Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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and Jersey. But what makes this matter
still more extraordinary in my eyes is,
that these very gentlemen who were
well apprized of the nakedness of the
troops from ocular demonstration, who
thought their own soldiers worse clad
than others, and who advised me near a
month ago to postpone the execution of
a plan I was about to adopt, in conse
quence of a resolve of Congress for seiz
ing clothes, under strong assurances that
an ample supply would be collected in
ten days agreeably to a decree of the
state (not one article of which, by-the-by,
is yet come to hand) should think a
winter s campaign, and the covering of
these states from the invasion of an ene
my, so easy and practicable a business !"

Washington then proceeds to rebuke
these interrneddlers of Pennsylvania with
a warmth of feeling excited not only by
their reckless disregard of the sufferings
of his troops, but by his own humane
sympathy with them : "I can assure these
gentlemen," he wrote, " that it is a much
easier and less distressing thing to draw
remonstrances in a comfortable room, by
a good fireside, than to occupy a cold,
bleak hill, and sleep under frost and snow,
without clothes or blankets. However,
although they seem to have little feeling
for the naked and distressed soldiers, I
feel superabundantly for them, and from
my soul I pity those miseries which it is
neither in my power to relieve nor to

That the army, in the state of destitu
tion and suffering in which it was, should
occasionally break out in mutinous com
plaints, and refuse to do duty, was niitii-






Feb. 12,

rally to be expected. The long for
bearance of his soldiers surprised
Washington himself, and won from him
a grateful tribute to their patient endu
rance. " Naked and starving as they are,"
he said, " we can not enough admire the
incomparable patience and fidel
ity of the soldiery, that they have
not been, ere this, excited by their suf
ferings to a general mutiny and deser

In order to make up for the deficien
cies of its ill-managed commissariat, Con
gress authorized Washington to resort to
the desperate expedient of exacting sup
plies from the people by force. Wash
ington unwillingly consented to avail him
self of this legal authority, in the pressing
necessities of his army, but declared that
it would never do to procure supplies of
clothing or provisions by coercive meas
ures. " Such procedures," he emphatic
ally adds, " may give a momentary relief;
but, if repeated, will prove of the most
pernicious consequence. Besides spread
ing disaffection, jealousy, and fear, among
the people, they never fail, even in the
most veteran troops, under the most rigid
and exact discipline, to raise in the sol
diery a disposition to licentiousness, to
plunder and robbery, difficult to suppress
afterward, and which has proved not on
ly ruinous to the inhabitants, but, in many
instances, to armies themselves. I regret
the occasion that compelled to the meas
ure the other day, and shall consider it
among the greatest of our misfortunes if
we should be under the necessity of prac
tising it again."

Was there ever a leader of armies who


thus spoke and acted like a brother-man
and fellow-citizen ? When this reserve in
regard to private property was observed,
too, in a country hostile to American in
terests, how much greater appears Wash
ington s honorable fastidiousness ! When,
in order to save his men from absolute
famine, he reluctantly exercised the pow-
er conferred upon him by Congress, the
inhabitants resisted his authority even
unto arms. Washington issued a procla
mation, in which he required all the farm
ers within seventy miles of Valley Forge
to thrash out one half of their grain
by the first of February, and the
other half by the first of March, under the
penalty of having the whole seized as
straw. Many of the disaffected Pennsyl-
vanians, who abounded in that quarter,
refused to comply with the requisition ;
and when troops were sent out for sup
plies, and a fair price offered for them,
the farmers defended their grain and cat
tle with violence, and in some instances
burned what they could not protect, so
resolutely hostile were they to the Amer
ican cause.

Without the necessities of life, man and
beast soon began to sicken. The horses
died for want of forage ; and the poor,
famishing soldiers were forced to yoke
themselves to wagons and sledges, to bring
in what fuel and scanty stores could oc
casionally be obtained. There was as yet
no improvement in the commissary de
partment. The suffering army was con^
stantly being tantalized with accounts
from all quarters of the prodigious quan
tity of clothing which was purchased and
forwarded for their use, while little or



none reached them, or that little so badly
sorted as to be totally useless. The poor
soldier had a pair of stockings given him
without shoes, or a waistcoat without a
coat or blanket to his back. The little
man had a large pair of trousers, and the
large one, like the big boy in the Cyro-
pcvdia, a small coat; so that none were
benefited. " Perhaps by midsummer," said

Jl /

Washington, with bitter irony, " he [the
soldier] may receive thick stockings,shoes,
and blankets, which he will contrive to
get rid of in the most expeditious man
ner. In tli is way, by an eternal round
of the most stupid management, the pub
lic treasure is expended to no kind of
purpose, while the men have been left to
perish by inches with cold and naked
ness !"

A putrid camp-fever was the natural
consequence of this terrible destitution

Feb. 12,

of all the necessities of life ; and so many
sickened, while such numbers deserted
daily, that the army was thought to be
in danger of dissolution.

"The situation of the camp," wrote
General Varnum to General Greene, "is
such, that, in all human proba
bility, the army must soon dis
solve. Many of the troops are destitute
of meat, and are several days in arrear.
The horses are dying for want of forage.
The country in the vicinity of the camp
is exhausted. There can not be a moral
certainty of bettering our circumstances
while we continue here. What conse
quences have we actually to expect?
Our desertions are astonishingly great;
the love of freedom, which once animated
the breasts of those born in the country,
is controlled by hunger, the keenest of


The British revelling in Philadelphia. Plenty of Money. Plenty of Friends. Gold versus Paper. Six Hundred Dol
lars for a Pair of Boots. The British waxing fat. Luxury and Dissipation. Loyally drunk. The Effect. The
Profligates among the Quakers. " A Housekeeper wanted." Gambling. Run of 111 Luck. Penniless Officers. A
Jolly Parson. General Howe in "High Jinks." May Pemberton s Coach and Horses. Old Men wag their Heads.
Admiral Lord Howe in Philadelphia. British and Hessian Generals. Major Andre in Franklin s House. A Com
plimentary Theft. Deserters from the American Camp. Their Talc of Misery. The Sock and Buskin. British
Officers turned Players. The Mischianza. The Pageant described. Regatta. The Tournament. Fair Ladies and
Brave Knights. The Queen of Beauty. Ball and Banquet. The Victorious Miss Franks. A Single and Signal


FROM the starving camp of Wash
ington at Valley Forge we turn to
the winter-quarters of the British army
at Philadelphia, where Sir William Howe,
his officers, and men, were revelling in

the midst of abundance. Provisions were,
indeed, scarce and dear, and many of the
inhabitants were obliged to curtail the
luxuries if not the necessities of life ; but
the army-chest, being always kept well



[PART n.

replenished by the prodigal mother-coun
try, the British troops enjoyed both. The
inhabitants of the surrounding country
were inclined in favor of the royal inter
ests, and particularly well disposed tow
ard their own. They preferred selling
their hay, corn, and cattle, to General
Howe, not only because he was apparent
ly in the ascendant, but because he could
pay in sterling gold for what Washing
ton was only enabled to give them in ex
change the almost valueless continental
money. When an American commissary
presented himself with his worthless pa
per, the farmer, with his rusty musket to
his shoulder, resolutely fought for each
grain of his harvest and starveling of his
flock, and yielded neither until forced to
comply ; while barns were readily emp
tied out, and whole herds driven forth,
at the demand of the British agents, sup
plied with gold.

Congress might issue its millions of bits
of paper, and call each a dollar ; but when
half a thousand could be readily bought
for two golden guineas, it was natural
that the trader, whatever might be his
love for political freedom, should prefer
to pocket the latter, even with its insult
ing impress of the hated King George, to
taking the former with all its eloquent
flourishes of liberty and independence.
Thus, a man with a guinea in his pocket
was often a more welcome customer than
he who had hundreds of continental dol
lars; and, while the one could purchase
a pair of boots, the other was forced to
go barefoot. Six: hundred dollars in con
tinental currency were not seldom paid
for a single pair of boots, and a skein of

silk was thought cheap at ten dollars of
the depreciated currency !

Waxing fat with the abundance and in
the indolence of their winter encamp
ment, the British yielded themselves up to
luxury and dissipation. Their own his
torians have declared that they reversed
the standing maxim of Marshal Turenne,
and seemed to think the more drinking,
gaming, and licentiousness, in a, garrison,
the better.* The whole winter of 1777-
78 was spent in indolence, or in dissipa
tion and revelry. Every regimental mess
was a scene of nightly orgies. When op
portunity offered, the men, whether on
or off duty, got most loyally drunk.

