THE manuscript which is here printed for the first time was purchased in 1901 by the Library of Princeton University at the sale of the late General William Scudder Stryker's collection. It had been given to General Stryker by Governor Charles S. Olden of New Jersey who believed it to have been handed down in his family from the day of its composition a hundred and thirty years ago. It consists of twenty-four folio numbered pages, the final paragraph of which was written on April 18, 1777. The manuscript is brown with age and has suffered severely from exposure and careless handling. It has been folded in the middle and the outer leaves have crumbled along the fold, while the upper right-hand quarters of the first and last leaves are wanting altogether, causing gaps in the first two and last two pages. The handwriting is well formed and regular, and is evidently that of an old man. The document is unsigned.
General Stryker, who in his History of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton was the first to note in print the existence of the manuscript, followed the Olden family tradition by referring to it as the "diary of Thomas Olden of Princeton." Mr. Olden lived in the little frame house which is locally well known as the lodge of "Drumthwacket," the residence today of M. Taylor Pyne, Esq., and formerly of Governor Olden.
It is not pleasant to destroy family tradition; but the fact is that the first page of the Narrative — it is not a diary —
viiicontains the proof that Thomas Olden did not write it. For there the author plainly states that in the winter of 1776-77 he was in his eighty-fifth year; and according to indisputable family records Thomas Olden was born in 1735, and therefore could not have been more than forty-one or forty-two at the time in question. This of itself is sufficient to put him out of court as the author. But a second bit of internal evidence also discredits the traditional view. It will be noticed that although a large part of the Narrative is devoted to an account of the damage done to property in and around Princeton, the author does not mention any losses he himself sustained. Now Thomas Olden did suffer at the hands of the British and Hessians and his claim is duly filed in the Middlesex County Book of Damages preserved in the State Library at Trenton, N. J. If he were the author of the Narrative his omission to mention his own losses would be inexplicable.
The impossibility of admitting Mr. Olden's authorship is the more regrettable to me because every effort to supply his place has proved unavailing. The author's allusions to himself are so vague that no clue has been found satisfactory, and I fear that until some well authenticated manuscript turns up in the handwriting of the present document the latter's authorship must remain a mystery.
The Narrative throws no specially new light on the battles of Trenton and Princeton. Its author was not present at the former and witnessed but the beginning of the latter. His account of the Trenton affair is made up from secondhand information. He watched the Princeton fight from his own door until the ubiquitous shot compelled him to take refuge in his cellar. It may be noted that he was not living in the same house when he wrote his story. (Cf. pp. 4, 15, 17 and 21 of his MS.) The Narrative is valuable chiefly as a
ixfirsthand account of the conditions prevailing in Princeton and its vicinity during the "twenty-six days tyranny" of British and Hessian occupation; and its comments on the causes leading to the Revolution and on the methods adopted by Great Britain for suppressing it represent very accurately the views entertained by the majority of the intelligent agricultural population of New Jersey. The author was a man of very fair education and probably was a farmer; he knew his Bible well; he read the newspapers and at least some of the pamphlet literature of the day; and his knowledge of American colonial history was accurate. He was a man of high ideals, honest thinking, grim humor and rugged speech; and he had many friends. His style shows the faults of that of any old man whose profession has not been the scribe's; his thoughts often run away with his pen. But after all he waxes rhetorical only once or twice and in the main his story is told simply and in homely language. That it is a severe arraignment of the conduct of the British and their mercenaries is not surprising, but considering how warmly its author felt its tone is remarkably calm. He has made no effort at fine writing but scattered through his pages are unconscious touches of striking power. For instance, his very casual allusion to the scene at his cottage after the battle is one that sticks in the mind — the house filled and surrounded by American soldiers, some laughing outright, others in their weariness only smiling, all of them hungry and thirsty, Washington himself "on horseback at the door," "… and not a man among them but showed Joy in his countenance." No wonder the old blood tingled in his veins.
The manuscript is printed as written, spelling and punctuation — or rather the lack of it — being carefully observed.
xI have endeavored to be as conservative as possible in my attempted restorations of the missing portions, and all words or parts of words supplied are italicized. Where I have failed to fill gaps the approximate number of lines or parts of lines unfilled is stated. The pagination of the original has been preserved in brackets throughout the text.
I am indebted to Mr. Walter Hart Olden of Princeton and to Dr. Charles C. Abbott of Trenton for many interesting suggestions and much real help in my unsuccessful effort to track down the authorship of the Narrative. Their pains deserved a better result. My notes are based chiefly on W. S. Stryker's History of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton (Boston 1898), John F. Hageman's History of Princeton (Philadelphia 1879) and on the New Jersey Archives, 2d Series, Vol. I (Trenton 1901). I have also used John W. Barber and Henry Howe's Historical Collections of New Jersey (New York 1847), Thomas F. Gordon's History of New Jersey (Trenton 1834), Richard H. Lee's Memoir of the life of R. H. Lee (Philadelphia 1825), William A. Whitehead's East Jersey under the proprietary governments, 2d edition (Newark 1875), and one or two other works to which credit is given in the footnotes, where corroborative manuscript material will also be found fully indicated.
VARNUM LANSING COLLINS.
Library of Princeton University,
April 12, 1906.
A Brief Narrative. — A Brief Narrative of the Ravages committed by the Regular and Hessian Soldiers at Trenton & Princeton and Also of these Battles with Some Remarks and Observations.
I have Often Read and heard of the horror of war but was never near it Until I was in the Eighty fifth Year of my age and I was born the 25th of September 1691
The next Morning, having crossed the Delaware in the night, when the Regulars came to the River our men saw them and fired at the Regulars Which we heard at Princetown the Same morning, Which Prevented their crossing the River (and it is said) Killed and Wounded Several of their men.
