Sir Henry Clinton succeeded Sir William Howe as commander-in-chief of the British army in America. He entered upon his duties, as such, on the 24th of May, 1778. A week before, Philadelphia was agreeably excited by a grand complimentary entertainment given to the brothers Howe, and called by the Italian name for a medley, Mischianza. It was an appropriate closing of a round of dissipation in which the British army had indulged during their six months residence in Philadelphia. Many of the officers had lived in open defiance of the demands of morality. Their profligacy was so conspicuous, that many of the Tory families who had welcomed the invaders, had prayed for the departure of such undesirable guests.
"The Mischianza," wrote Captain Andre, Clinton's accomplished and afterward unfortunate young adjutant-general, "was the most splendid entertainment ever given by an army to their commander." Andre was the chief inventor and manager of the pageant; and he and Captain Oliver De Lancey, a Tory leader of New York, painted all the scenery and other decorations. The entertainment began with a grand regatta in the presence of thousands of spectators, who thronged the wharves and swarmed upon the river in small boats. Banners waved, cannon thundered, and martial music filled the air. This over, the scene changed to a tilt and a tournament on shore, followed by a grand ball and supper, for which purposes spacious temporary buildings were erected in connection with the fine Wharton mansion in Fifth street.
The company, as they disembarked from the boats, marched between rows of grenadiers, preceded by the music, which consisted of all the bands of the army. After passing two triumphal arches, the procession, with the general and admiral, came to two pavilions with rows of benches rising one above the other, where the ladies were received and the gentlemen arranged on each side of them. On the front seat of each pavilion were seven young women, chosen from families of highest social position in Philadelphia. These were dressed in Turkish costume, and wore in their turbans the "favors" with which they intended to reward the several knights who were to contend in their honor. Suddenly the braying of trumpets was heard in the distance, and soon two bands of knights appeared, with their squires--Knights of The Blended Rose, and Knights of The Burning Mountain. They were dressed in ancient costume of white and red silk, and mounted on gray horses richly caparisoned in trappings of the same colors. They entered the list with their squires dressed in black. Captain Lord Cathcart, superbly mounted, appeared as chief of the Knights of The Blended Rose, his stirrups held by two black slaves in brilliant dresses, their arms and breasts bare. The chief of the Knights of The Burning Mountain was Captain Watson of the Guards, dressed in a magnificent suit of black and orange silk. These leaders and their followers each appeared in honor of one of the fourteen maidens in Turkish costume, and were announced with the name of the young lady in whose honor they were to contend. For example:
"Third knight, Captain Andre, in honor of Miss Chew; Squire, Lieutenant Andre: device, two game-cocks fighting; motto, "No rival."
The two bands of knights fought each other, and each one was rewarded with a favor from his "lady love." When the tournament was over, the knights rode between two rows of troops through the first triumphal arch, where all the flags of the army were displayed. Then the knights, with their squires, took their stations, the bands filling the air with martial music. The company then moved toward the knights, the maidens in oriental costume in front. As these passed, they were saluted by the knights, who then dismounted and joined them, and in this order all were conducted into a garden that fronted a large building; and passing through the second triumphal arch, the company ascended a flight of carpeted steps that led to a magnificent hall, the panels of which were painted to imitate Sienite marble, and decorated with festoons of flowers. From this hall the company were conducted to an elegantly decorated ball-room garnished with eighty-five mirrors decked with ribbons, and thirty-four candelabra with wax-candles, also decorated with ribbons. The ball was opened by the knights and their ladies, and the dancing continued until ten o'clock, when the windows were thrown open to allow the assemblage within to see a magnificent display of fireworks. At midnight a sumptuous banquet was partaken of in a grand saloon more than two hundred feet in length, and beautifully adorned. At the close of the supper a herald entered with a flourish of trumpets, and proclaimed the health of the king, queen, and royal family; the army and navy, and their commanders; the knights and their ladies, and the ladies in general. After supper they all returned to the ball-room, and danced until four o'clock in the morning.
This foolish pageant had just ended, when orders reached Philadelphia for the troops to evacuate that city and the fleet to leave the Delaware River. The rescript of the French monarch was regarded in England as tantamount to a declaration of war, and the British government saw the danger that threatened their land and naval forces should a French fleet blockade the Delaware, a circumstance which speedily occurred. At the middle of April, Admiral the Count D'Estaing, a major-general in the French service, sailed from Toulon with twelve ships-of-the-line and three frigates, and after a rough voyage of ninety days, anchored in the Delaware. Fortunately for Lord Howe's fleet, it had left those waters a few days before, and was safely anchored in the broad bay off the mouth of the Raritan River. The British army had also escaped to New York, after great perils by the way.
The order for the evacuation of Philadelphia, and its execution, produced wide-spread consternation and distress in that city, lately so gay with scarlet uniforms, martial music and banners, dashing young officers and a brilliant display of the pastimes of half-barbarous nations five hundred years before. The change from bright promises of protection to the despair caused by cruel desertion was awful. It was like the sudden gathering of a fierce tempest in a serene sky. About three thousand of the most tenderly-bred of the inhabitants left their homes, their property and their cherished associations, and fled for refuge from the indignation of their Whig neighbors, whom they had outraged in many ways, to be borne away, they knew not whither, to a fate which they could not foresee.
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