A New Anecdote of Washington
Col. Warner Background
It is well known that Col. Seth Warner,
of revolutionary memory, who with his noted regiment of
Green Mountain Boys, as rear guard of
St. Clair's retreating army, after the evacuation of of Ticonderoga,
beat back a whole brigade of the hotly pursuing British, in the
Battle of Hubbardtown,
and thus saved, probably, that luckless General's
entire forces, hurrying on just in front, from rout or capture --
who came down like a thunderbolt on the flushed foe in mid-battle
and so secured the victory for the wavering and
half-beaten Stark, and who finally was everywhere known as one of
the best-looking, most heroic and accomplished military officers of
the Continental Army -- that Col. Warner was an especial favorite
of Gen. Washington.
The preliminary, however, is here introduced, less on account
of any particular pertinency most of it may have to the subject
than for the propose of explanation, and securing a readier
appreciation and credence of the interesting personal anecdote
which is about to be related, and which, it is confidently
believed, has never before appeared in print.
Seth Warner, His Son
One son of Colonel Warner still survives, or was surviving a
few years ago, an unpretending resident of Lower Canada, from which --
though then seventy-five year old, but very active, and in full
possession of all his strong native faculties he came to the capital
of Vermont with the object of petitioning the Legislature for
compensation for some lands formerly granted to the heirs of Col.
Warner, but unwittingly trenched upon by subsequent grants; and it
was then and there that the writer of this reminiscence was introduced
to him and held several very interesting conversations.
In one of these conversations, while speaking of the private affairs
of his father, Col. Warner, he frankly said that the Colonel was very
thoughtless about pecuniary matters; that he not only expended in the
cause of the country, or aiding the needy families of his soldiers,
all his available property, but contracting many debts, which finally
compelled him, a short time before his death, to place a mortgage on
his homestead, amounting at least to over nine hundred dollars, and
causing the family a great deal of depression and uneasiness.
But of this depressing load they were at length suddenly relieved in
the occurrence of a most unexpected incident, and one which formed,
as well it might, quite an era in their family history. But we will
let Mr. Warner, whose Christian name, we believe, was that of his father,
Seth, relate the memorable incident in question in his own language; which,
by the aid of the minutes before us, we know we can repeat substantially,
and we think very near literally, as he made use of it.
Israel Warner, His Son
'It was,' he said, 'in the month of September, 1789, the fall that Gen.
Washington made his tour through the Eastern States. We had kept
ourselves tolerably well posted about the progress of this tour,
and heard that he was to be in New Haven or Hartford, Connecticut,
somewhere near the time at which the event I am going to relate to
you took place. But as either of these places was quite a number of
miles from Woodbury, where we lived, we had no more idea of seeing him
than the man in the moon. My elder brother, Israel Putnam Warner,
then a man grown, and myself a lad of twelve or thirteen, we were
both living with my mother at that time. And at the particular
time of the day I refer to, Israel was in the yard, grooming
father's old war horse, which he had been compelled to go with
father through all his campaigns to take charge of; for the
fiery and proud old fellow would never let anybody but his master,
the Colonel, and his son Israel mount or come near him, though
he had now got so much tamed down by old age that he would behave
quite decently with me or anybody. I was in the house with mother,
who happened to be unusually downcast that day, and was brooding
over our family embarrassments, and just been saying:
Mrs. Warner, His Widow
"Oh, no, Seth, I can never pay, nor, with our means, hardly
begin to pay, this dreadful mortgage. And, as I hear it is about
to be foreclosed, we must now soon be driven from our pleasant
home, where we have lived so long, and, until you father's death
so happily. My husband, the Colonel, fought as well as the bravest
of them, and did all he could, and more than his part, for the good
cause, they are willing to allow; and I know very well that he wore
himself out in the service, and was brought to a premature grave.
And yet here is his family almost on the verge of beggary."
'Tears here started in mother's eyes, which so touched me that
I rose and went and looked out of the window, when, to my surprise,
I saw entering the yard, two well-mounted stranger gentlemen, whom,
from something about their general appearance I took to be old
military officers of pretty high rank -- or at least one of
them, who was large, and had a very commanding look. Having
significantly beckoned mother to my side, she eagerly gazed out
at the newcomers a moment in silence, when she suddenly gave a
start, and, with with an excited air, exclaimed:
General Washington Arrives
"Seth! Just take notice of that noble looking one! Why,
he looks ever so much like the picture I once saw of -----.
But no; that surely can't be!"
"Well, at any rate, he must be a man of some consequence;
for see! brother Israel, who acts as if he knew him, is
swinging his hat from his head clear away at arm's length,
and bowing lower than he would to a king! Israel is quite
too stiff necked to do that for, any common man.
