Monday, August 22, 2016

Patriot Voices From the British Invasion of Long Island



[Colonel Little's Order Book]

[Long Island,] August 20, 1776.
Field Offr of the Day tomorrow, Col. Phipps, (?) Adjt from Col. Little's regt.

August 21st, 1776.
Five hundred men to be on fatigue to-morrow to be on the works by 8 o'clock, to leave at 12, & begin at 2 o'clock, & work till half past 6. Nothing can be more disagreeable to the Genl. than to call upon the men to be so constantly on fatigue, but their own salvation, and the safety of the country requires it. He hopes that in 2 or 3 days more the encampment will be so secure that he can release the men from fatigue and give them an opportunity to rest from their labors. Adjt. of the day to attend at the Genls. quarters every morning at 8, and an orderly from each brigade daily. Four men are to be drafted to row the Genls boat and do no other duty. The Brigade majors, upon receiving orders from Head Quarters are to call at Gen. Sullivan's quarters for his orders, or send adjts to take them off.
Col. Johnson's and Newcomb's regts are to consider the woods on the west side of the creek as their alarm post, and repair there in case of an alarm. Gen. Nixon will show the ground this evening at 6 o'clock to the commg officers of the Regts.

Aug. 23, 1776.
The men not to turn out to their alarm posts this afternoon, (but) to get 2 days' provisions ready, & to be at their alarm posts to-morrow morning by 3 o'clock in order for action.
Cols. Miles & Ransom's (Remsen's of L.I.) regts. to take possession of the Bedford road this night—Col. Ransom's regt. to march at 5 o'clock. Col. Miles' regt. is on the spot. Cols. Little's & Hitchcock's Regts to possess the Flatbush road & Cols. Johnson's & Martin's to take possession of the road near the [Pg ii.28]river. All these regts. to be at their posts by 6 o'clock. Upon their arrival the troops now there are to retire to their encampments & get 2 days provisions dressed, & be ready for action. The Gen. will never make a 3rd. requisition to the majors of brigade, to attend for orders.

Long Island Aug. 24 1776.
A return to be made to the Gen. this afternoon at 5 o'clock of all ye Light Horse & companies of troop within the lines. The adjt. of Col. Little's regiment is to attend at Genls. quarters at 7 o'clock a.m. to-morrow.
The Genl. returns his thanks to the brave officers & soldiers who with so much spirit & intrepidity repulsed the enemy & defeated their designs of taking possession of the woods near our lines. He is now convinced that the troops he has the honor to command, will not, in point of bravery, yield to any troops in the universe. The cheerfulness with which they do their duty, & the patience with which they undergo fatigue evince exalted sentiments of freedom, & love of country gives him most satisfactory evidence that when called upon they will prove themselves worthy of that freedom for which they are now contending.
Col. Ramsons (Remsen's) Regt. to mount no guard except quarter guard of 12, but be considered a fatigue party, to which they are to attend from day to day. The Genl. is sorry to find that Regt. flying from their posts, when timid women would have blushed to have betrayed any signs of fear at any thing this regt. discovered at the time of their flight.
Officers are requested to see that their men always keep at least 2 days provisions, ready dressed by them. The Commissary is to deal out one gill of rum per man each day on this Island until further orders. Soldiers are not to be out of their encampment but upon urgent business. Gen. Nixon to take command of the lines next the enemy until further orders, to post his men in the edge of the woods next the enemy. Brigde Majors to attend punctually at the Genl's. quarters at 10 a.m.

Long Island Aug. 25 1776.
The following arrangement to take place on Long Island until further orders—Viz: Col. Mile's 2 battalions, Col. Atlee's, Col. Lutzs, Major Hayes, Col. Lashers and Drake's to be formed into[Pg ii.29] one brigade under the command of Gen. Ld. Stirling. Col. Hand's, Prescott's, (Late) Nixon's, Varnum's, Hitchcock's, Little's, Smith's, & Ramson's to be under Gen. Nixon. Wylly's, Huntington's, Taylor's, (Tyler's) Silliman's, Chester's, & Gay's under Gen. Parsons; Johnson's, Courtlandt's, Martins, Newcombs & Freeman's (Forman's), under the command of Brig. Gen Hurd.
The General orders that the Brigrs. attend at Head Quarters at 8 a.m. to-morrow for directions. Brigde Major Box is appointed to act as Adjt. Genl. for this department until further orders.
A Brigr. Genl. of the Day to attend the Grand Parade at Guard mounting at 10 a.m., every day afterwards at 8, whose duty it shall be to see that the guards are regularly made up, & properly posted & duly relieved. No firing at the outposts to be allowed on any pretense, except by permission of the Comg Gen. of the day, & none within the lines except by permission. This order not to extend to sentries on guard.
Brigr. for the day Gen. Ld. Stirling.
The Gen. is surprised to find the soldiers strolling about, notwithstanding repeated orders, miles distant from the lines, at a time when the enemy are hourly expected to make an attack. The officers are enjoined to cause the arrest of any soldier who shall be found strolling without the lines unless they can show a written permit from their Cap. or Comg. officer of the regt. or company. All the officers and soldiers are to keep within their quarters, unless ordered on duty.
All troops in this department are desired to wear a green bough or branch of a tree in their hats, till further orders.
Col. Ward's Regt. to be added to Gen. Parson's brigade. All the troops not....  [——The order breaks off at this point in Colonel Little's book, but it is fortunately preserved entire in an orderly book kept by Captain John Douglass, of Philadelphia. (Hist. Mag., vol. ii., p. 354.) The following order from General Lord Stirling also appears in Captain Douglass's book:

[Long Island] August 25th 1776. 

"The Adjutants of each Corps of this Brigade are to attend Brigade Major Livingston at Gen. Sullivan's Quarters every morning at 9 o'clock to receive the orders of the day. The Weekly Returns are to be brought in this day. Such regiments as have tents are to encamp within the lines as soon as possible."]

All other troops not mentioned and those which may be sent here[Pg ii.30] without a General Officer to command them are to be considered as a part of Lord Stirling's Brigade till further orders.
A return of the several Brigades to be made immediately. Eight hundred (men) properly officered to relieve the troops on Bedford Road to-morrow morning, six field officers to attend with this party. The same number to relieve those on Bush (Flatbush) Road, and an equal number those stationed towards the Narrows. A picket of three hundred men under the command of a Field Officer, six Captains, twelve Subalterns to be posted at the wood on the west side of the Creek every night till further orders.
It is a very scandalous practice unbecoming soldiers whose duty it is to defend the liberty and property of the Inhabitants of the country to make free with and rob them of that property; it is therefore ordered that no person belonging to this army do presume on any pretense whatever to take or make use of any Corn, Poultry or Provision, or anything else without the consent of the owners nor without paying the common price for them; any breach of this order will be severely punished. The Commanding Officer of each Regiment and Company is to see this order communicated to their respective corps and to see it carried into execution....
Brigadier Lord Stirling to command the front of our lines next Hudson's River and to command the reserve within the lines, and when either of the other Brigade Generals have the command of the Advance Lines Lord Stirling is to have command of his post in his absence. Each Brigadier General to assign the Alarm Posts to the several Regiments under their command.
From: The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn by Henry P. Johnston. BROOKLYN, N.Y.: PUBLISHED BY THE LONG ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY. 1878.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

British Voices of the Landing at Staten Island, June to August 1776

July 2. Ensign (acting Lieutenant) Henry Stirke, Light Infantry Company, 10thRegiment of Foot, 1st Battalion of Light Infantry: 

Grenadier, 40th Regiment of Foot, 1776
“[1776, July] 2d… Made our Landing on Staten Island, at 8O’Clock at night, without a Shot being fired; as the Rebels abandoned it, on the appearance of the Troops. This night we lay upon our Arms.”Stirke, p. 156.

