History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson
During the Oriskany Campaign
Annotated by Wm. L. Stone
With an Historical Introduction illustrating the Life of Johnson by J. Watts De Peyster, and Some Tracings from the Foot-Prints of the Tories, or Loyalists in America by T. R. Myers.
Joel Munsell, 1882
Dedication and Preface.
Respect and Affection
This Labor is
My Late Venerable Father
Frederick de Peyster LL.D.,
President of the New York Historical Society,
Society Library, St. Nicholas Club, and Formerly or
The St. Nicholas Society, &c., &c., &c.,
With a grateful remembrance of the assiduity with which, at an early age, the father inspired, the son with literary tastes and introduced him to the study of history, thus furnishing to him an inestimable resource in trouble and a sure solace amid many sorrows.
"Fidelity, that neither bribe nor threat
Can move or warp, and gratitude for small
And trivial favours, lasting as the life."
There is perhaps no truer proverb than that which declares that "whoever excuses himself accuses himself." There are exceptions, however, to this as well as to every other rule--although, even in the case of this little work, there would have been no necessity of explanation had curcumstances--as conceited mortality vainly imagines--been in reality under human control. Man, let him delude himself as he will, is anything but a free agent. As Canon Charles Kingsley makes one of his characters sing, in "The Saint's Tragedy,"
" ' 'Tis Dame Circumstance licks Nature's
cubs into shape:
Then why puzzle and fret, plot and dream?
He that's wise will just follow his nose,
Contentedly fish, while he swims with the stream;
'TIS NO BUSINESS OF HIS WHERE HE GOES."
"All around is forethought sure,
FIXED WILL and stern decree.
Can the sailor move the main?
Will the potter heed the clay?
Mortal! where the spirit drives,
Thither must the wheels obey.
" Neither ask, nor fret, nor strive:
Where thy path is, thou shalt go.
He who made the streams of time,
Wafts thee down to weal or woe !"
A variety of causes delayed the preparation of the historical treatise assigned to the writer, as an Introduction to Wm. L. Stone's " Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson, 1776-7." Among these impediments was the expectation of receiving new facts from Europe. While thus delaying, Nature stepped in and demonstrated that a long series of violations of her laws-one of them excessive mental labor-would terminate in the arrest of all work.
It was at first intended to furnish a complete and detailed narrative of the whole career of Sir John Johnson, Bart., without limitation as to the space required. Subsequently a definite number of pages was assigned. To condense without injury to clearness is not only a rare gift, but also a question of severe labor, of time, and of thought. One of the most celebrated of English writers, when asked to epitomize one of his diffusive works, in order to render it more accessible to general readers, remarked, "I have not time to condense." It was also intended to present in this connection a reprint of a rare little work, entitled "Adventures of a Lady [Mary (Watts) Johnson, wife of Sir John Johnson, Bart.] in the War of Independence in America." This little duodecimo work of 57 pp. has a very curious history, and is very valuable as a presentation of the traditions of the Johnson family in regard to the wrongs inflicted upon Lady Mary (Watts) Johnson, and the sufferings undergone by her in making her escape from the Whigs, patriots, or rebels, in her successful attempt to rejoin her husband, Sir John, within the royal lines at New York. It is the tradition of the victim, as opposed to the legends of the victimizers; it is the memorial of the persecuted, as a setoff to the stories of the persecutors ; it is the production of a cultivated mind, in contrast to the recollections of many received as authorities, among whom are numbered the illiterate depending entirely upon the fallible functions of memory.
This story of Lady Johnson's "Adventures" was written by Miss Susan Griffiths Colpoys-daughter of Admiral Griffith Colpoys, of the British Navy-who married Colonel Christopher Johnson, B. A., sixth son of Sir John Johnson, Bart. She was, consequently, sister-in-law of Adam Gordon Johnson, third Baronet, son of Sir John, and aunt of Sir William G. Johnson, the present and fourth Baronet, the grandson of Sir John Johnson, the second Baronet. The publication referred to was received, and the main particulars in regard thereto were derived from Sir William G. Consequently, also, Mrs. Col. Johnson had every opportunity of hearing all the incidents from those most interested in the occurrences and cognizant of the sad facts of the case.
It was the youngest daughter of this Mrs. Col. Christopher Johnson who married Mr. Henry Curwen, who inherited the ancestral abode of the Curwens, the historic estate of "Workington Hall," noted as having been the temporary residence or place of detention of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1568, when she fled from Scotland after her defeat at Langside, 15th of June of that year. Among the heirlooms of this family, a portrait of Mary is preserved, which is said to have been presented by the queen herself to Sir (Knight, not Baronet) Henry Curwen, then master or owner of Workington Hall.
