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On the death of my father, December 13, 1807, there were seven of us orphans,—only one of them younger than myself; and the executors, Gen. Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer and Prosper M. Hosmer, considered that they discharged their whole duty as executors, by permitting the old housekeeper-who had been in the family since 1790, and who died in it in 1820—to continue the establishment; they simply supplying the means. She was one of the best creatures that ever lived; of German descent, but could neither read nor write. She was devoted to us children, and we to her; and to this day, I am not conscious of ever hearing any other names applied to her, except “Mammy Betsey.” Her one idea of duty, was to render us happy; and, of course, the only mode to accomplish this, according to her judgment, was to let us do as we pleased.
I have no doubt but my father, at his death, left to us a more accurate and detailed statement of the incidents and events of the Revolution, than had been prepared by any other individual. From the day he marched from Wethersfield to take part in the battle of Bunker Hill, and for years previous, he never failed, except from illness, to write up his journal of the day. He rarely destroyed a paper; and the accumulated records, embracing the entire period from 1774 to 1784, filled two monstrous chests, not less than five feet long and of proportionate width; and every scrap of paper, in this great mass of manuscript correspondence, journals and accounts, was as accurately and carefully filed, as are the archives of any court of record; and all these treasures, were left to be treated as best suited the whims of children. The letters of Washington, Jay, Hamilton, and other notables, were scattered broad-cast among our school-fellows. What was particularly attractive, were the books of blotting paper we prepared for them. And how, think you, it was done? My father, who was exceedingly neat and precise (as well as expensive in his habits), had blank books, of uniform size, prepared for his journal, with covers of soft leather; and between the sheets of writing paper, was bound up a sheet of blotting paper. These journals were carefully labelled A, B, C, extending through the entire alphabet; and then a new series commenced, marked AA, BB, CC, and so on down to PP. And those invaluable records of our great war of independence, in relation to which he, from his position, knew probably as much as any individual, save the Commander-in-Chief;-we children, left to ourselves by executors who, however high their social position, were no better than vandals,—deliberately, but in profound ignorance, destroyed! We tore out of those journals and destroyed all the written manuscript contained in them; and presented the pretty little books of blotting paper to our schoolfellows. One only, of the entire series, remains.
But independent of this regular series of journals, embracing all passing events, it appears that my father was accustomed to keep a kind of blotter, composed of unbound sheets of foolscap, carefully sewed together; on one page of which, when Aid-de-Camp to General Washington, he carefully drafted the orders of the day, to be issued; while on the opposite page, he wrote, from day to day, what he termed “ Remarks and occurrences, &c.'
In 1846, the Philadelphia Gazette, contained an editorial, stating that a gentleman had recently come in possession of part of a journal, &c., purporting to have been kept by Samuel B. Webb, in 1776; which could not fail to be of interest to his heirs, if any existed; and inviting such, if any, to address William B. Reed on the subject.
I immediately addressed a note to my friend, Colonel Reed, apprising him that I was the son of General Samuel B. Webb, claiming the waif; and I desire here to say of my old friend-who was the grandson of Colonel Joseph Reed, an Aid-de-Camp of Washington at the same time as my father, and subsequently, adjutant general of the army—that, although he recently died in this city under a cloud, and had fallen from the high position he once occupied, he was a warm-hearted, cultivated gentleman; and in social life, one of the most agreeable and fascinating men of his time. His public career terminated with his mission to China; and, familiar as I have been with all our public men from 1820 to 1875, I know of but few who, socially, were Colonel Reed's equals.
My letter promptly brought the journal, with the following note:
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 24, 1846. MY DEAR WEBB:-I intended to see you before you left town and say what I now must write. Your father's journal; which, , of its kind, is a perfect historical gem, ought to belong to you, and you ought to take good care of it.
By the express of to-morrow, you will receive it. As I have some doubt of my right to part with it, I wish you to consider it in your hands subject to restoration, and say so in a note to me. There is no probability of any demand being made.
Among my papers I find an incidental notice of your father in a skirmish on December 4, 1777, near Chestnut Hill. In haste, truly yours,
WILLIAM B. REED. I published in the Courier and Enquirer several extracts from this journal; and subsequently, loaned it to Mr. Lossing, the historian. When he returned it to me, it was accompanied by the following letter:
POUGHKEEPSIE, Jan. 6, 1854. GENERAL WEBB,
Dear Sir :-I hasten to comply with the request contained in your note of yesterday. My apology for keeping the journal of your honored father, so long, is that I was waiting to find time to make an abstract of its most important particulars for preservation. Each day brought its pressing duties, and I deferred it. On the receipt of your note, I sat down to the task; and now have the pleasure to acknowledge the gratification which has been afforded me.
