« PreviousContinue »
now no hope that England will recognize our these words and another earnest grasp of the nationality without compulsion."
hand, they parted. ** True. Our reliance now is only upon When General Washington sent for this God, and the brave and faithful hearts of our officer to attend his presence, it was not his countrymen. But justice is on our side, and intention to employ him in the capacity of a with the blessing of Heaven, we shall succeed! spy. He knew the peculiar acuteness and I have sent for you, my young friend,” continu- sagacity of the Connecticut people, which ed Washington, “to make known to you some were, even at that period, as proverbial as of the difficulties under which I now labor. now. and he supposed the young captain would You are aware that our troops have just been be best able to select from his corps the peroverpowered by the vast force of General Howe, son most suitable for such a task. Desertions who is now encamped on the heights at Brook- among the militia were, unfortunately, at lyn. The militia are sadly discouraged, and that discouraging moment, of not unfrequent their weakness, I regret to say, has extended occurrence, and it was the intention of the to the ranks of the regular army. Our posi- Commander-in-chief to select a discreet and tion here is critical. Howe has a force supe- intelligent man, who, by representing himself rior to my own, and by his position commands as a deserter, could easily enter the camp of the city, -add to this the marine power of his the enemy, and endeavor to gain the informabrother. whose ships now ride quietly at anchor tion required. The prompt offer of the officer in the bay, ready at any moment to reduce to go himself, upon the errand, somewha. our city to ashes, without any means on our altered his plan; and, while it gave increased part to repel him, and you will at once per- prospect of success, was also the cause of some ceive how completely we are at their mercy. unpleasant misgiving. He was a young man My earnest desire, at present, is to learn the of fine qualities, and great promise ; and, in immediate intentions of General Howe, and his case of mishap in the enterprise. Washington plans of operation; could I obtain this informa- plainly saw, that the loss of such an officer. tion, I should not despair of defeating them, would, at that time, be a public calamity,
7 even in our present broken condition.” The matter having been determined upon,
* This information can be obtained, your however, he at once proceeded to prepare a Excellency," replied his companion.
list of secret instructions, and a fictitious Lieu“But how?"
tenant's commission, ante-dated, in the name of "I will obtain it."
Harry Folger. These were immediately dis" You!"
patched to the officer's quarters, accompanied ** At least I will domy best ; and if I fail,” with a private note, in which the Commanderexclaimed the young man, “I call Heaven to in-chief told him that the letter of instruction witness, that the fault shall not rest with me!" was to be read, remembered, and destroyed,
“Do you propose to perform this duty in and the commission used to gain the more person ?" inquired the General, in a solemn intimate confidence of General Howe. tone.
About two o'clock. on the morning after the "I do."
interview just described, two sentinels, posted • It is hazardous and delicate, in the ex- at the “Whitehall landing-place,” had been treme."
driven under a loose shed, near the landing, " And therefore the more necessary that I by a torrent of rain, which was at that moalone should enter upon it. I pray you, sir, ment pouring from the clouds, illuminated at give me leave to be your only confidant in this short intervals with vivid flashes of lightning. matter."
Their conversation had been for some time "You have it, sir,” answered the Commander- interrupted only by the rapid peals of thunin-chief, grasping the hand of the officer; “yet der, which, following each flash, came rolling to lose you, and in such an employment !- heavily along the earth, when suddenly, in the >
glare of a flash, which shone on every object, ** Fear not, sir, -rely on my discretion, and, they discovered a human figure passing close with God's help, I will obtain the information by them, through the rain, towards the guardyou desire."
house, which stood near the spot now occupied "Be it as you wish, then. In half an hour by the United States Revenue Office. you shall hear from me at your quarters, and “Who goes there ?» exclaimed both senti. receive full instructions. Good night With Inels, in the same instant: and if the straner
did not hear the click of their muskets, as ments; yet, that spirit which has the daring each was cocked, it was because the roar of the to confront usage, and the virtue to scorn a falling rain overpowered the sound.