July 3. Captain William Bamford, 40th Regiment of Foot:

“3 [July, 1776.] W. this mg the first line of our Army landed on Staten Island. We work’d higher up the River & about 11 at night most of our Army was landed.” Bamford, p. 301

Corporal Thomas Sullivan, 49th Regiment of Foot:

“-July- 3d…After our landing, we were informed that the -Enemy- were landing on the back or S.W. part of the -Island.- Our Regiment i.e. 49th, was ordered to march from the -Landing- place through the-Island,- to the -New-blazing Star,- at the -Ferry- of which place; the-Rebels- was reported to be landing. But they desisted, upon hearing that our Army were marching towards the -Ferry.- There were 3 Companies of -Light-Infantry- before us there; and the whole remained there that night.” Sullivan, p. 45.

July 4. Bamford:

“4 Th. [July, 1776.] the Troops march’d to their several cantonments round the Island. 40 Quartered on the road between Richmond & Amboy... much firing this morning of great Guns, very hot day” Bamford, p. 301. 


“-July- 4th. Our Regiment was relieved at the -Ferry- by the 5th.Regiment; and we were put into Cantoonments, a mile backward from the-New-blazing Star.  The whole Army landed upon that Island, and were distributed about it; and there were strong -Parties- sent to the -Old-blazing Star, and Decker’s Ferries.” Sullivan, p. 45. 

General Orders:

“Head Quarters Mr. Bankers. Staten Island 4th. July 1776…Officers to have as little baggage on Shore as possible, as the Brigades are liable to change their ground on the shortest notice.” 
Howe Orderly Book. [General Orders are generally read in the evening for execution the following day. SR.]

July 5. Captain William Bamford of the 40th Regiment of Foot landed on Staten Island from on board the “Spy” on July 3 1776:

“5 [July, 1776.] F. dull mg X cleard hot day” Bamford, p. 301. 

July 7. Bamford:

“7. [July, 1776.] Su. very hot day got a small port mantua from on board. Piquet Gd” Bamford, p.302.

July 8. Bamford: 

“8. [July, 1776.] M. hot mg brisk wd N. W.” Bamford, p.302. 

July 14. Ambrose Serle: 

“Sunday, 14th July. An excessive hard Rain, prevented going on Shore this Day…” Serle, p.31. 

July 19. Ambrose Serle: 

“Friday, 19th. July…Walked on Shore in the Evening; but the Heat and Dust made the excursion rather unpleasant.” Serle, p. 38. 

July 22. Ambrose Serle:

“Monday, 22nd. July…A very hot and sultry Day, which rendered the Ship our best Retreat. On the Shore, which is near a Mile distant, I heard that the Weather was extremely close and uncomfortable.” Serle, p. 40. 

July 25-28. Ambrose Serle: 

“Thursday, 25th. July…The Day was very warm, the Thermomr. being at 80°.” Serle, p. 45. 

“Sunday, 28th. [July, 1776.]…No divine Service this morning, the heat being excessive. No Air, and The Thermometer at 94 Degrees.” Serle, p. 49.

August 2. Ambrose Serle: 

“Friday, 2d. August…The Heat was very great to-day. The Therm. gave 94° in the Sun, and 83°in the shade.” Serle, p. 53.”

August 5. Bamford: 

“5. [August, 1776.] M. hot Mg S. E.” Bamford, p. 307.

Captain Francis, Lord Rawdon to Francis, tenth Earl of Huntingdon, at St. James’s Place, London: 

“1776. Aug. 5. Staten Island, near New York. - We are just arrived here, my dearest Lord, after a very pleasant passage. Your letter of April 4th met me as soon as I set foot on shore. The company my letter from Virginia found you in, is certainly the pleasantest in the world.Though I have neither a yellow damask drawing-room nor Constantia Cape[Perhaps Constantia wine?], I cultivate the acquaintance in a tent with Madeira, and -after all- there is but little difference.” HMC, Rawdon-Hastings, III, p. 179. 

Captain John Peebles,
1778. Miniature
in the S.U.S.M.
Lieutenant John Peebles, Grenadier Company, 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot: 

“Monday morning 5th. Augt. [Near the watering place, Staten Island.] prepared to land. first boat about 11, being a good dist from the shore & a strong wind & tide, it was late in the afternoon before we all got ashore, march’d in the eveng to Quarters in the country Peoples houses about 2 or 3 mile. few of the army Encamp’d almost the whole lodged in the farmers houses & barns Landed the whole coy in good health after being above sixteen weeks on board of ship...”
Peebles, p. 54. 

[The informative John Peebles unfortunately did not keep his diary during the summer and autumn of 1776 while serving as Adjutant to the 4th Grenadier Battalion, but opened it again after the disbandment of this corps. Entries from his Orderly Book kept during this period are however noted below. SR.]

August 6. Bamford:

“6. [August, 1776.] Tu. hot Mg brisk wd S. W.”  Bamford, p. 307. 

August 7. Bamford:

“7 [August, 1776.] W. very hor foggy Mg XII clear &very hot S. W. X Exceeding hot, little wd S. XII pleasnt breeze E. Some heavy rain this Evg” Bamford, p. 307. 

Ambrose Serle, Secretary to Admiral Richard Howe:

“Wednesday, 7th August. [Staten Island.]…“Went on Shore in the Evening, and walked up to the new Incampments.’ Tis a hard unpleasant Life this of a Soldier’s, which is passed in a little paltry Tent which will neither keep out Wind, Rain, or Vermin,and which seems to have little other Solace on this dusty Island than the association of multitudes in the same Condition. The Ship is aHouse or a Palace compared with the Accommodations of the military.” Serle, p. 56. 

[Serle was a civilian, unused to his surroundings. He was conscious of many things that military men seldom noted, including the swarms of mosquitoes, the din of insects and frogs, and after the battle of Long Island, the odor of unburied corpses in the woods. SR.]


“8. [August, 1776.] Th. dull close Mg very sultry &calm” Bamford, p. 307.

August 9. Bamford: “9 [August, 1776.] F. close hot day wd variable”Bamford, p. 307.

Ambrose Serle:

“Friday, 9th. of August.Nothing material occurred this Day, wch was extremely warm.” Serle, p.60.
General Orders:

“Head Quarters Staten Island9th. August 1776…“The Regiments lately joined the Army under the Command of Lieut. Genl. Clinton, will as soon as possible remove their heavy baggage and Women to the Transports allotted to them for that purpose,of which they will make a report to the Adjutant General.” Howe Orderly Book.

