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majority was on the side of the King, but the long list of patriots comprised the names of most of the men of integrity and influence whose possessions were wholly on this side of the Atlantic. Personal interest was strong at first, but, in the end, patriotism had its triumph.
Four days after the fruitless conference of the commissioners, Lord Howe made a landing on Manhattan Island and endeavored to sever the Continental army with the view of capturing its divided fragments in detail. The movement was almost a success. Washington's army was scattered between the Battery and King's Bridge. Two divisions of the enemy landed at Turtle and Kip's Bays and easily drove the American militia before them, but lost the fruits of their victory by leisurely marching down the East River road to the city. The fleet on the Hudson contented itself with a cannonade of the Bloomingdale road that did little harm. Washington saw at a glance the danger that threatened his army. At the first sound of the cannonade at Kip's Bay, he rode down among the affrighted militiamen, and, in a paroxysm of rage at their panic, dashed his hat upon the ground and threatened the fugitives with death. Drawn from the field of battle by one of his aides, he at once sent word to
Putnam to retreat to Har
narrow had been the escape of Putnam's army that day. When Sir William Howe, accompanied by Clinton and Tryon, had landed at Kip's Bay with the main body of the British army, they struck across to the Middle Road, intending to make their camp on the heights of Inclenburg, midway between New York and Harlem. They reached the road at a point just opposite to where Putnam was stealing along, under cover of the woods that skirted the Hudson, to rejoin Washington. There was a house near by, from whose upper windows they might easily have discovered the dust created by the rapid march of the "rebels," and from its cupola the gleam of bayonets would have been plainly visible. The Americans were not distant, indeed, but there was another and more insidious foe near at hand. Close to the Middle Road, at a point now designated by the corporation as Fifth Avenue and Thirty-seventh street, stood the unpretentious but exceedingly comfortable mansion of RobertMurray, a Quaker merchant of approved loyalty to the Crown, as well as of large wealth. Fortunately the shrewd merchant could not control the feelings of his household, and his wife and daughters were ardent patriots. When Lord Howe and his staff reached the edge of the Quaker's gardens
lem, and take measures to 195/4503 concentrate his entire forces ods in comofil on Harlem Heights. Gen-deni boles eral Putnam was forced to abandon his heavy cannon and many of his stores, and, even thus, his flight was impeded by a throng of fugitives, men, women, and children, with their baggage. Guided by Aaron Burr he made a rapid march along the Hudson, happily escaping discovery until he had reached the Bloomingdale road, and finally reaching camp with a comparatively insignificant loss. day was hot, the fugitives were fairly panting with thirst and fatigue, but Putnam on his foaming charger flew from one end of the line to the other, entreating, urging, and dealing in stout objurgations until his charge had passed, at night-fall, the American pickets on the heights of Harlem.
Neither soldier nor fugitive knew how
they were enraptured to find Mrs. Murray and her beautiful daughters ready to greet them with a warm welcome. The parties had once met in more peaceful days.
"William," said the fair Quaker matron, "will thee alight and refresh thyself at our house?"
"I thank you, Mrs. Murray," said the
pleasure-loving commander, "but I must first catch that rascally Yankee, Putnam."
The Yankee General was not to be caught this time, if woman's wit could save him, even if the truth must be tortured into a shape that should deceive in order to save life. Very demurely the lady rejoined, in that plain language of her sect which always carries with it such an emphasis of truth:
"Did'st thou not hear that Putnam had gone? It is late to try to catch him. Thee had better come in and dine."
The invitation was seconded by the brightest smiles of the daughters, and Howe wavered. Promising to pursue the hated Yankees after he had dined, the British commander alighted and entered the house, where the fascinations of his charming hostesses made him forget for hours the object of his expedition. Putnam meanwhile was flying up the Bloomingdale road, never daring to draw breath until he caught sight of Washington's tents. Thacher, in his "Military Journal," writes that it became a common saying among the American officers that Mrs. Murray had saved Putnam's division. The Murray mansion was approached by an avenue of magnolias, spruces, elms, and Lombardy poplars, that led to a wide lawn, and was bordered on either side by extensive gardens. It was called "Belmont," and is frequently spoken of by chroniclers of the day as one of the loveliest spots on the island. During the occupation of the city by the British forces, it was crowded with scarlet coats and powdered wigs. Major André wrote of its chief attractions:
"I cannot pretend to do justice to the Misses Murray."
