And yet the military sportsmen tried to continue the life they had known in England. In occupied Boston they converted Dr. Sewells's meeting house into a riding academy where they exercised their horses. Burgoyne wrote a farce, The Blockade of Boston
, ridiculing the rebel army. During a performance genuine shots were fired outside the theater. When a sergeant rushed in shouting, "Turn out! Turn out!" everyone laughed, thinking it part of the play. In occupied Philadelphia, Andr�, Rawdon, Tarleton and De Lancey congratulated themselves that they were a part of the most brilliant social season the sober Quaker city had ever known. When Howe was relieved of his command they prepared an elaborate entertainment, with a regatta and a parade of boats on the river, massed bands, a tournament and an exhibition of horsemanship, a dinner, a ball and fireworks that cost thousands of pounds. "Our Enemies will dwell upon the Folly & Extravagance of it with Pleasure," Ambrose Serle wrote in his diary.
In New York they raced thoroughbreds on the track outside the city, renaming it Ascot. Rebels stole the prize stallion True Briton, who wound up in Springfield, Mass., where he became the grandsire of the breed known as Morgans. The British did not discriminate between the property of rebels and loyalists, Tarleton taking for his personal mount a horse that belonged to Sir Peyton Skip-with of Virginia. Andr� and De Lancey produced plays in a Philadelphia theater, putting on Shakespeare as well as contemporary comedies. The fancifulness of the plays and the pleasures of hunting mingled with the realities of war. A German officer wrote in his diary: "Early after watch parade I...shot six birds, but so completely lost my way in the thickets that I was badly scratched. Attended the execution of a deserter."
In 1780 Tarleton and Hanger were in South Carolina leading desperate raids to capture horses for the cavalry—the ships taking their horses south were lost in a storm—and they still believed the rebels were defeated up to the time Cornwall is surrendered. Soon Tarleton had become infamous even in England for his attacks on helpless soldiers and unarmed civilians. One of the objectives of the raids was the thoroughbred Flimnap, retired to stud on the estate of Major Isaac Harleston. The stallion was safely hidden in the woods, but the raiders seized other valuable horses, and captured a groom from Harleston's stables. He refused to tell where Flimnap was hidden, and was hanged. Cut down when the raiders rode off, he recovered and took Flimnap into a remote area of North Carolina until the war ended.
When Tarleton returned to England, an anonymous publication called
The Jockey Club
described him thus: "Col. T—-n. When this gentleman first returned from America he thought to make a sudden and durable impression on the minds of his countrymen by an incessant relation of his extraordinary achievements.... His countrymen were less sensible to his merits than he imagined. They did not listen with that attention or admiration that the gallant Colonel expected. The exploits of a pandour, a partizan, are ranked in the lowest degree of military merit."
The spirit that had infused the books of wide-eyed British travelers had vanished from that island of great travel writers. They had produced no masterpieces; there was nothing in their factual works as real as the imaginary journeys of Lemuel Gulliver or Robinson Crusoe. But they had helped to create a familiarity with the everyday life of the colonies that in itself was a factor in making the war, when it came, less destructive than it would have been without their works. As Andrew Burnaby said in his Travels Through the Middle Settlements in North America
, published in London just as the Revolution began: "My first attachment, as it is natural, is to my native country; my next is to America; and such is my affection for both, that I hope nothing will ever happen to dissolve that union...." The union was dissolved, but one cannot read the words of this sturdy and sympathetic observer without feeling that the quality of his hope, at least, was indestructible.