August 10. Bamford:

“10. Sa. hot day p. m. II pleasant wd E.” Bamford, p.307.

August 11.Bamford:

“11. Su. close dull some showers, S. much Lightning Thunder & Rain this Evg” Bamford, p. 308.

August 12. Bamford:

“12 M. cloudy Mg cool W.” Bamford, p. 308.

42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot, Regimental Orders:

“The 7 Companys to Embark on board the Brilliant Thames Glasgow &Houston. The Officers are to carry nothing with them but their Tents bedding & a Portmanteau.” Peebles Orderly Book.

August 13 - 16.Bamford:

“13. [August, 1776.] Tu. very bright Mg little wd W.14. hot Mg little wd E…15. Th. rain’d all last nt very wet Mg E.X ceased to rain, cloudy. several drissling showers this day. The Hessians landing to Encamp.16. F. close cloudy Mg heavy showers…” Bamford, p. 308.

Ambrose Serle:

“Friday, 13th August…This has been the most sultry Day I have ever felt.” Serle, p. 63.

August 15.Ambrose Serle:

“Thursday, 15th. August.The Chaplain [O’Beirne] and myself took a Ride almost to the full Length of Staten Island opposite to Amboy in New Jersey, which was about half a mile distant. It was a charming cool Day, having rained in the morning, and the Sun being defended by Clouds, which rendered the Scenes, beautiful as they were in themselves, doubly delightful…”Serle, p. 65.

August 17. Bamford:

“17. [August, 1776.] Sa. a good deal of rain last nt showers this mg N. W. IX soaking rain” p. 309.4th Battalion Grenadiers (42nd & 71st) Battalion Orders:“The Officers to send their heavy Baggage on board of ship tomorrow morng by the Provisn Waggons” Peebles Orderly Book.

August 18. Bamford:

“18 [August, 1776.] Su. heavy rain all last Nt very wet Mg N. E…” Bamford, p. 310.

August 19. Bamford:

“19 [August, 1776.] M[onday]. wet last nt wet mg X [10o’clock] ceas’d raining aftn pleasant. A comy of ye Hessian Troops encamp’d close by our Quarters, we remov’d” Bamford, p. 309.

Ensign Thomas Glyn, Brigade of Guards:

“Brigade Orders August 19th [1776.] When the Brigade disembarks two Gils of Rum to be delivered for each mans Canteen which must be filled with Water, Each Man to disembark with a Blanket & Haversack in which he is to carry one Shirt one pair of Socks and Three Days Provisions a careful Man to be left on board each Ship to take care of the Knapsacks. The Articles of War to be read to the Men by an Officer of each Ship.” Glyn, p. 7.

August 20. Bamford:

“Memdms… 20th [August, 1776.] The Troops march’d from their several cantonments & Encampmts & embark’d on board their ships.” “Remarks… 20 [August, 1776.] Tu[esday]. This mg at IV The 8 Comps of the 40th Regt march’d from their cantonments to the Landing place & embark’d on board ye Wm & Mary.” Bamford, p. 309-10.

[The format of Bamford’s diary is that he makes a daily memorandum and at the end of each week adds any remarks. SR.]

“Dacres [Decker's] Ferry Staten Island August 20th...The Army will land in four Divisions...the 2d Division to consist of the 1st. 2d. and third Brigades of British, under the Command of Majr General Robertson, Major General Pigot & Major General Jones......when the Troops land they are to carry nothing with them but their Arms Ammunition Blankets and 3 days Provisions.” Glyn, p. 7.


“-Aug.- 20th. Our -Brigade- was relieved at their Cantoonments about the -New-blazing Star, by a detachment of the -Hessians,- under the command of Colonel -Dalrymple- of said -Corps.- The troops at Amboy and -old blazing Star Ferries,- were also relieved by other Detachments of the same Troops. We marched from our Cantoonments aforesaid to the landing place at -Prince’s-Bay,- where the whole Army -Embarked.- Each Regiment(except the Highlanders and Guards)[*] had but one Transport; on board of which was all their Camp -Equipage- and other -Necessaries.-” Sullivan, p. 47.[*Due to being large Corps. SR.]

August 21. Bamford:

“Memdms… 21 [August, 1776.] W[ednesday]. Rain last nt pleasant mg little wind”
“Remarks… 21. [August, 1776.] The embarkation was finish’d & the order of Landing given out.” Bamford, p. 309-10.

Long Island. The British under Howe crossed from Staten Island to Long Island on August 22.

August 22. Bamford:

“Remarks… 22. [August, 1776.] The Army landed on Long Island about IX [9 o’clock] this Mg without opposition the Lt Infantry push’d into the Country & got as far as flat Bush about 6 miles from the landing Place” Bamford, p. 310.


“-Aug. 22d. After our being on board ship a day & two nights,waiting for the weather, which was wet, to clear up; the whole Army got ready for landing on -Long-Island-… And the whole Army landed then in abody, without opposition, on the -South-East- end of -Long-Island, at a place called -Gravesend,- near the -Narras.-”  Sullivan, p. 48.


“August 22d  The Army landed on Long Island without Opposition from the Rebels. we marched to New Utrecht” Glyn, p. 8.


“General Howe took quarters at Gravesend, one English mile from the place of debarkation, and there the entire English infantry encamped without tents. All the grenadiers, the j├Ągers, the Scottish Highlanders, and the light dragoons, however, moved further inland,through New Utrecht to Flatbush.” Baurmeister, p. 36.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters New Utrecht Long Island 22nd. August 1776…Each Regiment is to send early to morrow for their Tents, Camp kettles & Knapsacks. The Qr. Mastr. General will endeavour to furnish Waggons to convey them from the Waterside, & it is hoped that Officer swill bring as little Baggage on Shore as possible, & for some time make use of Soldiers tents, or fly Tents.” Howe Orderly Book.

Captain William Haslewood, 63rd Regiment of Foot:

“The Troops without opposition landed landed on -Long Island.- 21st.[sic - 22nd] August. marched a few Miles up the Country and encamped in Soldiers Tents.” Haslewood, p. 55.

Lieutenant Martin Hunter, Light Infantry Company, 52nd Regiment of Foot, summarized the period since the first landing on Staten Island:

“...The fleet sailed for New York with the army on board, arrived at Staten Island, and disembarked without any opposition; encamped, and continued in barns for about six weeks, waiting the arrival of some regiments from England. The army embarked in flat-bottomed boats, and landed in Long Island, near to Flat Bush, and encamped. The enemy were in great force, and strongly entrenched at Brooklyn, on the point opposite to New York. We remained encamped at Flat Bush and Newtown for four days…” Hunter, p. 16.

August 23. Bamford:

“Memdms… 23 [August, 1776.] F. pleasant Mg Landing Artillery, Stores, &ca…” Bamford, p. 310.

August 24. Bamford:

“Memdms… 24 [August, 1776.] Sa. Warm Mg some rain last Nt” Bamford, p. 310.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters New Utrecht, on Long Island 24th Augst. 1776…Those Corps that have landed more Tents than they have present occasion for are to Embark them again immediately. The Light Infantry are not to have Tents as they may expect to be in constant motion.” Howe Orderly Book.

