Archive for August, 2008

Sarah Osborn Recollections – Part 1

Posted on: August 1st, 2008 by hauleymusic No Comments

Women participated actively in a variety of ways during the War for Independence; some even traveled with the Patriot army. Sarah Osborn was a servant in a blacksmith’s household in Albany, New York, when she met and married Aaron Osborn, a blacksmith and Revolutionary war veteran, in 1780. When he re-enlisted as a commissary sergeant without informing her, Sarah agreed to accompany him. They went first to West Point, and Sarah later traveled with the Continental army for the campaign in the southern colonies, working as a washerwoman and cook. Her vivid description included a meeting with General Washington and memories of the surrender of British forces at Yorktown. This account comes from a deposition she filed in 1837, at the age of eighty-one, as part of a claim under the first pension act for Revolutionary war veterans and their widows.

…after I married Aaron Osborn, he informed me that he was returning to the war, and that he desired me to go with him. I declined until I was informed by Captain Gregg that my husband should be put on the commissary guard, and that I should have the means of conveyance either in a wagon or on horseback. I then in the same winter season in sleighs accompanied my husband and the forces under command of Captain Gregg on the east side of the Hudson river to Fishkill, then crossed the river and went down to West Point. There remained till the river opened in the spring, when we returned to Albany. Captain Gregg’s company was along, and I think Captain Parsons, Lieutenant Forman, and Colonel Van Schaick, but not positive.

I accompanied Aaron and the same forces, returned during the same season to West Point. There were no other females in company but the wife of Lieutenant Forman and of Sergeant Lamberson.. . .

We remained at West Point till the departure of the army for the South, a term of perhaps one year and a half, but cannot be positive as to the length of time. While at West Point, we lived at Lieutenant Foot’s, who kept a boardinghouse. I was employed in washing and sewing for the soldiers. My husband was employed about the camp. . . .

When the army were about to leave West Point and go south, we crossed over the river to Robinson’s Farms and remained there for a length of time to induce the belief, that they were going to take up quarters there, whereas they recrossed the river in the nighttime into the Jerseys and traveled all night in a direct course for Philadelphia. I was part of the time on horseback and part of the time in a wagon. My husband was still serving as one of the commissary’s guard.

. . . We continued the march to Philadelphia, me on horseback through the streets, and arrived at a place towards the Schuylkill where the British had burnt some houses, where they encamped for the afternoon and night. Being out of bread, I was employed in baking the afternoon and evening. There were no females but Sergeant Lamberson’s and Lieutenant Forman’s wives and a colored woman by the name of Letta. The Quaker ladies who came round urged me to stay, but my husband said, No, he could not leave me behind. The next day we continued the march from day to day till we arrived at Baltimore, where the forces under command of General Clinton, Captain Gregg, and several other officers, all of whom embarked on board a vessel and sailed down the Chesapeake. . . .They continued sail until they had got up the St. James River as far as the tide would carry them, about twelve miles from the mouth, and then landed, and the tide being spent, they had a fine time catching sea lobsters, which they ate.

They, however, marched immediately for a place called Williamsburg, on horseback and on foot. There arrived, we remained two days till the army all came in by land and then marched for Yorktown, or Little York as it was then called. The York troops were posted at the right, the Connecticut troops next, and the French to the left. In about one day or less than a day, we reached the place of encampment about one mile from Yorktown. I was on foot with the other females. My husband still on the commissary’s guard. . . . We took stand just back of the American tents, say about a mile from the town, and busied myself washing, mending, and cooking for the soldiers, in which I was assisted by the other females; some men washed their own clothing. I heard the roar of the artillery for a number of days, and the last night the Americans dug up entrenchments, it was a misty, foggy night, rather wet but not rainy. I cooked and carried in beef, and bread, and coffee {in a gallon pot) to the soldiers in the entrenchments.

On one occasion when I was employed carrying in provisions, I met General Washington, who asked me if I was not afraid of the cannonballs.

I replied, “No, the bullets would not cheat the gallows,” that “It would not do for the men to fight and starve too.”

They dug entrenchments nearer and nearer to Yorktown every night or two till the last. While digging that, the enemy fired very heavy till about nine o’clock next morning, then stopped, and the drums from the enemy beat excessively. I was a little way off in Colonel Van Schaick’s or the officers marquee and a number of officers were present, among whom was Captain Gregg, who, on account of infirmities, did not go out much to do duty.

The drums continued beating, and all at once the officers hurrahed and swung their hats, and I asked them, “What is the matter now?”

One of them replied, “Are not you soldier enough to know what it means?”

I replied, “No.”

They then replied, “The British have surrendered.”

Source: Sarah Osborn’s application for Revolutionary War pension, Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.