Most of the Inhabitants of Prince Town a Day or two before that and some on that day others after left their Dwelling Houses and went where they Could go with their
4Familys to Escape
And at new New Market
6the owners of the Cloth and Intreated them to let him take it out, Which they [p. 2] refused to do and burnt all together. They also Burnt the grist mill and a Framed dwelling House that had Six rooms in it and which Belonged to Major William Scudder
7said to be Burnt by the Regular army who took from the Neighbouring Farmhouse not only the wood but also Straw, Part of it the soldiers slept on and used in various ways to defend them from the cold and the rest they took and burnt and the wheat lost These are some of the rums made by fire in and near Princetown contrary to that Justice which is due to
8all men. It is said that at a house a little out of the Western end of the Town where were a number of Regulars, for Genl. Sterling's
I am informed that they went to tanners and robbed them both of their Tanned, as well as their untanned Leather taken from their Vats. What use the latter may be to them I Know not, Unless it be to make leather Scarce in the Country and impoverish the owners.
9Rotted or not, To use in makeing Fortifycations and that from several they have taken all they had.
On the same day the 8th of December there followed the Regular Army a Parcel of Hessians and took away four Horses from the People to the westard of the town, One of them was said to be valued at a 100 pound, and commited Several other Outrages the same day In pulling of mens hats from their heads, Though the Regular Officers had given them Protections as they went before, In these Words or near it, Viz. Let no Man Presume to Injure A; B. In his Person or Property.
10But as it hapened he had sent them away, before the Regular Army came with all his Household goods and provisions Except what was absolutely Necessary for present use, and [p. 3] many of his Neighbours In and about Princetown had done the like and by that means Saved a good part of their Property. This Method was the very best (if not all) the Safe Protections that could be obtained so much better it is for any Man to be Protected by himself or his friends then to trust his Enemys, Yet this Method did not allways avail as I design to to show hereafter.
There went four of these Hessians to a Gentleman's House (who is called a Quaker) And after they had treated him and his Family in an Insolent Manner a Stout fellow among them laid hold of his Hat on his head and puled it of And he (though but a Smal man and between Fifty and Sixty Years of age) laid hold of their Champion and Struck up his heels and threw him on the Ground and clapt his foot on his Sword and Prevented his drawing it, And took his Hat again from him Upon that the three Other Paltroons Drew their Swords, and he was oblidged to Yield up a very good Hat Though he had a Protection several days before, which was of so little Effect that Afterwards the Regulars Robed him of a fine mare, and broke the door of his Stable to get her out, They also Robed his four Store Hogs
11it is said) Three of their Generals were Present Cornwallice,
12one Instance among many to show the Power of their Protections And Wether they are given to Protect, Or to Allure People to depend on them that they may be Plundered the Easier I shal leave to Others to Determin.
The Regulars and Hessians together Robed and Plundered two wealthy Farmers (that were brothers) of the Greatest part of their moveable Estates About four or five miles from Princetown, and not only took away their Cretures but robed their Houses and ript open their Beds and turned out the feathers and took away the Ticken and left the owners but very little to cover them, or even to live on.
They had yet some other ways to Plunder and Distress the People besides these two that I have Already Mentioned of fire and sword. They go out late in the night and Steal and Kill Sheep and cattle Even Milch Cows and skin them, leave their skins and hides and take away the meat. Another method is this their Officers Bargains with the Inhabitants for forage and [p. 4] other Necessarys and upon the Delivery gives the owners Receipts of the sorts and Quantitys with the Prices,
13Farmers Houses, and they take their Horses with them and take the Farmers Indian corn, Oats, and the very best of his fodder to feed them on.
At a Gentleman Farmers house the next to that where I now live There was with Officers and all one hundred and Seventy of those Genteel Unwelcome Guests. His best Rooms and beds in his House were taken up by the Officers who was fed upon the best Diet that the House afforded. In the mean time The Soldiers took and wasted what they Pleasd of his stalk tops and Oats in the sheif in Makeing sheds to keep them from the Cold when they Stood on Gaurd, besides what their Horses Devoured,
Another officer went to another Farmers House And Imperiously Demanded two of the first Rooms in his house each with a good bed in it for him to lodge in and another to Receive in which he accordly took and the owner with his family was Oblidged to live in his Kitchen, While their horses were Eating and Destroying the very best of his Provender and hay for Which the owner never was paid a farthing.
To give a Particular Account of Every Robery and outrage comited by the Hessians and Regulars In and within five miles of Princetown (which is the Extent of these Observations of villanys done) would fill a Vollum therefore I have only Mentioned a few particulars out of a Multitude and most of those that I have given an Account of are Quakers
14a People that nver bore Arms against them which they Knew well and therefore had some right to their favour and Yet used them in that manner. It cannot Reasonably be Expected that they would use those that had bore Arms against them in a more favourable maner. There was a Wicked company of talebearers that Informed the Regular Officers of their names that had born arms against them, and also of their names that was chosen Officers by the People This gave them an Advantage to call them Rebels and to say that their Estates were Forfeited to the King and that those that were missing (as many of them was) was gone to the Rebel Army. Whereupon Orders were sent by their chief Officers to those that [p. 5] those Wretched Informers had found out had the Keeping of the absent Mens goods or Cretures to Deliver them up so that they lost most (if not all) their Cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and Poultry Besides ravageing their Houses that had left For after they had had got what was needful to them they Broke Destroyed and burnt Tables chairs looking glases and Picture Frames that they Could find, hiding will not protect where there is wicked Informers.
The Damages Done by these Plunderings and Desolations must amout very high and Occasion much Trouble to the Sufferers. Yet they are Vastly short of Another Horrid Outrage that I had not yet mentioned I mean the Ravishing of Women (Which by a Great Defect in Human Nature that is against both Justice and Reason) We Despise these poor Innocent Sufferers in this Brutal Crime Even as long as they live, In time of Peace to avoid so miserable and lasting Reproach I am of the Opinien That many honest virtuous women have suffered in this Manner and kept it Secret for fear of making their lives misserable and so many of those Capital Crimes escape Punishment In time of War When those
15Unnatural Miscreants are sure of Geting of with Impunity they commit them the more frequently. Many of them has been Already mentioned in the Friendly Post.
