Richard Mather Bayles.

History of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time online

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Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 19 of 72)
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The following editorial remarks are appended:

" We have the pleasure to inform the Public, that the loyal
inhabitants of STATEN ISLAND have already subscribed Fice
Hundred Pounds for the Encouragement of the Provincial
Corps of this Colony, and transmitted the same to our worthy
Governor, to be applied to that laudable Purpose. The Sub-
scription in other Parts meets with great Success among his
Majesty's loyal Subjects, both in this City and County, and in
the Counties upon Long Island, almost every one being desirous
to give this Test of Loyalty and Love of constitutional Free-
dom. Trimmers and some doubtful Characters, it is expected,
will be made manifest upon this Occasion, and of course be
properly noticed."

On the 6th of June a party of about twelve British made a
raid into Elizabethtown, where they were fired upon by the
Americans, and a skirmish ensued, in which two or three were
killed and several wounded. The British succeeded in stealing
a flat- bottomed boat large enough to carry one hundred men.

About this time the British commander caused to be issued
the following proclamation, which sufficiently explains itself.

" Office of Commissary-General, New York, June 12, 1777.

" WHEREAS his Excellency Sir WILLIAM HOWE, General and
Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Forces, hath thought fit
to order and direct Magazines of Forage to be established, for
the better supplying of the troops under his Excellency's com-
mand: Notice is hereby given to the several Land-holders,
farmers and others, upon York-Island, Long-Island, and
Staten-Island, who may be able to supply the said Magazines
with Hay, Straw, Oats, and Indian Corn, that the following
rates will be paid for the same, viz.:


" Good Fresh Hay, at the rate of Five Shillings per Hundred

" Straw, at Two Shillings per Hundred Weight.

" Oats and Indian Corn, according to its quality.

" And for the better encouragement of such persons to sup-
ply the said magazines, an allowance of One Shilling per Mile,
for every Ten Hundred Weight, will be paid, over and above
the price stipulated aforesaid, for the carriage of the said
Forrage to the respective Magazines hereafter mentioned, viz.:


" King's-Bridge, Marston's Wharf, City of New- York.


" Brooklyn Ferry, Hempstead-Harbor, Oyster-Bay, Great-


" Cole's-Ferry, Decker' s-Ferry.

"At which said several places proper persons will be appointed
to receive the same, to ascertain the weight thereof, and to cer-
tify the delivery : and upon certificates, ascertaining such
weight and delivery, being produced at this office, the said For-
rage will be paid for immediately.

" His Majesty's service requiring these Magazines to be es-
tablished as soon as the season will permit, it is expected and
required that all persons who raise forrage, do furnish a certain
quantity, proportionable to the produce of each person respec-


" Commissary General."

Howe and a large portion of his army were at this time in
New Jersey. The objective point was Philadelphia. During
the early part of the preceding winter the army had reached
Trenton, but at the time when it seemed as though nothing lay
in the way of their marching to Philadelphia and gaining an
easy victory a sudden and unaccountable apathy seemed to
seize the British commander, and he rested until the army of
Washington was in a better position to resist his onward prog-
ress. By this time Howe's army had returned to Amboy, and
the project of reaching Philadelphia by land seemed to be
abandoned. Another attempt, however, was made to draw
Washington away from his fortifications, so that the British
army could surround him. Having retreated slowly across the


state, while Greene was harassing his rear, he prepared to cross
from Amboy to Staten Island, having determined to attempt to
reach Philadelphia by water. Throwing a bridge, which had
been constructed for crossing the Delaware, across the sound,
he sent the heavy baggage and all the incumbrances of his army
over to the island under the escort of some troops, while prep-
arations were making for the passage of the rest of the army.
Intelligence of this was received by Washington, who supposed
that the British army was retreating in earnest, under a mis-
apprehension of the strength of his own army. He accordingly
descended from the hilly country where he was entrenched,
and moved forward as though pursuing a flying enemy.

