LIFE OF DAVID PERRY.
n the Spring of 1759, I enlisted under Lieut. John Richmond, expected to join Capt. Nathan Hogers' [Hodge's] company, with the lads that enlisted with me; but when we arrived at Worcester, Lieut. Richmond was transferred to Capt. Samuel Peck's company, of Boston. He (Lt. R.) urged me to go with him, as waiter, and told me I should live as well as he did. But Capt. Hogers said I should not go with him, and they contended pretty hard about it, till at last Maj. Caleb Willard, who had the command there, said it should be left to the lad's choice. I went with the Lieutenant, and he was as good as his word to my fare. We started for Boston: I rode his horse as much as he did until we gained the company. I never saw the Captain before, nor any of the company: but he proved to be a fine man, as was the first Lieutenant, whose name was Abbot. But the Ensign, (Larkin) was an Irishman and the company was a pretty rough set: I did not like them much.
This summer General Wolfe went up the River St. Lawrence with a fleet of about fifty men-of-war, and a great many transport ships. We shipped a-board an English transport, under convoy of a frigate, and the first harbor we made was Cape Breton. The main fleet had sailed before we arrived. We lay there a few days, and sailed up the river after them, and, in forty-one days from the time we left Boston, we arrived at Quebec. Part of the main army had landed at Point Levi, and part on the other side of the river, below Mount Morancy Falls. We were landed on the Island of Orleans. On our first landing, considerable fighting took place, and many of the Rangers were killed. Two companies, one commanded by Capt. [Benoni] Danks, who was badly wounded, and the other by Captain [Moses] Hazen, lost so many of their men, that they were put together, and did not then make a full company. They were stationed on that side of the river with General Wolfe: and they came to the Island to see if some of the provincials would go into their company. I turned out for one, and went into Capt. Hazen's company, and went ashore with them, and never saw my company again till after the city was taken, and we had got aboard the ship to return home.
We now had hard fighting enough, as we were scouting over the country nearly all the time, and were shot upon, more or less, nearly every day, and very often had some killed or wounded. We used frequently to get on board large flat-bottomed boats, that would hold eighty men each; to do which we had to wade in the water up to the middle; and, after sitting in our wet clothes all night, jump into the water again, wade ashore, go back into the woods, and scatter into small parties, in order to catch the inhabitants, as they returned from the woods to look after their domestic affairs; and when they had got in among us, one party would rise in their front, and another in their rear, and thus we surrounded and captured a great many of them.
The country was settled on that side of the river, to the distance of about thirty miles below our encampment; and we took the greater part of their cattle and sheep, and drove them into camp. We went down there a number of times, and found that they had a considerable force stationed back in the woods. One night in particular, I well remember, our company and a company of regulars, took a trip down there in boats, and landed about day-break. As soon as it was light, Capt. Hazen told his men to stroll back, a few at a time, undiscovered, into the woods. As soon as we had done this, the regulars marched, by fife and drum, in a body round a point of the woods, in order to draw the enemy there; and we kept still, until they got between us and the regulars, when we rose and fired on them, and put them to flight immediately. Our orders were, to "kill all, and give no quarters." The enemy had a Priest with them, who was wounded in the thigh, and begged earnestly for quarters: but the Captain told the men to kill him. Upon which, one of them deliberately blew his brains out. -- We effectually broke up the camp in this quarter, and returned safe to camp.
At another time, we went down the river about forty miles, in the night, and landed in the morning on the opposite side to the place last mentioned, and secreted ourselves in small parties, in the woods, beside the road. I was with the Lieutenant's party. We had a man by the name of Frazier in our party, who enlisted under Capt. Peck, in Boston, and he was a pretty unruly fellow. There came along three armed Frenchmen near where we lay concealed, and Frazier saw them, and hallooed to them "boon-quarter;" whereupon one of them levelled his piece and shot him through the head, and killed him instantly. The Captain hearing the report, came and inquired how it happened. We told him we could not keep Frazier still; "well," said he, "his blood be upon his own head." We now expected to have some fighting. We left our blankets upon the dead man, and took the road the Frenchmen came in, and after marching about half a mile, we came into an open field, with a large number of cattle in it: and on the opposite side of the field, just in the edge of the woods, were a great many little huts, full of women and children, with their hasty-pudding for breakfast, of which I partook with them; but their little children scampered into the brush, and could not be got sight of again, any more than so many [young] partridges. We did not, however, wish to hurt them. There were three barns in the lot, filled with household goods: we took as many as we could of these, and drove the cattle back the way we came, to where the dead man and blankets were left, which we took up, and were proceeding with our booty to the river, when the enemy fired on us, and killed Lieut. Meachum, of Capt. Dank's company, and wounded one other. In the mean time, the cattle we had taken all ran back; but we drove off the enemy, and got our goods, &c., aboard the boats, and returned to camp.