August 25. Bamford:

“Memdms… 25. [August, 1776.] Su. very heavy rain lastnt dull Mg W…” Bamford, p. 310.

August 26. Bamford:

“Memdms… 26. [August, 1776.] M. Much Lightning & Thunder last nt.gloomy day.March’d from ye Ferry Cantonmts about IX this Eveg” Bamford, p.310.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters Long Island 26th August 1776…After Orders 5 O’Clock…The Army will strike their Tents and land their Baggage, at 8O’Clock this night, to form at the head of their respective
Encampments, and there wait for further orders. The Men to carry their Canteens, Camp Kettles, Provisions & necessarys with them. No more than two Waggons can be allowed to each Regt. for their Tents & Baggage.” Howe Orderly Book.


“We marched on the night of the 26th August 1776; made a circuitous route to get in the rear of enemy, that were encamped in our front about a mile, on very stony ground. We left our tents standing to deceive the enemy...” Hunter, p. 16.

August 27. Battle of Long Island. Bamford:

“Memdms. 27. [August, 1776.] Tu. fine mg…” Bamford, p. 310.

Captain the Honourable William Leslie, 17th Regiment of Foot, to his parents:

“Bedford Long Island Sept. 2nd 1776…On 22nd August the whole army except 3,000 Hessians who were left to defend Staten Island made a descent upon Long Island in Flat Boats &landed on the South Side without opposition, encamped at Denises,Gravesend, Utrecht, &c.” “On the 26th our Brigade (viz the 4th) commanded by Major Gen. Grant &the Brigade on our Right (the 6th) commanded by B. Gen. Agnew received Orders to be in readiness to march at night in one Division, we marched at ten o’clock from Denises…”

“The Day after their Retreat we had orders to march to the ground weare now encamped upon, near the Village of Bedford: It is now afortnight we have lain upon the ground wrapt in our Blankets, and thank God who supports us when we stand most in need, I have never enjoyed better health in my Life. My whole stock consists of two shirts 2 pr of shoes, 2 Handkerchiefs half of which I use, the other half I carry inmy Blanket, like a Pedlar’s Pack.”  Cohen, p. 60-63. [Leslie suggests that the camp and the kit he describes had prevailed for a ‘fortnight,’ or since about September 20, two days before the landing on Long Island. SR.]

August 28. Bamford:

Memdms… 28. [August, 1776.] W. very pleasant Mg aftnrain” Bamford, p. 310.

August 29. Bamford:

“29. [August, 1776.] Th. gloomy Mg” Bamford, p. 311.August 30.


“August 30th We marched from Bedford, took possession of the Forts evacuated by the Enemy, returned to Bedford, struck Tents, laid on our Arms on New Town Heights all Night.” Glyn, p. 8.

August 31. A letter from an unknown Officer with the initials “R. G.” in thepapers of the Earl of Huntingdon:

1776. Aug. 31. Long Island. -“I am writing in my tent almost full of water owing to a very heavy thunderstorm. I have not my large tent with me, and therefore have not been able to pull off my clothes this week or ten days, but I was never better in my life. It is not very trifling what the whole army undergoes from want of carriages and fresh provisions. They are likewise very much worked by marches, and, what is worse, there is dreadful want of water in this part of the island. I never saw an army better inclined to make all things easy to the general and more zealous to the cause.” HMC, Rawdon-Hastings, III, p. 180-81.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

British Army Landing at Staten Island

From the Original Howe Map. 1776.

With the Halifax fleet collected at Sandy Hook, General Howe decided to begin his initial operations. The first object was to obtain a foothold on Staten Island. That place was large enough for the British Army to secure itself, was mostly rural, and the population was very conservative and pro-British. It was largely undefended. There were four companies of militia, but again, these were mostly Tory, and could be expected not to fight.

Vice Admiral of the Blue Molyneaux Shuldham, Chatham
Ship of the line
Captain George Vandeput
50 gun ship
Captain John Raynor
Vadm Molyneux Shuldham
50 gun ship
Captain Richard Brathwaite
Captain Hyde Parker, Jr.
Captain Archibald Dickson
Captain James Wallace
Commander James Ayscough
Commander Roger Curtis
Lieutenant John Brown

The morning of 1 July dawned foggy, with the wind at the southeast, and was warm, with the air temperature at 78° at noon.1 HM Sloop Swan, at Sandy Hook, reported the day as being foggy with light winds. At 1600 Vice Admiral Shuldham made the signal to sail and the fleet got underway.2 The fleet got underway with a thunder storm and hard rain playing upon the decks. At 1900 the fleet anchored in Gravesend Bay.3 Left behind at Sandy Hook were Swan, the Mercury packet and four transports.4

The Americans, seeing the British move and knowing that a landing was imminent, invented a charming story of a landing on Long Island. According to the New-York Journal, 1000 of the British troops landed on Long Island on the west side, but were confronted by 1000 rifle-men. After a time the British retreated, gave the riflemen three huzzas, which was returned by the Americans with the Indian war whoop.5 There was however, no landing on 1 July.

There was an American detachment on Staten Island under Captain Ephraim Manning. Manning’s job was to assist in collecting the stock on the island and evacuate the cattle, pigs and sheep and goats to New Jersey.6

The next day was much like the one before: warm7 with light breezes in the morning, followed by a windy afternoon with rain squalls and lightening.8 Between 04009 and 0700 the fleet got underway with a division of transports.10 The British soon ran into difficulties. The Senegal got through The Narrows but the wind tapered off and the ebb tide came on. She drifted to the northwest. At 1200 Senegal bore down to the fleet with the division of transports.11 According to Greyhound, at 1000 the fleet began to pass through The Narrows. The city of New York was visible in the distance through intermittent rain. About 1300 the ebb tide “made out strong against us.” Greyhound anchored near Staten Island. Part of the fleet was now south of The Narrows and part north of that passage.12 Rose reported that she passed The Narrows at 1130 and anchored off the northern point of Staten Island, along with the Phoenix and Greyhound. Rose’s log states that “the Tide of Ebb making strong the Fleet could not get through the Narrows.”13 Phoenix anchored in The Narrows about 1200, with no further comment.14

In the afternoon HM Frigate Phoenix made the signal for the
fleet to get underway. Phoemix, HM Frigates Rose and Greyhound, HM Sloop Senegal, three armed vessels and a division of transports got under way, to pass through TheNarrows between Staten Island and Long Island.15 A witness aboard the Chatham reported that “the signal was made for the whole fleet to weigh, when the Chatham, passing through the centre, was cheered by every ship. I do not remember seeing a more pleasing sight, which the fineness of the day greatly contributed to, more particularly as we expected we were immediately going to the attack of New York . . .”16

With the fleet coming up to The Narrows the flood tide came to. The Centurion manned and armed her flatboats and sent them off to the various transports to land the troops. The boats returned at 2230.17 Senegal reported that the transports got under way at 1700. At 2000 she anchored off the northeast point of Staten Island and began to land the troops aboard, a task that was completed at 2200. The transports had still not passed The Narrows.18 Greyhound sailed at 1630, moving closer into the shore. At 1900 she began landing the troops aboard.19 Rose sailed at 1600 and ran in close to the watering place. At 2100 she made out the Admiral’s signal to land the Grenadiers and Light Infanty. This was done by 2200 and Rose moved further out away from the shore.20

