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The Battle of Long Island

The BATTLE OF LONG ISLAND


The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Feb 19
The Battle of Long Island
By, A Native of Southold
 

Section 1- The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.

            In the sharp struggle to resist the stamp act, all the colonies united.  The merchants of New York took an active part; and all agreed not to trade with Great Britain under such a tax.  The strong union of all in such a course—which was strictly their right—produced a repeal of the act, with trifling exceptions.

            In 1774, when the taxing scheme was renewed plans were started to prevent any union.  The combined wit of English politicians and importers, bent upon forcing, monopolizing and taxing trade, and upon governing to fill their pockets, was exercised to produce division and disunion among their opponents, the victims.

            Protests and resolves by native Americans against the plans of the British ministry, and efforts to unite the inhabitants in opposing them, were as strong and earnest in the colony of New York as in other colonies.  The people were various, of many different trainings, opinions, and interests, and widely scattered.  It took time to united and move them.  Military preparations were slow and hoped unnecessary.  Hostilities, on any large scale, were not anticipated.

            The colony had acquired some skill and discipline for soldiers, but was much exhausted, by the French wars.  It needed discipline and a longer respite from war.  A few disciplined officers and soldiers were ready to serve again.  Men whose property and interests were greatly exposed to destruction were affected differently from others, by the apprehension as well as by the clash of arms.  There were few manufactories.  The English opposed them. Commerce in the sea ports had grown into importance. This was sought by the English.  Owners of the larger vessels here and of their cargoes had not depended greatly upon government protection, but felt it abroad, and were probably more strongly influenced than others by the danger of losing protection, and by the prospect either of exclusion from English and foreign ports, or of destructive hostility.  Some were deeply interested in trade with England or Scotland; others, with other distant ports.  Some had come recently from England.  These all together, were not numerous, when compared with the scattered farmers and mechanics, or even with the owners, sailors, and managers of smaller vessels.  And it is not a thing to be lamented that persons interested in commerce are generally opposed to wars.

            On 1st May, 1774, the statute for a militia force in the colony expired; and no new act was passed.  Before that date, the Royal Governors had appointed militia officers [see N. Y. Hist. Doc., Vol. 1, 764, 766, 770] and all the officers swore obedience to superiors and allegiance to the King. Soldiers for the French wars had been drawn from the militia for active service.  The farmers and laborers had found such drafts neither profitable not pleasant. The Colonial Governors after this, without any statute, sought to keep up an organization of militia solely by their own or the King’s authority.  The masses learned that they could not be compelled to train or serve without statute law, unless impressed.  Many had suffered by impressments.  They had learned also to evade to press-gang.  Some had abandoned the sea-coast for the interior to escape it.  Rough conscriptions from the militia for the army, and compressments for the navy, had so often occurred as to be oppressive, and had become along the sea coast and especially on Long Island, thoroughly odious.  Forts at New York, Oswego, Niagara, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point were professed to be garrisoned by a small number of the King’s troops—not enough to defend them.  Others were abandoned.

            In May, 1774, a large committee was appointed at New York City and a letter written to Boston proposing a General Congress for the reason that “the cause is general and concerns a whole continent” .  The N.Y. City Committee, too numerous for united action, and with no bond to compel the more excited to wait for the more cool,--soon disagreed, but part continued to act. In time 1774 meetings were held in the different towns of N.Y.  which generally condemned the proceedings against Boston and appointed committees of correspondence.  In November, county committees of correspondence were appointed.

            Long Island was an important district to be considered.  It was the oldest English settlement in the colony and had been better improved than many other places.  In number of inhabitants, in productions,--especially of provisions for food, and in taxable property, it had embraced more than half of the colony.  Other settlements sprang from it.  The French war had opened districts in the interior which L.I. did its full share to fill.  Many young men had moved north and west, weakening the local force, while strengthening the interior.  A new settlement at Goshen, in Orange Co., was a sample of this change.

            During the long French and Spanish wars trespasses by persons landing from vessels on the east end of Long Island had often occurred.  Armed vessels sent men on shore to seek provisions and sailors.  While a few might rush towards them to sell provisions at a high profit, they had so often acted as sea-robbers and seized provisions and men, without pay or redress, that the farmers and laborers had become strongly apprehensive of them  Some small cannon were sent from New York to each of the eastern branches of the Island to aid in protecting them from armed incursions.  Two were kept on the top of Pasture Hill at Oyster Ponds (now Orient) and one before the door of Capt. Richard Brown, a militia officer,  (A. Griffing’s Journal, 51).  Two more were also kept at South Hampton. They increased the sense of safety, but soon became of little service.  The southern coast was exposed for a long distance.  Large ships could not on the long south side of the Island come inside of the bays and creeks, but could land boats and wait for them, or call for them.  The inhabitants had been taught to rally for mutual defense and had some arms.  In March, 1775, the colonial administration, in the New York government (royalist) obtained a majority in favor of resolutions and addresses, --deemed peaceable,-- by conceding some of the

 

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold);
1880 Feb 26 
The Battle of Long Island
By, A Native of Southold
Section I.          The preliminaries, 1774,1775, and early in 1776.

