Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. II., Description of the Mischianza.









"Philadelphia, May 23, 1778.

"For the first time in my life I write to you with unwillingness. The ship that carries home Sir William Howe will convey this letter to you; and not even the pleasure of conversing with my friend can secure me from the general dejection I see around me, or remove the share I must take in the universal regret and disappointment which his approaching departure hath spread throughout the army. We see him taken from us at a time when we most stand in need of so skillful and popular a commander; when the experience of three years, and the knowledge he hath acquired of the country and the people, have added to the confidence we always placed in his conduct and abilities. You know he was ever a favorite with the military; but the affection and attachment which all ranks of officers in this army bear him can only be known by those who have at this time seen them in their effects. I do not believe there is upon record an instance of a commander-in-chief having so universally endeared himself to those under his command, or of one who received such signal and flattering proofs of their love. That our sentiments might be the more universally and unequivocally known, it was resolved among us that we should give him as splendid an entertainment as the shortness of the time and our present situation would allow us. For the expenses, the whole army would have most cheerfully contributed; but it was requisite to draw the line somewhere, and twenty-two field-officers joined in a subscription adequate to the plan they meant to adopt. I know your curiosity will be raised on this occasion; I shall therefore give you as particular an account of our Mischianza as I have been able to collect. From the name, you will perceive that it was made up of a variety of entertainments.


Four of the gentlemen subscribers were appointed managers – Sir John Wrottlesly, Colonel O’Hara, Major Gardiner, and Montresor, the chief engineer.


On the tickets of admission, which they gave out for Monday the 18th, was engraved, in a shield, a view of the sea, with the setting sun, and on a wreath, the words Lucco discedens, aucto splendore resurgam. At the top was the general’s crest, with Vive vale! All around the shield ran a vignette, and various military trophies filled up the ground. A grand regatta began the entertainment. It consisted of three divisions. In the first was the Ferret galley, with Sir William and Lord Howe, Sir Henry Clinton, the officers of their suites, and some ladies. The Cornwallis galley brought up the rear, having on board General Knyphausen and his suite, three British generals, and a party of ladies. On each quarter of these galleys, and forming their division, were five flat-boats, lined with green cloth, and with ladies and gentlemen. In front of the whole were three flat-boats, with a band of music in each. Six barges rowed about each flank, to keep off the swarm of boats that covered the river from side to side. The galleys were dressed out in a variety of colors and streamers, and in each flat-boat was displayed the flag of its own division. In the stream, opposite the center of the city, the Fanny, armed ship, magnificently decorated, was placed at anchor, and at some distance ahead lay his majesty’s ship Roebuck, with the admiral’s flag hoisted at the fore-topmast head. The transport-ships, extending in a line the whole length of the town, appeared with colors flying, and crowded with spectators, as were also the opening of the several wharves on shore, exhibiting the most picturesque and enlivening scene the eye could desire. The rendezvous was at Knight’s Wharf, at the northern extremity of the city. 3 By half past four the whole company was embarked, and the signal being made by the Vigilant’s manning ship, the three divisions rowing slowly down, preserving their proper intervals, and keeping time to the music that led the fleet. Arrived between the Fanny and the Market Wharf, a signal was made from one of the boats ahead, and the whole lay upon their oars, while the music played God Save the King, and three cheers given from the vessels were returned from the multitude on shore. By this time the flood-tide became too rapid for the galleys to advance; they were therefore quitted, and the company disposed of in different barges. This alteration broke in on the order of procession, but was necessary to give sufficient time for displaying the entertainment that was prepared on shore. The landing-place was at the old fort, 4 a little to the southward of the town, fronting the building prepared for the reception of the company, about four hundred yards from the water by a gentle ascent. As soon as the general’s barge was seen to push from the shore, a salute of seventeen guns was fired from the Roebuck, and, after some interval, by the same number from the Vigilant. The company, as they disembarked, arranged themselves into a line of procession, and advanced through an avenue formed by two files of grenadiers, and a line of light horse supporting each file. This avenue led to a square lawn of one hundred and fifty yards on each side, lined with troops, and properly prepared for the exhibition of a tilt and tournament, according to the customs and ordinance of ancient chivalry. We proceeded through the center of the square. The music, consisting of all the bands of the army, moved in front. The managers, with favors of blue and white ribbons in their breasts, followed next in order. The general, admiral, and the rest of the company proceeded promiscuously. In front appeared the building, bounding the view, through a vista formed by two triumphal arches, erected at proper intervals in a line with the landing-place. Two pavilions, with rows of benches, rising one above the other, and serving as the advanced wings of the first triumphal arch, received the ladies, while the gentlemen arranged themselves in convenient order on each side. On the front seat of each pavilion were placed seven of the principal young ladies of the country, dressed in Turkish habits, and wearing in their turbans the favors with which they meant to reward the several knights who were to contend in their honor. These arrangements were scarce made, when the sound of trumpets was heard at a distance, and a hand of knights, dressed in ancient habits of white and red silk, and mounted on gray horses, richly caparisoned in trappings of the same colors, entered the list, attended by their esquires on foot, in suitable apparel, in the following order: four trumpeters, properly habited, their trumpets decorated with small pendant banners; a herald in his robe of ceremony; on his tunic was the device of his band; two roses intertwined, with the motto, We droop when separated.

