John Graves Simcoe was a soldier and an adminstrator. He led a light infantry unit, the British army’s Queens New York Rangers, later the Queen’s York Rangers, during the American Revolution to a series of victories in daring raids, including one to take our George Washington. Simcoe wanted to capture Washington alive and when his troops had the opportuntity to take Washington out with a shot, he ordered they hold back.
But when it came to love, he didn’t seem to hold back at all.
During Simcoe’s time when he was posted to New York City during the British occupation, he took some time from the war to woo a young lady named Sarah ‘Sally’ Townsend. On February 14, 1779, Valentine’s Day, Simcoe sent Sally a poem in which he extolled her beauty and his love for her. It contained three verses, the first of which is as follows:
“Fairest Maid, where all Is fair, Beauty’s pride and Nature’s care;
To you my heart I must resign, 0 choose me for your Valentine!
Love, Mighty God! Thou knows’t full well, where all thy Mother’s graces dwell,
Where they inhabit and combine to fix thy power with spells divine;
Thou knows’t what powerful magick lies within the round of Sarah’s eyes,
Or darted thence like lightning fires, and Heaven’s own joys around inspires;
Thou knows’t my heart will always prove the shrine of pure unchanging love!”
Did Sally share Simcoe infatuation. Someone carved initials in the glass of her bedroom window her initials and those of Simcoe’s. It’s believed to be her handiwork. The house stands today, in Oyster Bay. It’s called Raynham Hall.
If indeed she did love Simcoe their romance never had time to ripen, for that same year Simcoe was ambushed by rebels, captured and imprisoned for six months in the common jail at Burlington, New Jersey. Also, Simcoe’s best friend and fellow officer John Andre was hung as a spy based on information gathered by Washington’s intelligence network, of which, Sally’s father, Samuel and brother Robert were a key part. It was Robert who passed on information that Andre was about to contact Benedict Arnold and pay him to defect to the British and leave West Point open to attack. Arnold escaped and Andre was captured and later hanged. Simcoe returned to Britain leaving behind a broken-hearted Sally, who continued to live in the house as a spinster, until her death at age 84.