Original Document
Original Document
Allen McLane's Account of the Attack on "Fort Wilson," in 1779

I was standing on the front steps of my house in Walnut Street [Philadelphia] and observed Colonel Grayson beckoning to me from the door of the War Office. I went to him, and he told me he was glad I had not left the city, for that he had great apprehensions that several of our most respectable citizens, then assembled at Mr. [James] Wilson's house, would be massacred, as they were determined to defend themselves against the armed mob that had assembled on the Commons this morning and were moving down Second Street, expecting to find Mr. Wilson and his friends at the City Tavern, but they were within pistol shot of the War Office. I listened to the sound of the drum and fife, could distinctly hear the sound in Second Street, and in a few minutes observed the front of those in arms appeared in Walnut Street, moving up the street; by this time the front of the mob was near Dock Street, in Walnut Street.

The colonel asked me if I knew those in front of the armed men; I answered I thought the leader was Captain Faulkner, a militia officer. The colonel proposed that we should meet and persuade them to turn up Dock to Third Street, which we did attempt. I introduced Colonel Grayson to Captain Faulkner, as a member of the Board of War. Grayson addressed him and expressed his fears as to the consequences of attacking Mr. Wilson in his house. Faulkner observed, they had no intention to meddle with Mr. Wilson or his house; their object was to support the constitution, the laws and the Committee of Trade. The laboring part of the City had become desperate from the high price of the necessaries of life . . .

As we passed by my house, I saw my wife at the window of the second story. The moment she saw me in the crowd she screamed out and fainted. It was impossible then to escape. We were then within pistol shot of Wilson's house. I saw Captain Campbell of the Continental Army at one of the upper windows at Wilson's house; heard him distinctly call out to those in arms to pass on. Musketry was immediately discharged from the street and from the house, the mob gave way and fled in all directions, and left Grayson and myself under the eaves of the house in Third Street, exposed to the fire of those in the street at a distance. We concluded we would run into Wilson's garden, but there we found ourselves exposed to the fire of both the mob in the neighbors" yards, as well as those of Wilson's friends in the house.

In a few minutes we were discovered by General Mifflin, who recognized us as officers of the Continental Army, and ordered one of the doors of the back building to bre opened; at this moment several persons in the house became much alarmed, and jumped out of the second-story windows. The back door of the house was immediately opened, and we entered. General Mifflin and Thompson met us on the lower floor, and requested us to follow them upstairs, observing that Mr. Wilson and his friends were about retiring to the upper rooms, which we did. When I reached the third story, I looked out of one of the windows in Third Street, looked up Third Street, could see no person in the street nearer than Dock Street, where the mob had dragged a small cannon. I looked down Third Street and saw a number of desperate-looking men in their shirt sleeves coming out of Pear Street, moving towards Wilson's house, armed with bars of iron and large hammers, and in a minute reached the house and began to force the doors and windows. On entering the house they received a fire from the staircases and cellar windows, which dropped several of them; the others broke and dispersed, leaving their wounded in the house. Some of Wilson's friends ran down stairs, shut the doors and barricaded them . . .

In a few minutes, Governor Reed, with a detachment of the first troop of the City Horse, appeared. Wilson and his friends in the house sallied out. I moved with them, and the first person I recognized in the street was Governor Reed, who called upon me, by name, to aid in seizing the rioters.

Credit: "Journal of Allen McLane," in The Spirit of Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution as Told by Participants vol. 2, Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, eds., (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1958).
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