Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Revolutionary Spy and a Cursed-Hanging Tree, Part l

From 1917 until 2001 this story was told around a campfire at Camp Glen Gray, a Boy Scout camp, located in the Ramapo Mountains in northeastern New Jersey.

Unlike most of the stories shared at this camp, this one has many elements of truth.

Scouts at Camp Glen Gray in the 1950s.
The scouts that heard this story were very scared when they discovered the incidents in this story happened right on the grounds of their camp. It was here in 1777 a Revolutionary War spy was executed.

The Cannonball Trail ran through this camp and was used as the main route to transport soldiers and supplies for the Continental Army. Along this route was a popular stop called The Mary Post Inn.

Modern-day hikers overlook Yellow
Trail a part of the original
Cannonball Trail.
The proprietor of this inn—Mary Post—was a beautiful young brunette who enchanted everyone she met.

Continental Soldiers.
American officers including members of George Washington’s staff often stayed at Mary’s inn. The inn was known to provide comfortable lodging and delicious food and drink. 

Mary, a gracious host, regularly participated in the soldier’s conversations with a quick wit. Unfortunately, these soldiers often imbibed too much of Mary’s beer and talked too much.

Beginning in 1776, Washington’s staff including Alexander Hamilton-- who served as America’s first secretary of the treasury—noticed the British had uncanny luck when it came to capturing the Continental supplies sent along the Cannonball Trail.

The British seemed to know exactly where to strike each time. The Americans realized a spy was in their midst. Mary Post immediately came under suspicion.

British grenadiers in 1777 New Jersey.
Hamilton sent Patriot operatives to watch Mary Post. Their suspicions were confirmed when these men observed Post mounting a horse late one night. She headed for New York City where the British were based.

She spent the night with her British lover, Major Carlton McDonnell.

With this information Hamilton decided to lay a trap. In early August a group of soldiers requested Post close the inn so they could hold a high-level strategy meeting. Post agreed.

As Mary served this group, they discussed a large shipment of equipment and supplies that would pass by her inn in eight days.

The next night Mary galloped away on her horse to tell this news to her lover. On Thursday, August 19th a large contingent of British soldiers descended on the Cannonball Trail near Mary’s inn.

They expected to waylay and capture a large Continental supply convoy but instead an elite unit of Patriots soldiers that were hand-picked by Washington overwhelmed them.

The next day Mary Post was arrested at her Inn but as she was led out a group of local Patriots took her. Angry, they beat her ruthlessly then they affixed a hanging rope to a nearby maple tree.

The locals watched as it took 15 minutes for the rope to slowly tighten around Mary’s neck—prolonging her suffering, which satisfied the revenge-hungry crowd.

Mary’s last weak words were to accuse the British who failed to rescue her. She then cursed the maple tree, stating whoever harmed it would come to know the meaning of pain and suffering.

No one at the time took this curse seriously. But this tree would become the source for death, misery and unexplained incidents in the future.

In Part ll of A Revolutionary Spy and a Cursed Hanging Tree read about how this curse played out and about sightings of Mary Post’s ghost.

No comments: