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the yeomanry who had suffered from these maraudings. It was composed for the most part of farmers' sons, bold, hardriding lads, well armed, and well mounted, and undertook to clear the country round of Skinner and Cow Boy, and all other border vermin ; as the Holy Brotherhood' in old times cleared Spain of the banditti which infested her highways.
Wolfert's Roost was one of the rallying places of this confederacy, and Jacob Van Tassel one of its members. He was eminently fitted for the service : stout of frame, bold of heart, and like his predecessor, the warrior sachem of yore, delighting in daring enterprises. He had an Indian's sagacity in discovering when the enemy was on the maraud, and in hearing the distant tramp of cattle. It seemed as if he had a scout on every hill, and an ear as quick as that of Fine Ear in the fairy tale.
The foraging parties of tories and refugees had now to be secret and sudden in their forays into Westchester County ; to make a nasty maraud among the farms, sweep the cattle into a drove, and hurry down to the lines along the river road, or the vallev of the Neperan. Berore they were half way down, Jacoo Var. Tassel, with the holy brotherhood of Tarrytown, Petticoat Lane, and Sleepy Hollow, would be clattering at their heels. And now there would be a general scampe: for King's Bridge, the pass over Spiting Devil Creek into the British lines. Sometimes the moss-troopers would be overtaken, and eased of part of their booty. Sometimes the whole cavalgada : would urge its headlong course across the bridge with thundering tramp and dusty whirlwind. At such times their pursuers would rein up their steeds, survey that perilous pass with wary eye and, wheeling about, indemnify themselves by foraging the refugee region of Morrisania.“ While the debatable land was liable to be thus harried, the
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great Tappan Sea, along which it extends, was likewise domineered over by the foe. British ships of war were anchored here
and there in the wide expanses of the river, mere floating castles' to hold it in subjection. Stout galleys armed with eighteen pounders, and navigated with sails and oars, cruised about like hawks; while row-boats made descents upon the land, and foraged the country along shore.
It was a sore grievance to the yeomanry along the Tappan Sea to behold that little Mediterranean ploughed by hostile prows, and the noble river of which they were so proud, reduced to a state of thraldom. Councils of war were held by captains of market-boats and other river craft, to devise ways and means of dislodging the enemy. Here and there on a point of land extending into the Tappan Sea, a mud-work would be thrown up, and an old field-piece mounted, with which a knot of rustic artillerymen would fire away for a long summer's day at some frigate dozing at anchor far out of reach ; and reliques of such works may still be seen overgrown with weeds and brambles, with peradventure the half-buried fragment of a cannon which may have burst.
Jacob Van Tassel was a prominent man in these belligerent operations; but he was prone moreover, to carry on a petty warfare of his own for his individual recreation and refreshment. On a row of hooks above the fireplace of the Roost, reposed his great piece of ordnance ; a duck, or rather goose gun of unparalleled longitude, with which it was said he could kill a wild goose half way across the Tappan Sea. Indeed there are as many wonders told of this renowned gun, as of the enchanted weapons of classic story. When the belligerent feeling was strong upon Jacob, he would take down his gun, sally forth alone, and prowl along shore, dodging behind rocks and trees, watching for hours together any ship or galley at anchor or becalmed ; as a valorous mouser will watch a rat
1 i.e., they remained in one place while galley is a good-sized vessel propelled by the galleys and row boats flew about. A
hole. So sure as a boat approached the shore, bang! went the great goose-gun, sending on board a shower of slugs and buck shot; and away scuttled Jacob Van Tassel through some woody ravine. As the Roost stood in a lonely situation, and might be attacked, he guarded against surprise by making loop-holes in the stone walls, through which to fire upon an assailant. His wife was stout-hearted as himself, and could load as fast as he could fire, and his sister, Nochie Van Wurmer, a redoubtable widow, was a match, as he said, for the stoutest man in the country. Thus garrisoned, his little castle was fitted to stand a siege, and Jacob was the man to defend it to the last charge of powder.
