The Revolution Remembered
Newly Discovered Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence
April/may 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 3
We landed on an island in the meadow called Communipaw, between Staten Island and Paulus Hook, but here we were in great danger of being taken up as runaways, for the enemy had possession of the whole country through which we had to travel for some miles at least. We were emaciated with hunger and sickness, and vermin covered our bodies. We were, however, fortunate enough to reach the camp of General Lafayette in safety, who received us joyfully and sent a sergeant of his guard to pilot us on to General Washington’s army. We stayed with General Lafayette’s army about one day, when we left it and reached General Washington’s camp, which was about two miles distant. General Washington’s army was then under arms and about to remove from that place of encampment. We marched with his army about two miles further, when he again encamped and furnished us with passes to return to our homes, which I reached in safety. My pass which I received from General Washington at that time I kept for many years, and I was under strong impressions that I had it to this day, but I have had my papers searched, and it cannot be found. What has become [of it], it is impossible for me to say.
John McCasland of Pennsylvania recalk a foray from Valley Forge in the spring of 1779.
[On] one occasion, sixteen of us were ranging about hunting Hessians, and we suspected Hessians to be at a large and handsome mansion house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about sixteen miles from Philadelphia. We approached near the house and discovered a large Hessian standing in the yard with his gun, as a sentinel we supposed, and by a unanimous vote of the company present it was agreed on that Major McCorman or myself, who were good marksmen, should shoot him (McCorman was then a private). We cast lots, and it fell to my lot to shoot the Hessian. I did not like to shoot a man down in cold blood. The company present knew I was a good marksman, and I concluded to break his thigh. I shot with a rifle and aimed at his hip. He had a large iron tobacco box in his breeches pocket, and I hit the box, the ball glanced, and it entered his thigh and scaled the bone of the thigh on the outside. He fell and then rose. We scaled the yard fence and surrounded the house. They saw their situation and were evidently disposed to surrender. They could not speak English, and we could not understand their language. At length one of the Hessians came out of the cellar with a large bottle of rum and advanced with it at arm’s length as a flag of truce. The family had abandoned the house, and the Hessians had possession. They were twelve in number. We took them prisoners and carried them to Valley Forge and delivered them up to General Washington.
Garret Watts of Caroline County, Virginia, confesses his own terror, fifty-four years after the battle of Camden.
The two armies came near each other at Sutton’s about twelve or one o’clock in the night.… The pickets fired several rounds before day. I well remember everything that occurred the next morning: I remember that I was among the nearest to the enemy; that a man named John Summers was my file leader; that we had orders to wait for the word to commence firing; that the militia were in front and in a feeble condition at that time. They were fatigued. The weather was warm excessively. They had been fed a short time previously on molasses entirely. I can state on oath that I believe my gun was the first gun fired, notwithstanding the orders, for we were close to the enemy, who appeared to maneuver in contempt of us, and I fired without thinking except that I might prevent the man opposite from killing me. The discharge and loud roar soon became general from one end of the lines to the other. Amongst other things, I confess I was amongst the first that fled. The cause of that I cannot tell, except that everyone I saw was about to do the same. It was instantaneous. There was no effort to rally, no encouragement to fight. Officers and men joined in the flight. I threw away my gun, and reflecting I might be punished for being found without arms, I picked up a drum, which gave forth such sounds when touched by the twigs, I cast it away.
John Cock of Bedford County, Virginia, survived this random encounter with hostile Indians on the Clinch River to live a long life.