Last year, I was lucky enough to happen across the actual war memoirs of Col. Timothy Bigelow, as recalled by his family. It’s the most detailed account I have located of his service, and worth reading in its entirety.
MILITARY LIFE AND SUFFERINGS
COL. TIMOTHY BIGELOW,
COMMANDER OF THE FIFTEENTH REGIMENT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS LINE IN THE CONTINENTAL ARMY, DURING
THE WAR OF THE REVOLUTION.
BY CHARLES HERSEY.
PRINTED BY HENRY J. HOWLAND,
212 Main Street.
The writer of the following pages was dandled upon the knee of a worthy sire, who had spent eight years of his life in the struggle for Independence, and taught me the name of Col. Bigelow, long before I was able to articulate his name. Many have been the times, while sitting on my father’s lap around the old hearthstone, now more than fifty years since, that I listened to affecting reminiscences of Col. Bigelow and others, until his voice would falter, and tears would flow down his aged and careworn face, and then my mother and elder members of the family would laugh, and inquire, “what is there in all of that, that should make you weep?” but I always rejoiced with him, and wept when I saw him weep. After the death of my father, having engaged in the active scenes of life, those childish memories in some degree wore away, but the happiest moments of my life have been spent in company with some old Revolutionary Patriot, while I listened to the recital of their sufferings and their final conquest.
The first history of the American Revolution I ever read, is found in Morse’s Geography, published in 1814. This I read until I had committed the whole to memory. The next was what may be found in Lincoln’s History of Worcester, published in 1836, and from which I have taken liberal extracts. The next is the History of the War of Independence of the United States of America, written by Charles Botta, translated from the Italian by George Alexander Otis, in 1821; from this also, I have taken extracts. I have also consulted Lossing’s Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution. In neither of these histories (except Lincoln’s) does the name of Col. Bigelow occur. Therefore I have depended principally upon tradition, coming from his own brethren in arms, and corroborated by history. It has been exceedingly difficult to trace the course and conduct of Col. Bigelow from any history of the war; but history, aided by tradition, makes up the history of any man. To illustrate: I get the account of Col. Bigelow’s conduct at the battle of Monmouth, as stated in section vii, from Mr. Solomon Parsons, which I received from his own lips more than forty years ago, and saw in his journal; and more than thirty years since, I heard Gen. Lafayette and Mr. Parsons refer to those scenes,[A] the remembrance of which drew tears from each of their eyes, and also from many of the spectators. I find that Mr. Parsons was in Lafayette’s detachment, Gen. Green’s division, Gen. Glover’s brigade, and Col. Bigelow’s regiment. All of this I knew forty years ago, from tradition. From history we all know that Gen. Lafayette and Gen. Green were at that battle, and I am happy to say this whole subject has very recently become an item of history, which may be found on page 260 of Washburn’s History of Leicester. In this way, and from such sources, I have gathered the facts embodied in these pages. As to the personal appearance of Col. Bigelow, I have procured from witnesses who were as well acquainted and familiar with him and his physiognomy, as the old residents of this city are with our venerable friend Gov. Lincoln. Some of them are still living. There is one man now living in this city, who was thirty years of age when Col. Bigelow died. This man is a native of Worcester, and knew Col. Bigelow as well as he did any man in town, and heard him speak in the Old South Church many times, against the tories.[B]
These articles have appeared in the Daily Spy of this city, and at the suggestion of several distinguished individuals who wished to see them in a more durable form for reading and preservation, I have concluded to present them to the public, in the following pages.
[A] Lafayette’s visit, 1824.
[B] Ebenezer Moore, born 1760, Oct. 10.
A MONUMENT TO COL. BIGELOW.
