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Montgomery Co.
Deposition
This webpage reproduces
An anonymous pamphlet

printed in Baltimore, Md.
on September 1, 1812.

The text is in the public domain.


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Sprigg
Narrative

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p37

NARRATIVE OF
MR. JOHN THOMSON,
ONE OF THE PERSONS INTENDED TO BE MASSACRED
WITH GENERAL LINGAN AND OTHERS,
IN THE GAOL OF BALTIMORE, ON TUESDAY,
THE 28th OF JULY LAST

On Monday, the 27th of July last, I was invited by Mr. Hanson to his house; and in the evening about twilight, I went there and found from fifteen to twenty gentlemen in his house, most of them known to him. I was told that an attack upon the house was threatened that night, which they had made preparations to resist and defeat. I saw some muskets, pistols, and swords in the house, for the purpose of defence. After being there sometime, I understood an arrangement had been made, that in case of an attack, the direction of the defence was appointed to Gen. Lee. About eight o'clock, a number of persons were collecting at the front of the house, who were very noisy and began to throw stones at the windows, and they broke several of them. The house was in front completely closed, the door and inside window shutters being shut, till the stones broke the glass, and burst open the shutters. Mr. Hanson spoke from the second story to the Mob, and told them if they did not desist they would fire upon them, and he warned the spectators to go away. Gen. Lee, in the house, told them not to fire unless it should be p38 absolutely necessary, and the doors were forced. The Mob continued to increase and to throw stones violently, which broke the windows of the first and second stories. General Lee directed a volley to be fired from the upper story over the heads of the people in the street, to frighten them away without injuring them. — This was executed, and nobody hurt. The Mob huzzaed, were still more violent, and broke open the lower door. They were then fired upon, and a man fell at the door upon the inside thereof, who was immediately taken up and removed, by some of the Mob. This must have happened about 10 o'clock, or after. Judge Scott made his appearance and came into the house, the door having remained open, after it was broken, and requested us to leave the house. He was told we should do no such thing, that we could not be secure unless the civil authority interfered, that we were lawfully employed with Mr. Hanson in protecting him and his house against violence, and whenever the Mob would disperse, or the civil authority interfere, we would retire to our homes, and not before. During the night, we continued to defend ourselves, and never fired but after some new and violent attack. I believe it probable several were wounded. The Mob, during the night, retired and gathered again, and attempted some fresh damage. Just about, or before day-light, the Mob brought a field piece, which was planted near the house, and in front of it, but it was prevented from being discharged by the arrival of Capt. Barney's troop of horse, some of whom p39 were stationed round the house, and six of them having dismounted, took possession of the front room on the first floor, and of the back yard. — Hanson and his friends occupied the same places which they had done during the night; so things remained until Edward Johnson the Mayor, General Stricker, John Montgomery the Attorney General, James Calhoun, Lemuel Taylor, and several others, arrived and proposed that we should leave the house. We answered, we had no objections to leave the house, provided the Mob would retire, or we could get home with safety. The Mayor said the Mob could not be dispersed, nor would they be satisfied without we went to gaol, and that we should be protected from them in going to gaol, and while in it. To this proposal, most of us expressly objected. General Lee principally carried on the conversation on our part with the Mayor and General Stricker. The Mayor, General Stricker, and Attorney General, severally declared and assured us, that we should be protected, as well in going to the gaol, as in it; and the Mayor pledged his life and his honour, that we should be safe, and that he would die with us, if we should be hurt. Gen. Stricker expressed himself in similar terms. Also Montgomery, Taylor, Calhoun, and their companions gave us assurances of safety if we went to gaol. After these assurances, and finding the civil authority would not make any exertion to disperse the Mob, We consented with the advice of General Lee, to deliver ourselves up to the civil authority. The Mayor declared his opinion that p40 we would not be safe in the gaol without a guard, and he and General Stricker promised there should be one. About 8 or 9 o'clock on Tuesday forenoon, we left the house and went under the care and custody of the Mayor, who preceded us, and we were placed between two lines of infantry, consisting as it appeared of about fifty militia, and about twenty dragoons mounted advanced before us to the gaol; General Stricker marched on foot with the infantry, and an immense concourse of people were in the streets, some of whom went along, and we were abused in the most opprobrious language; some stones were thrown, with violence at us, one struck Mr. Kilgore and cut him badly in the forehead, and another struck Mr. H. Bigelow, and nearly knocked him down. The distance from Hanson's house to the gaol was about one mile.

