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Till the echoes within their thousand caves
But the richest treasures of earth and main
In tranquil beauty the fairy isle,
From the wrath of waves and the breath of storms,
For life is there in its rarest forms.
The speckled fish in their sportive play,
Throw up from the waves the silvery spray;
Or unfold their wings to the sun on shore.
From the mossy cliff, there Ocean's daughters Their green locks dress in the crystal waters; And the mermen gambol, and pelt with pearls And golden spangles, the naiad girls.
At eve, in the dance, at music's call,
REVOLUTIONARY REMINISCENCES OF AN
Tent making in the army-A choice of comfortable quarters in a storm-A woodcutting party-The Dutchmen's dispute-The Dutch poultry made to pay for their owners' want of patriotism-The tax collector in a cistern-The Tories' sleigh-ride, and a spill out, proving that Dutch tricks are equal to Yankee ones— An Indian alarm, and the party's successful measures to preserve their scalps.
At the close of the campaign of 1775, the enemy having retired to winter quarters in New York, we were left to make ourselves as comfortable as we could. We proceeded to erect barracks, yet, as two rather important articles, viz: boards and nails, were almost wholly wanting, the success of our architectural efforts was not very gratifying. If the reader will form an idea of the best hut that could be created out of the following materials, viz: two boards, one slab, half a dozen nails, some seventy or eighty pine poles, and an abundance of turf, he will understand what kind of a thing it was that mess No. 6 inhabited during the long and dreary winter.
We had just finnished it when a rain-storm set in. For a time we were secure from all water, except that which flowed in from the surface of the earth-that portion of the surface that constituted our floor having become a little lower than the level of the surrounding plain. we were congratulating ourselves on our ability to keep the upper side dry, (the size of our dwelling rendered it convenient for us to preserve a horizontal posture most of the time) when, alas, just at night-fall, the turf above us gave evident signs of saturation, and of a disposition to deposite its superfluous moisture on the animate strata below. Accordingly our upper sides received their share, and the equilibrium of wetness was thus restored. A council was held, and it was decided that the water direct from the clouds was preferable to that which had passed through a layer of clay and loam. We accordingly adjourned to the open air.
It was in vain to look for other quarters; every dry corner was occupied. I chose a station for the night beneath a tree whose roots gave a little elevation to the soil, causing the descending flood to run off. As I lay thus during the long night drenched to the skin, and shivering with cold and cramps, I confess I had strong doubts as to the wisdom of my conduct in exchanging my father's house for the camp, and whether liberty was altogether as fine a thing as it was cracked up to be. Indeed, I would that night have willingly paid King George his tax on tea, for a good bed at home, where I could hear the rain patter on the roof instead of feeling it patter on my face. Whether modern patriotism is made of
sterner stuff, I pretend not to decide. I have never been perfectly reconciled to rain since that night. I am on much better terms with snow.
When the rain ceased, winter set in, and our roof was soon as solid as frost could make it. I did not remain to test the capacity of our cabin as a conductor of caloric, as I joined a party of wood-choppers who went into the interior to cut wood for the army. I volunteered because I was fond of swinging the axe, and because it was plain that every change must be for the better. We were conducted to a place called the "Nine Partners," but whereabouts that is now, I am not able to say-the surface of the earth having undergone surprising changes since the revolution. We found the place inhabited by a few Dutchmen, with now and then a Yankee evidently located for cheating purposes. I made an arrangement with an honest Dutchman, by which I received board and lodging in exchange for my rations of flour, beef, and New England rum. Rum rations were then much smaller than those dealt out in later times, because (I suppose) elections were then less frequent, and patriotism also required less stimulus.
We were required to cut and cord up one cord of wood a day, a small matter for a stout New England boy; we thus had much leisure for our own physical improvement, and were free from all the forms of military discipline.
We were the first that attempted to determine by actual experiment (our example has since been zealously followed by most dealers in wood) how much atmospheric air a wooden outline, eight feet long, four feet high, and four feet wide, can be made to contain. We judged that the wood could be so arranged as to include about fifty-six cubic feet of air, but later dealers have been more successful in their experiments, for I have seen cords sold that contained not less than seventy cubic feet of pure atmospheric air. The purchaser thus bought a combustible and supporter of combustion at the same time; one among many proofs that this is an age of improvement.
My evenings were spent before the huge fire of Hans Van Bramer,' as my host was named. Thither the neighboring Dutchmen often repaired, and I had an opportunity of studying this, to me, a new race of bipeds. For a long time their conversation was so exclusively of horses, that I concluded that no other idea could enter their pericraniums, but at length I discovered they were religious as well as equestrian animals. A visiter from a neighboring parish, after partaking largely of continental rum, began to boast of the superiority of his Dominie to all others living or dead, offering to flog any one that doubted the truth of his assertions. This was not relished by the members of Dominie Van Vleer's flock who were present; and least of all by Brom Vaunalten, a notorious drunkard and swearer. The visitor paid but little attention to his demurs, and supported his assertion of the absolute perfection of his Dominie by a volley of oaths, partly English and partly Dutch. Foreseeing a quarrel was likely to arise, and knowing the bitterness of religious feuds, I interposed, and attempted a reconciliation. After duly
extolling Dominie Van Vleer, I proceeded to commend the stranger's Dominie, yielding a full assent to the emphatic declarations that had been made in his favor; still I inferred that as he was confessedly one of the mortal race, he could not be absolutely perfect, appealing to the Heidelberg catechism for proof of the sinfulness of man's nature, and the impossibility of attaining perfection in this lower world. I pressed him to concede that his Dominie must have some trifling defect, preventing absolute perfection, as I saw this was necessary to the restoration of peace and good humor. "Well," said the stubborn fellow at last, "I don't know but he may have one fault, but only one."
"Well" what is it?"
"Well, I can't say, but that he is apt to be quarrelsome when he is groggy."
This admission was satisfactory to the supporters of Dominie Van Vleer, and the subject was dropped; no person seemed to have any suspicion that grogginess, aside from quarrelling, was at all inconsistent with absolute perfection.
The Dutchmen in whose neighborhood we were carrying on the war against the oaks, professed to be friends to the country, but we suspected they were rank tories: and this suspicion, it was thought, justified the levy of an indirect tax in the shape of turkeys, hens, &c., which was always collected in the night season. Whether their patriotism increased in proportion as their fowls decreased, was never ascertained. For a long time no complaints were made, and in consequence the taxes were increased. At last a collector, in sliding off a hayrick, with a couple of fowls in each hand, slid into a cistern, and remained there in water up to his neck till morning, when the Dutchman discovered him, and after breakfast drew him out. The affair came to the knowledge of the Captain, a stern old puritan whose notions of right and wrong were not in the least modified by the atmosphere of the camp. He inflicted a sound chastisement on the offender, stopped his ration of rum, and gave it to the owner of the fowls.
About mid-winter, when the sleighing was very fine, certain showings led to the suspicion that an assemblage, yclept a tory meeting, was in contemplation. We had little fear that any gathering of the sapient sons of Holland, or of their wheat fed horses, would seriously embarrass the operations of Washington, or ever peril the personal liberty of his heroic wood-choppers; still as it was a self-evident truth that a tory meeting was the worst meeting that could be held. on the side of Tartarus, it was in no wise to be permitted. How to prevent it, or rather how to catch them at their sport, was the next question, and like many other questions, we found it was easier asked than answered. Our movements awakened suspicion, and caused those in our neighborhood to lay aside their d‹sign, much to our mortification, for we had counted on a joyous time, and future confiscations. Still, as we were pretty well assured as to the night on which the meeting was to be held, we resolved to lie in wait for any that might pass by from a more distant region. Accordingly six of us
secreted ourselves in a pine wood, and waited with great composure for some of the King's loyal subjects to appear. At length a well filled sleigh came within hail, and was stopped. At first they were unable to answer one question, save in Dutch, but a display of a bright bayonet in the moonlight led them to recollect their English. As they could give no satisfactory account of themselves, they were arrested in the name of the Continental Congress--their hands bound behind them, and committed to the discretionary care of the corporal, who marched them back a mile or two, and then bade them go home, promising a feathery coat if caught again. The rest of our party took seats in the sleigh, and ordered the driver to proceed to his original destination, under pain of blood-letting with our bayonets. He seemed at length to yield to the necessity of the case, having stipulated for his personal safety, and that of his horses, on condition that he brought us safely to the place of meeting. He then drove on at a fast trot, evincing a high degree of care and skill. We were in high spirits, thinking of the confusion we should occasion in the midst of the loyal band by our unexpected appearance, when our exultation was suddenly checked by a fall of some twenty feet. As the snow was deep, we suffered no material injury. The rascal had contrived to spill us out over a precipice, and to save himself and sleigh from going His horses were quickly turned, and put to their full speed. We succeeded with great difficulty in regaining the road, when a five-mile walk brought us to our quarters, somewhat more wearied and wise than when we left them. This was the commencement of the formation of an opinion that I still hold, that Dutch tricks are oftentimes quite equal to Yankee ones.
For some time after our inglorious overthrow, we had but little intercourse with the inhabitants, as we were satisfied that they were in possession of the facts of the case. I withdrew from Van Bramer's board and was reinstated in the mess. The time passed very gloomily, and I looked earnestly for the appearance of some tokens of coming spring. One day, under the influence of melancholy feelings, after our task was done, I strayed for some distance into the forest. My attention was at length arrested by the track of a snow-shoe of unusual appearance, and the next moment I saw a dark figure stealing away amid the trees of the forest. There could be no mistake. It was an Indian, and doubtless an hostile one. I returned with all convenient speed and gave the alarm. It was apparent that we were in a no very enviable situation. The savages had received information respecting us, probably from our tory friend, who so dexterously unloaded his sleigh, and had come to secure our scalps. These we were not at all disposed to part with, but how to keep them afforded matter for grave enquiry. The savage I had seen was doubtless a scout, and probably a large party lay concealed at no great distance. Our arms were out of order-flints missing-cartridges wet, and but a small supply of them--for powder was scarce in those days. What was to be done? Our captain was absent, a sergeant and corporal were the only officers present. It was concluded that nothing could