Captain Manning’s small party was aware of this activity. Manning consulted his officers and they unanimously agreed it was time to depart Staten Island, because “the Inhabitants being unfriendly & the Enemy so near & my Party so small.” By 1500 the American troops had left Staten Island. Manning reported to Washington that “they were surrounding the Island with their Shipping, & not long after we crossd the Ferry there came up two Armd Vessels, which I did (with the Assistance of an Officer of the Train & one three Pounder) my Endeavour to drive back & in some measure Effected.”21

The following is a letter from Captain Manning to Gen. George Washington apprising him of the situation:

From Captain Ephraim Manning

Wednesday 8 oClock A.M.
[3 July 1776]

May it please your Excellency

Last Night about 12 oClock I recd your Excellencies Orders to give my Assistance in taking the Stock of[f] Staten Island—beg leave to inform your Ex[c]ellency, that by the Advice of all my Officers, I left the Island Yesterday about 3 oClock P.M. the Inhabitants being unfreindly & the Enemy so near & my Party so small, had I staid any longer we must have fallen into their Hands, as they were surrounding the Island with their Shipping, & not long after we crossd the Ferry there came up two Armd Vessels, which I did (with the Assistance of an Officer of the Train & one three Pounder) my Endeavour to drive back & in some masure Effected.

I am now About 5 Mile up in the Jersey side, (my Men being very much fatigued) where I wait your Excellency’s Commands. As their is a large Number landed & continually landing, beg leave to hint to your Excellency, whither a larger Party then I have at present under my Command, will not be necessary. I am with the greatest Respect your Excellencies Most Obedt hume Servt

Ephraim Man[ning] 
The American reaction to the events of 2 July was muted. The New York papers reported that some of the British fleet seemed to be coming up in the morning and. By night, some forty-five sail were above The Narrows, all anchored near or nearby the Watering Place on Staten Island. The British fired about fifty shots, perhaps to cover the landings, although no British ships report firing. The Americans could “plainly” see the British troops ashore.22 Another observer simply noted “ The Evening before last, & last Evening, they came up thro’ the narrow the greatest part of the Fleet, near 100 sail - & came to under Staten Island.23

The morning of 3 July brought much better weather, although cooler. Dr. Moffat, aboard the Swan noted the temperature as 68°.24 The day was windy but clear.25 At 0830 the fleet got under way and passed through The Narrows. In the afternoon Centurion manned her boats and began landing the troops from the transports.26 An observer on the Chatham reported that “the Phoenix, Rose and Senegal . . . [led] the fleet through the Narrows, but the wind dying away obliged us again to anchor. At four o’clock the signal was once more made to weigh, and the fleet boats manned; at six we passed the Narrows amidst a very unsuccessful fire from the rebels, having killed but very few; at seven we landed the army or Staten Island without opposition, when two or three hundred men of the enemy surrendered themselves prisoners of war to the first division of grenadiers.27 According to the Chatham’s log “the rebels kept a Constant firing of Small Arms from Long Island at the Shipping as they passed by . . .”28

26th June 1776. Archibald Robertson: his diaries and sketches in America, 1762-1780.
The landing operation went on all day.29 The Americans kept up the small arms fire as the British fleet passed through The Narrows. By afternoon the Americans had gotten a 12-pound gun emplaced on Long Island and began a steady fire on the shipping coming through The Narrows.30 To cover the landing of the troops the Phoenix moved closer to shore and fired “Several shott at a party of Rebels onshore,”31

The British threw out small armed vessels, tenders and such, into the narrow waterways around the island, both to cut off the retreat of any American troops, and to prevent interference with the landings by American reinforcements. Joseph Trumbull noted that they “have sent their Tenders, to lye all around the Island, to cover them, & seem to be preparing to form an Encampment there . . .” He further noted that “Staten Island are mostly Tory’s- they were ordered to send off their stock, but they found means to delay & delay, so that, we had but Just got off the fat Cattle, when the Enemy, as they wished, came on, & prevented our taking off the Lean.”32 Commenting on this Ensign Caleb Clap stated that “after the Ships hove in sight, our People on Stratton Island drove of about 400 Head of Cattle; soon after that the enemy Landed, and is Reported that took about 30 of our Men.”33

The British did not occupy the whole island, merely securing the strong points. The New York Journal reported “It was apprehended they intended to penetrate into the interior parts of the island, or to some of the neighbouring towns, but it does not appear they they have yet attempted it, or done any thing on shore, except taking up a little bridge on the causeway between the Landing and the Highlands, at the Ferry.”34 Joseph Trumbull reported that the enemy “seem to be preparing to form an Encampment there -I expect they will encamp & secure themselves there, & wait the Arrival, of the Hessians Cossacks Tartars, &c &c - & then Attack us - possibly they will attack us sooner, we should wish it.”35

The advance of the British led to a panic of sorts in New York City. Observer Joseph Trumbull reported that “the day before yesterday we expected an imediate attack, & prepared for it, but were disappointed; it has almost Cleared the City of the Women and Children - many have all along tho't here, that they would not come here, but now they scamper off, very fast.”36

The day’s action was not over after nightfall. Eight British boats attempted to land on Long Island during the night. Joseph Trumbull reports the result: “8 of their Boats endeavoured to Land some men last Night, on Long Island, below the Narrows, but our People Ambushed them, killed some of their men took 4 prisoners & drove them back. We have now a Battery at the highland, of the Narrows on Long Island Side & several Guns playing on the Ships & transports passing several transports have turned back below again - these things Enspirit our People the Militia Especially - a finer Set of Men & better Armed I never saw, than the Militia of N Jersey. . .”37

The Americans prepared for action on 4 July. The entire army turned out before dawn and manned their lines.38 Asia, stationed near The Narrows, took parts of Long Island under fire in the afternoon, firing on the newly established battery.39 The local newspaper published an account of this action: “The Asia brought up the Rear of the Fleet, and in the Narrows was fired at from a small Battery on Long-Island, Which complement was returned by about 40 Twentyfour Pounders, one of which lodged in the Wall of the House of Mr. Bennet, but did no Hurt to the Family; and three Shot had near done much Mischief to the House and Family of Mr. Dennise Dennise, one of them narrowly missing the Kitchen, wherein was a Number of the Family; a Second struck the Barn, and the Third destroyed much of the Fence of the Garden opposite the Front Door of the Mansion House.” Aside from wrecking houses and garden fences Asia did no damage.40

British shipping continued to pass up The Narrows, to bring up more transports to complete the occupation of Staten Island. A group of twenty went up at 1000 including the Chatham, and another group at 1900.41