A want of discipline and proper sub
ordination pervaded the whole British
force ; and if famine and sickness thinned
the American army encamped at Valley
Forge, abundance and indulgence perhaps
did no less injury to the British troops.
During the winter, a very unfortunate in
attention was shown to the feelings of the
inhabitants. They experienced many of
the horrors of civil war. Some of the
leading inhabitants, and many of these,
too, of the orderly sect of Quakers, were
forced to quarter reckless young officers,
who were even indecent enough to intro
duce their mistresses into the mansions
of their compulsory hosts.f A pair of
youthful profligates had the audacity to
advertise in the public journal : " Wanted
to hire with two single gentlemen, a young
woman to act in the capacity of house
keeper, and who can occasionally put her
hand to anything. Extravagant wages
will be given, and no character required.

* Pictorial History of England. t Steclman.



Any young woman who chooses to oiler,
may be further informed at the bar of
the City Tavern."*

Gaming of every species was permit
ted, and even sanctioned. This vice not
only debauched the mind, but, by seden-
taiy confinement and the want of season
able repose, enervated the body. A for
eign officer held the bank at the game
of faro, by which he made a very consid
erable fortune; and but too many respect
able families in Britain had to lament its
baneful effects. Officers who might have
rendered honorable service to their coun
try were compelled, by what was termed
a " a bad run of luck," to dispose of their
commissions, and return penniless to their

It is some satisfaction to find that these
graceless fellows "very frequently attend
ed different places of worship," although
" Friends meetinghouses were not much
to their tastes." J They naturally pre
ferred to attend the service of their own
chaplains, who seemed to be on very ex
cellent terms with their reprobate listen
ers. A "jolly parson Badger," who was
billeted with a demure Quaker, was in
the habit, after parades, of bringing a set
of rollicking young officers into his "front
room up-stairs," who rather disturbed the
staid propriety of the small, quiet house
hold of his broad-brimmed host.

General Howe himself also kept such
" high jinks," that he scandalized the older
officers, although he only grew more pop
ular with the younger ones. He took
possession of one of the finest houses in

* Watson s Annals of Philadelphia

t Stx dmun. J Watson.

town, in High street, afterward occupied
by General Washington, and drove about
with " May Pemberton s coach and horses,"
which he had seized and kept for his own
use. His conduct was so free, with a set
of jolly young officers, that some of the
veterans shook their heads, and declared
that, before his promotion to the chief
command of the army, he always sought
for the company and counsels of officers
of experience and merit ; while now his
companions were usually mere boys and
the most dissipated fellows in the whole

His brother, Admiral Lord Howe, be
haved himself with more sobriety of de
meanor. Having moved his fleet to the
city, he too now resided in Philadelphia,
taking possession of an imposing mansion
in Chestnut street. Earl Cornwallis and
General Knyphausen were also lodged in
accordance with their dignity ; and Major
Andre dwelt in Doctor Franklin s house,
which had been vacated by his daughter,
Mrs. Bache, on the entrance of the British
into Philadelphia. Andre seems to have
conducted himself generally with a prop
er regard to the rights of the owner of
the dwelling; for Mrs. Bache, in writing
afterward to her father, in Paris, confesses
that she found the house and furniture
upon her return in better order than she
had reason to expect from "such a rapa
cious crew." The major, however, carried
off the renowned philosopher s portrait;
but, as the theft is presumed to have been
intended as a compliment to the scientific
attainments of the great original, it may
be ranked among the pardonable sins.

* Waison.



[PART n.

Franklin, though his own house, with
his pet books, his ingenious mechanical
toys, and his scientific apparatus, was ex
posed to the rude handling of a vandal
enemy, received the news of the posses
sion of the city by the British with won
derful equanimity. " General Howe," he
said, "has not taken Philadelphia : Phila
delphia has taken General Howe!" And the
luxury and wantonness which demoral
ized both officers and soldiers, while in
winter-quarters in that city, con firmed the
shrewd remark of the philosopher.

