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Stories of New Jersey
The Story Of A Spy
(Period, 1758-80.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

WHEN a nation goes to war with another, it is often necessary for the armies on each side to leave behind some of the high and noble principles which may have governed them at home. Of course, war is bloody and cruel, and it almost always happens that the officers and soldiers are obliged to descend also to meanness and duplicity in order to succeed in their campaigns.

One strong reason for this is the necessity for the employment of spies. It is always desirable for the commander of an army to know as far as possible the condition of the enemy's force, and what he is doing or intends to do. Consequently it is a common thing to send spies into the enemy's ranks; and the better those spies can deceive the soldiers of the other side, the more valuable will be their report, if they are fortunate enough to get back into their own camp.

Sometimes a spy will sneak into the enemy's lines, and make his observations in concealment and safety; but the most valuable spies are those which enter an enemy's camp pretending sympathy and friendship. A man who can do this well can find out a great deal.

In every army a spy from the other side is regarded as the worst of enemies, and if captured, his punishment is death. An impartial outsider might object to this severity, when it is considered that the army which punishes the spy may, at the same time, have spies of its own among the enemy. During the Revolution, Major Andre was executed because he came into the American lines as a spy, and at the same time General Washington was very glad to get a good spy to send into a British camp.

There was a man named John Honeyman, who acted with great success in this capacity on the patriotic side during the Revolution. Honeyman was a Scotch-Irishman, and was said to be a remarkably fine looking man. He was tall, strong, extremely active, and had a fine military bearing. He had no desire to become a soldier; but he was forced into the British army, and came to this country in 1758, when Abercrombie came over to attack the French in Canada. Young Colonel Wolfe, who was afterwards the famous General Wolfe who fell at Quebec, had command of this army, and on the ship in which he sailed was John Honeyman.

Military men are not as sure-footed as sailors on board a ship, which may be rolling and tossing on rough waters; and one day, as Colonel Wolfe was coming into the cabin, he tripped and fell when he was halfway down the companion way, and would probably have broken his neck, if it had not been that Honeyman happened to be at the bottom of the steps, and caught the colonel in his arms, thus saving him from injury.

It is very satisfactory for a full-grown man, especially one whose profession exposes him to accidents of various kinds, to be able to take into his service another man who is tall enough and strong enough to pick him up and carry him if it is necessary, and who is also quick-witted enough to know when he should interpose himself in case of danger.

Honeyman's conduct on this occasion made an impression on Colonel Wolfe; and when afterwards he was made general, he took the tall soldier into his bodyguard, and made him understand that, in times when danger might be apprehended, he was to be as near him as his duties would permit.

When the great attack was made upon Quebec, Honeyman was one of the men who helped row the boat which carried Wolfe over the river; and during this passage a cannon ball from the enemy struck an officer sitting very near Honeyman, and took off his head. Had this happened to Honeyman, it would have been a bad thing for New Jersey.

When they reached the opposite side, Honeyman climbed the Heights of Abraham side by side with his brave commander; and when, in the battle which followed, Wolfe was killed, it was Honeyman who bore him off the field. Thus the first and the last service which this strong man rendered to his military chief were very much the same.

About a year after this the war ended, and Honeyman received an honorable discharge. He carried with him the good will and commendation of his officers, but he also took something which he valuedmore than these. While he was with General Wolfe, that officer had given him letters expressing his good opinion of him, and these afterwards proved of great service.

Honeyman went southward, and lived for some years in the American Colonies. He finally settled in Philadelphia, where he married. When the Revolution broke out, his sympathies were entirely with the American side, but he did not immediately enlist in the American army. When Washington came to Philadelphia, Honeyman was very anxious to see him and consult with him. It was difficult for a man in the ordinary walks of life to obtain an interview with the commander in chief; but Honeyman sent in the letters which General Wolfe had given him, and, after having read these, Washington was very ready to see the man of whom that general had such a high opinion. Washington soon discovered that Honeyman was a man of peculiar ability, and he had several interviews with him, although it is not known what was said at these times.

Before very long, Honeyman took his family to Griggstown, in Somerset County, New Jersey, and there he hired a house and settled. From this place he went to Fort Lee, when Washington came into New Jersey with his army, and had an interview with the general; and here, it is said, he made a regular contract with the commander in chief to become a spy on the American side.


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