Moody Raids Sussex

Loyalist James Moody, an Ensign in the British NJ Volunteers, "Skinners Greeens" is famous (or infamous) for his raids.

He intercepted mails, recruited for the British, plotted to capture Governor Livingston, and was very successful at making himself a dangerous pest. Here is his account of his raid on the Court House of Sussex County in XXXXX. This account is taking from "Patriots of the American Revolution"edited by Richard Dorson, Gramercy Books, pages 134-135, taken from the 1783 edition of Moody's "Narratives". It is a good example of the raids that had to be defended against at all times, not only near New York City, but everywhere in NJ.


RETURNING again into Sussex County, he now heard that several prisoners were confined, on various suspicions and charges of loyalty, in the jail of that county, and that one of them was actually under sentence of death. This poor fellow was one of Burgoyne's soldiers, charged with crimes of a civil nature, of which, however, he was generally believed to be innocent. But when a clergyman of the Church of England interposed with his unrelenting prosecutor, and warmly urged this plea of innocence, he was sharply told that, though he might not perhaps deserve to die for the crime for which he had been committed, there could be no doubt of his deserving to die as an enemy to America.

There was something so piteous, as well as shameful, in the case of this ill-fated victim to republican resentment that it was determined, if possible, to release both him and his fellow-prisoners. For this purpose Mr. Moody took with him six men and, late at night, entered the country town, about seventy miles from New York. The inhabitants of the town were but too generally disaffected. This suggested the necessity of stratagem. Coming to the jail, the keeper called out from the window of an upper room, and demanded what their business was. The Ensign instantly replied he had a prisoner to deliver into his custody. "What! One of Moody's fellows?" said the jailer. "Yes," said the Ensign. On his inquiring what the name of this supposed prisoner was, one of the party, who was well known by the inhabitants of that place to be with Mr. Moody, personated the character of a prisoner, and spoke for himself. The jailer gave him a little ill language, but notwithstanding seemed highly pleased with the idea of his having so notorious a Tory in his custody.

On the Ensign's urging him to come down and take charge of the man, he peremptorily refused, alleging that, in consequence of Moody's being out, he had received strict orders to open his doors to no man after sunset, and that therefore he must wait till morning.

Finding that this tale would not take, the Ensign now changed his note, and in a stern tone told him, "Sirrah, the man who now speaks to you is Moody. I have a strong party with me, and, if you do not this moment deliver up your keys, I will instantly pull down your house about your ears."

The jailer vanished in a moment. On this, Mr. Moody's men, who were well skilled in the Indian war whoop, made the air resound with such a variety of hideous yells as soon left them nothing to fear from the inhabitants of Newton, which, though the county town, consists only of twenty or thirty houses. "The Indians, the Indians are comel" said the panic-struck people, and happy were they who could soonest escape into the woods. While these things were thus going on, the Ensign had made his way through a casement and was met by a prisoner, whom he immediately employed to procure him a light. The vanished jailer was now again produced, and most obsequiously conducted Mr. Moody to the dungeon of the poor wretch under sentence of death.

It may seem incredible, but it is an undoubted fact, that notwithstanding all the horrors and awfulness of his situation, this poor, forlorn, condemned British soldier was found fast asleep, and had slept so sound as to have heard nothing of the uproar or alarm. There is no possibility of describing the agony of this man when, on being thus suddenly aroused, he saw before him a man in arms, attended by persons whom, though they were familiarly known to him, so agitated were his spirits, he was utterly at a loss then to recognize. The first and the only idea that occurred to him was that, as many of the friends of government had been privately executed in prison, the person he saw was his executioner. On Mr. Moody's repeatedly informing him of his mistake, and that he was come to release him in the name of King George, the transition from such an abyss of wretchedness to so extravagant a pitch of joy had well-nigh overcome him.



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I recommend also Captain John Outwater's Co. of Bergen county Militia web page.


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