This is the starting point in the military career of Gen. Morgan, whose qualities must have been known to Col. Washington, that he should have selected him as one of his captains, over the many ambitious young men of his own grade in society, for it must be remembered that the station of the wealthy and influential Washingtons of the valley was quite different from that occupied by the obscure Daniel Morgan. And what a source of infinite pride it must have been to this afterward distinguished colonel to reflect that he had been the first to recognize the abilities of this great commander when but an humble farmer over yonder near the brawling Shenandoah.
As an evidence of the acknowledged
determination, physical power, and skill in dealing with dangerous characters,
the following minute is given from the court proceedings of September 10, 1773,
from which it appears that a noted criminal had escaped from Maryland, had taken
refuge in the valley, and had been recaptured: "It is ordered that Daniel Morgan
carry Timothy Ragan, a felon, who broke the gaol of Anne Arundel Co., Md., and
deliver him to the sheriff of said county, and bring in his account of expenses
at laying of the parish levy." At the laying of the levy the following
month he was paid the sum of £6 2s. 8d. Morgan in this same year is shown
to be the possessor of not only a farm, but the owner of a number of slaves, as
his name figures in a document on record wherein is recited among other
property, "several of my negroes," and his identity appears for the last time in
the colonial county records in a suit for £60 instituted by "Cochrane & Co.,
plaintiffs, against Morgan and others, defendants." This was in March,
1774. The next year, fall of 1775, he raised his famous company of
riflemen, and marched to the front.
Washington, having been made commander-in-chief of the American army, and receiving his commission June 15, 1775, immediately set about organizing order out of the chaos that existed throughout the colonies. He repaired to Boston and called for troops to come to that point, armed and equipped, if possible. Capt. Daniel Morgan, as soon as he learned the need of the commander, applied for a commission to serve in the Continental army, and upon its receipt, in ten days thereafter, he attracted to himself a company of ninety-six young and enthusiastic men. No leader ever headed braver soldiers; his very presence commanded obedience and respect, for his men saw in their captain one upon whom they could rely. Their rendezvous was Winchester for most of them, but others joined him on the way to the Potomac and at the first halting place for the night. The company was officered as follows: Captain, Daniel Morgan; first lieutenant, John Humphrey; second lieutenant, William Heth; first sergeant, George Porterfield. Among those whose names are preserved as belonging to the company as privates are: George Greenway, William Greenway, Seth Stratton, John Schultz, Jacob Sperry, Peter Lauck, Simon Lauck, Frederick Kurtz, Adam Kurtz, Charles Grim, George Heiskell, Robert Anderson, William Ball and Mark Hays. Six of these formed what has been known as the Dutch Mess. They were all Germans and messed together during the entire war, and singular to say, not one of them met with any disaster during all their severe campaigns with Morgan, and several of them lived to a great age. The descendants of all of whom were gallant soldiers in all the wars in which this country has been engaged since their honored ancestors trod the snows of Quebec and went south with Morgan. The names of the six were, according to Mr. W. G. Russell, who personally knew several of them: Peter Lauck, Simon Lauck, Frederick Kurtz, John Schultz, Charles Grim and Jacob Sperry. This company, on foot and accompanied by one wagon, left Winchester July 14, 1775, and camped the first night at the spring on the planation of Col. William Morgan, grandfather of Col. William A. Morgan, near Shepherdstown. Pursuing their way the next morning, they arrived at Cambridge, Mass., August 7, and were received by the soldiers already collected there with demonstrations of the wildest joy, for it gave them to understand that even away off, six hundred miles, in the valley of Virginia, the fires of freedom burned as fiercely as it did right in the midst of English injustice and invasion. It is also said that when Washington saw Morgan's company, travel-stained and almost worn out with fatigue, and recognized a number of them, he was overcome by his feelings and wept as he took them by the hand. After a short rest the company was ordered to join the army of Arnold in its invasion of Canada. Arriving in the vicinity of Quebec, Capt. Morgan reported to Gen. Montgomery. It was in December, and the intense cold caused great suffering to the Americans. The English garrison consisted of about 1,500 well-fed, well-clothed and well-protected troops, whilst the force of Montgomery numbered only 800. Having divided this small array into four detachments, the General ordered two feints to be made against the upper town. On the 31st of December, 1775, at 4 o'clock in the morning, in the midst of a heavy snow storm, the columns were put in motion. Montgomery, with his detachment of 200, passed the first barrier, but when attacking the second was killed, and his division fell back. Arnold, being severely wounded, was carried off the field, yet his party, placed under the command of Capt. Morgan, contended against the works for over three hours, until overpowered by superior numbers they were forced to surrender. One hundred of the Americans were killed and three hundred taken prisoners, including Morgan. This virtually ended the Canadian campaign, the death of Montgomery having a very depressing effect upon his army.
