Page images
PDF
EPUB

bucks in velvet and ruffles gathered to talk | everything relating to it interested them. It over the news or plan new plots of surpris- was the only matter which excited them, ing a governor or a lady-love. It was and every other feeling took its tone from there the haughty young aristocrats, as this. It influenced them in all their relathey took snuff and fondled their hounds, tions, domestic as well as public. Even probably laughed over the story of how and smooth as seemed the temperament that young fellow, Washington, who, be- of the nonchalant, languid Virginian,-not cause he had acquired some little reputation splenitive or rash,-yet had it in it something righting Indians, had thought himself good dangerous. His political opinions were saenough for anybody, had courted Mary Cary, cred to him; he had inherited them from and very properly had been asked out of his father, whom he regarded as the imperthe house by the old Colonel, on the ground sonation of wisdom and virtue. To oppose that his daughter had been accustomed to them roused him at once, and made him ride in her own coach. There it was intolerant and violent. He could not brook doubtless told how Tom Jefferson, leaving opposition. The feeling has not altogether his clients and studies on the Rivanna, had disappeared even at the present day. Yet, come back to try his fate at Becky Bur- singular as it may seem, with this existed well's dainty feet, and had been sent off for the deeply ingrained love of liberty and much-needed consolation to his old friend devotion to principle from which sprang and crony, John Page, who had just induced the constitutional securities of liberty of little Frances, her cousin, to come and be speech, freedom of the press, the right to mistress of Rosewell. Sometimes graver bear arms, and the statute of religious freetopics were discussed there—whether the dom. Metropolitan's license and the recommen- In York, the Nelson family was the dation of the Governor were sufficient to acknowledged leader in county affairs. override the will of the vestries in fixing an President Nelson had sent his eldest son, obnoxious rector in the parishes; whether Tom, when a lad of fourteen, to Eton, and Great Britain had a right to a monopoly afterward to Cambridge, where he was of the colonial trade, or whether she could graduated with some distinction. The style lawfully prevent them inhibiting the landing in which the President of the Council lived of slaves in their ports, with other questions is exhibited by the casual remark, in a letter which showed the direction of the popular written to a friend who was in charge of this mind.

son, that he had just bought Lord BaltiIt would be difficult to find a fitter more's six white coach-horses, and meant to illustration of the old colonial Virginia life give his own six black ones a run in his Hanthan that which this little town affords. over pastures. In 1761, the young squire It was a typical Old Dominion borough, came home, and it shows the influence of his and was one of the eight boroughs into family that, while yet on his voyage across, which Virginia was originally divided. he was returned as a member of the House One or two families owned the place, of Burgesses. About a year afterward, he ruling with a sway despotic in fact, though married Lucy Grymes, the oldest daughter in the main temperate and just, for the of Colonel Philip Grymes, of Brandon, in lower orders were too dependent and inert Middlesex. The Grymeses enjoyed the repto dream of thwarting the “gentlefolk," and utation of being the wickedest and cleverthe Southerner uncrossed was ever the est family in the Dominion. The name most amiable of men. If there were more was originally Græme, but when the first than one ·great family, they nevertheless of them fled from Scotland in 1715, after got on amicably, for they had usually the failure of the Old Pretender, he, for married and intermarried until their inter- prudential reasons, changed his name to ests were identical.

Grymes. Little Lucy was a dove in the Nearly all the “ old” families in the eagle's nest, however. She was a cousin colony were allied, and the clannish in- of Light-Horse Harry Lee and of Thomas stinct was as strong as among the Scotch. Jefferson. An old MS. states that the The ambition of the few wealthy families latter was one of her many lovers, but the in the colony, perhaps more than the story appears to lack confirmation, as the usually accepted aristocratic instinct, ex- | lady denied it even in after years. cluded from the circle all who did not During the years that followed, York come up to their somewhat difficult stand- maintained her position as an influential ard. Government was their passion, and borough in the direction of affairs. When

