Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fountain House and a Flirtatious Loyalist

The Fountain House, built in 1668 and used as Richmond's first courthouse, stood across from The Black Horse Tavern during the American Revolution. Generals Percy and Carleton, along with Captain Montresor (a 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.