Mrs. Robert Murray was a Miss Lindley, of Philadelphia, a celebrated Quaker belle, and her eldest son was Lindley Murray, the noted grammarian. Having injured his spine in early life by a gymnastic feat, it was for his comfort that Mr. Murray introduced in New York the first state coach the colonists had seen. It cost £15.14s., and was looked upon as an aristocratic innovation by those who could not afford such a luxury. Hence the time-serving old merchant was moved to speak of it as "a leathern conveniency," hoping thereby to stem the current of adverse criticism. Mrs. Murray died not long after her patriotic feat in saving the army of General Putnam. Fashion has retained the name of the family, and Murray Hill is known as a center of wealth and culture.
In the colonial days it was held to be a necessity that every gentleman of wealth
THE BLUE BELL TAVERN NEAR KING'S BRIDGE
and the neighboring territory of Westchester were dotted here and there with these elegant country houses, in which something of the baronial style of the motherland was observed. At Thirty-fourth street and Second Avenue stood for nearly two hundred years the Kip house, which for a long time after the British took possession of the island was used as headquarters by the officers. Not far distant were the Keteltas mansion and the Watts house, looking out upon the East River, and over to the wooded shores of Newtown creek. Across the island, on the Hudson, were the country-seats of Oliver Delancey, Clark and Scott. The massive residence of the Apthorpes, at Bloomingdale, carried in its looks the evidence of its owner's wealth, and we find his generosity recorded in 1760, when the newspapers of the day reported that Charles Ward Apthorpe, merchant, donated £100 to the sufferers from a great fire which had devastated the city of Boston. The house was erected in 1764. The burial-place of the Apthorpes, as of many of the old families whose names have become household words to New Yorkers, is the church-yard of Old Trinity. Some of these old mansions yet stand, though mainly in such a state as only testifies to their past grandeur. The dining-room of the old house built in 1740 at Ninety-second street and Ninth avenue, by Colonel Thorne, from material brought from England, still bears witness that floor, ceiling and sides are of mahogany; but it has forgotten the voices of Clinton and Hamilton, and echoes now only the music of German singing societies. Beyond were the manor houses of Van Cortlandt, Phillipse, Wharton, and others, who experienced alternately, during the long war of the Revolution, the tender
mercies and terrible cruelties of friend and foe. On the Van Cortlandt estate, Neemaum, or Nimham, chief of the Stockbridge Indians, perished in battle with sixty of his braves, while fighting under the patriot flag against the legions of Simcoe and Tarleton.
The good burghers of the last century were men fond of their own comfort, and they always sought substantial entertainment when on their travels as well as at home. Their inns were not noted for any richness of architecture, but they abounded in the best of cheer and were solid and substantial as well within as without. One of the most noted of these hostelries was the Blue Bell tavern, which was built upon the King's Bridge road, a short distance below Fort Washington. Travelers knew it well and loved its larder, which at the time when the War for Independence broke out had become proverbial. The old inn stands yet, remembered only by the few who partook of its hospitalities before the Boston and Albany stage-coach had disappeared and when farmers "baited" at its door. It has forgotten its revolutionary memories; perhaps, even that on the morning of the day when the British troops evacuated New York, General Washington and Governor Clinton stood before it while the army, with uncovered heads, marched by. The old inn is now but a relic of a past civilization. The first shriek of the locomotive's whistle consigned it to oblivion. With a more ambitious title, but with no more of comfort, the modern hotel has succeeded to its hospitality.