Lord Cathcart, superbly mounted on a managed horse, appeared as chief of these knights; two young black slaves, with sashes and drawers of blue and white silk, wearing large silver clasps round their necks and arms, their breasts and shoulders bare, held his stirrups. On his right hand walked Captain Hazard, and on his left Captain Brownlow, his two esquires, one bearing his lance, the other his shield. His device was Cupid riding on a lion; the motto, Surmounted by Love. His lordship appeared in honor of Miss Auchmuty.

"Then came in order the knights of his band, each attended by his squire, bearing his lance and shield.


"First knight, Honorable Captain Cathcart, 5 in honor of Miss N. White; squire, Captain Peters; device, a heart and sword; motto, Love and honor.

"Second knight, Lieutenant Bygrove, in honor of Miss Craig; squire, Lieutenant Nichols; device, Cupid tracing a circle; motto, Without end.

"Third knight, Captain Andrè, 6 in honor of Miss P. Chew; squire, Lieutenant Andrè; device, two game-cocks fighting; motto, No rival.

"Fourth knight, Captain Horneck, in honor of Miss N. Redman; squire, Lieutenant Talbot; device, a burning heart; motto, Absence can not extinguish.

"Fifth knight, Captain Matthews, in honor of Miss Bond; squire, Lieutenant Hamilton; device, a winged heart; motto, Each fair by turns.

"Sixth knight, Lieutenant Sloper, in honor of Miss M. Shippen; 7 squire, Lieutenant Brown; device, a heart and sword; motto, Honor and the fair.

"After they had made the circuit of the square. and saluted the ladies as they passed before the pavilions, they ranged themselves in a line with that in which were the ladies of their device; and their herald (Mr. Beaumont), advancing into the center of the square, after the flourish of trumpets, proclaimed the following challenge: ‘The knights of the Blended Rose, by me their herald, proclaim and assert that the ladies of the Blended Rose excel in wit, beauty, and every accomplishment, those of the whole world; and should any knight or knights be so hardy as to dispute or deny it, they are ready to enter the list with them, and maintain their assertions by deeds of arms, according to the laws of ancient chivalry.’ At the third repetition of the challenge, the sound of trumpets was heard from the opposite side of the square, and another herald, with four trumpeters, dressed in black and orange, galloped into the list. He was met by the herald of the Blended Rose, and, after a short parley, they both advanced in front of the pavilions, when the black herald (Lieutenant More) ordered his trumpets to sound, and then proclaimed defiance to the challenge in the following words:

" ‘The knights of the Burning Mountain present themselves here, not to contest by words, but to disprove by deeds, the vainglorious assertion of the knights of the Blended Rose, and enter these lists to maintain that the ladies of the Burning Mountain are not excelled in beauty, virtue, or accomplishments by any in the universe.’

"He then returned to the part of the barrier through which he had entered, and shortly after, the black knights, attended by their squires, rode into the lists in the following order:

"Four trumpeters preceding the herald, on whose tunic was represented a mountain sending forth flames; motto, I burn forever.

"Captain Watson, of the Guards, as chief, dressed in a magnificent suit of black and orange silk, and mounted on a black, managed horse, with trappings of the same colors with his own dress, appeared in honor of Miss Franks. He was attended in the same manner as Lord Cathcart. Captain Scott bore his lance, and Lieutenant Lyttleton his shield. The device, a heart, with a wreath of flowers; motto, Love and glory.

"First knight, Lieutenant Underwood, in honor of Miss S. Shippen; squire, Ensign Haverkam; device, a pelican feeding her young; motto, For those I love.

"Second knight, Lieutenant Winyard, in honor of Miss P. Shippen; squire, Captain Boscawen; device, a bay leaf; motto, Unchangeable.

