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Story of John Champe
Part Nine
Published By
The Historical Society of Hudson County, NJ

By DANIEL VAN WINKLE

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

When Middleton departed it was a few minutes past twelve, so that Champe had only the start of rather more than an hour, by no means as long as was desired. Lee became very unhappy, not only lest the estimable and gallant Champe might be injured, but lest the enterprise might be delayed, and he spent a sleepless night. The pursuing party during the night was on their part delayed by the necessary halts to examine occasionally the road as the impression of the horse's shoes directed their course. This was unfortunately too evident, no other horse having passed along the road since the shower. When the day broke Middleton was no longer forced to halt, and he pressed on with rapidity. Ascending an eminence before he reached the "Three Pigeons," some miles on the north of the village of Bergen, as the pursuing party reached the summit, Champe way descried not more than half a mile in front. Resembling an Indian in his vigilance, the Sergeant at the same moment discovered the party whose object he was no stranger to and, giving spur to his horse, he determined to outstrip his pursuers. Middleton at the same instant put his horses to the top of their speed, and being, as the Legion all were, well acquainted with the country. he recollected a short route through the woods to the bridge below Bergen, which diverged from the great road just after you gain the "Three Pigeons." Reaching the point of separation lie halted and, dividing his party, directed a Sergeant with a few dragoons to take the near cut and possess with all possible dispatch the bridge, while he with the residue followed Champe, not doubting but that Champe must deliver himself up, as lie would be enclosed between himself and his Sergeant. Champe did not forget the short cut, and would have taken it himself, but he knew it was the usual route of our parties when returning in the day from the neighborhood of the enemy, properly preferring the woods to the road. He consequently avoided it, and, persuaded that Middleton would avail himself of it, wisely resolved to relinquish his intention of getting to Paulus Hook and to seek refuge from two British galleys lying a few miles to the west of Bergen.

This was a station always occupied by one or two galleys, and which it was known now lay there. Entering the village of Bergen, Champe turned to his right and, disguising his change of course as much as he could by taking the beaten streets, turning as they turned, he passed through the village and took the road toward Elizabethtown Point. Middleton's Sergeant gained the bridge, where he concealed himself, ready to pounce upon Champe when he came up, and Middleton, pursuing his course through Bergen, soon got also to the bridge when, to his extreme mortification, he found that the Sergeant had slipped through his fingers. Returning up the road, he inquired of the villagers of Bergen whether a dragoon had been seen that morning ahead of his party. He was answered in the affirmative, but could learn nothing satisfactory as to the route he took. While engaged in inquiries himself, he spread his party through the village to strike the trail of Champe's horse, a resort always recurred to. Some of his dragoons hit it just as the Sergeant, leaving the village, got in the road to the Point. Pursuit was renewed with vigor and again Champe was descried. He, apprehending the event, had prepared himself for it by lashing his valise (containing his clothes and orderly book) on his shoulders and holding his drawn sword in his hand, having thrown away the scabbard. This he did to save what was indispensable to him and to prevent any interruption to his swimming should Middieton, as he presumed when disappointed at the bridge take measures adopted by him. The pursuit was rapid and close, as the stop occasioned by the Sergeant's preparations for swimming had brought Middleton within two or three hundred yards. As soon as Champe got abreast of the two galleys he dismounted and. running through the marsh to the river, plunged into it, calling upon the galleys for help.

This was readily given, they fired upon our horse and sent a boat to meet Champe, who was taken in and carried on board and conveyed to New York with a letter from the Captain of the galley, stating the circumstances he had seen. The horse, with his equipment, the Sergeant's cloak and scabbard, were recovered, the sword itself, being held by Champe until he plunged into the river, was lost, as Middleton found it necessary to retire without searching for it. About three o'clock in the evening our party returned and the soldiers, seeing the well-known horse in our possession, made the air resound with acclamations that the scoundrel was killed. Major Lee, called by this heart-rending annunciation from his tent, say- the Sergeant's horse led by one of Middleton's dragoons and began to reproach himself with the blood of the high-prized faithful and intrepid Champe. Stifling his agony, he advanced to meet Middleton and became somewhat relieved as soon as he got near enough to discern the countenance of the officer and party. There was evidence in their looks of disappointment, and he was quickly relieved by Middleton's information that the Sergeant had effected his escape with the loss of his horse, and nar- rated the particulars just recited.

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Part One

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