In the process of time the Roost became one of the secret stations, or lurking places, of the Water Guard. This was an aquatic corps in the pay of government, organized to range the waters of the Hudson, and keep watch upon the movements of the enemy. It was composed of nautical men of the river and hardy youngsters of the adjacent country, expert at pulling an oar or handling a musket. They were provided with whale-boats, long and sharp, shaped like canoes, and formed to lie lightly on the water, and be rowed with great rapidity. In these they would lurk out of sight by day, in nooks and bays, and behind points of land ; keeping a sharp look-out upon the British ships, and giving intelligence to head-quarters of any extraordinary movement. At night they rowed about in pairs, pulling quietly along with muffled oars, under shadow of the land, or gliding like spectres about frigates and guard ships to cut off any boat that might be sent to shore. In this way they were a source of constant uneasiness and alarm to the
enemy. The Roost, as has been observed, was one of their lurking places; having a cove in front where their whale-boats could be drawn up out of sight, and Jacob Van Tassel being a vigilant ally ready to take a part in any “scout or scrummage by land or water. At this little warrior nest the hard-riding
lads from the hills would hold consultations with the chivalry of the river, and here were concerted divers of those daring enterprises' which resounded from Spiting Devil Creek even unto Anthony's Nose. Here was concocted the midnight invasion of New York Island, and the conflagration of Delancy's Tory mansion, which makes such a blaze in revolutionary history. Nay more, if the traditions of the Roost may be credited, here was meditated by Jacob Van Tassel and his compeers, a nocturnal foray into New York itself, to surprise and carry off the British commanders Howe’ and Clinton,' and put a triumphant close to the war.
There is no knowing whether this notable scheme might not have been carried into effect, had not one of Jacob Van Tassel's egregious exploits along shore with his goose-gun, with which he thought himself a match for any thing, brought vengeance on his house.
It so happened, that in the course of one of his solitary prowls he descried a British transport aground; the stern swung toward shore within point-blank shot. The temptation was too great to be resisted. Bang! went the great goosegun, from the covert of the trees, shivering the cabin windows and driving all hands forward. Bang ! bang ! the shots were repeated. The reports brought other of Jacob's fellow bushfighters to the spot. Before the transport could bring a gun to bear, or land a boat to take revenge, she was soundly peppered, and the coast evacuated.
This was the last of Jacob's triumphs. He fared like some heroic spider that has unwittingly ensnared a hornet to the atter ruin of his web. It was not long after the above exploit that he fell into the hands of the enemy in the course of one of his forays, and was carried away prisoner to New York. The Roost itself, as a pestilent rebel nest, was marked out for signal punishment. The cock of the Roost being captive, there was none to garrison it but bis stout-bearted spouse, his redoubtable sister, Nochie Van Wurmer, and Dinah, a strapping negro wench. An armed vessel came to anchor in front; a boat full of men pulled to shore. The garrison flew to arms; that is to say, to mops, broomsticks, shovels, tongs, and all kinds of domestic weapons ; for unluckily, the great piece of ordnance, the goose-gun, was absent with its owner. Above all, a vigorous defence was made with the most potent of female weapons, the tongue. Never did invaded hen-roost make a more vociferous outcry. It was all in vain. The house was sacked and plundered, fire was set to each corner, and in a few moments its blaze shed a baleful light far over the Tappan Sea. The invaders then pounced upon the blooming Laney Van Tassel, the beauty of the Roost, and endeavored to bear her off to the boat. But here was the real tug of war.
1 New York was in British hands from 2 Richard, Lord Howe, was English comSept. 5, 1776, till Nov. 25, 1783. Various mander-in-chief in America, 1776-1778. unsuccessful attempts were made by the 3 Sir Henry Clinton succeeded Howe. Americans to get the city out of their hands. 4 a vessel used for carrying soldiers.
The mother, the aunt, and the strapping negro wench, all flew to the rescue. The struggle continued down to the very water's edge; when a voice from the armed vessel at anchor, ordered the spoilers to desist; they relinquished their prize, jumped into their boats, and pulled off, and the heroine of the Roost escaped with a mere rumpling of the feathers.
As to the stout Jacob himself, he was detained a prisoner in New York for the greater part of the war ; in the mean time the Roost remained a melancholy ruin, its stone walls and brick chimneys alone standing, the resorts of bats and owls. Superstitious notions prevailed about it. None of the country people would venture alone at night down the rambling lane which led to it, overhung with trees and crossed here and there by a wild wandering brook. The story went that one of the victims of Jacob Van Tassel's great goose-gun had been buried there in unconsecrated ground.
Even the Tappan Sea in front was said to be haunted. Often in the still twilight of a summer evening, when the Sea would be as glass, and the opposite hills would throw their purple