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George Washington

Pre 1780 Correspondence, News, History and other Data

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Mr. Printer – The authenticity of the following communication may be confidently relied on by the public as there are now alive those who heard the person that now furnishes it, narrate the facts contained therein, immediately after his return from Mount Vernon to the city of Annapolis, precisely as he is now about to state them. – B.G.

Washington county, Sept. 5, 1822

Whilst I was a student at law, in the city of Annapolis, the late Mr. John Parke Custis, was a pupil under the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, of the same place, by permission of his father-in-law, the then Col. George Washington, I accompanied young Custis to Mount Vernon, and passed the last week of the year (I think) 1772, and the first week of 1773 at said place. Lord Sterling and Capt Foye, the latter of whom was at that time private secretary to Lord Dunmore, the then governor of the Ancient Dominion (Virginia was so called at that day), being on the way from Williamsburg to the city of New York, stopped at Mount Vernon, and continued there during three days, the weather being very tempestuous and snowy.

The last night that said characters were there, just after the cloth was removed from the supper table, a man of colour named Billy, Col. Washington’s favourite servant, who had been sent by his master to Alexandria for letters and newspapers, entered the supper room and delivered to his master a large bundle containing letters and newspapers. Col. Washington, with a cast of his hand, placed the newspapers about mid way the supper table, around which there were then sitting a large company, Lord Sterling on the right, and Capt. Foye on the left hand of Mrs. Washington. When Col. Washington so placed the papers, he requested that if they contained any important information, it might be read aloud to the company.

It so happened that I laid my hand on an Eastern paper, which contained an article of intelligence to the following effect . “That a Yankee smuggler, being pursued by one of the King’s vessels of war (and I think she was called the Gaspee,) hugged the shore so closely that the former (the wind then blowing extremely hard,) missed stays and run plump ashore. The neighboring brother Jonathans quickly collected in great numbers, the tide being at egg, they soon boarded and burned her.” I read said article aloud to the company, and was immediately requested by Capt. Foye to pass the newspaper to him, who, when he had read the article, he had the audacity to declare that “The Yankees must be phlebotomised!” and that HE, yes, that HE, “would engage at the head of five thousand British regulars, to march from Boston to Charleston, South Carolina, and put down all opposition to the revenue acts,” that had been recently passed by the British Parliament for the purpose of raising a revenue in the British colonies.

Col. Washington, at the close of this insulting declaration, instantly fixing his eyes on Capt. Foye, observed – “I question not, Sir, that you could march from Boston to Charleston, South Carolina, at the head of five thousand British regulars; but do you mean to say, Sir, that you could do so, as a friend, or as an enemy? If as the latter, and you will allow me a few weeks notice of your intention, I will engage to give you a handsome check with the Virginia riflemen alone.” When Col. Washington was uttering the words “with the Virginia riflemen alone,” he struck the table so violently with his clenched hand, that some wine glasses and a decanter near him with difficulty maintained their upright positions. Captain Foye made no reply; but turned his face immediately towards Mrs. Washington, said a few words to her, looked very silly, and soon after requested to be showed to his chamber! Col. Washington appeared to be very much displeased.

Not a word was said by any of the company, if reference to said article of intelligence, while they remained in the room; but when the Rev. Walter Magowan, who was one of the company, and who had resided some years before in the Mount Vernon family as a private tutor to young Custis, had, with two other gentlemen and myself, arrived at our bed chamber, he remarked that, during the whole time he had lived in Col. Washington’s family, he had never seen the master of Mount Vernon so displeased as he appeared to have been that evening with Capt. Foye. I remained two or three days at Mount Vernon after Foye took his departure therefrom, and then returned to Annapolis. This occurrence took place some years (say four or five) before the commencement of hostilities, between a detachment of the British army and the Provincials, at Lexington, and is now communicated as a strong proof that Col George Washington had determined, long before hostilities did so begin, to oppose force to a British army should such an attempt be made as that braggadocio Foye had the effrontery to say, in his presence, and at his own table, he would carry into effect, at the head of 5000 British regulars.

From the Washington Republican
quoted in the Gettysburg Compiler, Gettysburg PA
October 9, 1822 Page 4
Submitted by Nancy Piper


 


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