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The Last Shot At Germantown






Category: ON AND NEAR THE DELAWARE

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Many are the tales of prophecy that have been preserved to us from war
times. In the beginning of King Philip's war in Connecticut, in 1675, it
was reported that the firing of the first gun was heard all over the
State, while the drumbeats calling settlers to defence were audible eight
miles away. Braddock's defeat and the salvation of Washington were
foretold by a Miami chief at a council held in Fort Ponchartrain, on
Detroit River, the ambush and the slaughter having been revealed to him
in a dream. The victims of that battle, too, had been apprised, for one
or two nights before the disaster a young lieutenant in Braddock's
command saw his fellow-officers pass through his tent, bloody and torn,
and when the first gun sounded he knew that it spoke the doom of nearly
all his comrades. At Killingly, Connecticut, in the autumn before the
outbreak of the Revolution, a distant roar of artillery was heard for a
whole day and night in the direction of Boston, mingled with a rattle of
musketry, and so strong was the belief that war had begun and the British
were advancing, that the minute men mustered to await orders. It was
afterward argued that these noises came from an explosion of meteors, a
shower of these missiles being then in progress, invisible, of course, in
the day-time. Just after the signing of the Declaration of Independence
the royal arms on the spire of the Episcopal church at Hampton, Virginia,
were struck off by lightning. Shortly before the surrender of Cornwallis
a display of northern lights was seen in New England, the rays taking the
form of cannon, facing southward. In Connecticut sixty-four of these guns
were counted.

At the battle of Germantown the Americans were enraged by the killing of
one of their men who had gone out with a flag of truce. He was shot from
the windows of Judge Chew's house, which was crowded with British
soldiers, and as he fell to the lawn, dyeing the peaceful emblem with his
blood, at least one of the Continentals swore that his death should be
well avenged. The British reinforcements, sixteen thousand strong, came
hurrying through the street, their officers but half-dressed, so urgent
had been the summons for their aid. Except for their steady tramp the
place was silent; doors were locked and shutters bolted, and if people
were within doors no sign of them was visible. General Agnew alone of all
the troop seemed depressed and anxious. Turning to an aide as they passed
the Mennonist graveyard, he said, This field is the last I shall fight
on.

An eerie face peered over the cemetery wall, a scarred, unshaven face
framed in long hair and surmounting a body clothed in skins, with the
question, Is that the brave General Gray who beat the rebels at Paoli?
One of the soldiers, with a careless toss of the hand, seemed to indicate
General Agnew. A moment later there was a report, a puff of smoke from
the cemetery wall, and a bullet whizzed by the head of the general, who
smiled wanly, to encourage his men. Summary execution would have been
done upon the stranger had not a body of American cavalry dashed against
the red-coats at that moment, and a fierce contest was begun. When the
day was over, General Agnew, who had been separated from his command in
the confusion of battle, came past the graves again. Tired and depressed,
he drew rein for a moment to breathe the sweet air, so lately fouled with
dust and smoke, and to watch the gorgeous light of sunset. Again, like a
malignant genius of the place, the savage-looking stranger arose from
behind the wall. A sharp report broke the quiet of evening and awoke
clattering echoes from the distant houses. A horse plunged and General
Agnew rolled from his saddle, dead: the last victim in the strife at
Germantown.





Next: A Blow In The Dark

Previous: The Missing Soldier Of Valley Forge



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