Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Revolutionary War in Richmond County, New York (Prelude) 1760 to 1774

The somewhat secluded nature of Staten Island in the 17th and 18th centuries afforded its citizens with relative peace and prosperity after the first Dutch settlers battled with the local Indians and struggled to gain a foothold at Oud Dorp (Old Towne).

Early descriptions of the Island paint a landscape as a "lush and fragrant garden" with a good supply of fresh spring water and an abundance of hardwood trees. Dutch yeomen farmers took advantage of the mixture of clay and sandy soil, in addition to the abundance of Oyster beds in and around the many coves and inlets of the Island.

South East view of New York City with Staten Island in the background (1766) (NYPL)
The sparsely populated Island was divided into Southfield, Northfield, Westfield and Castletown, the latter overlooking Upper New York Bay.

From a publication in London, dated 1760, we abstract the following description of the residents of Staten Island at that time: " Staten Island at its east end has a ferry of three miles to the west end of Long Island; at its west end is a ferry of one mile to Perth-Amboy of East Jersies; it is divided from East Jersies by a creek; is in length about twelve miles, and about six miles broad, and makes one county, called Richmond, which pays scarce one in one and twenty of the provincial tax; it is all in one parish, but several congregations, viz., an English, Dutch, and French congregation; the inhabitants are mostly English; only one considerable village called Cuckold's-town."


Christopher Billoppe (Morris's Mem.)
Since there were no delegates being sent to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, Richmond became notorious for its Loyalist sympathies. Christopher Billoppe, the wealthiest of the Loyalists, owned Bentley Manor at the extreme southern tip of the Island. The opinion which George Washington had formed of the people of Staten Island, as well as of their immediate neighbors at Amboy, may be learned from the following extract from one of his letters:

"The known disaffection of the people of Amboy, and the treachery of those of
Staten Island, who, after the fairest professions, have shown themselves our
inveterate enemies, have induced me to give directions that all persons of known
enmity and doubtful character should be removed from these places."
Joseph Christopher House. Photo (C) Nick Matranga
The New York Provincial Congress had swayed the merchants and farmers to appoint members to a committee of safety or risk continuing their goods being boycotted by other local towns in New Jersey.

The Committee of Safety included Joseph Christopher (see photo at right), David Latourette, Peter Mersereau and John Tyson along with seven other men.


In June 1776 the ships began to arrive off of Staten Island, and slowly entered the Narrows into Upper New York Bay.  By the beginning of August, an estimated 30,000 ships were anchored in the harbor and directly off of Staten Island. The soldiers disembarked and started to set up camp all over the Island, chopping down the forests for their cabins and fire wood and foraging for cattle and food on the small farms that dotted the Island.  General Howe had explicitly forbade foraging and stealing from the local farmers, but the soldiers served themselves to the generous amounts of apples, peaches and cherries from the numerous orchards along the south shore.
(Above) A View of the Narrows between Long Island and Staten Island, with Our Fleet at Anchor and Lord Howe Coming In. Drawing by Captain Lieutenant Archibald Robertson, Royal Engineers, 1776. (NYPL)

General Howe set up his headquarters in the Rose & Crowne Inn at New Dorpe, where the Olde King's Highway crosses the main road of the town.  The Black Horse Tavern nearby was also commandeered for the use of the Officers and their Aides-de-Camp while stationed on the Island.

Taken from the height above the watering place on Staaten Island. View of the bay & town of New York with the Phoenix & Rose men of war passing their battery & going up Hudson's River. 12th July 1776. Robertson, Archibald, ca. 1745-1813 -- Artist (NYPL)







Richard St George Mansergh-St George (Wiki Entry written by Nicholas Matranga)

An officer of the 4th Regiment of Foot
Thomas Gainsborough
Colonel Richard St George Mansergh (born 1757), (the name of 'St George' following 'Mansergh' was
assumed on inheriting his maternal uncle's property, Richard St George Mansergh-St George) was a British Army officer and magistrate of County Cork, Ireland.