It is well known in this community, that one of the descendants of Col. Bigelow is about to erect a monument to his memory within the enclosure of our beautiful central park. Col. Timothy Bigelow Lawrence of Boston, a great grandson of the subject of this notice, received permission from the city government, last year, to enclose a lot of sufficient size, and to erect such a monument as he might deem suitable and proper. It is understood that Col. Lawrence will commence this benevolent and patriotic work in the spring or early summer.[C] Let me suggest to him, to the mayor and council, and to all whom it may concern, the propriety of laying the foundation stone of this monument on the 19th day of April, which will be the eighty-fifth anniversary of the marching of the “minute men” from Worcester, under the command of Capt. Bigelow. It seems to me that Worcester cannot “afford” to let this opportunity pass without making some signal recognition of the event. Cannot the citizens of Worcester, for the first time in eighty-five years, gather with their families around the grave containing the last remains of her noble son?
[C] June, 1860. We are happy to say, that Col. Lawrence has the work now in successful progress.
EARLY EFFORTS FOR LIBERTY.
The name of Timothy Bigelow stands conspicuous in the history of Worcester. As early as 1773, we find him on a committee with Wm. Young, David Bancroft, Samuel Curtis, and Stephen Salisbury, to report upon the grievances under which the province labored, and also upon what was then called the “Boston Pamphlet,” which had been introduced at the town meeting in March. The writer of this article thinks that this “Boston Pamphlet” was John Hancock’s oration in commemoration of the “Bloody Massacre” of the 5th of March, 1770. At the adjourned meeting, in May following, this committee made an elaborate report, recommending a committee of correspondence. The town adopted the report, and elected as the committee, Wm. Young, Timothy Bigelow, and John Smith. In December following, the leading whigs of the town assembled and formed a society, which afterwards took the name of the American Political Society, and Nathan Baldwin, Samuel Curtis, and Timothy Bigelow, were chosen a committee to report a constitution. This society, with Timothy Bigelow for a leader, did good service to the town and to the country. Their last and most powerful blow was struck in town meeting, 7th of March, 1774, when the society presented a long preamble and resolutions, which were considered by the royalists to be treasonable and revolutionary. “When these resolutions were read,” said an eye-witness of the scene to the writer, “fear, anxiety and awful suspense, sat upon the countenance of every man of the whig party except Timothy Bigelow, the blacksmith; while the tories were pale with rage.” After a few moments, James Putnam, the leader of the tories, arose. Putnam was said to be “the best lawyer in North America. His arguments were marked by strong and clear reasoning, logical precision and arrangement, and that sound judgment whose conclusions were presented so forcibly as to command assent.” He made such a speech against the resolutions as had never before been heard in Worcester; and when he sat down, the same informant said that “not a man of the whig party thought a single word could be said,–that old Putnam, the tory, had wiped them all out.” Timothy Bigelow at length arose, without learning, without practice in public speaking, without wealth,–the tories of Worcester had, at that day, most of the wealth and learning,–but there he stood upon the floor of the Old South Church, met the Goliath of the day, and vanquished him. The governor of Massachusetts Bay, and the crown and parliament of Great Britain, were brought to feel the effect of his sling and stone. Suffice it to say, the resolutions were carried triumphantly. This was the first grand public effort made by Col. Timothy Bigelow, in his part of the great drama of the American revolution.
THE MINUTE MEN.
In August, 1774, a company of minute men were enrolled under the command of Capt. Bigelow, and met each evening after the labors of the day, for drill and martial exercise. Muskets were procured for their arming from Boston. Their services were soon required for the defence of the country. At eleven o’clock, A. M., April 19th, 1775, an express came to town, shouting, as he passed through the street at full speed, “To arms! to arms! the war is begun!” The bell rang out the alarm, cannons were fired, and in a short time the minute men were paraded on the green, under the command of Capt. Timothy Bigelow. After fervent prayer by Rev. Mr. Maccarty, they took up the line of march. When they arrived at Sudbury, intelligence of the retreat of the enemy met them, and a second company of minute men from Worcester, under command of Capt. Benjamin Flagg, overtook them, when both moved on to Cambridge.