Morgan, who in the meantime had been promoted to the position of major in his regiment, after nearly five months' captivity, returned to the Northern army and was advanced to a colonelcy. Rev. Peter Muhlenburg, a clergyman, who had gone with Morgan's company as chaplain, at the storming of Quebec three off his ministerial robes and fought by the side of his captain. This "fighting parson," as he was frequently called by his friends, being captured with his command, returned, upon his release, and raised a regiment, he having been commissioned colonel of the Eighth Virginia; his lieutenant-colonel was Abraham Bowman, and his major, Peter Helphenstine, of Winchester. This regiment was ordered to Charleston, S C., where they arrived on June 24, 1776, having covered the entire distance on foot and without a tent. After the battle of Charleston, Muhlenburg returned to the valley, filled up his decimated ranks and went north and joined Washington. The southern climate made sad havoc in Muhlenburg's regiment, and many of the men died. Maj. Helphenstine was one of the victims, and died in Winchester in the fall of 1776. Upon his arrival at the northern field of action, Muhlenburg was made a brigadier-general, and Bowman, colonel.
During all these commotions the wheels of government were moving along as smoothly in the valley districts as though war was an affair of small moment, and only for a short time were the proceedings of the justices interrupted during the transition from monarchy to republicanism. May 7, 1776, a short session was held, and that was the last under the patronage of "Our Sovereign Lord George III, by the Grace of God, King, etc.," for the next was held "by the grace of God" under the influence of another George, who had Washington to his name. There was no session of the court in June or July, but August 6, 1776, that body convened, under the new regime, the glorious "Commonwealth of Virginia," and the following are the proceedings:
"Present: John Hite, Isaac Hite, Charles Mynn Thruston John McDonald, John Smith, Edmund Taylor.
"An ordinance of the Honorable, the Convention of the Commonwealth of Virginia, directing that the different members named in the former Commission of the Peace, should continue to act in the said office upon their taking the oath prescribed in the said ordinance, Whereupon Isaac Hite and Charles Mynn Thruston administered the oath to John Hite, who took and subscribed the same, and then the said John Hite administered the said oath to all the aforesaid members, who took the same as Justices of the said Commonwealth.
"James Keith took the oath as Clerk of the Court.
"Henry Peyton, Jr., took the oath as Deputy Clerk of the Court.
"Angus McDonald took the oath as Sheriff.
"Nathaniel Cartmell, Jr., took the oath as Deputy Sheriff.
"Gabriel Jones, Alexander White, George Roots, Dolphin Drew, John Magill, and Henry Peyton, Jr., took the oath as attorneys."
These are the old patriots who stepped up in those trying times and "showed their colors." His lordship of Fairfax failed to respond, although he was at the head of the justices; but let us not be too hard on the old gentleman, for it must be remembered that he was raised under the wing of royalty, had received his wealth and station from kings, was nearly ninety years of age and was nearing his last days upon earth, and it was hard for him to cut loose from his ancient moorings and join a cause that must have seemed to him extremely hopeless of success. Yet, with all his rooted and preconceived principles of the divine right of kings, and all his wealth, he never was known to throw a straw in the onward path of American liberty. And when he heard of the triumph of Washington at Yorktown and the downfall of English rule in the colonies, he simply remarked that it was time for him to die, went to bed, and never arose again therefrom.
At the next court Isaac Zane came forward and subscribed to the oath as a justice. The following also appears as a portion of the proceedings:
"Ordered, That Marquis Calmes, Robert Wood, William Gibbs, Philip Bush, Robert White, Joseph Homes, Thomas Helm, Edward McGuire, and Edward Smith, be recommended to His Excellency the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as proper persons to be added to the Commission of the Peace, for this county, and that it be certified that Charles Smith, one of the members in the commission, is dead; William Booth refused to swear in, and desired to be left out; Warner Washington, Jr., after he did swear in, did not chuse to act and desired to be left out; and that Thomas Bryan Martin never did swear in to the said commission."
