Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Glimpses of Revolutionary Days

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Glimpses of Revolutionary Days

By James Thacher (1754–1844)

[From Military Journal of the American Revolutionary War. Revised Edition. 1827.]

IT is asserted from Boston, that on the evening when Major Knowlton set fire to the houses in Charlestown, 8th instant, the farce of “The Blockade of Boston,” of which General Burgoyne is the reputed author, was to be performed. The figure designed to burlesque General Washington was dressed in an uncouth style, with a large wig and long rusty sword, attended by his orderly-sergeant in his country dress, having on his shoulder an old rusty gun, seven or eight feet long. At the moment this figure appeared on the stage one of the regular sergeants came running on the stage, threw down his bayonet, and exclaimed, “The Yankees are attacking our works on Bunker’s Hill.” Those of the audience who were unacquainted with the different parts, supposed that this belonged to the farce; but when General Howe called out, “Officers, to your alarm posts,” they were undeceived; all was confusion and dismay; and among the ladies, shrieking and fainting ensued. How pure the satisfaction to a great mind employed in burlesquing those Yankees by whom they are besieged!

During the siege of Savannah, an event occurred, singularly honorable to an enterprising individual, which should never be forgotten. A captain of Colonel Delancey’s battalion of refugee troops, with about one hundred American royal regulars, was posted near a river twenty-five miles from Savannah, where were four armed British vessels, manned with about forty sailors. Colonel John White, of the Georgia line, was desirous of the honor of capturing this party; his whole force, however, consisted of no more than six volunteers, including his own servant; it was only by a well-concerted stratagem, therefore, that he could hope for success. In the night, he kindled a number of fires, in different places, and exhibited the appearance of a large encampment, and having arranged his plan, he summoned the captain to surrender, threatening his entire destruction, by a superior force, in case of a refusal. Intimidated, and deceived by appearances, the captain immediately signified his readiness to comply with the demand, and made no further defence. The American colonel, White, had now the satisfaction, by his peculiar address, to see the whole of the prisoners, amounting to one hundred and forty, divest themselves of their arms, and submit to himself and his six volunteers. The prisoners were afterwards safely conducted by three of the captors for twenty-five miles through the country, to an American post.

A new year commences, but brings no relief to the sufferings and privations of our army. Our canvas covering affords but a miserable security from storms of rain and snow, and a great scarcity of provisions still prevails, and its effects are felt even at head-quarters, as appears by the following anecdote: “We have nothing but the rations to cook, sir,” said Mrs. Thomson, a very worthy Irishwoman and house-keeper to General Washington.—“Well, Mrs. Thomson, you must then cook the rations, for I have not a farthing to give you.”—“If you please, sir, let one of the gentlemen give me an order for six bushels of salt.”—“Six bushels of salt! for what?”—“To preserve the fresh beef, sir.” One of the aids gave the order, and the next day his excellency’s table was amply provided. Mrs. Thomson was sent for, and told that she had done very wrong to expend her own money, for it was not known when she could be repaid. “I owe you,” said his excellency, “too much already to permit the debt being increased, and our situation is not at this moment such as to induce very sanguine hope.”—“Dear sir,” said the good old lady, “it is always darkest just before daylight, and I hope your excellency will forgive me for bartering the salt for other necessaries which are now on the table.” Salt was eight dollars a bushel, and it might always be exchanged with the country people for articles of provision.