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Affairs at Fishkill, New York

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

May 20.—By two deserters just come into New York from Fishkill, we are informed that there are two regiments of New Englanders at that place. When the draughts of the bills1 got among them, they laid down their arms; but after being treated with a roasted ox and plenty of rum, they took them up again; yet they refuse to work on the West Point Fort, saying it is a trap laid for them by General Washington. The militia at Fishkill were some time ago put in three classes, each to work at the fort by turns; about twenty-two of the first turned out, but none of the second and third. The young men have almost all left that place, and are secreted in different parts of the country, or come or coming to New York. The above was reported by one of them lately at Tarrytown; those of property give one hundred dollars and upwards to such as will attend a fortnight for them. About three weeks ago there were not a hundred men at the West Point; General M’Dougal is at the village above Peekskill; Colonel Graham commands one or two regiments at Tarry-town; Colonel Hammond one at the White Plains. They have likewise some militia, the numbers of either not known.

Since the conciliatory offers were published, the friends to government have been and are handled more severely than ever. At Northcastle, and other parts, if they are not soon relieved, they expect to be extirpated. The reports circulated in the country are, that France and Spain have declared war against England; that all the troops are called home; that Emmerick2 had left Kingsbridge some days ago, and that neither King nor Parliament could raise either more men or more money. These things they believe, or pretend to believe, and treat the poor Tories accordingly. It is not certain that the above is the real disposition of their force, but it is generally reported and believed to be such. They have procured no volunteers for a long time past.

About the middle of April last, one Williams went out of New York, in order to bring down, if possible, his wife and a numerous and destitute family of young children, who were, suffering for the want of the necessaries of life in some part of Northcastle. He was apprehended (at an honest farmer’s house where he had just stopped to refresh himself) by a party of twenty-two of the rebels, after he had got within a few miles of his suffering family. He frankly told them he came from New York, and the urgent business he was upon, and told them that now he looked upon himself as their prisoner, and delivered himself up accordingly. They suspected him for a horse-stealer, as they pretended, and with ropes and their garters tied him fast to a place convenient for their purpose, and without allowing him to speak one word in his own defence, every one of the party discharged the contents of their muskets through his body. Not yet satiated, they made the man who received him the object of their cruelty, and he only received him from a principle of hospitality, because he saw he was worn out with fatigue. With the same ropes and garters they fixed him to four horses, in order to quarter him; but luckily for him, this scene shocked one of the party so powerfully that he prevented the rest of the tragedy from being acted.3


1 The Conciliatory Bills.
2 Commander of the Chasseurs, see September 25, 1777 (Volume I, Chapter XI).
3 Rivington’s Gazette, May 20.