His grandfather was Sir Richard St George. His father was Sir George St George of Carrickdrumrusk and was ancestor of the Barons St George. His two brothers were Oliver and George. Richard was ancestor of the St Georges of Woodsgift in County Kilkenny. The St Georges were originally from Cambridgeshire who were granted lands in the Headford area by the Cromwellian Commissioners in 1666, much of it formerly held by the Catholic Skerrett family. Their ownership of lands was extensive in the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Limerick and Queen's county (county Laois) confirmed by a patent dated 26 October 1666. The family bore a coat of arms blazoned Argent a Chief Azure overall a Lion rampant Gules crowned Or. Gallowshill in Carrick-on-Shannon, Hatley Manor and Holywell are the ancestral family manor houses.


He was educated at Westminster School before entering Middle Temple in 1769. Admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1771, he graduated BA in 1775.[1}  He was friends with the painter Henry Fuseli and the poet Anna Seward. He has been reputed to have been a very accomplished artist, lampooning the political figures and events of the day in sketches and watercolors. In 1771, he inherited his uncle's estate and added 'St. George' to the end of his surname.

Early military career

He began his military career in late 1775 by purchasing a cornet's commission in the 8th (The King's Royal
Portrait of Richard Mansergh St George
 (c.1750-1798) 1791 Hugh Douglas Hamilton
Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons. After serving three months, he retired, but had signed up again by obtaining a position as an Ensign in the 4th Regiment of Foot at the outbreak of the American War for Independence. His regiment joined General William Howe in the Battle of Long Island in 1776, and at Fort Washington. While at Staten Island, he eventually purchased a lieutenancy in the 52nd Regiment of Foot in December 1776. The following year, after lay-waying in Nova Scotia in early 1777, he participated in the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, seeing action at the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown where he was shot in the head. He was trepanned (a portion of his skull was removed) and fitted with a silver plate to cover the hole, requiring St. George to perpetually wear a black silken cap. Xavier della Gatta’s painting of the Battle of Germantown depicts a fellow private carrying the wounded St. George on his back from the battle (see illustration below). He returned to New York in June 1778. He was eventually promoted to captain in the 44th Regiment of Foot in 1778. By the end of the war he was serving as an aid to Sir Henry Clinton. He exchanged that commission for the same rank in the 100th Regiment of Foot on 4 May 1785, only to finally retire from the regulars on 18 May.

"The Battle of Germantown" by Xavier della Gatta, 1782

(Above, left, center and right) Illustrations attributed to Richard Mansergh St George.

Return to Ireland after American war

Anne nee Stepney Mansergh
 with child
 by George Romney
After being mustered out in May 1785, he returned to Ireland from America and married Anne Stepney of National Gallery of Ireland, in which Mansergh St George, in his Irish Light Horse Militia uniform, leans in an attitude of grief against a classical tomb inscribed Non Immemor.
Durrow, County Laois (then Queen's County) in 1788, and within three years they had two sons, Richard James and Stepney St George. Mansergh St George was an active, local magistrate appalled by the poverty that he found on his estates in County Cork and County Galway. His response to this was an Account of the State of Affairs in and About Headford, County Galway, which laments the condition of the Irish peasantry, and whilst considering establishing a linen industry to improve matters, doubts the willingness or the ability of his tenants to make the enterprise work. Mansergh St George's wife had died in 1791, leaving her husband a widower with two infant children, and he wished to have a portrait painted of himself (see illustration at right below) as a monument to his grief for her. The eventual result of the commission is the full-length portrait by Hugh Douglas Hamilton now in the
Irish rebellion of 1798.

