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Main > United States folktales > Fairy tale "Crosby, the Patriot Spy"

Crosby, the Patriot Spy

It was at the Jay house, in Westchester, New York, that Enoch Crosby met Washington and offered his services to the patriot army. Crosby was a cobbler, and not a very thriving one, but after the outbreak of hostilities he took a peddler's outfit on his back and, as a non-combatant, of Tory sympathies, he obtained admission through the British lines. After his first visit to head quarters it is certain that he always carried Sir Henry Clinton's passport in the middle of his pack, and so sure were his neighbors that he was in the service of the British that they captured him and took him to General Washington, but while his case was up for debate he managed to slip his handcuffs, which were not secure, and made off. Clinton, on the other hand, was puzzled by the unaccountable foresight of the Americans, for every blow that he prepared to strike was met, and he lost time and chance and temper. As if the suspicion of both armies and the hatred of his neighbors were not enough to contend against, Crosby now became an object of interest to the Skinners and Cowboys, who were convinced that he was making money, somehow, and resolved to have it.

The Skinners were camp-followers of the American troops and the Cowboys a band of Tories and renegade British. Both factions were employed, ostensibly, in foraging for their respective armies, but, in reality, for themselves, and the farmers and citizens occupying the neutral belt north of Manhattan Island had reason to curse them both impartially. While these fellows were daring thieves, they occasionally got the worst of it, even in the encounters with the farmers, as on the Neperan, near Tarrytown, where the Cowboys chased a woman to death, but were afterward cut to pieces by the enraged neighbors. Hers is but one of the many ghosts that haunt the neutral ground, and the croaking of the birds of ill luck that nest at Raven rock is blended with the cries of her dim figure. Still, graceless as these fellows were, they affected a loyalty to their respective sides, and were usually willing to fight each other when they met, especially for the plunder that was to be got by fighting.

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