Thus the winter passed in all gnyety
in the city of Philadelphia, while it was
all gloom on the rugged hills of Valley
Forge. In the British camp there was no
reminder of the possibility of suffering
and misery, except when some hungry,
barefooted, half-naked deserter, covered
only by a dirty blanket bound around his
lean loins with a leathern belt, stole away
from the famishing camp of Washington,
and fled to the well-fed ranks of the ene
my. These poor wretches gave a doleful
account of the sufferings of the Ameri
cans, of which they themselves were the
most expressive illustrations ; and yet the
British commander, much to the vexation
of some of his more martial associates,
never moved from his comfortable quar
ters to strike the blow against the Ameri
can army in its distress which they be
lieved would have crushed it at once, and
thus paved the way to a speedy subjec
tion of the whole country to the royal
authority. "Had General Howe," said
one, led on his troops to action, victory
was in his power and conquest in his
train." In this dark hour of the Ameri

can Revolution, it was perhaps fortunate
for the safety of Washington s army, if
not for the ultimate triumph of liberty
itself, that the chief command of the Brit
ish forces devolved upon the indolent and
procrastinating Howe instead of the active
Cornwallis or the vigilant and energetic

Every one in the British camp, howev
er, was now absorbed in the pursuit of
pleasure. The officers no longer troubled
themselves about winning or losing bat
tles : they were far more intent upon the
chances of the faro-table. They cared not
to have the roar of the cannon thundered
in their ears, while they could listen to
the voluptuous tunings of the.sweet voices
of the " tory ladies" of Philadelphia. The
glory and real tragedies of the battle-field
were gladly exchanged for the mock he
roics and the melodramatic horrors of the
stage. As an officer of the army presided
over the gaming-table, so British colonels,
majors, captains, lieutenants, and ensigns,
turned players, and got up theatrical per
formances. They enacted tragedy, and
comedy, and pantomime ; and won more
decided triumphs on the stage than they
had ever hoped for on the field of battle.
Major Andre, with his ready accomplish
ments with the pen and the pencil, was
in great requisition. He wrote farces,
and painted scenes. His " waterfall " drop-
curtain was a masterpiece of theatrical art,
and hung in the Southwarlcihcalrc, c <\i\\\\-
adelphia, long after the unfortunate mili
tary artist ceased to live. The New-York
loyalist captain, Delancey, was one of An
dre s most active coadjutors in the dra
matic department. In the grand balls.



as in all the gayeties of the season, these
two officers shone also as chief masters
of ceremonies.

The revels of the British army reached
their climax in the ever-memorable Mis-
cliianza. This, as its Italian name indi
cates, was a "medley" entertainment. We
must, however, somewhat anticipate the
progress of events, in order to understand
the occasion of this splendid folly. The
British government., having become dis
satisfied with Sir William Howe s conduct
of the campaign, was free in its censures.
The general was no less ready to justify
himself, declaring that his plans had been
thwarted by the obstructions thrown in
his way by the ministry. They both con
tinued to indulge in mutual recrimina
tion, until finally Sir William resigned his
command. His resignation was accepted,
and the general was about departing for
England, when his officers, with whom he
was a great favorite from the suavity of
his manners (and probably also from his
too lax discipline), determined to express
their regard for him by getting up the
Mischiama in his honor.

The entertainment took place on the
18th of May, 1778, and consisted of two
principal parts a regatta on the water,
and a tournament on laud. For the ex
penses of the occasion, all the army would
have joyfully contributed, as Sir William
was a universal favorite ; but it was final
ly agreed that they should be defrayed
by twenty- two field-officers. Sir John
Wrottlesey, Colonel O Hara, Major Gar
diner, and Montressor, the chief-engineer,
were the managers appointed. Major An
dre, however, who wrote a glowing ac

count of all the glories of the occasion,
might have said, " Quorum magnapars sui;"
for he, together with his dramatic coad
jutor Delancey, bore a prominent part
in the preparations and celebration of the
Mischianza. He painted the scenery, sug
gested the decorations, and planned the