They seemed to be hunting the Tories in this section at a pretty lively gait; a number of arrests occurred and among such cases was that of Samuel Glenn. At November court this individual was brought before the justices, held in the sum of £100, and committed to the gaol until he could obtain security therefor, for "using language inimical to the liberties of America."
February 4, 1777, Col. James Wood, son of James Wood, who died in 1760, handed in his resignation to the justices as lieutentant-colonel of the militia, to accept the commission of colonel in the Continental army, and John smith, one of the justices, was appointed in his place. Col. Wood raised his regiment in the lower valley, and marched northward to join Washington. Dr. C. T. Magill and Henry Beattie were also officers in the Continental army from Winchester. Beattie was afterward a colonel in the war of 1812. At this time Virginia had, in addition to those in the regular Continental army nine regiments, of which the lower valley furnished a large proportion. The official reports of Frederick County showed in 1777 only 923 effective militia.
During the spring of 1777, the military authorities of Pennsylvania gained possession of some documents implicating a number of prominent Quakers of Philadelphia and elsewhere in designs inimical to the cause for which the colonies were giving so much of their best blood on the many fields of contest, and after investigation and full legal enactments and processes, the following persons were arrested: Joshua Fisher, Abel James, James Pemberton, Henry Drinker, Israel Pemberton, John Pemberton, John James, Samuel Pleasants, Thomas Wharton and Thomas and Samuel Fisher. These persons, with a number of others were ordered, unless they would consent to swear or affirm allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania, to be transported to Staunton, Va., and there held under surveillance. The order of destination was quite complimentary to the patriotism of the valley of Virginia, as the authorities must have felt that the hardy sons of the tramontane regions of the Old Commonwealth were able to keep in restraint those Tory gentlemen. Accordingly about fourteen persons, including those named, were forwarded to the Valley, but their destination was changed to Winchester. Col. John Smith, county lieutenant, received them and offered to give them parole, if they would promise not to escape from his jurisdiction, but they refused. They said they had protested against being taken from their homes; that they had protested at the Maryland boundary; that they had protested at the Virginia boundary, and now protested at being treated as criminals. Col. Smith listened to these repeated protests and replied: "It is true that I know of no law which will justify your detention, but as you are sent to my care by the supreme executive of your own State, and represented as dangerous characters, and as having been engaged in treasonable practices, I consider it my duty to detain you, at least until I can send to the governor of Virginia for his advice and direction in the matter." Tradition relates that the old colonel made an additional side remark to the effect that if he had his way that he would hang the whole lot without judge or jury. He once more repeated to them that if they would simply pledge themselves not to abscond that he would not confine them, but they again refused, and were at once placed under guard. They were confined along with the Hessian prisoners, some 300 of whom were at the time being held in a building that is standing to this day in the southern portion of Winchester. About nine months after these parties had remained in confinement here, they were released through the instrumentality of Alexander White, a lawyer, but not until the British had left Philadelphia. Several of them died during their imprisonment. This action of the Quakers during the Revolution left a stigma on that faith which lasted many years succeeding that struggle and, indeed, traces of it may still be found, but now very rarely. It was looked upon by the Americans as an extremely singular position for the Quakers to assume, as that sect had been an object of particular persecution by the English government, their very presence in the colonies at one time being punishable by death.
The justices were bound to ascertain the sentiments of those within their bailiwick, at least as far as the administration of an oath could solve that problem, for the proceedings of a court held September 3, 1777, gives the following:
"Ordered, that Edward McGuire, gent., is appointed to administer the oath of Fidelity, prescribed by law, to the inhabitants of Winchester, pursuant to the directions of an act of General Assembly in that case made and provided.
"Thomas Helm, for the same purpose, in the Districts of Captains Barrett, Ball and McKinney.
"Joseph Holtnes, in the Districts of Captains Gilkerson, Niswanger and Barron.
"Robert Throckmorton, in the Districts of Captains Wilson and Longacre.
"William Gibbs, in the Districts of Captains Reynolds and Baldwin.