At our arrival at the gaol door and as we entered it, several of us were struck by some of the Mob whom we found there. Being delivered into the custody of John H. Bentley, the gaoler, some time in the forenoon, we were put in a room in the common criminal department, where we remained the rest of the day. The dragoons and infantry left the gaol soon after we were placed in it, and they did not return, nor was there any military guard afterwards. In the afternoon the Mayor came to us in the gaol and assured us that there should be a guard and that preparations were making to send one. He told us he would lose his own life before we should be hurt. Gen. Stricker was also at p41 the gaol, outside of it. — The Mayor having been with us about twenty minutes, went away leaving us in the belief that there would be a guard of armed militia sent to protect us in the gaol — During the afternoon we were told several times by persons admitted to see us that the militia were called out and assembling. Late in the afternoon two butchers one named Mumma and the other Maxwell, came into our room, the former having a key in his hand. Mumma asked me the names of several of the prisoners; I told him. Mr. Hoffman said he wondered Mr. Bently should suffer so many men to come into their room who had no business there. Mumma answered that he came there on Mr. Bently's business. They were personally known to me, and to some of my fellow prisoners — We suspected their intentions were not good, and I inquired of Mr. Bently if Mumma was a friend of his — Bently answered he pretends to be so. I replied, you ought to know him well before you trust the key of our room in his hands, and I proposed that he should lock the door and give me the key through the grate. — On the inside, the door cannot be unlocked, and there was the outer door locked. Bentley refused, saying I cannot do so as you are a prisoner under my care. The door was immediately locked by some body, and the Mob very soon began to assemble from various quarters, but no troops were arriving. This excited much alarm in our room, it being after sunset and we apprehended we were to be sacrificed — About dark the back door of the gaol was beset p42 by the Mob, who entered it without breaking it by force. By whom it was opened I do not know, but by hearsay. They began to break down the wood and iron gratings in the passage leading to our room, which took them at least three quarters of an hour. They had the light of torches. The grating of our room was opened instantly without any exertion, which makes me believe it was opened by some one having the key, and I believe either by Mumma or Maxwell. The first person I recognized at the grating was Henry Keating, who keeps a printing office, and him I should have killed with my pistols, but for General Lee, who laid hold of my arm and begged me not to fire, and also prevented Mr. Murray from firing. It had been agreed that Mr. Murray and myself, being the strongest men, should first rush out and make the best of our way, and every person was to escape as he could. Some of the Mob rushed into the room, and Mr. Murray and myself rushed out, both of us armed. I had a pistol in each hand and he a dirk and a pistol. We made our way through the passage and hall without injury till I was at the front outer door, when I was struck on the back of my head with a heavy club by some man I had passed, which threw me forward from the head of the steps, and I fell headlong down about twelve feet. There I saw a gang of ruffians armed with clubs ready to destroy whomsoever should pass down the steps, and six or seven of them instantly assaulted me while down, and beat me about the head untillº I was unable to p43 rise — Some then dragged me twenty or thirty yards while others were beating me with clubs — They then tried to make me stand on my feet, and looking round I perceived Lemuel Taylor, and I called upon him to prevent those men from taking my life. He told the men to desist and said they had beat me enough, and begged them not to take my life; they said they would kill me; he again repeated that I was beat enough, and desired I should be let alone and he would be security for my forthcoming in the morning. They disregarded what he had said, they dragged me along, and it was proposed to tar and feather me, and as I went along they continued to strike me with sticks and clubs — one fellow struck at me with an axe, who missed me; when they had dragged me a considerable distance and into Oldtown, they met with a cart and put me into it, and dragged it along themselves to a place where they got tar. I had left my coat in the gaol, and they tore my shirt and other clothing, and put the tar on my bare body, upon which they put feathers. They drew me along in the cart in this condition, and calling me traitor and toryº and other scandalous names; they did not cease to beat me with clubs, and cut me with old rusty swords. I received upon my head, arms, sides, thighs and back, upwards of eighteen cuts of the sword. On my head one cut was very deep, beside which my head was broken in more than twelve places by other instruments, such as sticks and clubs. I received a few blows in my face, and very many severe bruises p44 on different parts of my body; my eyes were attempted to be gouged, and preserved by means of the tar and feathers, though they were much injured. About the same time, as I was lying in the cart a fellow struck both of my legs with a bar of iron, swearing damn my eyes, I will break your legs. I drew my legs up, and he was led to think and say he had broke them. — Shortly after I received a blow with a club across my eyes, upon which I lay as if dead, supposing it would stop their further beating me; remaining so for some time, I was struck upon my thighs, which I bore as if dead; a villain said he would soon see if I was dead, and he stuck a pin into my body twice, at which I did not flinch, but I still remained senseless, as if dead. Another said he would show if I was dead, he pulled a handful of tar and feathers, and set fire to it, and stuck it on my back, which put into a blaze what was on my back. I turned over suddenly, and rolled upon the flame, which put it out before it reached too great a height; but I was burnt in several parts. I then raised upon my knees and addressed them — "for God's sake be not worse than savages: if you want my life, take it by shooting or stabbing." — Often I begged them to put an end to it. Upon this, one said, don't burn him; another said, we will hang him — one in the shafts of the cart turned round and said to me — "if you will tell the names of all in the house and all you know about it, we will save your life." Believing all the damage was done which could be done by them, I did not hesitate to say I would. — p45 They took me out of the cart upon the causeway at Fell's Point, and carried me to the Bull's Head Tavern: there I gave them the names of all the persons in the house (most of them already known to them) which they took in writing, and the reason of our being in the house, which was to defend Mr. Hanson and his house against violence, with which he had been threatened. They detained me about an hour at this tavern, and offered me some whiskey, of which I took several glasses, being extremely thirsty and weak from the loss of blood. They then made me walk, with several persons on each side upholding me, towards the watch house, where they said I should be kept till the morning, and that I should swear to what I had said before a magistrate by 9 o'clock, or if I did not they would hang me. On my way I was unable to proceed, and stopped twice for rest. — When I first stopped, some of them said they had got all they could out of me, and they would now hang me. I rose and went on, and some who were against hanging me followed, and I was obliged by weakness to stop again, when it was proposed again to hang me, and one person said they would cut off my head and stick it on a pole. The vote was taken and carried for hanging me; but some said they should not hang me, that my life had been promised upon condition of disclosing what I knew, and that the information I might give them would be of use to them. I was then moved on to the watch house, and delivered to the Captain of the watch about 2 o'clock in the morning, who was p46 told they held him responsible for my body at 9 o'clock. I laid myself on the floor, a Doctor was sent for by the Captain of the watch, who came, and having removed the tar and feathers, sowed up the wounds on my head, and dressed them. Between 9 and 10 o'clock the Mob was gathered at the watch house, and some were for hanging me, saying that I had not sworn to what I had told them, before a magistrate before 9 o'clock, as had been stipulated, and one of them said the rope was ready. I observed it was not my fault, that I was not able to go to a magistrate, and that I was ready to swear to it if they would bring one. They then brought a magistrate by the name of Gali, who took my affidavit, in which was stated the names of the persons in the house the cause of their meeting, and the name of the person under whom they were acting in the house. It was read aloud, and at this period the Mayor, Lemuel Taylor, and some others, arrived, who said they would take me to the hospital, out of the hands of these men. Mr. Taylor said he had no idea of seeing me alive. The Doctor had lent me a shirt, and I was now provided with a pair of trowsers. The Mayor sent for a carriage, but the Mob said I should not ride in it, that a cart was good enough for me, and a cart was brought, into which I was placed, stretched out in the cart and exposed to a hot sun. About 11 o'clock, I was carried to the hospital, the distance of a mile, the Mayor accompanying me amid the noise of a great concourse of people. There Ip47 heard the groans of General Lee, in a room adjoining, who had been said to be dead.

