Page images
PDF
EPUB

projected for the surprisal and destruction of a part of the enemy at Sag Harbour, on Long Island, where large quantities of stores and forage had been collected for the army at New York; the account of which is given in “Marshall's Life of Washington,” as follows.

“ General Parsons intrusted the execution of this plan to colonel Meigs, a very gallant officer, who had accompanied Arnold in his memorable march to Quebec, and had been taken prisoner in the unsuccessful attempt made on that place by Montgomery. He embarked with about two hundred and thirty men, on board thirteen whale-boats, and proceeded along the coast to Guilford, from whence he was to cross the Sound. Here he was detained some time by high winds and a rough sea; but on the 23d of May, about one o'clock in the afternoov, he re-embarked one hundred and seventy of his detachment, and proceeded, under convoy of two armed sloops, across the Sound, to the north division of the island near Southold. The east end of Long Island is deeply intersected by å bay, on the north side of which had been a. small foraging party, against which the expedition was in part directed; but they had marched to New York two days before.

“Here, however, information was received, that the stores had not been removed from Sag Harbour, which lies in the northern division of the island, and that a small guard still remained there for their defence. The boats were immediately conveyed across the land, a distance of about fifteen miles, into the bay, where the troops re-embarked, and crossing the bay, landed within four miles of Sag Harbour, at two o'clock in the morning, which place they completely surprised, and carried with fixed bayonetsk At the same time a division of the detachment secured the armed schooner and the vessels, with the forage which had been collected for the supply of the army at New York. These brigs and slaops, twelve in number, were set on fire and entirely consumed. Six of the enemy were killed, and ninety of them taken prisoners; a very few escaped under cover of the night. Colonel Meigs returned to Guilford with his prisoners; having thus completely effected the object of the expedition, without the loss of a single man, and having moved with such uncommon celerity, as to have transported his men by land and water ninety miles in twenty-five hours.

“ As a mark of their approbation of his conduct, congress directed a sword to be presented to him, and passed a resolution expressive of their high sense entertained of his merit, and of the prudence, activity and valour, displayed by himself and his party in this expedition."

In 1779, colonel Meigs commanded one of the regiments which stormed and carried Stony Point, under general Wayne.

He was one of the first settlers of the wilderness, which has since become the state of Ohio; having landed at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, with the earliest emigrants. A government for the northwestern territory had been prepared, by an ordinance of the congress of 1787. Governor St. Clair and the judges of the territory had not arrived. The emigrants were without civil laws or civil authority. Colonel Meigs drew up a concise system of regulations, which were agreed to by the emigrants, as the rule of conduct and preservation, until the proper authorities should arrive. To give these regulations publicity, a large oak, standing near the confluence of the rivers, was selected, froni which the bark was cut off, of sufficient space to attach the sheet, on which the regulations were written; and they were beneficially adhered to until the civil authori. ties arrived. This venerable oak was, to the emigrants, more useful, and as frequently consulted, as the oracle of ancient Delphos, by its vo ies.

During a long life of activity and usefulness, no man ever sustained a character more irreproachable than colonel Meigs. He was a pattern of excellence as a patriot, a philanthropist, and a Christian. In all the vicissitudes of fortune, the duties of religion were strictly observed, and its precepts strikingly exemplified. The latter part of his life was devoted to the melioration of the condition of the aborigines of the country, for which purpose he accepted the agency of the Cherokee station; and in the discharge of his duties he inspired the highest degree of confidence in that nation, by whom he was emphatically denominated “ THE WHITE Path.” In all cases they revered him as their father, and obeyed his counsel as an unerring guide.

His death is a loss to the country, and especially to that station. His remains were interred with the honours of war, amidst a concourse of sincere friends, and in the anguish of undissembled sorrow. His death was serenely happy in the assurance of Christian hope. He died on the 28th of January, 1823, at the Cherokee Agency.

MIFFLIN, Thomas, a major-general in the American army during the revolutionary war, and governor of Pennsylvania, was born in the year 1744, of parents who were Quakers. His education was intrusted to the care of the Rev. Dr. Smith, with whom he was connected in habits of cordial intimacy and friendship, for more than forty years.