The chain of small craft that the British had placed around the island proved vulnerable. On the early morning of 4 July an armed sloop of fourteen guns was off Elizabethtown, New Jersey.42 This was the schooner George. With other schooners she was patrolling the area known as The Sound.43 She was taken under fire by two 12-pounder guns placed on the shore and “a great Number of her men killed by grape shot, & bored thro & thro - & finally Set on fire, She is yet on fire & the flames & smoke in sight she is totally destroyed -A House full of their Officers, has likewise been shot thro’ -& they driven over the Kills for shelter.”44 Another observer says “we attack’d a sloop of the enemies mounting eight Carriage Guns - She lay up a small river, which divides Staten Island from the main call’d the Kills. We placed two 9 pounders on Bergen Point - and soon forced the crew to quit her - by the shrieks, some of them must have been kill’d or wounded - the sloop quite disabled.”45 A third report states that “A Sloop of 12 Six Pounders, belonging to the Fleet from Halifax, laying in the Kills, near Mr. Decker’s Ferry, was almost torn to Pieces last Wednesday Morning, by a Party . . . from the opposite shore, with two 18 Pounders. The crew soon abandoned the Sloop, and we suppose she is rendered entirely unfit for any further Service.”46 George was not destroyed however, but did have one man killed, her captain,47 and four wounded.48 Another report indicates one man was killed and eight or nine wounded.49 She was hauled in to the dock,50 Later in the day ten cannon were sent to Elizabethtown “in order to prevent their Landing and Pilleging that Town.”51
1 NDAR, “Diary of Dr. Thomas Moffat,” V, 921-923

2 NDAR, “Journal of H,M. Sloop Swan, Captain James Ayscough,” V, 921; “Journal of H.M.S. Asia, Captain George Vandeput,” V, 920-921; “Journal of H.M.S. Rose, Captain James Wallace,” V, 895-896

3NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Rose, Captain James Wallace,” V, 895-896

4 NDAR, “Journal of H,M. Sloop Swan, Captain James Ayscough,” V, 921

5 NDAR, “New-York Journal, Thursday, July 4, 1776,” V, 918-919

6 NDAR, “Captain Ephraim Manning to George Washington,” 5:894-895

7 NDAR, “Diary of Dr. Thomas Moffat,” V, 921-923

8 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Asia, Captain George Vandeput,” V, 920-921; “Journal of H.M.S. Centurion, Captain Richard Brathwaite,” V, 920

9 NDAR, “Journal of H.M. Sloop Senegal, Captain Roger Curtis,” V, 896-897

10NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Greyhound, Captain Archibald Dickson,” V, 896

11 NDAR, “Journal of H.M. Sloop Senegal, Captain Roger Curtis,” V, 896-897

12NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Greyhound, Captain Archibald Dickson,” V, 896

13NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Rose, Captain James Wallace,” V, 895-896

14NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Phoenix, Captain Hyde Parker, Jr.,” V, 895

15NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Centurion, Captain Richard Brathwaite,” V, 920

16 NDAR, “Journal of Bartholomew James,” V, 919-920

17NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Centurion, Captain Richard Brathwaite,” V, 920

18 NDAR, “Journal of H.M. Sloop Senegal, Captain Roger Curtis,” V, 896-897

19 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Greyhound, Captain Archibald Dickson,” V, 896

20 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Rose, Captain James Wallace,” V, 895-896

21 NDAR, “Captain Ephraim Manning to George Washington,” 5:894-895

22 NDAR, “New-York Journal, Thursday, July 4, 1776,” V, 918-919

23 NDAR,”Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

24NDAR, “Diary of Dr. Thomas Moffat,” V, 921-922

25 NDAR, “Journal of H.M. Sloop Swan, Captain James Ayscough,” V, 921

26NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Centurion, Captain Richard Brathwaite,” V, 920

27NDAR, “Journal of Bartholomew James,” V, 919-920

28 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Chatham, Captain John Raynor,” V, 897

29 NDAR, “Journal of H.M. Sloop Senegal, Captain Roger Curtis,” V, 896-897; “Journal of H.M.S. Greyhound, Captain Archibald Dickson,” V, 896; “Journal of H.M.S. Phoenix, Captain Hyde Parker, Jr.,” V, 895

30 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Chatham, Captain John Raynor,” V, 897

31 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Phoenix, Captain Hyde Parker, Jr.,” V, 895

32 NDAR, “Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

33 NDAR, “Diary of Ensign Caleb Clap,” 5:894

34NDAR, “New-York Journal, Thursday, July 4, 1776,” V, 018-919

35 NDAR, “Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

36 NDAR, “Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

37 NDAR, “Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

38 NDAR, “Diary of Ensign Caleb Clap,” V, 917

39 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Asia, Captain Geoirge Vandeput,” V, 920-921

40 NDAR, “New-York Gazette, Monday, July 8, 1776,” V, 973-974

41 NDAR, “Diary of Ensign Caleb Clap,” V, 917

42 NDAR, “Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

43 NDAR, “Journal of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Kemble,” V, 937

44 NDAR, “Joseph Trumbull to Jeremiah Wadsworth,” V, 917-918

45 NDAR, “Journal of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Blancley Webb,” V, 917

46NDAR, “New-York Gazette, Monday, July 8, 1776,” V, 973-974

47 NDAR, “The Examination of James MacFarlan a soldier belonging to the 55th Regiment, Colo. Medie-,” V, 936-937; “Journal of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Kemble,” V, 937

48 NDAR, “Journal of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Kemble,” V, 937

49 NDAR, “Examination of Ebenezer Colefox, Sailor, deserter from the Enemy’s Fleet,” V, 974-975

50 NDAR, “Journal of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Kemble,” V, 937

51 NDAR, “Diary of Ensign Caleb Clap,” V, 917
Chronology taken from website American War Of Independence At Sea

Monday, July 25, 2016

From the Journal of Samuel Blachley Webb (1753-1807), aide-de-camp to George Washington

From the Journal of Samuel Blachley Webb (1753-1807), aide-de-camp to George Washington

George Washington's aide-de-camp receives dispatches of the British anchoring off of Staten Island and writes of the activity in and around Sandy Hook and New York Bay. These dates coincide with the dates of British soldier Archibald Robertson's diary, and is a wonderful contrast of the belligerents and their contrasting observations of the impending confrontation between the Americans and the British Empire's powerful Army and Navy.
1939.503 Samuel B. Webb by Artist/Maker:Charles Willson Peale
Date: 1779, 1790 Medium: Watercolor on ivory, gold
New-York Historical Society

June 28th This Morning we hear our Cruizers off the back of Long or Nassau Island, have retaken four prizes-which the Greyhound Man of War had a few days before taken-The sailors inform that Gen­eral Howe was on board the Greyhound and had arrived at Sandy-Hook; that 130 sail of transports, &c., were to sail from there for this place the 9t!t Inst If this be true, we may hourly look for their arrival.*

Agreeable to yesterday's Orders, Thomas Hicky was hang'd in presence of most of the Army-besides great numbers of others-spectators-he seemed much more penitent than he was at first.**

Saturday, 29th June—This morning at 9 o'Clock, we discovered our Signals hoisted on Staten Island, signi­fying the appearance of a fleet At 2 oClock P. M. an express arrived, informing a fleet of more than one Hundred Square rig'd vessels, had arrived and anchored in the Hook—This is the fleet which we forced to evacuate Boston ; & went to Halifax last March— where they have been waiting for reinforcements, and have now arrived here with a view of puting their Cursed plans into Execution. But Heaven we hope and trust will frustrate their cruel designs—a warm and Bloody Campaign is the least we may expect ; may God grant us victory and success over them, is our most fervent prayer. Expresses are this day gone to Connecticut, the Jerseys, &c, to hurry on the Militia.

