An American’s Experience in the British Army
Published in the Journal of American History and The Connecticut Magazine in 1907.
Manuscript of Colonel Stephen Jarvis, Born in 1756, Revealing the Life of the Loyalists who Refused to Renounce their Allegiance to the King and Fought to Save the Western Continent to the British Empire.
This remarkable manuscript, recently rescued from oblivion, is undoubtedly the most important documentary evidence of its kind in existence. In it is revealed the tragedy of an American who for the sake of family and principle took up arms against his fellow Americans and met them in deadly conflict on the firing line. It is the story of a man who withstood the rebuffs, taunts, and insults of his closest friends, who suffered terrible privations, jeopardized his life, and was finally driven from his home to seek refuge on British soil. Withal it is one of the most intense stories of patriotism, of fidelity to family and loyalty to the Mother Country.
When the Americans, through their misunderstandings and differences with Great Britain, proposed the stroke for Independence there were many conservative and influential men who considered the action too radical. They looked upon England as their homeland; their blood was British and there was a filial love for the British Empire. While they were willing to join in urgent appeal to the crown and to respectfully demand redress for existing grievances, they were unwilling to become a party to the proposed Declaration of Independence and stoutly refused to join any revolutionary movement. These loyalists came from every rank in society, and being actuated by conscientious motives, command our thorough respect
When the Revolutionists began to arm themselves for the Great Struggle many of these conservatives offered their services to the King, remained loyal through the conflict, and “suffered severely in exile when the contest was ended.”
This ancient manuscript, now almost illegible, is written by one of them. It uncovers many secrets. It reveals the contentions, despairs and almost insufferable hardships of the defenders of the crown. It passes the scouting line, penetrates the ranks of the red-coats and takes one into the heart of the British Army. It is a revelation of the life of the men who fought and died for the King in trying to save the Western Continent to the British Empire.
The writer of this remarkable manuscript is one Stephen Jarvis. He was born November 6, 1756, in Danbury, Connecticut, and died in Toronto, Canada, in 1840, at the age of eighty four years.
ANCIENT JARVIS MANUSCRIPT OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Relating the remarkable experiences of Colonel Stephen Jarvis of Connecticut as a recruit in the lines of the British army—Accurate transcript from original manuscript lost and recently recovered
My father was one of those persons called Torries. He lived in the Colony of Connecticut, his disposition was more for making a comfortable living for his family than giving his children a liberal education. My advantages were thereby confined to what was necessary for a farmer, which I followed until I was at the Age of Eighteen years, when hostilities commenced between Great Britain and her Colonies.
It cannot he expected that I should give a minute detail of every circumstance of my eventful life, as I kept no regular journal, and have to refresh my memory from public documents for the last fifty years.
Son of a Loyalist in ranks of the American Revolutionists
Some time in the month of April, 1775, when the first blood was shed at Lexington, I became acquainted with a Lady to whom I paid my address, and who I afterwards married; this attachment was disapproved of by my father, who carried his displeasure to great lengths. and I was tinder the necessity of visiting the Lady only by stealth. Soon after the Battle of Bunker Hill and about the time that the British Army Evacuated Boston, there was a draft of the Militia of Connecticut to garrison New York, and I was drafted as one; my father would readily have got a substitute for me, but as lie had so strenuously opposed my suit, I was obstinate and declared my intentions of going as a soldier—for this declaration lie took me by the arm and thrust me out of the door; during the evening, how ever, I went to my room and went to bed. The next day was Sunday and I kept out of sight, the next morning we were to march, a Brother of my Mother was the officer commanding. On leaving the house I passed my father and wished him “good-bye,” he made rue no reply, and I passed on to the house of my uncle, the place of rendezvous, but before the Troops marched my father so far relented as to come to me and after giving me a severe reproof, ordered me a horse to ride, gave me some money, and I set off. We arrived in New York the next day, and my uncle took up his quarters at Peck Slip, and took me into his house. He had a son with him a little younger than myself, with whom I spent my time very agreeable.
Repents when he Sees father’s displeasure and joins British
During my short stay in New York, which was only about a fort night,—during that time, however, the Americans broke ground on Governor’s Island. My uncle was one of the officers for that duty. The British Man of War (the Asia) was lying off Staten Island at the time, and I had an inclination to get on board of her; I, therefore, went to the Island with my uncle and remained there all night, and part of the next day, when were relieved by another party, and returned to the City. Having had no rest during the night, I lay down and went to sleep. I was awoke by my Cousin; the streets were filled with soldiers, part of the American Army from Boston. The next morning the Militia was dismissed, and I returned to my family; I represented to my father that I was very sinable, that I had done wrong in espousing a Cause so repugnant to his feelings, and contrary to my own opinion also. Asked his forgiveness, and went even so far as to promise that I would give tip my suit with Miss Glover, for that was the Lady’s name. On this promise, I was again taken into favor—but I only kept this promise but for a few days,—as soon as I had replenished my wardrobe, I immediately set off to visit Miss Glover, and before we parted, we renewed our vows of love and constancy. My reception the next morning was everything but pleasant. I continued, however, to visit her as often as I could. After the British Army had taken New York, the Militia was again called out, and I was again drafted, but I refused to serve; about this time three Torries who had been confined in Symsbury Mines, had made their escape, and was, by the assistance of the Loyalists, inabled to join the British Army;—many of the Loyalists also joined them and went with them, and among the rest myself, and this with the consent of my father, as I had been instrumental in making provision for the three men who had escaped from Prison.
Recruiting American soldiers for service in England’s army
I left Danbury in the middle of the day, armed Capa-pie under pretense of joining the Americans then lying at Horse Neck,—and went forward to make provision for those who were to follow me at night. I passed on as far as Norwalk, where I was directed to call on certain persons, Loyalists, for advice and assistance in executing our plan. The first one I called upon informed me that our plans were discovered, that the whole coast was guarded, and that if we proceeded we would all he taken prisoners, and advised me by all means to return home again with the best excuse I could make for doing so. I took his advice, and after refreshing myself and horse, I retraced my steps to Wilton, and called on a Mr. B____s, his house was the place of rendezvous for the whole party;—I had a wish to see what reception I would meet with as an American soldier. I, therefore, feigned myself much hurt from the fall of my horse, told him a long cock and bull story of my going to join the American Army, and said everything to excite his compassion, and to be allowed to sleep by his fire during the night; this he refused, but offered to assist me to the Public House, where I could be comfortably provided for;—finding nothing would prevail, I then asked him if his name was not B____s. He with some surprise, answered “Yes and what then,” his wife and two fine daughters who were sitting in the room viewed each other with much uneasiness. I desired to speak to Mr. B. in private. We walked into another room; I asked him if he knew Mr. J______ of Danbury, and he replied, “that he did.”
I told him I was his son, communicated to him the commission I was entrusted with, gave him the information I had received at Norwalk—and the necessity there was for finding a place of safety for the three men. One of them was a Mr. McNeal. The other persons names I have forgot. Mr. B. then took me by the hand, introduced me to his wife and daughters, ordered refreshments to be got ready as soon as possible, for that I was very tired and hungry. My lameness was set aside for the night and he set about preparing a hiding place for the three men and getting sustenance for their support. I then suggested the necessity of as many of us as possibly could, should reach home before daylight, gave him the countersign, whereby he could make himself known if he met any of our party, and turn them back; sent a message to my father in what manner I should return the next day. He set off and after proceeding a few miles, stopt in a wood by the side of the road. He soon saw two men approaching, gave the countersign, which was answered. They were two young men from Danbury, he delivered my message to them; they’re turned home, and he returned to his house. Before his return however, the party had arrived to the amount of seventy persons. A man by the name of Barnum, who had been with the British, and returned for recruits conducted the party, he was no way discouraged from my information and urged me to proceed with them, this, however, I declined, he however prevailed on Mr. B. to try and overtake the two men he had turned homewards, but after he had pursued them near to Danbury, he was obliged to return without them, and he hardly reached his home before daylight. I met him afterwards a Major in the British Army. Mr. Barnum and his party pursued their route and got safe to the British.
Americans fleeing from being drafted by Revolutionists
The next morning, after breakfast, I took leave of this kind family, bound up my knee in a piece of old blanket, assumed my lameness, was helped on my horse, and set off for home. Many questions were asked me on my route, and many foolish answers were given as to my late disaster. Suffice it to say that when I reached home I found my father had received my message, and had a surgeon, whom he could trust to attend me. I was helped off my horse, carried into the house, my knee which he declared to be dislocated, again placed into the socket, the bandages filled with the spirits of turpentine, and in this manner I walked with crutches for ten days; this lulled all suspicion; even my mother was deceived, for she had no idea that my intentions were that of going to the British.
