From Van Zandt’s I was detached for a time to Washington’s camp not far fromStoney Point. At this time (about the 1st of July 1779) an expedition was fitted out against Stoney Point, a strongly fortiﬁed post on the Hudson River. This expedition was entrusted to the brave General
I was one of the musicians attached to the detachment- I do not recollect the number of men composing our detachment, but suppose it might have contained from 500 to 700 men. The number might have been much greater, and besides other covering detachments might have been out also.
When about to set out upon the march sometime in the afternoon, drums were beating, colors flying and soldiers huzzaing—each soldier full of spirit and entering largely into the spirit of the enterprise and full of expectation as to the wished results. The order was at length given to march and as we progressed therein we were ordered not to suffer our drums to make any noise and on each man was enjoined the most perfect silence.
A halt was called a little after sunset and I can recollect very distinctly that we were then so near to Stoney Point as to be able by climbing up into the tops of trees to behold the British soldiers walking backward and forward at the fort. I for one amused myself very much in eyeing
them at a distance. General Wayne ordered the detachment on in silence, leaving the musicians (or at least a portion of them) myself included in the number behind him.
In going into battle it was customary for the Drum and Fife Majors to send a Field Drummer and Field Fifer along and among their duties this one, the beating a signal tune for an “advance,” another as a “retreat” and a third as a “parley,” etc.
As night closed in upon us our British brethren became totally lost to our view; more lost to view than we who were left behind could have wished. And whilst we were in the tops of trees and could behold them, we were wishing that we could have been permitted to have accompanied the detachment through all its movement. What our state of feelings would have been had we been along and the detachment made to smell powder in its war strength, I know not. However, I imagine that we would have strove to have joined in singing out (as they did upon a subsequent occasion) the long to be remembered watchword of “Remember the Paoli [Massacre].”
In the course of two or three hours the detachment returned to us again. The expedition proved a failure for in the midst of all the caution upon the part of our commander and the soldiers under his command, the British discovered them sooner than it was expected they would have done. Whether this was through the instrumentality of scouters or of their piquet guards, I do not remember.
General Wayne knew well that this was a remarkable strong position and knew well also the bold and hazardous nature of the enterprise. But he had the hope that he could have pushed his men on in quick time in order to gain the walls ere they should have been subjected to any great ﬁre from the enemy. Our General being thus far frustrated in his design saw proper to abandon the design of attack for the then time being. He
ordered a retreat to the American camp, but if he did, he successfully carried his purpose about two weeks afterwards in a second expedition on the night of the 15th of July. I was not permitted to join in this latter expedition, having been sent back (ere that day arrived) to Van Zandt’s again. Its execution was again given to General Wayne and the light infantry with a brigade as its cover and Major Lee and his dragoons as reconnoitering supporters. This was a daring assault and complete success crowned the bold effect.
The American soldiers preceded by a forlorn hope of 40 men in two divisions, having rushed forward up the precipice and gained the walls or outer barricades which consisted of several breastworks and strong batteries which were constructed. In advance of these and below them, two rows of abattis had been constructed also. The attack was made about midnight and the works taken by storm although the assaulters were subjected to a tremendous discharge of grape shot and musketry. General Wayne made a desperate attack with unloaded muskets and had therefore to depend for success entirely upon the bayonet’s point.
After a short but very obstinate defense the fortress was carried by storm and the garrison surrendered. Wayne killed 63 in the attack, among which were two officers, captured 543 British soldiers and became possessed of a considerable quantity of ordnance, ammunition and military stores.
This was a most gallant exploit—-few if any were more so during the Revolutionary struggle. It was looked upon as among the most brilliant achievements of the American arms. Wayne (it was said) when passing through a deep morass previous to his gaining the bottom of the ledges of
rocks upon which a portion of the detachment passed, sunk deep into the mire and in pulling his foot up, pulled it out of his boot. He then stooped down and plucked his boot out of the mud and carried it in his hand and pushed his men fomrard in his stocking foot, not even taking time to draw it on.