While the Americans occupied the city of New York, they erected numerous fortifications on the shores of the island. The largest of these was Fort Washington, situated on the highest eminence on the island, above One Hundred and Eighty-first street, on the Hudson River. It was built of earth, was irregular in shape, and covered several acres. On the promontory just below it, Jeffery's Hook, a strong redoubt was erected, and another was thrown up at about the same distance to the north. Remains of these works can yet be discovered by the curious tourist. Twenty-four heavy cannon,
besides smaller pieces and mortars, were mounted in these fortifications. Early in November, 1776, the British invested Fort Washington, in which, after the evacuation of the redoubts, the entire American garrison was gathered. With all the reinforcements the American commander received, he could count but about two thousand men, and he was assailed by fully thrice
that number of well-drilled British soldiers and Hessians. After a desperate fight he was compelled to surrender, and the prisons of New York, already gorged with the patriots who had been captured on Long Island, were crowded to repletion with the hapless garrison of Fort Washington. General Washington, with Greene, Putnam and Mercer, watched the conflict from the roof of the Morris house. They had a narrow escape from capture, for within fifteen minutes after their departure the British troops camped upon the lawn.
Great were the rejoicings of the loyalists in New York when the news came that the British army had gained undisputed possession of the entire island. In spite of the depression and loss occasioned by the great fire of September 21st, all prepared for a time of pleasure and gayety. A theater was opened on John street, public balls were arranged, and the wealthier merchants opened their houses with lavish display to their old masters. True, somebody suffered. The Dutch churches were converted into
prisons and store-houses. Wounded Hessians filled the quaint old edifice in which the Lutherans worshiped (at the north-east corner of Frankfort and William streets), and the ground in the rear was furrowed with the graves of these wretched victims of a monarch's avarice. Subsequently this edifice became a military prison, and its walls re-echoed the sighs of starving patriots. The French Huguenot church fared no better, and a similar fate befell the Brick Church and the Friends' meeting-house. Only one of these ecclesiastical prisons remains standingthe Middle Dutch Church, on Nassau street, and it finds a companion to recall the bitter memory of its prison experience in the old Rhinelander sugar-house, on the corner of William and Duane streets, whose dingy walls and blackened beams form a fit accompaniment to the tale of British barbarities. It is vain to wish these venerable buildings a prolonged existence, since the hand of the Destroyer has already marked them for his own. It is something, in this progressive age, to have preserved them to the dawn of our Centennial.
Terrible as was the condition of those confined in the military prisons of New York, the sufferings of those imprisoned on the hulks were infinitely more horrible. Early in the war a number of unseaworthy ships were moored in the Wallabout and used for the incarceration of American captives. The most notorious of these hulks was the "Jersey," whose evil repute has never been matched except by the Black Hole of Calcutta. Originally a sixty-four gun ship, the "Jersey" was dismantled in 1776, and in 1780 she was sent to the Wallabout for the reception of the prisoners. With a refinement of cruelty her guard was composed of brutal Hessian soldiers. Frequently a thousand Continental soldiers were confined on board, and there they sickened, sank, and died by scores. At night the hatches were battened down, and the smothering prisoners slept in serried ranks, careless whether they woke again or not, and made conscious of each day's return by the shout of their jailer: "Rebels, turn out your dead!" History tells only in part the story of those sufferers, but some of the incidents
are most pitiful. Two young men, brothers, were confined in the "Jersey." The elder took the fever and became delirious. On the night of his death he came to his senses, spoke of his mother and begged for a little water. His brother prayed the guard on
THE PRISON SHIP "JERSEY."
his knees for a cup of water, and then offered him a guinea for a bit of candle, that he might see his brother die. Both requests were refused. The survivor closed his brother's eyes in the dark, and then recorded his vow: "If it please God that I regain my liberty, I'll be a most bitter enemy." Liberty came, he rejoined the army, and when the war ended he had eight large and one hundred and twenty-seven small notches on his rifle-stock. His brother was avenged.
A poet of the period has written:
"But such a train of endless woes abound,
So many mischiefs in these Hulks are found,
The "New Hampshire Gazette" of April 26th, 1777, says:
"The enemy in New York continues to treat the American prisoners with great barbarity. Their allowance to each man for three days is one pound of beef, three wormeaten, moldy biscuits, and a quart of salt water. The meat they are obliged to eat raw, as they have not the smallest allowance of fuel. Owing to this more than savage cruelty, the prisoners die fast, and in the small space of three weeks (during the winter) no less than 1,700 brave men perished. Lieutenant Catlin narrates that he, with 225 men, was put on board the 'Glasgow' at
New York, on the 25th of December, 1777, to be carried to Connecticut for exchange. They were on shipboard eleven days, crowded between decks, and twenty-eight of their number died through illness in that brief space of time."