The writer cannot forbear to mention a few of the names of these soldiers of freedom. Most of them have descendants now living, and living on the same farms that their illustrious sires or grandsires left, when they started with Captains Bigelow and Flagg, to repel the enemy at Lexington. Eli Chapin was the father of Mrs. Jonathan Flagg and Mrs. Capt. Campbell; Wm. Trowbridge was the father of Mrs. Lewis Chapin; Jonathan Stone, grandfather of Emory Stone, Esq., who now owns and occupies the same estate; Asa Ward, grandfather of Wm. Ward; Simon Gates, father of David R., who now lives on and owns the same estate; David Richards was in Capt. Flagg’s company, but after he returned, concluding there was going to be “hot work,” to use his own words forty years afterwards, he turned over to the tories. The organization of the army was immediately made at Cambridge, and Timothy Bigelow was appointed Major in Colonel Jonathan Ward’s regiment. In the autumn of 1775, Major Bigelow volunteered his services, with his men from Worcester, in that expedition against Quebec, alike memorable for its boldness of conception, the chivalrous daring of its execution, and its melancholy failure. During their march from Cambridge to Quebec, Major Bigelow and his noble band endured severe hardships, reduced by hunger to the necessity of eating their camp dogs, and in their last extremity, cutting their boots and shoes from their feet to sustain life. Had that winter march through the wilderness been the exploit of a Grecian phalanx or Roman legion, the narrative of suffering and danger would have been long since celebrated in song and story.
One of the three divisions, penetrating through the forest by the route of the Kennebec, was commanded by Major Bigelow; and during a day’s halt of the troops on this memorable march, Major Bigelow ascended a rugged height about forty miles northwest from Norridgewock, for the purpose of observation. This eminence still bears the name of Mount Bigelow. In the attack on Quebec, on the night of the 31st of December, Major Bigelow was taken prisoner, with those of his men who were not killed, and remained in captivity until the summer of 1776.
MAJOR BIGELOW A PRISONER.
We left Major Bigelow a prisoner of war. Whether he was confined in Canada, transported to Halifax, or placed aboard an English prison ship, does not appear on the record. But tradition has it, that he went aboard one of those tory vessels, so noted in the history of George the Third. The severe treatment and cruelty he received here, did not cool his ardor. His motto was, “I have not begun to fight yet.” An exchange having been effected in the summer of 1776, after an imprisonment of seven months, he returned and was immediately called into the service with the rank of lieutenant colonel; and the next February, he was appointed colonel of the fifteenth regiment of the Massachusetts line in the continental army. His regiment was composed principally of men from Worcester, though there were some from Leicester, Auburn, Paxton and Holden, and a braver band never took the field, or mustered for battle. High character for courage and discipline, early acquired, was maintained unsullied to the close of their service. His troops being drilled, Col. Bigelow marched to join the northern army, under the command of Gen. Gates, and arrived in season to join the main army at Saratoga, and to assist in the capture of Gen. Burgoyne.
At this scene of blood and carnage, Col. Bigelow, with his regiment from Worcester, behaved with uncommon gallantry. It was said by our informant, who was on the spot at the time, that the 15th regiment, under the command of Col. Bigelow, was the most efficient of any on the ground.
Col. Bigelow was of fine personal appearance; his figure was tall and commanding; his bearing was erect and martial, and his step was said to have been one of the most graceful in the army. With taste for military life, he was deeply skilled in the science of war, and the troops under his command and instruction exhibited the highest degree of discipline. Col. Bigelow possessed a vigorous intellect, an ardent temperament, and a warm and generous heart.
