Of all the men who courageously signed the Declaration of Independence, few paid a higher price for their patriotism than Mr. Francis Lewis, a delegate from New York.
His sufferings began early in the War of Independence. In the fall of 1776, British Colonel Birteh led his troops toward the fine country estate of Francis Lewis on Long Island. He intended to see Lewis hanged as a traitor at his own home. But finding that Lewis was away at the time, Birteh instead took out his hatred on Mrs. Lewis.
The poor lady was forced to watch as her home was destroyed. British soldiers exhibited the most vicious forms of vandalism as they stole her silver, clothing, china, clocks, food and drink. She had to watch as her husband’s library-a rare luxury in those days-was burned. Before her eyes, her lovely estate was ravaged and torn apart.
Then she was taken prisoner and locked up, for no crime but that of being the faithful wife of a patriot. Taken away as a captive on horseback, she soon found herself locked in a tiny cell with no furniture but a toilet bucket. She was given no change of clothing, no bed to lie on and only the most meager scraps of food.
Finally, after many months, George Washington was able to free her in a prisoner exchange. But the poor, aging lady’s health had been so devastated by her captivity that she died soon afterward.
Francis Lewis finally returned to his home in 1783, he saw only rubble remaining of his beautiful house and cultured acres. He survived the war as a bereaved and impoverished man.
Lewis never rebuilt his lovely home. He spent his remaining years in the homes of his sons. He had paid a great price for his patriotism but lived to see his children enjoy the fruits of his sacrifice as they raised their own children in peace and liberty.