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.


"For thee, love; for thee, love,
I'll brave fate's sternest storm."-Neele.

In a short time after the battle of Bunker Hill, our hero returned home on a furlough of ten days. He wished lo obtain such an outfit as would enable him to command the respect of his fellows. A proper wardrobe is a powerful ally for a person of either sex, who would figure in good society. On arriving at Mr. Fitch's where he was not expected at the time, his meeting with his Lucy was one of the most joyful kind. There is something in a military dress peculiarly pleasing to young ladies, and our heroine in common with her sex, could not fail to discover the improvement said to be communicated to a fine figure by lace trimmings on a coat; she thought she had never seen her, lover look as well before, while he in turn, found his betrothed maturing in all that gives loveliness to woman.

From the time Nathan and Lucy last separated in April, as occasion afforded opportunity, they had experienced the pleasures imparted to intelligent friends when separated, by letter correspondence; now, however, their happiness seemed almost perfected. The young warrior had not only been promoted to a captaincy, but had been exposed to death and carefully guarded from harm by Almighty protection. And as it was still thought by many, and why should not Lucy be among them, that the British ministry would be brought to their senses when they saw the determined resistance of the colonists; and that at most a few months more must end the contest, the happy couple anticipated that less than a twelvemonth would end their probation between anticipated and real pleasures. Lucy accepted an invitation from her lover to visit his sister Elizabeth, and well mounted she accompanied him to Prospect Hill, where, after a very delightful ride both were most affectionately welcomed.

As four days at least were required by the young Captain to make his journey from and to the Cambridge camp, a distance of nearly one hundred miles, his visit must necessarily be of only six days' duration-which time was industriously employed. Lucy, and the charming Julia Rose, whom the reader could not have forgotten, and who required no formal invitation in gilt edges to become a guest at Deacon Hale's, assisted Elizabeth, and her mother in preparing that part of the young soldier's wardrobe which Job, who begged to accompany the Captain as his waiter, could manage to carry on a horse. The one rode home by young Hale, was owned by Col. Knowlton, to whose newly organized regiment of infantry his own company was shortly after transferred.

The six days of pleasurable bustle at the Hale dwelling fled rapidly away, and discovered on the morning of a lovely summer's day the trio-the lovers and Job all mounted, (the latter astride a monstrous pair of saddle-bags,) and exchanging with relatives and neighbors, hopes, fears and good-byes.

" I tell you the world goes round-ha, ha, ha, ha," said a voice approaching the semi-circle of spectators.

" My friend John," said the Continental Captain, as the circle opened to let poor Coleman into the ring, " come this way and shake hands with me, my good fellow. Why have you not been to see me before?"

" Cause," said the honest boy," I ben sick ail the time. You know, Cap'n, I'd cum rite off if I'd ony Ben well."

"Had I but known you were ill," said young Hale, kindly, "I should surely have called on you."

" Wood you, Cap'n; that's clever-ha, ha, ha, ha."

" Indeed I would; but how do you know I am a captain?"

" O , cause every body sez you is; besides I seed that shiny stuff on yer coat, and folks sez as how Capt'ns always has sich."

" But don't you mean to shake hands with me?" asked a gentie voice, the speaker at the same time extending a pretty hand.

" Yes, Lucy," said the unfortunate youth, who felt grateful for such marked attention, " I'd go a great ways to shake yer hand-ha, ha, ha, ha."

" But I shall be jealous if you slight me," said Miss Hale."

" And I too," said Miss Rose, who stood beside her.

" You know I always loved you, Lizzy, and you too, Julie, and always shall-ha, ha, ha, ha;" said the good-natured boy, taking both the proffered hands at once.

Seeing the Captain about to start forward, he called to him to know if he might not go along; " cause he knowed he could; shoot them darned red coats."

"Not this time, my good boy; perhaps you may at some future day."

" Good by. Job; take nice care of the Cap'n and yerself tu-ha, ha, ha, ha."

With the good wishes of all, the trio set forward. As Job brought up the rear, his figure when contrasted with that of the lovers-as likely a pair as New England could produce-was ludicrous in the extreme; the fullness of the saddle-bags thrusting his monstrous understandings to a fearful distance from his horse. No matter if people do laugh at me, thought the faithful slave, since I am happy in following the fortunes of my favorite.

Arriving at Lucy's father's, the young officer lilted her from the horse, and halted awhile to let his steeds puff. The couple met Mrs. Fitch at the door, who exclaimed as she welcomed them, " I began to think you had eloped, you have staid so long in Coventry; Mr. Fitch and I surely expected Nathan would spend a day or two with us."

