delivered with applause,
At the Federal-Street Theatre, Boston,
four successive nights of the different
plays, beginning 1802-03-22March 22, 1802;
and after, at other principal towns, a
number of nights successively
at each place;
the American heroine
Who ſerved three years with reputation (undiſcovered as a
Female) in the late American Army.
Published at the request of the audiences.
Printed and sold by H. Mann, for ,
at the Minerva Office.—1802.
The character and achievements of Mrs. Gannet, late Deborah Sampson, the American Heroine, have excited much curioſity in the United States. At the cloſe of the revolution, ſhe retired to an obſcure part of Maſſachuſetts, ſelected, or rather was ſelected, a partner of an induſtrious farmer. From her Memoirs, ſince publiſhed, and the beſt, neareſt information, ſhe continues to ſupport, with reputation, the offices of Wife, Mother, and Friend —affable in her diſpoſition, courteous in her manners, and univerſally benevolent.
It is from her naturally ambitious diſpoſition, and taſte for a more elevated ſtile of life, that ſhe is induced to re-visit ſome of the principal places, which were the theatre of her perſonating the ſoldier— to appear in public, to open the eyes of the incredulous, and to wipe off any aſperſions, which the whiſpers of ſatire, caprice, or malevolence may have wantonly thrown upon her.
This reſolution being communicated to a number of reſpectable Characters, ſhe received invitations from them, to make her appearance on the Boſton Theatre, and to give a recital of ſome of the principal traits of her life. This propoſal caught both her fancy and her wishes, honorably to enhance the pecuniary intereſt of her family; which ſhe is ſaid induſtriouſly to economize.04 A2v iv
She accordingly procured the following, which ſhe remarkably ſoon committed, verbatim, to memory, except anaddition ſince about three pages. Under the superintendence of Meſſrs. Powell and Harper, ſhe was uſhered on to the Stage in a very polite manner; where, before a crouded aſſembly, perfectly unabaſhed, ſhe very audibly recited her naration. In the Manual Exerciſe, being in complete uniform, and during the Soldier’s Feſtival, ſhe acquitted herſelf with peculiar eaſe and grace, ――An attendant has ſince introduced her to the Audience by the following
Ye guardian Friends of Liberty and Peace,
Our ſureſt hope of merit, power, increaſe,
Mark here thoſe traits ſo rare in Female’s
She does not ſpeak, nor do I write, for fame.
Her boldeſt claim is ſimple, gen’ine Truth;
Her humbleſt plea is for her Sex and Youth.
May not baſe calumny her deeds ſupplant;
Your Patronage, as from a Parent, grant.—
E’en Britain’s Fair, though proud, this truth muſt own――
When Liberty’s at ſtake, a Female ſtorms the Throne!
Not unlike the example of the patriot and philanthropiſt, though perhaps perfectly ſo in effect, do I awake from the tranquil ſlumbers of retirement, to active, public ſcenes of life, like thoſe which now ſurround me. That genius which is the prompter of curiosity, and that ſpirit which is the ſupport of enterprize, early drove, or, rather illured me, from the corner of humble obſcurity—their cheering aſpect has again prevented a torpid reſt.
Secondary to theſe are the ſolicitations of a number of worthy characters and friends, too perſuaſive and congenial with my own 06 A3v 6 diſpoſition to be anſwered with indifference, or to be rejected, have induced me thus to advance and bow ſubmiſſive to an audience, ſimply and conciſely to rehearſe a tale of truth; which, though it took its riſe, and finally terminated in the ſplendor of public life, I was determined to repeat only as the ſoliloquy of a hermit, or to the viſionary phantoms, which hover through the glooms of ſolitude.
A tale—the truth of which I was ready to ſay, but which, perhaps, others have already ſaid for me, ought to expel me from the enjoyment of ſociety, from the acknowledgement of my own ſex, and from the endearing friendſhip of the other. But this, I venture to pronounce, would be ſaying too much: For as I ſhould thus not reſpect myſelf, ſhould be entitled to none from others.
