From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
May 19.—Yesterday the British army, anxious to give Sir William Howe the most public and splendid testimony of the high esteem they entertain of him as a general, and of the affection and attachment which his popular conduct has secured to him from all ranks, both of officers and men, prepared a magnificent entertainment to grace his departure from Philadelphia. It consisted of a variety of parts, and was therefore called the MISCHIANZA. The admission tickets were decorated with a sun just verging towards the horizon, with this inscription, Luces descedens aucto splendore resurgam. On the lower part of the shield was the sea—at top the general’s crest, with the words Vive, vale, and at the bottom and all round, different military trophies. The fête began at four o’clock in the afternoon, by a grand procession on the Delaware, consisting of three divisions —a galley and ten flat-boats in each division. In the centre division was the Hussar galley, with the general, the admiral, General Sir Henry Clinton, and the ladies of their party. Three flat-boats, with bands of music in each, led the procession.
They set out from Knight’s wharf at a signal from the Vigilant, and proceeded till they arrived off the Market Place, where the Fanny armed ship was drawn off into the stream, and beautifully decorated with a variety of colors. Here they lay on their oars while the music played “God save the King.” They then proceeded to the Old Fort, where a landing place was prepared, and as soon as the general landed he was saluted with nineteen guns from the Roebuck, and the same number from the Vigilant. The company, as they quitted the boats, formed themselves into a line of procession, and advanced between two files of grenadiers till they came to a square of four hundred yards on every side, railed in and prepared for the tournament. In front of the square was Sir Harry Colder’s house, appearing through two triumphal arches, erected, one in honor of Lord Howe, the other of Sir William. Two sofas, in form of amphitheatres, formed the advanced wings of one of these arches. On these the ladies took their places, advancing to them through the centre of the square. On the lowest seat of each were seven young ladies dressed in the Asiatic habits, and wearing the different colors of the knights who chose them for their damsels. Here the tournament commenced, when the elegance and richness of the different dresses of the knights and squires, their horses’ trappings and caparisons, the taste displayed in their mottoes and devices, the various evolutions and feats of arms they performed, exhibited altogether a spectacle as new, as it surpassed the most sanguine expectations of the beholders. As soon as the tournament ended, the knights and squires, two and two, moved through the first triumphal arch, which was decorated with naval ornaments. At the top was the statue of Neptune with his trident; in the interior were the attributes of that god, and in a niche on each side stood a sailor with his sword drawn; on the two wings were plumes of feathers, with this description on the entablature, Laus illi debetur, et alme gratia major. An avenue of three hundred yards in length, and thirty-five in breadth, lined with troops, and decorated with the colors of the different regiments, planted at proper distances, led to the second triumphal arch. Between these colors the knights with their attendants ranged themselves, and the company, preceded by all the music of the army, advanced in procession. They were led into the house through the second arch, erected in honor of the general. This arch was of the Tuscan order; on the pediment was Fame with her trumpet; in the interior was a plume of feathers, and military trophies, and on the entablature, I, bone, quo virtus vocat tua, I pede fausto. The house within side was painted in a light elegant style, with festoons, and several emblematical figures; mirrors, girandoles and chandeliers, decorated with wreaths of different colored gauze, adorned the walls. The company were entertained with tea and refreshments, and then danced till half after ten o’clock; the windows being then suddenly thrown open, a grand and beautiful display of fireworks was exhibited.
Towards the conclusion, the triumphal arch next the house appeared magnificently illuminated, and Fame blew from her trumpet in letters of light, “Thy laurels shall never fade.”
After the fireworks the company sat down to a supper consisting of a thousand and twenty-four dishes, in a magnificent apartment built for the occasion, decorated in the same style and elegance as the rooms in the house. The herald of the blended rose, in his robes of ceremony, announced by sound of trumpet the King’s health; the Queen and Royal Family; the Army and Navy, and their respective commanders; the Ladies. A salute of music and three cheers graced each of these toasts. After supper the company returned to the ball room, and at four o’clock they all withdrew.
The following lines were intended to have been delivered by the herald, (after the knights had approached the pavilion in which were the general and the ladies,) holding a laurel wreath in his hand, with the following inscription; but, in delicacy to the general, they were suppressed:
Mars, conquest-plum ‘d, the Cyprian Queen disarms,
And victors vanquish’d yield to beauty’s charms.
[He hangs the crown on the front of the pavilion, and proceeds.]
Here then the laurel—here the palm we yield,
And all the glories of the tilted field;
Here, Whites and Blacks, with blended homage pay,
To each device the honors of the day.
Hard were the task, and impious to decide,
Where both are fairest, which the fairer side.
Enough for us, if by such sports we strove
To deck this feast of military love,
And, joining in the wish of ev’ry heart,
Honor’d the friend and leader, ere we part.
When great in arms, our brave forefathers rose,
And loos’d the British lion on his foes;
When the fall’n Gauls, then perjur’d too and base,
The faithless fathers of a faithless race,
First to attack, tho’ still the first to yield,
Shrunk from their rage on Poictiers’ laurell’d field;
Oft, while grim war suspended his alarms,
The gallant bands with mimic deeds of arms,
Thus, to some fav’rite chief the feast decreed,
And deck’d the tilting knight, th’ encount’ring steed,
In manly sports, that serv’d but to inspire
Contempt of death, and feed the martial fire;
The lists beheld them celebrate his name,
Who led their steps to victory and fame,
Thro’ ev’ry rank the grateful ardor ran,
All fear’d the chieftain—but all lov’d the man,
And fir’d with the soul of this bright day,
All paid to SAL’SB’RY what to HOWE WE pay.
Shame to the envious slave that dares bemoan
Their sons degen’rate, or their spirits flown.
Let the madd’ning faction drive this guilty land,
With their worst foes, to form th’ unnat’ral band;
In YON brave crowd, old BRITISH courage glows
Unconquer’d—growing as the danger grows.
With hearts as bold as e’er their father’s bore
Their country they’ll avenge, her fame restore.
Rous’d to the charge, methinks I hear them cry,
Revenge and glory sparkling in each eye,
“Chain’d to our arms, while Howe the battle led,
Still round these files her wings shall conquest spread;
Lov’d, tho’ he goes, the spirit still remains,
That with him bore us o’er these trembling plains.
On Hudson’s1 bank the sure presage we read,
Of other triumphs to our arms decreed;
Nor fear but equal honors shall repay
Each hardy deed where Clinton points the way.”2
1 Alluding to the North River expedition.
2 Pennsylvania Ledger, May 23.