For the rest part of the summer I remained quietly, until the Autumn, when I again joined another party of Loyalists, and proceed to the waterside, but the vessel which we expected to take us on board not arriving, and my father hearing of the situation in which I was placed, sent a person for me and I returned home the second time. On my arrival I found my father’s house filled with American soldiers, my father introduced me to the officers as returning from a visit to see my friends, and all went on very well, until the first day of January, 1777—it being New Year’s day—I rose very early in the morning, and in opening the door I discovered a large body of horsemen armed, with a number of prisoners, and some of them, those I had a short time before left at the Seaside. I must leave the reader to judge of my feelings for I cannot describe them.
I remained quiet during the day, but I was lead to believe that I should not continue so during the night, and therefore kept a sharp lookout; I came very nigh falling into their hands. The clay had been stormy, both snow and rain, and the roads very sloppy. I had prepared a horse with intentions to ride out of town. I had set down to supper, when one of the Committee of Safety (as they were called) came in; my father urged him to take supper, this he declined, and after making some excuse for calling, he left the house. I immediately got up from the table, went to the door, the night was very dark. My brother had gone out to do an errand for one of the prisoners and as I stepped on the threshold of the door I heard him call to one of the prisoners. “Stop” said a person close by me.
Tory Boy escapes on horseback as Patriots search father’s home
I gave a spring and in a moment I was on horseback in full speed down the street. I made a halt at a friend’s house for a few moments, when my sister with another young lady came in, saying “Brother, the soldiers are searching the house for you.” I immediately set off again and took shelter in a house where there was two British prisoners of War. One part of the house was occupied by soldiers from the Eastward going to join the Army of the Americans, then lying near White Plains. I remained in the quarters of the British prisoners until the soldiers were asleep. I was then conveyed to a small room in the garret with some provisions for the twenty four hours. Here I remained until the next evening, when I met my father in the field back of the town. He had a shift of clothes for me and some money—here we parted, and I set off for the house of a Brother-in-law of Miss Glover who was a Loyalist, and where I knew I should find safe quarters. The late rain had flooded the banks of the Rivers, and had overflowed the road in two places, so that I was obliged to wade to my hips in water. The weather very cold, my clothes became very stiff with ice. I could with difficulty travel; I however made out to reach a friend’s house, about five miles from my father’s; Here again I was encountered with another band of soldiers (strangers). I pretended as coming from the next house, and crossing a small stream on a log had tumbled into the water, and begged my friend to give me a shift of clothes.
I was taken into a small room, where there was a good fire, dried my clothes, got some refreshment, and after the soldiers had got asleep, a young man of the house conveyed me to the stable, took a horse and carried me five miles farther, to the house of Mr. Hawleys whose wife was Miss Glover’s sister; —the young man remained with me until after breakfast the next morning, and then returned to his father. He was the same day taken up and carried to Gaol, for what crime I never learn’t, —the day after my arrival, Mr. H. sent and fetched Miss Glover to his house and the pleasure I spent in her society surely can be better imagined than described. At the end of a fortnight a Mr. T______s., who had married another sister of Miss Glover’s, came to take her to his house (he was a Republican and I dare not see him). He arrived in the evening, it was a moonshine night, and Miss G. pre tended that it would be some time in the evening before she would be ready to set out, left him and visited me in my apartment. In this manner we kept him until a late hour, when we at last took leave of each other, and she set off with her brother Mr T.
Driven into hiding for refusing to denounce the King
The next night I set off from Mr. H______’s (I dare not travel in the day) and went to Norwalk where my father had two brothers, and where his father was also living—with them I remained for sometime, but hearing that there was an opportunity that probably I might have in getting over to Long Island from Stamford, I repaired thither, where my father had another brother whose four sons were already with the British, two of which had entered the Army. Here again I was disappointed—no opportunity offered of getting away. It was agreed at last, as the best mode of safety, and as the smallpox was in the place, I had better get Enoculated and that his young son should also. He sent for the surgeon of the Hospital, a Doctor W. and we were Enoculated. We remained at my Uncle’s until a few days before we broke out, and then was removed to the Hospital.
We both had the disease favorable, and about the first of March I ventured to pay a visit to my father’s, taking the night for performing the journey. I arrived at his house about midnight, called at the windows of his bedroom, he awoke, knew my voice, and let me in. I remained with the family only two days and then for the last time I bid them good-bye for seven years. and returned again to Norwalk, from thence to Stamford, to Greenwich, and so back and fourth until the British Army made an excursion to Danbury. The day the fleet sailed up the sound I was at the village of Greenwich, and remained there until the British Army had marched to Danbury, and had again re-imbarked for New York. In this expedition Munson Jarvis and William Jarvis were with the British and slept at my father’s house the night they were in Danbury. On the 28 of April, 1777, at night I prevailed on a person to set me across to Long Island there was a skiff and a canoe loaded with potatoes and two or three calves.
Crossing Long Island Sound in canoe to join the Redcoats
We set off about 10 o’clock at night, and got out of the river undiscovered and steered our course for Long Island. In the morning we found ourselves under the Long Island shore, the wind was strong from the Eastward—our log canoe was swamped in running ashore, but no lives lost; after hard rowing, we at last reached the Harbour of Huntington, went on board the Guard Ship in the Harbour, where I was obliged to remain until report was made to the Commanding Officer at that place; I then was permitted to land, here I met with several persons I know, and I was strongly urged to join the Army. This I declined and the next day set off for New York in company with a Mr. Booth, a native of Newtown in Connecticut. On my arrival in New York I found many persons from Danbury, who were made prisoners. They informed me that after the British Army had left Danbury, the Americans had killed my father. (This was not true, they only plundered him).
This melancholy news determined me for a Military life. I therefore took the first opportunity of introducing myself to an officer, that first fell in my way. it was with a Captain Lockwood, who piloted the British Army to Danbury. I told him what I had just heard relative to the fate of my father, and my determination of entering the Service;—He replied “That he was raising a Company for a Corpse that was to be commanded by a Major Starks, and that if I would join his Company, he would procure me a commission, and as his company was about to march to Kingsbridge, where the Regiment to be organized, and if I would consent to act as Sergeant in his company until he could join the Regiment —with my commission he would be very glad, and in the meantime he would be glad that I would assist him in making out a statement of his Company. This I assented to, and being ignorant of the consequences that would result, suffered myself to be set down as Sergeant, for the present until my commission could be procured.
American lad under English ensign marching against his countrymen
The next day the Company marched to Kingsbridge under the command of a Lieutenant Close, where we joined the rest of the Regiment, but so small were our numbers, that I have no recollection who was the commanding officer;—the day after our arrival at our Incampment there was an order for each Company to give in a Morning Report; of what a Morning Report was, neither Mr. Close or myself knew anything about more than we did of the Longitude, and I was sensible that I was the best scholar of the two, and being second in command, thought I was of equal rank with him, and without consulting him on the subject, I walked over to the tent of my relation, whose Regiment had taken up their ground on the left of our small (for it was a very small) Regiment to attain the information necessary to comply with the order.
My friend gave me a number of printed copies that had been given him for his guide,—to wit—fit for duty—sick—on duty, etc., etc. I return to my tent, and return the whole fit for duty, although we had neither arms, clothing or ammunition; the result of which was that there was on order for our Regiment to parade so many men for piquet. This put me to my wits end, to parade men without arms was ridiculous, but there was no time to be lost; I therefore went from one tent to another (for some of the Companies had received arms) got a stand of arms from one Company, a sick man’s arms from another, until I had completed the whole with arms and marched them off for to this parade. Behold me then, for the first time in my life, a soldier in the British Army, commanding an out piquet, in the face of the Rebel Army. One material circumstance happened during the night. I had forgot the most essential part, the Parole and Countersign, which, when the officer of the night came around to visit the piquet, and if there had not been a more attentive memory in my Corporal, I should have made a most lamentable figure. However, all things passed on very well, and in the morning I marched off my men to their tents, not a little proud of my night’s duty.
British Soldiers look with impunity on their Yankee Recruits
The same routine went on for several days, until I began to be tired of this fatigue, and I applied to Mr. Close to procure clothing, and arms for the men, stating the danger we run of being fired on as Rebels in our Country Clothes; he hem’d and har’d for some time until my patience was quite exhausted, and I said to him, “Sir, you command a Company in the British Army, you are not fit to command an English waggon” In short I said so much that if he or myself had known anything of military duty, I must have have been shot, agreeably to the Articles of War. I however soon learned better, as the secret will show.