We left Col. Bigelow with the American army, under the command of Gen. Gates, on the banks of the Hudson, exulting over the capture of Burgoyne and the flower of the British army. The next we hear of him, he, with his regiment, together with Col. Morgan’s celebrated rifle corps and one or two other regiments, are ordered to march to the relief of the army in Pennsylvania, under the command of Gen. Washington. This campaign in Pennsylvania was very disastrous to the American army. Being poorly clothed, and more poorly fed, they were not in condition to meet the tried veterans of the English army. It was said of this reinforcement from Gen. Gates’ army, that they were men of approved courage, and flushed with recent victory, but squalid in their appearance, from fatigue and want of necessaries. But when Col. Bigelow led his regiment into line with the main army at White Marsh, a small place about fourteen miles from Philadelphia, he was recognized by the commander-in-chief, as the very identical Capt. Bigelow whom he had seen at Cambridge with a company of minute men from Worcester; and while Washington held Col. Bigelow by the hand to introduce him to his brother officers, he said, “This, gentlemen officers, is Col. Bigelow, and the 15th regiment of the Massachusetts line under his command. This, gentlemen, is the man who vanquished the former royalists in his own native town. He marched the first company of minute men from Worcester at the alarm from Lexington. He shared largely in the sufferings of the campaign against Quebec, and was taken prisoner there. After his exchange he raised a regiment in his own neighborhood, and joining the northern army under Gen. Gates, participated in the struggle with Burgoyne, and shares largely in the honor of that victory.”
It was said by an eye-witness, that “this was an exceedingly interesting and affecting event, and could not fail to satisfy every one of the high estimation in which the commander-in-chief held Col. Bigelow.”
The American army was now watching the movements of Sir William Howe, commander of the British army, who soon landed his troops at the head of Elk river, in two columns, the right commanded by Gen. Knyphausen, the left by Lord Cornwallis. After several skirmishes, the two armies met upon the banks of the Brandywine. In this battle, the Americans were unsuccessful, and soon after the British army took possession of Philadelphia, and the American army took their position at Germantown, which is six miles northwest from Philadelphia. Here again the Americans are repulsed, and each army retires to winter quarters, the British to Philadelphia, the American to Valley Forge.
AT VALLEY FORGE.
Valley Forge is on the west side of the Schuylkill, twenty miles from Philadelphia, and this is where Col. Bigelow spent the winter of 1777-78, with his regiment, and here is where the soldiers of freedom suffered most intensely. The British general had derived no other fruit from all his recent victories, than of having procured excellent winter quarters for his army in Philadelphia. Here they spent the winter within the splendid mansions of that city, feasting upon the best the country afforded; while the American army were suffering in their mud huts, half clothed, with famine staring them in the face. Many of the soldiers were seen to drop dead with cold and hunger; others had their bare feet cut by the ice, and left their tracks in blood. The American army exhibited in their quarters at Valley Forge such examples of constancy and resignation, as were never paralleled before. In such pressing danger of famine and the dissolution of the army, mutiny appeared almost inevitable. At this alarming crisis, Col. Bigelow had a party of officers and soldiers convene at his headquarters one evening,–such a party as we should call in these days a surprise party,–when the subject of abandoning the cause was fully discussed. Col. Bigelow heard all that was to be said on the subject. Some of his men argued that Congress could not clothe or feed them, and they did not feel it to be their duty to abandon their families and homes, to starve in that cold climate. When all had been said by as many as wished to express their minds, Col. Bigelow arose and said:–“Gentlemen, I have heard all the remarks of discontent offered here this evening, but as for me, I have long since come to the conclusion, to stand by the American cause, come what will. I have enlisted for life. I have cheerfully left my home and family. All the friends I have, are the friends of my country. I expect to suffer with hunger, with cold, and with fatigue, and, if need be, I expect to lay down my life for the liberty of these colonies.” Such remarks as these could not fail of having the desired effect.
About this time a large herd of cattle was driven into the camp from New Jersey and Connecticut. Worcester had sent Col. Bigelow’s regiment sixty-two sets of shirts, shoes and stockings, as their proportion for the army. Other towns did their part. Worcester sent £78 in lawful money, which was taken up at the Old South church after divine service. Now the Marquis de la Fayette, with his money and with the French troops, had arrived; now Count D’Estaing, with his powerful fleet, were in the American waters; now Gen. Gates, with the remainder of the northern army, had arrived to join the army of Washington. Spring comes; and the day that the English abandon Philadelphia, the American army leaves Valley Forge, to watch their movements. They cross the Delaware at Coryell’s Ferry, and take post at Hopewell; they do not venture to cross the Raritan. The English reach Allentown; Gen. Lee occupies Englishtown; Washington encamped at Cranberry; Morgan and Col. Bigelow are harassing the right flank of the English. The British, now upon the heights of Freehold, pass all their baggage to the hills of Middletown for safety, and then comes the battle of Monmouth.
THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH.
The battle of Monmouth, so called by the Americans, was fought in Freehold, Monmouth county, N. J., situated thirty-five miles southeast from Trenton. The commander-in-chief had detached two brigades to the support of Gen. Wayne, who had been sent on as a vanguard, and had already come up with the British rear. These two brigades were commanded by Gens. Lee and Lafayette. At this time Col. Bigelow was under the command of Gen. Lafayette. This vanguard of the American army had so severely galled the rear of the British, that Gen. Clinton resolved to wheel his whole army and put the Americans to flight at the point of the bayonet. For a short time the conflict was severe. At length Gen. Lee gave way, for which he was afterwards court-martialed and suspended for one year. The light horse, also, of Lafayette’s brigade, gave way, and nothing of that celebrated vanguard but Col. Bigelow’s regiment, with two or three other regiments, remained. It was said that if Gen. Lee had stood his ground, as he might have done, a decisive victory would have been gained. Col. Bigelow’s regiment was the last to quit the field.
It was said by one of Col. Bigelow’s men, who was an intimate acquaintance of the writer of this article, and who was wounded at that time, that, at the time he fell, Col. Bigelow seized his musket from him, and fought more like a tiger than like a man. This man was Mr. Solomon Parsons, whose son now occupies and owns the same farm on which his father died, on Apricot street, in this city. Col. Bigelow with his regiment had to retire, but was soon met by Washington, with the main army, who was moving up to the rescue. After the troops of Lee and Lafayette had been rallied, the whole army turned upon the enemy, and then came the tug of war, for “Greek met Greek.” The English, flushed with the advantages they had got, and the Americans under the command of their own beloved Washington, many of whom had never fought before by his side, were determined to retake the field, or die in the attempt. The conflict was now terrible indeed, and in the midst of flame, and smoke, and metal hail, Bigelow was conspicuous. The English were repulsed and driven to the woods. The Americans retake the field; night comes on; the whole American army rest on their arms through the night, that they may renew the attack with the dawn of day; day comes on, and the British army has fled, as one of their officers said by moonlight, but it so happened that the moon set that night at 10 o’clock, being but four days old.
Such was the issue of the battle of Freehold, or of Monmouth, as the Americans call it. We have now traced the military history of Col. Bigelow from April 19, 1775, to June 28, 1778.
THE SLAUGHTER AT WYOMING.
The history of Col. Bigelow is so interwoven with that of the Revolution, that it is difficult to separate the two. We shall therefore, give in this chapter a short account of the bloody butchery of the inhabitants of that beautiful little colony at Wyoming, and what Col. Bigelow thought of that demoniac cruelty, the bare remembrance of which makes us shudder. Wilkesbarre is the shire town of Luzerne county, Pa. It is situated in the Wyoming valley, one hundred and fourteen miles northeast from Harrisburg, and one hundred and twenty northwest from Philadelphia. This place was settled by emigrants from Connecticut in 1773, under the auspices of one Col. Durkee, who gave it the compound name it bears in honor of two eminent and zealous advocates of the American cause in the British parliament, Wilkes and Barre. Wyoming contained eight townships, each containing a square of five miles, beautifully situated on both sides of the Susquehanna. Wilkesbarre is one of those towns. The inhabitants of this beautiful valley were much engaged in their country’s cause, and nearly one thousand of their young men had joined the army, and were absent from home. Most of those remaining at home were tories, although these were not so numerous as the friends of liberty. Yet they formed an alliance with the Indians, and the first of July there appeared before the fort at Wilkesbarre about sixteen hundred armed men, two-thirds of which were tories and one-third Indians. The colony of Wyoming could muster only about five hundred men. In this condition, the tories and Indians fell upon them, and put them nearly all to death; only about sixty escaped. Never was a rout so deplorable; never was a massacre accompanied with so many horrors. The barbarians took the men, women and children promiscuously into houses and barracks, and set fire to them and consumed them all, listening, delighted, to hear the moans and shrieks of the expiring multitude.