Taken from an Extract of a Letter Wrote by a Worthy Officer in the Continental army Wherein he gives an Account of some Crimes of that Kind being commited within five miles of Princetown To which I shall only ad Another Tretcherous Villany There was two of Genl. Hows
[p. 6.] There was a Farmer that dwels about a mile from Princetown at the Place where the Battle was fought, Whose Mother is a widow and lived with him, and had half the Rooms in the House for her own use But was Oblidged to leave them, for a captain of the Regulars and his company of Soldiers to come in that was Quartered there. And soon After that they had got in, There came another Captain of the Regulars of an Overgrown Size and Terrifying Countenance and with Insolence equal if not Superior to the huge bulk of his body Demanded a Room with a bed and fire Place in it for him to lodge in. (The man of the House not being Within) the Woman
17came into the field where the Battle was fought, and sent for the man out of his House to ask him some Impertinent Questions, and others of them in the Mean time were Insulting of his sick and feeble wife and Robed her of the Cloak that she wore over her shoulders in bed, She asked them if they Robed Women of their Cloaths and one of them swore that if the Dam'd Rebel Bitch said a word more he Would run his bayonet threw her heart and they Plundered the House of Most of the Valuable goods, and then Drew their Bayonets and Run them threw the feather Bed that the sick woman lay on and swore that there was Rebels that was hid under it, but damn them they would fetch them out. This they Continued to do untill they Spoilt the Bed. And all the While there lay above Twenty wounded men upon Straw in the Next Room,
Another of their Pranks was this The same day that the battle was fought, one of their Captains in the morning compelled a man that lived near Princetown to go with him and his company to show them the way to Trenton The Man was very loth to go and went Slowly, Upon that the Captain bid him Step a long nimbly, for if he did not he swore he would run
18him threw with the drawn Sword that he had in his hand, and the Sergant swore that if he did not lead them right he would shoot him. They went on about a mile & Genl. Washingtons Army being Discovered put them into a Consternation and he got from them. This captain was found in the field of battle Dead, and carried into the mans house that he had Insulted in ye morning
On that same day towards night When that part of the Regular Army that was at Trenton was Return'd, four or five of the Soldiers went to an old Blacksmiths Shop (about 59 years of age) and Perceiving that he had a good pair of new shoes on his feet, they took him Prissoner and conveyed him about a mile back to the Rest of their company. There they confiscated his shoes, being more fit for one of their own Men to wear then for him (Whether it was the sentance of a Court Martial or not I have not heard) The Sentence was Immediately put in Execution, His Shoes was pulled of and one of their own men put them on his feet and Compel'd the poor Old captive to march with them without shoes in his stockings all the way from Princetown to Brunswick (no matter whether his feet froze or not) There they kept him a Day and a night, And no Other crime Appearing against him but only that of wearing good new Shoes of his own Which he had done Severe Pennance for They Dismist him with the loss of his shoes, and very sore feet, and he by the help of a friend procured another pair of shoes, and came limping home again, and left them to Triumph on that Days Victory the noted third day of January 1777 when they took two men and a Woman that could not stand Prisoners one of the men being much younger then the other & haveing shoes on made his Escape The Woman being unable to march they left her so they had in truth none from Princetown to Crown their
19Conquest with but the poor Old Captive without shoes. This is the Renowned Victory Obtained that day near Princetown Which (it is said) is amply set forth in one of the New York news papers
20in the battle. How many more they took on that day from other Places in the like Shameful manner I Know not, but this I Know that they did not take one Prisoner that day in the battle. But on the Contrary all the Prissoners they had in Princetown were set at liberty by their total Defeat Amounting to the namber of…
On the first day of January 1777 from the door of our house we saw a skirmish on the other side of Stoney brook. The light Horsmen Rideing backwards and forwards heard the fireing of their guns and saw the Smoke and two men was found Dead there That as it is supposed were Murdered in a barbarous manner. I shall Relate the matter as it was told to me, Some of the Regular Officers boarded at a house near Princetown. An Old Gentle Woman being in ye Kitchin with the Adjutants Servant, The Regular Soldiers came in from the Gaurd and she heard one of them tell the Servant That he could not do as Brown Did to day The Servant askt him what that was, and he said there was a wounded man that could not Stand and Prayed Brown not to Kill him, upon that
21Brown clapt the Muzzle of his gun to his breast and shot him Dead the Servant said it was murder and so they all said that was Present except one and [p. 9] he said he would have done the same. This is verifyed by two Dead men being found near Stoney brook, one of them was shot in his groin and again threw his breast very probable the man that Brown murdered. The other was shot in his hip and again threw his head and the Palm of his hand and the wrist band of his shirt on the other arm very much burnt with Gun Powder. It is very Probable that this man seeing his murderer point his gun at his head clapt up both his hands to defend it as it natural to us to defend against a blow The bullet entered his head a little above his eye brow and dasht out his brains so that some of them lay on his face. This concerning these men was told to me by a very Reputable Gentleman who saw their Dead bodys, took notice of their wounds, and helpt to bury them.
It is very Probable that these two murders were Committed either in obedience too or at least were Protected by two Cruel Bloody Orders made by Genl. How, one of them I take from the America Crisis
C: S: BURFORO
Smal Stragling Partys not drest like Soldiers and without officers not being admissable in war Who Presumes to Molest or fire upon Soldiers or Peaceable Inhabitants of the Country will be Immediately hanged Without Tryal or as Asasings.
In the abovesaid case Genl. How Did not see so far as his bloody Ruffians did that Murdered the two men, for they not haveing hanging Matterials with them found that if they left the Wounded men to go and get them the men might be carryed of Secreetly or themselves attackt When they came back, And if they took them with them which was very Difficut having no carriage and the danger of an Attack the greater. Therefore shooting must of necessity be done Instead of hanging being much the safest as well as quicker and Easier done, and no matter which way so that Innocent men are but put to death as these two men was by Ruffians much below the dignity of a Common hang man for he Executes none but what has had a tryal and and found Guilty and even for doing that is Detested by Mankind, then how much more do these Wretches deserve their Abhorrence who by these abominable Orders put men to death without any tryal And the Wretches that performs [p.10] the bloody Drudgery to be both Judge and Executioners such a horrid task that no
23man can undertake unless he is Stript of Humanity. The Objects of Cruelty by the first Order were to be found with arms And it may be that Genl. How finding the Defect in this order, that but few (if any) would be found with Arms, and so the Inhabitants would Escape his wrath, made the latter to Supply that defect which Enlarged the power of the former to that degre, That I can compare it to nothing better then to where we read that Hell Opened her mouth without measure,
What a Deplorable State was a Great part of New Jersey in when by these bloody cruel Orders the vilest of men were made Judges of the lives of the Inhabitants and they Knew nothing of it, For Genl. How all the while Kept Allureing them into the Danger of their lives by his Proclamations Protections and Kind Admonitions to his Officers in Respect to the Inhabitants to use them Kindly. By this Serpentine Method he drew the People into the most Dangerous Security, while his Officers and Soldiers were Spiting his venom upon them by their Insults, Roberys, Plunderings, and even Murdering some of them. And their Danger Perhaps would never have been Discovered had it not been for the Success of two Battles in takeing two of their books of Orders.