Active and zealous, he engaged early in opposition to the measures of the British parliament. He was a member of the first congress in 1774. He took arms, and was among the first officers commissioned on the organization of the continental army, being appointed quarter-master-general in August, 1775. For this offence he was read out of the society of Quakers. In 1777, he was very useful in animating the militia, and enkindling the spirit which seemed to have been damped. His sanguine disposition and his activity rendered him insensible to the value of that coolness and caution, which were essential to the preservation of such an army as was then under the command of general Washington. In 1787, he was a member of the convention, which framed the constitution of the United States, and his signature is affixed to that instrument. In October, 1788, he succeeded Franklin as president of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania, in which station he continued till October, 1790. In September, a constitution for this state was formed by a convention, in which he presided, and he was chosen the first governor, In 1794, during the insurrection in Pennsylvania, he employed, to the advantage of his country, the extraordinary powers of elocution, with which he was endowed. The imperfection of the militia laws was compensated by his eloquence. He made a circuit through the lower counties, and, at different places, publicly addressed the militia on the crisis in the affairs of their country, and through his animating exhortations, the state furnished the quota required. He was succeeded in the office of governor by Mr. MʻKean, at the close of the year 1799. He died at Lancaster, January 20, 1800, in the fiftyseventh year of his age. He was an active and zealous patriot, who had devoted much of his life to the public service.

M'KEAN, THOMAS, one of the signers of the declaration of independence, afterwards chief justice and governor of the state of Pennsylvania, was born on the 19th day of March, 1734, in Chester county, in the then province of Pennsylvania. His father, William M'Kean, was a native of Ireland, but married in this country. The subject of this notice, was at an early age placed under the tuition of the Rev. Francis Allison, D. D. a man of distinguished learning, and who conducted the most celebrated academy in the province. In that institution, Thomas M‘Kean acquired a sound knowledge of the languages, and was instructed in the practical branches of the mathematics and moral philosophy. He proceeded to Newcastle, Delaware, and read law in the office of David Kinney, Esq. Having been admitted to the bar, he continued to reside at Newcastle, where he soon acquired a solid reputation, and obtained full business. Extending his practice into Pennsylvania, he was, in the year 1757, admitted to the bar of the supreme court of that province. During the early part of his career, he was particularly remarkable for his attentive habits of business, and for his devotion to the acquisition of knowledge, and thus laid the foundation of his subsequent usefulness and distinction. In the year 1762, he was

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

elected a member of assembly for Newcastle county, and was annually returned for eleven successive years, until his removal to Philadelphia, as a place of residence; and even after that removal, so great was the confidence reposed in him by the freeholders in Newcastle county, that they elected him annually for six years more, though he frequently communicated to them through the newspapers, his desire to decline the honour. At the end of This period, after he had represented Delaware in congress, and become chief justice of Pennsylvania, an occurrence took place of so interesting a character, that we think it worthy of being related to our readers. On the day of the general election in Delaware, in October, 1779, he waited on his constituents at Newcastle, and after a long address on the situation and prospects of the United States, in which he displayed the wisdom of the statesman, and the energy of the patriot, he desired to be no longer considered one of the candidates for the state legislature, assigning reasons which were received as satisfactory. Soon after he had retired, a committee of the electors present waited on him, informed him that they would excuse him from serving in the assembly, bút requested, in the name of the electors, that as the times were critical, and they could fully rely on his judge ment, he would recommend seven persons in whom they might confide, as representatives. So singular a method of exhibiting their confidence in him, could not but excite his surprise; however, he instantly acknowledged the compliment, and desired the committee to acquaint his fellow citizens, that he thanked them for the honour intended him, but as he knew not only seven, but seventy of the gentlemen then attending the election, whom he believed to be worthy of their votes, he felt assured, they would not, on further reflection, subject him to the hazard of giving offence, by the preference he must show, if he complied with their request, and hoped to be excused. The committee having left him, soon returned, and stated, that the electors after hearing his reply, had unanimously reiterated their request, and declared, that a compliance by him would offend no one. He, thereupon, instantly, though reluctantly, wrote down seven names, and handed them to the committee, with the

« PreviousContinue »