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The Sufferings of the Refugees

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

September 26.—The unavoidable calamities and distresses of a civil war, that attend even the innocent and inoffensive, are so great, that, unnecessarily and wantonly to add to them, denotes a most malignant and diabolical temper. These reflections are occasioned by a recent instance (of which there have been thousands) of the spirit reigning among the rebels. To set this in its proper light, it may be first necessary to give the character, conduct, and sufferings of the gentleman that has within these few days been the object of their malevolence, spite, and ill-nature. He is a refugee, or rather an exile, of the province of New York, whose character as to integrity and humanity, stands unimpeached even by the rebels themselves; but as this led him in the commencement of the present troubles to be opposed to all those measures which, in his opinion, had a tendency to bring on his country’s ruin and destruction, he was in consequence thereof, early (even before the declaration of independence) closely confined in common gaols and prison ships, and after keeping him about two years a prisoner, and finding nothing to impeach him with but his barely differing with them in private sentiments, they passed a law, that unless he would take a most solemn oath that he believed, what he did nor could not believe, together with an oath of allegiance to the States, and abjuration of the king and crown of Great Britain, he should be banished from among them; and, accordingly, above three years ago he was banished, leaving behind him his wife and family, a good estate, and all the comforts of a domestic life, which he was peculiarly blessed with; and now follows the instance alluded to, of rebel wantonness, inhumanity, and cruelty. This gentleman’s lady having in vain solicited leave for two years past to go to New York to see her husband, and to return, at length obtained a pass from a justice of the peace, to travel to Elizabethtown in New Jersey, hoping her husband might be permitted to meet her there. Upon notice of this he obtained a flag for that purpose, but when he arrived there, he was peremptorily refused admittance on shore, and with difficulty his wife got leave to go into the little flag boat. No sooner was she on board, while yet they were bathing each other’s cheeks with tears that gushed out on the occasion, a mandate was sent on board ordering the flag to return immediately, and they were instantly torn from their tender embraces.

That such a course is as contrary to the conduct of the loyalists, as it is contrary to the dictates of humanity, the citizens of New York may declare, who daily see the connections of the most atrocious rebels admitted to town to visit their friends, and who traverse the streets week after week. Nay, the very rebels themselves that are taken in arms, seem to have little or no restraint put on them. Above twenty of these (being exchanged) were put on board this gentleman’s flag, some of whom he had seen ranging through the town.1


1 Rivington’s Gazette, September 26.