I indeed recollect it as a foible, an error and preſumption, into which, perhaps, I have too inadvertantly and precipitately run; but which I now retroſpect with anguiſh and amazement—recollect07 A4r 7 ment—recollect it, as a Thomson, or any other moralizing naturaliſt, ſuſceptible to the like fine feelings of nature, recollects the howling blaſts of winter, at a period when Flora has ſtrewed the earth with all her profuſion of delicacies, and whoſe zephyrs are wafting their fragrance to heighten our ſenſations of tranquility and pleaſure;—or, rather, perhaps, I ought to recollect it, as a marriner, having regained his native ſhore of ſerenity and peace, looks back on the ſtormy billows which, ſo long and ſo conſtantly had threatened to ingulph him in the bowels of the deep! And yet I muſt frankly confeſs, I recollect it with a kind of ſatisfaction, which no one can better conceive and enjoy than him, who, recollecting the good intentions of a bad deed, lives to ſee and to correct any indecorum of his life.
But without further preliminary apologies, yet with every due reſpect towards this brilliant and polite circle, I haſten to a review of the moſt conſpicuous parts of that path, which led to achievements, which ſome 08 A4v 8 have believed, but which many ſtill doubt. Their accompliſhment once ſeemed to me as impoſſible, as that I am author of them, is now incredible to the incredulous, or wounding to the ear of more refined delicacy and taſte. They are a breach in the decorum of my ſex, unqueſtionably; and, perhaps, too unfortunately ever irreconcilable with the rigid maxims of the moraliſt; and a ſacrifice, which, while it may ſeem perfectly incompatible with the requirements of virtue—and which of courſe muſt ring diſcord in the ear, and diſguſt to the boſom of ſenſibility and refinement, I muſt be content to leave to time and the moſt ſcrutinizing enquiry to diſcloſe.
Unlettered in any ſcholaſtic ſchool of erudition, you will not expect, on this occaſion, the entertainment of the ſoft and captivating ſounds of eloquence; but rather a naration of facts in a mode as uncouth as they are unnatural. Facts—which, though I once experienced, and of which memory has ever been painfully retentive, I cannot now make you feel, or paint to the life.09 B1r 9
Know then, that my juvenile mind early became inquiſitive to underſtand—not merely whether the principles, or rather the ſeeds of war are analogous to the genuine nature of man—not merely to know why he ſhould forego every trait of humanity, and to aſſume the character of a brute; or, in plainer language, why he ſhould march out tranquilly, or in a paroxiſm of rage againſt his fellow-man, to butcher, or be butchered?—for theſe, alas! were too ſoon horribly verified by the maſſacres in our ſtreets, in the very ſtreets which encompaſs this edifice—in yonder adjacent villas, Lexington, and the adjacent towns and hamlets, when the Britiſh marched out of Boſton to deſtroy the military ſtores at Concord. on yonder memorable eminence, Breed’s Hill—wrongly called Bunker Hill. where now ſtand living monuments of the atrocious, the heart-diſtracting, mementous ſcenes, that followed in rapid ſucceſſion!
This I am ready to affirm, though it may be deemed unnatural in my ſex, is not a demoralizationB 10 B1v 10 moralization of human nature. The ſluices, both of the blood of freemen and of ſlaves, were firſt opened here. And thoſe hills and vallies, once the favorite reſort, both of the lover and philoſopher, have been drunk with their blood! A new ſubject was then opened to the moſt pathetic imagination, and to the rouzing of every latent ſpark of humanity, one ſhould think, in the boſoms of the wolves, as well as in thoſe of the ſheep, for whoſe blood they were ſo thirſty.
But moſt of all, my mind became agitated with the enquiry—why a nation, ſeparated from us by an ocean more than three thouſand miles in extent, ſhould endeavor to enforce on us plans of ſubjugation, the moſt unnatural in themſelves, unjuſt, inhuman, in their operations, and unpractiſed even by the uncivilized ſavages of the wilderneſs? Perhaps nothing but the critical juncture of the times could have excuſed ſuch a philoſophical diſquiſition of politics in woman, notwithſtanding it was a theme of univerſal ſpeculation and concern to man. We indeed11 B2r 11 deed originated from her, as from a parent, and had, perhaps, continued to this period in ſubjection to her mandates, had we not diſcovered, that this, her romantic, avaricious and cruel diſpoſition extended to murder, after having bound the ſlave!
