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The Dutch Mess

July 6, 2018

What was a mess?  “Soldiers during the War for Independence usually had to carry their cooking equipment with them on the march.  Through various types of cooking utensils were procured by the men, camp kettles were the only food preparation item issued in large numbers to the army.  One kettle was the normal allotment for each mess squad; a single mess was comprised of the men assigned to one tent, the standard being six men in the Continental army, five in the British army.  While cast-iron pots were used on occasion, the preferred containers were light-weight kettles made of tin or sheet-iron, large numbers of which were used by troops on both sides throughout the war.” 1

 

Composition of the Dutch Mess:

 

The Dutch Mess consisted of Charles Grim, Adam Heiskell, Adam Kurtz, Peter Lauck, John Schultz and Jacob Sperry. 2

The term Dutch is a derivative of the Pennsylvania Dutch or Deutsch for the German and Swiss early settlers.  In my research of the Dutch Mess, one member’s father was born in Holland but was of German descent. 

All of the Dutch Mess were taken prisoner with their Captain Daniel Morgan at Quebec in 1775.  Adam Heiskell was wounded in the assault on Quebec.

“Adam Kurtz is the only one of the Morgan Riflemen to be mentioned by Mr. William Greenway Russell in the text of What I know About Winchester, whom is identified by name as a member of “The Dutch Mess”. 3

 

“Daniel Morgan stayed at home, his health at times better, at times worse.  Occasionally he reminisced with six Winchester men who had gone with him to Quebec in 1775.  All Germans, these veterans formed a kind of club call the Dutch Mess which met to recount Revolutionary days”.  4

 

Militia or Continental

 

The travels of a Presbyterian minister, Reverend Fithian, were published in two journals. This event occurred in 1775 and the unit was militia and if it was Morgan’s Company they became Continentals in less than a fortnight.  

“Possibly Morgan and his militia-men were in Winchester on June 6, 1775, when a young preacher named Philip Fithian visited there and recorded his observations: Mars, the great God of Battle, is now honored in every Part of this spacious Colony, but here every Presence is warlike, every Sound is martial!  Drums beating, Fifes & Bag-Pipes playing, & only sonorous & heroic Tunes-Every Man has a hunting-Shirt, which is the Uniform of each Company-Almost all have a Cockade, & Bucks-Tale in their Hats, to represent that they are hardy, resolute & trying Determination-……”

Obviously impressed, he returned thirteen days later and found the men still in arms-to the youthful minister, they made “a grand Figure.” 5

 

The First Continental Soldiers

 

The first really true Continental units were when Congress voted on June 14, 1775; to raise ten companies of “expert riflemen”.  The rifle was almost unknown in New England, so the creation of these new units was the first of its kind. 

 “When lawmakers called on Frederick County to provide one Virginia company, the patriot committee wholeheartedly agreed.  Daniel Morgan was unanimously elected as the best man for the job.” 6

Frederick County Committee to Captain Daniel Morgan, June 22, 1775

“In obedience to a resolve of the Continental Congress, dated 14th of June, 1775, viz.: “That six companies of expert riflemen be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia; that each company, as soon as completed, shall march and join the army near Boson; to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief officer of that army – this committee, reposing a special trust in the courage, conduct, and reverence for liberty under the spirit of the British constitution, of Daniel Morgan, Esq., do hereby certify that we have unanimously appointed him to command a Virginia company of riflemen to march from this county.  ……” 7

To recruit men for his Rifle Company, Morgan is quoted as saying “Come boy’s, who’ll follow me to the camp at Cambridge?”

“So great was the response in Frederick County that Morgan raised 96 (86) men, …more than the stipulated company size by Congress.  Mostly in their early twenties, they were tall rangy men, each equipped with a rifle, tomahawk, and scalping knife, and dressed in long hunting shirt, leggins, and moccasins….  Before leaving Winchester, Morgan paraded his men by the courthouse, the Anglican church, and Philip Bush’s popular Golden Buck Tavern.” 8

The number of men Morgan raised and marched to Cambridge is by tradition and the best information to date comes from B. Floyd Flickinger whose research says the actual number in Captain Morgan’s Company was 86, based on receipts obtained from the Connecticut State Library that have four accounts of feeding 86 men of Morgan’s Company and horses on different dates and locations.  The ferry billing to move Morgan’s Rifle Company across the Connecticut River for 86 men, two wagons with teams (eight horses) and two pack horses was for nine shillings and 6 pence. 9