The British general, now thinking he had nearly gained his
point, determined if possible to get between Washington and
the mountains and force him to a general action on his own
terms or cut off some of his detachments if he should retreat.
He accordingly returned to Amboy, and on the 26th of June
put his army in motion, advancing toward the pursuing forces
of Washington. The forces came into collision and the British
pursued as far as Westh'eld, but finding, as a British
chronicler states, " that the caution and prudence of General
Washington had rendered his schemes abortive," General
Howe returned with his army to Amboy on the second day after
its expedition against Washington, and on the 29th passed
again over to Staten Island. In the meantime Washington
wrote to congress from his camp at Middlebrook, June 28th, as
follows :

" SIR, On Thursday morning General Howe advanced with
his whole army in several columns from Amboy, as far as West-
h'eld. We are certainly informed, that the troops sent to Staten
Island returned the preceding evening, and it is said with an
augmentation of marines : so that carrying them there was a
feint, to deceive us."

The campaign of Howe in New Jersey and its results were
summed up by a paper of the time in the following paragraph :

li Since our last we have certain intelligence, that soon after
the skirmish with Lord Stirling's division, as mentioned in our
last, the enemy filed off from Westfield to Amboy, and from
thence to Staten Island, and left us in entire possession of New
Jersey, in a small part of which they had been pen'd up for six


months, unable to do any great matters, except stealing a few
cattle, and making Whigs of the wavering and diffident."

Among the troops stationed on the island at this time was a
rising young man whom subsequent events made a conspicuous
figure in the history of the revolution. This young man was
Major John Andre, the spy. Though he was not prominent
on the island, yet while here he made his will, and the in-
terest which naturally attaches to his name must be our apology
for the insertion of a copy of that document in this connection.

" The following is my last Will and Testament and I appoint
as Executors thereto Mary Louisa Andre my Mother, David
Andre my Uncle, Andrew Girardot my Uncle, John Lewis An-
dre my Uncle.

"To each of the above Executors I give Fifty Pounds. I
give to Mary Hannah Andre my Sister Seven Hundred Pounds.
I give to Ann Marguerite Andre my Sister Seven Hundred
Pounds. I give to Louisa Katherine Andre my Sister Seven
Hundred Pounds. I give to William Lewis Andre my Brother
Seven Hundred Pounds. But the condition on which I give
the above mentioned Sums to my aforesaid Sisters and Brothers
are that each of them shall pay to Mary Louisa Andre my
Mother the sum of Ten pounds yearly during her life. I give
to Walter Ewer Jun'r of Dyers Court Aldermanbury One Hun-
dred Pounds. I give to John Ewer Jun'r of Lincoln's Inn One
Hundred Pounds. I desire a Ring value Fifty Pounds be given
to my Friend Peter Boissier of the Eleventh Dragoons. I de-
sire that Walter Ewer Jun'r of Dyers Court Aldermanbury
have the Inspection of my papers, Letters, Manuscripts, I mean
that he have the first Inspection of them with Liberty to de-
stroy or detain whatever he thinks proper, and I desire my
Watch be given to him. And I lastly give and bequeath to
my Brother John Lewis Andie the residue of all my Effects
whatsoever. Witness my Hand and Seal Staten Island in the
province of N. York, N. America the 7th June 1777.

" JOHN ANDRE Capt'n in the 26th Reg't of Foot [L. S.]
" N. B. The Currency alluded to in this Will is Sterling-
Money of Great Britain. I desire nothing more than my wear-
ing Apparel be sold by public Auction, J. A.

" City and Province /
of New York. )' s
Be it remembered that on the Ninth day of October in the


Year of Our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and Eighty per-
sonally came and appeared before me Gary Ludlow, Surrogate
for the City and Province aforesaid, Henry White and William
Sea ton both of the City and Province aforesaid Esquires who
being severally duly sworn did declare that they were well ac-
quainted with the hand writing of John Andre formerly Cap-
tain in the twenty-sixth Regiment of Foot and since Adjutant
General Deceased that they have frequently seen him write,
And that they verily believe that the before written Instrument
purporting to be the last Will and Testament of the said John
Andre bearing date the seventh Day of June One thousand
seven hundred and Seventy Seven with the Subscriptions there-
to are all of his the said John Andre's own proper hand Writ-
ing and further saith not.


It will be seen by the above that the will was admitted to
probate just a week after the execution of its maker at Tappan
on the 2d of October, 1780.

