24 March 2014

Miss Jenny (ca. 1760-)

"Miss Jenny", a French-speaking woman whose real-life identity was never confirmed, infiltrated the French troops who were fighting on the American side and reported the movements of French and American troops to the British headquarters in New York. She was reportedly in her late teens or early twenties in 1781.

At that time, she reported to the British that the French and Americans were planning an attack on the city of New York. She was on her way to report to the British base in New York she was taken hostage by the French General Marquis De Lafayette. There she was beaten and raped while they tried to wrench her story out. When they could not extract the truth, she was sent to General George Washington. Upon arrival at his camp she was questioned mercilessly. Through all of this she did not change her story or let out any secrets. She claimed that she was looking for her French-Canadian father who had left for war five years before. During her abuse she stuck to her story and would not back down.

Thoroughly frustrated, Washington sent her back to the French. Back at the French camp she was released, but only after they humiliated her by cutting off her hair, which was a big deal in that time. When she arrived back in New York and reported all that she saw, she was rewarded and was let go.

This was her last mission. Miss Jenny was never seen or heard from ever again. She simply disappeared.

Disposition of Miss Jenny after returning from the French camp. 

Page 1
Miss Jenny left here on Thursday the 9th of this month. In the evening, she slept in Kingsbridge and spent 3 to 4 hours in the morning traveling, having walked almost 3 miles. Our refugees came upon her, stopped her, and brought her back to Kindsbridge to Colonel Warn(er) who sent her back from this encounter with a passport. Having followed the main road, keeping always to the right, she came across a cavalry officer coming from the woods whom she asked, "Monsier, would you show me the French camp?" He answered her, "Why are you French?" "Yes, Monsieur," (she replied). "Come with me; I'll take you there," (he said). The officer led her to the outermost guard post of the camp after having proposed an amorous liaison to her, even desiring to force her, which she did not wish under these circumstances. When she arrived at the main guard post of the camp, the Captain asked her whom she sought. She answered that she came from the direction of York, having learned that her father was there (at the camp), and that she will be delighted to come and see him; (she said) that she was a seamstress and that her mother was a good wife, and that they found out that their father returned from France with the troops, seeing that it was six years since he went to France from Canada. The Captain of the post sent her to Monsieur de Rochambeau at general headquarters and Monsieur l(e) V(ice) C(onsul) de Laval had orders to question her since he (de Rochambeau) was not able to get anything from her, and he asked her several times whether she knew Hend and that surely he would have promised her money for coming to spy. She told him that she did not know what he meant. At this, she was sent to Monsieur de Rochambeau who asked several questions and in the end said, "Madame, I am sending you to General Wa(s)hi(ng)t(on)," which he did. Having arrived there, she was interrogated by Monsieur Smidt and Monsieur Cooper. Finding nothing against her, they held her for two days, and she was sent back to the French camp.

Page 2
While Monsieur Smidt and Cooper questioned her, she was asked several time whether she knew me, (was told) that I was responsible for the desertion of the French and that I would be the first one hanged if York were ever taken. After all that, she was sent back (to the French camp). Upon arrival at the French camp, she was handed over to the Provost; nevertheless, she was treated well enough. The Chief Provost questioned her several times over the course of two days, and insisted that she must know me, using guile and intimidation to make her talk. Seeing that nothing was able to be got from her, the order arrived late in the evening on Tuesday the 14th for her to depart on Wednesday at daybreak, and beforehand, to have her hair cut in such a fashion that what was done be acknowledged yet again; then (for her) to be set on a horse with neither bonnet nor hair covering, sitting on a cloak between two soldiers and (for her) to be led in this manner outside of the lines with the order not to return unless she wants to run the risk of being severely punished. She says that everything is ready with them for advancing and that the general opinion is that he (Washington) wants to come and attack in two places as soon as their fleet arrives. She saw your Jagers arrive yesterday, around 4 or 5. They were not retained; they were sent immediately to Philadelphia. When these Jagers arrived at Washington's quarters, he had them given something to drink and eat, informing them that soon all of your people will come, and that in a short while he will be in York.

The Chief Provost told her that if she wished to confess that it is Hend who sent her, that he would give her 12 twenty-franc pieces, and if she wished to dissemble, that he wants to send to her mother to see if she speaks the truth. All that did not make her change her story. She persisted (in saying) that she does not know me.

Page 3
Monsieur Major, Miss Jenny has just arrived this moment. I will have her stay here until evening, and I will ask you, if your business allows you, to stop by for a little while. You can be sure that no one will know you, and you will be perhaps very delighted to hear from her lips the agreeable statement which she has just made. She will not know who you are.

Awaiting your reply I beg to be respectfully,

B. Ottendorf
15 August 1781

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