a

the crisis came, Secretary Thomas Nelson, had been a conspicuous member of all the “the President's ” younger brother, was at great conventions. He had made the mothe head of the moderate party. He re- tion in committee of the whole in 1776 that ceived forty-five votes in the Convention for Virginia should instruct her delegates in Virginia's first governor, but was beaten by Congress to try and induce that body to Patrick Henry. He was, however, put in declare the United Colonies free and indethe Privy Council. His nephew and name- pendent States; he had, as one of her delesake, Thomas Nelson, Jr., was one of the gates, signed the great Declaration ; and leaders of the ultra patriots, and with his now he had been chosen to take the entire cousin and connection, Dudley Digges, took control of the State, and with almost dictaso conspicuous a part in the early revolu- torial powers to manage both her military tionary action of the State, that "Captain and civil polity. “ His popularity was unMontague, the commander of the British bounded,” says the historian. His patriotship Fowey, threatened to bombard York. ism certainly was. The father of a modern The manifestation of their anger took a English statesman, speaking of his son's freesingular turn, which at the same time trade views, said he might be exalting the shows the naïve character of the old Vir- | nation, but he was ruining his family. The ginia gentry. They solemnly resolved that same criticism might have been passed on his action had been so inhuman that he General Nelson's administration. His pashould not be further recognized as triotism was of a nature that now strikes gentleman. It is possible that however one as rather antique. When money was determined the men were not to recognize wanted to pay the troops and run the GovCaptain Montague, the women were less ernment, Virginia's credit was low, but the resolute, as he was remarkable for his great Governor was told that he could have personal beauty,—so remarkable, indeed, plenty on his personal security, so he borthat it was said Lady Augusta Murray, who rowed a couple of millions and went on; afterward married the Duke of Sussex, and when regiments mutinied and refused to who was herself declared to be the hand- march, the Governor simply drove over to somest woman in the three kingdoms, used Petersburg, raised the money, and paid to repeat at the end of each verse in the them. Consequently, when the war closed, 136th Psalm, whenever it occurred in the what old George Mason declared he would church service:

be willing to say his nunc dimittis on, viz.,

the heritage to his children of a crust of “ Praise Montague, Captain of the Fowey, bread and liberty, had literally befallen GovFor his beauty endureth for ever."

ernor Nelson.

When it was discovered that Cornwallis Dudley Digges, young Nelson's col- was marching on York, the feelings of the league in the House of Burgesses, was a inhabitants were doubtless not enviable. member of the Privy Council, and of the Arnold had not long before swept over the Committee of Safety. He was the worthy | State, leaving “red ruin ” in his track. lineal descendant of that brave Sir Dudley Colonel Tarleton, Cornwallis's lieutenant, who flung at Charles the First's powerful had procured for himself a not very desirable and insolent favorite, Buckingham, the re- reputation, having an eye for a good horse tort, you jeer, my lord? I can show and a likely negro, and a conscience not you where a greater man than your lord- over scrupulous about the manner of obtainship, as high in power, and as deep in the ing them. Arnold was so much dreaded king's favor, has been hanged for as small a that, when he was expected to fall on York, crime as these articles contain."

Mrs. Nelson, the general's wife, with her Such was York, the patriotic little Vir- young children, fled to the upper country. ginia town into which Cornwallis retired in On this occasion it was that Jimmy Ridout, the summer of 1781, when he received the carriage driver, in emulation of Cacus, orders from Sir Henry Clinton to intrench had his horses shod at night with the shoes himself on the coast and await instructions. reversed, so that if they were followed their At this time it boasted among its citizens pursuers might be misled. When Cornthe Governor of the State, for young Nel- wallis marched on York, Mrs. Nelson once son had attained the highest dignity in more set out for her upper plantations in Virginia. He had been one of the leaders Hanover. in the great movement which had separated Cornwallis, expecting additional forces the colonies from the mother country. He | from Sir Henry Clinton, fortified himself

6 Do

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

in York. His letter to his chief, conveying with blackberry bushes and young locusts, the announcement of his surrender, declares but they tell of a more recent strife; the that he never saw this post in a very favor- Revolutionary earth-works have totally disable light, and nothing but the hope of appeared, except on “Secretary's Hill." relief would have induced him to attempt where formerly stood Secretary Nelson's its defense. This letter gave mortal offense fine house, in which Cornwallis first estabto the superior officer, who was sensible lished his head-quarters. A few signs are of the justice of the grave charge so deli- still discernible there, due to the possible cately conveyed. He had sacrificed his fact that his lordship had his head-quarters subordinate and the last chances of Great protected by works of unusual strength. Britain.