Howe having determined to approach Philadelphia by water
began early in July the embarkation of his army from Staten
Island. On the 5th he began placing on board of transports
such corps as he wished to take with him, amounting to thirty-
six battalions of British and Hessians, including the light in-
fantry and grenadiers, the queen's rangers, a powerful artillery,
and a regiment of light dragoons. The troops that remained in
the vicinity of New York were placed under command of Gen-
eral Clinton, while under him General Knyphausen had com-
mand of Staten Island. Though preparations began thus early
it was not until the 23d of the month that the fleet, consisting
of two hundred and sixty-seven sail, passed outside of Sandy

At this time there seems to have been a desire on the part of
the British to starve out the "rebels," or at least to weaken
and perplex them by preventing their obtaining any supplies
from New York either directly or through Staten Island. To
carry this out all commerce between here and the Jerseys was
prohibited. It was difficult, however, to enforce such prohibi-
tion. On the 17th of July Sir William Howe issued a procla-
mation relating to the cargoes of vessels arriving at the port of
New York. He appointed Andrew Elliot, Esq., superintendent
of all imports and exports passing between New York and


Long Island and Staten Island, and in order that the inhabitants
of the latter islands might be furnished with necessary supplies
and at the same time to prevent supplies being conveyed to the
"rebels" through these channels, he ordered that no craft of
any kind should carry from the city to either of these islands,
without special permit from the superintendent's office, any
larger quantities of rum, spirits, sugar or molasses than one
barrel of each, or of salt exceeding four bushels. No quantity
of any other kind of merchandise larger than might be con-
sidered sufficient for the use of one family should be taken at
one time. The penalty for the violation of the restrictions of
this proclamation was forfeiture of the vessel, large or small,
and the goods found on board, and imprisonment of the master
in charge. Similar proclamations were subsequently issued.

After the removal of the troops from the island for the ex-
pedition to Philadelphia there were only about three thousand
men left here. The principal part of this number were com-
prised in two regiments of Hessians, other troops being of the
British and some of the provincial corps.

In the early part of August a party of Americans crossed the
kills and landed somewhere on the shore at West New Brighton,
and directed their course for Richmond. As they approached
that village they were met by a party of British, who, after a
slight resistance, retreated slowly until they reached St. An-
drew's church, which they entered; the Americans fired at the
windows until every pane of glass had been broken; they then
approached, and fired through the broken windows until the
British were driven out; a reinforcement from the vicinity of
the quarantine had been hurried forward, who reached Rich-
mond just as the church had been vacated. It was now the
turn of the Americans to retreat, which they did by the Fresh
kill road, keeping the prisoners which they had taken iu their
rear. These consisted not of soldiers only but of citizens also,
whom they had captured on their way; this prevented the
British from tiring, lest they should kill their own friends, or
at least non combatants. After the Americans had descended
the hill and crossed the bridge at the locality now known as
Laforge's store, Westfield, they concealed themselves in a corn-
field, where they waited until their pursuers were within reach,
when they tired a volley at them and the British colonel in
command was killed. Continuing their retreat until they


reached the shore of the sound, they drove their prisoners,
some thirty in number, into a large hog sty, while they them-
selves seized what boats they required, and effected their es-
cape. While they were crossing, the British reached the shore
and opened on them with their artillery, which they had
not yet had opportunity for using, and killed several of

On the 19th of the same month Colonel Dongan and Major
Drummond, of the Third battalion of provincials, mostly from
New Jersey, with about sixty men, set out from Staten Island
on a predatory raid into New Jersey. They marched about
twenty-seven miles into the interior, on the way capturing
fourteen prisoners, about seventy cattle and horses, and twenty
stand of arms, besides destroying a quantity of powder, shot,
salt and rum. The transporting of the stock and prisoners across
the sound at Amboy was covered by a guard on the Jersey side.

