Samuel Dewees. born in 1760 near Reading Pa., was forced to live with Richard Lewis, a tory quaker, when nearly 5. This proved to be a sad time for Sammy as he was treated very cruelly.
He then told of the patriotism in the American colonies and the conflicts leading to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
His father Samuel Dewees, Sr.. a recruiting Sergeant in the 11th Regiment, Pennsylvania Line, fought bravely at the Battle of Long Island. He encouraged Sam to join the unit just before the battle of Brandywine in 1777. Unfortunately, his dad got sick and died at the Allentown, Pa., Hospital after the battle.
Dewees was a private and a fifer at the age of 17. He served under several different officers and ﬁfe majors. He often mentions the use of punishment, and cites the Carlisle, Pa., encampment as having officers who behaved like savages.
This book was interesting to me as a fifer and reenactor because throughout the journal entries he mentions many camp duties, songs, ceremonies etc. that were used during the war.
I learned that fifers and drummers whipped prisoners and that singing was employed when taking down the tents. He also mentioned many tunes that were used for various formations.
I do recommend this book for anyone interested in the Revolutionary War and especially for those who consider themselves re-enactors.
Former BAR Inspector of Music
A HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF CAPTAIN SAMUEL DEWEES,
A NATIVE OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND SOLDIER OF THE REVOLUTIONARY AND LAST WARS, ALSO, REMINISCENCES OF THE REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE
(Indian War, Western Expedition, Liberty, Insurrection in Northampton County. Pa.) and Late War with Great Britain.
IN ALL OF WHICH HE WAS PATRIOTICALLY ENGAGED.
The whole written (in part from manuscript in the hand writing of Captain Dewees,) and compiled BY JOHN SMITH HANNA Embellished with a lithographic likeness of Captain Dewees, and with eight wood-cut engravings, illustrative of portions of the work.
Joy there is in contemplating noble worth.
Worth often neglected and despised,
Worth that oft in hours dark stood forth.
As thunderbolt: of war—yea eagle eyed.
BALTIMORE: Printed by Robert Neilson, No. 6. South Charles Street, 1844 Entered according to the Act of Congress in the Year 1843, by Captain Samuel Dewees, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court, Maryland.
I was born in 1760 at Patton’s Furnace situated about ten miles from the town of Reading, in Berks County, Pennsylvania. My father’s name was Samuel Dewees,
and was by trade a leather breeches maker. At the time of my birth however, my father was master collier at the above named furnace. I was the fourth child. John was the eldest, the rest with myself, were born in the order following: William, Elizabeth, Samuel, Powell, Thomas and David. All are dead, with the exception of myself and my brother Thomas, who now lives in Wayne County, Ohio.
I was nearly ﬁve years old when my father bound me to one Richard Lewis, a Tory Quaker who lived in what was then
(and suppose is yet) called Poplar Neck in Berks County, Pa. He possessed (contrary to the nature in general of that virtuous people denominated Friends) but little of the milk of human kindness. He treated me not only with harshness and rigid severity but with the most brutal and wanton cruelty. During the winter seasons whilst I was with him it was made my duty to tie up and fodder the cattle, to house the sheep, feed the hogs, cut ﬁre wood, go to mill, etc. One winter night after having been in bed sometime, Lewis called out to me in a very surly tone, “Sammy!” I answered (as I was taught), “What?” He then said aloud, “Did thee put in all the sheep?” I replied that I did. “Thee lies thee dog, come down here!” I jumped out of bed and put on my little sheepskin breeches and came downstairs. It was a bitter cold night. the snow
was fully knee deep to a grown person and had a crust upon it. After I came downstairs I was in the act of putting on my stockings and shoes when he bawled out, “No thee dog, thee shall go without thy shoes and stockings.” And with a clout alongside of my head he drove me reeling out of the house into the snow barefooted. I found some of the sheep out and after penning them up which was as quickly done as possible, I returned to the house almost frozen, my feet particularly, and with the blood trickling down my shins. Lewis, with a blow on my head, had sent me out of the house, but his work was not ﬁnished, until now. with another he sent me off crying to my bed, accompanying me on my passage thither with the epithets rascal, dog, etc.
Servitude with these cruel-hearted people was very irksome to me. When I look back upon the scenes of hardships that I was made to endure, the continual scoldings meted out to me and the unmerciful corrections I received at their hands, I can but liken myself to a person in the midst of a den of rattlesnakes, afraid to move in any one direction for fear of encountering the venomous fangs or bite of those having the power over me.
My clothing was of the coarsest cast. I recollect that when linen collars and wristbands were put upon my coarse tow-linen shirts, I was very proud indeed. In eating I was often the subject of pot luck. Lewis had a nephew that lived with him some time and his victuals like mine were often begrudged, as the saying is.