On the first day of January 1777 some Regular Soldiers came along the main road from over Stoney brook One of
24them was very Strangely Wounded for he was shot with an Iron Gun rammer in Stead of a bullet, Which entered under his chin and came out again at his nose near his eyes one end of it, and the other end lapt round his thigh (as it is said) Whether he was a Horsman or not I Know not, but it is very likely he was, and rideing up to his Eenemy before he done charging, and perceing that he was like to be shot with the Rammer, lean'd back on his horse to avoid it, and so received his wound in that manner, as to the Other end laping round his thigh, one end being Stopt, and the other end being heavy would continue its force until it met with something to stop it, and happened to meet with his thigh [p. 11] He Languished a few days and Dyed. I Remember when we first had the news which was the same day it was said That the Regulars said that the Rebels were so Damd cowardly that they shot their gun Sticks at them, and run away. It is generally thought that this was done in the skirmish where the two men were murdered as abovsaid.
There was four Gentlemen Farmers that lost considerably by the Regular Army for they took from one of them two Wagons three Horses and a Negro man that he gave a hundred pound for some years agoe. From another of them they took one wagon one horse, and a Negro man, from another, they took, one Wagon, two horses, and a negro man and from the other they took one Wagon one horse and one Negro lad, Besides their Plundering of them as they did their other Neighbours.
Under all these Treacherous Dangers and losses we have been and Still are Defending our Just Rights and lybertys against the Arbitary Power of Great Britain Who in the last war against France and Spain Used us as Brethren and Requested us to assist them in that war Which we Readially
25and Willingly Did to the Utmost of our Power, (for which the State of New Jersey is Still in Debt) and in Return from them we Received a handsome Gratuity,
We being thus made a Political child, in the most humble manner only Claimed an Equal Right with our other Brethren To be taxt by our selves or by our own Representatives Exclusive of any other and this we clame as our Natural Birthright, And if I am not very much Mistaken the Inhabitants of Great Britain claim the same Right. Our Just claim so Offended the King and his Parliment that they declare that we have no Right to the Priviledge that our other brothers has But on the contrary they have a right to make us pay to them as much money (and as often) as they Pleas, was ever such an Unnatural Parent heard of When a child desires no more then to be Equal with his other brethren, to Declare him Illegetimate and therefore has no Right to their birthright, is not this Enough to Convince any child that he is Disown'd by his Parent made a Bastard and thereby he is fully discharg'd from his filial duty by his Unnatural Parent, and has
26a good right being thus discharg'd to break of all Connections with his lordly brothers and set up for himself as we have done, and Should be very well contented if they would Permit us to Enjoy the like Privilege that Generally Bastards have that is to shift for themselves and to be Independent of all the family that we are said to belong too. But they will not alow us Neither a lawful Childs Right nor a Bastards Independance What Kind of Progeny They would have us to be I Know not. For we are Neither allowed to be a Lawful Child nor a Bastard and yet must be Derived from the same Parent with the Lawful [p. 12] Children. What Mungrel Relation they would have us to be I cannot find out for I Know of no word or Term in the English Language to distinguish it by (and I Know no Other) Therefore I must leave it to them that are more learned.
I have Already set down Genl. Hows Cruel Orders, and if I do not mention his Kind ones in Respect to the Inhabitants I expect to be Charged with Partiallity, therefore I shal set them down as follows viz: The Commander in Cheif calls on the Commanding Officers of Corps to exert themselves in Preserveing the greatest Regularity and Strictest discipline in their Respective Quarters particularly attending to the Protection of the Inhabitants and their Property in their several Districts.
It is Strongly Recommended to Officers to Preserve good Orders in the several Farm houses to Prevent the men doing any damage to the Inhabitants not only for their sakes but in Complyance with the General Order given out Yesterday.
Soldiers are Possitively forbid to Molest or Stop the Inhabitants who have Protections given them. Much less are they to Injure them in their Propertys.
Here is all of them that I can find in Respect to the
27Inhabitants, in two of their books of General Orders and it seems very likely that these were some of the old Standing orders that was made and Observed by the British Army in Europe when they had the Character of being the best Soldiers in that part of the world but let that be as it may be, Genl. How has made no other use of these good and kind orders, but only to serve us as Joab served Amasa
[p. 13] I shall Venture to give a brief Account of three Battles and of some things that Preceded them Though I can do it but very Imperfectly for want of proper Inteligence both from the State of the Army and Matters of fact Therefore I shall leave it to others that are more Knowing to Supply my defects
On the 8th day of December 1776 The Regulars towards Night
28Washintons Army that had but Just got all of them over the River Delaware. The firing of Cannon was heard from thence to Princetown Every day more or less untill fryday Evening when the Guns was heard untill it was almost dark This was the 13th day of December, 1776. Here the Regulars Despairing of geting over the River Designed to put an End to the Campaign As appears by their Books that was found among their Bagage that they left in the field, when they fled from the Battle The words in one of their Books is thus viz. Head Quarters at Trenton the 14th of December 1776. G: O: The Campaign being Closed with the Pursuit of the Enemys Army near ninty miles by Leift General Lord Cornwallaces Corps much to the Honour of his Lordship and to the Officers and Soldiers under his Command The approach of Winter puting a Stop to any further Progress the troops will Immediately retire into Quarters and hold themselves in readiness to Assemble on the shortest notice.
