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The Good Soldier White
Modern G. I.’s will recognize a fellow spirit in the sergeant who wrote this account of life in General Washington’s army
June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
Orders came for all the men to throw away their dirty old blankets, and take new ones.—The barrels of flour were great indeed, after filling all the waggons, they knocked the heads out of the remainder and strewed it about the ground. The women came and looked at it, but seemed afraid to meddle with it. I being nigh, told them to scoupe it up by aprons full, before the enemy come.
I had rolled a barrel to the ammunition waggon, and told the captain that I was only going to that house, pointing to it, should be back in a few minutes. I engaged a woman to bake me some cakes.
I asked the woman if she had any daughters? what do you want to know that for? said she. I told her that I was steady as a pious old deacon. How many have you? she replied two. I have got presents for both, said I, when I come again, will bring them.
I went to see how the cakes come on, and carried my presents, here mother, said I, are the presents, call your daughters. She went to the stairs and called Sally, come down, but she come part way and stopt; I went to the bottom of the stairs and said, Sally come down, here is a present for you. She came, here try this peticoat on, and if it fits you keep it. Tell your sister to come, I have got something for her. She came, I told her to take the shoes and try them on, if they fitted her, to keep them.
I went to the company and stayed some time, orders came to get ready to form the line and march in half an hour. I ran to see if the caks were done. The woman said the oven was heating, I could have some in an hours time.
The coat I sold to an officer of an rifle regiment. (The uniform answered to his all but the buttons. It belonged to the 40th regiment faced with white,) for 18$. That regiment all the commissioned officers wore red coats, faced with white.—
An express arrived and informed us, that the enemy were marching quich time after us. They supposed we were incamped up to Trenton bridge, where they saw our fires the night before; but hearing our cannon in their rear, it supprized them.—They thought it very strange that we could get by them unperceived.
They did not come to Princeton, but turned off to the right, and went to Elizabethtown, opposite their shipping.
We concluded that they got frightened, and their main body embarked and went over to Staten Island. A little while after, we received orders to march down to Elizabethtown. They had a party stationed there; as we entered one part of the town, they left the other. The Jersey was entirely free from any public enemy; but only privates ones. We had too many of them in every state. We left this town in about ten days. The British took possession of it, with a large body of troops. We left it, our main body went to a place called Bon Brook, and were stationed there all winter. Our company was stationed at a place called Chatham, four miles nearer the enemy, to watch their motions.
We had a bad time of it, for they tried to surround us every little while; if their body were large, we fired three cannon for an alarm to the main army. Some times we would be alarmed two or three times in a night. I got entirely wore out—I wanted to know of the captain, why we were not relieved. I told him I was willing to do my share of the duty, but not all. I suppose they think us the best fellows, said he.
The term of my enlistment being out, General Knox addressed the artillery in a pathetic manner to stay two months longer. Most of our regiment did.—The Capt. said to me, do perswade the men to stay two months, until the new recruits learn how to handle the cannon. Have you put down your name? said he. I said I had not made up my mind. However, I put my name down to stay until the first of March, 1777. If I had left it when my time was out, I should have escaped many dangers and sufferings I experinced that winter.
When we were at Chatham, was put into a small school house for barracks, as many as forty men; not room enough for all to lay down. I told the captain that place would not do for us. He said that we were going further back; we did about a mile. We had room plenty, being the back part of an large house. Here I staid the rest of my time.
My time I engaged for had expired, I told the captain the last day of February, that I should set out for home the next morning. I wanted him to give me a discharge, and a month’s pay. Step here, said he, and take your pay. You are crazy to leave us now. Col. Knox is made Brigadier Gen. and two regiments more are to be raised, and every sergeant will have a commission. Your name is the third on the list for one. You will be at least, a captain lieutenant, and I think, a full captain, said he. I told him that I should go home; did not care about a commission.
All our officers met that evening, and gave me very flattering discharge.
I left the army and in about two weeks time marched home safe and sound.