Chauncey Judd: Preface

Updated May 14, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


Few persons, probably, of the present generation are aware that in the time of the American Revolution there was carried on a border warfare between Long Island and the Connecticut coast, which for romantic incident was scarcely surpassed by anything related by Walter Scott in his tales of the Scottish Border. The parties in this warfare were mostly the whigs and tories of that day, between whom there was a bitterness of hostility far greater than existed between the colonies and the British themselves. The details of the strife, tragic and comic, the plots and counterplots, the deeds of wild adventure, of heroism and endurance, which then occurred, would, if fully narrated, fill volumes.

The tale we here present to our readers relates to one of the noteworthy incidents of those times. In all essential respects it is strictly true. Every important event mentioned is well authenticated. Many details as to times, places, persons, etc., have been ascertained from the public records of the county and state, and may be relied on as accurate, though differing somewhat from the statements which have been printed, or have been handed down by tradition. The outline of the story has many times been told to the writer by a near relative, a sister of the stolen boy, who had herself a personal knowledge of the facts, and who died a few years ago at the extreme age of ninety-nine. He has also received much information from other aged persons who were well acquainted with the actors in the events, among whom he desires particularly to name his venerable friend, the Rev. Smith Dayton, of New Haven, still surviving, with vigorous step and unimpaired faculties, at the age of ninety, who has loaned him manuscripts left him by his father, Captain Ebenezer Dayton, in relation to the transaction.

Though the history of the Revolutionary period has been so often and so ably written, it is yet comparatively little known to many of the present day. A general acquaintance with its public events, the Declaration of Independence, and the principal incidents of the war which established it, may be possessed, but beyond this there is a great vagueness of apprehension. The people of the colonies were thinly scattered over a vast territory, so that much that occurred among them was never known outside of the immediate locality, and much that was known was never recorded. The ubiquitous news-gatherer of modern times had not then been born. The causes which led to the separation from the mother country, the struggles, privations and sufferings incident to the war, all indeed that may be called the domestic history of that period, is not only little known to most of this generation, but cannot easily be conceived of by them.

In carefully gathering up, then, what has been transmitted to us by tradition or otherwise, before it shall be irrecoverably lost, and while it may still be verified and illustrated by family manuscripts, and in some instances by the personal testimony of the very few surviving who lived near those times, we may not only furnish matter of interest to our contemporaries, but add something to the stock of materials which shall serve the uses of the historians, the artists, and the statesmen of the future.

Nor can we forbear to add that the examples of that age are full of instruction. The poverty and the hardships then endured were a severe school, in which, nevertheless, were trained many noble characters. It was a school of heroism which may well be studied by us, who live in these more favored times of ease and plenty. We cannot pretend to have delineated it fully in a single sketch like the present, but we may still hope that, as a glance at the time, and its lessons of both patriotism and religion, the story we relate may find a welcome in the Sunday schools and the homes of our land.

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