 

            The battle of Lexington arose from a forcible seizure of colonial arms by royal troops.  It woke up New England and the whole country to the impending struggle.  News of it arrived at New York on the 23rd and 25th of April, and it stimulated action.   The engagements to support congress followed this very promptly, the principal signature being obtained in May.  The affair of Lexington it was said in the N. Y. Provincial Congress “proclaimed the war.” Lt. Gov. Colden, of N. Y.—determined royalist—wrote on the 3rd of May of the association “by which this province has solemnly united with the other in resisting the acts of Parliament.”  The N. Y. colonial legislature, elected in 1769, met until 3rd April, 1775, and was prerogued until 3rd May; but never met again.  There were 27 members of that body; apparently 17 royalist and 10 opposed. About 24 usually voted and 15 or 16 of these were for the English administration and 8 or 9 opposed. The majority embraced the courtier and office-holding (Swiss-soldier) class (including some rotten boroughs) and the minority apparently represented the greater numerical and solid force of the colony or else divided it.  The divided votes were important.  The 10 minority votes were (1) Col. Nathaniel Woodhull of Suffolk, afterwards General (his associate William Nicoll, royalist, sustaining the administration; (2) Capt. Zebulon Seamar, of Queens, near the Suffolk Co. line  (his associate Daniel Kissam voting on the other side); (3) Simon Boerum of Kings (with John Rapelye opposed); (4) John Thomas of Westchester his associate Frederick  Phillipse on the other side; (5) Dirk Brinckerhoff of Dutchess (with Leonard Van Kleeck opposed); (6) George Clinton and (7) Charles DeWitt, then of Ulster county; (8) Col. Philip Schuyler of Albany—the largest, the exterior county—N. and W. (Jacob H. Ten Eyck opposed him); (9) Col. Abraham Ten Broeck of the manor of Rensselaerwick, and (10) Col. Philip Livingston (pr a part of the time Robert R.) of the manor of Livingston, made up the minority band.  These 10 in opposition had some city friends, including the speaker (Cruget) but represented the more remote and less commercial parts of the country.  Their strength was mainly agricultural and would depend for success upon their carrying with them the masses of the divided counties.  The agreement obtained to support congress soon showed that in nearly all of these divided counties had the support of the majority of voter and the other counties were divided.

            On the 22nd April, 1775, the first New York Provincial Congress (elected before the collision at Concord and Lexington) met and chose delegates to the Continental Congress.  Sharp emphasis was given to their action, by the battle in Massachusetts heard of within a few days, and all were attentive to what might happen next.  The Continental Congress in fact soon decided to sustain Massachusetts in its struggle; and resolved that there was nothing left but arms, and it made a strong and bold representation to the people of England as had not been supposed possible nor anticipated here.  The 10th of May may be taken as the date for “Continental resistance in arms” to the wars already prosecuted by an invading force in seizing colonial arms.  Arms were there.  (*3*) upon seized in New York City by the excited populace without authority.  On the 10th of May fort Ticonderoga was surprised by a small number of men, not publicly authorized by any body, and its guns were seized and soon sent to Boston; while Congress publicly ordered them inventoried and cared for, in order to be returned to keep the peace, if peace could be had.

            Fort Wm. Henry (then Fort George) at the other end of Lake George, about the same time was captured by a small party from the colony of New York (both probably by indirect authority from some members of Congress) and nearly all the forts were at the mercy of the Continentals.

            On 17th June, 1775, occurred the battle of Bunker Hill, and the burning of Charlestown, Mass., of which there are many and various accounts.  Mr. Frothingham’s may be taken as very full.  The summary from English and American reports and letter, compiled by Henry B. Dawson, referring to his authorities and published in 1868, in Vol. 3rd, second series of the Historical Magazines, is attractive to the student.  Hid opinions are less important (for he was very much of an Englishman) but his large collection of authorities is valuable.  All the histories agree in representing the direct attack of the entrenchment in front, as often repelled and with great slaughter.  They differ greatly respecting attempts to outflank and surround the entrenchment, which resulted in final success to the British arm.  Each separate regiment, company and writer reported only its own part, almost ignoring all the rest; and these may have led the country to a partial and imperfect view of the final struggle.

            In June, 1775, after the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill, the colonies having gained courage and some  degree of union under the “Continental Congress,” sought volunteer enlistments for united defense, called “Continental.”  They must surrender or fight; and, if the latter, “join or die.”  The newspapers were few, but graphic and effective on this topic (see Thomas’ Hist. of Printing).