One day as I was walking past the officers mess, (for I had already learned so much of my duty as to find I was not yet to be admitted into the society of the commissioned officers) I heard them Huzza for the Second Battalion of Queen’s Rangers; I had heard much of the Regiment as a fighting corpse, and I did not much like the sound. I made up my mind, if possible, to change into the Regiment with my relations, lying along side of us, and the morning we were ordered for marching I left my tent for the purpose of making the application, and had got part of the way to my friend’s tent, when, I beheld the Col. of that Regiment mount his horse and begin to belay the Sentinel at his Marque, over the head and shoulders of the man, with great violence. I looked with astonishment for a short time, marched back to my tent, and when the orders were given to march, I threw my knapsack on my back and marched, thanking my stars that I had escaped falling under the discipline of such a savage in the shape of a Colonel of a British Regiment. The Regiment marched to New York and went immediately on board ship. Here I had for the last time a sight of Captain Lockwood.
I remonstrated with him, but he replied, “That all was going on well, that he should be with the Regiment in a few days, and bring my commission with him.” I had not a moment longer to spare, was hurried on hoard, we sailed, and the next morning landed at Amboy, marched out to a place called Strawberry Hill, our small Regiment was drawn up in front of the Encampment of the Queen’s Rangers, the Non-Commissioners in front of the men, and a gen eral selection took place, those fit for grenadiers, were set apart for the grenadier Company, then the Light Infantry, then a Company was selected for a Highland Company. The officers were Captain McAlpine, Lieutenant Close, Simpson, and Ensign Shaw. (Afterwards General Shaw of Upper Canada) The rest of the officers were placed on half pay—or joined other Regiments;—After the officers by Seniority, had made a selection of the Non-Commissioned Officers, a Captain McKay came up to me, asked my name, age, etc., and if I could write. I happened to have a roll of Captain Lockwood’s Company in my pocket, which I took and handed him, after examining it, he folded it up, handed it me back, called a “Sergeant Purday to show me his Tent.”
Experiences of an American inside the British Lines
Here all my hopes of a Commission was at an end. I was a perfect stranger to every individual around me, not a friend to advise, or ask council of, no money in my pocket, the most inexperienced, either of men or manners, of any almost in existence. Think what my feelings were at this time. I have often wondered how I survived the disappointment. I however, made up my mind that if I ever had an opportunity to meet the enemy—that I would merit a Commission, and I applied myself strictly to my duty, and soon merited the notice of my officers who placed confidence in me. A few days after there was a great desertion of the Non-Commissioners, and amongst the rest Sergeant Purday of our Company. From this circumstance, all the duty of the Company devolved upon me, such as making out returns for provisions, clothing, morning reports, master rolls, etc., as the other Sergeant was a drunken useless fellow, who, by the by, I recognized as once having seen him in Danbury a recruiting for the American Army.
There is one circumstance I cannot avoid mentioning, as it mortified my pride exceedingly. I had been on duty during the night, and as the duty was arduous, I came off duty very much fatigued. I called at Captain McKay’s tent to have him sign some return, I did expect he would have asked me to sit down, I waited some time and then sat down. I had not sat long before Captain McKay said in a mild tone of voice, “Sergeant Jarvis, it is very improper for you to sit in the presence of your officer, without you are desired to do so.” I must leave the reader to judge of my feelings at this rebuke: altho so mildly given, I arose from my seat and replied, Sir: I am a young soldier, and I am very tired, having been on duty all night. I was in hopes you would have desired me to sit down, but as you did not, I was in some measure under the necessity, but I shall know better in future;—he signed the return and I returned to my tent. In a few days there was an order for marching with four days’ provisions for each man. The Army marched into the country. We fell in with the enemy on our route, and a partial engagement took place, and we had one man killed;—and I had a narrow escape myself. I was standing in the angle of the fence, a rifleman was in the opposite field on horseback, at the time we were forming along the fence. He dismounted, placed his rifle across his horse, fired, The ball struck direct in the angle of the fence opposite my face, and the splinters flew about my head and eyes. The Army marched to Brunswick and then returned again to our old quarters.
On the British firing line in the Battle of Brandywine
There was nothing of moment after this movement until we embarked for an expedition—the fleet sailed, as it appeared afterwards for the Chesapeake and about the middle of August we landed at the head of Elk River, where the Army encamped for some days, and here was my first exploit. I commanded the out piquet, and at daylight in the morning a body of American horse charged my Piquet. I repulsed them and took one Dragoon, which I secured as well as his horse, and which I took to camp with me when relieved. I was sent with my prisoner to General Howe’s quarters, when the prisoner was sent to the Provost, the horse and appointments given to me, which I took back to the Regiment and which I was soon relieved of by Captain McKay taking to himself. This was an act of injustice which I did not much like but thought best to put up with it. There was little to notice after this until the action at Brandywine; The Queen’s Rangers led the Division of General Kuephausen.
We came in sight of the enemy at sunrise. The first discharge of the enemy killed the horse of Major Grymes, who was leading the column, and wounded two men in the Division directly in my front, and in a few moments the Regiment became warmly engaged and several of our officers were badly wounded. None but the Rangers and Ferguson’s Riflemen, were as yet engaged; the enemy retired, and there was a cessation for a short time, to reconnoiter the enemy, who had taken up their position in a wood which skirted the road that led down to the River. The Rangers were ordered to advance, and drive the enemy from that position. We marched from the right of Companys, by files, entered the wood, and drove the enemy from it, into an open field where there was a large body of the enemy formed. Major Wymes, who commanded the Rangers, ordered the Regiment to halt and cover themselves behind the trees, but the right of the Regiment was hotly engaged with the enemy, and Captain Dunlap came to Major Wymnes, and requested him to let the Regiment charge or the two Companies would be cut off. The Major then ordered the Adjutant (Ormand) who was very glad of the opportunity, to desire the troops in our rear to support him, ordered the Regiment to charge. At this instant, my pantaloons received a wound, and I don’t hesitate to say that I should been very well pleased to have seen a little blood also. The enemy stood until we came near to bayonet points. then gave us a volley and retired across the Brandywine. Captain Williams and Captain Murden were killed, and many of the officers were wounded in this conflict. The Brandywine on each side was skirted with wood, in which the Rangers took shelter, whilst our artillery were playing upon a half moon battery on the other side of the River which guarded the only fording place where our Army could cross. In this position we remained waiting for General Howe to commence his attack on the right flank of General Washington’s main Army.
Whilst in this situation Captain Agnew was wounded, of which wound he was ever after a cripple. Several other men were also wounded by the riflemen from the other side. Captain Agnew (he was only Lieutenant at this time) had behaved very gallantly when we drove the enemy. I saw him plunge his bayonet into the fellow who had killed Captain Murden the minute before. General Howe commenced his attack late in the afternoon, and this was the signal for our Division to advance, The Fourth Regiment, led the Column, and the Queen’s Rangers followed, the battery playing upon us with grape shot, which did much execution. The water took us up to our breasts, and was much stained with blood, before the battery was carried and the guns turned upon the enemy. Immediately after our Regiment had crossed, two Companies (the Grenadiers and Capt. McKay’s) was ordered to move to the left and take possession of a hill which the enemy was retiring from, and wait there until further orders. From the eminence we had a most extensive view of the American Army, and we saw our brave comrades cutting them up in great style. The battle lasted until dark, when the enemy retreated and left us masters of the field. We were then ordered to leave our position and join our Regiment. We did so and took up our night’s lodgings on the field of the battle, which was strewed with dead bodies of the enemy.
Fighting at Germantown under the Colors of the King
In this day’s hard fought action, the Queen’s Rangers’ loss in killed and wounded were seventy-five out of two hundred fifty rank and file which composed our strength in the morning. Why the army did not the next day pursue the enemy, and bring them to action, I must leave to wiser heads than mine, to give a reason, but so it was. We remained encamped the whole of the next day, and gave the enemy an opportunity to rally his forces, get re-inforcements and take up a position to attack us, which they did, at Germantown, where our Army had encamped, sending our sick and wounded into Philadelphia. At this battle the enemy were again defeated, and left us in possession of the field. On the morning of this action, I was under a course of physic, and was ordered to remain in camp, and had not the honor of sharing in the vic tory of this day’s battle; I was so reduced from fatigue that I was returned, unfit for duty, and was ordered to the Hospital, and the next day took my quarters at the Hospital in Philadelphia. I was not so ill but that I could walk about, and the Doctors allowed me to take a walk about the City every day. Whether they had any orders from my officers on that behalf I know not, but so it was when others had not the same indulgence. I remained in the Hospital until I thought I was able to undergo the fatigue of duty and join my Regiment.