One of the most important engagements of the. war on the
island took place on the 22d of August, the particulars of
which are as nearly in accordance with the following statements
as we can gather the facts. General Sullivan, of the American
forces, being then stationed at Hanover, N. J., some twenty
miles or more from Elizabethtown, determined to make reprizals
for the predatory raids that the Staten Island troop's had been
making into New Jersey. He learned that the British forces
were distributed on the island about as follows: Colonel
Buskirk, with a regiment of two hundred and fifty, was en-
camped near Decker's ferry ; Colonel Barton, with his regiment
of about the same number, near the New Blazing Star ferry ;
Colonel Lawrence, with one hundred and fifty provincials, near
the Old Blazing Star ferry ; Colonel Dongan (Edward Vaughn
Dongan) and Colonel Allan, with one hundred men or more each,
about two miles apart, between the latter point and Amboy ;
and two regiments of British regulars, two of Anspachers and
one of Waldeckers were encamped by their fortifications near
the "Watering Place," their numbers being unknown.

Sullivan well knew that any movement of troops by daylight
in the country near the shore would be reported by tories in
time to allow the enemy an opportunity to prepare to oppose
him. To avoid this a long march by night was the only resource.
Accordingly his troops at Hanover were put in motion at about
three o'clock in the afternoon of the 21st. These were selected


from the brigades of Generals Smallwood and De Borre, and
numbered about one thousand men, who were supposed to be
most ably prepared to endure a long march. The bod}' reached
Elizabethtown at about ten o'clock in the evening.

The forces were now divided, so as to make a simultaneous
attack on two different points on the island. Colonel Ogden,
with his own and Colonel Dayton's regiment, joined by one
hundred militia under Colonel Frelinghuysen, inarched from
Elizabethtown in the evening to a point opposite the Fresh kill,
where they were conveyed by boats across the sound and up the
creek, their object being to attack Lawrence's i*egiment in
the rear. The remainder of the troops crossed from Halstead's
point or Elizabethtown point, approaching the island on the
north shore. General Smallwood' s brigade was to attack Bus-
kirk's, and General De Borre's brigade was to attack Barton's
regiment, each leaving one regiment on the main road to cover
their rear, and to pick up such as might escape Colonel Ogden
or the attacking parties. Ogden was instructed to move for-
ward, should he complete the reduction of Lawrence's regiment,
and attack Dongan and Allan, otherwise to hold his ground till
Sullivan came up from the north side to join him.

In crossing the water some difficulty was experienced on
account of a scarcity of boats, but the whole force were safely
landed on the island before daylight, without being discovered
by the British.

About day-break Ogden fell upon Lawrence and after an en-
gagement of two or three minutes routed him, taking the
colonel himself and about eighty privates and small officers
prisoners. He then moved forward toward the positions of Don-
gan and Allan and drove them back. They fell back to the
neighborhood of Prince's bay, where they found intrenchments
which made their position too strong for the fatigued assailants
to press against. Ogden now fell back toward Old Blazing Star
and took position to wait for Sullivan. In the meantime the
alarm had reached the commander at the fortifications on the
northeast part of the island, and he, General John Campbell, at
once marched with the Fifty-second British and Third battalion
of Waldeckers toward Richmond, under the supposition that
that point would be approached by the invaders.

Soon after the moment of the attack made by Ogden, General
Sullivan moved witli De Borre's brigade to attack Colonel Bar-


ton's regiment that lay at the New Blazing Star (or Decker's
ferry). Here he found the latter drawn up to receive him, but
upon the main body moving up to charge they broke ranks and
fled. Sullivan had stationed Colonel Price off to the right to
prevent the escape of the enemy, but many of them seized the
boats that lay at the ferry and crossed to the Jersey shore, while
others being acquainted with the intricacies of the swamps and
woods were able to evade their pursuers. A considerable num-
ber of arms, blankets, hats, etc., were taken, and about forty
privates, with Colonel Barton himself, were made prisoners. A
barn and about thirty-five tons of hay were also burned.