 

The Beeline March

 

Morgan’s company was by mid-July were ready to go to Boston, as were Captain Stephenson and his company of Virginians in Shepherdstown….it was claimed that the two Virginia rifle commanders had agreed to rendezvous in Frederick, Maryland and then proceed to Massachusetts together, but Morgan began his march early and never looked back.  This led to claims that Morgan purposefully deceived Stephenson into delaying his departure from Shepherdstown so that he could, “steal a march on Stephenson and have the honor of being the first to reach the army in Boston.” 10

Whatever his motivation Captain Morgan and his company left Winchester on July 14th…. pushed ahead and crossed the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry on July 15th.  11

Captain Morgan and his men arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Sunday evening, August 6th, five days ahead of Captain Stephenson.”  12 This was considered a unique feat of a 600-mile march in twenty-four days.

 “Stern were the faces and coarse the coats,

Yet words lost their way in quiverying throats;

Hands wrung hand in quick good-by,

Many a tear came to many an eye,

To backward go with a cruel thrill,

For women and all bid their hearts be still:

Husband, wife, maid, every one

Knew but one duty, and it was done,

Prayers went up, men knelt them down.

And swore to march to Boston Town.” 13

 

Final Farewell

 

General Daniel Morgan passed away at the age of 66 on July 6, 1802, in Winchester, Virginia.  “The military escorted the corpse to the grave and buried it with the honors of war.  In the procession were seven members of the rifle company which Morgan raised and marched to Boston in 1775.  It might be truly said, that none in that sad cortege, were sincerer mourners than these men.  They carried their war-worn rifles with them and fired over his grave their last military farewell.” 14

 

“Morgan’s Virginians,” through their successful exploits as marksmen, scouts and soldiers on the battlefield, were considered amongst the Elite of the American forces.  When Morgan was once asked which race of those composing the American armies, made the best soldiers, he replied:

“As for the fighting part of the matter, the men of all races are pretty much alike; they fight as much as they find necessary, and no more.  But sir, for grand essential composition of a good soldier, give me the ‘Dutchman’ –he starves well.” 15

The Dutch Mess survived the War for American Independence and became honored veterans in their community.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. “Properly fixed upon the Men…” Linen Bags for Camp Kettles, John U. Rees, 1997, Published in the Brigade Dispatch (Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution), Vol. XXVII, no. 3 (Autumn 1997), page 2.

2. Garland R. Quarles, Men & Events of the Revolution in Winchester & Frederick County, Virginia.  Winchester-Frederick Co. Historical Society Papers (Winchester, Virginia:  privately printed, 1975), 58.

3.  William Greenway Russell, What I Know about Winchester:  Recollections of William Greenway Russell, 1800-1891 (Winchester VA:  Winchester Printers, Inc., 1972) 35.

4.  Dan Higginbotham Daniel Morgan Revolutionary Rifleman, 212.

5.   Philip Vickers Fithian Journal, 1775-1776, Princeton University Press, 1934, 24-25, 31.

6.  Dan Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan Revolutionary Rifleman, 21-22.

7.  Michael Cecere, A Good and Valuable Officer, Daniel Morgan in the Revolutionary War, 17-18.

8.  Dan Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan Revolutionary Rifleman, 23.

9.   B. Floyd Flickinger, “Captain Morgan and His Rifleman,” in Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society Journal, Volume 14 2002, 56.

10. Michael Cecere, A Good and Valuable Officer, Daniel Morgan in the Revolutionary War, 24.

11.B. Floyd Flickinger, “Captain Morgan and His Rifleman,” 55.

12.  Michael Cecere, A Good and Valuable Officer, Daniel Morgan in the Revolutionary War, 27.

13.  Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, part of a poem by Charles McIlwaine, 77.

14.  James Graham, The Life of General Daniel Morgan of the Virginia Line of the Army of the United States, (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856), 448.

15. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg Richards, The Pennsylvania-German in the Revolutionary War – 1775-1783, in The Pennsylvania-German Society Proceedings and Addresses, Lancaster, PA 1908), 84.

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