digby, at their quarters
m the city mansion of Gerardus Beekman
on Hanover Square. Two officers and
thirty-nine men were to aid Colonel Ogden
in his enterprise. Embarking on a rainy
night in whale-boats, they were to land in
New York near the Beekman mansion, force
the doors of the house, capture the Admiral
and Prince, and convey them to their boats.
The plan was approved by Washington, but
it does not appear that any decided attempt
was made to carry it out. In some manner,
the apprehensions of the British leaders were
excited for the safety of the Prince, and every
precaution was taken against a surprise.
Had it not been for this warning, the bold-
ness of the plan appears likely to have
insured its success.

At last there came a day when New York
was to be rid of the presence of a foreign
foe. On the 7 th of August, 1783, Sir Guy
Carleton (Lord Dorchester), who was in
command of the British forces, received
orders to evacuate the city. Delay was
made subsequendy, because of the large
number of Tory refugees who desired to
accompany the departing Britons. The Penn-
sylvania "Packet" of September 4th, 1783,
says: "The most authentic accounts agree
that there are yet between 1 2,000 and 1 5,000
refugees, men, women, and children, to
be embarked at New York, Long Island, and
Staten Island for Nova Scotia, St. John's and
Abasco ; among them are many passengers
of fortune and landed estates, who leave
nothing but terra firma behind them."
These gentlemen with royal proclivities had
become so unpopular that it was thought a
sea voyage would benefit their health. The
newspaper already quoted had said, as early
as March 4th of the same year, that if any
of the Tory printers of New York contin-
ued to "use the term Rebel Kn their papers,
a number of determined Whigs\\sA agreed,"



that the said printers should " have their 1

cropt, if found in any of the thirteen United
States of America after the war." Evident*
ly the Pennsylvania patriots were in earnest,
for they closed their proclamation by saying :
"This public intimarion is given them to
prevent their further abuse of words, and to
save their ears, should any of them presume
to tarry in diat country, and amongst those
people who have been the objects of their
repeated scurrility and abuse." This courage
gradually inspired die long-repressed patriot*
ism of the people of New York. A Barbara
Frietchie was found to stand up for the flag
of the young republic When Captain Cun-
ningham, on the morning of the day of
British evacuation, ordered a citizen of Mur-
ray street to haul down the American flag
which waved over the roof in sight of Eng-
lish bayonets, his wife came to the rescue
with a stout broomstick, and soon put the
infamous provost-maishal to flight, with Uie
loss of his wig. The flag triumphandy waved
its adieu to Carieton, and its wdcome to
Washington.

On the morning of November 25th, 1783,
a bright, clear, frosty day, the Amencan
army marched fixmi King's Bridge to the
Bowery Lane, and halted at the British
picket line, near the site of Cooper Institute.
At one o'dock in the afternoon pickets were
withdrawn, and the military and civil author-
ities made their formal entry into the city.
General Washington and Governor Clinton,
with their respective sta&, led the proces-
sion, escorted by a troop of Westchester cav-
airy. The military procession entered the
dty through Chatham street, and was com-
posed of hght dragoons, in&ntiy, artilleiy,
and a Massachusetts battalion, which, joined
to the civic display, made an imposing
demonstration. It was three o'clock when
the colunm reached Whitehall, and General
Knox took formal possession of Fort George.
In the bay rode die British fleet, ready for
departure, awaiting only the barges diat
were hunying across the quiet waters, bring-
ing back their defeated army. They heard
the salvos of artillery and the cheers of die
populace; they saw the brilliant display of
bunting, when, as if by magic, the Am«i-
can flag waved simultaneou^y from a thou-
sand windows ; there was nothing to palliate
their chagrin, and litUe heed was paid to
their departure.

A young American lady, who for a year
had been a resident of the city, wrote of the
scenes of Evacuation Day: "The troops
just leaving us were as if equipped for show,



Digitized by



Google



NEW YORK IN- THE REVOLUTION,



47 »



and, with their scarlet uniforms and bur-
nished arms, made a brilliant display ; the
troops that marched in, on the contrary,
were ill-clad and weather-beaten, and made
a fcHiom appearance ; but then they were
our troops, and as I looked at them, and
thought upon all they had done and suffered
for us, my heart and mv eyes were full, and
I admired and gloriea in them the more
because they were weather-beaten and for-
lorn." The time was when New York reli-
giously observed the memory of this event
Thirty years ago Evacuation Day was kept
as a public holiday, and all the school-boys
gathered exultingly about the militaiy pro-
cession with which it was celebrated, and
solemnly envied theveteranswho had ''smelt
powder" in i8i 2, and to whom was accorded
the privilege of raising the flag and firing
the siadute of thirteen ^uns on the Battery.

Feasting and rejoicmg, in public and pri-
vate, followed this memorable day. Yet the
general joy was pervaded by a tone of sad-
nessy which was none the less deep because
it seldom found speech. New York was
soon to lose the hero who was the central
figure in the festivities, and the hearts of sol-
diers and civilians alike were loath to part
with him. On the 4th of December, at
noon, the principal officers of the army
assembled at Fraunces's Tavern, which is
yet standing in Broad street, at the comer
of Peari, to take a final leave of their old
commander. As Washington entered the
room and met the saddened gaze of those
who had been his cbmpanions in so manv
scenes of danger and hardship, he lost his
habitual self-control, and with difficulty
regained command of his feelings. One



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 81 of 163)