Confirmed by this time in the juſtneſs of a defenſive war on the one ſide, from the moſt aggravated one on the other—my mind ripened with my ſtrength; and while our beds and our roſes were ſprinkled with the blood of indiſcriminate youth, beauty, innocence, and decrepit old age, I only ſeemed to want the licenſe, to become one of the ſevereſt avengers of the wrong.
For ſeveral years I looked on theſe ſcenes of havoc, rapacity, and devaſtation, as one looks on a drowning man, on the conflagration of a city—where are not only centered his coffers of gold, but with them his choiceſt hopes, friends, companions, his all— without being able to extend the reſcuing hand to either.12 B2v 12
Wrought upon at length, you may ſay, by an enthuſiaſm and phrenzy, that could brook no control—I burſt the tyrant bands, which held my ſex in awe, and clandeſtinely, or by ſtealth, graſped an opportunity, which cuſtom and the world ſeemed to deny, as a natural priviledge. And whilſt poverty, hunger, nakedneſs, cold and diſeaſe had dwindled the American Armies to a handful—whilſt univerſal terror and diſmay ran through our camps, ran through our country—while even Washington himſelf, at their head, though like a god, ſtood, as it were, on a pinacle tottering over the abyſs of deſtruction, the laſt prelude to our falling a wretched prey to the yawning jaws of the monſter aiming to devour—not merely for the ſake of gratifying a fecetious curiouſity, like that of my reputed Predeceſſor, in her romantic excurſions through the garden of bliſs—did I throw off the ſoft habiliments of my ſex, and aſſume thoſe of the warrior, already prepared for battle.
Thus I became an actor in that important drama, with an inflexible reſolution to 13 C1r 13 perſevere through the laſt ſcene; when we might be permitted and acknowledged to enjoy what we had ſo nobly declared we would poſſeſs, or loſe with our lives— Freedom and Independence!—When, the philoſopher might reſume his reſearches unmoleſted—the ſtateſman be diſembarraſſed by his diſtracting theme of national politics—the divine find leſs occaſion to invoke the indignation of heaven on the uſurpers and cannibals of the inherent rights and even exiſtence of man—when the ſon ſhould again be reſtored to the arms of his diſconſolate parent, and the lover to the boſom of her, for whom indeed he is willing to jeopard is life, and for whom alone he wiſhes to live!
A new ſcene, and, as it were, a new world now opened to my view; the objects of which now ſeemed as important, as the tranſition before ſeemed unnatural. It would, however, here be a weakneſs in me to mention the tear of repentence, or of that temerity, from which the ſtouteſt C 14 C1v 14 of my ſex are, or ought not to be, wholly exempt on extreme emergencies, which many times involuntarily ſtole into my eye, and fell unheeded to the ground: And that too before I had reached the embattled field, the ramparts, which protected its internal reſources—which ſhielded youth, beauty, and the delicacy of that ſex at home, which perhaps I had forfeited in turning volunteer in their defence. Temeritis—when reflections on my former ſituation, and this new kind of being, were daggers more frightful, than all the implements of war—when the ruſtling of every leaf was an omen of danger, the whiſper of each wind, a tale of woe! If then the poignancy of thought ſtared me thus haggardly in the face, found its way to the inmoſt receſſes of my heart, thus forcibly, in the commencement of my career—what muſt I not have anticipated before its cloſe!
The curtain is now up—a ſcene opens to your view; but the objects ſtrike your attention leſs forcibly, and leſs intereſtingly, 15 C2r 15 than they then did, not only my own eyes, but every energetic ſenſation of my ſoul. What ſhall I ſay further? Shall I not ſtop ſhort, and leave to your imaginations to pourtray the tragic deeds of war? Is it not enough, that I here leave it even to unexperience to fancy the hardſhips, the anxieties, the dangers, even of the beſt life of a soldier? And were it not improper, were it not unſafe, were it not indelicate, and were I certain I ſhould be intitled to a pardon, I would appeal to the ſoft boſom of my own ſex to draw a parallel between the perils and ſexual inconveniences of a girl in her teens, and not only in the armour, but in the capacity, at any rate, obliged to perform the duties in the field— and thoſe who go to the camp without a maſquerade, and conſequently ſubject only to what toils and ſacrifices they pleaſe: Or, will a concluſion be more natural from thoſe, who ſometimes take occaſion to complain by their own domeſtic fire-ſides, but who, indeed, are at the ſame time in affluence, cheriſhed in the arms of their companions, 16 C2v 16 and ſheltered from the ſtorms of war by the roughter ſex in arms?
