Hewes Escapes Boston and Meets With George Washington

During 1775, the British impose a military lockdown of Boston.  No one was allowed to enter or leave.  During this time, George Washington is building the Continental army and comptemplating an attack on the British at Boston.  George Hewes is trapped in Boston, but makes his escape and meets with Washington to describe the conditions in and around Boston.  It was during this time, after escaping Boston, that Hewes carves his horn described elsewhere on this site.

Described by Hewes in the book “Traits of the Tea Party, Being A Memoir of George R. T. Hewes” by Thatcher;

…  Under such circumstances as these, it may be imagined that it was neither an agreeable matter for the Whigs to remain in town, nor an easy one for them to escape.  The regulations of the enemy, indeed, were becoming as strict as they could well be made, and it was at the imminent hazard, first of being shot in the act, and then of being shot in the failure, that any attempt could be made to elude them. Still, Hewes, who was weary of it, resolved to try, and some things occurred which rather favored the enterprise.

He succeeded in getting his family, who demanded his anxious attention, first of all, out to Wrentham.  About this time, Governor Gage, seeing the severe distress of the inhabitants – and being especially touched, we presume, with the necessity of having the stores of the soldiery reinforced – issued a proclamation, by which he graciously gave to the former permission to go fishing, under certain restrictions, down the harbor, on especial condition of subjecting their returns to the satisfaction of the demands of the troops in the first instance (the British got first choice of the fish caught be the Bostonians).

It is another indication of the suffering of the poor people, that many of them were glad to avail themselves of this proposal, as humiliating as it was. Hewes had an especial reason for adopting it, which he did accordingly; going down frequently in a hired boat, or with some party, and – experienced as he had been in the business, of old – exerting himself with a success which speedily secured him quite a reputation as a fisherman.

Thus he had worked on for nine weeks, when the time for his plan arrived, and he went to the Admiral’s quarters, as usual, on Fort Hill, to get a pass – having already hired a boat of a Tory by the name of Gould, in Back Street (not far from Mr. Stone’s meeting house).

Hewes was a civil man, and he made his bow to the Admiral, and asked for his pass.  The old gentleman, for some reason or other, looked more inquisitive than his wont.

“How many are going, Hewes?” he enquired, looking him sharp in the eye.

“Three, your honor,” said Hewes.

“And who will be skipper?”

“Your humble servant, Sir – for want of a better.”

“Very well, Mr. Skipper Hewes!” – and here he went on to remind him of the rules, and closed his discourse with warning him of all deserters, which, to be sure, had in several cases proved to be no joke, as Hewes well knew; “and now,” he added, with a profound emphasis, “I know what you want – I see it in the twinkling of your eye, Skipper;  but mark what I tell you – if we catch you running off – look out!  Skipper – that’s all – look out!”

Hewes took his pass, and went on to call on Shubael, to bid him good-bye.  His boat was examined on the wharf by a soldier, who took it into his head to reconnoitre rather narrowly.  It so happened that Hewes had concealed his whole bench of tools, in the course of the night, under a part of his deck.  The soldier stamped on it, but concluded to let it pass.  A little way down he saw Hartley, an acquaintance of his, who kept the hospital below, and learned from him that the violent north-east gale, which had blown all night, had driven the British fleet mostly into Nantasket.  This favored him, and so did the wind’s chopping round suddenly to the north-west.  He had now only a single guard-ship to pass.  He ordered his two comrades below deck, and pushed boldly by.  The captain ordered him alongside.  He obeyed promptly.  The directed him to call with his fish “when he came back,” and he promised to do so, and pushed on again, with a fine breeze in his sails, started his men out at a little distance, and gave three lusty cheers.

No pursuit was made.

He landed safely at Lynn, fastened his boat, started for Newhall’s tavern, met a sergeant and guard, who took them into custody  over night, and then carried them before “the Committee,” (of Safety).  This Committee sent them to Washington, who at this time made his personal quarters at a house well known to some of our elder citizens by the denomination of ‘Cragie’s”, and which, by the way, is still standing – on the Watertown road – and was pointed out by Mr. Hewes on his last visit to the city of his birth.  Here they were paraded in a yard, and the General was called out to see them.  He accosted them politely, and they pulled their hats off, which he immediately requestd them to replace, remarking with a sort of quiet smile of his own – as he probably noticed something peculiar in there expression – that “he was only a man.”

Parson Thatcher, who was much with Washington at this period, came up a moment after him, and Hewes had barely time to give a brief description of himself, when the good man, who knew the family, greatly relieved him by breaking out into a warm eulogy upon his uncle Robert.  “A great Liberty-man” he called him.

Washington, upon this, invited Hewes into his parlor with him, alone.  There he told him his story, every word of it, from beginning to end, and answered all of his questions besides.  In Hewes’s language, “he didn’t laugh, to be sure, but looked amazing good natured, you may depend.”  When the examination was over, it being now about noon, Washington called in the other men – of whom Hewes gave him some account – treated them all to a hearty mug of punch, and insisted on ther remaining also to dine, which they did.  They sat at his own table, with Parson Thatcher, and perhaps a few more not recollected.

Hewes says that Madam Washington waited upon them at table all dinner-time, and was remarkable social – which accords with what is known of the admirable woman; and we embrace the opportunity with pleasure, to repeat the just compliment paid here (by her grandson, Mr. Custis, we conclude,) in a recent memoir.  “the arrival of Lady Washington at camp,” he says, “was an event, much anticipated.  The appearance of the Aid-de-camp, escorting the plain chariot, with the neat postillions, in their scarlet and white liveries, was deemed an epoch in the army, and served to diffuse a cheering influence amid the storm which hung over our destinies at Valley Forge, Morristown, and West Point.  Lady Washington always remained at the head-quarters till the opening of the campaign, and often remarked, in after life, that it had been her fortune to hear the first cannon at the opening and the last at the close of the war.”  She is known to have been with her husband at the date of the adventure of Hewes, now under discussion.

Washington’s manner was equally gratifying. He enquired concerning the condition of the several families of the little party, evidently with a view of doing whatever was necessary for their security.  As they rose to go, he offered them money “to carry them home,” but they declined it. One of them had very poor shoes on, and he induced him, in a pleasant way, to take an order from him to a neighboring store, (where a new pair was furnished him,) upon which they took leave of their illustrious host, provided with passports through the lines, and greatly delighted with the visit.

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