Decision Activity: Margaret Hill Morris, Burlington County, NJ December 1776

Decision Activity – Margaret Hill Morris

Burlington, NJ, December 1776

I am now 39 years of age, widowed and providing and caring for with my four children of ten to seventeen years of age, living in Burlington near my sister, Sarah.  I am also a nurse and a Quaker. It is horrible that this war has come to our great land. On December 8th, I am thinking about the thousands of troops passing through here who will lose their lives.

Recently, we heard for days on end that the British troops were heading towards us. Now, the Hessians are camping nearby for the winter. When the Hessians entered our town, their colonel promised us safety, so long as they could quarter in town and that none of the inhabitants of Burlington had arms to use against them. However, the retreating Continental Army is also around, and they have ships on the Delaware River prepared to fire on the Hessians should they find them.

Captain Mooretried to deliver this message of peace from the Hessians to the ships but failed. A few of our townsmen went outside and nearly got hit with a cannonball! Then, when some Hessians went out, the ships fired all night on the town since they thought Burlington was full of Hessians. My neighbors felt incredibly concerned and disappointed at this treacherous attack against our town by our own people. My family is caught in the crossfire.

One of my neighbors told us to go and hide in our cellar. Thankfully, my home stayed in a peaceful state, and I trusted that God would protect each of us, despite my feelings of loneliness and uncertainty about what might happen next.

In the following days, the Hessians eventually left town and then the sailors came and went on searches for Tories destroying property and bring fear to every innocent resident. They captured 17 of my neighbors and friends and took them to prison. This is very frightening for all of us, especially our children.

What should Margaret do in this situation?

  1. Go about life as usual continuing her trust in God.
  2. Continue hiding in the cellar with her children and sister.
  3. Leave and walk to the countryside during this cold weather with her family and take a risk that some stranger will let them in, because it seems too unsafe to stay in Burlington.

Although Margaret appears neutral, like most Quakers, which side should she consider supporting?

  1. She should support the British, since the colonies belong to Britain, and the Hessians seem more accommodating than the Patriots who fired and arrested her neighbors?
  2. She should support the Patriot cause, in the name of liberty and equality?

Margaret has a secret chamber available in the cellar of her home. One of her neighbors, a doctor and Episcopal clergyman who supports Britain, asks to hide in her home.

Should she let him into her home?

  1. Yes, since he is one of her neighbors.
  2. Yes, if she also supports the British side.
  3. No, because hiding a Loyalist compromises her family’s safety.
  4. No, because supplies are scarce.