About this time the French fixed long fire rafts on the banks of the river, near the lower town, and filled them with fuel, and other combustible materials. Our shipping lay below, to the number of about three hundred sail, and nearly filled the river: and in the night, when the wind and tide favored their project, they communicated fire to this raft, and set it afloat down the river. It was nearly half a mile in length, and so rapidly did the flames extend from one end of it to the other, that it seemed as though the whole river was on fire. The men-of-war despatched their boats with iron hooks and grapples, and fastened one end of it, and so turned it endwise. Some of the vessels, in the mean time weighed anchor -- others cut their cables; and in this way they opened a passage, and towed this threatening engine of destruction through the fleet, without sustaining much damage.
That part of the army stationed on Point Levi had batteries erected, and threw shells, and shot from them into the town all the time, and burnt and demolished a great many of their buildings. On the side of the river, where we lay, a large river, which has its rise in the mountains, empties into the St. Lawrence against the Morancy Falls. This river was not fordable back to the mountain; but below the falls, when the tide was out, it spread over the marsh, and was so shallow that men could wade in it. The banks of the St. Lawrence are very high, and the French built a strong breast-work on them, to prevent Gen. Wolfe getting to the city that way. And we had a battery against them on the opposite side of the above mentioned river, from which we kept up a pretty constant fire at each other for a long time, but without much effect on either party. At length Gen. Wolfe ordered a couple of ships up against their breast-work, at high water, with cannon on board, and anchored them, with springs on their cables, in a position to fire on, and with intent to batter down the enemy's works; but when the tide fell, the vessels grounded, and the crews relinquished the project, set them on fire, and returned in their boats.
Soon after this, at low water, General Wolfe ordered his men to pass down the banks, and cross the river by platoons, in order to storm their breast-work. They formed in solid column, as they reached the opposite shore, to the number of about two thousand. The enemy did not fire a single shot until our men had formed, when they opened upon them the most destructive fire I ever witnessed: it appeared to me that nearly four-fifths of them fell at the first discharge, and those who did not fall turned about promiscuously and came back without any order. Our company remained on the bank, with our muskets loaded, as a kind of corps de reserve, to follow the detachment, in case it succeeded in making a breach in the enemy's works. Gen. Wolfe stood with us, where we could see the whole maneuver; and the tide came and swept them off together. -- And there arose the most tremendous thunder-shower I ever witnessed; which, combined with the continual roar of cannon and musketry conspired to produce a truly sublime and awful scene!
Gen. Wolfe then broke up his encampment on that side of river, and went over to Point Levi. A few nights after, Capt. Warren, commander of a sixty-four man-of-war, was ordered to pass by the town, up the river; and, wind and tide favoring, he went by, under the most tremendous cannonade I ever heard, and we expected she would be blown to atoms, but never a shot hit her. A few nights afterwards two more vessels passed up, under similar circumstances, and had their rigging considerably cut to pieces.
The country this side the river was settled to the distance of about one hundred and sixty miles below. All the rangers, and one company of Light-Infantry of the British, were ordered to go a-board vessels, and to sail down the river as far as it was settled, then to land and march back towards the City, burning and destroying, in our course, all their buildings, killing all their cattle, sheep and horses, and laying waste the country far and near.
The company to which I belonged, landed early one morning, and we went directly to a large house, about a quarter of a mile distant. The people fled at our approach, and we caught plenty of pigs, geese, and fowls; and while part of our men were busied in carrying the squawling and squealing booty to the vessels, there came a Frenchman out of the woods, and ran into the house. We followed after and took him, and carried him a-board the vessels. And the officers told him if he would be friendly to us, and pilot us to their back settlements, he should be used well; which he complied with, and he proved true to his engagements. Having breakfasted a-board the ship, our whole party went up to the house just mentioned, where we found large stores of provisions, of one kind and another, and among the rest a plenty of pickled Salmon, which was quite a rarity to most of us; and as we had been several days a-board the vessels, we concluded to stay there the day and night, and went to cooking Salmon for dinner, &c. The men strolled about as they pleased, and pretty soon we heard three or four guns fired a short distance from us, and we paraded immediately, to see who was missing. It appeared there were only two absent, viz: Lieut. Toot, of Capt. Stark's † company, and a private. We then marched to the place from which the report had been heard, and found the soldier, who had been shot and scalped, who died soon after. The Lieutenant returned unhurt. We marched on a little distance, and came to a large opening. Here we surrounded and took a Frenchman, from whom we endeavored to learn what had become of those who fired the guns, but he would not tell; and the Captain told him he would kill him if he did not, at the same time directing us to draw our knives, upon our doing which he fell to saying his prayers upon his knees, firmly refusing to tell. Finding him thus resolute and faithful to his friends, the Captain sent him a prisoner to the shipping, and we went to our cooking again.
