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The Last Battle of the Revolution by Benson J. Lossing

 

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." "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 refused compliance.

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.