July 1st—By express from Long Island, we are in formed that the whole fleet weighed Anchor and came from Sandy Hook, over under the Long Island shore, and anchored ab'. half a mile from the shore—which leads us to think they mean a descent upon the Island this Night. A reinforcement of 500 men were sent over at 9 oClock this Evening to reinforce the troops on Long Island under General Green—We have also received Intelligence that our Cruisers on the back of Long Island, have taken and carried in one of the enemie's fleet laden with Intrenching Tools.

N. Y. July 2nd—At 9 oClock this morning the whole Army was under Arms at their several Alarm Posts, occasioned by five large Men of War coursing up thro: the narrows—We supposed them coursing on to attack our Forts—never did I see Men more chearfull; they seem to wish the enemies approach—they came up to the watering place, about five miles above the narrows, and came too—their tenders took three or four of our small Craft plying between this and the Jersey Shore-At 6 oClock P. M. about 50 of the fleet followed and anchored with"the others--Orders that the whole Army lie on their Arms-and be at their Alarm Posts before the Dawning of the Day. A Warm Campaign, in all probability, will soon ensue, relying on the Justice of our Cause, and puting our Confidence in the Supreme being, at the same time exerting our every Nerve, we trust the design of our enemies will be frustrated.

July 2nd [3rd]—This day Arrived in Camp, Briga­dier General Mercer, from Virginia, being appointed and ordered here by the Hon1 Continental Congress[1]… likewise General Herd with the Militia from New Jersey[2] by order of his Excellency Genl Washing­ton.

Thursday, July 4th—Last night-or rather at daylight this morning-we attack'd a sloop of the ene mies mounting eight Carriage Guns-She lay up a small river, which divides Staten Island from the main -call'd the Kills. We placed two 9 pounders on Bergen Point-and soon forced the crew to quit her­ by the shrieks, some of them must have been kill'd or wounded-the sloop quite disabled.

N. Y. July 7th—By several Deserters from the fleet and Army on Staten Island, we learn that the number of the enemy is abt. 10,000; that they hourly look for Lord Howe from England with a fleet, on board of which is 15 or 20,000 men ; that they propose only to act on the defensive 'till the arrival of this fleet, when they mean to open a warm and Bloody Campaign, and expect to carry all before them-but trust they will be disappointed.

N. York, July 9th, 1776—Agreeable to this day's orders, the Declaration of Independence was read at the Head of each Brigade; and was received by three Huzzas from the Troops-every one seeming highly pleased that we were separated from a King who was endeavouring to enslave his once loyal subjects.[3] God Grant us success in this our new character.

July 10th, 1776—Last night the Statue of George the third was tumbled down and beheaded-the troops having long had an inclination so to do, tho't this time of publishing a Declaration of Independence, to be a favorable opportunity-for which they received the Check in this day's orders.[4]

*These prizes were taken by the armed sloop Schuyler, and one other cruiser, Howe arrived on the 25th.
**Thomas Hickey, a member of the General's guard, was implicated in the "conspiracy," and on trial was convicted of having enlisted into the British ser­vice and engaged others. He was sentenced to be hung. "The unhappy fate of Thomas Hickey, executed this day for Mutiny, Sedition and Treachery, the General hopes will be a warning to enry soldier in the army to avoid those crimes and all others, so disgraceful to the character of a soldier, and pernicious to hit country, whose pay he receives and bread he eats. And in order to avoid those crimes, the most certain method is to keep out of temptation of them, and particularly to avoid lewd women, who, by the dying confession of the poor criminal, first led him to practices which ended in an untimely and ignominious death"-Orderly Book, 28 June, 1776.
[1] Hugh Mercer. He was sent to command the operations in New Jersey.
[2] Nathaniel Heard. He had just been sent to Staten Island to drive off the stock.
[3] "The Honr: the Continental Congress, impressed by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleued to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this country and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America free and independent STATES : The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective parades, at six o'clock, when the declaration of Congress, showing the grounds and reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice."
"The General hopes this important event will serve u a fresh incentive to every officer and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, u knowing that now the peace and safety of this country depends (under God) solely on the success of our Arms: and that be is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country."-Orderly Book, 9 July,1776.
[4] "Though the General doubts not the persons who pulled down and mutilated the Statue in the Broadway lut night were actuated by zeal iu the public cause, yet it has much the appearance of a riot and want of order in the army, that be disapproves the manner and directs that in future these things shall be avoided by the soldiery, and left to be executed by the proper authority."-Orderly Book, 10 July, 1776.
All quotes from: Commager, Henry S., and Richard B. Morris. The Spirit of 'seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution As Told by Participants. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. Print.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Mersereaus (Washington's notorious Spys) from Staten Island

Patriot/Rebel Joshua Mersereau was born at Northfield, Staten Island, New York, June 8, 1759, and was living in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, when he entered the service in August, 1775, as a recruiting officer for the New York State troops for Capt Jacob Chessman's Company, under Gen Montgomery, and served till the following November. In December 1775, he was under Lord Stirling in an expedition to Long island for seven or eight days. From April to July 1, 1776, he served under Capt Otho Williams in Maj Steven's Corps of Virginia Riflemen.

He was then employed by Gen Washington in obtaining information of the enemy's movements (spy); he was in the battles of Trenton and Princeton; the remainder of the winter he purchased horses for Generals Mifflin and Lafayette and, in May 1777, was engaged in guarding baggage under Lord Stirling.

From October 14, 1777 to April 28, 1779, he was Assistant Commissary of Prisoners under his father, Joshua Mersereau, who was Deputy Commissary of Prisoners, and Gen Mifflin Quartermaster General.

In the winter of 1780, he was guide to Col Heson's Division, in Lord Stirling's expedition to Staten Island and was in an engagement at a blockhouse. The following February, he was under Capt James Patton when he captured Col Jones. In the summer of 1780, he was under Capt John Story in an attempt to capture a British Colonel. In the fall of 1780, he was engaged on the lines near Elizabethtown.

In the spring of 1781, he was under Col Marsh at Rahway. In the summer of 1781, he aided in the defence of Brunswick. In May, 1782, he was engaged as carpenter and seaman on the ship "South Carolina" under Capt John Joiner and, on December 21, 1782, they were in battle with and captured by the British ships "Diomede", "Austrich" and "Quebec". He was wounded in the leg and confined on a prison ship "Scorpion" in New York, until paroled the last of January and remained on parole until the ratification of the Treaty of Peace.

He was allowed pension (Sur. File No. 7,224) on an application executed June 5, 1840, while a resident of Lindley, Steuben County, New York. In 1855, he lived in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, with his son James G., and he died January 20, 1857.
Judge Joshua Daniel Mersereau IV.  Painting found in the Tioga Co. Historical Society Wellsboro, PA.. Second floor.

Joshua Daniel's father, Joshua Mersereau III was born at Staten Island, New York, September 26, 1738, and died in Union, New York, June 10, 1804. He was educated at Kings College (now Columbia), and practiced law in New York City.

