Gateway to the Classics: Peter of Amsterdam by James Otis
Peter of Amsterdam by  James Otis

Hastening Back to New Amsterdam

It can well be supposed that every man of us, from the Director down to the youngest soldier, was eager to get back to New Amsterdam, for I question whether, with the single exception of myself, there was a member of the company who had not left behind him loved ones; and how could our people find any satisfaction in continuing the conquest of the Swedes, when there was every possibility that the savages were murdering and torturing white men, women, and children?


Within an hour after the messenger had arrived, two hundred of the soldiers were sent across the land to New Amsterdam, under orders to march at their swiftest possible pace until they were come to the city. As soon after these men had set off as could be arranged for, the fleet was in motion.

Because of my having received no orders whatsoever, I remained on board the De Waag, and my heart was so sore that I could not talk with those around me concerning what we had heard, or what we had done.

To me both were equally horrible. It was villainous work for us to drive the poor Swedes away, and it seemed almost like a judgment of God, that the Indians should have descended upon our city at a time when we were showing ourselves to be no better than savages.

Fortunately, or so it seemed, we had a favoring wind, and within four and twenty hours from the time of making sail, were come to anchor off the fort. That those who had been sent across by land had arrived, we knew because of the numbers to be seen on duty in the bastions, and that the Indians had not made further attack upon New Amsterdam, we also understood because of the people who were gathered to give us welcome.

I went directly from the ship to the storehouse, where I found Kryn Gildersleeve and his fellow clerks working valiantly to pack our goods into cases, which had been brought from Holland, with the hope that these might be saved, even though the savages gained possession of the town.


Although I held my peace, the thought was in my heart that he who could give his time to the saving of such useless trinkets as ours, when mayhap before morning not a single white man would be alive, was much the same as trifling with the Angel of Death.

However, I was soon engaged in the same task, and while thus busy, forgot everything save the fact that I was the clerk in charge of the storehouse, whose duty it was to look after whatsoever we had for barter, whether to my mind it was of value or not.

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