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Mar 4
The Battle of Long Island
 By, A Native of Southold
Section 1. The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.

            (continued)

  Recruiting for Continental service resulted in two companies raised separately in the eastern parts of Long Island.  One was with Daniel Griffing of Southold, Captain, and Benjamin Marvin, 1st Lieutenant; Nathaniel Norton 2nd Lieutenant and Jacob Conkling, Ensign, (note A appendix and the other with John Hulbert of Southampton, Captain, soon a Lieutenant Colonel – Note No.2 in appendix;, and John Davis, 1st Lieut. Afterwards Captain, who died in 1779; Wm. Havens became 1st Lieut. (note B Edward Conkling 2nd Lieut. (see note C) and Sylvanes Conkling Ensign.

  Another company was afterwards raised in this county, with Daniel Roe, Captain; John Titus, 1st Lieut., George Smith, 2nd Lieut. And Benjamin Titus, Ensign.

  These three companies on 11th April, 1776, were attached to Col. James Clinton’s 3rd N. Y. regt. (sometimes called the Ulster and Dutchess Co. regiment). Of which Henry Beckman Livingston soon was colonel; Col. James Clinton becoming a general.  The details respecting one company (in note A) may serve as a sample of others. The part of the regiment from the north under Col. Clinton was used early in 1776, in fortifying and defending the highlands of the Hudson.  On 14th June the Colonel was ordered to Fort Montgomery an directed “to use every possible diligence in forwarding the works,” and to use every means in his power to provide his regiment with arms fit for service, while Lt. Col. Livingston was sent to Long Island to take charge of the remainder of his regiment toward the east end thereof (Mag. Of American Hist, vol. 3, p.117). It was not as a regiment at the battle of Long Island. A part of the men may have been there.    It served for two years of the war.

            Among the prisoners taken at Fort Montgomery and imprisoned in prison ship were Thomas Horton and Nathan Moore, natives of Southold, L. I., both from Orange Co.

  Another company of Continentals was formed at Huntington at a later date, of which John Grennell was named Captain, William Phillips, 1st Lieut., and Philip Conklin, 2nd Lieut. The two latter declining, Samuel Smith was named 1st Lieut. And Alexander Ketcham (son of Isaac) 2nd Lieut.  Grennell was appointed Capt. No. 19 and attached to Col. Clinton’s regt.  On 5th Dec., 1775 he received an order from congress about barracks.  He was probably interested in Eaton’s Neck and connected with John Sloss Hobart.  He remained in service until Dec., 1776 after the battle; when he resigned.  The 2nd Lieut. Continued in service and was Col. Livingston’s regt.

  The 4th N. Y. Continental regiment was nominally under James Holmes as Colonel – a member of the N. Y. convention or provincial congress, (who had been a Capt. In the French war) and under Philip Van Cortlandt.  (before a Major) as Lieut. Colonel.  Of this regiment Barnabas Tuthill of Southold, who had been a Captain in the French war, was Major.  He had the reputation of a good officer, taking much care of his soldiers, and possessing their confidence.  He took some Long Islanders into the regiment, Job Mulford of Long Island was Adjutant. Men Joined him, natives of Long Island, or sons of natives, who had recently removed from exposed coasts of L. I. To the country on either side of the Hudson. Among his Captain. Were Ambrose Horton of White Plains, who fought through the war, and Jonathan Platt, also from Westchester Co., both of whose ancestors were from L. I. Nominally under Philip Van Cortlandt as Col. (but who probably was not present), 269 men of this regiment ( perhaps including some from New Jersey) were reported present at the battle of L. I., forming part of Gen. Heard’s brigade; the residue being Gen. Heard’s brigade; the residue being at Ticonderoga.

  An artillery company was  formed.The majority declined to support Congress.  The names of voters on each side were preserved (1 Col. Rev. Pap. 181). In each town and village , the majority and the principal persons became well known, and those also who claimed to be neutral.  Newtown voted strongly for Congress.

  The descendants of Dutchmen and Huguenots in Kings Co., as well as Irishmen everywhere, generally supported Congress, but (except co- religionists) did not like the men of New England better than those of old England. They were easily set by the ears.  Many natives of Queens Co. were not in favor of the British Ministerial plans.  Presbyterians were generally opposed to them and these included many Scotchmen as well as Dutch Reformed.  Episcopalians were generally in favor, or not opposed to royalty.  There was a larger proportion than in other places of Quakers and other who declined to fight at all. There were some office-holders, of course loyal, and many noisy, but apparently few fighting loyalists. Some claimed neutrality who were royalists.  Perhaps in every place, when the pressure for native service comes upon individuals, not feudal tenants, many seek easy positions or do not voluntarily take arms.  Some compulsion must be used – when danger is not close at hand- at least, “the fear of punishment and the hope of reward.”  A forfeiture of estates by land holders who refused, was the old feudal rule, and was treated as settled law.  Bounties, pay, and pensions for services and promotions to office and power were old and approved fashions.