A few days after joining the Regiment, made an excurtion into the Jerseys, as far as Hattenfield, but it was ordered that I should remain at the quarters of the Regiment, which was at Kingsonton. The next day Captain Dunlap returned to the quarters ordering every man that was able to march to join the Regiment, and myself among the rest. It was near dark when we got to the Regiment. I was most dreadfully fatigued, and lay down to rest. I had hardly time to take my refreshment before the Regiment was ordered under arms, where we remained for several hours in a storm of hail and snow, and at last ordered to retrace our steps towards Philadelphia. I had marched but a few miles before a pain attacked my limbs, to that degree, that I could with difficulty walk, and soon fell in the rear of the Regiment, expecting every minute to fall into the hands of the enemy. I had the good luck to get up with the Regiment, who had encamped at a plantation on the banks of the Delaware. More dead than alive, the ground covered with snow, I scrambled to the barn, got into a large mow of straw, covered myself up with straw, and fell asleep and did not wake until daylight in the morning. On awaking, I heard Major Simcoe (who had a short time before, and while I was in the Hospital) succeeded Major Wymes in the command of the Regiment, and some of the officers in another part of the barn, but hid from my sight. They soon left the barn, and left standing on a beam within my reach a bottle partly filled with good madeira. I soon demolished the contents and set the bottle up as before, left the barn also, and joined my Company. In the course of the day the Americans attacked us, and we had a smart brush with them, had a Sergeant (McPherson of the Grenadiers) and several men wounded. In the evening we crossed over to Kensington and took up our old quarters.
Intimate insight into life in the British army in America
I had forgot to mention one circumstance, which happened at Brandywine, after the Regiment had crossed and was charging with enemy, Lieu tenant Close found it more safe to take shelter under the walls of the battery, where he fell asleep until he was discovered by the Provost Marshal, and reported to the Regiment as killed. A party was sent out to bring him to camp, who awoke him from his slumbers. He came to the Regiment, but was obliged to leave it. He never did duty again in the Regiment. Captain McAlpine also left the Regiment for some cause,—a change took place in the Companies, Captain McKay took command of the Highland Company, Captain Stephenson of the Light Infantry. After the death of Captain Williams, Lieutenant McGill was promoted to Captain (now at York, U. C.) and took corn mand of McKay’s Company. Lt. Shank Captain of Captain Murden’s Company; Lt. Agnew to be Captain, but did no duty. The Regiment dur ing the winter had severe duty once or twice every week to cover the mar ket people coming to market, and often we had long marches and frequent skirmishes with the enemy, and took a good many prisoners during the winter. I found Captain McGill the same indulgent commanding offi cer as I found in Captain McKay, and I found my situation as pleasant as I could have expected, according to the discipline of the Army, and I looked forward for more favorable prospects in the future. It would be endless to enumerate the different actions which took place, but there were too many, in which the Regiment gained great applause at White Marsh, and after wards at Parker’s Bridge, at both of which places we took and killed a good many.
Accuses General Howe of responsibility for England’s downfall
In short we were continually engaged with the enemy more or less, and had General Howe during the winter, instead of gambling with the officers every night, to the utter ruin of many of them, attacked General Washington at the Valley Forge, where he might have done, the event of the War would have been very different, but I am only relating of those actions in which I was personally concerned. During the winter Major Simcoe was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and a Major Ross joined the Regiment. The news of General Burgoyne’s capture gave great energy to the enemy. The French also forming an alliance with the Americans, and sending troops to America put a different face on things. General Howe, after making a great display in Philadelphia, resigned the command and went home and Sir Henry Clinton took the Command in Chief, and began to make preparations for evacuating Philadelphia and marching the Army through the Jerseys up to New York, and on 18th day of June 1778, the British Army crossed the Delaware and commenced their route, the Queen’s Rangers always in the rear of the line of march. I have omitted to state that before we left Philadelphia a Troop of Horse was added to the Regiment. The officers were Captain Wickham, Lieut. McKab (late of York in Upper Canada) and a Cornet Spencer from the 17th Dragoons.
Nothing of moment took place on our route until we came to Monmouth, where on the morning of the 28th of June, the Queen’s Rangers met at daylight the advance army of the Americans tinder the command of General Lee. We had a smart brush, and Col. Simcoe was wounded. We took some prisoners and returned and joined the Army at Monmouth Court House,—Sir Henry Clinton, with five thousand of his Army attacked Lee and drove him the whole day—took and killed a great many of his men until we fell in with General Washington’s whole Army, when we retreated, leaving our wounded in the enemies’ hands. On commencing our retreat we had to oppose a large body of the enemy, and one of our field pieces was abandoned, and the enemy gave a shout. Lieutenant Shaw with the Highland Company wheeled about, charged the enemy, and brought off the cannon, which was ever after attached to the Regiment.
Retreating with King George’s men and dissension in the ranks
We continued our retreat during the whole night and came up with the main Army at Middletown, where we halted to refresh ourselves for the first time in twenty-four hours. The day of the battle was one of the hottest days I ever felt, and we lost more men by drinking cold water than were killed by the enemy. I bore the fatigue of the day very well with only having again a shot through my pantaloons, leaving the mark of the ball on the skin, or rather the powder without drawing blood. The Army continued its march, the Rangers bringing up the rear. The Army crossed over on a pontoon bridge to the lighthouse island, the Queen’s Rangers embarked in flatboats and rowed up to New York and landed at Bloomingdale above New York, where we remained for some time and then crossed over to Long Island and took up our quarters at Oyster Bay. Another change had taken place in the Regiment. Major Ross had left the Regiment. Captain Armstrong promoted to the Majority, Captain McGill went to the Grenadiers and Captain Agnew got his company soon after we came to Oyster Bay.
Two of the Sergeants of the Horse (Kelly and Johnson) were convicted of plundering some of the inhabitants, was took and flogged and I was trans ferred from the Infantry and to the Calvary. I had for my associates a Sergeant Prior and a Sergeant Mc Laughlin,—frorn this moment I became a great favorite with Col. Simcoe, as well as all the other officers, except Captain Wickham who my professed enemy, and who to find me guilty of some neglect he might try me by a Court Martial, but I had now learned my duty, and I put him to defiance, and the only way he had to annoy me was to keep my pay back. However, always having a good supply of necessaries, I did not want much money. Our duty during the winter was not very severe, the harbor afforded plenty of oysters. I became a favorite with some of the principal inhabitants, and if I some times had scanty allowance at my barracks, I knew where to go to get tile best the house afforded. Here a Mr. Moffet from the 15th Regiment joined as Quarter Master, a rough, boisterous Irishman, but I knew how to humor him and we agreed very well together,—I spent the winter very pleasant. Our food was for some time rather coarse, our bread oatmeal biscuit full of magots. Early in the Spring of 1779 the Regiment left Oyster Bay and took up our encampment above Kingsbridge, where we remained the greater part of the summer, making several excursions up the North River, as also to the Eastward.
Under Fire with the Enemy within Ten Miles of His Own home
At one time the 17th Dragoons and the troop of Queen’s Rangers went as far as Pound Ridge, within ten miles of my father’s house to surprise a Regiment of Dragoons, which we effected and made great havoc amongst them, and took a great many prisoners. I was ordered to flank the party, and in doing so I had in one instance to divide my party. There was a lagoon surrounded with bushes. I took one rout and part of my men the other. When I came in sight of them I saw them cutting and slashing at a single man with a female standing by his side. I wrode up in time to save the man from much injury. I afterwards brought him and his wife, for the female appeared to be so, and as he had no arms about him, I did not think proper to detain him a prisoner. I ordered him to remain in his house and left him. (I shall have reason to speak of this man again.)