false theory, and take upon itself the inky man"A friend,” was the reply.
tle of disgrace, in a cause so holy as that of “Advance and give the countersign." human emancipation, becomes, in the very act,
The demand was complied with, and the an object of universal admiration and awe. stranger passed on. At the guard-house he Such was the attitude occupied by our young was again challenged, and, having given the hero, who, although he went forth under the countersign, entered the rude building, and guise of secresy, known only to Washington placed a sealed note in the hands of the officer himself, and with a name not his own, assumed of the guard. It was an order from the Com- the responsibility of disgrace, consequent upon mander-in-chief himself, directing the officer exposure, and an ignominious death, if deto furnish the bearer, Lieutenant Folger, with tected in his mission. Custom pronounced him Buch men and assistance as he might require. guilty of violating the honorable usages of war,
The officer glanced at the drenched figure and yet strange anomaly-no war was ever before him, with a look half doubting—but in carried on without the use of this system of his hand was the signature of Washington, espionage. and the party who presented it, though appa
Before this young man left the quiet purrently á mere boy, wore a dilapidated uniform suits, the green hills, and the sweet valleys of of the rank indicated in the order. “What do his native State, to offer up his life on the altar you require, sir,” he inquired, after a moment's of his country, his true soul had borne the hesitation.
sneers and taunts of tory associates. Every “ First inform me of the state of the tide," one of the original States was more or less inreplied Folger, as we shall now call him.
fested with those detested excrescences, and “ The tide is now at the ebb, --in an hour even Massachusetts and Connecticut were not it will be low water."
free from them. Some, by specious and smooth“Good—let me have two boats, two men, faced hypocrisy, pretending to favor the cause and three oars. Be ready instantly, as I wish of freedom, wrought like serpents in the grass, to take advantage of the heavy darkness that and brought many a worthy spirit to untimely now hangs over the river; the shower is pass- doom, or torturing imprisonment-others, more ing away, and by the time you are ready, there bold, gave intelligence openly to the enemy; will be no lightning to betray us."
and others again were rewarded for their loyThe order was obeyed. Folger directed the alty with commissions or warrants in the service men to enter one of the boats, while he, with of their Royal master, " the good King George.” a single oar, sprang into the other. He then Among these, was one whose polluted name made his own prow fast to the stern of the dwells not now in my memory-we will call first, and ordered them to tow him into the him Cobra for our present purpose. He was stream. Having reaching a distance to pre- own cousin to the young patriot whom we clude the possibility of being seen from either know as Harry Folger, and many a time had shore, the oarsmen, by Folger's direction, his cowardly and treacherous soul striven to turned their course up the river, against the coerce by threats and contumely, the noble-spicurrent, guided on their way by the occasional rited youth, to his own base level. His efforts lights which appeared on shore. Thus they were vain ; thorn and nettle could not thrive proceeded, till nearly opposite Corlaer's Hook, on a soil intended by nature for better fruits,when the Lieutenant, in a low voice, called a the fragrance of the rose would not mingle halt, siezed his oar, cast off the tow line, and with the stramoniam, and the tory saw the ordered the men to return. Waiting, with his playmate of his childhood enrolled among the our in the scull, until they were quite out of martyrs of Liberty, while he was plotting desight, our young hero then turned his prow struction to her altars ! towards the encampment of the enemy, and These two had grown up side by side towith vigorous arms plied for the shore. gether—they had conned the same lessons
There is at times pathos even in degradation, read from the same book,--wrought in the as the world esteems it. The character of a sama field, and mingled in the same sports and spy has been stamped as infamous in the pastimes; and on one occasion, when Cobra, in lexicon of warfare, and its doom has been the recklessness of his nature had ventured into written in the most ignominious of punish. I the water beyond his depth, and would have drowned, his younger companion, with that he was permitted to address a brief note to generous impulse which always characterizes General Howe, and a messenger was dispatchthe true nobility of manhood, plunged into ed with it to head-quarters. About ten o'clock the wave at the risk of his own life, and bore orders were received at the guard-house, comto him the means of reaching the shore in manding the rebel to be brought before the safety. How such discordant materials could General forthwith. He had already been grow from the same culture, I leave to philoso- searched, but no papers were found upon
him phy to determine. It is my purpose, in this save the commission of Harry Folger. This sketch, to state only the facts.