At the same time General Small wood, with his brigade, moved
in another column to the neighborhood of the Dutch church,
where they attacked what they supposed was Colonel Buskirk's
regiment. General Small wood's guide, instead of bringing him
in the rear of the regiment, led him to a position in their full
front. The latter had formed on the east side of the bridge
and Smallwood's men, in a solid column, were moving over to
attack them. The British, however, upon the first fire, broke
and fled back to the fortifications on the northeast part of the
island, where they were later in the day rallied by General
Skinner, to whose corps they belonged, and were led by him to
pursue the retiring Americans with the other regiments under
Campbell. In their precipitate retreat before Smallwood's
brigade, however, they left their stand of colors, which was
taken by the Americans, and their tents which the latter de-
stroyed, as they also did a quantity of hay and stores. Small-
wood's men also burned several of their vessels which lay in
the kill or creek near by.

The forces of Sullivan and Smallwoodnow effected a junction
and moved inland toward Richmond to join the detachment of
Ogden. About noon they reached Old Blazing Star and found
that Ogden, after waiting till longer delay seemed unnecessarily
hazardous, had sent his division across the river. Sullivan had
sent a messenger to bring the boats from Elizabethtown point
(Halstead's point)down the sound to help transfer his men across,
but the messenger was detained on the way and the boats failed
to come. In this emergency Sullivan began at once to trans-
port his men by means of the three boats which Ogden had
used, but before this could be accomplished the accumulated
forces of Campbell, Skinner, Dongan and Allan were upon his


rear and his chances of escape were growing uncomfortably
small. The rear was now covered by about eighty of Small-
wood's Marylander's, commanded by Majors Stewart and Til-
lard, who ably maintained the honorable reputation of that
brigade by their unflinching tenacity against overpowering
odds. The bravery of this little party was highly commended
by Sullivan and others at the time. By their determination the
enemy was held back until all the troops except this company
were safely conveyed across the river. So hotly did they con-
test the approach of the enemy that the latter were several
times driven back with great confusion. They were, however,
forced to retire and take new positions nearer the water, until
they stood within twenty rods of the shore. The British at
last brought up their heavy artillery which, with "grape and
canister," so commanded the sound that the boatmen refused
to face the fire and come after the rear-guard. Seeing this, and
their ammunition also failing them this little band of heroes at
last surrendered, though several of them escaped, seven of
them even swimming across the channel, and others, perhaps,
being drowned in the attempt. About forty of them were
taken prisoners.

Various estimates were given as to the losses in this day's
engagement on the island. The total loss to the British was
one hundred and thirty privates and eleven officers taken
prisoners, and probably twenty-five to one hundred killed and
wounded; while that of the Americans was ten killed, fifteen
wounded and one hundred and twenty-seven privates and nine
officers taken prisoners. Besides this the British lost arms,
baggage and a number of cattle carried away and stores and
vessels destroyed, while the Americans lost a few whale boats
which Campbell's command succeeded in capturing.

General Sullivan, in a letter to congress, in which he urged
an investigation into his conduct relating to the affair, in order-
to clear himself from some charges which he regards as unjust,
gives a summary of it in the following language:

'"In this expedition we landed on an island possessed by the
enemy; put to rout six regiments; killed, wounded and made
prisoners at least four or five hundred of the enemy; vanquished
every party that collected against us ; destroyed them great
quantities of stores ; took one vessel, and destroyed six ; took
a considerable number of arms, blankets, many cattle, horses,


etc.; marched victorious through the island, and in the whole
course of the day, lost not more than one hundred and fifty
men, most of which were lost by the imprudence of themselves,
and officers. Some few, indeed, were lost by cross accidents,
which no human foresight could have prevented."

After this raid the British rested less easily. They were
more watchful, and suspicious of another attack. Rivington's
Gazette, of October 25, contained the following paragraph,
which furnishes some suggestions in reference to the subject
before us :

"By a Gentleman who has lately escaped from confine-
ment in New Jersey, we have been favoured with the following
particulars : * It is imagined that another expedition

is determined upon against Staten-Island under the command
of Mr. Philemon Dickenson, who has assembled near 400 men
about Elizabeth Town ; boats and scows are also prepared, with
a floating raft, to cross Bridge creek, and thereby secure a re-
treat to the point. Gen. Sullivan was, on his late unsuccessful
attempt on this island, highly reprehended for not using this
expedient, and, as he has been again blamed for his conduct at
Brandywine, in Pennsylvania, he some time ago resigned his
commission in disgust, and withdrew himself from the rebel

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 19 of 72)