Mother met the strangers at the door with the Fowler. She is a gutsy woman who does not appreciate her quiet evening meals disturbed. There was a tense moment while father waited for the man in charge – a corporal – to explain that they were just soldiers in the Continental Army, looking for a house to stay in, not just on this night because of the rain, but for the rest of the winter. Much to my dismay, my parents allowed them inside. Although I support the fight for independence because my parents have told me many stories about the persecution they faced, I was not happy about giving up the largest room of our quaint stone house. Now our dining table is explicitly for use by the soldiers and we are forced to eat at the work table in the kitchen and our other parlor furniture is moved into the kitchen. Our beautiful sitting/dining room has been converted to a bedroom and living quarters for six dirty, tired men for the 8th Connecticut and New York regiment.
Mother spoke with Corporal Runions and made it abundantly clear that while her family will share their food and living quarters, she and her daughters would not be maids and housekeepers for six men. The corporal assured her his men knew how to use a broom. Yet, the next morning I found myself broom in hand, sweeping up clumps of dried mud. Mother was busy making bread pudding and I needed a good reason to look at all the men’s gear and to make sure none of our household goods found their way into a bedroll or knapsack.
A note about our Quaker family: father is Milltown’s black smith.
Mother had ten children, not all of them survived to adulthood.
I am a middle child, and though married, returned to live with my parents after my husband went to fight on the colonists’ side.
Rebecca, the youngest, still lives at home and she will surely find a husband once this war is over.
After midday meal of cold smoked ham, bread and butter, and cheese, Becky and I baked the pudding. Mother is so clever to combine flour, milk, and eggs to left over porridge and apples. While we were tending the coals and waiting for the pudding to finish, our neighbor from up the hill, Miss Christina Irwin, paid us a visit to help mother with her mending. Mother frequently employs Miss Martin’s help because she is very knowledgeable about garment construction. Miss Irwin kindly invited the ladies of our home to tea at her home because they celebrate Christmas this day.
Currently, while their parents are away tending to their other daughter’s pregnancy, the two Irwin daughters, Christina and Miriam, have their aunt and uncle Martin staying with them. The Irwin home is very well tended. While our home is made of stone, theirs is wood and their floors have been stained a nice dark color. The wood work is a mix between natural wood and a beautiful yellow that adds a nice color and warmth to the rooms.
When my sister and I arrived at the Irwin’s we were surprised to discover the soldiers (who were quartered at our house) gathered around their dining room table sharing a bottle of shrub with the Irwin’s and their aunt and uncle. It was a very festive scene to be sure. Apparently, my father had visited the Irwins and Martins earlier that day and had “accidentally” left his mitts there when he discovered that Christina had her eye on the soldier, Joseph Plumb Martin; hence that afternoon, he sent Joseph P. Martin to fetch his mitts. Father is also quite clever to give the young Mr. Martin a reason to see the young Miss Irwin as she is in want of a husband. But back to when my sister and I visited the Irwins and Martins. The soldiers were all seated on one side of the table and they all stood upon Becky and me entering the room. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been in the presence of such gentlemen. Each one offered their chair to my sister and I. Because I wasn’t sure how Becky felt about being in the company of such men, I took the seat nearest a soldier with spectacles and a red mustache. (I had heard his jolly laugh earlier that morning in my home and thought it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about him). Mr. Martin (the soldier), gave his chair to Becky. That left him without a place at the table. But Miss Irwin is clever indeed, and immediately made her sister move over one seat so that the soldier Mr. Martin was left with only one choice: the spot right next to herself.
For half an hour, the soldiers regaled us with stories of battles they’d been through. The carnage is most distressing. It makes me worry even more for my own husband. Though when the women grew weary of such tales, Miss Irwin suggested they sing songs. Each man has a strong singing voice and all of them sounded quite nice together. I especially liked the song called “Spanish Ladies.” The soldiers were even kind enough to ask if we would allow them to sing Christmas carols – as we are Quaker and do not celebrate – and we allowed them this small celebration. I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas songs and wish I knew the words because I would have joined in.
Miss Irwin was kind enough to take me on a tour of her home; I had not visited in a few months (even though we live relatively close to each other) and she had made some updates to her wardrobe and linen supply that she had been wanting to share with me for some time.
The soldiers departed and soon, we journeyed back to our little stone house after a lovely visit. Mother’s second pudding – a bread pudding – was just coming out of the baking kettle when we arrived. This time we didn’t have to save it for a special occasion, but were able to enjoy it later that evening after dinner when the Martins and Irwins joined us for merriment at our home. Miss C. Irwin wore her new Italian gown. It is a beautiful white fabric with small red flowers all over it. She looked most becoming and we both hoped Mr. Martin, the soldier, would agree with us. She and her sister sat either side of him at one end of the table with Mr. Martin, their uncle, nearby to chaperone.
The other soldiers found their cups and much Christmas merriment. Mother did not allow Becky and I to partake in such rabblerousing (I wanted to learn more songs), and instead we served desert to our guests (then ate our own fair share) and visited with Mrs. Martin, Miss Irwin’s aunt. She had much advice about finding a suitable mate, making pudding, and sewing gowns. We have decided on a few new sewing projects for the winter – both Becky and I need new stays.
The previous night I slept in my stays because it was so cold outside and though we are not poor and in need of fire wood, mother and father keep small fires going and pile more wool blankets on the bed. However, after a long day of working and visiting, off came the stays so my body could fully relax. We do not bathe as frequently in the winter because it is just too much of an inconvenience to haul water and heat it, but mother insists on having fresh, clean water in the wash bowl so we can scrub our faces in the evening and morning.
I slept peacefully and soundly that night knowing I am surrounded by such wonderful family and friends. Even though these strangers are now sleeping right in the next room, they are of good character it seems and would go out of their way to protect us against the British. I pray that my husband returns safely and that my sister Becky and my friends, the Irwin sisters find a loving companion of their own.