This lad was perhaps eighteen years old and I remember that the old man lectured him occasionally upon the art of eating. One day the old man was lecturing his nephew upon eating, trying perhaps to break my back over the shoulders of the nephew. Said he to his nephew, “Thee should always quit eating and rise from the table hungry.’ “Indeed Uncle,” said the nephew. “I always eat until I am full and then I like to take a good chunk of pie with me in the fist to eat after that again, by way of a finish to my meal as a topper out.“
Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary War my father enlisted as a recruiting sergeant in the Continental Army. At the time of my father’s enlistment he lived in Reading, Pa. Sometime after his enlistment, he enlisted my two oldest brothers John and Vlﬁlliam and when he had enlisted a pretty good company of soldiers, he moved on and joined his regiment.
Shortly afterwards he fought at the Battle of Long Island. My mother and my two brothers accompanied him in this expedition to the north. In this battle the American loss was very great. The American troops however fought as bravely as at any battle during the war of the Revolution.
Shortly after the Battle of Long Island, the regiment to which my father and brothers were attached, laid with Washington at White Plains, and after his retreat from there, it was ordered on to Fort Washington. This fortress was attacked on the 16th of November, 1776, by four divisions of the enemy and at four different points. The garrison fought bravely
whilst it had ammunition. When this became exhausted it capitulated. My father was wounded and by capitulation became a prisoner of war and was thrown into a prison ship where he endured great privations and sufferings.
When my brothers informed my mother of the situation of my father, she followed his destiny and threw herself into the British camp. She begged permission of the officers to go on board the prison ship and minister to his wants, relieve him in his sufferings and soothe him as far as practicable in his suffering conditions. She begged this privilege of the British commander and officers for God’s sake, but for a long time they were deaf to her entreaties. After repeated opportunities her request was at length granted. She was not very long on board the prison ship until she fell sick with disease contracted in her constant attendance upon my father amidst the sickening staunch arising within the ship. This sickness
was owing to that great pestilential stench created by so many sick and wounded soldiers being huddled together in so conﬁned a place as a prison ship.
My mother begged so hard of the officers in the midst of her sickness for the release of my father that they were induced at length to let him off upon parole of honor, as it was called, the purport of which was that he was not to be found bearing arms thereafter against Great Britain.
My father and mother in part recovered, set out in a weak state of health for home but upon reaching Philadelphia my mother was taken ill again and shortly afterwards died in that city.
Not long after the event of my mother’s death, my father reported himself at camp and joined the army again. But as he durst not ﬁght against Britain with any degree of safety, it was thought most advisable to send him again to Reading in the capacity of a recruiting sergeant.
Whilst my father was at Reading obtaining recruits, he was informed of the cruel treatment I received from Lewis and family. He visited me and told me to come to town in the course of a few days thereafter. I did so. He then enlisted me as a fifer. At this time I suppose I was about or turned of 15 but quite small of my age.
Soon after my enlistment, my father who had enlisted a good company of men marched them off to join his regiment which was stationed somewhere in Bucks
At this time the regiment being again full as to numbers was ordered on to West Point where there were a great many soldiers. Whilst we laid at West Point in the latter part of the summer of 1777 the American soldiers were busily engaged in building a great number of huts for winter quarters. They erected two rows which extended more than a mile in length. The parade ground which extended the whole length in front. was from 250 to 300 yards broad and was as level as the floor of a house. There were two or three brigades of soldiers there at that time, to the first of which our regiment was attached.
My father was ordered back from West Point to Reading again and from Reading he was appointed and ordered on to take charge of the sick and wounded soldiers on the Brandywine Creek in Chester County. Pa. Brandywine meeting house was at this time used as a hospital. My father marched thither and took charge of it as superintendent and l accompanied him.
We had not been very long at Brandywine meeting house before the Battle of Brandywine took place. This event occurred on the 11th of September 1777. Although General Washington and the Marquis (then General) de la Fayette and their brave troops were forced to retreat, yet Washington struck the iron whilst it was hot and did his part faithfully. He attacked the British infantry whilst in the act of fording the Brandywine creek at Chadd’s Ford, and had it not been for
the great superiority of numbers upon the side of the British, advantages would have been great and decided. This Washington was well aware of, as the British soldiers when emptying their pieces could not load whilst they were in the stream for they could not procure a resting place for the butts of their muskets. Had they attempted to have done so their muskets would have been rendered useless by the water.
It was said after the battle that the waters of Brandywine were reddened with the blood of the slain soldiers of the British army. The battle was fought so near to the meeting house that the ﬁring of cannon shattered the glass in the windows.
