Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The "Shirt Men"

From a letter reprinted in The Magazine of History with Notes and Queries, Vol. III, January-June 1906, published by William Abbatt, New York:

    June 12 1775.

    "Patriot Dixon son of the once beautiful and good natured York Lady, with some others went in the night to rob the magazine.
    There being no ground about it 'tis said some of the seamen of the Fowey when at Wmsburg set some of the guns, so as to go off if a string near them was touched, accordingly off went a gun; when the patriots went in to steal; none of them were wounded. They immediately alarmed the town, swearing that the magazine was full of armed men and 40 guns had been fired at them. You will see the Govr with his famillie on board the Fowey again, I do not think his Lady will return to Williamsburg. 'Tis said he will, provided the shirt men are sent away. These shirt men or Virginia uniform are dressed with an Oznaburg shirt over their cloaths, a belt round them with a Tommyhawk or Scalping Knife. They look like a band of Assassins and it is my opinion if they fight at all it will be in that way." He [Norfolk tory James Parker] ends "I am still of opinion when General Gage begins to act on the offensive the Rebellion will be immediately crushed."