was placed in the hands of a sergeant, who, Soon after the departure of young Folger, with a file of men, escorted our hero into the Cobra was suddenly and mysteriously missing. presence. Howe read the commission with None knew the time of his going, nor his the eye of a critic and a veteran, and with a whereabout, and few paused to inquire, though piercing glance, scanned the unshaken youth. many a heart beat lighter, and many a farmer " You are young, my friend,” he said at felt safer in his chattels, in Cobra's absence. length; “ you are young to hold a commission The burning of a barn, the driving off of cattle, of this rank.” and the destruction, in various ways, of the “ I am young, it is true, sir ; but there are property of those who were known to favor the captains in the rebel army not older than mycause of the colonies, were no uncommon events; self,” answered Folger. and this Cobra, with a few tory confreres were Why do you leave a service that rewards more than suspected as the promoters of the so liberally? You have honors and pay that depredations. Subsequent events showed that many an officer in the Royal Army has toiled this treacherous wretch joined the ranks, and a life-time to obtain." fought under the standard of the tyrannous" In the American Army, sir, there is at preoppressors of his native land.
sent more honor than pay—if it be an honor to It was a gorgeous September morning, that fight in a cause that seems hopeless." which found Harry Folger a prisoner in the “I perceive; you have two motives in leaving custody of a British guard, on the green shores the rebel service : you would be better paid, of Brooklyn. The electric shower that had and at the same time fight on the strongest side. just passed over the face of the earth and the Is it not so ?” waters, seemed to have borne away from the “It is but natural, your Excellency, that one atmosphere all imperfections, and left it in a should seek a fitting reward for his services; state of crystal purity--the sweet odor of new and equally so that he should desire victory to flowers rose freshly to the senses, and the rays | 'light on the banner under which he fights.of the early sun, which came sharply through God grant it may be so with me!" the fine air, were reflected vividly back from “Can you give me information as to the the burnished arms of the sentinels on the op- strength of the forces now in New-York, and posite shore. That narrow stream, whose clear what are the intentions of the rebel general ?" waters swept noiselessly by from the ocean, ** I might inform your Excellency on many divided for the time the contending hosts. matters of importance. But you may perceive, On the one hand, lay a people struggling for sir, that a change of dry apparel in lieu of my independence—an embryo nation merging into wet coat, would enable me to appear more apexistence : on the other, the mercenary minions propriately in your presence, and at the same of a giant power--on the one hand was GEORGE time add to
comfort." WASHINGTON, with Putnam, Sullivan and Stir- Timely spoken, young man,” answered ling : on the other, General Howe, with Sir Howe. " You shall have apparel more becomIlenry Clinton, Grant, and De Heister with his ing your fine figure than that which now disHessian horde. In that still hour earth seemed graces it. At noon wait on me.'' a paradise, and the sweet and peaceful aspect Folger was immediately placed on parole, a of external nature, smiled in rebuke upon the change of dress was provided, and punctually contending passions of man.