After partaking of refreshments which Mrs. Fitch had soon in readiness, (which were also liberally bestowed on the old waiter, to the filling of all his empty pockets,) our hero, as he had yet forty miles to travel that day, parted with his Lucy as young lovers are wont to part who are expecting ere long another and perhaps more joyous meeting, and was soon passing the Frog Pond, of which he was reminded by his waiter, who, on hearing the gruff voice of a frog, exclaimed, " Gosh! Massa, dats de frog wot wants Col. Dyer!"

Arriving at the Cambridge camp within his time, Captain Hale again entered upon his military duties; sending home by Job to Lucy and his sister each a ring, with letters which spoke of bloody war, moral obligation, and immaculate love.

I perceive that the reader is ready to inquire, " Why was not the same anxious solicitude manifested at the last, as at the preceding separation of our young lovers ?" Now, although Lucy had cautioned Job to take good care of his master, and laughingly told him, as he showed her his ivory, that she was willing he should go into the army with such a protector; yet we must still believe that more than one sigh escaped her gentle bosom; that the separation in fact caused her many a bitter pang, such as her sex does not always possess the art of conquering, but very often does of concealing. Exposure to certain dangers always tends to lessen the fear of them, and it is very probable that Capt. Hale parted with Lucy at this time in better spirits; with brighter visions of future usefulness and glory; and with far less fear of death, than in the preceding April.

Gen. Washington had now assumed the arduous duties of Commander-in-Chief of the American forces, and was endeavoring to infuse among them a spirit of discipline and subordination to military rule, but the remainder of the season was one of comparative inaction. An occasional brush between the foraging parties of the enemy and the vigilant continentals, and the seasonable capture by privateers of now and then a British storeship, were all that transpired in the vicinity of Boston worthy of notice until the following spring.

In the latter part of the winter, Capt. Hale spent a few weeks with his friends, and on returning to the camp he allowed Job, whose importunity had been incessant, to accompany him as waiter. His visit was a very agreeable one, and his meetings and partings with his friends-with his Lucy in particular, much as they had been the preceding summer. The horse which bore Job, if not in theatre of war, did at least to that of arms, was sold by Capt. Hale on his arrival in camp, who found the avails very convenient pin-money.

About this time, as there was little to keep the minds of the Americans occupied, and discontent was beginning to be heard, troops whose terms of enlistment was expiring, and whose stay until fresh troops should come in, the officers found it difficult to persuade-our hero induced the men of his own company to remain on duty, by borrowing money on the credit of his own pay to liquidate their dues. This example, at that particular time, gave the general officers renewed confidence, and Gen. Lee sought the young Captain's tent, and tendered in person his own grateful thanks for so unexpected a precedent.

On the evening of March 4th, 1776, the Americans, under Gen. Thomas, look possession of Dorchester heights, and Gen. Howe, who had succeeded Gen. Gage, fearing another Bunker Hill affair, and probably the loss of another bet, did not dare attempt to dislodge them, but embarked his troops on the 17th of the same month', evacuating Boston, which had been subjected to British dominion for nearly a year, to the unbounded joy of its patriotic inhabitants. It was supposed that the destination of the enemy would be New York city, and to that place Washington hastened his army. As the division of it to which our hero belonged was about to march, he obtained permission of Col. Knowlton to visit Coventry. As he had done in a previous visit, he called on Lucy, who, as he could make but a soldier's halt, was easily persuaded to accompany him to his father's. He spent two nights and one day with his friends, in recounting the scenes of the camp, and in talking over the past, present, and probable future. He was confident in his belief that his country would eventually triumph over her foes; but a kind of melancholy seemed to hang about him; he was less mirthful than at the last interview; and seeing that his nuptial day must now be indefinitely postponed, he evidently indulged a secret foreboding that it possibly might never arrive. As his friends were all looking on the bright side of the picture, he strove to appear cheerful; and when he assisted his plighted upon her horse, and mounted his own to see her home, his sallies of witty pleasantry were mistaken by some of his friends for cheerfulness; yet two there were, and two whom he dearly loved, who detected his attempts to conceal his real feelings. Those two were his own sister and his love, neither of whom communicated their suspicions through fear of exciting uneasiness.

After spending all hour at the house- of Mr. Fitch, our hero again parted with the cherished one of his bosom-the day-star of his existence; and if his looks had not before betrayed his feelings, his nervous hand would now have done it, as he held the delicate one of Lucy in his own. Yes, that hand which did not tremble in the deadly fight of Bunker Hilt, did tremble when it received for the last time forever, the warm hand of his intended; and imprinting a soul-thrilling kiss on those ruddy lips his own should never again touch. He knew not that it was the last time, however, and hope, the soul's great anchor, kept not only his own, but the heart of his Lucy whole, although anxious doubts did interpose.