It was useless to endeavor to extend a helping hand to the prisoners. Their friends were denied admission, and supplies sent to them were seized by Captain Cunningham, the provost-marshal, and applied to his own use. If the captives were sick they were not allowed to send for a doctor, nor were they admitted to a hospital, but they took their own risk of life or death, with all the chances against them. Wives who attempted to visit their husbands were subjected to insults and blows, and many a man died and made no sign to her whom he most loved, in order to spare the outrage of her feelings by British officers. authors of these cruelties have passed to judgment at the bar of history, and the facts are only recalled as witnesses to the price paid for the independence of the colonies. Whatever New York lost through the love of royalty displayed by some of her wealthier sons, was more than made up by the uncomplaining fortitude of the thousands of patriot prisoners who perished on her soil. Their sorrows have sanctified for all time the busy streets where trade holds undivided sway. Above the din of traffic the people of to-day hear the dying whisper of those who passed from the filth of a prison pen to the glory of martyrdom, with only the regret that they could not strike one more blow for freedom.
The flower of the British army was quartered in New York. The streets were radiant with the red coats of the grenadiers, the plaids and plumes of the Highlanders, and the gaudy uniform of Waldeck, and were continually active with the stirring scenes of
At first the presence of British gold seemed to bring prosperity. Local trade was brisk, and the hearts of householders were made happy by successful forays of the soldiers into the rich farming districts that had hitherto supplied the market. It was pleasant to see the wagons returning heaped up with produce which had been gathered without the formality of payment. The loyalists of the day deemed that they had done wisely in trusting to a King whose Parliament could vote inexhaustible supplies of gold for carrying on the war, rather than to dabble with the paper currency of the Continental Congress, which had so largely expanded with each successive session of
that body, that its future worthlessness could readily be foreseen. But the followers of royalty reckoned without their host. There came a time when they had bitter reason to remember their error in judgment. The patriot forces began to overrun the neighboring territory and cut off supplies. In one "dry summer" beef sold for three shillings per pound; turkeys brought half a guinea each; oysters were held at sixteen shillings the hundred, and potatoes could not be bought for less than half a guinea per bushel. It is no wonder that under these circumstances the "refugee poor" suffered so terribly that the "New York Poor Lottery" was instituted for their benefit, and the theater was put under contribution.
Sometimes, too, the cold pinched terribly. In the "hard winter" of 1779-80, both the East and Hudson rivers were frozen so solidly as to be traveled by teams, and cannon were dragged over the frozen bay, from Fort George to Staten Island. There was at the time such a dearth of fuel in the city that fences, sheds, and abandoned houses were torn down to supply the want of cordwood. It happened, also, that the want of provisions kept pace with the scarcity of firewood, and all but the privileged class were put on short allowance. Potatoes rose to a guinea a bushel, and oatmeal biscuits were counted out to the British troops. Yet New York at this time was not in a state of siege, nor was it threatened by an armed enemy. It was merely experiencing the truth of the patriot promise that the land should be made a desert before it would be surrendered to a king. Perhaps, however, the royalists were congratulating themselves that they were not so badly off as their enemies. They found abundant subject for ridicule in the condition of the Continental currency, and appreciated the joke much more keenly than the officers and men who received the paper tokens as payment for their services. Rivington's "Royal Gazette" of December 22d, 1779, says: "Monday se'night was offered for sale at the Coffee-House, a Congress bill of 70 dollars; the first bidder offered three shillings New York currency for it, the next 6d. more, and it went on at 6d. more till 6s. 6d. The bidders began then with coppers, and came up to 7s. and 3 coppers; at last they offered farthings, and the 70 dollar bill was knocked off for eight shillings and threepence halfpenny." It must be remembered, in this connection, that the British Government had printed and issued large quantities of counterfeit Continental currency, and thus