Head Quarters Trenton 14th of December 1776 Here in this book is set down the same words as in the other book that I have before set down with this addition, after the last word notice is aded. The Comander in chief calls on the
29Commanding officers of corps to Exert themselves in Preserving the greatest Regularity and Strictest Discipline in their Respective Quarters Particularly attending to the Protection of the Inhabitants and their Property in their Several Districts
On the 25th of December 1776 In the night Genl. Washington with a great deal of Difficulty by Reason of the Ice Got over the Delaware River from Pensilvania with a Considerable part of his Army, and the next morning Attackt the Hessian Troops that was at Trenton and gave them a Total Defeat and took between 8 and 9 hundred prissoners with six field peices of Cannon Mortally Wounded their Chief Commander that they had there the number of Slain and wounded I have not heard, there was Some of them that came to Princetown the night after the Battle very much Affrighted having Escaped upe assanpink brook Threw very muddy Swamps and Water.
[p. 14] They had before sent Partys of their men down this side of the River to Crosswecks, Bordentown, Burlinton, Blackhorse, and Mount Holly, (As I suppose) to be Quartered out dureing the Winter. How'er the Remaing part of the
30Army and some part of Pensilvania Millitia found means at Several places to get over the River that then was full of Ice and all those parts was Soon cleared of those devouring Guests but in what manner I can give no Accounts for want of Particular Information.
A few days before the Battle at Princetown a Commisary with nine men for his Gaurd was Provideing Indian Corn for their Horses at a farmers house on the south side of Stoney brook. The Commisary and the Farmer were together in the Barn measureing the Corn When five of Genl. Washintons light horse men came up and took the Commisary Prissoner and then went to the Farmers House and took Eight of his Gaurd by Rideing up to the door and Ordering them to ground their arms and come out, which they all did Except one and he Escaped at a back door (It is said) that these Soldiers in Stead of being on guard to Defend the Commisary and themselves were imployed in a much Pleasanter business, that was, in attacking and Conquering a Parcel of Mince Pyes
A farmer about five miles from Princetown took two Armed Hessians prissoners with no other Arms then his Pitchfork and Dog In the following manner. They were discovered in his Stable among his horses by his boy who told his master and he ran to the Stable before it was light in the morning and got his Pitch fork and commanded them to yield themselves Prisoners which one of them obeyed, and while he was Secureing of him, the other ran away, and the
31farmer set his dog after him, and he Catcht him by his coat and held him fast until he was Secured, and both of them sent away Prissoners They said that they had fled from the Battle at Trenton.
The Regulars Advanced gaurds were frequently fired uppon about the first of January in the night; which Alarmed them to that degre that they Increast their Gaurd upon Alentown Road with one hundred men, and lay on their Arms three nights Successively before the Battle, on the first day of January at night they made many fires on the side of the Main Road that Extended from the turning at Clarks corner down to the bridge, or near it and so up on the other side on the riseing ground as far as we could see it and how much farther I Know not. The next morning early the Second of the month they left their fires and marched towards Trenton and some where in their [p. 15] way threw Maidenhead came upon a Parcel of Genl. Washintons men who fought them on a Retreat and more men being sent to cover their Retreat until they got to Trenton and had past over the bridge when the Regulars and Hessians appeared and the latter being very Eager to follow the Persuit as they called it Receiv'd a Smart Rebuke from one of our Generals field Pieces, which kild and wounded Ten or twelve of their men and at the same time Received a Volly of smal arms they only stood another fire and then Retreated, what number of the Enemy was Kild and Wounded I have not heard, though it is said that many of them was kild by the Retreating Partys geting behind trees and fences and fireing upon them as they advanced along the road.
It being near night
When as soon as it was well light we saw the Regulars
33laid down their Packs there and formed at the corner of our Garden about 60 Yards from the door and then marcht away Immediately to the field of Battle Which was in William Clarks wheat field and Orchard Round about his house and how much further to the westard I Know not It was plain within sight of our door at about 400 Yards distance I can give no Account how the battle was ordered on Either side for want of Proper Information only this
Genl. Washintons army was so hindered in makeing and passing the bridge that the Battle was begun before their field Pieces could be brought up, where upon they Retreated and Rallyed again with their Artillery towards the last of the battle seven Regulars was seen from our door to fall at once and in about three quarters of an hour from the begining of the battle the Regulars were put to flight with the loss of two brass field Pieces took from them in the field. The Exact Number of their men that was Slain wounded and took prisoners [p. 16] I Know not there was thirty Six dead men the next day buryed in a Stone Quarry among whom there was 15 of Genl. Washintons men, the Other 21 were Regulars besides three of them that lay dead in and near the main Road which Genl. Washinton seeing Ordered them to be put in the Waggons and carryed to town. And desired the Country People to bury the dead, besides these there was several others found Dead near the field of Battle and buryed in other places, Which side they belonged to I do not Know, But it is said that most of them was Regulars
34army took all the Regulars in town Prissoners,
35was oblidged to leave two of them for Want of Carriage to take them of one gun they threw into a well, and then they Marcht on with their Prissoners and plunder to Sommerset Court House that day, and left some of the prissoners, and of their own men to care of the sick and wounded men on both sides
Genl. Washinton as soon as the battle was over Ordered some of his men to be plced near the bridge over Stoney brook on the Main Road to hinder the Regulars passing over and to pull up the bridge which was Scarcely done
36that the other Army was gone) marcht into Princetown Thus that poor and almost Wholly Desolate town of al its late Inhabitants had change of Masters two if not three times on that day, for they had the Regulars in the Morning The Continentals at noon the regulars again at night who left them to the Continentals that night again and have not yet returned to Assume their Conquest. So Unconstant is the State of War and so Certain and sure the mischiefs and miserys attending it That it is a Wonder that Wise men should ever depend on it
In the beginning of the forementioned Battle a Womans leg was shot of at her ancle by a Cannon ball she was in one of the houses
37them on their Shoulders two Wounded Regulars, one of them was shot in at his hip and the bullet lodged in his groin, and the other was shot through his body Just below his short ribs he was in very great pain and bled much out of both sides, and often desired to be removed from one place to another, which was done Accordingly and he dyed about three o'clock in the afternoon They was both Used very tenderly by the Rebels (as they call them) The other also bled much and they put a Cloth dipt in vinegar to the wound to Stop it and three of them Stay'd with the wounded men near an hour after the Others were gone, the man that lived was left at our house above two days and one night With his Wound not drest, before the Regulars that was left to take care of the sick and wounded would take him away, though they had notice that day after the battle.