If this be the explanation, the precaution Riding over the green fields at present, proved futile, for when it was known in the it requires an effort to picture the scenes Revolutionary camp that it was the British they witnessed one hundred years ago. commander's head-quarters, the house was There are fortifications still standing, green made their special mark, and was almost

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small]

demolished. The butler was killed in the act at night by the picked troops of the French of placing a dish on the dinner-table. Out- and American armies. The short grass side the town, there are several spots which now grows smooth over the spot where the may be accurately fixed. Up the river, on Royal Auvergne won back their lost name the rise beyond the small, dull stream, to the and fame; but as we stand where they left of the Williamsburgh road going out, stood that night with empty guns, panting were posted the French batteries—the regi- ' to use the bayonet, steadfast though their ments of Touraine, Agénois, and Gatinois ranks were being mowed down in the dark—the Royal Auvergne—“ Auvergne sans ness, we feel stirred as though it had all tache.On the creek a little nearer the occurred but yesterday. Meantime the town fell Scammel on the first day of the American stormers of the other redoubt, siege, treacherously shot in the back after he led by the dashing young Colonel Alexanhad surrendered, which“ cast a gloom over der Hamilton, had plunged through the the camp.” His death was avenged after- abattis and gained their prize. What a ward by his troops, as they charged over the speech that must have been which the redoubts with the battle-cry, “Remember young officer made his men as he halted Scammel!” Below the town, on the other them under the walls ! side, the redoubts were stormed and taken “ Did you ever hear such a speech ? " asked one officer of another. “ With that borne the news of Blenheim to England. speech I could storm hell!”

He had come, bringing his virtues and his The striking incidents of the siege were graces, to the Old Dominion, and had in the not very numerous. It was a steady and quaint old house on the river bank held his unreceding advance on one side and retro- mimic court, forming royal plans for the gression on the other ; but this particular development of the kingly domain he ruled, night was somewhat noted for its romantic entertaining his knights of the Golden episodes. When Hamilton, inside his re- Horseshoe, drinking healths which amaze doubt, sent to inform the French leader even this not over temperate generation. of the fact and to inquire if he was in his, He established the first iron foundry ever “ No, but I will be in five minutes," he erected on American soil. Hither his answered, and he kept his word. Many a body was brought from Maryland, where he blue lapel was stained with heart blood; died. But one hundred years ago, to the but their king wrote with his own hand, many associations connected with the old Bon pour Royal Auvergne," and posterity house was added one which to this generasays, Amen! They died not in vain. “The tion dwarfs all others. In its sitting-room work is done and well done," said Washing- were drawn up the articles of capitulation ton, when the signal was given that the of the British army. Imagination almost redoubts were won.

always paints in high colors the scene of A few days before this eventful night, the any great act in the world's drama, but a Governor of Virginia, who was present in milder and more peaceful picture can person, commanding the Virginia State scarcely be conceived than that which this forces, had displayed his patriotism by an spot now presents. The house was owned act which attracted much attention. Ob- at the time of the surrender by “ Aunt serving that his own house within the town Moore," as she was called by nearly all the had escaped injury from the shells, he people of York. It is now unoccupied, and learned that General Washington had given the cellar has been utilized as a stable. orders that the gunners should not aim at About it the mild-eyed Alderneys browse it. He immediately had a gun turned on the white clover, or gaze sleepily at the it, and offered a prize of five guineas to the unwonted pilgrim. The river sleeps just gunner who should strike it.

beyond, with a single sail set like a pearl on Three-quarters of a mile back of the two its bosom. The spot looks an "ancient captured redoubts, and outside of the first haunt of peace," but war has stalked about parallel, stood, and still stands, an old it since first the English came. The peaceweather-board mansion. Its antique roof, ful-looking hedges beyond the old orchard, its fire-places set across the corners, and its and on the bluff, are breastworks overgrown general old-time air, even a hundred years with bushes. The great civil war, the war ago bespoke for it reverence as a relic of of 1812, and the Revolution, all have passed a long by-gone age. It was historical even over these green, quiet fields; and yonder then, for it had been the country residence in the “ Temple” lies the relic of a still of Governor Spottswood, who had been the 'older strife—the grave of a soldier who had great Marlborough's aid-de-camp, and had won his laurels and lain down long before

[graphic][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »