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Narrative of Ensign D' Bernicre



The latter end of February, 1775, Captain Brown and myself received orders to go through the Counties of Suffolk and Worcester, and sketch the Roads as we went, for the information of General Gage, as he expected to have occasion to march Troops through that country the ensuing Spring.

We set out from Boston, on Thursday, disguised like countrymen, in brown clothes and reddish handkerchiefs round our necks; at the Ferry of Charlestown, we met a sentry of the Fifty-second Regiment, but Captain Brown' s


servant, whom we took along with us, bid him not to take any notice of us, so that we passed unknown to Charlestown. From that we went to Cambridge, a pretty Town, with a College built of brick; the ground is entirely level on which the Town stands. We next went to Watertown, and were not suspected. It is a pretty large Town for America, but would be looked upon as a Village in England; a little out of this Town we went into a Tavern, a Mr˙ Brewers, a Whig; we called for dinner, which was brought in by a black woman, at first she was very civil, but afterwards began to eye us very attentively; she then went out and a little after returned, when we observed to her that it was a very fine country, upon which she answered so it is, and we have got brave fellows to defend it, and if you go up any higher you will find it so. This disconcerted us a good deal, and we imagined she knew, us from our papers, which we took out before her, as the General had told us to pass for surveyors; however, we resolved not to sleep there that night, as we had intended, accordingly we paid our bill, which amounted to two Pounds odd Shillings, but it was old tenor. After we had left the house we inquired of John, our servant, what she had said; he told us that she knew Captain Brown very well, that she had seen him five years before at Boston, and knew him to be an officer, and that she was sure I was one also, and told John that he was a regular — he denied it; but she said she knew our errant was to take a plan of the country; that she had seen the River and Road through Charlestown on the paper; she also advised him to tell us not to go any higher, for if we did we should meet with very bad usage. Upon this we called a council, and agreed that if we went back we should appear very foolish, as we had a great number of enemies in Town, because the General had chose to employ us in preference to them; it was absolutely necessary to push on to Worcester, and run all risk rather than go back until we were forced. Accordingly we continued our route and went about six miles further; we met a country fellow driving a team, and a fellow with him whom we suspected to be a deserter; they both seemed very desirous to join company with us, and told us, upon our saying we were going towards Worcester, that they were going our way. As we began to suspect something, we stopped at a Tavern, at the sign of the Golden-ball, with an intention to get a drink and so proceed; but upon our going in the landlord pleased us so much, as he was not inquisitive, that we resolved to lie there that night; so we ordered some fire to be made in the room we were in, and a little after to get us some Coffee; he told us we might have what we pleased, either Tea or Coffee. We immediately found out with whom we were, and were not a little pleased to find, on some conversation, that he was a friend to Government; he told us that he had been very ill used by them some time before, but that since he had shewed them that he was not to be bullied, they had left him pretty quiet. We then asked him for the Inns that were on the road between his house and Worcester; he recommended us to two, one at about nine miles from his house, a Mr˙ Buckminster' s, and another at Worcester, a namesake of his own, a Mr˙ Jones.

The second day was very rainy, and a kind of frost; with it, however, we resolved to set off, and accordingly we proceeded to Mr˙ Buckminster' s; we met nothing extraordinary on the road; we passed some time in sketching a Pass that lay on our road, and of consequence were very dirty and wet on our arrival. On our entering the house we did not much like the appearance of things; we asked for dinner, and they gave us some sausages; we praised every thing exceedingly, which pleased the old woman of the house much; when we told them we intended staying the night, they gave us a room to ourselves, which was what we wanted; after being there some time we found we were pretty safe, as by that time we perceived that the cote du pays was not a dangerous one; of consequence we felt very happy, and Brown, I, and our man John, made a very hearty supper, for we always treated him as our companion, since our adventure with the black woman. We slept there that night, and the next morning being a very fine one we resolved to push on for Worcester, which was about thirty miles from us; we proceeded about nine miles without anything extraordinary happening, except meeting two men whom we suspected to be deserters.


We then dined in the woods on a tongue and some cherry brandy we brought with us, and changed our stockings, which refreshed us much, out feet being very wet. We then travelled through a very fine country, missed our way and went to Southborough; we were obliged to turn back a mile to get the right road. We then passed through Shrewsbury, all a fine open cultivated country. We came into a pass about four miles from Worcester, where we were obliged to stop to sketch. We arrived at Worcester at five o' clock in the evening, very much fatigued; the people in the Town did not take notice of us as we came in, so that we got safe to Mr˙ Jones' s Tavern; on our entrance he seemed a little sour, but it wore off by degrees and we found him to be our friend, which made us very happy; we dined and supped without any thing happening out of the common run.

