Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The American Spy:
or Freedom's Early Sacrifice.
A Revolutionary Tale of New England,
Founded upon Fact.
by J. R Simms.
Albany: J. Munselll 78 State Street 1857.

Donated by Willis Barshied, Jr.


" Tis hard; but when we need must bear,
Enduring patience makes the burden light."-Spectator.

A military life has peculiar charms for individuals of an ardent daring temperament; such was that of Nathan Hale, our hero; and when an organization of the militia of the land was proposed, he entered fully into the spirit of the requisition, with the young men of his own town. The time had now arrived, when the position of the colonies with the mother country could solely be maintained by the bloody, heart-sickening clangor of arms; for the. American motto "United we stand" had gone forth to the world, and the distinguishing characteristics of "Whig and Tory-the one then denoting submission to nothing clearly wrong, the other a willingness to put up with any thing to retain place-had already been heralded from Maine to Georgia.

The reader has discovered that Lucy Ripley, so far as we have shown her true character, was an object worthy of any man's love; so thought our hero from the moment he beheld her at the bedside of his sister when ill, and the intimacy of childhood ere long had ripened into reciprocal love. When minds ennobled by every virtuous principle, are silently drawn together by their magnetic affinity,Cupid twines his silken cords around them, and they become influenced by corresponding feelings-each as if by nature prompted, admiring the acts and drinking in the spirit "which influences the other. True, we are to a great extent creatures of habit; and although Lucy, from the part her father, Fitch and many of her relatives were acting, would doubtless have admired the spirit of manly resistance her countrymen were making to tyranny, still it is hardly probable rebellion would have occupied so much of her thought had not her lover been an active partisan.

The gambrel-roofed two story dwelling of Erastus Fitch, painted red, and standing so pleasantly on a knoll in Windham, embowered in the summer amidst fruit trees and a thrifty woodbine which crept along its front wall, had received " its airing " for the spring and again" been put to rights " just previous to the first day of April, 1775. On the morning of that day, a day of rare serenity, Lucy resolved to invite in a few female friends for an afternoon visit, and in accordance the parlor and keeping room floors were scoured clean, and each received a liberal coat of pure white sand, that in the former room presenting a prettily grained appearance, by its having had a hair wist made for the purpose, lightly drawn over it in transverse directions, to exhibit different figures. My young reader is hardly aware that carpeting is a luxury of more modern introduction, and that probably few, if any, wealthy farmers in New England had a yard of it at a period so early as that under consideration.

On the day above mentioned, soon after dinner, to which be sat down, as most New England people did, precisely at twelve o'clock, a single horseman might have been seen well mounted, and wending his way from Coventry to Windham, evidently in very deep study, either about his own or his country's welfare, or both as is likely; a revery not unfrequently broken by the cackling of wild geese, then taking their serial flight northward in great numbers for incubation. As the horseman turned into an avenue which led from the King's highway to the house of Erastus Fitch, several rods distant, his ear was greeted with vocal music, which drowned the noise wade by his horse's hoofs, and he approached sufficiently near unobserved, to hear several female voices warble melodiously the following homely, though patriotic lines in the then favorite air, Yankee Doodle.

Hark! hear ye not that distant drum,
That trumpet's signal blast, sir!
Great Britain's troops to awe have come,
Americans at last, sir!
They think us Yankee boys so few,
We will not dare resist, sir!
But with clear heads and hearts all true,
We'll show John Bull our fist, sir!

No silk we'll wear-drink no bohea,
Till GEORGE revokes his laws, sir!
And if he don't, we will be free,
And show our eagle-claws, sir I
No more to kings we'll bow the knee,
But bid them all beware, sir! .
We Yankee boys may plant a tree
That liberty will bear, sir!

"Bravo! American girls against the world!" shouted the horseman, as the music ceased. He was delighted to hear a bevy of girls chanting alone a national air, and his unexpected plaudit brought several of them covered with blushes, to an open window.

"Nathan," said a familiar voice from an open door to which his own had invited the speaker, " your arrival is most opportune; whether by your eaves-dropping you have been made an April fool, or the serenaders, by unconsciously giving a Yankee Doodle concert, I am unable to say. But you are not to be a trooper in any event, so you will just dismount and entertain the songsters, with whom one might suppose you much pleased."

" I am sure all the poets in the country -would open their escritoirs and puzzle their wits at midnight to write songs, could they but hear them sung by the Windham girls," said our hero, as he surrendered his horse to Zeb, a young slave, belonging to the Fitch family, and followed Miss Ripley into the hall. The good-natured black took the bridle-reins and bounded into the saddle with a chuckle, giving his young mistress at the time a significant wink and nod, as much as to say, " do you know that fellow?" which increased the cherry hue of her cheeks. Having doffed his hat and spurs, Lucy conducted her lover into the presence of some half a dozen girls, -who, adopting his remark, might have been pitted against the same number of young ladies from any land. To speak of them in general terms, they were handsome without being vain of their beauty, and sociable without an exhibition of affectation, or an ostentatious aping of unpossessed wit.

We have not time to introduce the reader personally to each of the company into which our hero had so unexpectedly been ushered, with several of whom he had a partial acquaintance, or exhibit the playful conversation of the afternoon. Hours glided pleasantly away, and after tea, (a decoction of sage,) several young gentlemen residing in the neighborhood, came by invitation to spend the evening, and aid young Hale in entertaining the fair circle. Much of the evening's conversation was about patriots and royalists; and the health of several of the former was toasted in a glass of wine. That of Hale was as follows: "The health of Dr. Joseph Warren-the statesman and hero who so nobly dared to beard the British lion in his den! May all true Americans appreciate his worth."*

* On the evening of March 5, 1770, several citizens of Boston were fired upon and killed by a company of British soldiers, then quartered in that town. The anniversary of the event was celebrated every year until the ensuing war was closed; and Dr. Warren delivered two of the orations-one in 1772, and the other in 1775.