Many have ſeen, and many can contemplate, in the field of imagination, battles and victories amidſt garments rolled in blood: but it is only one of my own ſex, expoſed to the ſtorm, who can conceive of my ſituation.
We have all heard of, many have doubtleſs ſeen, the meteor ſtreaming through or breaking in the horizon—the terrific glare of the comet, in its approach towards, or in its declenſion from us, in its excentric orbit—the howling of a tempeſt—the electric fluid, which darts majeſty and terror through the clouds—its exploſion and tremendous effects!—Bostonians, and you who inhabit its environs, you who have known from experience your houſes and your hills tremble from the cannonade of Charleſtown,—your ears are yet wounded by the ſhrieks of her mangled and her diſtreſſed— your eyes ſwimming in a deluge of anguiſh 17 C3r 17 at the ſight of our butchered, expiring relatives and friends; while the conflagration of the town added the laſt ſolemnity to the ſcene!
This idea muſt aſſimulate with the progreſs of this horrid deluſion of war. Hence you can behold the parched ſoil of WhitePlains drink inſatiate the blood of her moſt peaceful and induſtrious proprietors—of freemen, and of ſlaves! I was there! The recollection makes me ſhudder!—A diſlocated limb draws freſh anguiſh from my heart!
You may have heard the thunderings of a volcano—you may have contemplated, with aſtoniſhment and wonder, the burial of a city by its eruption. Your ears then are yet deafened from the thunderings of the invaſion of York Town— your eyes dazzled, your imaginations awfully ſublimed, by the fire which belched from its environs, and towered, like that from an eruption of Etna, to the clouds! Your hearts yet bleed, from every principle of humanity, at the 18 C3v 18 recollection of the havoc, carnage and death that reigned there!
Three ſucceſſive weeks, after a long and rapid march, found me amidſt this ſtorm.— But, happy for America, happy for Europe, perhaps for the World, when, on the delivery of Cornwallis’s ſword to the illuſtrious, the immortal Washington, or rather by his order, to the brave Lincoln, the ſun of Liberty and Independence burſt through a ſable cloud, and his benign influence was, almoſt inſtantaneouſly, felt in our remoteſt corners! The phalanx of war was thus broken through, and the palladium of peace bloſſoming on its ruins.
I will not hence urge you to retrace with me (tranquilly you ſurely cannot) all the footſteps of our valient heroic Leaders through the diſtraction both of elements and of war. I will not even pourtray an attempt to reinforce the brave Schuyler, then on the borders of Canada; where, if the war-whoop of infernals ſhould not ſtrike you 19 C4r 19 with diſmay, the tommahawk would ſoon follow!
Nor need I point you to the death-like doors of the hoſpital in Philadelphia, whoſe avenues were crouded with the ſick, the dying and the dead; though myſelf made one of the unhappy croud!
You have now but the ſhade of a picture; which neither time nor my abilities will permit me to ſhow you to the life. The haggard fiend, deſpair, may have ſtared you in the face, when giving over the purſuit of a favorite, loſt child: And it is only in this torture of ſuſpenſe that we can rightly conceive of its ſituation.
Such is my experience—not that I ever mourned the loſs of a child, but that I conſidered myſelf as loſt! For, on the one hand, if I fell not a victim to the infuriate rabble of a mob, or of a war not yet fully terminated—a diſcloſure of my peculiar ſituation ſeemed infinitely worſe than either. 20 C4v 20 And if from ſtratagem and perſeverance, I may acquire as great knowledge in every reſpect as I have of myſelf in this, my knowledge, at leaſt of human nature, will be as complete as it is uſeful.
