Nothing about the early military service of Thomas Melody (also spelled Mallalue, Malady and other variations) suggests a rambling disposition. The weaver from England or Scotland had enlisted in the 17th Regiment of Foot some time before 1772, and the muster rolls from that time until his arrival in America give no indications of major discipline problems; was even granted a furlough for some months and dutifully returned to the regiment.
The 17th Regiment arrived in Boston late in 1775 and then served on the campaigns around New York in the second half of 1776, seeing battle in a number of places. The regiment gained some fame, however, for its performance at the Battle of Princeton on 3 January 1777 when, highly outnumbered, its men fought their way out of encirclement. Many were killed, wounded or captured that day; among the latter was Thomas Melody.
Many of the Princeton prisoners were sent to Connecticut and parceled out to various towns; Melody was sent to New Hartford in the northwestern part of the colony. Unlike most of the prisoners from the 17th Regiment who patiently awaited exchange, he absconded from imprisonment. He made his way to Middletown, Connecticut, where he married a local woman named Hannah Andrews in February 1778. But we know about this only from a series of notices published years later in the Western Star, a newspaper that began publication in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1789. He wrote:
Whereas Hannah, my Wife, has forsaken my bed and board - this is therefore to forbid all persons trusting her on my account. Thomas Mallady.
Richmond, October 14, 1791.
[Western Star, 25 October 1791]
Ads like these were quite common in period newspapers, and are seldom supported by additional published information. Hannah Mallady (to use the spelling in the notice), however, did not take the accusation lightly. The following year, apparently after some other exchanges with her estranged husband, she published this ad:
[Western Star, 11 September 1792]
This account tells us much about Thomas Melody (or Mallalue) regardless of the veracity of the allegations: His physical characteristics, and that he worked sometimes as a barber, a skill he probably learned before enlistment but could also have picked up during his time as a soldier or after his desertion. In calling him a foreigner, Hannah means simply that he was not born in America. He wrote a response that was published the following week:
In the Star of last week, was published a piece under the signature of Hannah Mallalue - a performance in which my character is represented as black as the pen wielded by the hand of falhood [sic] could possibly describe. A publication, signed by a woman, the blackness of whose character my modesty will not permit me to lay naked to the view of the world - a woman with whom had it have been possible for any man to have lived, would not have been under the necessity of strolling about after a second gulled companion, while the first was still living. Let any ingenuous mind read the performance to which I allude, and then say, if any but an abandoned prostitute could ever have come forward with such a publication in the face of the world. No, not a woman on earth, who is not totally devoid of every species of virtue, could have assumed the impudence to publish such brothel ideas of a man, whom she claims as her companion.
The charges alledged against me in that piece, it is in my power, at any time to confute. But I do not conceive that a Newspaper is a proper place to produce affidavits to establish the character of any man.
Neither do I believe that the publick are so strongly inclined to believe any man a villain, as, without proof, without witnesses, or even the appearance of truth, to give credit to the aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen. Thomas Mallady.
Hannah wasted no time in presenting details that she claimed would prove her case:
Middletown, February 18, 1778.
These may certify that Thomas Mellalew and Hannah Andrews were married on the day of the date above, according to the form in the office for the solemnization of marriage, in the book of common prayer, by me, Abraham Jarvis, Minister of the Church of England.
These may certify whom it may concern, that Thomas Mellalew (or Mallady, as many persons called him) some years since lived in this town with his wife; and, while he lived in this town, he advertised his wife in the Springfield Newspaper, lest she should run him in debt when he was absent; and afterwards put in another advertisement, wherein he manifested his sorrow for the first, and said he had no foundation or just cause for publishing the first. Furthermore, while he lived in this town, he made an appointment to meet a Negro's wife, at a certain place in the night time, in a certain barn; and the Negro's wife informed Mrs. Mellalew of the appointment, who procured sundry persons, one of whom was dressed in a woman's clothes, to meet at the time and place appointed, when and where Mellalew attended in the dark attended in the dark, and his conduct was such, as caused them to lead him home to his wife; and he did not deny his intent in going to the barn, and in the barn called the Negro's wife by name several times, before the persons lying in wait discovered themselves. The substance of the above was sworn to before me, as nearly as I can recollect, by two of the persons who were in the barn, and one of them who was dressed in women's apparel.
P. S. Mrs. Mellalew's character in this town is good, for any thing that I know.
[Western Star, 25 September 1792]
We have found no additional information to suggest the resolution to this saga. The publisher of the newspaper certainly must have enjoyed this battle of words which brought revenue, and probably amused readers, to his paper.