In the morning our company took the friendly Frenchman for a guide, and marched off three or four miles to a back village, and got there before it was light. We were divided into small parties, as usual, in order to take what prisoners we could. I was stationed in a barn with the Lieutenant's party, and while we lay there, a Frenchman came along smoking his pipe, and one of our men, an outlandish sort of a fellow, put his gun out of a crack in the barn, and, before we had time to prevent it, fired upon the man; the shot carried away his pipe, but did him no other injury, and he ran off. But when the Captain heard of it, he flogged the soldier severely. We burnt the buildings, destroyed everything there, and returned towards the river again. The main party marched up the river, burning and destroying everything before them: and our company followed on some distance in the rear, collecting the cattle, sheep and horses, and burning the scattering buildings, &c. In this way we continued our march at the rate of about twelve miles a day. Every six miles we found large stone churches, at one of which we generally halted to dinner, and at the next to supper, and so on. We lived well, but our duty was hard -- climbing over hills and fences all day; always starting in the morning before break of day, in order to make prisoners of some of the enemy, in which we were hardly ever disappointed. We were very often fired on by the enemy, and many of our men were killed or wounded, in these excursions. Where there was a stream to cross, in our course, they would take up the bridge, secrete themselves on the opposite side and fire on us unawares.
Our Captain was a bold man. I have seen him cock his piece, and walk promptly up to the enemy, face to face; and our men would never shrink from following such an officer, and they seldom followed him without success.
While we were on this tour, Gen. Wolfe landed his main army on the Plains of Abraham; Gen. Mont Calm sallied forth from the City, and a battle took place, the result of which is well known: both the commanding Generals were killed, the second in command on the side of the British badly wounded, with the loss of a great many men, on both sides; but the English remained masters of the field.
And we continued our route up the river till we had proceeded about sixty miles, when a vessel came down from the main army, with information of the battle and victory, and with orders for us to "drive on faster, and destroy all before us." We continued our march three days more, which brought us to within about sixty miles of head-quarters, when a second vessel came down to us, with orders to cease burning and pillaging, for Quebec had given up to the English. We went a-board our vessels, and sailed up to the city, and landed at the lower town, where we witnessed the destruction made there. From the lower, we went to the upper town, up their dug-way; and it was truly surprising to see the damage done to the buildings, &c. by the shot and shells that were thrown into the town by our artillery. Their houses were principally made of stone and lime -- the gable-ends of wood, which were burnt out of a great many of them, and cannon balls stove holes through the buildings in many places, [and a great number drove the stones part way out,] and remained in the walls. The city surrendered to Brigadier General Townsend, as Major General Wolfe was killed, and General Monkton badly wounded. We were sent up the river about four miles above the city, as a vessel guard.
Nothing of consequence took place after this, till our times were out, when we were sent back to our company, a-board ship, to return home. The ship's crew were very sickly, having lain still all Summer on the Island. -- Lieut. Richmond, with whom I enlisted, was very sick, as also were a great many of the soldiers between decks, and I had to take care of them. Lieut. Richmond kept sending for me to attend on him, and I grew tired of it, and refused to go; upon which Capt. Peck sent for me, to know why I would not, and I told him it was as much as I could do to take care of the sick privates. He then told me to come and live in the cabin, and wait upon Lieut. Richmond, which should be my duty, and I did so.
Owing to bad weather, we were a long time getting down the river, and before we arrived at Halifax eight or nine of our men died and were thrown overboard. When we arrived at Halifax, I went ashore, and found my old Captain (Winslow) there, who had been promoted to the rank of Major. He wished me to stay and go home with him before Spring, and I did as he desired, and lived with him and the Colonel of the regiment, till about the first of February, when we set sail for Boston, and had a long passage of twenty-one days. On our passage we made the harbors of Penobscot, Portsmouth, and Cohasset, at which last place I left the vessel, and went home on foot.