We returned to our quarters again at Kingsbridge. A few days after this a young man by the name of Vincent gave information that a party of the enemy were at West Chester, that he had narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. Col. Simcoe with the mounted Legion, and the Rangers passed, ordering the Infantry to follow. We came up with the enemy, we were ordered to form for the charge. In the meantime as the front Division were wheeling up I saw an American Dragoon discharge his pistol; my horse’s head at that moment covered my body—the ball entered his nostril, and into his mouth. The blood spouted a stream, and my horse sank upon his haunches. Col. Simcoe ordered me to the rear, and gave the word to charge; the enemy had taken post behind a stone wall, I mean their Infantry, and when our Troops came abreast, gave us a very galling fire, and Captain Wickham wheeled his horse about and put the whole in disorder, the sequence of which was that the enemy got off safe and we suffered severely, both in killed and wounded. We pursued the enemy afterwards, as far as Byram River, and here a curious circumstance happened—there was a very deep hole in the river, near the fording place, and the trumpetor of the enemy had got into it and was hanging by his horse’s mane. I plunged in after him when my horse and self were several feet under water, and when I made my appearance several shots were fired at me, without effect, and the Trumpetor escaped my grasp, as there was a large body on Infantry on the top of the hill, we found it necessary to retire.
Destroying American property with the Queen’s Rangers
Soon after this a large body of the Army marched towards the White Plains. I was with a division of the Cavalry, leading the Column—Lord Cornwallis and Col. Simcoe came up to the front, and I heard Col. Simcoe say to his Lordship, “There is a fine young lad who knows Danbury well.” From this I took it for granted we were going there, We, however, soon took a turn to the Saw Pits in Horse Neck and back again to our old quarters without falling in with any of the enemy. Soon after Col. Simcoe took the route up the North River, where we fell in with a party at a place, I think called Kingsferry—when we came nigh the place I received orders to charge and I followed the enemy for some distance, and altho I did not myself take any of the enemy, I cut off the retreat of a good many, which were made prisoners
We returned to our camp in this manner. Much of our time was taken up during the summer, and in the Autumn we were moved to Staten Island, and took up our winter quarters at Richmond. Soon after our arrival at this place a quarrel ensued between Mr. Moffet, now an Ensign in the Regiment, as well as Quarter Master of the Horse, with a Lieutenant (Mr. Lawrence died in Upper Canada) Lawrence. A duel ensued and Moffet was killed. Col, Simcoe was so enraged that he would not let him be buried with the honors of war. Lieutenant Lawrence was tried by a Court Martiall and Honorably Acquitted. Soon after our arrival at Staten Island an expedition was planned for destroying a number of boats that had been built for the express purpose of landing the French Army, which the Americans were expecting to arrive daily. It was composed of the Cavalry of the Queen’s Rangers, the Buck’s County Volunteers, and the Jersey Ds; the Buck’s commanded by Captain Sanford, the others by Captain Stewart, all under the command of Col. Simcoe. The Infantry of the Rangers were to march into the country to cover our retreat. We landed at Perth Amboy, and we were to return by South Amboy.
The Troops were to have been landed by ten o’clock at night, for which purpose we left Richmond for Billip’s Point so as to reach that place soon after dark. From some cause or other it was near daylight before we landed at Amboy, and we had to perform the whole journey almost the whole way by daylight. In passing through a small village, as the sun was rising, a few men with knap sacks came out of a house and our men took them for soldiers and commenced an attack, and this gave the alarm; we however proceeded on our route. We had a Frenchman in our Troop, who from his broken English said that we were French Cavalry after the boats to land the French Army. By this means we procured guides who conveyed us to where the boats were, and we had collected a good number on our way, all of which we made prisoners as soon as we came to the boats and began to destroy them. There were twenty-five beautiful barges all fixed upon carriages ready to be conveyed to any place where they would be wanted.
Terrific conflict in which Officers almost lose their reason
In a few minutes the boats were in flames, and the wheels of the carriages cut to pieces, to the great dismay of the guides who had conducted us to them. We then proceeded to a place called Millstone, where we burnt a large quantity of forage, parolled several American officers which fell into our hands; burnt the goal and relieved several of our prisoners who had been confined in goal, and then commenced our retreat, and a hazardous one it was, for by this time the whole country was alarmed, and from every house and corpse of wood we were fired upon, and at last we fell into an ambuscade, where we lost Col. Simcoe and several of our men.
I had, a few moments before, been sent to Captain Sanford who formed our rear guard, with orders, when I heard the firing commence, and on my return I had to charge through the enemy; few of their pieces had got reloaded and I escaped unhurt. I pursued as fast as my horse would carry me to the front to make my report, hut I could see nothing of Col. Simcoe. I rode back and forth enquiring for the Colonel. At last the Surgeon said, “He is dead.” Dead said I, and are we going to leave him in the hands of the enemy, and I tried to get the men to turn about for the purpose of bringing him off, but I could not succeed. My gallant Captain Wickham was riding about like a mad man, had lost his helmet and seemed to have lost his reason altogether.
By this time Captain Sanford had assumed the command, and we had got into some degree of order—we had by this time reached Brunswick Plains, and the enemy had nearly surrounded us—was enclosing us fast—Captain Stewart, our principal guide, had received a slight wound in the hand, had got confused; our men every moment falling, and as it was announced that the road to South Amboy was our route, no person could show us the way. I had already taken charge of Captain Wickham’s Division. The Surgeon got frightened, leaped off his horse, put his white handkerchief on the point of his sword, and ran towards the enemy, and a Sergeant Carhart followed him. In a few minutes we saw him returning and calling to Captain Sanford. We ordered a halt. He came up and said to Captain Sanford, “Sir, the enemy will receive the flag, but insist that you go back to the ground from which I left you.” Pray Sir, says Captain Sanford, who ordered you to go with a flag, go back Sir to the enemy, and make your own terms. I shall have nothing to do with you.” By this time we had little space to act upon. I saw the situation in which we were placed, and I sent Sergeant McLaughlin to tell Captain Sanford that if he did not allow us to charge the enemy, we should all be prisoners in ten minutes.
Cutting through the American Ranks in reckless onslaught
The word was given and we cut our way thro the enemy and in doing so we fell upon the road we had been seeking for and we pushed forward. In pursuing our route We fell in with two men armed; one fired and killed a Corporal Maloy, of our Troop. The man was immediately killed—the other taken prisoner and ordered to run alongside the horses. I was ordered to bring up the rear. One of Captain Stewart’s Dragoons had his thigh broken by a shot, and it was difficult for him to keep up with the Troops, who were making the best of their way. He was fearful of falling into the hands of the enemy, and begged of me not to leave him. I then put the prisoner behind him on his horse, and remained with them until our Troops were long out of sight. I then told the wounded man that I would stay with him no longer. You have got your pistol and can defend yourself if the prisoner should make any attempt to resist you, and overtake us as fast as you can. I then left them, and before I had overtaken the Troops they had come up with the Infantry and made a halt—the wounded man also soon came up, but the prisoner had made his escape. It is impossible to describe the dismay of our Troops when they found we had returned without our Colonel.
Narrow escape from Americans and dreary journey to safety
On our arrival at the place for embarking we found the boats ready. I was ordered to see all the horses on board, and I did not attempt embarking my own horse until the last boat, when he refused to leap into the boat. I gave the bridle to a sailor and jumped into the water, to urge the horse in. At that moment order was given to push off and wait for no man. The sailor dropped the bridle, took to his oar—the boat rowed away leaving myself and horse standing in the water—the enemy marching down to the shore. I mounted my horse with the intent to swim him after the boat, but I saw one boat yet at the shore. I rode to it, threw my saddle and bridle into the boat, and jumped on board, and had the mortification to see the enemy take possession of the animal that had so many times carried me through great danger and difficulties. I was happy indeed to have escaped myself. We landed at Billip’s Point, and we had a dreary and melancholy night’s walk to Richmond—and took up our old quarters. The day after we got to Richmond, a man came from the enemy and brought intelligence that Col. Simcoe was alive, his horse having fell on him and stunted him. This was joyful news to all the Regiment His servant, McGill (died in Upper Canada a Captain in the Army) went out and took care of him while a prisoner. They confined him in goal, where Col. Billip, a Loyalist was chained to the floor. Sir Henry Clinton with a part of the Army embarked for Charlestown, as it afterwards appeared, and the Infantry of the Rangers were also in orders, and the baggage was on board—but they were ordered to be re-landed, and the fleet sailed without them, and the Regiment remained at Richmond all winter. Col. Simcoe was soon exchanged, and joined the Regiment.