You are doubtless aware, that all the remainder of the edition of my “Field Book," was consumed with Harper's establishment.
I am now preparing it for a new and improved edition; and am happy to have it in my power to insert in a note, the fact, that your father; as Aid to the Commander-in-Chief, wrote the order respecting the reading of the Declaration of Independence to the army, the destruction of the statue of George III. and other notable events during the Summer of 1776. I also observe that your father and Colonel Joseph Reed, were the persons who met a flag from General Howe; and when the bearer presented them with letters directed to “ George Washington, Esq." instead of “General Washington,” patriotically refused to receive them. All honor to the noble hearts of men so zealous of even the smallest courtesies due the beloved commander of the “rebel army!”
Their names and deeds, should not perish with the grass that was flowering when they were achieved. Very truly yours,
BENSON J. LOSSING,
No. 66 South avenue. To General JAMES WATSON WEBB, New York.
I also loaned the journal to Mr. Bancroft and Washington Irving; both of whom made use of it. Every reader of American history, is familiar with the fact, that Lord Howe superciliously addressed an official letter “ To George Washington, Esq.,” which was refused; but by whom and under what circumstances it was refused, was not satisfactorily known until Colonel Reed discovered in the interior of Pennsylvania, this “perfect historical gem, as he denominates it.
Very properly, General Washington's Aides, Colonel Joseph Reed and Colonel Samuel B. Webb, both young men, and the latter only twenty-two, prevented the offensive missive ever reaching the hands of Washington; who cordially approved their conduct. They subsequently, again refused to receive a letter similarly ad· dressed, some days later; and then, Lord Howe asked “ that his Adjuant-General might be admitted to an interview with His Excellency General Washington."
You will perceive that on the 21st of June, 1776, my father was appointed Aid-de-Camp to Washington from the staff of General Putnam; and that on the 22d, Aaron Burr was appointed Aid-de-Camp to General Putnam “in place of Major Webb, promoted," my father having been made Aid-de-Camp to Putnam shortly after the battle of Bunker Hill.
EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL.
REMARKS, OCCURRENCES, &C., NEW YORK. June 21, 1776.–Agreeable to this day's orders, Colonel Cary and myself, removed to headquarters as Aid-de-Camp to His Excellency General Washington.
Some days past, the General received information that a most horrid plot was on foot by the vile tories of this place and the adjacent towns and villages. Having taken the necessary precautions, at two o'clock in the morning a number of officers and guards, went to different places and took up many of their principals; among whom, was David Matthews, Esq., Mayor of the city; and to our great astonishment we find five or more of the General's life guard to be accomplices in this wicked scheme; which was, at a concerted time, to assassinate His Excellency and the other general officers, blow up the magazine, spike the cannon, &c. It was to be put in execution as soon as the enemy's fleet appeared, if no proper time offered before; but thank God, they are discovered, and many of them in close custody; where, I hope, they will receive the punishment due such infamous wretches.
June 22.-By express from Canada we have the disagreeable intelligence, that on the morning of the 2d inst., General Thomp
on, at the head of 1,500 men, attacked the enemy at Trois-Rivers, supposing them to be about 500. But, unluckily for us, the evening before, the enemy received reinforcements to the number of about 4,000 men, with General Burgoyne at their head; by which means General Thompson was defeated and obliged to retreat. On his retreat he, with five officers, fell into the hands of the Canadian militia, and were carried prisoners to General Burgoyne's camp. This unfortunate affair, we fear, will oblige our little army to leave Canada. When the express came away, General Sullivan, with the remaining part of our army, about 2,500 men, was fortifying himself at the Sorrell. We wish to hear of their safety.
June 23.—The detachment under Colonel Jacobs is to go on fatigue near King's Bridge. About one o'clock, this evening, a detachment of about 250, under Majors — and Livingston, marched to rout a number of tories in the swamps on Long Island, and to pick up such men as are notoriously inimical to the liberties of America. Success attend them.
June 24.- The guard, at the City Hall, has in charge those traitors to their country who were concerned in the late horrible plot.
June 28.—This evening we hear that our cruisers off the back of Long or Nassau Island, have retaken four prizes, which the Greyhound man-of-war had a few days before, taken. The sailors inform, that General Howe was on board the Greyhound and had arrived at Sandy Hook ; that 130 sails of transports, &c., were to sail from Halfax for this place the 9th inst. If this be true, we may hourly look for their arrival.
Agreeable to yesterday's orders, Thomas Hickey (one of the conspirators to take the life of our Chief), was hanged in presence of most of the army, besides great numbers of other spectators. He seemed much more penitent than he was at first.
June 29.-This morning, at nine o'clock, we discovered our