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Hathaway and Smith’s Adventure – Simsbury Mines

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

June 6.—This day arrived at New York, Ebenezer Hathaway and Thomas Smith, who, on the 18th of May last, made their escape from Simsbury Mines,1 after a most gallant struggle for their liberty. These men declare, that they were two of eight belonging to the Privateer boat Aventure, which was duly commissioned; that they were taken in Huntington Bay, Long Island, on the 7th of April, by seven rebel whale-boats, manned with seventy-three men, and that night carried across the Sound to Stamford, in Connecticut; that the next day they were carried to what they called head-quarters, before General Waterbury, who with the air of a demagogue, ordered them to Hartford Gaol, and told the guard they had his liberty to strip them even of the clothes remaining on their backs; but the captors had left them so bare, that all they had about them was not now an object even to a Yankee soldier; there they lay until the 27th following, when their trial came on before the Superior Court; that they were brought before the court and directed to plead not guilty, and offered for council Colonel Sention, one of the justices, then on the bench, in order that they might by law bring them in guilty; but aware of their knavish tricks, they declared themselves British subjects, and refused to plead either guilty or not guilty, therefore they were ordered to Newgate Gaol, or rather to that inquisition, Sims-bury Mines, which, from the following description, exceeds any thing amongst their allies in France or Spain.

These poor unfortunate victims relate, that they were taken from Hartford Gaol, and marched under a strong guard to Sims-bury Mines, distant about seventy-four miles. In approaching this horrid dungeon, they were first conducted through the apartments of the guards, then through a trap-door down stairs into another upon the same floor with the kitchen, which was divided from it by a very strong partition door. In the corner of this outer room, and near to the foot of the stairs, opened another huge large trap-door, covered with bars and bolts of iron, which was hoisted up in two guards by means of a tackle, whilst the hinges grated as they turned upon their hooks, and opened the jaws and mouth of what they call Hell, into which they descended by means of a ladder about six feet more, which led to a large iron grate or hatchway, locked down over a shaft of about three feet diameter, sunk through the solid rock| and which they were told led to the bottomless pit. Finding it not possible to evade this hard, cruel fate, they bid adieu to the world, and descended the, ladder about thirty-eight feet more, when they came to what is called the landing; then marching shelf by shelf, till descending about thirty or forty feet more, they came to a platform of boards laid under foot, with a few more put over head to carry off the water, which keeps continually dropping. Here, say they, we found the inhabitants of this woeful mansion, who were exceedingly anxious to know what was going on above. We told them that Lord Cornwallis had beat the rebel army, and that their money was gone to the d——1, with which they seemed satisfied, and rejoiced at the good news.

They were obliged to make use of pots of charcoal to dispel the foul air, which in some degree is drawn off by the means of a ventilator or auger hole, which is bored from the surface through at this spot, said to be seventy feet perpendicular. Here they continued twenty days and nights, resolved, however, to avail themselves of the first opportunity to get out, although they should lose their lives in the attempt. Accordingly, on the 18th, eighteen of them, being let up to the kitchen to cook, found means to break the lock of the door, which kept them from the foot of the ladder leading up to the guard-room. They now doubly resolved to make a push should the door be opened; which, fortunately, was the case about ten o’clock at night, (to let down a prisoner’s wife who had come there and was permitted to see him.)

Immediately they seized the fortunate moment and rushed lip, but before any, except one, got out, the door was slammed down on the rest, and he, the brave Captain Hathaway, who commanded the adventure, scuffled with the whole of them for a few minutes, and was wounded in three different places; when he was nobly assisted by his trusty friend Thomas Smith, and afterwards by the other eight. They then advanced upon the guard, consisting of twenty-four in number, and took the whole prisoners. This was no sooner accomplished than they brought their companions from out of the bottomless pit, and -put the guard down into their room, then marched off’ with their arms and ammunition, but were soon afterwards obliged to disperse.2


1 In Connecticut.
2 Rivington’s Gazette, June 9.