at noon he was closeted with the commander The young adventurer, having thrown him of the British forces. self into the hands of the enemy, demanded to The result of that interview appears to have be led to the commanding general. This de- been satisfactory to the parties. The object of mand was, of course, denied; but as he avowed Folger was entirely unsuspected, and it was himself an officer just fled from the rebel army, 'not long ere he had obtained the information that he sought. The most difficult part of his ready to jeopardize all their earthly posses adventure was, however, yet to be performed. sions, and even their lives, iri anything that viz., a return to the American camp; and the would assist General Washington in his holy information that he possessed was of such a efforts. The coming evening had been set nature as to require, if possible, immediate apart by General Howe for a grand camp festransmission to the Commander-in-chief of the tival, in honor of his recent victory over the American Army. There was not a soul in rebel army, and our young friend, anticipated whom he could confide within the British lines, an easy escape while all others were engaged or, at least, he knew of none-every foot of in the pleasures of the time. He had been the shore was under the eyes of watchful sen- honored with an invitation to head-quarters, tinels--and there seemed no possibility of ob- where a grand ball was to be given, and for taining either the means or the opportunity to which preparations were then going forward re-cross the river.
on a liberal scale. Folger determined to join Thus perplexed, he was standing near the the festivities; to be absent would perhaps Commissariat, when a wagoner, with produce, create suspicion and inquiry, while his predrove his heavy vehicle close past him. Rais- sence at the hateful ceremonies, even for an ing his eyes momentarily, he recognized in the hour, would effectually prevent them. He had driver the features and person of an aged far- not yet been assigned to any special duty, and mer, who, when he, with a part of the Con- | the leisure afforded him during the remainder necticut regiment were in camp near that of the day was employed in reconnoitering the spot some three weeks before, resided within ground over which he must pass at night to the lines, and at that time expressed himself gain the appointed rendezvous, and in noting warmly in the patriot cause. The recognition the least guarded avenues. He noticed that a was mutual, and the wagoner, half bewildered, considerable portion of the line of high bluff instinctively stopped his horses.
which fronts the river was comparatively un" Young man,” said he. in a low tone, "are guarded. The face of the cliff was so high and you not an American 299
steep, that it was considered impossible for a "I am,” was the reply.
human being to pass that way, either ascendWell; God's will be done!" ejaculated the ing or descending, and hence less vigilance was old man, shrugging his shoulders. A slight employed in guarding it. The young man saw curl of scorn was on his lip, and he prepared that if he could reach the brow of the cliff unto go forward.
der cover of the night, he would be able to “Stay, my friend,” said the officer, in the make a footing down the bank; and once at same cautious tone-" You seem surprised at the foot, he could in the darkness easily reach seeing me here, but how is it that I find you the water, which came within a few yards of furnishing provisions to the enemies of your the base of the bluff, and then swim to the Country ?"
place where the boat was to be in waiting. “God knows it's only by compulsion I do it, This plan determined upon, he returned to his young man,” answered the old patriot; "but quarters. although old and feeble, and compelled to feed Night came, laden with intense emotions. them, I would not bear arms! No, I would In New-York, Washington rested for the time not bear arms !"
upon his crippled arms; none knew his weak“Good man !” exclaimed the youth, “I see I ness but himself. Upon the opposite heights may trust you. I am here in the service of lay the overpowering army of the foe to FreeWashington. Go on--we shall be observed, dom, reveling in all the pride and flush of but do not leave the camp until I have spoken temporary success; and in the bay slept a with you again."
moving armament that waited but a signal to The countenance of the old man glowed for send its blazing messengers into the helpless an instant with an almost unnatural smile; town. Our young friend felt with an almost but he suppressed it and went forward. overpowering sensation the importance of his
Another brief interview was obtained, during mission. He held in his possession, perchance, which it was agreed that the old man and his the destinies of a new-born Nation, and he son would have a boat in readiness, at a spot panted for the moment when he should lay designated, at the coming midnight, and Folger down his trust at the feet of the illustrious man was confidently assured, that if he could ma- who alone seemed destined to wield them. He nage to be there, he would find two true hearts I entered the gay halls, and seemed to mingle in
their delights. The hour of eleven had arrived, the consummation of that brief and terrible and he was about to glide unobserved from the sentence, he entreated the common privilege of scene, when a voice near his elbow uttered a conference with a clergyman, to aid in presingle word which went like an ice-bolt to his paring his mind for death. In reply to this, heart, and in an instant froze the current of he was told that he would “hang just as well his youthful blood. He paused, and listened without a priest as with one;" and the request in terror. It was repeated.
was denied. He then asked that they would "NATHAN !"
at least furnish him with a Bible, by the peru. In a low, sarcastic tone, that single word rung sal of which to lighten his last moments. This like a death-knell on his ear. The name which also was refused. When taunted with his ignoit pronounced was his own—the voice that minious fate, he replied: uttered it was that of the tory, Cobra!
