« PreviousContinue »
NOTE.-An instance of personal courage and hardihood occurred on the Eastern frontier about this time, and is thus related by the late President Dwight, who had it from General Wadsworth.
After the failure of the expedition against the British garrison at Penobscot, General Wadsworth was sent, in the spring of 1780, by the Legislature of Massachusetts to command in the district of Maine. The principal objects of his mission were to retain the inhabitants in their allegiance, and in their attachment to the American
and to obstruct the efforts of the enemy. In these employments he spent the summer of 1780, and the principal part of the following winter. Before the end of February he dismissed his troops ; the period of their enlistment being finished ; and began to make the necessary preparations for his return to Boston. Mrs. Wadsworth, and a friend of hers, Miss Fenno of Boston, had accompanied him, and continued here'till this time.
The next morning Colonel Haynes was conducted to the place of execution. His son accompanied him. Soon as they came in sight of the gallows, the father strengthened himself and said—“Now, my son, show yourself a man. That tree is the boundary of my life and of all my life's sorrows. Beyond that, the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. Don't lay too much to heart our separation from you; it will be but short. 'Twas but lately your dear mother died. To-day I die. And you, my son, though but young must shortly follow us.”
“ Yes, my father," replied the broken-hearted youth, “I shall shortly follow you: for indeed I feel that I cannot live long.” And so it happened to bim. For on seeing his father in the hands of the executioner, and then struggling in the halter, he stood like one transfixed and motionless with horror. Till then he bad wept incessantly; but soon as he saw that sight, the fountain of his tears was staunched, and he never wept more. It was thought that grief, like a fever, burnt inwardly, and scorched his brain, for he became indifferent to every thing around him, and often wandered as one disordered in his mind. At times, he Look lessons from a fencing master, and talked of going to England to fight the murderer of his father. But he who made him had pity on him, and sent death to his relief. He died insane, and in his last moments often called on the name of his father, in terms that brought tears from the hardest hearts.”
“His preparations for returning could not escape notice. A neighboring inhabitant, hostile to the American cause, had attentively observed his motions, and announced his design to the commander of the British fort; observing, that, if he seized the present moment, he might make General Wadsworth a prisoner; that he was defenceless, having only six soldiers under his command; that he would speedily leave the country; and that the least delay would frustrate this important object. The British commander listened eagerly to the intelligence; and immediately sent a party of twenty-five soldiers, with their officers, to attack the house in which he lodged. They embarked in a small schooner, already equipped for a cruise; and proceeded to an inlet, four miles from the General's quarters, called West South River. Here they arrived at the beginning of the evening; and lay concealed until 11 o'clock, in the house of one Snow, a Methodist preacher; professedly a friend to General Wadsworth, but really a traitor. The ground was covered with snow, and the weather severely cold. The surface, in the neighborhood of the house, was hilly. An enemy could therefore advance within a few rods without being discovered. For this reason the sentinel at the door was regularly ordered to fire his piece at the appearance of an enemy, and to escape without attempting to enter the house; as any effort of this nature would enable the enemy to enter at the same time.
"The party came so suddenly upon the sentinel, that he gave the alarm, instead of firing, by crying, "Who is there?" His comrades instantly opened the door; and as he went in, the enemy fired a volley into the kitchen, which was the soldier's guard-room, and entered it together with the sentinel. Another party of them at the same instant fired through the windows of the room, in which the General and his lady slept, and blew the windows in.
A third, at the same moment, forced their way through the windows, and took possession of Miss Fenno's room. Thus they were masters of the whole house, except the room where the General lay, which was strongly barred. The British officers, finding nobody in Miss Fenno's room,
beside her and Mrs. Wadsworth, who hastily dressing herself, had escaped into it, ordered the firing there to cease.
