Poet in a Patriot Prison

CONFINEMENT hail! in honour's justest cause.
True to our King, our Country, and our Laws;
Opposing anarchy, sedition, strife,
And every other bane of social life.
These Colonies of British freedom tir'd,
Are by the frenzy of distraction fir'd;
Rushing to arms, they madly urge their fate,
And levy war against their parent state.
Surrounding nations, in amazement, view
The strange infatuation they pursue.
Virtue, in tears, deplores their fate in vain; 
And Satan smiles to see disorder reign;
The days of Cromwell, puritanic rage,
Return'd to curse our more unhappy age.
We friends to freedom, government and laws; 
Are deem'd inimical unto their cause:
In vaults, with bard and iron doors confin'd,
They hold our persons, but can't rule the mind.
Act now we cannot, else we gladly wou'd;
Resign'd we suffer for the public good.
Success on earth sometimes to ill is given,
To brave misfortunes is the gift of Heaven.
What men could do we did, our cause to serve,
We can't command success, but we'll deserve. 

--- Dr. John Smyth

The American frontier west of the Appalachian mountains was a fluid place in 1775.  Settlers, officials, and Native Americans were all struggling to decide where their loyalties and interests lay, with the British government in London, colonial governments, or the rebelling Americans organizing themselves to determine their own fates.  Individuals often switched sides as the war unfolded

One man who was a constant in his loyalty to the crown was Dr. John Connolly of Pittsburgh.  Before the Revolution, he had led Virginia’s efforts as Lord Dunmore’s agent to seize control over the Forks of the Ohio and assert its claims westward, even receiving a promise of land in far-off Kentucky.  When the fighting started in Massachusetts, he developed a plan to mobilize Native Americans and Britain’s far-flung military forces on the frontier to attack Pittsburgh and then march on Virginia.  Dunmore and General Gage both approved.  So, Connolly and two loyalists, Allen Cameron of South Carolina and Dr. John Smyth of Maryland, plus Connolly’s enslaved servant travelled surreptitiously through Maryland, hoping to reach Detroit via Pittsburgh, the Ohio River, the Wabash River, and then anther overland trek.  Local patriots recognized them outside Hagerstown, Maryland and the trio was promptly arrested on the night of November 19.  A quick hearing by the local Committee of Safety decided to ship them off to Frederick, where a more thorough investigation revealed Connolly’s plan. Continue reading “Poet in a Patriot Prison”

The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 6

 

Vale of Edale (Photo by Atomviz, Wikimedia Commons)
Vale of Edale, Cresswell’s Home, the Beginning and End of His Adventures.  (Photo by Atomviz, Wikimedia Commons)

Skirmish in New Jersey

Cresswell found cheap lodging in New York and reunited with Joseph Brewer, who had fled Philadelphia himself, leaving his wife behind.  “The persecution against the friends of Gorvernment was too violent for a man of his warm temper to stay any longer amongst them with safety either of person or property.”[1]  While in New York, he watched the buildup of forces that Howe would later take on the Philadelphia campaign, but his focus remained on securing passage home.  It would take months, but Cresswell found ways to kill time, including watching a skirmish with the Americans he had so frequently cursed.

Continue reading “The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 6”

The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 5

Escape from America

Finally, in the spring of 1777, Cresswell again decided to try returning to England.  Thomson Mason, who had already intervened with two Committees of Safety to protect the Englishman, offered to help with Virginia authorities once more, provided that Cresswell swear not to join the British Army.  Cresswell did.  The best plan was to leave Leesburg, travel overland to Alexandria, then take a schooner down the Potomac and Chesapeake for Williamsburg and Hampton, where it might be possible go aboard a ship bound for British-occupied New York.  As he made his preparations, the local Committee of Safety arrived on April 16 to search his possessions for treasonable items.  They seized a shot pouch, powder horn, and bearskin he acquired from the Delaware Indians.  Cresswell decided not to contest the seizure lest it complicate his departure.

Continue reading “The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 5”

The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 4

A Loyalist under House Arrest

Having failed to reach the British Army in New York, Cresswell spent a miserable autumn and winter of 1776/1777 in northern Virginia, often arguing with his host, James Kirk, a Patriot and the only man who had ensured the Englishman could keep clothes on his back and a roof over his head.  Cresswell’s loyalist proclivities and extensive travels were widely known and on November 28, three men of the Committee of Safety in Alexandria “waited on me and informed me that the committee did not think it prudent to let me go out of the Country at this time and hoped that I would give  my word of honour not to depart this Colony for three months.  Otherwise they would confine me.  I was obliged to do the first as the lesser evil of the two.  They were polite enough not to search my chest.”[i]  Depressed as ever and suspecting Kirk of arranging the entire affair in order to keep him in Virginia, Cresswell did what he usually did when he was unhappy.  He got drunk.

Continue reading “The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 4”

The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 3

A Loyal Englishman in a Hostile Country

Part 2 click here.

When he arrived in Alexandria, Virginia in October 1775, Nicholas Cresswell, an Englishman visiting the colonies in search opportunity, found himself in dire straits.  The war had cut off his father’s money, while his loyalist principles strained his acquaintances and put him in an awkward position.  He summed it up: “if I enter into any sort of business I must be obliged to enter into the service of these rascals and fight against my Friends and Country if called upon.  On the other hand, I am not permitted to depart the Continent and have nothing if I am fortunate enough to escape the jail.  I will live as cheap as I can and hope for better times.”[i]

Continue reading “The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 3”