"Robert White, in the Districts of Captains Babb and Rinker.
"Edmund Taylor, in the Districts of Captains Farron and Catlett.
"John Hite, in the District of Captain Helm."
It is astonishing how history so often repeats itself. This little process of "taking the oath" is no doubt very vivid in the minds of many people hereabout; and especially along the border, where the contending forces alternately held possession, did this practice most obtain. And it was said, by some irreverent scribe at the beginning of the late war, that a prominent general at Washington "took the oath" every morning before breakfast as an appetizer.
To return to Morgan: That skillful and dashing officer, after his release from Canadian prison life, was ordered to select a regiment of riflemen and join the force under the command of General Gates, who was gradually, but certainly, encompassing the downfall of Burgoyne, and it is claimed that the rifles of the Virginians under the careful manipulation of their fearless and determined leader helped very materially in bringing about a result that was felt throughout the whole colonies and shortened the strife by a year or two, for it took from active service a large army of England's best soldiers. The capitulation to the victorious Gates and his able supporters at Saratoga, included 5,790, of all ranks; which number, added to the killed, wounded and prisoners lost by the royal army during the preceding part of the expedition, made, altogether, upward of 10,000 men, an advantage rendered still more important to the captors, by the acquisition of thirty-five brass field pieces and nearly 5,000 muskets. The regular troops in Gates' army were 9,000 and the militia 4,000; 2,000, however, were sick or on furlough. Col. Morgan, for his superior military ability displayed in this very decisive battle and his conspicuous bravery, was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and joined the standard of Washington, near Philadelphia, where he further greatly distinguished himself in his operations against the English, by means of his regiment of unerring sharpshooters. A large number of the prisoners taken in the engagement with Burgoyne's army, were sent to Winchester, so that in 1780 a barracks was erected for them about four miles west of the town. They numbered about 1,600 in 1781.
The reduction of the cities of Savannah and Charleston so encouraged the English commander that he determined to make the subjugation of the southern colonies, at least, complete, and an advance into the interior of North Carolina was decided upon. The American commander-in0chief being advised of these movements, relieved Gen. Gates from the command of the southern army, and appointed in his stead Gen. Greene, an officer in whose ability, fortitude and integrity, from a long and intimate acquaintance, he had the utmost confidence. The day upon which Greene took charge of the army at Charlotte, he was informed of a gallant exploit performed by Col. Washington, of Morgan's command. Being on a foraging expedition, this active officer came upon one of the strong-holds of the royalists (Tories) near Camden. These traitors to their countrymen, 100 strong, were entrenched in a block-house, with an abattis, and could have defied Washington's little scouting party; but the ingenious colonel advanced with great display toward the enemy, and planted with deliberation a blackened log, mounted on wheels and resembling a cannon, so as to take the block-house, and then coolly demanded a surrender. Dreading a cannonade in so confined quarters, the garrison marched out and laid down their arms.
The patriot army in the south was in a very weak condition; there being scarcely 3,000, all told, fit for service; but this force was divided by the commander, and a detachment under Maj.-Gen. Daniel Morgan was sent into the district of Ninety-Six, in the western district of South Carolina. Cornwallis being at this time far advanced in his preparations for the invasion of North Carolina, could not, consistently with the rules of war, leave an enemy in his rear; so he dispatched Col. Tarleton, who had the reputation of being a dashing and able young officer, but withal, an incautious and inordinately vain one, and whose contempt for Morgan and his militia was complete, to pursue that officer and "push him to the utmost." Tarleton had two field pieces, a superiority of infantry in the proportion of five to four, and of cavalry, of three to one, against Morgan's five hundred; in all, the British commander had over 1,100 men. It is said that Tarleton was warned by a Tory colonel, who knew Gen. Morgan and his methods of warfare, to beware of how he approached that officer, "that he had never been whipped, and that he would be hard to capture;" but the pompous colonel only snapped his fingers, as though he would say, "the old wagoner and his raw militia would hardly be a breakfast bite for him." So, with the advantage in numbers and equipment, the gay Tarleton, at a place called the Cowpens, in South Carolina, on the 17th of January, 1781, attacked Gen. Morgan with the expectation of driving him out of the State, or annihilating his force. But the impetuosity of Tarleton, which had gained him high reputation