Boswell's Tavern Hosts Sightseeing Army Officers, 1782

[Jean Francois Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780—81—82 (New York, 1828), pp. 211, 224-225:]

[themes—health; transportation—tavern culture; family life; Revolutionary War—memory]

From the moment the French troops were established in the quarters they occupied in Virginia [after the British surrender at Yorktown], I formed the project of traveling into the upper parts of that province, where I was assured that I should find objects worthy of exciting the curiosity of a stranger…. politeness and my duty obliged me to wait till April [1782]…. On the 8th of that month I set out…our little caravan consisted of four masters, six servants, and eleven horses.

The night was already closed in when we arrived at the house of Colonel Boswell, a tall, stout, Scotsman, about sixty years of age, and who had been about forty years settled in America, where, under English government, he was a colonel of militia. Although he kept a kind of tavern, he appeared but little prepared to receive strangers. It was already late indeed, besides that this road, which leads only to the mountains, is little frequented. He was quietly seated near the fire, by the side of his wife, as old, and almost as tall as himself, whom he distinguished by the epithet of “honey,” which in French corresponds with mon petit coeur. These honest people received us cheerfully, and soon called up their servants, who were already gone to bed. Whilst they were preparing supper, we often heard them call Rose, Rose, which at length brought to view the most hideous negress I ever beheld. Our supper was rather scanty, but our breakfast the next morning better; we had ham, butter, fresh eggs, and coffee by way of drink: for the whiskey or corn-spirits we had in the evening, mixt with water, was very bad; besides that we were perfectly reconciled to the American custom of drinking coffee with meat, vegetables, or other food.

We set out the next morning at eight o’clock, having learned nothing in this house worthy of remark, except that notwithstanding the hale and robust appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Boswell, not one of the fourteen of their children had attained the age of ten years.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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