After the crowd had dispersed, some of my friends, who did not think me safe, sent me a carriage, into which I was put, without losing a minute, and General Lee was put into the same carriage. We were hurried away into the country, in our wounded, bruised, and mangled condition: we arrived at Yorktown, Pennsylvania on Saturday evening, the first of August, where we received the humane and friendly sympathies and attentions of the inhabitants, and the medical aid of two gentlemen of the faculty.

Possessed of a strong constitution and in the prime of life, I cherish the hope, that I shall survive all the bruises and wounds, which have been so cruelly and maliciously inflicted by a wicked and lawless Mob, and that I shall be again restored to the full use and enjoyment of my bodily powers.

Given under my hand this 6th day of August, 1812.

JOHN THOMSON.

— — * — —

John Montgomery, mentioned in the annexed certificate, is the Attorney General of Maryland. We pledge ourselves to produce a respectable name, which is affixed, but which we do not at present exhibit for obvious reasons. We also pledge ourselves to prove, that George Williams, of the late house of Benjamin & George Williams, p48 expressed himself in the same murderous manner. — Fed. Republican.

I do hereby certify, that John Montgomery, Esq. in conversation with myself, relative to the gentlemen who defended the house in Charles-street, said — "it was the most infamous proceeding he had ever known, and wished every scoundrel in the house had been KILLED."


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