ECHOES OF YESTERDAY
His Excellency's system of intelligence in the City of New York I never pretended to comprehend. That I was one of many agents I could have no doubt; yet as long as I remained there I never knew but three or four established spies with residence in town. Although I had no illusions concerning Mr. Gaine and his "Gazette," at intervals I violently suspected Mr. Rivington of friendliness to us, and this in spite of his Tory newspaper and the fierce broadsides he fired at rebels and rebellion. But I must confess that in my long and amiable acquaintance with the gentleman he never, by word or hint or inference, so much as by the quiver of an eyelash, corroborated my suspicion, and to this day I do not know whether or not Mr. Rivington furnished secret information to his Excellency while publicly in print he raged and sneered.
Itinerant spies were always in the city in spite of the deadly watch kept up by regular and partizan, and sometimes they bore messages for me, the words "Pro Gloria" establishing their credentials as well as mine. They entered the city in all guises and under all pretexts, some as refugees, some as traitors, some wearing the uniform of Tory partizan corps, others attired as tradesmen, farmers, fishermen, and often bearing passes, too, though where they contrived to find passes I never understood.
It was a time of sullenness and quick suspicion; few were free from doubt, but of those few I made one—until that day when my enemy arrived—but of that in its place, for now I mean to say a word about this city that I love—that we all love, understanding how alone she stood in seven years' chains, yet dauntless, dangerous, and defiant.
For upon New York fell the brunt of British wrath, and the judgment of God fell, too, passing twice in fire that laid one-quarter of the town in cinders. Nor was that enough, for His lightning smote the powder-ship, the Morning Star, where she swung at her moorings off from Burling Slip, and the very sky seemed falling in the thunder that shook the shoreward houses into ruins.
I think that, take it all in all, New York met and withstood every separate horror that war can bring, save actual assault and sack. Greater hardships fell to the lot of no other city in America, for we lost more than a half of our population, more than a fourth of the city by the two great fires. Want, with the rich, meant famine for the poor and sad privation for the well-to-do; smallpox and typhus swept us; commerce by water died, and slowly our loneliness became a maddening isolation, when his Excellency flung out his blue dragoons to the very edges of the river there at Harlem Bridge.
I often think it strange that New York town remained so loyal to the cause, for loyalty to the king was inherent among the better classes. Many had vast estates, farms, acres on acres of game parks, and lived like the landed gentry of old England. Yet, save for the DeLanceys, the Crugers, their kinsmen, the Fannings, kin to the Tryons, Frederick Rhinelander, the Waltons, and others too tedious to mention, the gentlemen who had the most to lose through friendliness to the cause of liberty, chose to espouse that cause....