The crops of every description were consigned to the flames. The habitations, granaries, and other constructions–the fruit of years of human industry–sunk in ruin, under the destructive strokes of those cannibals. Their fury was also wreaked upon the very beasts. They cut out the tongues of the horses and cattle, and left them to wander in the midst of those fields, lately so luxuriant, but now in desolation, to undergo the torments of a lingering death. Capt. Bedlock was stripped naked, and stuck full of pine splinters and set on fire. Captains Ransom and Durgee were thrown alive into the fire. One of the tories, whose mother had married a second husband, butchered her with his own hand, and then massacred his father-in-law, his own sisters, and their infants in the cradle. Another killed his own father, and exterminated all his family. A third imbued his hands in the blood of his brothers, his sisters, his brother-in-law, and his father-in-law. Other atrocities, if possible still more abominable, we leave in silence. The tories appeared to vie with and even to surpass the savages in barbarity. Such men as these, Col. Bigelow had to contend with in Worcester, in 1774, and upon hearing of this bloody massacre, it was said that Col. Bigelow was filled with horror and indignation, and swore eternal vengeance and condign punishment upon all the tories. Col. Bigelow at this time was at his post in Rhode Island, and on hearing of this bloody tragedy, it was said by the same informant, that he walked his room for one hour without speaking. At length he exclaimed, “Our worst enemies are those of our own household.”
After the British evacuated Rhode Island, Col. Bigelow moves on with his regiment, and the next we hear of him he is at “Verplank’s Point.” The American army was at this time very much divided. The great object of the commander-in-chief was to annoy the British forces as much as possible, and we think that it is not saying too much of Col. Bigelow, that no Colonel in the whole American army was better qualified for that service. His whole life had been and was at this time, devoted to his country’s cause. He had left Worcester and all its pleasant associations, with a determination to free the colonies from the mother country, or die in the attempt. He seemed to feel that the whole responsibility of the struggle rested on him. Always ready to obey orders from superior officers cheerfully, and never wanting in energy to execute them. The deep snows of Quebec had not cooled his ardor. The fetid stench of an English prison ship could not abate his love of liberty and country. The blood and carnage of Saratoga and of Monmouth had given him confidence. The blood-stained soil of Valley Forge had inured him to hardships to which others would have yielded.
The news of the bloody butchery at Wyoming had aroused his iron nerve to its utmost tension against tories, and in this condition he was ordered with his regiment to Robinson’s Farms, N. J. Here he breaks up a “nest” of tories, who were supplying the English with hay, grain and other things necessary for their army. An anecdote of this bloodless battle was related to the writer by one of Col. Bigelow’s men, who was present at the time. The English had sent a company of men to guard their teams while removing some hay they were receiving from their friends the tories, when Col. Bigelow came up with his regiment, and ordered them to disperse. The tories were insolent; the English captain refused to go until the hay went with them. Upon this Col. Bigelow ordered a part of his men to fire upon them. At this moment, one of Col. Bigelow’s men, from Worcester, who had just joined the regiment, and, we are sorry to say, was a coward, exclaimed at the top of his voice, “In the name of God, why don’t Col. Bigelow order us to retreat?” This man in after life received a pension from government, and died respected a few years since in this city. His children are now living here, and therefore we shall not call his name. He was always afraid of gunpowder. The English were also frightened and fled, leaving the hay on the hands of Col. Bigelow, who, having no use for it, returned it to its tory owner, on the express condition that he should not sell it to the British.
