Wednesday, December 29, 2010

American Rebels

Wed 29 Dec 1779: Mr. Hatton, lately come from America, gave us an account of his strange deliverance. He was Collector of the Customs for the eastern ports of Maryland and zealous for King George. Therefore the rebels resolved to dispatch him, and a party was sent for that purpose under one Simpson, who owed him five hundred pounds. But first he sent him the following note:
Sir,
We are resolved to have you dead or alive. So we advise you to give yourself up, that you may give us no more trouble.
I am, sir,
Your obedient servant.
Mr. Hatton not complying with this civil advice, a party of riflemen was sent to take him. He was just going out when a child told him they were at hand and had only time to run and get into a hollow which was under the house. The maid clapped to the trap-door and covered it over with flax. They searched the house from top to bottom, opened all the closets, turned up the beds, and finding nothing, went away. He was scarce come out when another party beset the house and came so quick that he had but just time to get in again. And the maid, not having flax enough at hand, covered the door with foul linen. When these also had wearied themselves with searching and went away, he put on his boots and great-coat, took a gun and a rug (it being a sharp frost) and crept into a little marsh near the house. A third party came quickly, swearing he must be about the house, and they would have him if he was alive. Hearing this, he stole away with full speed and lay down near the sea-shore between two hillocks, covering himself with seaweeds. They came so near that he heard one of them swear, ‘If I find him, I will hang him on the next tree.’ Another answered, ‘I will not stay for that; I will shoot him the moment I see him.’
After some time, finding they were gone, he lifted up his head and heard a shrill whistle from a man fifty or sixty yards off. He soon knew him to be a deserter from the rebel army. He asked Mr. Hatton what he designed to do, who answered, ‘Go in my boat to the English ships, which are four or five and twenty mile off.’ But the rebels had found and burned the boat. So knowing their life was gone if they stayed till the morning, they got into a small canoe (though liable to overset with a puff of wind), and set off from shore. Having rowed two or three miles, they stopped at a little island and made a fire, being almost perished with cold. But they were quickly alarmed by a boat rowing toward the shore. Mr. Hatton standing up said, ‘We have a musket and a fusee. If you load one as fast as I discharge the other, I will give a good account of them all.’ He then stepped to the shore and bade the rowers stop and tell him who they were, declaring he would fire among them if any man struck another stroke. Upon their answering, he found they were friends, being six more deserters from the rebel army. So they gladly came on shore and brought provisions with them, to those who before had neither meat nor drink. After refreshing themselves, they all went into the boat and cheerfully rowed to the English ships.

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