I do not recollect any thing that transpired worthy of notice after I returned to Van Zandt’s until I was again transferred from there by the orders of Colonel Humpton sometime during the fall of 1779 to some military post not far distant from West Point. There I remained for the most
part (except when detached for a time to Crown Point) until after the execution of Major Andre.
When we arrived at West Point it seemed to me that there was nothing in the country but encampments and none other inhabitants but soldiers. It was a strong and important military post. Here the Commander had concentrated a very great force. Soldiers were often arriving and often departing. There were a number of forts in the vicinity of West Point—Forts Lee, Putnam, Arnold and Deﬁance.
These forts were situated on high bluffs near to and commanding the North River. Our encampment was on the high or level land nearly a mile from the river. There were two or three brigades of soldiers laid here. New Windsor (now perhaps called Newbury) was about 5 miles up the river and was a great apple market and to which many of us soldiers often repaired to purchase apples.
The parade ground attached to our encampment at this post was the prettiest l ever saw anywhere during the Revolution. The soldiers were quartered in log huts. These huts were built in two rows with 15 or 20 feet space between the rows and extended for more than a mile. Very many of these huts were built at the time I was there with my father in 1777. The duty of the “Camp-colour men” was to level the parade ground and keep it swept clean every day.
West Point was a strong military post. It is true it might have been captured by a very strong force even at this time, with all the military force concentrated there. but in consequence of there being so many forts along the river and other almost impregnable barriers, it could justly have been termed a strong position. Below or opposite to the lower forts a great iron chain was stretched across the river from shore to shore and rested upon buoys or upon timbers to bear it up to within a proper distance of the surface of the water. The object of placing this chain across the river was to bar the enemy’s shipping from ascending the river. I am fully of the opinion that each link composing this chain was from 3 to 4 feet in length and from 3 to 4 inches in thickness, and weighed lbs.
This chain was sunk so as to be cleverly under water. It was quite amusing to behold large sturgeon pitching up above it and then be caught upon it and lie dashing and fluttering about for a considerable length of times before they would succeed in extncating themselves from their
iron elevated position of uneasiness. To all these impediments were added ﬂoating and stationary batteries upon which heavy ordnance were planted and which in an emergency would undoubtedly have been well manned. I should think that nature and art combined would have been heavily taxed and would have had hard work to have pushed a vessel up the river above where this great chain lay moored.
Colonel Humpton frequently took me with him whist at West Point and other military posts to ride “the patrols” at night. it being generally very late in the night when we would go these rounds. I very frequently got very sleepy and would linger behind him. When I would do this, he
would stop his horse until I would ride up to him. He would then quietly reprimand me, telling me at the same time that I did not know the danger I was in and for me to keep close and quietly behind him.
This going the grand rounds, the Colonel was quite fond of, although a dangerous duty, especially where there were ignorant and cowardly men set as piquet guards. As he would advance towards a piquet guard the piquet would hail him by calling out, “Who comes there?“ Colonel Humpton would answer, “A friend.” The piquet would then cry out, “Advance friend and give the countersign.” The Colonel would then advance and make as though he would advance upon him and pretend to coax or pass him. The piquet would then call out, “Stand friend and give the countersign.” The Colonel would be at the end of his sport with each piquet guard at this point of time, he had to give the countersign. or the next moment receive the contents of the piquet’s musket.
This was a perilous duty. Oftentimes a promise of reward would be made to a piquet guard for permission to pass. Instances however were very rare, that of soldiers suffering officers or others to advance and bribe them from duty. There have been instances however of piquets having suffered themselves to be tampered with.
Sometimes soldiers not knowing their duty thoroughly when asked by an ofﬁcer (knowing him to be such) and thinking that they were bound to obey his orders, finally consented to give up their muskets when asked by officers to let them look at their pieces to see if they were in good condition, etc.
Should the piquet do this, the officer would immediately call out to another piquet guard and have the delinquent taken under guard and would afterwards have him punished for his dereliction in duty.