The very cards of invitation, in their
preliminary display, gave promise of the
brilliancy of the coming show. These
were as large as playing-cards, and upon
them was engraved in a shield a view of
the sea, with the setting sun, Sir William
Howe s crest and motto, "Vive vale!" and
the complimentary words, "Lncco discc-
dens, aucto splcndore rcsuryam : I SHINE EVEN

CREASED SPLENDOR!" alluding to the gen
eral s popularity at his departure, and
prophesying his future glory. Around
the shield was a wreath of laurel; while
such military insignia as flags, swords, can
non, and field-batons, completed the pic

A grand regatta began the entertain
ment. It consisted of three divisions. In
the first was the Ferret galley, with Sir
William and Lord Howe, Sir Henry Clin
ton (who had arrived from New York as
Howe s successor in the command), the
officers of their suites., and some ladies.
The Cornwallis galley brought up the
rear, having on board the earl himself,
General Knyphausen and his suite, three
British generals, and a party of ladies.
On each quarter of these galleys, and
forming their division, were five flat-boats,
lined with green cloth, and filled with ia-
dies and gentlemen. In advance of the



[PAT?T 11.

whole were three flat-boats, with a band
of music in each. Six barges rowed about
each flank, to keep off the swarm of boats
that covered the Delaware from side to
side. The galleys were dressed out in a
variety of colors and streamers, and in
each Hat-boat was displayed the flag of
its own division.

In the stream, opposite the centre of
the city, the armed ship Fanny, magnifi
cently decorated, was placed at anchor ;
and at some distance ahead lay his maj
esty s frigate Roebuck, with the admiral s
Hag hoisted at the fore-topmast head. The
transport-ships, extending in a line, the
whole length of the town, appeared with
colors Hying, and crowded with specta
tors, as were also the opening of the sev
eral wharves on shore, exhibiting the


most picturesque and enlivening scene
which the eye could desire to look upon.
The rendezvous appointed for the whole
was at Knight s wharf, at the northern
extremity of the city.

By half-past four o clock in the
morning the whole company was
embarked, and the signal being made by
the ship-of-war Vigilant, the three divis
ions rowed slowly down, preserving their
proper intervals of distance, and keeping
time to the music, which led the fleet.
Arrived between the Fanny and the Mar
ket wharf, a signal was made from one
of the boats ahead, and the whole lay
upon their oars, while the bands played
God save the King!" and three cheers giv
en from the vessels were returned from
the multitude on shore. By this time the
Hood-tide became too rapid for the gal
leys to advance ; they were therefore

May 18,

quitted, and the company disposed of in
different barges.

The landing-place was at the old fort,
near the present navy-yard, a little to the
southward of the town, before Wharton s
mansion, from which a broad greensward,
lined with rows of tall trees, stretched in
a gentle descent for four hundred yards
down to the water-side. As soon as the
general s barge was seen to push from the
shore, a salute of seventeen guns was fired
from the Roebuck, which was followed.
after a short interval, by the same num
ber from the Vigilant. The company, as
the} disembarked, arranged themselves in
a line of procession, and advanced through
an avenue formed by two files of grena
diers, and a line of light-horse supporting
each file. The avenue led to a square
lawn of one hundred and fifty yards on
each side, lined with troops, and properly
prepared for the exhibition of a tilt and
tournament, accord ing to the customs and
ordinances of ancient chivalry. The pro
cession marched through the centre of
the square. The music, consisting of all
the bands of the army, moved in front.
The managers, with favors of blue and
white ribbons on their breasts, followed
next in order. The general, the admiral,
and the rest of the company, proceeded

In front appeared Wharton s large and
elegant mansion, which bounded the view
through a vista, formed by two triumphal
arches erected at proper intervals in a
line with the landing-place. Two pavil
ions, with rows of benches rising one

/ O

above another, and serving as the " ad
vanced wings" (as Andre, in his militarv



phrase, describes them) of the first tri
umphal arch, received the ladies; while
the gentlemen arranged themselves in
convenient order on each side. On the
front seat of each pavilion were placed
seven of the principal young ladies of the
country, dressed in Turkish habits, and
wearing in their turbans the favors with
which they designed to reward the sev
eral knights who were to contend in their

These arrangements were hardly com
pleted, when the sound of trumpets was
heard at a distance ; and soon a band of
knights, dressed in ancient habits of white

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 78 of 126)