MIDDLETOWN UPPER HOUSES DIARY OF GIDEON SAVAGE.
May 31 and June 1, 1777.-Then marched for the Jerseys. Then marched for King's-ferry.
a history of the north society of Middletown, Ct.
from 1650 to 1800
with genealogical and biographical chapters
on early families.
Charles Collard Adams
New York: Grafton Press, 1908.
[transcribed by Coralynn Brown ]
June 2. Then from King's-ferry for Head Quarters at Morristown Ramipo.
" 3. Marched from Ramipo to Troy.
" 4. Marched from Troy to Head Quarters in Middlebrook.
" 5. Struck all the tents and marching orders given out.
" 6. Nothing material.
" 7. Nothing turns up extraordinary.
June 8. Sabbath.' We made two coffins and then packed up all tools ready for a march.
" 9. We made coffins.
" 10. We made five coffins. This day there was one man shot and three reprieved.
" 11. Two deserters came in.
" 12. Three deserters came in.
" 13. Came in two more deserters. In the afternoon went out in the woods and at night we packed up our tools.
" 14. We lay all night upon the ground.
" 15. Sabbath. There was firing all day by spells, with cannon thundering the heavens, and small arms.
[History records considerable skirmishing between the two armies during this month of June, Howe trying to bring on a general engagement, and Washington too cautious with his raw troops and disadvantages of position to be entrapped. Foiled, at length. in all his maneuvers, Howe evacuated the Jerseys about the first of July, crossing over to Staten Island.]
June 16. Some firing in the morning.
" 17. We were alarmed and moved on about a hundred yards, and pitched our tents again.
" I8. No news remarkable at all. This day we made one coffin.
" 19. There were two deserters came to us—and the same day there was taken one Captain and one Lieutenant. The same day the enemy left Somerset.
" 20. Nothing remarkable turns up this day, but there were about 1,500 troops came in.
" 21. Nothing material this day.
" 22. Sabbath. Our people drove the enemy out of Brunswick and took a vast deal of plunder. Firing all night.
" 23. Came in ten deserters. Nothing to do.
" 24. Nothing to do.
" 25. Nothing to do.
26. Firing of cannon and small arms early in the morning, and there were some killed on both sides, but the certain number not known____ not at present. The same day we packed up all our tools ready for the march. Did nothing all day.
" 27. One Sergeant and six privates taken and some deserters came in.
" 28. There were eighty prisoners and some deserters came in.
" 29. Sabbath. One deserter came in.
" 30. One deserter came—two coffins made.
July 1. Then the British left the Jerseys and went to New-York.
July 2. Some of the army went to Morristown.
3. We left Middlebrook and went to Morristown.
" 4. Nothing turned up this day.
" 5. No news this day.
" 6. Sabbath. There were twenty boats came in from Philadelphia on wagon wheels.
" 7. No news of importance.
" 8. Nothing of importance turns up.
" 9. No movements to-day.
" 10. Moved from Morristown on march to Peekskill.
" 11. Encamped in Princetown.
" 12. No news today.
" 13. Sabbath. Nothing turns up today.
" 14. We marched from Princetown on our march to King's- ferry and encamped in Ramipo, the whole army, Regulars and all.
" 15 & 16. We laid still.
" 17. No news of any kind.
" 18. The army marched about two miles but the main body remains.
" 19. No movements to-day.
" 20. We moved from Ramipo on our march to Peekskill and encamped on the__ [not legible] in New York Government, the west side of North River.
[Washington, knowing that a fleet of British transports was fitting out in New-York harbor with a secret destination, thought likely Howe was intending to go up the Hudson to cooperate with Burgoyne, and so made a slow march toward Peekskill, on that river, but the fleet going out to sea he immediately retraced his steps toward the Delaware, fearing that Philadelphia would need defense.]
July 21. Moved back again about 10 miles to headquarters and encamped there that night and remained there the next day. No movements of the army till the 23d. and then marched back to our old encampment in Ramipole.
" 25. We moved from Ramipole back on towards Morristown.
" 26. We continued our march to the Delaware and encamped in ______ , I have forgotten the name of the place. We marched 24 miles that day.
" 27. Still continued our march and 28th came up the [not legible] to the Delaware and encamped. 29th July, I set out for home and got home the 24th day of August. September 15th set out for headquarters and arrived there the 23d of September and joined the company.
[During his furlough the Battle of the Brandywine was fought.]
Sept. 24. Nothing turned up.
" 25. No news of importance.
" 26. We moved toward Philadelphia 7 miles.
[Washington tried in vain to save Philadelphia. He made his last effort Sept. 16th, risking an engagement which might have proved more ruinous than it did, had it not been interrupted by a violent storm. As it was he lost 300 men before he retreated. The British entered the city the 26th, the main part of their army encamping at Germantown, six miles distant then, but now included in the city limits. Congress had adjourned to Lancaster, the public stores had been removed, and a levy on the inhabitants for stores and clothing for Washington's army had previously been executed.]
