History of the Loyalists: Lieut. James Moody's Narrative

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History of the Loyalists: Lieut. James Moody's Narrative
James Hannay
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HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS LIEUT. JAMES MOODY'S NARRATIVE Of His Exertions and Sufferings In the Cause of the Government Since the Year 1776. [Continued] This man was remarkably earnest and vehement in his resentment against the rebels. He had been much injured by them in his property; and they had also put both his father and his brother to an ignominious death. It was natural to suppose, therefore, that such a man would be true and firm. But he was loyal only through resentment and interest, not from conviction and principle. These loyalists from principle were the men on whom he relied and no one of these ever failed him. The Adjutant General seemed to be much disappointed on seeing the party return, supposing the hope of obtaining the dispatches to be now vain. Mr. Moody informed him of what had happened; but added, that he had ever since kept his eye on the renegade, and had not suffered a soul to speak to him; and requested that this precaution should be still continued, and that even the sentry who was to guard him should not be permitted to have any intercourse with him. On this condition he promised again to make the attempt and hoped not without success. Accordingly he set out a second time, and on the night of the 10th he reached the Haverstraw mountains. On his march he was informed that the post had gone by that day. On the 11th the weather became very inclement, and he with his party, suffered severely from a heavy fall of snow; notwithstanding they pushed forward, hoping by rapid marches to get ahead of the rider. These efforts, though exceedingly fatiguing, were as yet all in vain; but on the 15th they were successful and got possession of their prize; and after some equally difficult and distressing marches on their return, they at length arrived safe with it in New York. The inexpressible hardships which the party underwent in this adventure, both from hunger and cold were fatal to the health of most of them. Soon after Mr. Moody was made a lieutenant, having first served more than a year as a volunteer without any pay, and almost three years as an ensign. About the middle of May the Adjutant General again complained of the want of intelligence, and told Lieutenant Moody that he could not render the king’s cause a more essential piece of service than by bringing in if it were possible another rebel mail. There was no declining such a solicitation. Therefore on the night of the 15th, taking four men with him, Mr. Moody set out and travelled 25 miles. Hitherto he and his associates met with no molestation; but they had not gone far the next night, when they perceived a considerable party of men approaching them as secretly as possible. Mr. Moody tried to get off by the left, but he found himself and his party enclosed on three sides. On the right was a high cliff of rocks, so rugged and steep that the enemy thought it impossible for them to escape on that side. It was obvious, from these circumstances, that an ambush was laid, and that this spot, so peculiarly convenient was chosen for the purpose; in short that Mr. Moody and his party had been betrayed by intelligence sent forward from New York. The only alternative left was to surrender and perish, or to leap down from the top of these rocks without knowing with any certainty either how high they were, or what sort of ground was at the bottom. The lieutenant bade his men fellow him, and sprang forward. Providentially the ground at the bottom was soft, and everything else just as they could have wished it; they escaped unhurt and proceeded for some time unmolested. But, at no great distance crossing a swamp, just beyond it they fell in with another party, of much the same number as the former. Luckily they saw, and were not seen. A little hillock was at hand to which the lieutenant ordered his men quickly to retreat, and fall on their faces; judging that in case they were discovered, there would be some advantage in having to charge from higher ground, by which means if at all they might cut their way through the party. What he and his men felt, when they beheld so superior a force marching directly towards them, till at last they were within 50 yards; or when in this awful moment they had the happiness to see them, without being themselves discovered take another course, no person of sensibility will need to be told. A little council of war was now held, and it was determined to return whither only the way seemed clear. To advance was impracticable, as there could remain not a doubt but that intelligence of the intended route had been sent from within the British lines, and that the enemy had made a proper use of it. They began, therefore, with all possible caution to measure back their steps; for they were still apprehensive of other plots and other ambushes. And now having gained the North River, and being within four miles of New York they flattered themselves they were once more out of danger. But being within a hundred yards of a certain house, how were they alarmed when they saw 70 men come out of it, and advance directly towards them! Lieutenant Moody was convinced they were rebels; but the guide insisted that they were loyalists, and that he knew several of them. On this the latter with another man went forward to meet them, notwithstanding that the former still persisted in his opinion. A very unpleasant salute soon convinced this unfortunate duumvirate of their mistaken confidence. The main body made for the lieutenant, who had no other means of escape than to climb a steep hill; but long before he reached the summit, they had so gained on him as to be within 60 yards. He received one general discharge, and thought it little short of a miracle that he escaped unwounded. The bullets flew like a storm of hail all around him; his clothes were shot through in several places; one ball went through his hat, and another grazed his arm. Without at all slackening his pace be turned round and discharged his musket, and by this shot killed one of his pursuers; still they kept up their fire, each man discharging his piece as fast as he could load; but gaining an opportunity of soon doubling upon them, he gave them the slip, and in due time arrived once more safe in New York. One of the two men who had escaped, and got in first, mistaking the screams as the poor fellow who was shot for those of Lieutenant Moody himself, had given out that the lieutenant was killed, for that he had heard his cries; but the friends of the latter were soon happy to see so unequivocal a proof that the man was mistaken. The very night after his return to New York, as above related, viz.: on the 18th of May, Lieutenant Moody set out again on the business of this expedition. The rebels knew that he had been driven back, and he thought it the most proper time to proceed immediately in pursuit of his object. On that night, with his small party of four men, he got as far as Secancas. The next night they crossed the Hackinsack river by means of a canoe which Lieut. Moody always kept there for such purposes, and which after crossing he concealed till his return. He then proceeded on till coming to the edge of a marsh, he fell in with a party of rebels, who were patrolling in that quarter, with a view only, it is probable of intercepting the country people who might be carrying provisions to New York. This party discovered the lieutenant first without being seen, and suffered him to pass their van, not hailing him till some of them were in his rear, as well as some in his front. He was ordered instantly to stand, or he and all with him were dead men. This summons the lieutenant answered by an immediate discharge, which they returned. He then calling on his rear to advance, as if he had a large body in reserve, and giving a second fire, they soon dispersed. He was informed the next day, that this rebel party consisted of 12 men. Marching on about four miles further, he came to Saddle River, which it was necessary to cross; but apprehensive that there might be a guard stationed at the bridge, though the night was dismally dark and rainy, and this river had greatly overflowed its banks, he waded for several yards through a considerable depth of water, till he got close to the bridge, where he saw as he had feared a regular guard. On this he retreated with all possible speed and caution; and was obliged to wade through the river about half a mile farther up, not without much difficulty and danger. The country being now much alarmed with rumors of Moody’s being out, occasioned by this little rencontre, the mail, instead of being sent by Pompton, as it usually had been and where it was expected to be met with, was now sent by the back road with a guard to secure is. On discovering this, the lieutenant dispatched a trusty loyalist to a distant part of the province with letters to his friends; and particularly directing one of them whose person, figure and voice most resembled his own, to pass for him but a single hour; which he readily did, in this friend’s neighborhood lived a pompous and important justice of the peace, who was a cowardly fellow, and of course had been cruel. At this man’s house, early in the evening, the person so employed raised an alarm. The justice came cut, and espying, as it was intended he should, a tall man, his fears convinced him it was Moody; and he instantly betook himself to the woods. The next day the rumor was general that Moody was in that part of the country; and the militia was brought down from the part where he really was, to pursue him where he was not. This facilitated the capture of the mail, which he way-laid for five days before the opportunity presented. This mail contained all the dispatches that were sent in consequence of the interview between Gen. Washington and the Count Rochambeau in Connecticut. [To be continued.]