Genl. Washington as he came from the field of Battle saw their packs lying in ye field Where they had left them, and set a guard over them with orders that no body should meddle with them until further Orders the guard stood by them until the Regulars that came from Trenton had formed and then left them Where they lay until near Sun set and then When all the men that left them there were Either slain Wounded taken Prissoners or fled from the battle the Other Regulasr and Hessians from Trenton Begun to Plunder their fellow Soldiers Packs takeing out what they Pleased and leaving the rest in the dirt, the next day the Plunderers Increast and continued from day to day until all was gone but What they refused to take some old Blankets they gave to the Wounded Man. It is Observable that in Plundering they Keep no Order, for one Plunderer will Rob another as Appears by [p. 18] an instance before our door Some of the Men that left their Packs to Secure them the better threw them
38over the Garden boarded fence into it, and a Hessian seeing the Packs lying in the garden went in and threw them over the fence into the field Opened one of them and took out some things that a Regular had a mind too, and the other Refused to give him and then the Regular laid hold on him and took them from him by force and Kickt his breech when he had done, one or two more Scuffles of the like Nature we saw but at a far greater distance
As soon as the battle was over Genl. Mercer (who had his horse shot down under him, and then received several wounds by which in some days after he dyed) was carryed into Thomas Clarks house with several other wounded men, And above Twenty was carried into William Clarks house two of them dyed soon after they was brought in Sixty was carryed to Princetown but how many of them were regulars I know not. By an Account that a Neighbour Gentleman sent to me there was thirty one Regulars found dead In about the field of battle and nineteen Provincials, and one hundred and Seventy five taken Prissoners of the Regulars and Hessians.
Immediately after the Battle (as I said before) Genl. Washingtons Men came into our house Though they were both hungry and thirsty some of them laughing out right, others smileing, and not a man among them but showed Joy in his Countenance. It Really Animated my old blood with Love to those men that but a few minutes before had been
39Couragiously looking Death in the face in Releiveing a part of their Country from the Barbarous Insults and Ravages of a bold and Dareing Enemy. By the Joy that I felt myself I cannot help but be of the Opinion that the most Strict of them all against bearing Arms in our own defence (if they have any love for their bleeding Country) but must in some degree or other Rejoice with the rest of their Neighbours and others for that days happy Relief that it Pleased God to bless us with
Since my Writing so far, I saw a Gentleman Farmer one of our Neighbours Who Informs me that on the ninth day of last December (the next day after the regulars had got to Trenton) he was taken Prissoner in his own house by a Party of them and conveyed to Trenton and kept there, for some time and [p. 19] then marcht him with other Prissoners through Princetown to Brunswick and so on from Place to Place till they got him into New York, he says that they was Cruelly used at one Place for they Crouded so many Prisoners into one Room that they could not lye down, And it being very cold that night They was some of them striking fire Which the Officers hearing, forced in with clubs and Knockt three or four of them down, They allowed one Parcel of their Prisoners but four pound and a half of bread, and a pound of Pork for Six men a Week, another company of them that they said were Prissoners of war fared a little better but not much, but he himself fared well Enough for he happened to have some hard money and Suplyed himself he was a Prissoner with them a little above three months and made his Escape with two others of Staten Island, They Plundered him Sufficiently at home, for besides plundering his house they took from him a wagon four horses, and the most part of his geers, with Several of his Cattle.
There was one Drake that the next day after the Battle saw four regulars standing together in a field between two and three mile from Princetown and went Boldly up to them (with a Stick under his great Coat which showed as if it was a gun) and ordered them to yield themselves his Prissoners which they did, and did not try for to Resist two of them had Guns but the other two being fugitives the day before had none, He haveing the four secured by ye Neighbours went out again with his stick as he did before and found another regular and took him in the like manner It is said that Several more of their fugitives were taken Prissoners by the Country People in Sommorset County and other places where they Stragled about in Search for their Army and got lost.
There was a farmer that dwelt about…
If it is a Provocation and grief to us to be Plundered by the Regulars our Profesed enemys. Then how much more must it be so to the Sufferers that are Plundered by their Pretended Friends. These blind Zealots (a zeal without Knowledge) that Plundered the Woman did not consider that they were commiting that very crime of Oppression That the other Whigs have drawn their Swords against, and by that have Transformed themselves into Torys and did not know it. For the word Tory as it now is Understood among us Signifys Oppression or at least an accessary to oppression: and when any person is Oppresst the accessary in aiding or assisting is as guilty as he that does it, and therefore these Plunderers may properly be called Torys. What a Mallancholly sight it is to see our own People guilty of the crime that we are Opposing with the hazard of some of our lives.
No mans property ought to be taken from him without a Law first made and then a hearing, or at least an Opportunity of being heard to know Whether he is guilty of a breach of that law or not, and if he is found guilty, and all or part of his goods are forfeited, they are to be token by the proper Officer, and not by Private men, for they do not belong to them but to the Public. Therefore these whigs that Plundered the Woman (whoever they be) if the farmer deserves to be punished They have been Plundering the Publick, for if the goods that they Plundered was forfeited, they belonged to the People in General, and not to private Individuals.
The Charactar of British Soldiers formerly was their Keeping of faith with and showing mercy to their conquered Enemys was Equal to their Valour, This brave Character hath very much Deceived some of the Torys as well as many others for they Imagined That if we should be conquered, that faith
42would be kept with them and mercy shown to them by the Conquerers. But when that unhappy time came Alas they found directly to the Contrary, for to their Sorrow they found the saying in the Scripture true where it says, The mercys of the wicked are Cruelty.