Before the Revolution, with his brother John, he conducted a leading tavern on Staten Island, which bore the brilliant title of the 'Blazing Star.' He and his brother ran the first line of stage coaches between New York and Philadelphia. John introduced the first post coach into the country from England.

When the revolution broke out the stages belonging to the brothers were stopped and the horses turned over to the American service for the army. Joshua assisted in raising a company for the Quebec expedition in the autumn of 1775. An edict issued from the British headquarters proclaimed John Mersereau a "Rebel," and set a price of five hundred guineas on his head, dead or alive.

When the British seized New York city the judge came near being made prisoner. He was so radical an advocate of the American cause that the red coats formed a plan to capture him in his hotel. The judge foiled them.

When the war commenced their stages stopped running; and when New York and Stated Island fell into the hands of the British, they lost their property on the Island, which was burnt; and Judge Mersereau narrowly escaped falling into the enemy's hands, a company having been dispatched to take him at his own house; his zeal in the American cause having been early known to them. John Mersereau turned his horses, which had been employed in the stage line, into the American service, and made an offer of himself to Washington, who often employed him on difficult expeditions, and as a spy. Esquire John La Grange's father was employed often in the same capacity.

He was a member of the provincial assembly of New York state which met at Kinston and Poughkeepsie during 1777-86, representing Richmond county.

He was also deputy commissary of prisoners, General Boudinot being his superior officer, with headquarters at Rutland, Massachusetts, and afterward at Elizabethtown, New Jersey. His service was continuous in various capacities throughout the war. His name appears in the Staten Island records of transfers of land from 1762 to 178?, and then with other soldiers he received a grant of land for his service in the western part of the state. After the war he removed with his family to Tioga county, New York, where he was one of the earliest judges.

Judge Mersereau was appointed commissary throughout the war. He was much about the person of General Washington. The judge, with his brother, were the principal instruments in preventing the British army from crossing the Delaware river in their pursuit of Washington. Washington had crossed the Delaware about the first of December, either to escape from the enemy, who had followed him through New Jersey, or to go into winter quarters. After crossing the river, he took every precaution to move all the boats across the river, and to burn all the materials on the Jersey side, not carried over, which might be laid hold of by the enemy to construct rafts.

Gen. Washington was asked by Judge Mersereau whether he was sure he had removed out of the way all that could be employed to transport the enemy across. Washington replied he thought he had. Judge Mersereau begged the privilege of recrossing and making search. He and his brother went back and searched the opposite shore, and found below the surface of the water two Durham boats which had been timely sunk by a royalist who lived near. They raised them up, bailed out the water, and floated them over to the Pennsylvania side. When the British army came up to the Delaware shore they found no possible means of crossing, and were obliged to return back, and pursue, at this time, our army no further.

The below letter was sent to Gen. George Washington from Joshua Mesereau:

To George Washington from Joshua Mersereau, 31 August 1778

From Joshua Mersereau

Boston August 31—1778


I have Just recpd a letter from Col. Boudinot, informing me that great offence has been given, for my sending so many of the Convention officers on Parole to the enemy—and taking considerable sums of money from them for that favour.1

The latter I do deny—the former I had Authority for, or at least, Such as would Justify my Conduct, hoping To release our officers.

so soon as the Prisnors Taken by The Count De Estang, are secur’d and Provided for—and the Officers Prisnors of war, With The remaind⟨er⟩ of the 71 Rt in this State are Sent away—I propose Wating on your Excelency to remov⟨e⟩ any Doubts, or Charge tha[t]s been brought against me—if I have Err’d it’s for Want of Judgment, I have not let one man go in Without Genl Heaths approbation. I always made it a rule to consult him first—as to the mony beg the favour, of knowing the names of the Complainants, as I am confident that there is not an officer of the Convention, can say that they have given me one Single Farthing—Capt. Vigars Made me a presant of 2 pare of Pistols, tho I never Got but 3 of them one being lost.2

four weeks ago part of the 71 Rt 129 men & 84 Women and Children I sent to Providence, on their Way to new Port, agreeable to Col. Boudinots orders—they were order’d back by Genl Sulivan, and not permitted to go—I apply’d to Genl Heath for permittion to Send them by New London, New Haven or some other Rout to New York—Who refer’d me to Your Excelency for Directions, Which I shall Chearfully execute.3

I am hiring a Prisson Ship here, for the reception of the Count De Estangs Prisnors and about 40 taken by Capt. Skimer Who Was kill’d in the engagement4—5 prises ariv’d this Day—a fleet is Said to be off here some say it’s an English fleet others that it’s a French Fleet, others that they are prises5—the German officers beg the favour of staying here till the privates go in also—if they are not Exchang’d Soon; there must be Chimneys built in the barn, Where the Germains and 53 Rt are kept; as it Will be too Cold Without fire in Winter, and bad building Chimneys then beg the favour of your Excelency’s or Col. Baty’ Direction in this case, as there is no room in the Barracks for those men, I hav⟨e⟩ been oblidg’d to make many Shifts, for Want of instrutions, it having been SoDifficult to get them; in this, out of the Way place—many letters have miscarrie’d others 6 & 8 wee⟨ks⟩ before I recpd them. I have the Honor To be your Excelency’s most Obedt Hum: Servt

Joshua Mersereau

P.s. please to Direct to the Care of Genl Heath.

ALS, NN: Emmet Collection.

1. Elias Boudinot’s letter to Mersereau of 27 Aug. has not been identified. For more on the complaint, see Mersereau’s reply to Boudinot of 2 Sept. (NjP: Stimson-Boudinot Collection).

2. Nicholas Aylward Vigors (1755–1828) was commissioned an ensign in the British 29th Regiment in December 1769 and promoted to lieutenant in January 1772 and to captain in February 1776.

3. Mersereau announced in a letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath of 27 July that he was starting to send the 71st Regiment prisoners and that, in accordance with Heath’s suggestion, he had written to inform Maj. Gen. John Sullivan. Mersereau’s letter to Heath of 5 Aug. indicates that Sullivan had disapproved the movement, and Heath’s letter to Mersereau of 12 Aug. suggested that Mersereau consult Elias Boudinot about what to do with the prisoners (all MHi: Heath Papers). Mersereau’s request to send the prisoners to New York and Heath’s reply have not been identified. For a summary, see also Mersereau to Boudinot, 31 Aug. (NjP: Stimson-Boudinot Collection). GW referred this inquiry to Commissary of Prisoners John Beatty in a letter of 26 September.

4. The Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser (Boston) of 3 Sept. reported the arrival on 31 Aug. of “the Continental Brigantine of war, General Gates, whose late commander Capt. John Skimmer of this town fell on the 3d of August, in an action with a Brigantine of 12 guns from St. John’s, bound to Dominica.”

5. Mersereau was referring to a report that on 30 Aug. “almost 20 Sail of Ships, many of them large, were seen off Plymouth Harbour, standing to the Northward” (Boston Gazette, and Country Journal, 31 Aug.).
Information obtained and can be found at: The Roll Family Windmill
Genealogy of the Roll and Allied Families