"Third knight, Lieutenant Delaval, in honor of Miss B. Bond; squire, Captain Thorne; device, a heart aimed at by several arrows, and struck by one; motto, Only one pierce me.

"Fourth knight, Monsieur Montluissant (Lieutenant of the Hessian chasseurs), in honor of Miss R. Redman; squire, Captain Campbell; device, a sunflower turning toward the sun; motto, Te vise a vous.

"Fifth knight, Lieutenant Hubbard, in honor of Miss S. Chew; squire, Lieutenant Briscoe; device, Cupid piercing a coat of mail with his arrow; motto, Proof to all but Love.

"Sixth knight, Brigade-major Tarlton, in honor of Miss W. Smith; squire, Ensign Heart; device, a light dragoon; motto, Swift, vigilant, and bold.

"After they had rode round the lists, and made their obeisance to the ladies, they drew up fronting the White Knights; and the chief of these having thrown down his gauntlet, the chief of the Black Knights directed his esquire to take it up. The knights then received their lances from their esquires, fixing their shields on their left arms, and, making a general salute to each other by a very graceful movement of their lances, turned round to take their career, and, encountering in full gallop, shivered their spears. In the second and third encounter they discharged their pistols. In the fourth, they fought with their swords. At length the two chiefs, spurring forward into the center, engaged furiously in single combat, till the marshal of the field (Major Gwyne) rushed in between the chiefs, and declared that the fair damsels of the Blended Rose and Burning Mountain were perfectly satisfied with the proofs of love and the signal feats of valor given by their respective knights, and commanded them, as they prized the future favors of their mistresses, that they would instantly desist from further combat. Obedience being paid by the chiefs to this order, they joined their respective bands. The White Knights and their attendants filed off to the left, the Black Knights to the right, and, after passing each other at the lower side of the quadrangle, moved up alternately till they approached the pavilions of the ladies, when they gave a general salute.

"A passage being now opened between the two pavilions, the knights, preceded by their squires and the bands of music, rode through the first triumphal arch, and arranged themselves to the right and left. This arch was erected in honor of Lord Howe. It presented two fronts, in the Tuscan order; the pediment was adorned with various naval trophies, and at top was the figure of Neptune, with a trident in his right hand. In a niche on each side stood a sailor with a drawn cutlass. Three plumes of feathers were placed on the summit of each wing, and in the entablature was this inscription: Laus illi debetur, et alme gratia major. The interval between the two arches was an avenue three hundred feet long and thirty-four broad. It was lined on each side with a file of troops; and the colors of all the army, planted at proper distances, had a beautiful effect in diversifying the scene. Between these colors the knights and squires took their stations. The bands continued to play several pieces of martial music.


From a Drawing by Major Andrè.

The company moved forward in procession, with the ladies in the Turkish habits in front; as these passed, they were saluted by their knights, who then dismounted and joined them; and in this order we were all conducted into a garden that fronted the house, through the second triumphal arch, dedicated to the general. This arch was also built in the Tuscan order. On the interior part of the pediment was painted a plume of feathers, and various military trophies. At top stood the figure of Fame, and in the entablature this device, I, bone, quo virtus tua te vocet; I pede fausto. On the right-hand pillar was placed a bomb-shell, and on the left a flaming heart. The front next the house was adorned with preparations for fire-works. From the garden we ascended a flight of steps covered with carpets, which led into a spacious hall; the panels painted in imitation of Sienna marble, 9 inclosing festoons of white marble; the surbase, and all below, was black. In this hall, and in the adjoining apartments, were prepared tea, lemonade, and other cooling liquors, to which the company seated themselves; during which time the knights came in, and on the knee received their favors from their respective ladies. One of these rooms was afterward appropriated for the use of the faro-table. As you entered it, you saw, on a panel over the chimney, a cornucopia, exuberantly filled with flowers of the richest colors; over the door, as you went out, another represented itself shrunk, reversed, and emptied.

"From these apartments we were conducted up to a ball-room, decorated in a light, elegant style of painting. The ground was a pale blue, paneled with a small gold bead, and in the interior filled with dropping festoons of flowers in their natural colors. Below the surbase the ground of rose-pink, with drapery festooned in blue. These decorations were heightened by eighty-five mirrors, 10 decked with rose-pink silk ribbons and artificial flowers; and in the intermediate spaces were thirty-four branches with wax-lights, ornamented in a similar manner.