In an address delivered by the writer before the New York Historical Society, on Tuesday evening, 6th January, 1880, the case of Sir John Johnson was treated with great care, and to this was annexed two voluminous appendices, presenting at length quotations from original authorities which explained and bore out the views expressed in the paper itself. These supplements likewise embraced accounts of the principal actions in which Sir John was second or chief in command. Even to cite in this introduction the full titles of all the works examined would occupy more space than could possibly be conceded to such a list, and the reader must be content with the pertinent remark of a well-known writer (James Freeman Clark) who says, in his introduction to the "Legend of Thomas Didymus," "I present no list of the authorities from which my facts are derived, but will merely say that the result of much study may be sometimes contained in the form given to a single sentence." To friends who have interested themselves no thanks are sufficient for their assistance in thought, word and deed. To Gen. Horatio Rogers, of Providence, E. I., the diligent investigator and digester of the facts and fancies, the narratives and traditions of the past; to Col. T. Bailey Myers, of .New York city, the true friend, the generous and genial collector and collator; to Mr. Wm. L. Stone, the painstaking; and indefatigable historian, to Wm. C. Bryant, Esq., of Buffalo, N. Y., the disinterested champion of the wronged and misrepresented; to Mr. Henry A. Homes, of the N. Y. State Library, for much trouble and courtesy, - to these and to others in lesser degree, but with great kindness, the warmest gratitude is felt and acknowledged.
J. WATTS DE PEYSTER.
" ROSE HILL,"
Tivoli P. O., Duchess Co., N. Y.
4th July, 1882.
NOTE.-There are few individuals in the United States who have the prerogative of expressing an opinion on the causes and course of the American Revolution superior to that of the writer. Lincoln, in his speech of speeches, at the consecration of the Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg,-an utterance declared by English critics to be second only to Scriptural simplicity and sublimity-said that the brave men living and dead who struggled here-that is on the battlefield-" have consecrated it far above our power to add or to detract;" " that they gave the last full measure of devotion" to the cause that they espoused. The writer's ancestors and relatives " gave the last full measure of devotion" to the cause that they deemed right, and that they espoused. They were among the most wealthy and the most influential in the province of New York. A great great-uncle, Stephen de Lancey, was one of the most accomplished Executives who ever administered public affairs. His brother was a Brigadier-General, and common relatives held commissions in the British service, from general down to cornet. A great uncle, James de Lancey, was Colonel of Light Horsemen, comprising "the Elite of the Colony." His daring enterprises won for him the title of " the Outlaw of the Bronx," and " the terror of the region," " the debatable ground," of Westchester County. A n ear kinsman and namesake was Major of the 8th or King's Regiment of Foot. He was among the earliest officers to visit Lake George; he built the first frame building at Niagara Falls; won the affections of whites and redskins on the far lakes; left a work, styled "Miscellanies," which is a mine of facts for historians; rose to be colonel of his regiment, and of another, the "Dumfries Gentlemen Volunteers," raised to resist French invasion ; is commemorated in the dedication of the "Poem on Life," by a famous private in his corps, the poet Burns; died full of years and honors, and was buried with rites only equaled on one other occasion, in the graveyard of St. Michael's Church, lamented and revered by all who knew him. Both grandfathers held royal commissions, the first as the last royal Recorder of the city of New York, and the other as a captain, from 17 to 25, and was severely wounded, but recovered. Three great-uncles by blood were shot on the battlefield : one killed ; another desperately wounded, losing a leg ; a third by almost a miracle escaping the effects of a rifle-shot. Another great-uncle by marriage, afterwards Earl of Cassilis, was a captain in the British navy; a second was Sir John Johnson; a third (James) was major, afterwards colonel of the British artillery, threatened by the mob with burial alive, and, escaping their rage, lost literary treasures, the accumulation of a lifetime and the rest of his accessible property. The writer's great-grandfather, President of the King's Council, who, if the crown had succeeded, was to have been the Lieutenant-Governor and acting Governor of the Province-in place of his father-in-law, the distinguished Colden-who had maintained the rights of the people against military assumption, narrowly escaped death at the hands of the mob, left the country, was attainted, had his wealth confiscated a year subsequently to his departure, died an exile, straightened in means, and laid his bones in a foreign grave. His noble wife died of a broken heart. This list of martyrs might be greatly augmented.
The same Loyalty which sent these men to the front during the Revolution, actuated their descendants during the war of 1812-15. The writer's father and four uncles, beside other relatives who were of sufficient age, were all in arms for the United States. One cousin, afterwards a major-general, the conqueror of New Mexico and of California, died in consequence of the aggravation of political rancor, nay, persecution.
A kindred loyalty to the government sent every available relative into the field during the Slaveholders' Rebellion, and cost the lives of five out of six of those nearest and dearest. Loyalty, when it pays "the last full measure of devotion," has a right to make itself heard ; Loyalty which shuns no danger and fears no consequence, is a better interpreter of Duty than mere passion incited by prospective advantages. To risk the loss of all is a better proof of honesty than the chance of winning something in a desperate game. And it is not only injustice, but spite that would endeavor to attribute unworthy motives to devotion such as was testified by those who threw life, property and all that men hold dear into the scale, and lost all from motives of Loyalty to Authority and Fidelity to the Flag.
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