The morning after his arrival he came down to where the Cavalry was quartered—some of the officers with him—he said to me, “Jarvis, come to my quarters at 12:00 o’clock.” I accordingly was there at the time. He then walked out of the Fort into the open field, out of hearing of any person, and began questioning me as to all circumstances which took place after he fell. To all of his questions I gave as correct account as I possibly could, and quite to his satisfaction, and then he said, “Jarvis, how did the officers behave?” I answered, as officers ought to on such occasions. Well, but Jarvis, how did Captain Wickham behave?” Very well, said I. “Did he, Jarvis, did he?” Colonel, said I, do you think it possible that an officer of the Rangers can be have ill? He looked at me with his piercing eyes and said, “You Yankey dog, you Yankey dog.” After a short pause he clapped his hand on my shoulder saying, “You are right, you are right, my good fellow. Take care of yourself, you are a brave fellow.” He then dismissed me and I returned to my quarters.
Dragging cannon across New York harbor on ice in 1780
After Mr. Moffet had obtained his Ensigney in the Regiment I was allowed to do the duty of Quarter Master, for which Mr. Moffet allowed me a shilling a day, besides my other pay, and I still continued to do that duty. My friend Wickham one day sent for me, and said, “Jarvis, if you will draw a petition to the Colonel for the appointment of QuarterMaster, I and Mr. McNab will recommend you for it.” This was so extraordinary a circumstance that I hardly thought him sincere, yet I lost not a moment, and after he had done as he promised, I waited on the Colonel and presented it. He read it with great attention, for in my petition I had stated the circumstance of my joining the British Army, the loyalty of my family, and the promise and expectation made me when I first joined. After some little hesitating he said, “Jarvis, I have long had it in contemplation of giving you promotion, and I am sorry that I cannot do so now, but I have promised it to McGill. His late conduct towards me when in goal, and his long services with me, has induced me to do so, but you may rest assured that I will take the first opportunity in providing for you.” This was rather a disappointment that I did not look for, but I bore it with fortitude.
Ever after this Captain Wickham appeared to be a very sincere friend, made me a companion more than anything else, ever after so long as I remained in the Regiment. The winter of 1780 was a most severe one; the harbor of New York was even so frozen that cannon were brought from New York to Staten Island upon the ice, and during the winter a body of the enemy crossed from the Jerseys to Staten Island and invested our post. At the Narrows the cold was intense, and after remaining two nights and losing about forty men frozen to death, they returned to the Jerseys. Our Regiment from Richmond pursued them and took some prisoners. Whilst the enemy remained on the Island we were entirely cut off from any assistance from the rest of our forces, and were obliged to make such arrangements best calculated for our defence.
The enemy thought best however not to approach us. Soon after this, a plan was formed to take General Washington, who lay some distance from New York, and rather attacked from his Army so as to make the attempt practicable. The 17th Light Horse and the Cavalry of the Queen’s Rangers were designed for this service, and we marched from Staten Island to New York upon the ice, and took up our quarters at the Bull’s Head, which at that time was quite out of the City. The time arrived and we crossed over to Elizabethtown Point, and after marching some distance in the country, returned back without making any attempt, and thus the affair ended, much to my disappointment, for I had set my heart on this expedition, as I was to have taken charge of the General after he had fallen into our hands. We remained at the Bull’s head for several weeks, until the harbor opened so as to return to Staten Island by water, during which time our Dragoons did much injury to the inhabitants, but I generally found out the perpetrators, and had them punished. One robbery they committed is of so singular a nature that I cannot avoid mentioning it.
With British Cavalry in the Surrender of Charlestown
They went one Sunday to some Dutch parson’s house, and finding nothing that suited them, they stole a stove and carried it off, for which the Commander-in-chief made Mr. McNab, the Commanding Officer (for my friend Wickham was not with us) pay for the stove, which he did before we were allowed to join the Regiment, which we did some time in the latter month of March. Soon after our joining, I was sent for to the Colonel’s quarters, when I was informed that the Regiment were going to embark; the Cavalry were to remain behind. He then asked me, “if I had any inclination to go with the Regiment.” I expressed a desire to go. He said, “Well, my boy, you shall go, and you shall have a command. You shall have fourteen men; those you shall chose out of the whole Troop, and I will place Sergeant McPherson (this was the Brother of the one that was killed before we left Philadelphia) with fourteen rifle men to act in conjunction with you,” and he ordered me at the same time to make out a list of the men I chose to take with me. I did so and gave it to him. He examined it and said, “You have made a very good choice; you have left out Maloy, I thought he would have been your first choice.” So he would, Sir, if we should be fighting the whole time, but he will always be getting into some scrape and disgrace me and my party. However I found it was the wish of the Colonel and I at last consented.
We soon embarked, me with my men, saddles and appointments, and after a passage of fourteen or fifteen days, we arrived at Charlestown. We landed on James Island, crossed over above the City, and took up our quarters at the Quarter House six miles from Charlestown. I lost no time in procuring such horses as fell in my way, and had my men mounted and our business was to make patrols into the country, but we never came in contact with any of the enemy during the siege, which continued until the 12th of May. After the town surrendered, the Rangers marched into the country as far as Four Hole, when the Infantry halted and Captain Saunders, with my Cavalry, pushed considerable farther and passed for Americans, being dressed in green. At one Plantation we took a number of horses, and among the rest a very fine stud horse, which I mounted and rode for a few miles, when he at once halted and I could hardly get him along. He had not been rode for many years, and I foundered him, and was obliged to take to my former horse. There was little to excite the attention of the reader during our stay.
We took up our quarters at Dorchester for some time. The people from the back country coming in daily and taking the Oath of Allegiance, and before we left Charlestown it was again to appearance a British Colony. We soon left Charlestown and sailed for New York. During the passage I discovered there was a negro man and woman on board, and when we came to Staten Island I landed with my men and horses whilst the Regiment proceeded on and joined Colonel Kuephausen, who was in the Jerseys, and during the absence of the Regiment, two men, who it appeared had a claim on them for their support at least, came to me and said there was a man who wished to purchase the negroes. My answer was not to do anything without the approbation of Mr. McGill, who was the only officer then in the Garrison. They obtained his approbation, and they sold them, and the only hand I had in the matter was to divide the money between them, and I thought nothing more of the matter for some time.
British soldiers search for hidden money on American estates
During the forepart of the season we were incamped at Kingsbridge, at a place called Odle’s Hill, where one day some of the soldiers in finding a mouse under a stone they were induced to search for more. At last they undertook to turn over a large one, and at last succeeded, when there was the greatest shout and scrabbling imaginable. There was a deposit of money to the amount of many hundreds of dollars, which was soon distributed among the soldiers according to their good fortune in collecting what came within his grasp. The money was claimed by Mr. Odle, the proprietor of the farm, but he got no satisfaction. Col. Simcoe however told him if he had any more money out of doors to bring it into the house and it should be safe. He went and pulled down a place in the stone fence, and took out a jar full of gold. the consequence of which was that lie had hardly a rod of stone wall about his farm that was not examined before daylight the next morning.
We remained in this situation until the fate of Major Andre, where we were waiting until his return to take possession of the Fort at West Point, when we were removed on to Long Island, which we traversed from New York until we arrived at East Hampton. Here we remained until our Army evacuated Rhode Island, after the French Fleet had returned from that place, when the Queen’s Rangers retired as far as Oyster Bay; the Cavalry remained at Satauket, under the commanding of the Commanding Officer of the 17th Dragoons. Here again I met with the most discouraging circumstances, and it was a wonder how I escaped. I had been taking orders, and, as is the custom, was proceeding to my officer’s quarters to show him the orders, when, after going some distance on my way, I heard some person calling after me. I turned around and saw an officer and two men following me, and as they came up to me the Officer said, “Is this the man?” They replied “Yes,” and without giving me time to reply.
Jealous English officers cause court martial of American recruit
I was ordered to the Guard House, where I remained all night. However, I was released the next morning—thro the interference of my Officer. Some person had killed a hog belonging to a Colonel Floid, and these two men declared that I was the person. I applied for a Court Martial to prove my innocence, but this I did not obtain. Soon after we were ordered to join the Regiment, and as we came near the town of Oyster Bay, I was sent forward to announce their approach. As I entered the town, I was congratulated by all the Officers on my promotion. “I was not in orders,” they said, “but no doubt I should be the next day, as they had seen the orders from Headquarters.”