  On the 23 of August , 1775, two days after receiving informally a second bold and decided petition from the Continental Congress, the King of England issued at London a proclamation forbidding all correspondence with , or aid to, “persons now in open arms and rebellion against the government within the colonies of North America.” This was his declaration of war against person in open arms and rebellion. But in practice soldiers made few distinctions.  On 16 October, four vessels of war, under command of Capt. Mowatt, fired upon the town of Portland and landed; setting the town in a blaze; and burnt all the sun-going vessel except two, which were carried off.  This was war.  News of these occurrences and of hostile preparations arrived at the Continental Congress about the first of Nov.

  In 1775 attention in New York was chiefly directed to New England with ports closed and commerce under ban; and preparations were not prefect for local defense.  The British government professed to favor New York to secure its loyalty.  Perhaps the secured a greater effect by leading the other colonists to distrust New Yorkers.  The city had many temporary residents and there were royalists enough to make much .

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Mar 11
The Battle of Long Island
By A Native of Southold
Section 1. The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.

(Continued)

  On the 6th and 7th Aug. 1775, thirteen sail of British vessels were off Oyster Pond point, L. I., and Norwich, Conn., looking for live stock; being three ships of war and ten transports.  It was a foraging expedition, sent out by the British then occupying Boston.  The neighborhoods on each side of the Sound rallied to resist attacks.  The ships of war could capture or enforce the obedience of small vessels that came within their reach and were generally avoided by them.  Fisher’s Island (probably Plumb Island) and the north-eastern point of Long Island were deprived of all stock that could be found.  If freely yielded, some price would perhaps have been paid or promised for it; but not yielded, the places were treated as hostile or foreign territory.  The expedition refrained from taking much from the main coast of Connecticut.  It was evident they could not obtain it on credit; and if they used force, they might be resisted as robbers.  (Caulkins’ Norwich, edition of 1874, p. 386).  It is probable they had no money; or if an officer was supplied with some he would not be a part of it.  This expedition was an important demonstration affecting the future.  An organized company ready to resist in the town of Southold, under Capt. Griffing or Lieut. Norton, wanted powder and would use it if it could be commanded.  Capt. Griffing acting at Oyster Ponds on 17 Aug. was able to appear at New York on 2 Sept. A spirit of resistance was excited.  All could see and feel that the officers of the King of England, without legislative authority, could not safely be permitted to impress men and quarter troops and seize provisions (without pay) at their mere will and pleasure.  Power had too often been abused, in that way.  The dullest could comprehend it.  Gen. Wooster, in camp at Harlem, protecting some large guns, was ordered to send some companies down eat on L. I. To assist in protecting the men, the cattle and sheep and the forage and grain from seizure.  And two hundred pounds of powder were order sent to Ezra L’Hommedieu of Southold and John Foster of Southampton.  Mr. Gelston, of the latter place, got saltpeter to make powder.  The companies were expected to fall at Southold under the command of Israel Fanning, a militia officer, along with his neighbors.  But Gen. Wooster went himself to Oyster Ponds (now Orient) with several hundred men.  Sickness prevailed while Gen. Wooster’s soldiers were there.  “Such mortality by dysentery had never before been known.”  (Griffin, p. 70).  He returned in Sept., leaving some soldiers. There was no rain for 9 or 10 weeks; a drought which seriously affected crops.

   Suffolk Co. had a large majority of Whigs.  Queens Co. was badly divided.  Flatbush, Jamaica and Hempstead had the summer seats of the Colonial governors, Judges and other officials.  The legislature had met at each of those places.  Many royalist families lived in and around them.  Patronage, power, wealth, and fashion of course had their influence.  Provincial loyalty was of the most extravagant kind.  Office seekers collected around the dispenser of office and formed parties.  The party in power was generally in profession very loyal.  To be so was the way to secure office and jobs under gov’t.  In Nov., 1775, the county, voting at Jamaica by formal vote, by a large (*1*) mainly from Southold and Southampton, of which William Rogers was Captain, John Franks, (afterwards for many years postmaster of Southold) Captain Lieut., Jeremiah Roger of Southampton, First Lieutenant, Thomas Baker, probably of East Hampton, Second Lieutenant, and John Tuthill of Southold “Lieutenant fire-worker.”

  Recruiting officers for continental service were not then limited to know districts in which to obtain soldiers (though afterwards warrants for districts were issued) and it is for this reason difficult to trace them.  Many from Long Island entered into New England regiments, Lieut. Nathaniel Norton, afterwards Captain, who served through the war, had a company from Brookhaven, L. I., or a large part of it.  This indication of courses pursued, and these particulars with family traces of soldiers permit it to be claimed that Long Island had her full share of Continental soldiers.  So many active men enlisted that the eastern towns having no regular militia force to confide in, apprehended they would be left quite unprotected.  The towns of East Hampton and Southampton applied to congress, and that body allowed Capt. Griffing’s and Capt. Hurlbut’s companies to remain for the present to guard the stock from seizure.

