The Last Battle
Dr. Alexander Anderson, the father of wood-engraving in this country,
died in Jersey City, in 1870, a few weeks before his ninety-fifth
birthday. He was born in New York two days after the skirmish at
Lexington, and had vivid recollections of some of the closing incidents
of the Revolution in that city. From his lips the writer heard many
narratives of those stirring scenes. One of them was an account of the
last battle of the Revolution, of which young Anderson, then a boy
between eight and nine years of age, was an eye-witness.
Anderson's parents lived near the foot of Murray Street, not far from
the Hudson River. There were very few houses between them and Broadway.
Opposite Anderson's dwelling was a boarding-house kept by a man named
Day. His wife was a comely, strongly built woman, about forty years of
age, and possessed a brave heart. She was an ardent Whig, and having
courage equal to her convictions, she never concealed her sentiments.
"CUNNINGHAM SEIZED THE HALYARDS."
On the morning of the day (November 25, 1783) when the British troops
were to evacuate the city of New York, and leave America independent,
Mrs. Day unfurled her country's flag over her dwelling. The British
claimed the right to hold possession of the city until noon on that day.
Cunningham, the notorious British Provost-Marshal, was informed of this
impudent display of the "rebel banner" in the presence of British
troops, and sent a sergeant to order it to be taken down. Mrs. Day
At about nine o'clock in the morning, while young Anderson was sitting
on the porch of his father's house, and Mrs. Day was quietly sweeping in
front of her own, he saw a burly, red-faced British officer, in full
uniform, with a powdered wig, walking rapidly down the street. He halted
before Mrs. Day, and roughly inquired,
"Who hoisted that rebel flag?"
"I raised that flag," coolly answered Mrs. Day, looking the angry
officer full in the face.
"Pull it down!" roared the Briton.
"I shall not do it," firmly answered Mrs. Day.
"You don't know who I am," angrily growled the officer.
"Yes, I do," said the courageous woman.
Cunningham (for it was he) seized the halyards, and attempted to pull
down the flag, when Mrs. Day flew at him with her broom, and beat him so
severely over the head that she knocked off his hat, and made the powder
fly from his wig. "I saw it shine like a dim nimbus around his head in
the morning sun," said Anderson.
Cunningham was an Irishman, detested by everybody for his cruelty to
American prisoners in his charge. Mrs. Day had often seen him. He
stormed, and swore, and tugged in vain at the halyards, for they had
become entangled; and Mrs. Day applied her broomstick so vigorously that
the blustering Provost-Marshal was finally compelled to beat a retreat,
leaving the American flag floating in triumph in the crisp November air
over the well-defended Day castle.
This was the last battle between the British and Americans in the old
war for independence.