Sept. 27. There was some cannonading of the enemy in Philadelphia from the Regulars.
" 28. Went out to ___waggons and rejoiced by reason of the enemy being defeated to the Northard.
[Gates was triumphing over Burgoyne at this date. The battle of Stillwater was fought on September 19th. Burgoyne capitulated on the 17th of October.]
Sept. 29. We moved—no news to-day.
" 30. We lay still.
Oct. 1. We lie still vet.
" 2. We moved about 2 miles.
" 3. Orders for marching.
" 4. Was the battle at Germantown.
[The reticence of our diarist is shown in this mention, as it appears from other family papers, that he made. the "stretcher" on which Gen. Nash was borne off the field, and that he was one of eight detailed to carry him to a place of safety—a service which the party fulfilled—not resting till they had put eight miles between the dying man and the enemy.]
Oct. 5. Encamped.
" 6. We remained in our encampment.
" 7. No movement.
" 8. We marched about ten miles.
" 9. Rained all day.
" 10. Marched about one mile and a quarter and there built a gallows, and the next day there was a man hung at about half after one o'clock.
" 11. Very heavy cannonading.
12. The cannonading continued.
" 13. No movement of the army.
" 14. No movement.
Oct. 15. There was a rejoicing by reason of the news being confirmed about the Northard army being destroyed. Oct. 16. We moved about eight. miles.
[The army was now some twenty miles north of Philadelphia, withdrawing after the battle of Germantown which took place twelve days before.]
Oct. 17. Some firing.
" 18. The firing continued by spells.
" 19: Sabbath. Some firing in the morning.
" 20. We moved about six miles toward Philadelphia.
" 21. Lay still.
" 22. No movement, but 500 Hessians killed on the spot.
[Though obliged to give up Philadelphia, the Americans still commanded the river below, by two forts, one on Mud. Islands, near the Pennsylvania side, and another at Red Bank on the Jersey shore, so preventing communication between the British army at. Germantown and its fleet in the lower Delaware. Gen. Howe, in distress for supplies, saw the necessity of removing all obstructions to the navigation of this river and immediately applied his forces to the reduction of the, two forts, which on the other hand. Washington was determined to hold to the last extremity. October 22, Count Donop with 1,200 Hessians, picked men, marched against Fort Mercer, at Red Bank, while several ships of war opened a cannonade on Fort Mifflin, on the opposite side of the river. The attack on Fort Mercer which had a garrison of only 500, was re-pulsed with a loss to the enemy of 400 men, Donop himself being mortally wounded; and--of the ships which assaulted Fort Mifflin, one sixty-four gun ship was blown up, another ship burned, and others retired with great damage. This is said to be the first assault in the course of the war which the Americans repulsed. These forts were defended several weeks, the garrison repairing by night the breaches made by day, but they yielded at last to the superior force of the British, and so the enemy's fleet passed up the Delaware to Philadelphia]
Oct. 23. Went down to Hagerstown and brought off 30 barrels of train oil and 53 wagon loads of iron, and the same day the Eagle was blown up—the 64 gun ship.
" 24. Every thing is easy and quiet.
" 25. Some firing with cannon and small arms.
" 26. Sabbath. Some firing of cannon.
" 27. Rained all day.
" 28. More rain.
" 29. Rained all day and cleared off at night.
" 30. Marched down to the Schuylkill.
Oct. 31. We began the bridge over the Schuylkill.
[Hildreth in describing the situation at Valley Forge, says that to "facilitate such movements as might be necessary a bridge was thrown across the Schuylkill," carrying the inference that it was built after the army went into winter quarters. We are afraid history is a little at fault here, as according to our " artificer," the bridge was not only built but burned (if we understand him farther on) before the encampment at Valley Forge. It is possible, however, that a second bridge was thrown over the river in January when an hiatus occurs, we are sorry to say, in this veritable record.]
Nov. 1. We continued working on the bridge.
" 2. Sabbath. The bridge still goes on.
" 3. We heard of the news of the taking of prisoners on Long Island and cannon—the number of prisoners 800.
[Of any such event at that place near that time history is silent, and this nuse (to spell it as Gideon Savage does) must have been simply false, unless indeed it was more than a year old. In Augast 1776, Howe landed troops on the west end of Long Island, and advancing by three different roads toward Washington's camp at Brooklyn, made great destruction, forcing the Americans to quit the Island with a loss of several hundred killed and wounded and a thousand prisoners, but it is incredible that any man of Washing-ton's army should first hear of it on the Schuylkill.]
Nov. 4. No news of importance.
" 5. Firing of cannon all day, and the building of the bridge goes on.