But they are beginning to talk; I will just open the door
here a little mite, and perhaps we may hear what they are
'I did so, and the first words I distinguished were those
of the personage who had so attracted our attention, and who,
addressing my brother, and pointing to the horse, by the
side of which he was standing, asked:'
General Washington and Israel
"Is not that the horse Colonel Warner used to ride in the war?'
"It is, your Excellency,' replied Israel, again bowing low and very respectfully.
"Ah, yes I thought so,' resumed the former, turning to his
companion, or attaché, and pointing to the
old war steed with that interest with which he was known ever
to regard fine horses, 'I thought it could be no other. Just
glance at his leading points -- shapely head, arched neck,
deep chest, haunches, and limbs. I have seen Colonel Warner
riding him on parade, when I noted him as a rare animal,
and thought that the rider, taken together -- for Warner was
a model of a figure, and several inches taller than I am --
made a military appearance second to none in the Continental
army. But my business is with your mother, my young friend,
and I will, if you will take charge of my horse a few minutes,
go in at once to see her.'
General Washington and Mrs. Warner
'Hearing this announcement, mother and I hastily retreated
to our former seats, and with the curiosity and excitement
which what we had witnessed naturally raised in us, silently
awaited the entry of the expected visitors. We had been thus
seated but two or three minutes before he came in, and bowing
graciously to my mother, said:
"I take this to be Mistress Warner, the widow of my much esteemed friend, the late Colonel Warner, of the Continental army?'
"It is , sir," she replied tremulously.
"Will you permit me to introduce myself to you, madam?'
he resumed, with that winning sort of dignity I had noticed
in him from the first; 'I am General Washington. And after
my arrival in this section of the country, a few days ago, I
made, -- and I hope you will pardon me the liberty I took with
your private affairs -- I made some inquiries about you and
situation of your family; when learning to my deep regret,
that your late husband, in consequence of his long continued
absence from his home and business while in the service of
his country, and his subsequent shattered health, resulting
from the hardships of war, left you laboring under pecuniary
embarrassments, I was prompted to come and see you."
"I had little dreamed of such an honor and such a kindness,
General,' she responded, nearly overpowered by her emotions,
and the imposing presence of her august visitor.
"There is a mortgage," he rejoined, without responding in
any way to her last remarks, "a rather heavy mortgage on your homestead."
"I am sorry," she replied sadly, "very sorry to be compelled
to say there is; a much heavier one than I can ever pay."
"So I had ascertained,' he proceeded; ' and I have also,
before coming here, been at the pains of ascertaining the exact
amount now due, and required to cancel this, to you, doubtless,
ruinous encumbrance, and I propose now to leave with you the sum
of money you will need for effecting that desirable object.'
'Does the money come from Government, sir!' she asked doubtfully,
and with a look that seemed to say, 'If it does, then all right.'
'Washington looked at her, and hesitated a little at first, but
soon, while taking up the valise he had brought in with him, slowly responded:
'In one sense it does, I may say, madam, if you have delicacies
on the subject. I am in receipt of a liberal yearly salary from Government,
from which it is discretionary with me to impart aid sometimes to
deserving objects; and I certainly know of none more so than one which
will relieve the family of so meritorious an officer as your late
'Without waiting for any rejoinder to these remarks, he opened his
valise and took from it a bag of silver money, and deliberately proceeded
to draw out and count from it till he had reached the sum of nine hundred
and some odd dollars, which afterwards proved to be precisely the sum
demanded in principal, interest, and fees, for the discharge of the
mortgage on our place. He then, after returning the money to the bag,
and setting it aside for the purpose he had designated, and taking the
hand of my mother, who seemed inclined to remonstrate, but could not
force the words for it from her quivering lips, tenderly, but with an
air that seemed to forbid any attempt at refusal, said to her:
'Accept it, don't hesitate to accept it -- take it and get the
mortgage discharged at once, and then all your immediately pressing
anxieties will be relieved, and soon you will find those brighter
days the God of the widow has kept in store for you. And now, as
my time is quite limited, it only remains for me to say, as I do most
sincerely and kindly, Heaven bless you, dear madam, Heaven bless you! Farewell!'
Seth Warner Concludes
'I was present during the whole of this interview between Gen.
Washington and my mother, heard every word they both said, and saw
all the money counted down on the table and feel confident that
I have neither taken from nor added to anything that there took place.
'On leaving the house, Washington immediately mounted his horse
and rode away, leaving us quite unable for a while to realize this
unexpected visit and the still more unexpected benediction of the
As Mr. Warner was ascertained to have been a man of integrity
and of an unbroken memory, there need be but little doubt respecting
the truth and authenticity of the above related incident, which, while
it involves testimony highly honorable to the heroic leader of the
Green Mountain Boys, furnishes a new and beautiful character of Washington.