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sought refuge in woods and morasses. Washington directed that those arrested, who belonged to the army, should be tried by a court-martial, and the rest handed over to the
According to statements made before the committee, five guineas bounty was offered by Governor Tryon to each man who should enter the king's service; with a promise of two hundred acres of land for himself, one hundred for his wife, and fifty for each child. The men thus recruited were to act on shore, in co-operation with the king's troops when they came.
Corbie's tavern, near Washington's quarters, was a kind of rendezvous of the conspirators. There one Gilbert Forbes, a gunsmith, "a short, thick man, with a white coat," enlisted men, gave them money, and "swore them on the book to secrecy." From this house a correspondence was kept up with Governor Tryon on shipboard, through a "mulattocolored negro, dressed in blue clothes." At this tavern it was supposed Washington's bodyguards were tampered with. Thomas Hickey, one of the guards, a dark-complexioned man, five feet six inches high, and well-set, was said not only to be enlisted, but to have aided in corrupting his comrades; among others, Greene the drummer, and Johnson the fifer.
It was further testified before the committee that one Sergeant Graham, an old soldier, formerly of the royal artillery, had been employed by Governor Tryon to prowl round and survey the grounds and works about the city and on Long Island, and that, on information thus procured, a plan of operations had been concerted. On the arrival of the fleet, a man-of-war should cannonade the battery at Red Hook; while that was doing, a detachment of the army
should land below with cannon, and by a circuitous march surprise and storm the works on Long Island. The shipping then, with the remainder of the army, were to divide, one part to run up the Hudson, and the other up the East River; troops were to land above New York, secure the pass at King's Bridge, and cut off all communication between the city and country.
Much of the evidence given was of a dubious kind. It was certain that persons had secretly been enlisted, and sworn to hostile operations, but Washington did not think that any regular plan had been digested by the conspirators. “The matter,” writes he, "I am in hopes, by a timely discovery, will be suppressed."†
According to the mayor's own admission before the committee, he had been cognizant of attempts to enlist tories and corrupt Washington's guards, though he declared that he had discountenanced them. He had on one occasion, also, at the request of Governor Tryon, paid money for him to Gilbert Forbes, the gunsmith, for rifles and round-bored guns, which he had already furnished, and for others which he was to make. He had done so, however (according to his account), with great reluctance, and after much hesitation and delay, warning the gunsmith that he would be hanged if found out. The mayor, with a number of others, were detained in prison to await a trial.
Thomas Hickey, the individual of Washington's guard, was tried before a court-martial. He was an Irishman, and had been a deserter from the British army. The courtmartial found him guilty of mutiny and sedition, and treach
* Am. Archives, 5th Series, vi. 1177.
+ Washington to the President of Congress, June 28.
erous correspondence with the enemy, and sentenced him to be hanged.
The sentence was approved by Washington, and was carried promptly into effect, in the most solemn and impressive manner, to serve as a warning and example in this time of treachery and danger. On the morning of the 28th, all the officers and men off duty, belonging to the brigades of Heath, Spencer, Stirling, and Scott, assembled under arms at their respective parades at ten o'clock, and marched thence to the ground. Twenty men from each brigade, with bayonets fixed, guarded the prisoner to the place of execution, which was a field near the Bowery Lane. There he was hanged in the presence, we are told, of near twenty thousand persons.
While the city was still brooding over this doleful spectacle, four ships of war, portentous visitants, appeared off the Hook, stood quietly in at the Narrows, and dropped anchor in the bay.
In his orderly book, Washington expressed a hope that the unhappy fate of Thomas Hickey, executed that day for mutiny, sedition, and treachery, would be a warning to every soldier in the line to avoid the crimes for which he suffered.*
*As a specimen of the reports which circulated throughout the country concerning this conspiracy, we give an extract from a letter, written from Wethersfield, in Connecticut, 9th of July, 1776, by the Reverend John Marsh.
"You have heard of the infernal plot that has been discovered. About ten days before any of the conspirators were taken up, a woman went to the general and desired a private audience. He granted it to her, and she let him know that his life was in danger, and gave him such an account of the conspiracy as gained his confidence. He opened the matter to a few friends, on whom he could depend. A strict watch was kept night and day, until a favorable opportunity occurred; when the general went to bed
On the 29th of June an express from the lookout on Staten Island announced that forty sail were in sight. They were, in fact, ships from Halifax, bringing between nine and ten thousand of the troops recently expelled from Boston; together with six transports filled with Highland troops, which had joined the fleet at sea. At sight of this formidable armament standing into the harbor, Washington instantly sent notice of its arrival to Colonel James Clinton, who had command of the post in the Highlands, and urged all possible preparations to give the enemy a warm reception should they push their frigates up the river.
According to general orders issued from headquarters on the following day (June 30), the officers and men not on duty were to march from their respective regimental parades to their alarm posts, at least once every day, that they might become well acquainted with them. They were to go by routes least exposed to a fire from the shipping, and all the
as usual, arose about two o'clock, told his lady he was a-going, with some of the Provincial Congress, to order some tories seized-desired she would make herself easy, and go to sleep. He went off without any of his aides-decamp, except the captain of his life-guard, was joined by a number of chosen men, with lanterns and proper instruments to break open houses, and before six o'clock next morning had forty men under guard at the City Hall, among whom was the mayor of the city, several merchants, and five or six of his own life-guard. Upon examination, one Forbes confessed that the plan was to assassinate the general, and as many of the superior officers as they could, and to blow up the magazine upon the appearance of the enemy's fleet, and to go off in boats prepared for that purpose to join the enemy. Thomas Hickey, who has been executed, went from this place. He came from Ireland a few years ago. What will be done with the mayor is uncertain. He can't be tried by court-martial, and, it is said, there is no law of that colony by which he can be condemned. May he have his deserts."
officers, from the highest to the lowest, were to make themselves well acquainted with the grounds. Upon a signal of the enemy's approach, or upon any alarm, all fatigue parties were immediately to repair to their respective corps with their arms, ammunition and accouterments, ready for instant action.
It was ascertained that the ramifications of the conspiracy lately detected extended up the Hudson. Many of the disaffected in the upper counties were enlisted in it. The committee of safety at Cornwall, in Orange County, sent word to Colonel James Clinton, Fort Constitution, of the mischief that was brewing. James Haff, a tory, had confessed before them that he was one of a number who were to join the British troops as soon as they should arrive. It was expected the latter would push up the river and land at Verplanck's Point; whereupon the guns at the forts in the Highlands were to be spiked by soldiers of their own garrisons; and the tories throughout the country were to be up in arms.*
Clinton received letters, also, from a meeting of committees in the precincts of Newburg, apprising him that persons dangerous to the cause were lurking in that neighborhood, and requesting him to detach twenty-five men under a certain lieutenant acquainted with the woods, "to aid in getting some of these rascals apprehended and secured."
While city and country were thus agitated by apprehensions of danger, internal and external, other arrivals swelled the number of ships in the bay of New York to one hundred and thirty, men-of-war and transports. They made no
Extracts from minutes of the committee, American Archives, 4th Series, vi. 1112.