Monday, May 7, 2018

The Memoirs of Ebenezer Foot, Revolutionary War Veteran (Part II)

[Part I can be read here]

After I got home my Master received my wages and I continued to work for him until April, at which time I was twenty one years of age.  I then worked two months with Mr. Wells, received my wages and went to Colchester, where I informed my father of my inclination to go to sea.  He appeared Rather Mortified at my Resolution, but to demonstrate that he wished my success he proposed my Postponing the Measure until he could provide me with necceries [neccesities], and engage a birth on board some Vessel, commanded by a man of good Character, he accordingly went to New London and engaged the Steward’s place for me on board the Industrious Bee [1.] , Privateer, commanded by Captain George Allen [2.] of [Providence] Rhode Island.  I embarked on board and engaged for a cruise of 6 months.  We had not been long out of port, until I had occasion to suspect our Commander was not a man of Courage.  After the novelty of the business I was engaged in, had subsided, and I began to reflect on my employment, being only a licensed Robber, and associated with some of the most infamous characters on Earth, our crew of 80 men consisting of some of the most abandoned rascals of all Nations, I grew heartily sick of my situation, and on falling in with the French Fleet under the command of Comte de Estang (sic), I obtained my discharge of the Captain and accompanied the French Fleet into the harbor of New-Port, where I continued until the retreat & disaster that Befel (sic) the Fleet in the Storm off the Coast.  After arriving at Boston with the ships dismasted and shattered, I returned to my father Moneyless, and ashamed of the employment I had been engaged in, and sincerely hope none of my Posterity will ever engage in Robbing and Plundering their fellow Creatures, on account of it being sanctioned by law or custom – It is in my opinion both wicked and base. 

After residing at my father about two weeks, I was employed by Col. Henry Champion in the Purchasing Commissary Department [Champion was made Commissary General in May, 1781, which does not accord with the timeline of this narrative], and being ordered to camp to receive Beef Cattle and deliver to the Army  I contracted an acquaintance with a number of Respectable Military Characters – being stationed in the county of Westchester in the winter of 1778 -9.  I contracted an acquaintance with Jerusha Purdy [of Yorktown, Westchester County, New York], who I married the October following.  The Enemy that summer having ravaged almost the whole Country, I removed her to my Father’s in Connecticut, where I left her and returned to Camp.  The winter following winter I was stationed at Fish Kill – appointed Superintendent of Live Stock for the whole army, in which station I continued until the Purchasing Commissaries Department was abolished in 1782.  I then returned to Crumpond [Crum Pond village, now part of Yorktown, NY] resided with my wife in the house of her Brother.  I being unqualified in some degree to Labour by habits [imbibed?] in the Army, concluded to commence trader or merchant, and began to traffic in such line as my finances would enable, which to be sure was not large, having very little Property at my Command.  My accounts being unsettled, and the greater part of the property bequeathed to my wife being destroyed, and sunk in paper Money,  I however made shift to support myself and her without getting into debt – until the year 1784 at which time my accounts were settled, and I had the pleasure to procure sufficient vouchers for all the Public property that was ever committed to my care, and rec’d a certificate from the Commissioners for settling the Public accounts certifying that there was due to me 3795 dollars and 55-90th of a dollar, to which sum I was entitled to at an Interest rate of 6 per cent pr annum.  This was the amount of all my property & was hardly earned by faithful services performed for my Country.  I contemplated having justice done me by my Country, and ventured to embark in trade on a much larger scale than I had hitherto done – this proved my ruin as to Property.”

[1.]  Industrious Bee is listed, briefly, as a Rhode Island privateer, George Allen, Master, in William P. Sheffield's 1882 address to the Rhode Island Historical Society entitled Rhode Island Privateers and Privateersmen.  This in not to be confused with the prize Brigantine "Industrious Bee" that was bought into Continental service and renamed "General Gates".

[2.]  George Allen is an elusive figure.  He may also have been the Master of another equally difficult to document Rhode Island privateer, "Opdyke."

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