ADAMS-L ArchivesArchiver > ADAMS > 2003-10 > 1065301985
Subject: [ADAMS-L] Solomon Adams, Esq. of Farmington, Maine, Revolutionary War story
Date: 4 Oct 2003 15:13:05 -0600
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Surnames: Adams, Arnold, St. Leger, Cuyler
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Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1834
Mr. Editor,-I have recently seen a notice in the papers of the death of Solomon ADAMS, Esq. of Farmington, Maine. I knew him well, as an upright, intelligent and somewhat facetious old gentleman, in independent circumstances, who delighted in telling over stories of former times, and the perils of his boyhood. He was a soldier of the Revolution, being what was then called the year's man. It may be interesting to your readers, which is worthy of being rescued from oblivion, and which the friends of the Squire as he was generally called, will remember to have heard him often relate. Not having at this moment by me books to which I can refer, I cannot be particular about dates and places; but can only give the gist of the story, as near as possible in the Squire's own words. "I enlisted" said he "in the Revolutionary army at about the age of 18, in the early part of the contest, and was placed under the command of Benedict Arnold. It was the most gloomy period of the Revolutio!
n, when Washington with his remnant of an army was retreating thro' the Jerseys, when Sir Henry Clinton was in possession of New York, and Burgoyne of Ticonderoga. The British commanders had formed the plan of establishing a line of fortifications from Lake George to New York, for the purpose of cutting off the communication between the Rebels of the East and South. A detachment of about a thousand British and Tories, under Col. St. LEGER, was sent from Ticonderoga to carry this plan into effect, who in conformity with the true British policy of the period, was re-enforced with about the same number of Indians, his Majesty's faithful allies. It became an object of the utmost importance to intercept this detachment, and break up the communication. The work was assigned by Washington to Arnold-but he could spare for this important service no more than about seven hundred men. I was in this detachment. One evening after a tedious march, we took up our quarters in a little fa!
rming village, and shortly after the halt a notorious spy was brought into camp. His name was CUYLER, a Tory and a cowboy in the employment of ST. Leger. He was immediately tried by a court martial, and I recollect well that the famous Gen. HULL of Canada memory, (then a Major) was on the court martial. Proof was abundant and he was sentenced to death, and as time was pressing, he was to be executed early in the morning. Cuyler was ironed, placed in an upper chamber, in the house where Arnold quartered, and I was selected to guard the door. As the prisoner’s father lived not far distant, he requested that he might be sent for; and at early dawn the old man, his wife and another son were introduced in the chamber. The meeting was a most affectionate one. In the midst of their weeping, Arnold happened to pass the door, and hearing the lamentations went in. The aged mother immediately fell at his feet, and begged the life of her son-"He must die in one hour" said Arnol!
d, and left the room. Instead of passing out of the passing, he lingered at the door, and after listening for a moment, began to pace backward and forward in the passageway, apparently in deep thought. He again went in, and again the mother entreated-"Is there no way he can be spared--can we do nothing to save his life-we will make any sacrifice, perform any service, only save my poor boy." Arnold hesitated; on perceiving which, the mother renewed her entreaties and was seconded by the father and brother. He at length replied, "He can be saved, but the condition is that he shall proceed immediately to the encampment of St. Leger, and inform him that Gen. Arnold is coming with an army of four thousand men, with artillery, &c. prepared to give immediate battle."
The prisoner professed the most cordial acquiescence. "But you rascal," said Arnold, I shall not trust you. If your brother will consent to remain as a hostage you may go; but hark me, he continued with a tremendous oath, if your report does not sent St. Leger upon his back track your brother, who demurred at the conditions, distrusting perhaps the fidelity of the spy, as well as his skill in framing a report that should produce the desired effect. The entreaties of the mother prevailed here also, and her ingenuity aided the spy in framing his story. Arnold perceiving that the matter was arranged left the room. He had eyed me during this scene as I stood looking in at the half opened door, and as he passed me, only remarked, "You know your duty." The father and mother retired. In a few moments an officer came and transferred the irons from one to the other of the brothers, and both were left in the room.-A movement among the men below convinced me that arrangements were !
making to clear the coast. An old woman brought a knapsack and placed it beside the door of the prison room, and presently put into it a slice of pork and half a loaf of bread. I retired to a nook, yet so that I could see all that was going on. Cuyler presently shouldered the knapsack, passed out, and after dodging from the corn house to the barn, skulked to the woods, which were nearby.
Arnold was confident of the success of his artifice. Having learned from the spy that ST. Leger was in the vicinity of Fort Schuyler, he took up a rapid march, and the next day at noon we found ourselves in the British encampment. A most curious spectacle presented itself. The artillery and the baggage of the enemy were left scattered in the utmost confusion-not a tent was removed; and the fires were actually smoking under the kettles, which contained an excellent dinner ready cooked to our hands. They had not been gone an hour when we arrived. Our men partook heartily of the viands left by our hospitable foe, gave three cheers, and then set about clearing up the encampment.
"I afterwards learned from Cuyler, the particulars of his interview with St. Leger. On his arrival he immediately repaired to the tent of the commanders, with his hat and coat pierced with bullet holes for the occasion. He found St. Leger surrounded by his officers and Indian chiefs, and proceeded to deliver his message; telling a horrible tale of his capture and escape; of the bullets which had grazed his cheek and pierced his coat; and withal that Arnold was coming on like a chafed tiger, with a force sufficient to swallow them up. He had not finished his ale when the Indian chiefs slunk away in terror and eager to convey the tidings to their followers. They had been promised much booty with little fighting; and now with a prospect of bloody fighting and no booty, they broke out into open mutiny. The panic spread from the Indians and officers to the common soldiers, and nothing could restrain them. They made their escape in the most terrible confusion, with barely th!
eir arms in their hands.
The above affair, although trivial in itself when compared with many others, resulted in important events; and was one of the first of that train of circumstances indicated a turn in the tide of affairs favorable to the American cause in the great struggle for our Independence. M.S.