By the late 1780s, the vast mountainous tract of land between Cork and Tipperary was overseen by the only active magistrate, which was Col St George himself. The local peasants had been indiscriminately cutting down trees for pike handles on the estates, as the gentry looked on in terror for fear of insurrection by their own tenants. The Colonel had written a confidential letter to the Castle describing "a gentleman about a quarter of a mile from this passively observed the people cutting down fifty of his trees in Daylight in view of his house."

Portrait of Richard Mansergh St George
 (c.1750-1798) 1791, Hugh Douglas Hamilton
St George had been dining with the Earl of Mountcashel's at Moor Park, and freely expressing his views
about his detestation of treason and rebellion. It is plausible that a servant may have reported these discussions to the assassins, so as they may have been ready and laying in wait for the Colonel. On 12 February 1798, at the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 thirty republicans from North Cork and South Tipperary attacked the house of Jasper Uniacke, Esq, the Colonel's tenant and administrator, and according to the Hibernian Chronicle "demanded that St. George Mansergh, who was then in the house, should be sent out to them; this being refused, they rushed in to seize him, on which he shot one of them dead, which so exasperated the rest, that with pitchforks, and other weapons," was "barbarously murdered" along with his servant with a rusty scythe. The newspaper article continues to describe the murder: "And to add to their inhumanity, they wounded Mrs. Uniacke, while in the act of saving her husband, so that she lies dangerously ill." She identified some of the assassins before expiring.


[1]Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Mansergh (post Mansergh-St George), Richard St George". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.


An account of Galway [Headford] by Richard-St.George-Mansergh St. George; with a note by Sir B. Boothby (inked over by R. St. George). Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). Library. MS 1749/1,2. 

Anna Seward, 'Epistle to Colonel St George, Written April 1783' The Poetical Works of Anna Seward; with Extracts from her Literary Correspondence.” Scott, Walter, ed. Three Volumes, Vol. II. John Ballantyne, Edinburgh. 1810. 

John Burke, A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronage of the British Empire, 4th edition Vol.II, London, Henry and Colburn and Richard Bentley 1832 p. 387.

Thomas Pakenham, The Year of Liberty: the story of the great Irish Rebellion of 1798, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1969. 

Martin Hunter, The Journal of Gen. Sir Martin Hunter and Some Letters of His Wife, Lady Hunter Put Together by Their Daughter, Miss A. Hunter, and by Their Dear Friend, Miss Bell, and Caused to be Printed by Their Grandson, James Hunter. Edinburgh: The Edinburgh Press, 1894.
William H. Howe, Richard St George Mansergh., 1776. Archival material. British military commission issued in America, signed by Gen. Howe, appointing Richard St. George, Mansergh St George Gent, to the rank of Lieutenant, 52d Regiment of Foot, headquartered in New York.
'The True Briton', 16 February 1798; The Times, 16 February 1798, p. 3. 

The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 68, p. 161 (February 1798). 

The Gentleman's Magazine, vol.68, p. 346 (April 1798). 

Martin Myrone, Gothic Romance and the Quixotic Hero:A Pageant for Henry Fuseli in 1783.

Martin Myrone, Bodybuilding: reforming masculinities in British art 1750-1810.

Gregory Urwin, Solving a Mystery: Redcoat Images, No. 83 (Revisited) Ensign Richard St George Mansergh St George, 4th Regiment of Foot, 1776.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

British Army at Staten Island, N.Y.

TEXT WAS DROPPED-I apologize- I know there are missing units.  I will update shortly.