  On 20th July, 1775, while these arrangements and enlistments for Continentals were progressing, a resolution of the N. Y. convention or provincial congress, directed especially to the local difficulty last mentioned, (the stock), was passed for raising a force of minute men from the militia,-about one fourth part of the militia to be trained often in small companied and to be constantly ready for active service upon a minute’s warning.  Those on Long Island were to form a distinct regiment under Col. Josiah Smith, who lived near the middle of the Island, on its exposed south side, while about the same time, several regiments of militia were organized and officered, to support congress.

  This plan of minute men, though more local, was not less essential than the other.  It was faulty in not contemplating the necessity of regimental drill and discipline.  I t might also draw in Tories, as they were called, or royalists, or neutrals, when only Whigs or supporters of congress were relied on.  But it was a part of the plan to sift out the unreliable, and to have selected officers.  The places where either of these classes prevailed were known, and generally the individuals, and pains were taken to mark and fix the men by personal engagements of a formal and public character which were expected to be observed or enforced.

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Mar 18
The Battle of Long Island
By, A Native of Southold
Section I., The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.

(continued)

 

  So far as New York and Long Island were concerned, there must be drawn a strong line of distinction between 1775 and 1776.

  What controlled many on both sides and was to them the dividing line, was the act of parliament passed at London in Nov., 1775, sent out in Dec., to take effect in Jan., 1776, - with an army to sustain it-, prohibiting trade and commerce in vessels, from and to all of the colonies, under penalty of confiscation of property.  It declared that all ships and vessel belonging to the inhabitants of any of the American colonies, and their cargoes, should be forfeited as if they were ships and effects of open enemies, and should be adjudged in all the courts.  The ships and vessels of all others – including Englishmen – were to be forfeited, if they presumed to trade with the colonies; i. e., all trade and commerce were forbidden, as with enemies.  This, if not war, was an arbitrary, unauthorized and unjust decree.  Parliament had rightfully no legislative authority over America; other than its power to declare war.  Its legislative powers were limited locally to England and Scotland where its members were chosen.  Its legislation might be directed to regulating and even temporarily stopping trade in or with Scotland and England.  This it did not mean to do.  It sought to reach and punish beyond its limit and by warlike penalties the innocent equally with the guilty for trading in vessels, and to punish every colonist for attempting to trade with others, and it deprived New York colony and New York merchants of any benefit from loyalty, by punishing all alike as enemies.  It could no more deprive a freeman of his right to trade or not to trade than of his right to work or to eat, or to have property: nor could it of right compel him either to trade or not to trade with them or anybody- except by its power over the ports and vessel of England and Scotland.  The Act of parliament was in the American’s view wholly without principle or propriety: a mere tyrannical trespass; or else a declaration of war!  And it was immediately followed or accompanied by armed preparations both of army and navy for its hostile enforcement.  It required a little time to study and prepare for it.  It was but a cunning deception to pretend it was not war; to prevent preparation.  The hot royalists soon treated the city and its neighborhood as “conquered” by rebels; or as outlawed or in open war; this was their policy.  It would result in forfeitures and depression of antagonists, and in the personal pre-eminence and power of leading royalist if they should be successful, and by these they would profit.  Trade and commerce were suspended by this hostile act; and forbidden.  The citizens losing employment scattered with their families in every direction.  Many went to Queens County on Long Island- some up the Hudson, some to New Jersey and some to New England.  The city apparently would soon become desolate.  It suffered as from war.

  The early expedition against Canada by the Americans was bent upon securing the fortress at Quebec.  At first successful, capturing Montreal and all upper Canada by surprise, it was poorly sustained and supplied when at a distance.  It was caught by the cold and ice and could do little before spring.  It was met early in May by re-enforcements and regulars at Quebec in the fortress.  It was driven back or had to retreat, with effecting its main object and with a loss including killed, wounded, prisoners, and deserters of about 5,000 men and including Gen. Montgomery; a great disaster.  It strongly taught the necessity of regular supplies for distant expeditions.  One part of the disaster was the excitement it gave the tricks it taught to the ungovernable ambition of selfish men.  The most selfish and conning fared the best under the law of “save themselves who can.”  The march to Quebec and the retreat of the soldiers who escaped was attended by extreme fatigue and privation, suffering and distress.  Men “traveling through a new country much covered in snow and almost destitute of provisions,” as reported, had to desert the ranks to take reasonable care of themselves; their inexperienced officers lacking either means or wit to provide and care for them.  The port at Ticonderoga was guarded by men from Long Island.  See note A.  A threatened pursuit and invasion from Canada was stopped at the Lakes. Gen’l Thomas of Mass. In command, died before troops retreating reached Crown Point.  He was attacked by the small-pox which prevailed among the troops.  Gen’l Sullivan succeeded him in command for a short time; until Gen’l Schuyler of Northern New York took charge.