"On the same floor were four drawing-rooms, with side-boards of refreshments, decorated and lighted in the same style and taste as the ball-room. The ball was opened by the knights and their ladies, and the dances continued till ten o’clock, when the windows were thrown open, and a magnificent bouquet of rockets began the fire-works. These were planned by Captain Montressor, the chief engineer, and consisted of twenty different exhibitions, displayed under his direction with the happiest success, and in the highest style of beauty. Toward the conclusion, the interior part of the triumphal arch was illuminated, amid an uninterrupted flight of rockets and bursting of balloons. The military trophies on each side assumed a variety of transparent colors. The shell and flaming heart on the wings sent forth Chinese fountains, succeeded by fire-pots. Fame appeared at top, spangled with stars, and from her trumpet blowing the following device in letters of light: Les Lauriers sont immortels. A sauteur of rockets, bursting from the pediment, concluded the feu d’artifice.

"At twelve supper was announced, and large folding-doors, hitherto artfully concealed, being suddenly thrown open, discovered a magnificent saloon of two hundred and ten feet by forty, and twenty-two feet in height, with three alcoves on each side, which served for side-boards. The ceiling was the segment of a circle, and the sides were painted of a light straw color, with vine leaves and festoons of flowers, some in a bright, some in a darkish green. Fifty-six large pier-glasses, ornamented with green silk artificial flowers and ribbons; one hundred branches, with three lights in each, trimmed in the same manner as the mirrors; eighteen lusters, each with twenty-four lights, suspended from the ceiling, and ornamented as the branches; three hundred wax tapers, disposed along the supper-tables; four hundred and thirty covers; twelve hundred dishes; twenty-four black slaves in Oriental dresses, with silver collars and bracelets, ranged in two lines, and bending to the ground as the general and admiral approached the saloon; all these, forming together the most brilliant assemblage of gay objects, and appearing at once as we entered by an easy descent, exhibited a coup d’œil beyond description magnificent.

"Toward the end of supper, the herald of the Blended Rose, in his habit of ceremony, attended by his trumpets, entered the saloon, and proclaimed the king’s health, the queen, and the royal family; the army and navy, with their respective commanders; the knights and their ladies; the ladies in general. Each of these toasts was followed by a flourish of music. After supper we returned to the ball-room, and continued to dance till four o’clock.

"Such, my friend, is the description, though a very faint one, of the most splendid entertainment, I believe, ever given by an army to their general. But what must be more grateful to Sir William Howe is the spirit and motive from which it was given. He goes from this to-morrow; but, as I understand, he means to stay a day or two with his brother on board the Eagle, at Billingsport. I shall not seal this letter till I see him depart from Philadelphia. . . . . ."



1 This is from a silhouette cut by Major Andrè.

2 This is a copy of the Mischianza Ticket, one half the size of the original, which, with the drawing of the head-dress upon page 100, were made by Major Andrè. These were presented to John F. Watson, Esq.. by Miss Craig, one of the ladies who participated in the fête. These curious relics are attached to manuscript annals of Philadelphia, prepared by Mr. Watson, and by him generously presented to the Franklin Library of that city.

3 A little distance above the present Vine Street.

4 A little below the present navy yard.

5 Captain (afterward Earl) Cathcart was a son of Lord Cathcart, the chief of the knights on this occasion.

6 Afterward Major Andrè. The lady in whose honor he appeared was daughter of Chief-justice Chew. His squire was his brother, a youth of nineteen, whom the king afterward knighted, as mentioned on page 767, vol. i.

7 Afterward the wife of General Arnold.

8 The costume of the ladies was as follows: those of the Blended Rose a white silk, called a Polonaise, forming a flowing robe, and open in front to the waist; the pink sash six inches wide, and filled with spangles; the shoes and stockings also spangled; the head-dress more towering than the drawing, and filled with a profusion of pearls and jewels. The vail was spangled, and edged with silver lace. The ladies of the Burning Mountain wore white sashes edged with black, and black trimmings to white silk Polonaise gowns.

There were no ladies of British officers at the entertainment, except Miss Auchmuty, the new bride of Captain Montressor. There were not exceeding fifty American young ladies present; the others were married, and these were few, for most of the ladies had left the city on the approach of the British. – Watson’s Annals, ii., 293.

9 The chief portions of the decorations were painted by Major Andrè and Captain Oliver Delancy, of New York. The Sienna marble was on canvas, in imitation of scene-painting in theaters. They also painted the scenery for the theater that was established in Philadelphia that winter, the proceeds of which were given to the widows and orphans of their soldiers. – Watson’s Annals, ii., 292.

10 All these mirrors and lusters, according to Mr. Watson, the annalist, were borrowed from the citizens, and were all sent back with the ornaments on. Mr. Watson derived much information on these points from Mrs. L-----, the "queen of the Mischianza."



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