Commander in Chief, General the Honorable Sir William Howe, K. B.
Second in Command, Lieutenant-General Henry Clinton
Third in Command, Right Honorable Lieutenant-General Earl Percy
1st Brigade. Major-General Pigot; 4th Regiment, Major James Ogilvie; 15th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Bird; 27th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Maxwell; 45th Regiment, Major Saxton.
2d Brigade. Brigadier-General Agnew; 5th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Wolcot; 28th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Rob. Prescott; 35th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Carr; 49th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Calder, Bart.
3d Brigade. Major-General Jones; 10th Regiment, Major Vatass; 37th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Ambercromby; 38th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Wm. Butler; 52d Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Mungo Campbell.
4th Brigade. Major-General James Grant; 17th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Mawhood; 40th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel James Grant; 46th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Enoch Markham; 55th Regiment, Captain Luke.
5th Brigade. Brigadier-General Smith; 23d Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Campbell; 43d Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel George Clarke; 14th Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Alvred Clarke; 63d Regiment, Major Francis Sill.
6th Brigade. Brigadier-General Gou. Robertson; 23d Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Benj. Bernard; 44th Regiment, Major Feury Hope; 57th Regiment, Lieutenant John Campbell; 64th Regiment, Major Hugh McLeroch.
7th Brigade. Brigadier-General Wm. Erskine, quartermaster general; 17th Light Dragoons, Lieutenant-Colonel Birch; 71st Highlanders, 1st Battalion, Major John MacDowell; 2d Battalion, Major Norman Lamont.
Brigade of Guards. Major-General Matthew; Light Infantry Brigade, Brigadier-General Honorable Alexander Leslie; 1st Battalion Light Infantry, Major Thomas Musgrave; 2d Battalion Light Infantry, Major Straubenzie; 3d Battalion Light Infantry, Major Honorable John Maitland; 4th Battalion Light Infantry, Major John Johnson.

Reserve. Right Honorable Lieutenant-General Earl of Cornwallis; Brigadier-General the Honorable John Vaughan; 33d Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Webster; 42d Regiment (Royal Highland), Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Stirling; 1st Battalion Grenadiers, Lieutenant-Colonel Honorable Henry Monckton; 2d Battalion Grenadiers, Lieutenant-Colonel William Meadows; 3d Battalion Grenadiers, Major Thomas Marsh; 4th Highland Grenadiers, Major Charles Stewart; Royal Artillery and Engineers, Brigadier-General Cleveland.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Vaughn Dongan (Loyalist Staten Islander)

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Vaughn Dongan, commander of the 3rd Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers in Skinner's Loyalist brigade was mortally wounded in a skirmish, midway between the Old Blazing Star Ferry and Prince's Bay. He was taken to a local farm (which I have yet to identify).  It may very well be The Abraham Manee Farmhouse in Prince's Bay, where British redoubts have been discovered nearby.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lookout Place, the British Garrison at Richmondtowne, Staten Island

Lookout Place or Fort Hill was a Revolutionary War British garrison, or earthen mound-fortress at the top of LaTourette Hill in Historic Richmondtown, Staten Island, New York. The redoubt was constructed in 1776 by British Regulars during the occupation of Richmond County. General William Howe planned his successful capture of New York City while encamped on the Island, along with 30,000 British and Hessian soldiers joining after the arrival of his brother Admiral Richard Howe. The fort overlooked the Old Mill Road, Fresh Kills St. Andrews Church and the town of Richmond, then referred to as Cuckoldstown, in the valley just below LaTourette Hill.

The hilltop was widely denuded of trees by the British during the war, allowing the soldiers to have unobstructed views of Lower New York Bay and the Arthur Kill. Extensive archeological digs have taken place at the turn of the last century, revealing all manner of British accuetrament, from remnants of weaponry to soldier coat buttons, shoe buckles and pottery fragments.

Robert Rogers created a new unit while encamped at Richmondtown called The Queen's Rangers named after Charlotte, wife of King George III. It grew to 937 officers and men organized into eleven companies of about thirty men each and an additional five troops of cavalry.

Rogers did not prove successful in this command and he left the unit on January 29, 1777.  On October 15, 1777, John Graves Simcoe was given command. He turned the Queen's Rangers into one of the most successful British regiments in the war.