The next day being Sunday, we could not think of travelling, as it was contrary to the custom of the country; nor dare we stir out until the evening, because of meeting, and nobody is allowed to walk the streets during divine service, without being taken up and examined; so that thinking we could not stand, the examination so well, we thought it prudent to stay at home, where we wrote and corrected our sketches. The landlord was very attentive to us, and on our asking what he could give us for breakfast, he told us Tea or any thing else we chose — that was an open confession what he was; but for fear he might be imprudent we did not tell him who we were, though we were certain he knew it. In the evening we went round the Town, and on all the Hills that command it, sketched every thing we desired, and returned to the Town without being seen. That evening about eight o' clock the landlord came in and told us there were two gentlemen who wanted, to speak with us; we asked him who they were? on which he said we would be safe in their company; we said we did not doubt that, as we hoped that two gentlemen who travelled merely to see the country and stretch our limbs, as we had lately come from Sea, could not meet with anything else but civility, when we behaved ourselves properly; he told us he would come in again in a little time, and perhaps we would change our minds, and then left us; — an hour after he returned, and told us the gentlemen were gone, but had begged him to let us know, as they knew us to he officers of the Army, that all their friends of Government, at Petersham, were disarmed by the Rebels, and that they threatened to do the same at Worcester in a very little time; he sat and talked politicks, and drank a bottle of wine with us, and also told us that none but a few friends to Government knew we were in Town; we said it was very indifferent to us whether they did or not, though we thought very differently; however, as we imagined we had staid long enough in that Town, we resolved to set off at daybreak the next morning, and get to Framingham; accordingly off we set, after getting some roast beef and brandy from our landlord, which was very necessary on a long march, and prevented us going into houses where perhaps they might be too inquisitive.

We took a Road we had not come, and that led us to the Pass four miles from Worcester; we went on unobserved by any one until we passed Shrewsbury, where we were overtaken by a horseman who examined us very attentively, and; especially me, whom he looked at from head to foot, as if he wanted to know me again; after he had taken his observations he rode off pretty hard and took the Marlborough Road, but by good luck we took the Framingham Road again to be more perfect in it, as we thought it would be the one made use of. We arrived at Buckminster' s Tavern about six o' clock that evening; the Company of Militia, were exercising near the house, and an hour after they came and performed their feats before the windows of the room we were in; we did not feel very easy at seeing such a number so very near us; however, they did not know who we were, and took little or no notice of us. After they had done their exercise, one of their commanders spoke a very eloquent speech, recommending patience, coolness and bravery, (which indeed they much wanted,) particularly told them they would always conquer if they did not break, and recommended them to charge us coolly, and wait for our fire, and everything would succeed with them — quotes Caesar and Pompey,


Brigadiers Putnam and Ward, and all such great men; put them in mind of Cape Breton, and all the battles they had gained for his Majesty in the last war, and observed that the Regulars must have been ruined but for them. After so learned and spirited an harangue, he dismissed the parade, and the whole company came into the house and drank until nine o' clock, and then returned to their respective homes full of pot-valour.

We slept there that night and nobody in the house suspected us. Next morning we set off for Weston, had a very agreeable day, haying fine weather and a beautiful country to travel through; we met nothing extraordinary on the road; nobody knew us, and we were asked very few questions.

On our arrival at Mr˙ Jones' s, we met with a very welcome reception, he being our friend; we received several hints from the family not to attempt to go any more into the country; but as we had succeeded so well heretofore, we were resolved to go the Sudbury Road (which was the main Road that led to Worcester,) and go as far as the thirty-seven mile-stone, where we had left the main Road, and taken the Framingham Road. We slept at Jones' s that night, and got all our sketches together and sent them to Boston with our man, so that if they did stop and search us, they would not get our papers. The next day was very cloudy and threatened bad weather; towards twelve o' clock it snowed; we dined soon, in hopes the weather would clear up. At two o' clock it ceased snowing a little, and we resolved to set off for Marlborough, which was about sixteen miles off; we found the Roads very bad, every step up to our ankles; we passed through Sudbury, a very large village, near a mile long; the Causeway lies across a great swamp; or overflowing of the River Sudbury, and commanded by a high ground on the opposite side; nobody took the least notice of us until we arrived within three miles of Marlborough, (it was snowing hard all the while,) when a horseman overtook us and asked us from whence we came; we said from Weston; he asked if we lived there, we said no; he then asked us where we resided, and as we found there was no evading his questions, we told him we lived at Boston; he then asked us where we were going, we told him to Marlborough, to see a friend, (as we intended to go to Mr˙ Barnes' s, a gentleman to whom we were recommended, and a friend to Government;) he then asked us if we were in the Army, we said not, — but were a good deal alarmed at his asking us that question; he asked several rather impertinent questions, and then rode on for Marlborough, as we suppose, to give them intelligence there of our coming, for on our entering the Town the people came out of their houses (though it snowed and blew very hard) to look at us; in particular a baker asked Captain Brown, where are you going master? he answered, on to see Mr˙ Barnes.