A camp or piquet guard (piquet especially) receives the countersign and his duty is to know no man, nor suffer himself to be tampered with by privates, ofticers or others. no not even by the General of Division. His duty is made known to him and the nearer he adheres to the line of his duty, the more does he evince his possessing the lofty ingredients and character of a true soldier and the more will he endear himself to his brother soldiers and superior ofﬁcers.
As I made a somewhat lengthy stay at West Point after visiting it this time, l will endeavor to describe to my readers some of our soldier doings. Each morning we (the ﬁfers and drummers) had to play and beat the Reveille at the peep of day and then the Troop for roll call. After roll call, a number of men would be called out of each company as camp and piquet guards and so many for fatigue duty—these were called Fatigue Men.
A drummer was also chosen and was called Orderly Drummer of the Day. This drummer had his drum constantly lying on the parade ground during the day. Its place was generally where the colours were planted or in other words, where the American standard was erected on a pole similar to what is now known and called a Liberty Pole. When the Sergeant of the fatigue men called out. “Orderly Drummer,” this drummer repaired to the ergeant immediately, who ordered him as follows: “Orderly Drummer beat up the Fatigue’s March.”
We had a name for everything, or rather tunes signiﬁcant of duties of all kinds. To beat the “Point of War,” and “Out and Out,” or through from beginning to its end, which embraces all tunes signiﬁcant of Camp Duties, Advances, Retreats, Parleys, Salutes, Reveilles, Tattoos, etc., etc.,
would consume nearly or altogether half a day. and to beat the Reveille properly. “The Three Camps,” which constituted the third or last part, would consume from the peep of day until after sunrise. There are many good Drummers and Fifers nowadays that would not know what the “Point of War” is or should mean. Nor do they know what should be played or beat for a Reveille properly. Some at Baltimore in 1813 and 1814 beat “Sally Won’t You Follow Me?” and other tunes quite as inappropriate.
At West Point (as at all other military posts) the musicians knew at once when a particular roll or march was named, what tune to play, and the soldiers all knew at all times what duty was to be performed upon the hearing of the musicians “beat up.” When the Orderly Drummer would
beat up the Fatigue’s March, all soldiers chosen for the day would repair to their post, form into lines and were marched off immediately and set to work. There was always a great difference manifested in the manner of attending the calls, “Fatigue’s March,” and “Roast Beef.”
The soldiers at the Fatigue’s call generally turned out slowly and down hearted to muster upon fatigue parade. When an officer would sing out, “Orderly Drummer, beat up the ‘Roast Beef,’” and the musician fairly commence it, the soldiers would be seen skipping, jumping and running
from their tents and repair to where the rations were to be issued out. That there would be a difference manifested will not be wondered at when it is stated that the Fatigue Men had to muster for the purpose of going to labor, chop, dig, carry timber, build, etc., etc., whilst the others
would turn out voluntarily to learn what they were to draw for breakfast, dinner, etc.
To each regiment there was a Quarter Master attached who drew the rations for the regiment and to each regiment belonged a Quarter Master’s Sergeant that drew the rations for and dealt them out to the companies or delivered them in charge of the Orderly Sergeants of companies.
The Quarter Master’s Sergeant at a proper hour would take [several] Sergeants and as many men as might be necessary and repaired to the store house and slaughterhouse which were built at the edge of the North River and extending some distance into the river. These buildings were very large. These men always took poles with them that were kept for the purpose of carrying meat upon to the camp. They took also camp kettles with them for to carry vinegar, whiskey, etc. in to the camp. These men on their return were marched in front of their respective companies. The “Roast Beef‘ would then be beat up and the men understanding the music (which is a signal for drawing provision) would hasten as before
mentioned and stand ready to receive their quota.
The Orderly Sergeant of each company divided the meat into as many messes as were in each company (six men constituting a mess) and then a soldier was made to turn his back to the piles. The Sergeant would then put his hand upon or point to each pile separately and ask, “Who shall have this?” The soldier with his back to the mess piles then named the number of the mess or the soldier that was always considered as head of the mess, and in this way they proceeded until all was dealt out.