How very different is this from that barbarous Cruel Usage of the Regular Army when in the same Battle. Genl. Mercer having his horse shot down under him
43him and repeatedly wounded him so that in a few days after he dyed. In the like manner they served Lieutenant Yeates (a very worthy Young Gentleman as it is said by them that knew him)
44stand beged for Quarter but the Barbarous Wretches would not allow it, But gave him new Wounds and one of them continued Insulting of him, and comeing to him to see Whether he was dead or not, was shot down dead himself as it is said and fell very near the wounded young Officer who languished with his wounds some days and dyed but first told how Cruelly he had been used by the Regular Soldiers and took his oath of it. How many more wounded men have been denyed quarter and murdered is not known.
Though these Regulars boasts that they are the best Soldiers in the World, Yet Experience hath Suficiently Proved them to be no more then the Instuments of Cruelty and Oppression and are Strangly Degenerated from what their Predecessors were thirty Years agoe for they Crost the Atlantick Ocean & came here to do one of the oddest messuages that ever was heard of. That was Either to put us to the sword, or make us submit to a Thraldom, much worse then we impose upon our Labouring Beasts for without the labour and care of Men those Beasts could have no Existence here For though we use the Strength of the Horses and oxen in bearing and drawing of Burthens and also in tiling our
45lands for our own food, Yet they can do us no service without our guiding and attending them while they labour. And they in return for their labour Receive of us their Provender which we labour for as much [p. 22] if not more then they in Providing Stables and feeding of them with which they are contented food being all that a beast desires
Thus it hath Pleased God in his Infinite Wisdom to put as it were Recipocral dutys between men and their Labouring Beasts, But hath not Put any such dutys between The Regular Army and us, For are they to help and guide us in our labour, No, are they to Provide us food and feed us, No. Have they given us content as we do to our beasts of labour, very far on the Contrary. Did they Ever do us any Maner of good No. Then how can we be under any dutys or Obligations to them, or Even to them that sent them.
Great Britain Refused to hear our humle Supplications unless we would first give up our cause and Acknowledge that they had an Absolute Power over us. Their Parliment to Represent us though they know but little if anything of our Circumstances and therefore we Refuse to chuse them, For Which they (without hearing) have declared us to be in Rebellion and Denounced War against us and sent an Army over the ocean against us, and for fear that we should be to Strong they have at a great expence (which no doubt but they Expect that we shal pay) hired another army of Forreigners and attackt us with both Armys at once in order to Reduce us the sooner into the most abject Slavery that they Please to Impose upon us. This is the Recompence that poor New Jersey Receives from Great Britain for all the Services that our Ancestors and we have done for them. If it is askt what them Services be I shal give a brief Account as folows,
New Jersey was first settled in the Year 1664 under a
46Proprietary Government, being then a Wilderness overun with Wolves Panthers Bears and other beasts of Prey besides Plenty of Venomous Serpents though the first Inhabitants sustained great damage by the beasts of Prey Destroying their Young Cattle, colts, sheep, and swine, and some times in Danger of their lives by the Poisonous biteings of the Rattle snakes Yet their greatest Danger was from Treacherous Indians That not Many years before had made war with the duch Settlers in the very next Collony of New York, and they often Assembled in great Numbers so that the Inhabitants to Secure themselves built smal wooden fortications.
Surrounded with all those Difficultys and Terrifying Dangers acompanyed with many other hardships Our Couragious Ancestors went on in Clearing and subduing the Wilderness And buying their Land both [p. 23] of the Proprietors and of the natives. Supporting themselves by farming hunting and fishing these first settlers with the Other settlers
47that came From old England Scotland and north Ireland continued buying Lands Until they extended the Boundaries and confines of the Collony of New Jersey without an…[half line]… this noble Extention of Dominion (which cost so many of the lives of the first adventurers) was not made by conquest but by an Honest Purchas from the Natives and proprietors and not with the Blood of the Conquered People. How is it England maintains title to our Lands must be given to her (and not kept by us) for our Title was Neither gained by invasion nor held by oppression and nothing Appears to the Contrary, but is held according to the liberty that God gave to Men When the mos…[half line]…as for instance, When he Separated the sons…[half line]…title cannot be shown to Lands in Old England Scotland & Ireland Besides this Extension of dominion the population is Increast in Proportion.
48dureing the war, for Which we are yet in debt (as I said once before) Great Britain in their wars against the the Spaniards Requested New Jersey to assist them in the West Indies in an Expedition aganst Carthargene which we willingly complyed with, Where we lost many Brave Men and Great Britain again in their war with both France and Spain together Requested the Assistance of New Jersey against them both, Which was as it always had been very Readily and Willingly Comply with though part of it was in the West Indies Where our Men Assisted in taking Havana.
The Present Rulers of Great Britain like Men Intoxicated with Power not Regarding Either Friendship or Services have Denyed about [p. 24]thre-…[half line]…but have treated us as malefactors that is to be punished…[half line]…this that August Tribunal Whose Sentences should act as laws to the world, and often did as far as its former history is concerned, Would it be to offer as a Law to the rest of the world and mankind, that men should be denyed a hearing and a trial and should be condemned to death or to punishment unheard? Surely not. Surely future Ages will not be…[half line]…Records do not show it there…time of Ship Mony was Ordered…[half line]…to be paid…[half line]…ve of it might appear, and this only…[half line]…surely it must be absolutely Necessary that the giving the rights of Comon Malefacters to millions of men whose lives and propertys are both Concered should be conceded and
50they be given a hearing. If Great Britains Rulers could be persuaded to grant this the American States no Doubt would yield what is known to the World to be the Cause of the present struggle which the British have called Rebelion
It will brand that Tribunal with Infamy when it is stated that them bloody Messengers that they sent to Enslave us, should be as Impiously guilty as they was here In Changing three Houses of Prayer into three dens of thieves That was the Colledge and the Presbyterians and Quakers Meeting Houses
51made their Incursions upon the Inhabitants both here and elsewhere and commited all the Roberys and Villanys before Mentioned
The People in & about Princetown besides their Suffering the Calamitys of war had a grevious Sicknes Among them, Which begun about the middle of August 1776, with the bloody flux, and other Mortal Distempers that carryed of many People until late in the fall when the bloody flux was not so frequent the Pleurisy and Other fevers followed (and as far as I can hear) is not Yet abaited Aprill 18 1777 but continues and carrys many people of. Besides the Smal Pox hath got into the Neighbourhood the natural way and proved very mortal both to the Inhabitants and Soldiers there was fourteen of the soldiers that catcht it and was put out at one house and Seven of them dyed Just one half, There was Several familys and many Soldiers Innoculated and I hear of only one Child among them all that dyed.