General Wadsworth had a pair of pistols, a blunderbuss, and a fusee. With the pistols, which he had discharged several times, he had defended the windows of his room, and a door, which opened into the kitchen, and prevented the assailants from entering. He now heard their feet advancing through the front entry, and snapped his blunderbuss at them. They retreated. He snapped it again at several of the soldiers, who were forcing their way through the pannel of the kitchen door. These retreated also. He then seized his fusee, and discharged it upon some others, who were breaking through one of the windows. These also fled. The attack was then renewed through the entry. Against this he defended himself with his bayonet. His linen discovering him to the soldiers in the kitchen, they fired at him; and one of their balls went through his left arm, and terminated the contest.
• Upon his announcing that he would surrender, the firing was ordered to cease. The soldiers, however, continued to fire from the kitchen. General Wadsworth, unbarring the door, and opening it, said, "My brave fellows, why do you fire after I have surrendered?” The soldiers rushed into his room; and one of them, who had been badly wounded, exclaimed with an oath, “You have taken my life, and I will take yours," pointed a musket at his breast. The commanding officer, who had entered the room through the other door at that moment, struck the musket with his sword, and saved the General's life. One of the
officers now brought a candle from Miss Fenno's room; and exclaimed, “Sir, you have defended yourself too well ; you have done too much for one man. You must excuse haste. Shall we help you on with your clothes? You see, we are in a critical situation.” The soldiers were ordered out to parade before the door. The General's clothes were soon put on, except his coat; which his wounded arm rendering it impossible for him to wear, it was committed to a soldier. Mrs. Wadsworth and Miss Fenno came into the room; and, suppressing their intense emotions with admirable fortitude, proposed to examine the General's wound. This, however, the haste of the party prevented. Mrs. Wadsworth threw a blanket over him; and Miss Fenno tied a handkerchief very closely around his arm, to check the copious effusion of blood. A soldier then took him out of the house. He was much exhausted; and, supposing that the ball had cut an artery, told the officer, he would not carry him far. Fortunately, however, the blood, being congealed by the cold, and stayed by the bandage, ceased to flow; and his strength and spirits speedily returned.
The party withdrew in great haste; and increased their expedition, in consequence of the report of a musket, fired at no great distance on the other side of the river. The two wounded British soldiers were mounted on a horse, taken from General Wadsworth's barn. The General himself, and a wounded American soldier, were on foot; but were aided in their march by their captors. When they had proceeded about a mile, a number of persons, who had gathered at a small house on the way, and who had seen the party when they went out, hailed them; and asked whether they had taken General Wadsworth. They said no: and added, that they wished to leave a wounded man with them; that, if they took good care of him, they should be well paid; but, if not, that they would come and burn
their house. The wounded man, apparently dying, was then carried into the house; and General Wadsworth, after being warned, that his safety depended upon his silence, was set on the horse behind the other wounded soldier. A part of their course lay over a frozen mill-pond, about a mile in length. At the head of this pond they were met by some of the party, who had been left behind, to take care of the Methodist preacher's house. These, having learned the success of the enterprise, hurried back to the privateer, to carry the news. When the party reached the privateer, some were overjoyed, and others swore bitterly. The Captain, particularly, was in a rage, on being informed that he must return with his privateer to the fort; and, instead of sending the prisoner by a small boat, as had been originally proposed, must convey him in his vessel. Seeing some of his men wounded, he demanded with a furious voice, how he, the General, dared to fire on the King's troops; damned him for a rebel; and ordered him to go, and help launch the boat; declaring, that, if he did not, he would put his hanger through his body. General Wadsworth cooly answered, that he was a prisoner; was badly wounded; and could not assist in launching the boat; however he might think proper to treat him.
• The commanding officer had gone into the house, to take some refreshment; but hearing of this abusive behavior of the Captain, returned immediately; and, in a manner very honorable to himself, told the Captain, that the prisoner was a gentleman, had made a brave defence, and was to be treated accordingly. At the same time he informed him, that he must return with his privateer to Bagaduce; (the point on which the British fort stood ;) both on account of the prisoner, and of his own wounded men; and must therefore embark his own people, and the party, immediately. He added further, that his conduct should be repre.