" 6. Rain all day.
" 7. Nothing turns up new.
" 8. Nothing new to-day.
" 9. Sabbath. Still working on the bridge.
" 10. Firing with cannon at Mud Island all day.
(Fort Mifflin on Mud Island was abandoned Nov. 16th.]
" 11. Very cold but still work on the bridge.
" 12. Very blustering, some snow and rain.
" 13. Cold and rainy—no news.
" 14. Very cold still.
" 15. No news of importance.
" 16. Was the Sabbath, and some snow and very cold.
" 17. Cloudy and cold.
" 1S. Very pleasant.
" 19. Very cold and windy.
" 20. Cloudy and warm and we kept Thanksgiving—we had one turkey and four pair of fowls.
[It would be interesting to know exactly when the turkey became the instituted thank-offering of this people.]
Nov. 21. Still cloudy and warm for the time of year.
" 22. Warm and pleasant.
" 23. Is the Sabbath and it is very warm; we heard there were 500 prisoners.
[This blind reference is to the American loss at Germantown perhaps, of which 400 prisoners is the record of history. The numbers in battles are exceedingly uncertain. They come out of the smoke very obscure. Official reports on the two sides generally disagree. It is natural that each commander should depreciate his own force, and especially his loss, while he magnifies the forces against which he has contended, or over which he has been victorious. Historians must strike the balance each to suit himself. As a specimen of the discrepancies which you are sure to meet in studying accounts of battles, Hildreth says that Count Donop attacked Fort Mercer with "1200 picked men"; which we compare with two other Histories at hand. One (earlier than Hildreth) says, " 2000 Hessian grenadiers;" the other (later) says, " 2500 picked Hessians" Doubtless with a little pains we could find several other figures which have been used to represent the number of these unhappy mercenaries.]
Nov.24. No news to-day.
" 25. Cold.
" 26. Cold and squally—the same day I finished the bridge.
" 27. I went from the Schuylkill and returned to Company, and 28th went to North Wales.
" 29. We went over to the Dutch Church—rained all day.
" 30. Sunday. Rain all day.
Dec. 1. 1777. Very cold.
" 2. Very cold and windy—no news of importance.
" 3. More pleasant to-day.
" 4. Nothing new to-day.
" 5. Very cold and sour—the same day the enemy moved out of town to Chestnut Hill and in the morning we had a small skirmish.
[Of this affair Sparks says : "Sir William Howe, having received an accession to his strength by several regiments from New-York, thought a good opportunity presented itself for trying his fortune in another battle, if he could find the Americans in such a condition. as to attack them to advantage. He marched out of the city with twelve thousand men, in the evening of the 4th of December, and the next morning took post at Chestnut Hill, about three miles from the right of the American encampment. Washington sent out light troops to skirmish, but resolved to wait for the general attack on the ground he had chosen. This was an adventure which General Howe was not inclined to hazard. After maneuvering three days in the front and on the flanks of the American lines, seeking for an advantage which his opponent was careful not to give, he retreated suddenly to Philadelphia, having lost in the different rencounters twenty men killed, sixty-three wounded, and thirty-three missing."]
Dec. 6. Some firing in the morning.
" 7. Sabbath. Some firing of small arms.
" 8. The enemy returned into the city again.
" 9. All still and no movement.
" 10. We moved down the Schuylkill again to repair the bridge.
" 11. The enemy made their appearance at the bridge and burnt all, both houses and barns—stripped women and children.
" 12. No news of importance—snow and very cold.
" 13. We moved from Jacob Wence's on the Sibba road and went over Schuylkill.
[Their late camp was at White-Marsh about eleven miles northwest of Philadelphia, and six miles from the nearest point on the Schuylkill.]
Dec. 15. No movement of the enemy.
" 16. Rain all day and we are out after a saw-mill.
" 18. Rain all day again. We are at the Valley Forge.
" 19. Moved up to the Valley Forge.
[Here we may say a few words, albeit the winter of 1777 at this place is not a piece of history unfamiliar to the American reader. Valley Forge was a woody eminence on the south bank of the Schuylkill, about twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia where the British army lay, and twenty-five miles southeast of Reading where the American stores were kept. It was easily defended and there Washington could watch the movements of Howe and protect his own magazines, and there his army, variously estimated from eleven to seventeen thousand men, was quartered from the middle of December till the following June. Washington selected the place himself after personal survey, and made his plan for going into winter quarters there, amidst the conflicting opinions of his officers, and against the remonstrances of the Pennsylvania assembly, which ignorant of the destitution of his army and the difficulties of the undertaking, was anxious for a winter campaign. He announced the plan to his troops on their march to the place. Sparks says orders for the building of the huts were issued Dec. 18th. Compare with Gideon Savage's date. The huts were arranged in streets like a city, each hut containing twelve or fourteen soldiers. The sufferings of the army in this camp have often been rehearsed. The rigor of the winter was extreme, and they were scant of blankets, clothing and shoes. For want of covering the soldiers often had to sit up all night by the camp fires, and the snow was stained with the blood of their naked feet. Their rations sometimes gave out, and Washington was finally obliged to send out and seize provisions wherever they could be found, a necessity which he considered one of the greatest of misfortunes, warning Congress of its dangerous consequences—that it would be ruinous to the morals of the soldiers, and create dissatisfaction among the inhabitants. There were mutinous feelings among a few, and some of the foreigners deserted, but Washington's personal in-hence was all-commanding, and the majority of the army submitted to their trials without a murmur. The rigor of the winter appears sufficiently in Gideon Savage's record, but that is all. He was not the man to tell what he suffered.]
