Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. III: Literature of the Revolutionary Period, 17651787
The Death of Parson Caldwells Wife
By Mercy Otis Warren (17281814)
[History of the American Revolution. 1805.]
THE OUTRAGE of innocence in instances too numerous to be recorded, of the wanton barbarity of the soldiers of the King of England, as they patrolled the defenceless villages of America, was evinced nowhere more remarkably than in the burnings and massacres that marked the footsteps of the British troops as they from time to time ravaged the State of New Jersey.
In their late excursion they had trod their deleterious path through a part of the country called the Connecticut Farms. It is needless to particularize many instances of their wanton rage and unprovoked devastation in and near Elizabethtown. The places dedicated to public worship did not escape their fury; these were destroyed more from licentious folly than any religious frenzy or bigotry, to which their nation had at times been liable. Yet through the barbarous transactions of this summer nothing excited more general resentment and compassion than the murder of the amiable and virtuous wife of a Presbyterian clergyman, attended with too many circumstances of grief on the one side and barbarism on the other to pass over in silence.
This lady was sitting in her own house with her little domestic circle around her and her infant in her arms, unapprehensive of danger, shrouded by the consciousness of her own innocence and virtue, when a British barbarian pointed his musket into the window of her room, and instantly shot her through the lungs. A hole was dug, the body thrown in, and the house of this excellent lady set on fire and consumed with all the property it contained.
Mr. Caldwell, her affectionate husband, was absent; nothing had ever been alleged against his character, even by his enemies, but his zeal for the rights, and his attachment to his native land. For this he had been persecuted, and for this he was robbed of all that he held dear in life, by the bloody hands of men in whose benevolence and politeness he had had much confidence until the fated day when this mistaken opinion led him to leave his beloved family, fearless of danger and certain of their security, from their innocence, virtue, and unoffending amiability.
Mr. Caldwell afterward published the proofs of this cruel affair, attested on oath before magistrates by sundry persons who were in the house with Mrs. Caldwell and saw her fall back and expire immediately after the report of the gun. This was, as observed by Mr. Caldwell, a violation of every tender feeling; without provocation, deliberately committed in open day; nor was it ever frowned on by the commander. The catastrophe of this unhappy family was completed within two years by the murder of Mr. Caldwell himself by some ruffian hands.
His conscious integrity of heart had never suffered him to apprehend any personal danger, and the melancholy that pervaded all on the tragical death of his lady, who was distinguished for the excellence and respectability of her character, wrought up the resentment of that part of the country to so high a pitch that the most timid were aroused to deeds of desperate heroism. They were ready to swear, like Hannibal against the Romans, and to bind their sons to the oath of everlasting enmity to the name of Britain.