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Bill Thayer

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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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August 1st
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.


[Here follows a statement of what passed in the house, which, as it has been often told by others, we pass over and proceed to what took place at the prison.]

Arrived at the assylum,º we were safely deposited in the criminal apartment, where we were amused with a repetition of assurances from General Stricker that the Mob should walk over their dead bodies sooner than one of us should be hurt. These assurances, however did not appease the inordinate cravings of hunger during the day, which were alleviated only by the humanity of some gentlemen of the town, no materials for this purpose having been contributed from any other source.

It ought not to be forgotten, that we were told, that we might be released on finding bail. Mr. Boyd offered to become bail, after we were fairly housed; but was told, that we could not be admitted to bail. This circumstance, added to the appearance of a large, and rapidly increasing assemblage of the Sovereigns of Baltimore in the evening, without a prospect of the solemn and sacred pledge of the Mayor and General Stricker, induced in my mind some suspicion  p50  of foul play. — Self-preservation is a powerful stimulousº to invention. Immured and unarmed as we were and without any means of annoying the Briarean Monster that beset us, or of protecting and defending either ourselves or our friends; it struck me that each of us should adopt the best means we could devise to avoid the projected immolation. Accordingly, about the dusk of the evening of the memorable 28th of July, I quitted the apartment of my friends and sought refuge from the impending storm among the dregs of society.

In the passage I encountered the turnkey. This was not a time for deliberation. I immediately followed him softly into a room occupied by some negro criminals. From thence I pursued him with cautious steps into an apartment in the occupation of five white culprits, with whom I remained. I found there another of the gentlemen who had been conducted to jail with us, a Mr. Graham.

Whether the turnkey knew that I was following him, or whether he permitted it under the impression that I was one of the criminals, I shall not pretend to determine. I wore a coat which was not my own; nor had he seen me in it before, if he did then.

Seeing so numerous an assemblage of enemies about the jail, and no guard to protect us, I entertained no doubt that all of us were doomed to bleed. Resigned to my fate, I threw myself on one of the prisoners' beds and fell asleep. In a few minutes I was awakened by one of the prisoners, and found that the Mob had entered  p51  the lobby of the jail, and where endeavoring to get through the door, which let them into the passage leading to the room of my friends. Having entered the passage, they advanced to the door of my room, which they struck three times with an axe. One of the prisoners, a Frenchman, by the name of Du Prat, [I shall never forget him!] exhorted them to use all possible dispatch in releasing the prisoners, assuring them that they would form an immediate junction with the Mob. The Mob paused, and promised a compliance with this request, after they should do what they wanted with the Tories, provided the prisoners would inform them where they were to be found. One of the prisoners pointed to the door of Mr. Hanson and his friends. They approached it, and after striking it more than once, it was opened, and a scene of indescribable horror ensued.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    

The door of my apartment and that of my friends, were directly opposite to each other, and separated by a passage. I had assumed a disguise, which prevented a recognition of my person. — I had a red handkerchief about my neck, a white one about my head, tied under the throat, and wore a drab, instead of a blue coat. When the Mob discovered they were at the wrong door, they squeezed my hand with great cordiality, and promised me a speedy liberation from confinement.

I saw many of my friends taken from the room, and most inhumanly beaten with blundgeons,º swords, &c. Their helpless condition, the  p52  enormity of their suffering were sufficient to dissolve a heart of adamant. My sensations can only be felt. — Language is inadequate to their description. My heart was pierced. I threw myself upon the floor behind the door of my prison, where I lay for some time, giving vent to the anguish of my soul in a flood of tears.

From this state of prostration I was called by one of the criminals in my apartment to the window. There is not a solitary ray of compassion, or even of common humanity, to illuminate the gloom of diabolical atrocity that shrouds the behaviour of these savage ruffians. I saw them from the window, still beating, with remorseless fury, the hapless victims of perfidious revenge, whom they had dragged from the assylumº of a jail. Murder was succeeded by theft. I distinctly saw the Mob take something from the pocket of a victim, whom I supposed to be Mr. W. Gaither. — He opened it, told his comrade it was money, and inquired if it was lawful to keep it? He was answered in the affirmative.

The Mob, or many of them, continued in and about the jail the greater part of the night; and, perhaps, during that period, they never were absent from my door more than an hour at one time. They inquired after the tories, and threatened vengeance should they find them within.

Du Prat saved my life. He protested that none of the tories were there, invited them to search, and offered to forfeit his life if he proved  p53  to be deceptious. This would satisfy them for a while. — Many of them, particularly Irishmen, would tell them to come away. "He is a Frenchman. He has no tories in with him." Thus things went on during the night. The next day they did not visit our door so often.

In the latter part of the night, the Mob inquired particularly for several of Mr. Hanson's friends by name. But the next morning, the object of their search appeared to be young Mr. — — At a still later hour, (7 o'clock) they inquired particularly for Graham and Sprigg. This they continued to do till about 11 o'clock on Wednesday, when they were reinforced by numbers, amounting it is supposed, to about 300. During the morning, whenever they came, they swore that Graham and myself were there, and that they would have us. Du Prat, however, had always succeeded by presence of mind and address, in sending them away.

When the reinforcement appeared, they crowded the jail about my door, which they struck several times, swearing most vehemently that Sprigg and Graham were there, and that they would murder them. I was then concealed behind the door, and they looking through the grating. This must have been a trying time to the little Frenchman. There can be no doubt, that he would have fallen a sacrifice to the resentment of the Mob, if I had been found under his protection. If he had been an Attorney General of a state, a commander of a Brigade, or a Mayor of a city, he might have proposed terms to the Mob, and their victim might have  p54  been handed over for sacrifice. But as he was an humble prisoner, confined on a charge of felony, he had not yet lost all regard for moral obligation. He had promised to protect me; and he did. By his address and courage, the murderous band were again sent from the door.

As they retired, they swore that we were;º that their numbers were not quite sufficient at present; but that towards night they would bring a force sufficient to carry the jail on their shoulders. I sent for the jailor, and desired him to go or send immediately for an Attorney. He appeared surprised and not a little pleased to see me; and said that he would make application to Judge Scott and the Mayor, for authority to release me. He took my real name, and Graham's, and was gone, I suppose, about two hours. When he returned, he informed me that he had an order from the Judge and the Mayor, to release me so soon as the Mob would leave the house, and he was directed by the Mayor and Judge, to advise me to leave town as soon as possible, and I would be no further molested.

This was early in the afternoon. He left me, and I remained in dreadful suspense till twilight, when I began to suspect that my danger was equal to that of the preceding night. I was, however, called by the jailor, who told me to put on my coat and follow him, saying the jail was clear. The door of the prison was opened, and I followed him to the lobby or hall, in which I found a number of persons. This occasioned some apprehensions which I communicated to  p55  the jailor. He said that my fate depended on the moment: — that to go out through them would be dangerous; but to remain in the prison would be more so.

I took a round or two through the lobby, had some conversation with the jailor, and walked out unmolested through a crowd of rough looking men, who had collected at the door. I then went home.

Graham left the jail at the same time, at the opposite door.


Corporation of Fredericksburgh, to wit: —

Personally appeared before me, a Magistrate of the Corporation aforesaid, Otho Sprigg, who made oath on the Holy Evangelists, that the foregoing Narrative is true.

Given under my hand, at the Corporation of Fredericksburgh, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, this 17th day of August, A.D. 1812.

George W. B. Spooner.

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Page updated: 25 Aug 04