[Illustration: EXPLOIT OF COLONEL M’LEAN.]
“Beaten, beaten!” exclaimed Pitts. “I admit that, in resolution and daring, Francisco was surpassed by M’Lean. He was a hero!”
“Major Garden, in his Anecdotes of the Revolution, eulogizes McLean’s courage and enterprise,” said Hand.
“If courage and resolution make up the hero, our country didn’t hunger for ’em during the Revolution,” said Davenport.
“Yes, it’s a difficult and nice matter to say who bears away the palm. But I do not believe that Col. M’Lean was surpassed,” said Kinnison. “Col. Henry Lee was a man of the same mould,” added Colson.
“Aye, he was; and that reminds me of an adventure of his which displays his courage and resolution,” replied Kinnison.
“In the Revolution, a prison was erected at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for those red-coats who fell into our hands. The prisoners were confined in barracks, enclosed with a stockade and vigilantly guarded; but in spite of all precautions, they often disappeared in an unaccountable manner, and nothing was heard of them until they resumed their places in the British army. It was presumed that they were aided by American tories, but where suspicion should fall, no one could conjecture. Gen. Hazen had charge of the post. He devised a stratagem for detecting the culprits, and selected Capt. Lee, afterwards Maj. Lee, a distinguished partisan officer, to carry out his plan. It was given out that Lee had left the post on furlough. He, however, having disguised himself as a British prisoner, was thrown into the prison with the others. So complete was the disguise, that even the intendant, familiar with him from long daily intercourse, did not penetrate it. Had his fellow-prisoners detected him, his history might have been embraced in the proverb, ’Dead men tell no tales.’
“For many days he remained in this situation, making no discoveries whatever. He thought he perceived at times signs of intelligence between the prisoners and an old woman who was allowed to bring fruit for sale within the enclosure: She was known to be deaf and half-witted, and was therefore no object of suspicion. It was known that her son had been disgraced and punished in the American army, but she had never betrayed any malice on that account, and no one dreamed that she could have the power to do injury if she possessed the will. Lee matched her closely, but saw nothing to confirm his suspicions. Her dwelling was about a mile distant, in a wild retreat, where she shared her miserable quarters with a dog and cat.