" The death that I shall die, will be a proud “ I know you," he said, laying his hand upon
I shall die for my Country.” his arm, for the youth had not yet turned to At daylight, on the morning of his execumeet him. “I know you--you are NATHAN | tion, he began writing letters to his mother HALE, and you are here as a spy from the rebel and friends, and thus occupied the time until camp. Nothing else would have brought you called out for execution. All his letters were in this company."
destroyed, and when afterwards the inquiry “Well ?" responded the other, in a tone of was made, why this had been done, the answer inquiry, but without changing his position. was, “ that the rebels should not know they
" Your plan shall be defeated. I will de- had a man in their army who could die with nounce you to General Howe.”
so much firmness.” The grim visage of death "No! Cobra, no, you will not do that!" daunted him not. He approached the fatai
" I will, by G—! and you shall hang for moment, as one proud in the consciousness of this piece of knavery."
integrity to his country, and his sole regret Cobra," said the young man, deigning for was that the object of his mission had been the first time to look the wretch in the face- unfulfilled. "Cobra, you are the son of my mother's brother Thus died Nathan HALE, as brave a patriot, -you will not betray me--or if you must, I and as pure a martyr, as ever gave a life in the pray you do it not here, at the festival." cause of Civil Liberty. But what has Civil
Nathan Hale, for it was indeed he, well Liberty done for his name? Where rest his knew that no appeal to patriotism could move ashes ? Where is the monument to record the breast of the tory, and for that reason he alike the virtues of the dead, and the sympatried the force of consanguinity. But even thies of a grateful nation? Alas! the highest that availed not with his base and heartless honor that his country has conferred upon his kinsman. Hale was denounced, and when memory, was the privilege of mingling his dust dragged before General Howe, and in his pre- with her own free soil, while Andre, the spy of sence accused with the object of his mission, her oppressor, lies gorgeously entombed by the. he boldly and frankly avowed it, and without side of England's Kings, heroes, and sages, in further trial was ordered to be executed on the Westminster Abbey.* following day! Placed in the custody of the Provost Mar
The following extract from a valuable work, called shal,* this young patriot was treated with “ The Artist, Merchant and Statesman," by our fellowgross barbarity. When in prison, awaiting countryman, C. Edwards Lester, Esg , is appropriate here.
"Even Andre the spy was brought across the Atlantic,
by a solemn Act of Parliament, and entombed by the side * Captain Cunningham, the Provost Marshal, was the of heroes, and over him breathes the marble of a great
sculptor. same that had charge of the prisoners at the old jail in
And where does Hale, the American spy, a loftier and New-York. This wretch was executed in London for for- a nobler character, sleep? Nobody appears to know, exgery in 1791, and in his dying confession uttered the fol- cept a few fair, brave women of Connecticut. who are lowing words
building his monument with their needles; and I need not
say that every stitch is to our government a stitch of "I shudder to think of the murders I have been acces- shame! When another General Washington wants another sory to both with and without orders from government, spy, he will be found, in spite of the treatment the gener. especially while in New York, during which time there ous Hale has had from our hands; but the commander were more than two thousand prisoners starved in the who sends him will have had too much experience of the churches, by stopping their rations, which I sold. There gratitude of our country to tell him: “If worse comes to were also two hundred and seventy-five American prison- worst, my brave fellow, you will have a grave in your na ers and oồnozious persons executed."
tive soil, and a monument from your country.”":