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British transports. At the same time three ships of war moved up the Hudson to Bloomingdale, and attacked the works there.
The flight of the Kip's Bay garrison left Putnam in the most imminent peril. He had about three thousand men, and a dangerous incumbrance of women, children, camp-followers, and baggage. The weather was very hot, the roads were narrow; everything tended to make the retreat difficult and perilous. The instant he heard of the unlooked-for cowardice of the Kip's Bay garrison and the landing of the enemy, he put his men in motion, and strained every nerve to push them past the point of danger before his channel of escape should be closed.
Safety seemed a forlorn hope. The British had landed in force above him. A rapid march would quickly bring them to the Hudson. The avenue of exit would be closed. The danger of capture was extreme. It was averted by one of those striking incidents of which so many give interest to the history of war. In this case it was a woman whose coolness and quick wit proved the salvation of Putnam’s imperilled army.
Sir Henry Clinton, having fairly landed his men at Kip's Bay, put them quickly into motion to cut off Putnam's retreat. In his march for this object, his route lay along the eastern side of Murray Hill, where was the residence of Mrs. Murray, mother of Lindley Murray, the grammarian, and a most worthy old Quaker lady. Putnam had sent her word, some time before, of his perilous situation, begging her, if possible, to detain General Clinton, by entertaining
him and his officers. If their march could bo hindered for an hour it would be an invaluable service.
The patriotic old lady was quick to respond. Many of the British officers knew her, and when she appeared, with a welcoming smile, at her door, and cordially invited them to step in and take a friendly glass of wine, the offer was too tempting to be refused. Exhausted with the heat and with the labor of disembarking, they were only too glad to halt their columns for a short rest, and follow her into her comfortable dining-room. Here Mrs. Murray and the ladies of her family exerted themselves to entertain their guests. The wine proved excellent. The society and conversation of the ladies were a delightful change from the duties of the camp. The minutes became an hour before the guests dreamed of the flight of time.
At length a negro servant, who had been on the lookout from the housetop, eu tered the room, made a significant sign to his mistress, and at once withdrew. Mrs. Murray now rose, and with a meaning smile turned to her titled guest.
“Will you be kind enough to come with me, Sir Henry?" she asked. “I have something of great interest to show you."
“With pleasure," he replied, rising with alacrity, and following her from the room.
She led the way to the lookout in the upper story, and pointed to the northern side of the hill, where could be seen the American flag, proudly waving over the ranks of the retiring army. They were
marching in close array into the open plain of Bloomingdale.
“How do you like the prospect, Sir Henry ?" she calmly inquired. “We consider the view from this side an admirable one.”
What Sir Henry replied, history has not recorded. No doubt it lacked the quality of politeness. Down the stairs he rushed, calling to his officers as he passed, leaped upon his horse, and could scarcely find words in his nervous haste to give orders for pursuit.
He was too late. The gap was closed; but nothing, except such baggage and stores as could not be moved, remained in the trap which, if sprung an hour earlier, would have caught an army.
Only for Mrs. Murray's inestimable service, Putnam and his men would probably have become prisoners of war. Her name lives in history among those of the many heroines who so ably played their part in the drama of American liberty, and who should hold high rank among the makers of the American Commonwealth.
A QUAKERESS PATRIOT.
In Philadelphia, on Second Street below Spruce, formerly stood an antiquated mansion, known by the name of “Loxley's House,” it having been orig. inally the residence of Lieutenant Loxley, who served in the artillery under Braddock, and took part in his celebrated defeat. During the Revolution this house was the scene of an interesting historical incident, which is well worth relating.
At that time it was occupied by a Quaker named Darrah, or perhaps we should say by his wife Lydia, who seems to have been the ruling spirit of the house. During the British occupation of Philadelphia, when patriots and royalists alike had to open their mansions to their none too welcome guests, the Darrah mansion was used as the quarters of the British adjutant-general. In that day it was some what “out of town,” and was frequently the scene of private conferences of the higher officers, as being somewhat secluded.
On one chill and snowy day, the 2d of December, 1777, the adjutant-general appeared at the house and bade Mrs. Darrah to prepare the upper back room for a meeting of his friends, which would take place that night.
“They may stay late,” he said, and added, emphatically, “be sure, Lydia, that your family are all in bed at an early hour. When our guests are ready to leave the house I will give you notice, that you may let us out and extinguish the fire and candles.”
Mrs. Darrah obeyed. Yet she was so struck by the mystery with which he seemed inclined to surround the projected meeting, that she made up her mind to learn, if possible, what very secret business was afoot. She obeyed his orders literally, saw that her people were early in bed, and, after receiving the officers, retired herself to her room, but not to sleep. This conference might presage some peril to the American cause. If so, she wished to know it.
When she deemed the proper time had come, she removed her shoes, and in stocking feet stole softly along the passage to the door of the apartment where the officers were in consultation. Here the key-hole served the purpose to which that useful opening has so often been put, and enabled her to hear tidings of vital interest. For some time only a murmur of voices réached her ears. Then silence fell, followed by one of the officers reading in a clear tone. She listened intently, for the document was of absorbing interest. It was an order from Sir William Howe, arranging for a secret attack on Washington's camp at Whitemarsh. The troops were to leave the city on the night of the 4th under cover of the darkness, and surprise the rebels before daybreak.
The fair eavesdropper had heard enough. Rarely had key-hole listener been so well rewarded. She