I remember well that the glass came rattling down constantly whilst any remained in the building. The wounded soldiers were brought in great numbers to the hospital. Those engaged in bringing them drove as fast as they could possibly drive under existing circumstances. Upon their arrival they would hastily lift the wounded out of the wagons, place them on the ground in front of the hospital and return as soon as possible to the ﬁeld of carnage for another load.
To hear the wild and frantic shrieks of the wounded, the groans of the dying, and to see the mangled and bloody state of the soldiers upon the arrival of the wagons; to see the ground all covered over with the blood and blood running in numbers of places from the wagon-bodies, was enough to chill the blood in the warmest heart. To see the distorted features of those brave men, writhing in the most keen and inexpressible anguish, when harshness of handling or removing in haste became not only necessary but was tenderness in itself in efforts to save them from a lawless, inhuman and insulting cruel foe.
These were the hours of darkness and of sore trial. Those of us at the hospital carried the wounded soldiers into the meeting house as fast as we could and laid them to the hands of the surgeons who dressed their wounds as fast as possible and sent them off in wagons immediately afterwards towards Philadelphia. Oh, what a scene!
The skirmishing engagements and regular battle lasted from daylight until almost sunset. This battle was a hard one. The heat of the day was very oppressive, the men suffered severely and no doubt many soldiers died from exhaustion alone. The cry for water was the most distressing. Soldiers would come to soldiers and beg for God’s sake that they might receive but a little water to quench their burning thirst. Wherever canteens were beheld by these famishing soldiers slung upon others, a descent would be made upon them. In many instances when assurances were given that their canteens were empty, no credit would be given to the assertions, but the famishing soldiers would tear the canteens from off the shoulders of their possessors and examine them themselves ere they would be satisﬁed that they were empty.
Many of those unsatisfied and perishing heroes returned
again to the battle and many no doubt died from exhaustion. Others fell dead on the battle ﬁeld from the deadly arms of their enemies. Others fell covered with wounds and with glory contending with odds against them in defense of [their country].
My father and his soldiers were now under the command of Colonel George Ross of the 11th Regiment and remained at Brandywine meeting house for the purpose of burying the dead. This they continued to do until a body of British light horse were beheld coming up at full gallop. My father ordered his men to ﬂy instantly to the woods, telling them at the same time to halt there until he should join them. He then bade me to run fast for the woods and take care of myself, whilst he was the last to leave.
I being pretty fleet of foot, I halted within sight until the
light-horsemen rode up in front of the meeting house. I felt anxious to see what they would do. Upon halting they all dismounted. There was a dead soldier lying on a bench in front of the church, covered with a blanket. I saw a British horseman draw his sword as soon as he dismounted and advance to the bench and run it through the body of the dead soldier. The beholding of this spiritless action satisﬁed my curiosity and I “heeled it like a major” and was not the last of the party in gaining the wood. Upon the horsemen taking the route we had taken we were again induced to take to our “scrapers.” I ran into a house where our Colonel had boarded and picked up a pair of boots that belong to him and carried them with me. The retreat was ordered to Philadelphia whither we were now bound. We all became scattered in the woods after dark and my father and myself took our course across Delaware County in the direction of Philadelphia.
We traveled some considerable distance that night and at last arrived at the house of a good American friend. a true friend to the weary and despised soldier. This man gave us a hearty welcome to his house, took us in and gave us to eat and drink. He then conducted us up to his garret and made us a bed upon the floor, so that as he said, if any of the British scouters should come they might not be able to ﬁnd us. Here we rested our weary limbs till almost daylight and then pushed on for Philadelphia barracks. We played rather hide-and-go-seek upon the road, keeping a constant look out for the British or British scouters, but we were not surprised by any of them on our route thither.
When we arrived at Philadelphia barracks, we found but a few soldiers there. I do not recollect whether General Washington arrived before or after us at Philadelphia but think that he did not arrive there before us as his march could not have been as rapid a one as ours.
He had halted at Chester for the night, only eight miles from the scene of action and had his artillery and baggage to retard his progress. it is therefore. questionable in my own mind whether he arrived at Philadelphia on the same day that we did.
Shortly after our arrival at Philadelphia, I carried the boots (I had brought with me) to Col. who came to his door and received them from me. He said, “You are a fine little boy,” but never said as much as thank you, or offered me anything to eat or to drink as a remuneration for my trouble of carrying them so great a distance to him. After delivering his boots to him, I returned to the barracks scratching my head, wishing at the same time that I had given them to the old farmer that kept us in our flight to Philadelphia. CONTINUED NEXT MONTH.