Colonel Bigelow is now ordered to Peekskill. This is a town on the Hudson, forty-six miles north of New York, and one hundred and six miles south of Albany. Here he frightened the tories, and drove the British down the river to New York. Col. Bigelow is again at Verplank’s, and Stony Point, guarding the pass called King’s Ferry. Gen. Clinton moves upon them with the British army, and Commodore Collier with the British squadron ascends the river; the British storm the fort named the Fort of Lafayette, at Verplank’s; the fortress had to surrender, but not until Col. Bigelow showed them the points of his bayonets. It was said of this conflict, that Col. Bigelow ordered his men to draw their charge and approach the enemy with fixed bayonets, while he himself laid aside his sword and took a musket from a sick soldier, and with it fought more like a tiger than a man. This fort, being overpowered by the enemy, at length gave way and surrendered at discretion. The policy of the English is now to resume the war of devastation, and the army is ordered into South Carolina. Gen. Gates is ordered to the command of the southern army.
DISASTERS AT THE SOUTH.
Gen. Gates takes the command of the southern army. The British at this time had almost undisputed possession of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. In this condition Gates resolved to risk a general battle with Lord Cornwallis, and for which he was severely blamed. He lost the battle, hence the blame. If, on the other hand, he had gained it, he would have gained another laurel to place by the side of the one gained at Saratoga. At this battle, Gen. Gates lost more than two thousand men, and among them three valuable officers. Gen. Gregory was killed, and Baron de Kalb and Gen. Rutherford of Carolina were taken prisoners. This was the result of the battle at Camden. At this time, Col. Bigelow was watching the movements of the British troops in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In this stage of the narrative, the writer cannot refrain from a passing tribute of respect to the memory of those patriotic women of South Carolina, who displayed so ardent, so rare a love of country, that scarcely could there be found in ancient or modern history an instance more worthy to excite surprise and admiration. They repaired on board ships, they descended into dungeons where their husbands, children or friends were in confinement. They carried them consolation and encouragement. “Summon your magnanimity,” they said, “yield not to the fury of tyrants; hesitate not to prefer prisons to infamy, death to servitude. America has fixed her eyes on her beloved defenders; you will reap, doubt it not, the fruit of your sufferings; they will produce liberty, that parent of all blessing; they will shelter her forever from the assaults of British banditti; you are the martyrs of a cause the most grateful to Heaven, and sacred to man.” By such words these generous women mitigated the miseries of the unhappy prisoners. Exasperated at their constancy, the English condemned the most zealous of them to banishment and confiscation. In bidding a last farewell to their fathers, their children, their brothers, their husbands, these heroines, far from betraying the least mark of weakness, which in men might have been excused, exhorted them to arm themselves with intrepidity. They conjured them not to allow fortune to vanquish them, nor to suffer the love they bore their families to render them unmindful of all they owed their country. A supernatural alacrity seemed to animate them, when they accompanied their husbands into distant countries, and even when they immured themselves with them in the fetid ships into which they were inhumanly crowded. Reduced to the most frightful indigence, they were seen to beg bread for themselves and families. Among those who were nurtured in the lap of opulence, many passed suddenly from the most delicate and the most elegant style of living, to the rudest toils, and to the humblest services. But humiliation could not triumph over their resolution and cheerfulness; their example was a support to their companions in misfortune. To this heroism of the women of Carolina it is principally to be imputed, that the love, and even the name of liberty, were not totally extinguished in the southern provinces. Col. Bigelow, hearing of the loss of Gates’ army, and the appointment of Gen. Green to the command of the southern department, solicited and received orders from the commander-in-chief to move on with his regiment to join Green; but did not arrive in season to participate in the battles of Hobkirk and of Eutaw Springs, which closed the campaign in the south.
BATTLE AT YORKTOWN.
Yorktown is a port of entry in Virginia, 70 miles E. S. E. from Richmond, on the south side of York river, opposite Gloucester. The British army from the South had encamped at this place and fortified it. Col. Bigelow had arrived with his regiment to join Gen. Green. Col. Bigelow is now in Gen. Lafayette’s detachment. Lafayette’s second officer is Col. Hamilton, aid-de-camp of the commander-in-chief, a young man of the highest expectations, and accompanied by Col. Laurens, son of the former President of Congress.