when he had surprised an incautious enemy, or attacked panic-stricken militia, was at this time the occasion of his ruin. Impatient of delay, he went into the engagement with his men fatigued by marching, and without properly forming them, or the reserve had taken its ground, relying upon what he deemed his superiority in military tactics; but he had a general to deal with who could be a fox at one moment and a wolf the next, and so it proved. Awaiting the proper moment, with everything in readiness, when the time arrived the old valley wagoner and his five hundred rushed upon the enemy with such impetuosity and havoc that they sent them reeling and in dismay back upon their baggage, and what were not killed or captured fled in confusion to Charleston. It was one of the severest conflicts of the war. The English lost 300 men killed and wounded, besides 500 prisoners, and all their artillery, ammunition and baggage. The Americans had only twelve killed and sixty wounded, a result almost unprecedented in the annals of warfare of all time. Gen. Morgan was ably supported, as has heretofore been stated, by Col. William Augustine Washington, and one can imagine the hearty hand-shake of the rough old war-dog and his gallant colonel after the capture of Tarleton's army and the flight of that doughty English officer. An anecdote is related that is said to have occurred at Charleston, after Col. Tarleton had reached that city. This officer, who, even after his disastrous defeat, affected to look down upon the Virginia militia under Morgan, remarked to some ladies, who knew the handsome and dashing Col. Washington, "I would be very glad to get a sight of this Col. Washington, whom you think so brilliant, and of whom I have heard so much." "Had you looked behind you, Colonel, at the battle of Cowpens," replied one of the ladies, "you might easily have enjoyed that pleasure."
After his victory Morgan moved off to Virginia with his prisoners, but the chagrin of Cornwallis at the defeat of his favorite officer, Tarleton, urged that general to renewed exertions, and he endeavored to cut off the retreat of the victor and his spoils. General Greene also took a hand in the business and effectually checkmated the English commander by getting in between him and Morgan with the prisoners. Suffice it to say, the latter got off safely, and some time afterward, obtaining relief from duty for awhile, retired to his plantation, "Saratoga," so named in honor of the battle in which he had taken so active a part. His residence is said to have been built by Hessian prisoners. Not long after the escape of Morgan to Frederick County with the prisoners taken at Cowpens, it was rumored that Tarleton was approaehing to attempt their capture, when Col. Smith ordered out the militia and removed the Hessians and others confined near Winchester to Fort Frederick in Washington County, Maryland. While Morgan was reposing on his well-earned laurals at his home, he was requested by the county lieutenant of Frederick to head a party for the suppression of a nest of Tories across in the adjoining County of hardy, and accompanied by two or three hundred of the militia of Berkeley, Shenandoah and Frederick, adopted such measures in his treatment of those malcontents as to utterly squelch them and they were never afterward heard of as Tories. Morgan's last military operations were in 1794, in connect ion with what is known as the "Whisky Insurrection" in Western Pennsylvania. A tax had been laid upon distilled spirits, and the producers of that article deeming it unjust to them, they being farmers and using all their grain for distilling purposes, whilst those who raised grain for other uses were not required to pay tax, resolved to resist the measure. They (the distillers) committed a number of outrages on the collectors of the revenue, and to such extent were the disturbances growing that the general government was compelled to take a hand in the matter. Accordingly, Gov. Mifflin of Pennsylvania, Gov. Howell of New Jersey, Gov. Lee of Maryland and Gen. Daniel Morgan, all under the command of "Light Horse" Harry Lee of Virginia, with their repective forces, marched for the scene of action, but before they arrived on any "bloody field," the rag-tag and bob-tailed insurgents thought discretion the better part of valor and submitted to the inevitable. Washington is said to have remarked to Morgan, that it must have been a very arduous campaign to walk up hill and down again.
Shortly after returning from his first trip to quell the Pennsylvania distillers Morgan ran for Congress and was defeated, his competitor being Robert Rutherford. He ran again, two years later, and this time was successful. Becoming infirm with age and an extremely active life, he moved to Winchester in 1800 and resided with his youngest daughter, Mrs. Heard. He had married about 1762, Miss Abigail Bailey, whose parents lived on the Blue Ridge, above what was known as Combs' Ferry on the Shenandoah River, east of Winchester. Morgan had two daughters, the elder, Nancy, who married Col. Presley Neville, and the other, Betsey, who married Maj. James Heard, both Revolutionary soldiers, and at the house of the latter the old general died, July 6, 1802.