To 1 Large Dweling house New 1 large Kitchen new Smoak house & Necessary house
A Large Garden with new seder palings 6s per do
To 75 Panel of Post & Rail Pence mostly 5 Rails almost new
To 100wt of Flax in Bundles undress'd
Jonathan Baldwin being sworn saith he verily believes & by Good information that the above said building &c. was burned and Distroyed by the British Troops and there adherents and that he further believes there has not any Satisfaction been made.
Sworn by Joseph Olden. JONATHAN BALDWIN.
Benjamin Plum being Sworn Saith he was present in Princetown and saw the Building of Jonathan D. Sergeant Esqr. burning and that he has Sufficient Reason to believe the British Troops was the Cause of the said building being burnt.
Sworn before me Jos. Olden 21st Octr. 1782.
On page 235 of the MS. volume of "Damages done by the British" in Middlesex County is the following affidavit:
Dec 31 1776
To 1 Grist Mill in good Repair with 2 Pr Stones, & all the Apparatus for Carrying on the Business in the most Extensive manner
1 Fullery House & Mill, Press, House and all the Aparatus for finishing Cloth
90 Bushels Wheat @ 5/. 120 do. Indn. Corn
5 Tons Hay —1 Load Flax in Sheaf
65 Pannels Post & 4 Rails fence, new
18 Ditto pal'd Garden Ditto, old
1 Set Waggon Gears, Traces Iron
1 Suit New Superfine Regimentals
2 Shirts Froks & over Halls fring'd
115 Pannels Post & 3 Rail fence old
A number of Weaving Utensils 80/-
Col. William Scudder being Sworn saith that the above Inventory is Just & true to the best of his knowledge And that he has just Reason to believe that the British Troops has taking & Destroyed all the above Articles. And that he has not received any Satisfaction for any of the above Sd. Articles contained.
Sworn Octr 19: 1782, before Nath. Hunt. WM. SCUDDER.
Benjamin Oppie being Sworn Saith that he knew the Mills of Coln Wm Scudder As Mentioned in this Inventory, And that he does adjude the said Mills was Worth Å1100, to the best of his Knowledge.
Sworn Oct 19 1782 by Nl Hunt BENJ. OPPIE.
Tis his Excellency General Howe's Express orders that no person presumes to molist or injure John Harcourt in his person or property.
By order of his Excellincy
Decmbr th16 1776.
To 1 Mare 14 hands high 12 yrs Old
5 Hogs 6 monts Old
1 Ë of 4 Horse Loads Corn tops
1 Ton Hay 50/. 1 pr blind bridle & lines 12/6
1 pr Quilers with Chains & neck yoke
1 Cut Saw & 1 handsaw
1 Bushel Hardsalt 3/- 10 Do Potatoes 15/-
150 Rails 22/6 1 Coopers Adze 5/6
1 Pr Woomans new Cotton Stocks
1 New Beaverrett Hat
1 Quartr Beef Wgt 75lb @ 3d.
2 Cords of Sapplen Wood.
PRINCETON, Jany 9, 1777.
Lieutt Yates of Colo Reads Regimt of Virginia forces, being sworn upon the Holy Evangelists, declares "That after he was wounded in the battle of 3d Jany 1777 near Princeton, a British Soldier came up to him, & said to him "Oh damn you are you there" and Snap'd his Muskett at him: Upon which Mr Yates begged for quarters: The Soldier loaded his Muskett deliberately, & Shot him thro' the breast, & afterwards Stab'd him in 13 places with his Bayonett. Sometime after this, either the Same or another Soldier came up to him, who, perceiving some Signs of Life in him, Struck him with the Club of his Muskett."
Attested by BENJN RUSH.
ANTHY W. WHITE.
A true Copy of the Original in the hands of his Excelly
G. JOHNSTON A. D. C.
Inventory of Damages done to the Meting House in Princeton Middlesex County by the british troops & their Adherents in The Year 76 & 77 Å160-4-2.
John McCombs being sworn saith he was requested in Conjunction with Thomas Stockton & Enos Kelsey to Vallu the Damages done to the meting House In Prinston at Sd one vewing & making A Calculation of the Sd Damages do Adjudgd it to Å160. 4. 2.
Sworn the 22th Day of Octr 1782 before me Robert Stockton.
Nassau Hall too had sheltered American as well as British troops. The minutes of the Trustees of the College of New Jersey for September, 1776, record the fact that Dr. Witherspoon was to move in Congress "that troops shall not hereafter be quartered in the College." And three months to a day after our unknown author penned his last paragraph, Dr. Witherspoon, Dr. Elihu Spencer and Richard Stockton, Esq., a committee from the Board of Trustees of the College, presented a petition to Congress praying that no Continental troops be allowed hereafter to enter the College or to use it as barracks. The petition recites that every party of provincials marching through Princeton takes possession of the building, and partly through wantonness and partly under pretence of not being supplied with firewood "are daily committing the greatest ravages upon the Building, in breaking up the floors, and burning every piece of wood they can cut out of it." (MS. Papers Cont. Cong., 41, Vol. 7, p. 6.) And elsewhere it was the same story, as examination of Continental Army Order Books can prove. Compare e.g., the following passage dated Pompton, July 25, 1777, in an unpublished Order Book in the Library of Princeton University: "how disagreeable to the Army is it that peaceable Inhabitants of our Country Men and Fellow Citizens dread our halting among them, even for one night, and are glad when they get rid of us, this can only proceed from their distress at the plundering and wasting distruction of their property."