Another detachment was commanded by the Baron de Viomesnit, the Count Charles de Damas, and the Count de Deux-Ponts. The commanders addressed their soldiers a short exhortation to inflame their courage; they represented that this last effort would bring them to the close of their glorious toils. The attack was extremely impetuous. Gen. Lafayette is ordered to attack the right redoubt, while the Baron de Viomesnit is to attack the left. This was done at the point of the bayonet. Suffice it to say, that both redoubts were carried. One of Col. Bigelow’s men, on being inquired of by the writer where his Colonel was at this time, answered, “Why, old Col. Tim _was everywhere all the time_, and you would thought if you had been there, that there was nobody else in the struggle but Col. Bigelow and his regiment.” Before the morning of the 19th, those redoubts were all repaired and manned by the allies.
Now comes the celebrated 19th day of October, 1781. The day began to appear, the allies open a tremendous fire from all their batteries; the bombs showered copiously, the French fleet, under the command of Count De Grasse, are opening a most deadly fire from the harbor. Lord Cornwallis sends in a flag to General Washington, proposing a cessation of arms for twenty-four hours. Washington would not consent to it, and would grant but two hours, and during this interval he should expect the propositions of the British commander. The proposition is made and accepted. The British flotilla, consisting of two frigates, the Guadaloupe and Fowey, besides about twenty transports (twenty others had been burnt during the siege), one hundred and sixty pieces of field artillery, mostly brass, with eight mortars, more than seven thousand prisoners, exclusive of seamen, five hundred and fifty slain, including one officer (Major Cochrane), were surrendered into the hands of the armies of France and America, whose loss was about four hundred and fifty in killed and wounded.
At the news of so glorious, so important a victory, transports of exultation broke out from one extremity of America to the other. Nobody dared longer to doubt of independence. A poet in Col. Bigelow’s regiment, made a short song commemorative of this event, in which occurred these lines,
Count DeGrasse he lies in the harbor,
And Washington is on shore.
A wag in Worcester, after they had returned, changed it so as to make it read thus:
Count DeGrasse he lies in the harbor,
And Bigelow is on shore.
Such was the end of the campaign of Virginia, which was well nigh being that of the American war. This laid the foundation of a general peace. Thus ended a long and arduous conflict, in which Great Britain expended an hundred million of money, with an hundred thousand lives, and won nothing. The United States endured great cruelty and distress from their enemies, lost many lives and much treasure, but finally delivered themselves from a foreign dominion, and gained a rank among the nations of the earth.
CLOSE OF THE REVOLUTION.
After the surrender of Yorktown, the American army divide. Part of the troops return to the banks of the Hudson, to watch the motions of Clinton, who had still a large force at New York. The rest were sent to South Carolina, to reinforce General Green, and confirm the authority of Congress in those provinces.
Col. Bigelow and his regiment were among those that returned to the Hudson. The Marquis de la Fayette embarked about the same time for Europe, bearing with him the affection of the whole American people. In a few months, Gen. Green had driven the British from the southern colonies, and they retire to New York, to join the main army.
Col. Bigelow is ordered to leave West Point, where he was stationed, and proceed to Rhode Island.
The next Spring, 1782, Sir Guy Carlton arrived in America and took command of the British army at New York. Immediately after his arrival, he acquainted General Washington and Congress, that negotiations for a peace had been commenced at Paris. On the 30th of November, of that year, the provisional articles of peace were signed.
Col. Bigelow returned to Worcester, but was very soon stationed at West Point, for what purpose the writer could never ascertain. Afterwards he was assigned to the command of the national arsenal at Springfield. After his term of service was out there, he returned again to Worcester, with a frame physically impaired by long hardship, toil and exposure, with blighted worldly prospects, with the remains of private property–considerable at the outset–seriously diminished by the many sacrifices of his martial career.
In 1780, Col. Bigelow with others obtained a grant of 23040 acres of land in Vermont, and founded a town on which was bestowed the name of Montpelier, now the capital of the State. A severe domestic affliction in 1787, the loss of his second son, Andrew, uniting with other disappointments, depressed his energy, and cast over his mind a gloom, presaging the approaching night of premature old age. He died March 31st, 1790, in the 51st year of his age.