  The course of Gen. Lee, as commander at New York city, may be passed over as rough and indiscreet, considering the state of the colony. Whether more regular or gentler methods would have increased or diminished the number of loyalists or continentals none of us can certainly tell.  But it is plain that he gave to others a very unfavorable opinion of N. Y. and Long Island, of which he knew very little, beyond reports from the city and Jamaica and Hempstead.  His orders were from Gen. Washington, but on his part – although he seemed very opinionative – were executed with strange deference to others.  On 18th Dec., 1775, he wrote to Virginia that Norfolk would be “the Boston, the chief place of arms to your enemies next year.”- Lee’s Papers, Vol. 1, p. 232.-  That was not the way to help New York.  On 3rd Jan., 1776, he had “lately made a tour through Rhode Island, and of his own authority, he obliged tories and suspected persons, including, rich merchants, at Newport, “to swear allegiance to the Continental Congress”; at the same time saying he had “not long looked with some degree of horror on the scheme of separation, but at present there appears no alternative; we must be independent or slaves.”- Id. P. 233.- As soon as he thought so, he was ready roughly to use force, having no patience to wait for others to hear the news and change their views.  He said “I wish the same step was taken with New York, as I though indispensable

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Apr 01
The Battle of Long Island
By A Native of Southold
Section 1. The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.

(Continued)

  On 6th March, 1776, William Alexander, -Lord Sterling- succeeded Gen. Lee in chief command at New York; and he was active.  The deceptive but really war-like act of parliament by this time was understood.  He arranged with the convention: and had its full authority to fortify and to get all the aid he possibly could from the citizens, and what was important and effective, the convention had credit and gathered and applied a considerable amount of funds.  Specie, as in all civil wars, was withdrawn from sight. It favored and gave credit to the issue of some continental bills, which, without its sanction, would have had a very limited circulation, or credit, and which were afterwards abused.  When English were about to leave Boston, Gen. Washington sent some regiments to New York, to prepare for meeting the hostile force in this region.  This was to many a sudden and unexpected change in scene.  Soldiers, arms, forts, and provisions were in greatest demand.  The General Congress recommended that the arms be seized of persons found disaffected to congress or “opposed to liberties of America.”  The known opponents who could be found with arms were promptly deprived of them; but to avoid resistance and clamor, the N. Y. convention ordered the arms to be paid for, as private property taken for public use.  This was the legal rule and just, and had been insisted upon against England.  A regiment of soldiers under Col. Heard of N. J. attended to the seizure of 1,000 pieces of arms in Queens County but many individuals succeeded in retaining some arms. At New York city, April 7th, the report was, “business of every kind stagnated.  All its streets that lead from the North and East rivers blockaded and nothing but military operations [the] current employment. **** Several hundred many have been daily employed for upwards of four weeks” on fortifications, etc. (Letter of N. Fish.)  On 30 April, Peter Elting wrote to Richard Varick, saying, “This day came to town five or six battalions of Continental troops from Boston.”  “They are fortifying on every side.  Night before last they began on Soten Island [meaning Governors Island].  I hear they are busy at Staten Island.  The Asia is moved down as far as Robin’s reef.  The men of war have allowed no boats to pass as of late, though I don’t think they feel quite so bold as heretofore, and would be glad moving out of the way of our two and thirty pounders.”  (2 A. G. G. and B. Record, p. 34).

  On 13 April, Gen. Washington, having forwarded several regiments, arrived himself at New York; and from time to time news arrived of the English fleet and army having reach Halifax; of supplies, repairs and recruits received there and of preparations made in England for heavy re-enforcements.  Members of the N. Y. convention were slow to believe that the British army and navy, after repairs and re-enforcement would come in hostile array in New York and that it would be necessary to fight them.  The English King or parliament had gained nothing from hostilities in New England.  A few like Gen. Washington, or who were in communication with him, could arrive at this opinion in respect to the hostilities much sooner than the scattered many.  If merchant and many others got news they used the same first for private purposes.  The British remaining away some months left the time and place of designed attack too uncertain for local activity.  It was quite impractical to fortify the whole coast.  More training and discipline might have been had if events had been foreseen, and more efficient preparations made; but there were many difficulties.