But we will now haſten from the field, from the embattled entrenchments, built for the deſtruction of man, from a long, deſolating war, to contemplate more deſirable and delightful ſcenes. And notwithſtanding curioſity may prompt any to retrace the climax of our revolution, the means under a ſmiling, ſuperintending providence, by which we have outrode the ſtorms of danger and diſtreſs—what heart will forget to expand with joy and gratitude, to beat in uniſon, at the propitious recollection?—And I enquire, what infant tongue can ever forget or ceaſe being taught to liſp the praiſes of Washington, and thoſe of that bright conſtellation of Worthies, who ſwell the liſt of Columbian fame—thoſe, by whoſe martial ſkill and philanthropic labors, we were firſt led to behold, after a long and ſtormy 21 D1r 21 night, the ſmiling ſun of Peace burſt on our benighted World! And while we drop a tear over the flowery turf of thoſe patriots and ſages, may ſhe unrivalled enjoy and encreaſe her preſent bright ſunſhine of happineſs! May agriculture and commerce, induſtry and manufactures, arts and ſciences, virtue and decorum, union and harmony— thoſe richeſt ſources of our worth, and ſtrongeſt pillars of our ſtrength, become ſtationary, like fixed ſtars in the firmament, to flouriſh in her clime!
Hail deareſt Liberty! thou ſource ſublime!
What rays refulgent dart upon our clime!
For thee the direful conteſt has been waged,
Our hope, and all that life held dear engaged.
Thee the prime offspring which my thoughts employ,
Once ſought with grief—now turns that grief to joy.
Your beatific influence extend
O’er Africa, whoſe ſable race befriend.
May Europe, as our ſiſter empire, join,
To hail thee riſing with your power divine.D 22 D1v 22
From the lone cottage to the tyrant’s throne,
May Liberty, ethereal gueſt, be known!
Be thou preſerved for nations yet unborn,
Fair as the ſhining Star that decks the morn.
But the queſtion again returns—What particular inducement could ſhe have thus to elope from the ſoft ſphere of her own ſex, to perform a deed of valor by way of ſacrilege on unhallowed ground—voluntarily to face the ſtorms both of elements and war, in the character of him, who is more fitly made to brave and endure all danger?
And doſt thou aſk what fairy hand inſpired
A Nymph to be with martial glory fired?
Or, what from art, or yet from nature’s laws,
Has join’d a Female to her country’s cauſe?
Why on great Mars’s theatre ſhe drew
Her female pourtrait, though in ſoldier’s hue?
Then ask—why Cincinnatus left his farm?
Why ſcience did old Plato’s boſom warm?
Why Hector in the Trojan war ſhould dare?23 D2r 23
Or why ſhould Homer trace his actions there?
Why Newton in philoſophy has ſhown?
Or Charles, for ſolitude, has left his throne?
Why Locke, in metaphyſics ſhould delight—
Preciſian ſage, to ſet falſe reaſon right?
Why Albion’s Sons ſhould kindle up a war?
Why Jove or Vulcan hurried on the car?
Perhaps the ſame propenſity you uſe,
Has prompted her a martial courſe to chooſe.
Perhaps to gain refinements where ſhe could,
This rare achievement for her country’s good.
Or was ſome hapleſs lover from her torn—
As Emma did her valient Hammon mourn?
Elſe he muſt tell, who would this truth attain,
Why one is form’d for pleaſure—one for pain:
Or, boldly, why our Maker made us ſuch—
Why here he gives too little—there too much!
I would not purpoſely evade a a pertinent anſwer; and yet I know not, at preſent, how to give a more particular one than has already been ſuggeſted.
I am indeed willing to acknowledge what I have done, an error and preſumption. I 24 D2v 24 will call it an error and preſumption, becauſe I ſwerved from the accuſtomed flowry paths of female delicacy, to walk upon the heroic precipice of feminine perdition!—I indeed left my morning pillow of roſes, to prepare a couch of brambles for the night: and yet I awoke from this refreſhed to gather nought but the thorns of anguiſh for the next night’s repoſe—and in the precipitancy of paſſion, to prepare a moment for repentance at leiſure!