The historian, Sparks, has said of Morgan: "In person he was of imposing appearance, moving with strength and grace, of a hardy constitution, to defy fatigue, hunger and cold. His open countenance was a mirror of his frank, ingenuous nature; he could glow with intensest anger, but he would never allow his passion to master his discernment, and his disposition was sweet and peaceful, so that he delighted in acts of kindness, never harboring malice or revenge, making his house a home of cheerfulness and hospitality. His courage was not an idle quality, it sprang from the intense energy of his will, which bore him on to his duty with an irresitable impetuosity; his faculties were only quickened by the nearness of danger, which he was sure to make the best preparation to meet; an instinctive perception of character assisted him in choosing among his companions those whom it was wise to trust, and a reciprocal sympathy made the obedience of his soldiers an act of affectionate confidence. Whenever he appeared on the battle field the fight was sure to be waged with fearlessness, good judgment and massive energy. Next to Washington, in some qualities, Morgan had no superior among Virginia soldiers."
In another light Morgan is sketched by a writer in the Winchester Republican, in 1842: "This 'thunderbolt of war,' this 'brave Morgan who never knew fear,' was in camp often wicked and profane, but never a disbeliever in religion. In his latter years he united himself with the Presbyterian Church in this place, under the care of Rev. Dr. Hill. He related his experience to that minister. 'People thought,' said he, 'that Daniel Morgan never prayed;' - 'People said old Morgan never was afraid;' - 'People did not know.' He then proceeded to relate in his blunt manner, among many other things, that the night they stormed Quebec, while waiting in the darkness and the storm with his men paraded, for the word to advance, he felt unhappy; the enterprise appeared more than perilous; it seemed to him that nothing less than a miracle could bring them off safe from an encounter at such amazing disadvantage. He stepped aside and kneeled by the side of a munition of war-and then most fervently prayed that the Lord God Almighty would be his shield and defense, for nothing less than an almighty arm could protect him. He continued on his knees till the word passed along the line. He fully believed that his safety during that night of peril was from the interposition of God. Again, he said about the battle of Cowpens, which covered him with so much glory as a leader and a soldier-he had felt afraid to fight Tarleton with his numerous army flushed with success-and that he retreated as long as it seemed advisable, and yet retain the confidence of his men. Drawing up his army in three lines on the side of a hill, contemplating the scene-in the distance the glitter of the advancing enemy-he trembled for the fate of the day. Going to the woods in the rear, he kneeled in the top of a fallen tree, and poured out a prayer to God for his army, for himself and for his country. With revived spirits he returned to the lines, and in his rough manner cheered them for the fight; as he passed along they answered him bravely. The terrible carnage that followed the deadly aim of his riflemen decided the victory. 'Ah,' said he, 'people said old Morgan never prayed and never was afraid; people did not know; old Morgan was often miserably afraid! The last of those riflemen are gone; the brave and hearty gallants of the valley, that waded to Canada and stormed Quebec, are all gone; -gone, too, the sharpshooters of Saratoga.' For a long time two, who shared his captivity in Canada were seen in this village, wasting away to shadows of their youth, celebrating with enthusiasm the night of their battle, as the years rolled around-Peter Lauck and John Schultz. They have answered the roll-call of death, and have joined their leader."
Out in the cemetery, not far from Morgan's grave, rests another of the patriot band of the revolution, the brave Gen. Daniel Roberdeau, a Huguenot, who cast his fortunes with America. But here, upon a plain marble slab, now level with the ground, cracked and broken, may be read the following:
MAJOR-GENERAL DANIEL MORGAN
Departed this life
On July the 6th, 1802,
In the 67th year of his age.
Patriotism and Valor were the
Prominent Features of his character,
The honorable services he rendered
to his country
During the Revolutionary War
Crowned him with Glory, and will
remain in the hearts of his
a Perpetual Monument
Beneath this humble slab out in the cemetery, under the shadow of stately monuments, repose the dust of one of those great soldiers who, it seems, flash before the world but once in a century-General DANIEL MORGAN-the STONEWALL JACKSON of the Revolution.