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.

A south west view of the city of New York, in North America = Vue de sud ouest de la ville de New York dans l'Amérique septentrionale. Thomas Howdell 1768.

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.

Since a boycott of all goods being traded with the British was instituted by the Committee, the smuggling of produce, livestock and other goods continued. The British ship James had twice attempted to unload its goods at the port of New York, but was quickly turned away. She ship eventually attempted to disembark its goods at Staten Island with the assistance of three Island residences.


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 near the Decker Ferry on the shore road along the Kill van Kull at the Adrian Bancker house. British troops were billeted 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.
General Howe set up his headquarters near the Decker Ferry on the shore road along the Kill van Kull at the Adrian Bancker house. British troops were billeted 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.

A Hessian soldier named Baurmeister recorded a description of the British forces encamped at Staten Island for the 14th and 15th of August. His division had sent 132 soldiers to the Hospital encampment, due to scurvy:

"We found the Eglish troops, which had been driven out of Boston encamped on Staten Island on eight different heights. 

  1. At Amboy Ferry, Lieutenant General Clinton with 2 brigades and half of an artillery brigade. 
  2. Between Amboy Ferry and the Old Blazing Star (now Rossville), Brigadier General Leslie with 3 brigades and half an artillery brigade.
  3.  At the Old Blazing Star, Brigadier General Farrington with 2 brigades and two 12-pounders and also half a troop of light dragoons to carry dispatches. 
  4. At the New Blazing Star (at Long Neck, now Travis), Brigadier Generals Smith, Robertson and Agnew with 3 brigades and the other half of light dragoons. 
  5. At Musgrower's Lien [?](Lane?), Lieutenant General Percy and Brigadier general Erkine with 2 brigades and four 6-pounders and one officer and twnty-five light dragoons. 
  6. At the point opposite Elizabeth town Ferry, Major General Grant with one brigade, two light guns, and fifteen dragoons. 
  7. At the Morning Star (the country seat of Henry Holland, on the northern side of the island), Lieutenant General Cornwallis with two and a half brigades, six 12-pounders, four howitzers, and fifteen dragoons. 
  8. At Decker's Ferry (now Port Richmond), Major General William James with the 37th and 52nd Regiments and two light guns. 
  9. To the right of Decker's Ferry, in a country house close to the shore opposite New Jersey, Major General Vaughan with six grenadier battalions, the 46th Regiment, the rest of the disembarked artillery, the rest of the light dragoons, and General Howe's headquarters. 
Lieutenant-Colonel Dalrymple was in command if the trenches thrown up on Staten Island, which is fifteen English miles long and five wide."
From Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals 1776-1784 of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1957.


All images from: ARCHIBALD ROBERTSON: HIS DIARIES AND SKETCHES IN AMERICA, 1762-1780. Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library.
The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
View from Staten Island 2d July 1777.


Kepp's Bay 17th Augt. 1778 where the troops landed 15th Septr. 1776. Phoenix 44 Capt. H. Parker, Roebuck 44 Hammond. Carisford 28 Fanshaw. Rose 20 Js. Wallace. 12th Augt. 1778.
New York from Brooklyn Heights.



View from Peaks Kill looking south. . .3 June 1779.





View of the North River, looking north toward Fort Washington. 16 October 1781.

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, Corporal George Peacock, carrying the wounded St. George on his back from the battle (see illustration below). Mansergh-St George recounted "a most infernal fire of cannon and musket--smoak--incessant shouting--incline to the right! Incline to the Left!--halt!--charge!...the balls ploughing up the ground.  The trees cracking over ones head, The branches riven by the artillery.  The leaves falling as in autumn by grapeshot."  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 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 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.

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.

Great Britain. Army and Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814, “Richard St. George Mansergh St. George military commission, 1776 December 23,” John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, accessed May 11, 2015,

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.

Richard St. George, 'The Actions at Brandywine and Paoli Described by a British Officer,' The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol.29, 368 (Philadelphia, 1905).

'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.

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.