Zeb, who had conceived a liking for Capt. Hale, led his horse to the door and adjusted the stirrups, when he mounted, and waving an adieu to the family who were all on a green lawn before the door, he took his final departure, and was soon out of sight. We can not reenter the house with Miss Ripley, and witness the gushing of those scalding tears which would rind their way out, despite the best efforts of a feeling woman to conceal them-to hear those half stifled sighs which could not be suppressed, or see the wo-begone countenance that for days haunted our accomplished heroine; but must follow the fortunes of her lover. He directed his course towards New Haven, with far different thoughts, however, than those which occupied his mind nearly two years before, while passing over the same road with young Fitch and his cousin, and overtook his regiment and assumed the command of his company not far from the city, to the undisguised joy of Job, who had guarded his effects and reputation, in his absence, with the anxiety of a parent.

Job, having become tired of a military life, was allowed to return home; and Capt. Hale fortunately procured a ride for him nearly all the way. He exhibited no little sorrow at parting with ' Massa Nathan,' and the curve in his under lip on the occasion, appeared an inch larger than usual. He was made the bearer of several messages, all of which were verbal for the want of time to write, except a brief note to Miss Ripley. Having employed Asher Wright as secretary and waiter, our hero marched on with the troops to New York.

As may be supposed, Job had many wonderful stories to tell the stranger in whose company he road, and in due time he arrived among his friends, where the same yarn magnified, and scores of others, each more marvelous than the last, were also related. On reaching Windham, he was a most welcome guest at Fitch's; and as he had seen her lover since herself, Miss Ripley propounded not a few questions to his willing ears. Slipping the letter from Nathan into her hand, she ran to her chamber to read it; and as it proved to be the last she ever received from him, we make room for it.

"March 25th, 1776.
"I am once more at the head of my brave lads; I say brave, because I have no doubt they will prove such, if occasion requires. I have now too little time, bright star of my life, to picture the regret and shaded reflection I experienced after our last parting. I hurried on to overtake the troops, with your fond image constantly before me, and the wanton carol of every free songster along the roadside, awakened a response of melancholy, that I was-indeed, that all my countrymen were less free. When this contest will end, and whether it will end with such freedom to our American Provinces, is only known to HIM 'who directs the storm,' and protects the 'shorn lamb.'

"My faithful old waiter, who became tired of a monotonous camp life, and now finds himself growing too infirm to make long marches, will communicate some requests I have not time to note. Write to me as often as you can find conveyance for a letter-pray to that God who hath declared 'the battle is not always to the strong,' for the triumph of freedom over tyranny; and whether our nuptial day shall ever arrive, or stern fate decree that I become a sacrifice, (for no oblation must be too great for my bleeding country,) rest assured so long as life endures, you can count on the sincere and devoted love of

A perusal and a reperusal of this letter, for it was read again and again, could not afford that joyful solace the reader could have wished in an epistle from a lover-indeed, how could it be expected to, written in a moving camp, in the midst of a civil war? Dangers were scattering broad-cast o'er the land, and well did the sensible Lucy Ripley know, that the first southern gale might bring her tidings that her Nathan was either among the wounded or slain-he having fallen a victim to British malice. Although conscious that perils were round about the footsteps of a soldier, still, thought Lucy, this letter is too self-sacrificing-too willing to court hazard upon the die of war. True, thought again whispered her, one of the noblest characteristics of a good soldier must forever be, a readiness to seek that post the most exposed, and the duty of a good officer must beset his footsteps with ; pit-falls and thunder-bolts; but why speak so seeming indifferent about our wedding day? Alas! our heroine did not then know as well as her lover, who desired not to awaken hopes to-day to be crushed to-morrow, what terrible carnage was expected soon to follow in the wake of the moving Briton; and well was it for her she did not. The American and English armies had been in close proximity for many months without much bloodshed, after the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill, which circumstances tended greatly to allay the fears of many, and increase their hopes of yet effecting a reconciliation with the mother country; but, from the movements of an increased force, a portion of which had already been censured for inactivity by the British Parliament, a crimson torrent drawn from thousands of veins, was expected in a few months to flow over the length and breadth of the land.

Lucy sustained herself under the separation as best she could, in the meantime our hero marched on to the vicinity of New York.