Every man in each mess drew (when it was to be had) a gill of whiskey each day and often salt and vinegar when these were to be had. Sometimes when ﬂour was [not] scarce it would be drawn every day. Sometimes we would draw three day’s rations on one day and sometimes none at all for two days together. Sometimes we drew baker’s bread and always when it was to be had. Sometimes we drew sea biscuit.
I have been down at our slaughterhouse at times for the purpose of assisting in carrying the provisions to camp and I have seen a great many cattle drove into it at a time. I recollect that once we had to wait until the butchers would kill. They drove upwards of a hundred sheep into
the slaughter house and as soon as the doors were closed, some of the butchers went to work and knocked the sheep down in every direction with axes, whilst others [butchers] followed and stuck or bled them. Others followed these. skinned them, hung them up and dressed them. A very short time elapsed from the time they commenced butchering them until our meat was ready for us.
I recollect having been there at another time when they were killing bullocks. They drove a very large and unruly bullock into the slaughterhouse. This fellow they could not knock down. They had given him a great number of very hard blows upon his forehead but could not fell him to the ground. He at length broke away from them and left the building by jumping through a window. The butchers pursued him, caught him and brought him back secured by means of a strong rope. One of the soldiers belonging to our party happened to say (unguardedly) that had he
had the knocking of him down. he would have had him down in a much shorter time than they had consumed.
The butchers dropped the bullock and all, and took after him [the soldier], butcher knives in hand. When they made the dash at him, first he ran, and when followed by them he had the hardest kind of work to save himself by running. Had they caught him. they in their anger would undoubtedly have plunged their knives as deep into him as they were prepared to do into the bullock.
l have known great numbers of very fine and fat cattle slaughtered there but if I have, l have seen many more poor and indifferent ones killed there also. But with these we had to be content in the absence of better.
Often the Orderly Drummer would be ordered to beat up the “Adjutant’s Call.” The Adjutant, when called thus, would answer to the call by his presence and would then receive his orders from a superior officer. Sometimes the orderlies would be ordered to beat up the “Drummers (or Musician’s) Call” at the hearing of which we (fifers and drummers) would have to drop all and answer by our presence. Our duties upon such calls were various. Sometimes we would be required to beat the Long Roll. Roast Beet, the Troop or the General, and sometimes “The Rogue’s March,” sometimes called “The Whore’s March.”
I recollect that one day the Orderly of the Day beat up the Drummers Call and we immediately mustered at our post. In a few minutes after we had reported ourselves by our presence, a Corporal came along with a ﬁle of men and we fell in by placing ourselves at the head or in front of them. He then marched us to the parade ground. After remaining there a few minutes, a woman of ill fame was brought in front of us. In a few minutes afterwards we received orders to march. As we started off we commenced playing and beating up the “Whore’s March” after her until we arrived at the bank of the river.
A halt being called, she was then conducted by the Corporal into the river until they both stood in water nearly or altogether three feet in depth. Quite a scuffle ensued when the Corporal attempted to duck her by plunging her head under water. The Corporal after a number of trials at
last succeeded in executing this part of the sentence passed upon her. He plunged her, head and all, three times under the water and then let her go. when she started off after coming out of the water, we gave her three cheers and three long rolls on the drum and then marched back without our fair Delilah. follower of Bapta goddess of Shame.
Such frolics as these were often made a part of our duties and which (being young as some of us were) were enjoyed very well. It was not only viewed as a necessary conduct of severity to this class of unfortunate women, but it became necessary at least that they should be removed from camp. That course of treatment, it must be admitted. was harsh even to these unfortunate females.
Early in the evening we had to beat up “The Retreat.” We played and beat the Retreat down and up the parade ground as far as our regiment extended for “roll call.” We had many tunes that we played and beat for Retreat. “Little Cupid” was often played and beat for a Retreat. At
bedtime we had to beat the “Tattoo.” For Tattoo we had many tunes also. For roll call in the morning we had many tunes that we played and beat as “The Troop.“
CONTINUED NEXT MONTH…