Revolutionary Fragments, Morris Co., N. J. — No. 2.
By Rev. Dr. Joseph F. Tuttle, 1850
Whilst speaking of this period, it may not be out of the way to relate two or three incidents which have come to my knowledge, illustrative of the fears and anxieties which afflicted our forefathers. Previous to the battle of Springfield, it was reported that the British were making their way over the Newark Mountain, and there was a great panic among the people. A young man, named Samuel Beach, son of Capt. Enoch Beach, to whom Dr. Green refers so admiringly in his reminiscences, (p. 113) was at this time preparing for college, and had collected a small number of volumes as his own library. When that rumor of the enemy coming, got in circulation, he took his books and buried them in a safe place, some distance from the house. They were not exhumed until the report was contradicted.
The precise date of the next incident I am not able to give, but, from various circumstances, am led to believe that it was in an engagement which took place at Lyon's Farms about three miles from Elizabethtown. Mr. Samuel Beach was at that time teaching school at this place. The enemy were marching toward Springfield, when some sixty men, taking advantage of an eminence, held them in check for several hours. The young man dismissed his school, and procuring a gun, shared in the dangers of the day. So near as I can learn, he participated as a volunteer in the engagement at Springfield the next day. He had worked his musket with so much vigor, and had performed such long marches, as to be completely exhausted. In this condition he had laid down to die, not of wounds, but fatigue, when he was found by a Mr. ____ Kitchel and brought home. "His face," to use the expressive words of his sister, still living, the venerable consort of Col. Joseph Jackson of Rockaway, "was as black as a negro's," so begrimed had it become with powder. Mother and sisters cried heartily over the sad looking volunteer, but he cheered them up; although with unabated courage, the next morning a fresh alarm called him away to danger, in spite of remonstrances from those at home.
Mr. Beach was wont to tell an amusing incident which took place during one of these skirmishes. A negro received a slight flesh wound, and cried out lustily, "carry me off! carry me off!" although, said Mr. Beach, the fellow was then running so fast that he did not think a man in the army could have overtaken him!
I was not long since conversing with Mrs. Eunice Pierson, a venerable woman of some eighty-three years of age. She is the daughter of Mr. Abraham Kitchel, who was residing in Rockaway during the revolutionary war, on property still in possession of his descendants. When Gen. Washington in 1777 (Green's Autobiography, p. 88) formed the plan of inoculating his army with small pox, a large party was quartered on Hanover Neck for that purpose. During the time, being some ten years old, she assisted her mother in nursing three sick soldiers who were to be inoculated, but who were sick already of small pox in the natural way, as it proved. From them she took the disease and was very sick. She says, that so efficient were the surgeons in the enforcement of dietetic regulations with the soldiers, there were more pocks on her than all that had been inoculated there. Her statement accurately corresponds with that of Dr. Green, as regards that period of suffering.
It seems from her statement that her Uncle, Aaron Kitchel, was peculiarly obnoxious to the tories, and that on several occasions attempts were made to capture him. She says that a price was laid on his head. To one scene she was an eyewitness. One dark night, the family was surprised by the entrance of several noted tories, completely armed. There could be no mistake about their intentions, and high words ensued, in which Mr. Kitchel gave them to understand that he was not afraid of them. At last, cooling down a little, they asked for cider, and he treated them liberally. In the meantime Mrs. Kitchel, with real womanly shrewdness, perceiving that no time was to be lost, pushing her little niece Eunice towards the bedroom door, said aloud, "this is no place for you. You must go to bed." She followed her into the room, and having closed the door, raised the window. Eunice was lifted out and told to hurry as fast as her feet could carry her to her grandfather's house some rods distant and tell him to come up with all the help he could muster. "I tell you I was a great coward in the dark in those squally times," said the old lady, "and I was not long in going." Fortunately, three of his sons were with the grandfather, and the tories waking up suddenly to the sense of their having been caught napping, took to their heels.
On another occasion, three of the tory clan, armed with guns, were seen prowling around the stacks from which the same Aaron Kitchel was to feed his cattle. Armed with no weapon but a pitchfork, he confronted them, and demanded their business with such an air of determination, that the fellows scampered off without waiting to tell their business.
To show the constant and annoying alarms to which the people were subjected in those days, Mrs. Pierson tells me that she was once at the old church in Rockaway, attending meeting, when a man rode up, and cried out that the enemy were coming. The men rushed from the house. Some of them were minute men, but not one of them was ready except General Wines. He had come to meeting fully equipped with knapsack, musket, bayonet, blanket and three days' provision. He was provoked, now that there was a call for instant service, that nobody was ready but himself, and, said the old lady with a hearty laugh, "He spoke, or rather bawled, so loud, that I should think he might have been heard to the Short Hills!" This General Wines is the man of whom an anecdote is told by Dr. Green and many before him. Dr. G. says that Wines "was of gigantic frame and strength, and no one doubted his courage. But the most remarkable thing about him was his voice. It exceeded in power and efficiency—for it was articulate as well as loud—every other human voice that I ever heard." The anecdote is familiar. (Green, p. 98)
Hearing the anecdote of this man's indignation on Sunday, it is not difficult to picture in imagination the giant storming furiously among his admiring yet fearing fellows, and raising his "stentorophonic voice." as Dr. G. calls it, to its highest key.
The people were afflicted also with the fear of spies, and kept a sharp look out for all suspicious-looking fellows. One stout, rugged looking fellow was arrested and tried before Mr. Abraham Kitchel, the father of Mrs. Pierson. He feigned himself a fool, but that rather increased then removed suspicion. An order was made out for his commitment in the jail at Morristown. The constable was away at the time, and some one else must perform the duty. No one present was willing to undertake it, until the 'Squire told his son, James Kitchel, one of the best shots in the country, to mount a horse, and make the supposed spy walk just so far ahead of him. "If he attempts to run, or to come toward you, shoot him down." The young man in question was only about nineteen or twenty years old, and yet he undertook to deposite the prisoner in jail. Mr. Kitchel was wont to say that the man went submissively enough until they reached Morris Plains, some two miles from Morristown, when he began to say, "I can get away easily enough if I wanted to." "Well, try it the," said James. "But I don't want to get away. Let me walk alongside of you, for I don't like to be driven along this way." "Keep your distance, or I'll blaze away," replied his guard, poising his gun to suit the action to the word. This settled the matter, and the prisoner was safely put under lock and key. I believe nothing was ever proved against him, but it shows the state of the country, and what "kind of stuff" the people were made of. Rockaway.
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