Dec. 20. Began our house for winter quarters.
" 21. Was the Sabbath.
" 22. No news of importance to-day.
" 23. Was very cold but pleasant for the time of year.
" 24. No news of importance.
" 25. Cloudy and some snow.
" 26. Cold and cloudy—thirty prisoners taken.
" 27. Cleared off.
" 28. Snow and very cold. I went to [not legible] for boards. The same day is the Sabbath.
" 29. Cleared off and cold.
" 30. Cold and clear—ten prisoners brought in.
" 31. Very cold still.
Jan. 1, 1778. No news of importance.
" 2. Very pleasant---warm at night, some rain.
" 3. We heard of the taking of the two ships loaded with clothing and arms.
[It is a pity he does not tell us whether this was good nuse or bad—whether it made them sorry or glad, that bitter winter at Valley Forge. We are afraid the enemy took those ships, and deprived the poor fellows there of some intended relief.]
Jan. 4. No news of importance.
[5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th, uneventful as the 4th.]
Jan. 9. Pleasant. Working at Gen. Washington's quarters.
" 10. There was a man hanged. We still working at the General's.
" 11. The same day is the Sabbath.
[Here a leaf is missing, we regret to say, for it is right in the middle of the story. We might have had the scantiest mention of Washington again under some of the missing dates, but are obliged to skip a month almost, as the next date is evidently in February.]
7. Cold and clear. Wind at north-west.
" 8. Snowed all day the wind at northeast.
" 9. Very cold and the wind at north-west.
" 10. Which is twelve months, just, since I enlisted.
" 11. Rain and snow—Cleared off at night. The wind at north-west.
" 12. Still at work at the General's.
[We find the following little mention in Spark's Life of Washington :
" Mrs. Washington joined her husband at Valley Forge in February. Writing a month afterwards to Mrs. Mercy Warren, the historian of the Revolution, she said : "The General's apartment is very small. He has had a log cabin built to dine in, which has made our quarters much more tolerable than at first."
This tells us perhaps, what Gideon Savage was doing at the General's—making a dining-room. Happy man, if he added only a little to the comfort of Washington in those days, the time of his greatest humiliation and discouragement.]
Feb. 15. Cloudy, warm and snow at night.
[From the above date on to the first of March is simply a meteorological record, with the usual mark of courtesy to the "Sabbath." The fierceness of the winter must have spent itself early as these last two weeks of February were warm—" very warm " by spells.]
To the diary is added the following curious memoranda:
June 5. 1777. Then at Morristown. Then drew rum for the company and it was kept back by the Captain and candles. Again at Wilmington drew sauce money, [if we decipher the word] 60 dollars and 50, and each man had one dollar then in the company, including seargents ; and ever since all the candles kept back by Capt. Mills.
Feb. 11. 1778. Capt. Mills took from us one barrel of whiskey that we bought for our own use. At another time he kept back rum from us.
" 16. Then Captain struck a man.
[Capt. Mills was not very popular, it is evident, with one man in his company, but we should not expect that man to give any words to his spleen. He bottled up the facts in their own pepper and then let them stand.]
Feb. 21. The Captain set out for home. Feb. 22. Newberry set out for home and Clark set out for home. March 2. 1778. Then I set out for home.
[We have found this diary of Gideon Savage bare as the trees of winter, clear black and white, with not the smallest buds of emotion to color the scene; but here at the very last we think we see a little something green—at least enough to excite the imagination of a mother. "I set out for home." There is a lurking sentiment in that, we are sure. He had a home that he loved. It was not the home a man makes for himself when he marries (he was unmarried—24 years of age), it was the home he was born in, the home of his father and mother and brothers and sisters. He had not outgrown his fondness for that. And now we think of it, he "set out for home" once before—got a furlough when he had been away only six months. Ah ! he had a heart—this Gideon Savage.]
DIARY OF GIDEON SAVAGE.
May 31 and June 1, 1777.-Then marched for the Jerseys. Then marched for King's-ferry.