The Narrows, the entrance to New York Harbor (c. 1800)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fountain House and a Flirtatious Loyalist

The Fountain House, built in 1668 and use at the settlement's first courthouse, stood across from The Black Horse Tavern during the American Revolution. Generals Percy and Carleton, along with Captain Montresor (British Military engineer) often stopped here. A flirtatious young Loyalist, Margaret Moncrieffe resided here with her father, Major Thomas Moncrieffe in the summer of 1776. She was introduced to General Howe and his staff, and was frequently seen cavorting with the best men on the General's staff. She eventually married Captain John Coughlen. It was demolished in 1937.

One of Montresor's maps of Lower Manhattan during the Revolution.

The General Howe Map of Staten Island, 1776

The resulting map of Staten Island was ordered by General Howe shortly after the British landed at Staten Island in July of 1776. According to the Staten Island Historian, the map was found in the Duke of Northumberland's collection in England, and is claimed to have been surveyed without any surveying instruments; hence the inaccurate shape of the Island. It also shows a conflict as to where General Howe's headquarters were located. The Howe map marks the Bancker house, located near the Decker Ferry in Port Richmond as his headquarters. Legend has it that General Howe was staying at the Rose & Crowne at Newe Dorpe. He may have been using both the Bancker residence and the Tavern at different intervals during his stay on Staten Island. The Taylor and Skinner map, another British map commissioned in 1783 is an extremely accurate depiction of the Island! I have yet to see this map, as it is in the U.K. archives.

A British box sextant (pictured below), late 18th century.

This was used on shore by military and naval officers busily engaged in surveying the colony of British Columbia. Light, portable and easier to transport, it was one of essential the tools for Colonial expansion and mapping. Like a nautical sextant, the box sextant measures angles, but it is smaller, enclosed version placed inside a cylindrical box. Its graduated arc is at half degrees from 0° to 120°. The readings on its vernier were read to single minutes using a magnifying glass. The small removable telescope was used to take long sights, but ordinary observations were usually made through a peephole in the glass. The top (lid) of the cylindrical brass box has been removed to show the knobs that work the sextant. The large knob operates a pinion that engages the toothed, circular segment inside the sextant that mounts the index glass and index arm. The smaller knobs are adjusting screws to eliminate index error and adjust the horizon glass.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Old Mill Road, Richmondtown, Staten Island, in Summer (c. 2007)

A large swath of the Greenbelt that has been unaccessible to hikers, naturists and bird-watchers will finally have a bikeway and hiking trail through this densely forested area which is the Lauterette Woods. Richmond Creek and the marshland bird life will finally be viewable from the trail. It will be completed by 2009. See Nick's pictures of the history of Old Mill Road 100 years ago and Old Mill Road today. Actually it is more densely forested now than it has been for the past 200 years (most of the Island was cleared for farming, lumber trade and firewood in the 18th Century.

The Black Horse Tavern, New Dorpe, Staten Island, N.Y.

Morris's Memorial History of Staten Island, New York By Ira K. Morris: "OLD BLACK HORSE NEW DORP
British Troops were billeted in the Black Horse Tavern (left, drawing @ 1800) during the American Revolution. The picture at right is dated @ 1906. It has been since been demolished.

The Rose and Crown, Richmond, NY Morris's Memorial History of Staten Island,
New York By Ira K. Morris:
Photo (c) Nicholas Matranga
OLD ROSE AND CROWN FARM HOUSE NEW BY THE HUGUENOTS ABOUT 1660 is 1854 From a ketch by Mrs S rah Robert Morris
General William Howe read the Declaration of Independence to his troops while billeted in this farm-house/Inn, a few days after the 4th of July, 1776. It was demolished in 1854. All that remains is a marker on a stone at the corner of New Dorpe Lane and Richmond Road (The King's Highway).  Many British Officers participated in raucous and debauched behavior while garrisoned at Staten Island. One particular event one a nearby hillside lead to a duel with one officer being mortally wounded. Many Courts Martial were issued in the ensuing seven-year British occupation.

