Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume II by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume II by  Mara L. Pratt

The Half-Witted Tory Boy

At the very beginning Burgoyne was upset in his plans by a half-witted boy. To be sure, this was no credit to the boy, nor was it any discredit to Burgoyne; still, in the later days of the war, when Burgoyne had been conquered by the Americans, and had been made to surrender, the colonists liked now and then to recall this little story as a joke.

St. Leger had been sent by Burgoyne to take a certain fort. Knowing this, Arnold was sent by the American general to hold the same fort against the attack. How the battle might have ended had Arnold and St. Leger met, we cannot tell, but, as the story goes, this is the way Arnold won the fort. He had with him as a prisoner a half-witted boy. He had been taken from some Tory family very likely; for he would not or could not understand that he was in the hands of the Whigs, and so would keep saying over and over in his foolish way, "I Tory! I Tory!"

As the little fellow was homesick and miserable, Arnold was struck with the idea that perhaps he could make some use of him by offering him his freedom. So calling him to him he said, "My young lad, would you like to go home?"

The poor little fellow jumped about and uttered some strange sounds that meant to express his joy at the thought.

Then Arnold explained to him that if he would go to the camp of St. Leger and tell him that a grea-a-at b-i-ig army of Americans was coming to attack him, he should be given his liberty.

The boy understood, and away he went. He cut his clothes full of round holes to represent bullet holes, and rushed breathless into St. Leger's camp.

"What is it, boy? Where are you from? Who are you?" asked the British officers, frightened at his appearance.

I cannot tell you how he did it; but he managed to make St. Leger believe that a terrible army was bearing down upon him and that he had better escape while he could. When St. Leger asked him how many there were, he pointed to the leaves of the trees, as if to say no one could count them. The result was that St. Leger and his men took to flight, not even taking time to take down their tents or pack their supplies.

They say, "All things are fair in war"—if so, I suppose this must have been fair. How does it seem to you little boys and little girls? You will have to talk this over with your teacher, I think.

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