A Dutch Family in the Revolution
by Edward Eggleston
What is now the State of New York was first settled by people from
Holland who spoke the Dutch language. New York afterward became an
English colony, but the Dutch settlers and their descendants still
spoke the language of Holland, at the time of the American Revolution.
In Flatbush, which is now a part of Brooklyn, was a family that spoke
the Dutch language, while they were true Americans in feeling. When
the British landed on Long Island, they got ready to leave the town.
The horses were hitched to the wagon, and such things as were thought
most valuable were put in. The first thing they put into the wagon was
the great Dutch Bible with heavy brass clasps. A tall clock was also
carefully lifted into the wagon. Then clothing and other things
The father of the family told the two faithful negro men, Cæsar and
his son Mink, how to take care of things. Femmetia, the most active of
the daughters, had the whip in her hand, and, as the sound of firing
was coming nearer and nearer, she tapped the horses on their ears, and
the family dashed away to the house of a cousin who lived beyond the
region where the fight was to be.
That evening Femmetia helped her father, who was an invalid, to climb
to the top of a little hill from which they could see a fire raging in
the village of Flatbush. The direction of the fire showed the father
and daughter that it was their own house which was burning.
When the fight was over, General Washington's troops had been driven
from Long Island. The good Dutch family went back and found their
house burned. They moved into another house, whose owner was still
away, and then began to build a new house. The mother bought some
boards with what money she had saved, but she could not get any nails.
In that day nails were not made by machinery, as they are now. Each
nail had to be hammered out separately by a blacksmith. Nails made in
this way cost a great deal of money.
There was but one way to do. Femmetia and her sister had to find nails
by raking over the ashes of the old house. Some of these nails were
crooked, and they had to be hammered to make them straight enough to
Some American officers had been made prisoners at the battle of Long
Island. They were allowed to go about the village after having given
their word not to go farther. They liked to help the girls find nails
in the ashes, and hammer them straight on the stones. Other young
girls came to help them, so that there was a party of young people
talking, joking, laughing, and digging in the ashes, every day. It was
fun for all of them. There were not boards enough to finish the house.
The room in which the two sisters slept was upstairs. It had but half
a floor. Where the rest of the floor should have been were only bare
A Nail Party.
One night the negro woman, whose name was Dian, came into the room
below, and called Femmetia. She told her that the British soldiers had
come into the barn, and that they would soon take away what were left
of the chickens.
"You jes' come down." said Dian to Femmetia. So the old slave and the
young girl went out together. They carried a gun and a broomstick. The
moon was shining. They took great pains not to let the soldiers see
them. First they dodged behind a great walnut tree. Then, when they
were sure the soldiers did not see them, they ran behind the corncrib.
Their next march brought them behind the wagon house, and then they
slipped into the dark shadow of the barn.
Dian thrust the rifle through a hole in the side door of the barn. At
the same moment the bold Femmetia threw a stone which made the
soldiers look round. There was moonlight enough for them to see the
muzzle of the gun coming through the door as though it were ready to
fire at them. They ran away in great haste, and left the chickens
The silver plate and other valuable things were buried under the
hearth in the house. A lady in a neighboring house hid her gold coins
in the middle of a great round ball of a pincushion. Such ball
pincushions were worn by some of the Dutch women at that time. They
hung them at their sides, tied by a bit of ribbon. A party of English
soldiers came into this lady's house. They were much amused to see
this ball at the lady's side. One of them rudely cut the ribbon with
his sword, and then the soldiers played ball with the cushion. It was
sent here and there about the room. Twice it fell into the ashes.
The woman who owned it expected that it would be torn, and all her
gold would spill out, but she went on with her work. If she had shown
any anxiety about the ball, the soldiers might have thought to look
for her money in the cushion. At last they gave it back to her,
much-soiled, but holding its treasures safe.