Many important events which transpired during the summer, we must pass over in silence. On the 4th day of July the Declaration of American Independence, the title page of our National, History, was adopted in Congress, and cheerfully proclaimed throughout the Union. The separation from England was now effectually consummated, if the states could but maintain it. In the same month the disasters of Long Island were added to the catalogue of American trials, and the republican troops compelled to withdraw in the night from Brooklyn to New York city.

In one of the battles near Brooklyn, a body of Americans under Gen. Putnam were engaged with a superior force commanded by Sir Henry Clinton, when our hero was afforded a fine opportunity to test the bravery of his men. While thus engaged, and the company of the daring Capt. Dana, with that of Hale, were keeping nearly a whole British regiment at bay, several companies of Hessians had almost surrounded Hale's before he would order a retreat. Prest on all sides, the gallant sons of New England fought like tigers, and platoon after platoon of the disciplined soldiers, hired to slaughter Americans, were slain. The provincials had nearly forced a free passage to a larger body of their fellows when of a sudden our hero found himself Separated from his 'brave lads,' by several of his foes and clump of trees; at which moment he saw nearly a dozen Hessians bent on his capture. Preparing to sell his life as dearly as possible, he had placed his back against a tree, when he heard the voice of his orderly sergeant exclaim, " Not without our captain, will I leave the ground!" With a desperate effort, in which several on both sides were killed, the non-commissioned officer opened a passage for himself and two others to the object of search. Grateful for the temporary succor, our hero, striking down the first two who dared resist his progress, succeeded with the aid of the trio, in effecting his escape and joining the main army. He had come off with a few slight wounds, but the consequences of war, ever to be dreaded, were rendered vividly apparent, when, on mustering his men in the evening, he found that at least every third man in his company had been left on the battle field, in a vain attempt to repel the invaders of their soil.

Among other causes of distress known to the army of Washington from the beginning to the close of the war, was the want of provisions and clothing. While the American army were at New York, an English sloop known to be laden with such supplies, anchored in the East River under the protection of the British ship Asia. To capture this sloop and bring her into New York, was a project conceived by our hero, and boldly executed. With ten stout-hearted and strong-fisted volunteers into a boat muffled oars, just after midnight, he put out from a small cove to the sloop. So secure had the men of the vessel felt, moored as they were within a cable's length of a mighty ship, that two hours before, every one of them lad gone below to sleep. Passing round the vessel to satisfy himself no line extended from her to the man-of-war, the Captain and three others gained the deck, and secured the hatches. Having made a rope last to her bow, they re-entered the boat and cut the cable near the water. All had been accomplished so silently as not to awaken a man on the vessel, or attract the attention of the Asia's sentinels.

The boat's crew now began to ply their oars, and soon had the satisfaction, favored as they were by the tide, of finding the stolen craft to follow them. By incessant labor the prize was moored before daylight out of the reach of the enemy's guns, and under cover of an American battery. At break of day the sentry upon the Asia's deck announced to the officer of the watch, that the sloop had disappeared. Alarm was quickly communicated to the naval commander, who at first supposed its Captain had turned traitor, but a little reflection had satisfied him that the vessel had been 'spirited away,' not by its friends but by some shrewd Jonathans, " Who," he exclaimed with an oath, " were ever taking advantage of honest men in their sleep." At daylight our hero, who had kept vigilant watch upon his prisoners, some dozen in number, entered the cabin, and awaking the Captain from a sound sleep, enquired " if it were not time for business men to be up?"

Starting as from a night-mare and seeing an officer in Continental garb and several armed men before him, the English Lieutenant, for such he proved, exclaimed with great surprise, as he reached for his side arms, which precaution had removed-"And who the d-l are you?"

An American, sir," replied Hale, " who, becoming tired of the land service joined the navy last night, and for his debut took yourself and men prisoners." The fact was too apparent to be contradicted, when, on bounding from his berth he saw the scarlet banner at the mast head; and with as good a grace as possible, he yielded obedience to the new commander of marines. The supplies thus seasonably obtained. Gen. Washington allowed our hero, who he complimented for his daring exploit, to distribute in such a manner as his own judgment should dictate. Of him the great Washington said next day to Col. Knowlton-" With ten thousand such spirits as that of Hale, your youngest Captain, the liberties of America, were safe!"

The food, clothing, and ammunition thus opportunely taken by our hero, after giving a liberal share to the men who aided him in its capture, he bestowed on the most needy in the American camp. Nor was the feat here related by any means the only one originated and put in execution by him, in order to harrass the enemy and provide the needful for the army, while stationed in the vicinity of New York. He had numerous expedients on foot, not a few of which proved successful.

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