I therefore proceeded to Colonel’s quarters with a delightful sensation, expecting the same congratulation from him, but alas it was quite a different reception that I met with, for after I had delivered my message, he with a stern countenance said to me, “Young man, what is this you have been doing? I understand you have been selling negroes.” Indeed, Sir, I have not, I replied. Some of the men have, not me, I assure you Sir. His only reply was, “Go to your Troop. Sir.” I obeyed. The Cavalry was camped at a village about two miles from Oyster Bay. Imagine what my feelings must have been at this moment, but I had yet a much greater mortification still. The next day there was a Court of Enquiry. A Captain and two Subalterns. I was examined; I told my story, as it happened, except how far Mr. McGill was concerned, but one of the men flatly told the Court that McGill had given them leave to sell the negroes.
I was then again called and examined as to that fact. To this I refused to answer. Whatever I have done I must be the sufferer, for I would say nothing that would in the least injure Mr. McGill. “Captain Shank, who was President of the Court, urged me to say how far the story given by the men was correct, for it might do away with the charge against myself, otherwise he feared it would be the means of my losing my promotion.” I replied that I had already said what I should say, let the consequence be what it would. On this the Court broke up, and what report they made I never knew, but I rather suspect that McGill must have been examined, and denied giving any such leave from what took place afterwards. The next morning after the men were assembled for the morning parade, Colonel Simcoe called me to him, and laying his head down on the neck of his horse gave me one of the most severe reprimands I believe man ever received, and told me decidedly “that I had lost my promotion and his countenance forever. Go Sir and join your Troop.” I returned to my duty more dead than alive. One of the Officers, I think it was Mr. McNab, was going to New York the next day, and I took the opportunity of writing my relation, a Mr. Jarvis who was in the Commissarist, and in my letter gave him a true statement of facts, enjoining him to secrecy; that he was not to divulge it until after my death —for I determined the first action that gave me opportunity, either to sacrifice my life or retrieve my character —at all events I do not think I should long have survived. I lost my appetite, and my sleep went from me; my frame decayed, and in a few days I was a complete skeleton.
One evening after parade was dismissed, both Mr. McGill and myself were desired to attend the Colonel, and after all the officers had retired, he then taxed McGill of giving the men liberty to sell the negroes, which he denied. The Colonel then turned to me and said, “Jarvis, did he not give them leave?” I replied, No Sir. He gave me one of those stern looks, which spoke volumes, taking a letter from his pocket handed it to me saying, “Is not that your handwriting?” I was thunderstruck, and it was some time before I could answer. “Speak Sir, speak, is that your letter?” and “Is what you have stated true?” I then answered, Sir it is my letter, and since I must answer, the contents are true, but Sir give me leave to say that if I could have imagined that my friend would have betrayed me and the confidence that I had placed in him, I would have suffered death before I would have wrote that letter now in my hands. “Go to your Troop,” was his reply. What he said to Mr. McGill I forbear mentioning.
Defeat of Conspiracy and Promotion of American Soldier
Not long after this I was one evening ruminating over my misfortunes, in a retired part of our quarters, seated upon a stone in the dusk of the evening, when I was accosted by a voice familiar to me, and embracing me round the neck at the same time, saying, “Dear Jarvis, all is well again, I am sent as a messenger of peace to you, but you must keep it secret that I give you the information. Captain McKay has sent me to say to you that your promotion will take place”. I was so much overcome that it was some time before I could speak, and when I did, I said to McPherson, “don’t sport with my wounded feelings, I have already received my sentence, and I shall not long survive it.” “I tell you Jarvis I have said nothing but the truth.” “Mind what I have said, don’t let it be known that I gave you the good news.” He then left me and returned to his Company. In a few days the Regiment again marched and crossed over to Staten Island, and took up our old quarters at Richmond. The next morning I saw my name in the orderly book as Quartermaster in Captain Saunders’ Troops, with orders for embarkation.
An expedition was formed under General Leslie, of Virginia, and amongst the Troops that composed the Army was one Troop of the 17th Light Dragoons, Captain Saunders, Lieutenant Wellson, Cornet Merritt, Quartermaster Jarvis and a few men of the old Troop of the Queen’s Rangers. Captain Saunders was formerly from Virginia and he went to that place for the purpose of recruiting; clothing, saddles and appointment were placed under my care for the completion of a full Troop of fifty strong. We soon sailed and Captain Saunders with the other Officers and men landed at Norfolk, and marched to that part of the country where he had formerly resided. I was ordered to remain with the baggage until further orders. Captain Saunders, after traversing the country, and procuring a number of very fine horses, took up his quarters at Kemp’s Landing, to which place I was ordered with the baggage and stores. I had hardly got into good quarters before we were again ordered to march and we supposed for, a short expedition only—and a Company took possession of my quarters in my absence. but was to surrender them on my return, which however never took place. We embarked for Charlestown, myself, men, stores and horses in one vessel and the Officers in another. On our leaving Norfolk Captain Saunders had plundered more horses than he was allowed to put on board. He, therefore, distributed them to his Officers and among the rest, gave me a very fine horse.
At sea we had very boisterous weather, our vessel sprang a leak—never so crazy a vessel went to sea. To save our lives, I threw thirty fine horses overboard, but saved every Officer a horse. With great difficulty we got safe into port; every person was down working at the pumps, and had it not been for a fortunate circumstance of having several green ox hides on board, which we cut up in strips, and the Captain lashing himself over-board and nailing the strips over the seams of the vessel, by which means with great exertion we could keep the water under, we would have been lost. We arrived safe at Charlestown, when Captain Saunders with what men he had was ordered to Georgetown. I was ordered to remain with the Stores, set the sailors at work making new clothing for recruits and also to recruit, but left no money with me to recruit with. The consequence was, I never recruited a man for him whilst I remained in the Troop. He also took the horse from me, with a promise to give me another when I joined him again, but as that was not the case I lost my horse. About the time that Captain Saunders went to Georgetown, a party of Americans dashed into the town, and made Colonel Campbell of the King’s American Regiment, who quartered outside the Garrison, a prisoner, and paroled him, and retired without any other person falling into their hands. There was at the time a Captain Campbell who was recruiting a Troop of Dragoons at Georgetown, and who brought the news of Colonel Campbell’s capture to Charlestown. He wished to remain at Charlestown in some business.
He procured an order for me to proceed to Georgetown, with the orders vesting Captain Saunders with the Command of the Garrison, and giving Major Grant of the King’s Americans leave of absence. Captain Campbell kept one horse, and sent his servant with one as a guide. I proceeded on and met an escort at the Santee, who conducted me to Georgetown, where I delivered my dispatches to Captain Saunders, and the next morning returned in company with Colonel Campbell and Major Grant under an escort as far as the Santee on our return. After our arrival at Charlestown, Major Grant made me a present of a little horse, of little value, which I afterwards exchanged with a Hessian Officer for a very smart white pony. This enabled me to ride about the country and amuse myself, overseeing my squad of Tailors at work, and at the same time instructing them in the carbine exercise.
Experiences in charge of uniforms of King’s fighters
Soon after this Captain Campbell made another visit to Charlestown, and was to take back with him several suits of clothing, saddles and appointments for some recruit Captain Saunders had obtained. They were to go part of the way by water, and I had them put on board for that purpose, and called on Captain Campbell to sign a voucher for them. He flew in a violent passion, swore bitterly that he would do no such thing. You won’t Sir was my only reply, I shall order them on shore again, and left him for that purpose, but when the men came on shore, and before the things were landed, Captain Campbell came down to the shore in company with some of the Officers of the 71st Regiment, and I heard Captain Campbell say to them that there was the most obstinate fellow (meaning me) he ever saw in his life, and mentioned the circumstance. One of the gentlemen replied in these words, “I’ll tell you what Campbell, the young gentleman knows his duty. Suppose on the way, those appointments, etc. should fall into the hands of the enemy, and he should be called upon for a statement of the stores in his charge, and he could procure no vouchers, the consequence would be that he would be broke and dismissed the service.”
After some explanation and a promise to indemnify me in case they should be lost and to get Captain Saunders’ certificate and send me, I ordered them on board the vessel again, and I soon received Captain Saunders’ certificate of his receiving them, and all was well. A short time after this I was one day taking my usual ride, I fell in with a Major Fraser (he had formerly belonged to the Rangers) who after the usual salutations said, “Jarvis, I am glad to fall in with you. I have been wishing to see you for some days.” “I wish I had known it Major, I hope it was nothing disagreeable, for of late I have only got out on one difficulty to fall into another.” “No, I assure you,” he said. “It was on a subject I hope much to your advantage.” I am happy to hear it I replied, as I have been a useless animal for this some time past, and I should like for some employment for the good of the service than I am now engaged in. He then said, “Captain Campbell has been speaking with me, and requested me to solicit you to accept a Lieutenancy in, his Troop.”