Lookout Place, the British Garrison on Staten Island

Lookout Place or Fort Hill was a Revolutionary War British garrison, or earthen mound-fortress at the top of LaTourette Hill in Historic Richmondtown, Staten Island, New York. The redoubt was constructed in 1776 by British Regulars during the occupation of Richmond County. General William Howe planned his successful capture of New York City while encamped on the Island, along with 30,000 British and Hessian soldiers joining after the arrival of his brother Admiral Richard Howe. The fort overlooked the Old Mill Road, Fresh Kills St. Andrews Church and the town of Richmond, then referred to as Cuckoldstown, in the valley just below LaTourette Hill.

The hilltop was widely denuded of trees by the British during the war, allowing the soldiers to have unobstructed views of Lower New York Bay and the Arthur Kill. Extensive archeological digs have taken place at the turn of the last century, revealing all manner of British accuetrament, from remnants of weaponry to soldier coat buttons, shoe buckles and pottery fragments.

Robert Rogers created a new unit while encamped at Richmondtown called The Queen's Rangers named after Charlotte, wife of King George III.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Closter Raid, N.J. (Loyalist reenactment 4th B. N.J. Volunteers)

The IV Battalion New Jersey Volunteers were garrisoned on Staten Island for most of the War, but made frequent forays and raids into nearby towns in New Jersey. These photos are from a reenactment of the Raid on Closter, New Jersey, a rebel stronghold.

Bound Brook, N.J. May 2009 (Loyalist reenactment 4th B. N.J. Volunteers)

Reenactment as a Loyalist soldier (an American-born colonist who supported the Crown) with the IV Battalion NJ Volunteers at Bound Brook, New Jersey. The Regimental coat, waistcoat, shirt and trousers were all borrowed thanks to Todd and Sue Braisted and Ray Helge. For more information, please visit: Royal Provincial, the official Loyalist History page authored by historian Todd Braisted.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peace Conference, Tottenville, Staten Island, N.Y. Sept. 2009 (Loyalist reenactment 4th B. N.J. Volunteers)

Peace Conference, Tottenville, Staten Island, N.Y. Sept. 2009 (Loyalist reenactment 4th B. N.J. Volunteers)

An added feature this year at the 1776 Peace Conference Reenactment were actors portraying Admiral Howe, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge, seated at a dining table on the lawn of the house arguing over the details of the ill-fated peace agreement. They were ferried over in a row boat from Perth Amboy (see pictures below).

N.J. Loyalist Uniform (above) 1777

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

General Skinner's Headquarters, Port Richmond, Staten Island, N.Y.

NOTE: The text below is in the public domain.  There was no author attached to it.  I do not claim authorship of it.
Pelton House
The house sits on a bluff on Staten Island and overlooks the Kill Van Kull and a series of boatyards along the shore, a few blocks west of Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Buses, trucks, and cars rumble by on Richmond Terrace below, and travelers have no inkling that the future King William IV of England was a guest in that house during the American Revolution. Few even suspect that Staten Island was occupied territory for the entire course of that war for national independence. As a young Naval officer in the war, the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, was a guest at the Cruser-Pelton House. Major John Andre also spent time there. The soldier, poet, spy was hanged for conspiring with Benedict Arnold only a week after writing his last will and testament on Staten Island. The Cruser-Pelton House, as it is known locally, or Kreuzer-Pelton, as the New York City Landmarks Commission spells it, served as the commanding headquarters of Brigadier General Cortlandt Skinner’s brigade of American Loyalists beginning in 1777.
Pelton House (late 19th C.) (NYPL)