  On 10 May, the N. Y. convention, with some prompting, urged all possible diligence in forming the inhabitants who had agreed to support congress into militia companies and regiments;  and asked for names of suitable persons for field officers and a major of Brigade for S. I. (1 Cal. Rev. Pap. 304).  No self-denying ordinance was deemed necessary and it named to many of its own members to high military stations.  It knew them best, and they were generally the most prominent men, but few of them were fit for high military commands.  On the same 10th of May, the Continental Congress recommended the formation by the colonies of regular local governments; and on the 15th of May declared the necessity of suppressing every kind of authority under the Crown of Great Britain.  This was one year after the resort to arms.  But many were not prepared for this.  It would have been exceedingly difficult and dangerous, and probably impossible, to defend in arms without it.  There was no other resource.  Military officers were especially bound to obey their superiors up to the King.  Judges and Justices had all sworn allegiance to the King.  All the penalties and forfeitures of treason and all the perils of disorder, of violence and fraud, of robbery and murder unpunished, stared prudent men in the face.  Without some substitute, this would have been beyond endurance.

  NOTE- Modern examples may aid to explain such old occurrences. The letter of John Brown of Ossowotomy, dated 20 Feb, 1856, failed of general attention, but pointed out the difficulty.  “The administration will drive the people here either to submit or to assume what will be formed treasonable by shooting down the poor soldiers of the country with whom they have no quarrel whatever.”  N. Y. Times of 17 Feb., ’79).

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Apr 15
The Battle of Long Island
By A Native of Southold
Section 1. The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.

(Continued)

Notes to Sec. I.

  Note A. - Robert Griffin was a native of Southold, a descendant of Lieut. Jasper, and of a large family.  In 1715, he or his father was in the militia company of that date.

  His son Samuel, born in 1710, married Elizabeth, daughter of Nathan Landon. She was born about 1710 and died in 1775, and he married again.  Both, perhaps, were of Welsh descent.  He had a family of 11 sons and five daughters and all were ready to support congress.  Three of the sons became Captains.  On the Census list of 1775, he was next to Ezra L’Hommedieu.  He (then or afterwards) had a place in Connecticut at Branford, where he was visited by his grandson Augustus the journalist in 1787.

  Capt. Daniel Griffing was his third son.  He was born on 12th May, 1736, and in 1758 married Martha Case of Southold.  He had a family of seven children before the Rev. war.  He was first in arms in the French war.  In 1759 he was a Lieut. In Capt. Barnabas Tuthill’s company from Southold.  In 1760 he was Capt of 36 men sent from Suffolk Company on L. I.  In 1762 he was again Captain of a company from the same county.  In 1774 he and Benjamin Marvin petitioned the N. Y. Convention for commissions, in case of hostilities.  In 1775 he was in service in support of congress.  On 17th August he was at Oyster Ponds (now Orient) repelling the attempts to gather forage and supplies for the British force holding Boston.  On 2nd Sept. he was at N. Y. City; on 4th October at Albany and on 16th October at Lake George.  From 1st to 30 November he was at Ticonderoga protecting the fort; and on 22nd and 30th Dec. again at Albany.  He was active and doubtless for this period in the pay of the New York provincial organization.

  His commission for Continental service was dated 19th Feb. 1776, he being soon the third Captain in rank for the state of New York.

  On 1st and 12th March, and on 14th May he was at Southold gathering, organizing and drilling a force and on the last day he was also on Shelter Island.  He established a camp there which he could maintain a far seeing watch.  He could protect Shelter Island itself from attack, and could readily cross to either branch of Long Island, to Sag Harbor or to Greenport, to aid a defence.  The high ground on Shelter Island overlooked both branches of Long Island.  On 27th June and on 1st July he was on Shelter Island, where he could watch the motion of hostile vessels.  In June 1776, he was named as Captain of one of three companies from Suffolk Co., L. I. for Continental service.  A warrant dated 29th June authorized him to recruit and enroll a company with Benjamin Marvin First Lieut.  These would be for two years service, or for 1776 and 1777.  On 9th July he paid his father Samuel £47, 5s and 4d., for 28 stand of arms; doubtless procured with difficulty as indicated by the cost; and on 11th July he paid his father £12 on account of a boat, of course for public use, being needed as well for the rapid movement of his men to or from Shelter Island as for supplies or to carry news.

  On 8th Aug. he was at Saybrook, Ct., after arms. On 23rd Aug., on Shelter Island. On 26th Aug., “at camp” on Shelter Island.  On 11th and 30th Nov. and on 12th Dec. at New Haven. And on 1st  Jan., 1777, at Fort Montgomery. These dates and places are taken from books of account and papers preserved in his own handwriting, and they are very expressive.  No later precise date is preserved by the accounts except a payment to Ruins Paine, on 31st Jan., 1777 at Guilford, Conn.