Had all this been achieved by the rougher hand, more properly aſſigned to wield the ſword in duty and danger in a defenſive war, the moſt cruel in its meaſures, though important in its conſequences; theſe thorns might have been converted into wreaths of immortal glory and fame. I therefore yield every claim of honor and diſtinction to the hero and patriot, who met the foe in his own name; though not with more heartfelt ſatiſfaction, with the trophies, which were moſt to redound to the future grandeur and importance of the country in which he lives.25 D3r 25
Butrepentance is a ſweet ſolace to conſcience, as well as the moſt complete atonement to the Supreme Judge of our offences: notwithſtanding the tongue of malevolence and ſcurrility may be continually preparing its moſt poiſonous ingredients for the puniſhment of a crime, which has already received more than half a pardon.
Yet if even this be deemed too much of an extenuation of a breach in the modeſty of the female world—humilized and contented will I ſit down inglorious, for having unfortunately performed an important part aſſigned for another—like a bewildered ſtar traverſing out of its accuſtomed orbit, whoſe twinkling beauty at moſt has become totally obſcured in the preſence of the ſun.
But as the rays of the ſun ſtrike the eye with the greateſt luſtre, when emerging from a thick fog, and as thoſe actions which have for their objects the extended hand of charity to the indigent and wretched—to reſtore a bewildered traveller to light—and, to reform26 D3v 26 form in ourſelves an irregular and forlorn courſe of life; ſo, allowing myſelf to be one or the greateſt of theſe, do I ſtill hope for ſome claim on the indulgence and patronage of the public; as in ſuch caſe I might be conſcious of the approbation of my God.
I cannot, contentedly, quit this ſubject or this place, without expreſſing, more emphatically, my high reſpect and veneration for my own sex. The indulgence of this reſpectable circle ſupercedes my merit, as well as my moſt ſanguine expectations. You receive at leaſt in return my warmeſt gratitude. And though you can neither have, or perhaps need, from me the inſtructions of the ſage, or the advice of the counſellor; you ſurely will not be wholly indifferent to my moſt ſincere declaration of friendſhip for that ſex, for which this checkered flight of my life may have rendered me the leaſt ornamental example; but which, neither in adverſity or proſperity, could I ever learn to forget or degrade.27 D4r 27
I take it to be from the greateſt extremes both in virtue and in vice, that the uniformly virtuous and reformed in life can derive the greateſt and moſt ſalutary truths and impreſſions.—Who, for example, can contemplate for a moment, the prodigal— from the time of his revelry with harlots, to that of his eating huſks with ſwine, and to his final return to his father—without the greateſt emotions of diſguſt, pity and joy? And is it poſſible to behold the effects of the unprincipled conduct of the libertine, the bacchanalian, the debauchee, and what is more wretched than all, of the emaciated, haggard form of a modern baggage in the ſtreets, without bringing into exerciſe every paſſion of abhorrence and commiſſeration? And yet, happy thoſe, who at the ſame time receive a monitor which fixes a reſolve, never to embark on ſuch a ſea of perdition; where we ſee ſhipwreck of all that is enobling to the dignity of man—all that is lovely and amiable in the character of woman!28 D4v 28
I cannot, indeed bring the adventures, even of the worſt part of my own life, as parallels with this black catalogue of crimes. But in whatever I may be thought to have been unnatural, unwiſe and indelicate, it is now my moſt fervent deſire it may have a ſuitable impreſſion on you—and on me, a penitent for every wrong thought and ſtep. The rank you hold in the ſcale of beings is, in many reſpects, ſuperior to that of man. Nurſes of his growth, and invariable models of his habits, he becomes a ſuppliant at your ſhrine, emulous to pleaſe, aſſiduous to cheriſh and ſupport, to live and die for you! Bloſſoms from your very birth, you become his admiration, his joy, his eden companions in this world.—How important then is it, that theſe bloſſoms bring forth ſuch fruit, as will beſt ſecure your own delights and felicity, and thoſe of him, whoſe every enjoyment, and even his very exiſtence, is ſo peculiarly interwoven with your own!
On the whole, as we readily acquieſce in the acknowledgment, that the field and the 29 E1r 29 cabinet are the proper ſpheres aſſigned for our Masters and our Lords; may we, alſo, deſerve the dignified title and encomium of Mistress and Lady, in our kitchens and in our parlours. And as an overruling providence may ſucceed our wiſhes—let us rear an offspring in every reſpect worthy to fill the moſt illuſtrious ſtations of their predeceſſors.
An angel in flight holding a banner inscribed Finis. Finis.