The Island had already been occupied for a year by
then and the house used by British army engineers, along with a second Cruser house nearby. The house is marked on a military map drawn by the engineers during the British occupation, as well as on one drawn by French engineers for the Americans. The Revolution saw a great shift in population between the area of Elizabeth Town, New Jersey and Staten Island, as loyalists fled New Jersey for nearby Staten Island and patriots went in the other direction. The North Shore of Staten Island, occupied by the British, and the area opposite in New Jersey, occupied by the Americans, was known as “the Lines,” meaning the enemy lines. Skinner had already raised six battalions of New Jersey Volunteers by 1777 when he took up personal headquarters in the Cruser-Pelton House. From the house, Skinner planned raids into New Jersey and defended against raids from the rebels in New Jersey. His main responsibility was intelligence gathering for the secret service and he seems to have been good at his job. The house commands the high ground and any approach along the north shore by American forces from New Jersey would have been spotted from there.

Skinner had advance knowledge of every rebel raid except one. He narrowly escaped capture in August 1777 when rebels invaded the North Shore from Elizabeth Point and marched to the county seat at Richmond Town, where they took Skinner’s subalterns, Col. Barton and Lt. Col. Lawrence, and some 30 other prisoners. On one of many raids conducted by Lord Sterling, who led 2000 soldiers across the Kill in 1779, Skinner was ready for them and after a short, but furious battle in Port Richmond, in which the Dutch Church was burned, the Americans were driven back.
Pelton House photo (c) Nick Matranga
There is a local tradition of another skirmish being fought at Cruser Cove itself just below the Cruser-Pelton House. Skinner himself was supposed to have been wounded at this encounter. The house is composed of three parts: a fieldstone cottage on the west built in 1722 by Cornelius Van Santvoord, minister of the Port Richmond Dutch Reformed Church; a larger, steep-roofed rough-cut stone central section built around 1770 by Cornelius Cruser, a farmer, landowner, and son of the Voorlezer of the Dutch church; and a two-story brick extension added in 1836 for Daniel Pelton, an abolitionist, who moved there from Manhattan. When Daniel Pelton built the brick extension, it replaced an earlier east wing similar to the original stone cottage.

Rev. Cornelius Van Santvoord was the son-in-law of John Staats, who was the son of the original holder of the royal land patent granted in 1677, Pieter Jansen Staats, known as Peter Johnson. The next patent west was granted in 1677 to Gerrit Croesen (later Cruser), Peter Johnson’s brother-in-law. A farm on the Croesen Patent belonged to the Dutch Voorlezer, Hendrick Cruser, who was the patentee’s son and Cornelius Cruser’s father. In 1751, Cornelius Cruser bought the farm next door to his father’s farm and the property included the Van Santvoord house. Islanders had no choice in the matter of giving up their homes to the conquerors and it is questionable that Cornelius Cruser was a loyalist, since his son Abraham was a major on the American side. But Cornelius’s son John Cruser married Mary Tooker, daughter of a New Jersey loyalist, Jacob Tooker, who lived on Staten Island in the war years and then went into exile in Nova Scotia. John Cruser and Mary Tooker did not go into exile with her family and inherited the farm on his father’s death in 1786. Mary Tooker Cruser’s mother’s family included the notorious Col. Cornelius Hatfield and his gang of Tory irregulars who terrorized his hometown, Elizabeth, New Jersey from the Staten Island base. Hatfield hung a New Jersey man at Bergen Point in full view of the Cruser-Pelton house. Skinner, who could have looked out his window and watched the execution across the narrow Kill Van Kull, had directed Hatfield to do as he wished with the man. Hatfield was later tried for murder in Elizabeth Town, but was acquitted and went to Nova Scotia.

Pelton House photo (c) Nick Matranga
The house is located in Livingston, which was something of an abolitionist stronghold in the day. Near neighbors and social acquaintances of Pelton were abolitionists Francis George Shaw, father of Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded black troops in the Civil War, George William Curtis, and Sydney Howard Gay. Daniel Pelton’s reputation as an abolitionist, along with a trap door leading to an underground space the family called “the dungeon,” led to the tradition that the house was used in the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

  The Cruser-Pelton House is a private residence not open to the public.