Just previous to the delivery of Warren's last oration, the British officers then stationed in Boston, had made the threat openly, that whoever spoke on that occasion would do it at the price of his life. The soul of this patriot took fire at the threat, and he solicited the honor of braving it.

When the day came, the old South meeting-house (temples of worship denominated churches in New York, are called meeting-houses in New England.) was filled at an early hour, the British officers occupying the aisles and the steps to the pulpit, several even presuming to enter that consecrated place, in the hope the better to over-awe the speaker. Finding the usual entrance obstructed, supposed purposely, the orator assisted by several friends, effected one at the pulpit window by a ladder.

As the speaker took his place at the desk, an awful silence pervaded the assembly. He commenced in a firm tone of voice, and as he proceeded with energy and boldness to depict the evils attendant on stationing armed men in populous towns, the patriotic spectators often turned their eyes from him to the burnished weapons of his foes; but a stillness like that found in the house of death, was broken only by the pathos of the orator, who finished his oration unmolested. The British soldiers were not the only persons armed among the spectators, and it is highly probable the manifest preparations made by the "Sons of Liberty" to punish the dastardly act, alone prevented the threatened assassination. The scene throughout must have been exciting and sublime.

The party, which broke up at an early hour in the evening, was conducted much as are modern similar assemblings; to the disinterested observer, however, there was one very apparent difference. The guests of Miss Ripley seemed all on an equality, whereas in modern times it is becoming exceedingly difficult to bring a dozen young people together, but what some will evidence that they consider themselves far from being nattered, if, in fact, they do not take it in high dudgeon that some of their schoolmates who were less vain than themselves are invited guests, although possibly they may be richer in both prospective wealth and good sense. It is anti-republican, entirely so, for individuals to manifest hauteur towards (heir worthy fellows, and not less impolitic to assume aristocratic airs in company.

Nathan and Lucy had been plighted for several months, and in the morning when he was just ready to return home, they might have been seen in private conversation. He wished her to name a day when ceremony should make them one, as affection for some time had done.

Apprized that his birth-day would be on the sixth day of the approaching June, and flattering herself with the vain belief, because she hoped as much, that the national difficulties would, at all events, be likely to be settled ere that time, she replied, half leaning against his person, with her hands tenderly locked in his, and her lustrous eyes amorously upturned to his own:

" Let it be on the anniversary of your next birthday!"

" Be it on that day then, although it will seem an age," said the patriot lover, "and may that God in whom we both trust, approve the time and act." So saying, his arm encircled her waist; he drew the gentle creature to his own person, and again and again, and possibly yet again, imprinting the lover's seal for similar contracts on her nectarine lips, peach-blushing cheeks and ruddy neck; then suddenly, as if a sense of duly chided, a shade of melancholy passed o'er his brow, and relaxing his hold on her beautious form, he started, as from an unpleasant dream.

" What is the matter, dearest-what so alarms you?" anxiously inquired his companion, "does the prospect of our certain union awaken such speedy repentance?"

" No, my own dear Lucy," said he in reply to her closing words, as he gazed anxiously upon her countenance, from which the blood had stolen insensibly away. " No, fair one, such were not the thoughts now occupying my mind. Alas! were it not for the chances of war, we might with more certainty anticipate the consummation of our earthly hopes. The next post may bring us intelligence of the shedding of more blood than flowed from American veins on that occasion, which the noble Warren so recently and so eloquently depicted, with an hundred bullets awaiting but a signal to pierce his unawed heart. The long pent up storm must soon find a crater from which it will burst in all its fury; and the liberty of privilege we seek to enjoy, will only be obtained, as I fear, through rivers of blood-yes, seas of gore ! I would not anticipate horrid scenes of carnage, yet come they must, and your Nathan is as likely to prove a victim as others."

At this hasty speech the blood chilled in Lucy's veins; she had only anticipated war at a distance, or as a means of distinction for the ambitious, and possibly had fancied a laurel chaplet upon the brow of her lover; she had, in fact, looked only on the bright side of the picture, and imagined glory and fame without wounds and death. In turn, her sweet countenance was overcast with the clouds of fear and doubt, and with a look in which hope was but faintly reflected, she inquired:

"And will you go into the heat of battle; will you encounter the hazard of certain death?"

" I'll go where duty bids me-and trust there to be followed by your prayers!" he responded.

" Dear Nathan, I still hope a general war is not to follow this accumulated oppression of the Bostonians; and that our good king's advisers may yet be influenced by reason, and the dictates of humanity."

" Hopes indulged for years, dear girl, but what have they availed'? We have petitioned, till petition have become a nuisance, and are not even read. We have remonstrated, till remonstrance has become a by-word. We even sent our great philosopher and lightning tamer with the olive-branch, 'saying they will reverence him,' but he was buffeted and spurned from Parliament. The storm is fast gathering, and we must fight-and I am resolved to stand or fall with my injured countrymen; so good-by, dear Lucy, and with this seal of our love, I tear myself from you."

Scarcely had their lips parted from a long and blissful kiss, when he sprang from her side-bounded into his saddle, and was soon out of sight.

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