We proceeded to Mr˙ Barnes' s, and on our beginning to make an apology for taking the liberty to make use of his house, and discovering to him that we were officers in disguise, he told us we need not be at the pains of telling him, that he knew our situation, that we were very well known (he was afraid) by the Town' s people. We begged he would recommend some tavern where we should be safe, he told us we could be safe no where but in his house; that the Town was very violent, and that we had been expected at Colonel Williams' s the night before, where there had gone a party of liberty people to meet us — (we suspected, and indeed had every reason to believe, that the horseman that met us and took such particular notice of me the morning we left Worcester, was the man who told them we should be at Marlborough the night before, but our taking the Framingham Road when he had passed us, deceived him.) Whilst we were talking, the people were gathering in little groups in every part of the Town. Mr˙ Barnes asked us who had spoke to us on our coming into the Town? we told him a baker; he seemed a little startled at that; told us he was a very mischievous fellow, and that there was a deserter at his house; Captain Brown asked the man' s name, he said it was Swain, that he had been a drummer; Brown knew him too well, as he was a man of his own Company, and had not been gone above a month; so we found we were discovered. We asked Mr˙ Barnes if they did get us into their hands; what they would do with us? he did not seem to like to answer; we asked him


again, he then said we knew the people very well, that we might expect the worst of treatment from them. Immediately after this Mr˙ Barnes was called out; he returned a little, after and told us the Doctor of the Town had come to tell him he was come to sup with him — (now this fellow had not, been within Mr˙ Barnes' s doors for two years before, and came now for no other business than to see and betray us;) Barnes told him he had company and could not have the pleasure of attending him that night; upon this the fellow stared about the house, and asked one of Mr˙ Barnes' s children who her father had got with him? the child innocently answered that she had asked her pappa, but he told her that it was not her business; he then went, I suppose, to tell the rest of his crew. When we found we were in that situation, we resolved to lie down for two or three hours, and set off at twelve o' clock at night; so we got some supper on the table, and were just beginning to eat, when Barnes (who had been making inquiry of his servants) found they intended to attack us, and then he told us plainly he was very uneasy for us, that we could be no longer in safety in that Town; upon which we resolved to set off immediately, and asked Mr˙ Barnes if there was no road round the Town, so that we might not be seen; he took us out of his house by the stables, and directed us a bye road which was to lead us a quarter of a mile from the Town; it snowed and blew as much as ever I see it in my life; however, we walked pretty fast, fearing we should be pursued; at first we felt much fatigued, having not been more than twenty minutes at Mr˙ Barnes' s to refresh ourselves, and the roads (if possible) were worse than when we came; but in a little time after it wore off, and we got, without being perceived, as far as the hills that command the Causeway at Sudbury, and went into a little wood where we eat a bit of bread that we took from Mr˙ Barnes' s, and eat a little snow to wash it down. After that we proceeded about one hundred yards, when a man came out of a house and said those words to Captain Brown, "What do you think will become of you now?" which startled us a good deal, thinking that we were betrayed. We resolved to push on at all hazards, but expected to be attacked on the Causeway; however we met nobody there, so began to think it was resolved to stop us in Sudbury, which Town we entered when we passed the Causeway. About a quarter of a mile in the Town we met three or four horsemen, from whom we expected a few shot; when we came nigh they opened to the right and left and quite crossed the Road, however they let us pass through them without taking, any notice, their opening being only chance; but our apprehensions made us interpret every thing against us. At last we arrived at our friend Jones' s again, very much fatigued, after walking thirty-two miles between two o' clock and half-after ten at night, through a road that every step we sunk up to the ankles, and it blowing and drifting snow all the way. Jones said he was glad to see us back, as he was sure we should meet with ill usage in that part of the country, as they had been watching for us some time; but said he found we were so deaf to his hints that he did not like to say any thing for fear we should have taken it ill. We drank a bottle of mulled, Madeira wine, which refreshed us very much, and went to bed and slept as sound as men could do that were very much fatigued. The next morning, after breakfast, we set off for Boston. Jones shewed us a Road that took us a quarter of a mile below Watertown Bridge, as we did not choose to go through that Town. We arrived at Boston about twelve o' clock, and met General Gage and General Haldimand, with their Aid-de-Camps, walking out on the Neck, they did not know us until we discovered ourselves; we besides met several officers of our acqu aintance, who did not know us.

A few days after our return Mr˙ Barnes came to Town from Marlborough, and told us, immediately on our quitting the Town, the Committee of Correspondence came to his house and demanded us; he told them we were gone; they then searched his house from top to bottom, looked under the beds, and in their cellars, and when they found we were gone, they told him if they had caught us in his house they would have pulled it about his ears. They then sent horsemen after us every road; but as we had the start of them, and the weather being so very bad, they either did not overtake us, or missed us. Mr˙ Barnes told


them we were not officers, but relations of his wife' s, from Penobscot, and were going to Lancaster; that, perhaps, might have deceived them.