Commanding Cavalry and procuring sheep for British soldiers
This was a matter so unexpected that I could hardly think him in earnest, and then mentioned the circumstance which happened at our last interview. “Perhaps that is the very cause why he is so desirous for you to join him.” After some enquiry on what establishment his Troop was raised, and his advice how he thought I should act on a matter of such consequence, he “advised me to write to my Commanding Officer, who no doubt would give me such advice as would be acceptable to me,—and if he gives you leave, I advise you by all means to accept of Captain Campbell’s offer.—I wrote to Captain Saunders, received a favorable answer, called on Captain Campbell, who went with me to the Inspector General’s office, had my warrant made out and put in General orders until the Commander-in-Chief should signify his pleasure, to whom a recommendation was sent, and which was by him confirmed. Captain Campbell furnished me with plenty of money, and I earnestly set about recruiting, and in a short time we mustered twenty-six Dragoons with which number we were ordered to take the field, after procuring horses and appointments. This was at the time that Lord Rawden fought the Americans and defeated them at Camden, and the first service I performed was to escort Colonel Balfour to the Santee where we met Lord Rawden.
After having an interview with his and after having an interview with his Lordship, we returned to Charlestown and his Lordship, after disposing of his sick and wounded, proceeded with the Army to relieve our post at Ninety-Six which was closely beseiged by the Americans. In the meantime, a re-inforcement of three Regiments arrived from England, the 3rd, 19th and 30th Regiments. The 19th Regiment, Captain Saunders’ Troop, which had been removed from Georgetown, and Captain Campbell’s Troop were ordered to Monks’ Corner to relieve the Garrison there, who went on to join Lord Rawden. At this point the Commissary, who wished to join his Lordship, invested me as Commissary, and gave me possession of the Stores, and for some time I was both Commissary and Commanding Officer of the Cavalry, and during that period I marched into the country and procured a large drove of beefs and sheep for the Army, which so pleased General Coats who commanded, that he urged me strongly to take a commission in his Regiment, but for sundry motives, not worth mentioning here, I declined. I continued for some weeks to perform this double duty, but found too fatiguing to discharge both. I wrote to the Commissary General to send a person to relieve me. At this time we were re-inforced with the South Carolina Regiment, who for their gallant conduct at Camden, were made Cavalry. This re-inforcement made the Cavalry of great consequence at this post, and we had soon an opportunity to try our mettle.
Scouting with Redcoat dragoons on trail of Americans
General Coats had received intelligence that the enemy intended an attack upon our position at two places at the same time, and in a very short period. I was sent for by the General, who directed me to take four Dragoons and a few Militia and proceed on the road that lead to Charlestown, and go until I should fall in with the enemy, if they were between Monks’ Corner and Goose Creek. I set off a little before sunset in a heavy shower of rain, and before I had proceeded far found that my Militia men had left me, and I was reduced to my four Dragoons, but as my object was intelligence more than fighting I proceeded on. I soon discovered six or eight men advancing towards me, and when they came to a certain distance, challenged me. I said a friend. “What friend?” To the King. At this declaration one of them dismounted and placed his rifle across his horse. I charged his rifle, missed fire. He mounted and with his comrades dashed into the woods. I soon came up with him, and by a well directed stroke laid him in the dust. I ordered my man to secure him, and push forward after the rest. I had nearly overtaken another, when my horse, unfortunately, got entangled in a grape vine, and the man escaped; as the day was so far spent, I could not see to pursue the enemy any further.
I set to camp with my prisoner, and gave him up to the General. He confirmed the information before received. It was my turn for duty that night, and my orders were to patrol on the road leading to the Santee, and I did so, but discovered none of the enemy during the night, but in the morning about sunrise I discovered that a large body of men had approached near the Garrison, and had taken off the road to gain our right flank. I galloped back as fast as I could but before I reached the Camp the enemy had drove in our Sentinels, and were destroying the bridge to prevent our retreat on that route, and then they retraced their steps and took up their position on the road that lead to the Santee. We remained idle during the fore part of the day, but hearing that the American Horse were at a plantation, and their horses were running loose about the field, Major Fraser, of the South Carolina Dragoons, was ordered with the whole Cavalry to proceed and reconnoiter the Troop. I commanded (for Captain Campbell was absent) led, except the advance guard commanded by an Officer. We soon came in sight of the enemy and charged. The Officer with the advance—his horse fell and threw his rider—I said to Major Fraser, I’ll take charge of the advance, did not wait to hear any reply, but set off. I rode a very fleet horse and soon gained the advance, and pressed hard on the enemy, who left the road and took the woods. I soon came up with one, and my Corporal on the other side, and we both made a blow at the same time and gave the fellow his quarters. I heard a shout in my rear, looked round, and found myself in the rear of a large body of the enemy. In wheeling my horse round I broke my stirrup leather and came to the ground.
Encounter with Revolutionists and a flag of truce
However I recovered my seat and then pressed to regain the front of the enemy, or I must he taken prisoner, and I was indebted to the fleetness of my horse for my escape. I had nearly gained the front of the enemy before they discovered me, and they called me to surrender; not yet, thinks I, a little more running first. I found I gained fast upon our Troops, who were retreating in good order. I recovered the roads a few rods in front of the enemy. They fired several shots after me without injury. We met our Infantry with a piece of ordnance. We wheeled about and checked the enemy, and then retired to Camp. By this time our piquet at the bridge leading to Charlestown were attacked, and I was ordered to direct Captain Bell, who commanded, to retire, which he did with no other loss than one of his Officers slightly wounded in the arm, which he was very fond of carrying in a sling for a long time after. We remained until night, when we burned our stores, and commenced our retreat through a bye road that the enemy had no knowledge of. During the night the Troops got separated, and the waggons which were heavily loaded broke down one after the other. Captain Campbell, Paymaster of the 19th Regiment, with the Military chest fell into the enemy’s hands, with all the heavy baggage of the Regiment. We proceeded on until daylight, when we took up a position at a plantation flanked by a navigable stream, over which there was a bridge which we passed, and placed a piece of cannon to guard the bridge. The Cavalry had unbridled their horses at the plantation, and the Infantry began to cook their breakfast. The enemy charged over the bridge and cut the sentry at the cannon down, and then dashed into the wood. The 19th fell in, some without their coats; great confusion ensued, and they began to give ground. The Cavalry mounted and really forced them to face the enemy. Major Fraser then had some consultation with General Coats, took advantage of a high field of corn, and set off and left the 19th to their fate, and pushed for Charlestown, got a re-inforcement and returned to look after the 19th Regiment, who after we left them General Coats drew up his men in the open field, and waited for the enemy, who came on and were re pulsed several times, and at last re treated over the bridge, and sent a flag of truce for leave to bury their dead. Had the Cavalry been with the General, on the retreat of the enemy, we might no doubt have made a glorious day of it, but so it was—they lost all their baggage, but had gained their credit, which in some measure they had tarnished in the morning. I had made up my mind that they would all have been taken prisoners.
A Loyalist and a Patriot in Death Duel on Battlefield
We all marched to Charlestown and in a few days Captain Campbell’s Troop were drafted into the South Carolina Regiment, but before this took place, the Regiment had taken a Colonel Haines who was executed as a traitor. Captain Saunders also with his and Captain Campbell’s Troop made an excursion into the country and attacked a body of the enemy at Snipe’s Plantation—we approached the place at sunrise in the morning, found the gate leading to the house secured with a large ox chain, and the fences each side made very strong, which it took some time to demolish under a heavy fire from the enemy. We at last succeeded, and the enemy retreated back into a large rice field, where they were over taken and very few of them escaped with their lives, and only one man taken prisoner, who was so shame fully mangled that we could not bring him away-one of the enemy, who had nearly gained a wood, discovered that no person was following him but myself, waited for me, and when I had got at a certain distance, levelled his rifle. I expected at least he would have killed my horse. To turn from him was to me certain death. I therefore dashed towards him. He fired and missed me and my horse and before he could raise his rifle he was a dead man. We returned to our quarters with a few horses which we had taken. We were now stationed at Dorchester, twenty miles. from Charlestown, with some Troops, of Infantry. Captain Campbell’s Troop now became a part of the South Carolina Regiment and we with sonic Hessian Troops and the 30th Regiment formed a body of Troops for an expedition towards Georgia.
Note: The above text is a transcript of Part I of the manuscript. You can see Part I and Part II in the scanned images of The Connecticut Magazine on archive.org. You may also find a merged and complete version HERE.