On their arrival in St. Augustine, sixty-seven in number, with their servants, they were again offered, on their parole, permission to walk about within certain limits of the city; and all gladly accepted the conditions except lieutenant-governor Genl. Gadsden. He positively refused all terms and conditions with the British, saying that they had deceived him once, but never should have a chance of deceiving him a second time. Mr. Thomas Ferguson, a member of the council, and one or two others, then spoke to the commissary of prisoners, requesting him to postpone the question 'till next day, that they might try and persuade the Genl. to change his mind. The next day came, but there was no change in Genl. Gadsden's resolution, and he was committed to a dungeon in the castle, where he never saw the sun for ten months. His reason for this course was peculiar. He, as lieutenant-governor, was at the head of the council in Charleston during the siege, and as such had to sign the articles of capitulation, jointly with Genl. Lincoln. One of the articles stipulated that the inhabitants should remain in the peaceable possession of their own homes until exchanged as prisoners of war.
On the 22nd of June, 1781, their exchange was effected in Charleston. On the 5th of July it was announced in St. Augustine, and they were first told they would be landed in Georgia, and marched through it home-wards, amidst the hostile Indians.
At this they remonstrated, and at the same time considered the means by which it might, if necessary, be forcibly resisted.
The terms of capitulation were certainly violated in sending off this portion of them to St. Augustine, and the Lieutenant Governor considered it his duty to protest against the violation in every way possible, even to his own personal suffering.
A large, unfinished building, called the State House, was assigned to the prisoners as their quarters, and a fine grove of sweet orange trees was within their enclosure. Another building, with a large garden, was hired by some of the prisoners, forming a third mess, some of whom cultivated the garden for health, recreation
But their chief gratification was in the abundance of fine fish with which the place is supplied at very cheap rates. The water, however, was bad.
A few of the inhabitants were friendly and polite. Dr. Andrew Turnball and Mr. Edward Penmann, who both removed to Charleston about the close of the war, were among the most friendly, always sending to the “American gentlemen” for perusal whatever newspapers they received by various arrivals.
Don Andondo de Arrara and Mr. Frs. Sanchez, Mr. Jesse Fish, of Anastatia Island, and Don Lucia De Herriera also occasionally sent them fruit and other presents that were very acceptable.
On the 4th of July the different messes agreed to unite and dine in common. The fare was very plain but ample. The only luxury was a large plum pudding in the middle of the table, with an American flag showing its stars and stripes in the centre of it. On this occasion was first sung the celebrated American hymn:
“God save the thirteen States,
Thirteen United States
God save them all.”
It was written that morning by Capt. Heyward, of the artillery, (afterwards Judge Heyward,) while sitting under one of the orange trees in their enclosure, and several copies of it made before dinner.
After dinner it was sung with great animation and exultation, being the same tune with “God save the King.” The American version of this hymn was soon sent among them, and they were perfectly satisfied that the Yankees were not singing “God save the King”—that they had not “changed their tune.” There being two clergymen among the prisoners, arrangements were made for their meeting to unite in offering up prayer and adoration to the giver of all good gifts to man.
The. Rev. James H. Thomson, the younger of the two, first officiated and afforded the consolations of religion to his brethren in exile.
The Rev. Mr. Lewis preached but once, and on the day after that a most peremptory order came to them from the commandant,
The prisoners could not join in prayers for King George, and “for his triumph over his enemies”; they could not unite in prayers against themselves and their countrymen; they refused to attend any of the churches, but had private prayers in their several messes.
The commissary of prisoners, Wm. Brown, was a Scotchman by birth, an upright, honorable man, faithful to his king and to his country, but ever kind and indulgent to the prisoners under his care, as far as was consistent with his duty. Where entire satisfaction could not be afforded, he would soothe their feelings, and console them in a friendly, gentlemanly manner. He was a tall, thin, man and his features so very sharp that they could not be well forgotten. Mr. Berwick, one of the prisoners, grandfather of the late John Berwick Legare, was so struck with his looks that he carved with a pen knife the likeness of Mr. Brown for the head of his walking stick, and afterwards made it a snuff-box. The likeness was so perfect that it was recognized by all who knew Mr. Brown, and it is still retained in Mr. Legare's family, with the tradition of its object and origin.
The news of Gen. Greene's battle with Cornwallis at Guilford Court House was received while they were still prisoners, and Mr. Brown advised them to keep within their enclosures during the great rejoicings for the victory obtained by his majesty's arms.
They asked Mr. Brown whether it was not one of those victories described in the old Scotch ballad:
“They baith did fight,
And baith did beat,
And baith did run awa'.”
Mr. Brown smiled, but said no, the official statement was received of a decided victory gained.
The Americans conformed, of course, to this well-meant advice of their commissary; and he, to prevent, as far as possible, the prisoners from being annoyed by the drunken rioters, posted sentinels on the outside of their gates. One of these sentinels was a German, probably an old Swiss soldier. A party of low characters assailed him and attempted to break in at the gates.
The German warned them off, and they persisting, he bayonetted the ringleader and killed him.
The old German, on being asked how such a wound could so speedily cause death, replied, “Oh, but I gave my gun a twish,” (twist,) by which the simple puncture became a widely lacerated wound.
Mr. Brown had scarcely left the prisoners, after the above conversation, when they found that they had more cause for rejoicing than the British, at the result of this battle.
Thomas Singleton, whose descendants live a little eastward of the Santee river, was one of the prisoners. He was Virginian by birth, and having lived almost entirely in the back country, had contracted many of its peculiar sayings and doings. He had been taking a walk, and observing some persons who had recently arrived, soon singled out one of them, and, as he expressed it, had started a Virginian—he knew him by his gait—had taken his track, and treed him; that is he followed him into a public house and entered into conversation with him.
The countryman said that the Americans, after having fought very gallantly, retreated in good order from the field, but were ready the next day to enter it again; that the British, on the other hand, were obliged to retreat the day after, and leave their wounded as prisoners to the Americans; and that Genl. Greene's army pursued them down to Wilmington. When Mr. Brown came the next day, the prisoners joked with him about the splendid victory, and asked him to join them in their rejoicing at the result of the battle.