  In Aug. 1776 it seems he received money from which he was able to pay his men, and a payroll with the signature of his men in preserved, which may have been kept out of sight during the war to protect some of them on L. I.  78 men were paid 23rd Aug., 1776, of whom 35 are traces so as to prove their families in Southold (per Southold Index for 1775) and 43 other embrace familiar names of which many can be traced in other towns.  At other dates and some without precise date payment appear to have been made to 14 other soldiers of Southold (named in Index for 1775) and 13 more are not precisely traced but had familiar L. I. names; making a total of 105 men paid by him on or near the date of 23rd Aug., 1776, besides the commissioned officers.

 

The Long Island Traveler (Southold) 1880 Apr 22
The Battle of Long Island
By A Native of Southold
Section 1. The preliminaries, 1774, 1775, and early in 1776.
(Continued)

Notes to Sec. I

(Note A. continued)

  Benjamin Marvin, his first Lieut., deserves a separate account.  Nathaniel Norton, his 2nd Lieut., has one in print (2nd Thomp., L. I.) Seth Marvin signed as corporal and other subscribers are traceable.  Among such a number of men on such an extraordinary occasion, it is not deemed remarkable, but due to truth, to note that seven are mentioned as having deserted on 3rd Sep., after the battle and after the retreat to New York and one was discharged by court martial on 15th Sep., 1776.

  It need not detract from this narrative to state that the writer has been careful to get all the particulars he could because his father, the youngest of a large family, had his oldest brother, 23 years his senior, engaged under Capt. Griffing and acting with him, who lost his health in the service and died before the writers was born.  Without and personal report from him, yet from surviving relatives and friends, and from some of his companions in arms, who have conversed in his hearing, the writer has derived many personal particulars.  By report, this uncle and a few other from Cap. Griffing’s went as volunteers or were sent with the minute men of Southold under Capt. Jonathan Bailey and Col. Smith and took part in what occurred at Brooklyn.  The writer has not ventured to rely upon his recollection of these communications beyond what he has found confirmed by original writings preserved or printed.

  James Griffing the Brother of Daniel, was of his company, but has been reported at the battle of L. I., serving fifteen months as a soldier in 1776 and 1777.  He died, too early for a pension, in 1824, ne 85.  He married Desire, a daughter of Jonathan and Lydia Terry, who died in 1814 and had 12 children, including Augustus.  He was a reputable man.  The writer has heard some of his sons relate occurrences derived from him as well as others of the family.

  Capt. Daniel Griffing, after about two years service on land, was recommended for promotion; to be a major.  Another being promoted over him, he retired from the land service.  He afterwards had charge of various expeditions on the water; generally fitted out from Connecticut.  He was deemed trustworthy to deal with public funds.  His brother Peter, born 1742, was taken prisoner and died in the prison ship at Brooklyn.  He first became Captain of a Company of Rangers, as they were called.  On 14th Dec., 1777, he, with his company, captured the “Peggy,” Darby Doyle, Master, with 40 men, engaged in supplying British troops in N. Y. City with fuel forage and provisions (Rev. Incidents, Queens, 204). In Feb., 1778, he, with others, stripped the royalist schnr., Clio, Capt. Simmons, of her sails, rigging, etc.  In 1779 he recovered and restored property of David Gardiner and wid. Case, plundered.  After the war Capt. Daniel resided in Connecticut and lived until 1822.  If we reflect how many politicians and persons getting recruits struggled for military offices, and how many foreigners were promoted for their supposed skill, we may not wonder that a plain hard-working old Captain of this French war, although entirely devoted to the service, did not get the promotion he deserved.  He became afterwards somewhat soured in his mind and though his country ungrateful.  He had lived to witness the return of La Fayette, and to receive a pension, his temper might have been improved.  The meeting of his old Col. H. B. Livingston, with La Fayette has been vividly described.

  Note B.-  William Havens, 1st Lieut., signed the engagement to support congress,, in May, 1775, and on 29th June, was appointed 2nd Lieut.  He lived (on Hog Neck near Sag Harbor) in the town of Southampton. His Continental Commission was dated 4th May, 1776.  In August 1776, he was probably active under Col. Livingston, and Capt. Davis.  In Nov. he was under Col. Livingston at Saybrook and agreed to continue service during the war.  In 1777 he was in the 2nd company under the same Captain and Colonel, in the 4th battalion.  His rank was called 5th Lieut. In the 2nd battalion.  In May he was the 3rd of the first Lieuts.  We have no full account of him.  It is understood that he retired from the army to take an appointment in the young navy, or was transferred from army to navy.  New London became the Navy-Yard.  The fort and Groton was designed for its protection.

  In 1779 William havens (doubtless the same man) was Master of the armed sloop Beaver and with two other vessels under Capt. Sage and Edward Conkling cut out the British Brig Ranger of 12 guns at Sag Harbor.  The next day they attacked seven other vessels and were repulsed be superior force.  Between 1st of March and 13th June, nine vessels under the British flag were captured.  The Lady Erskine of 60 tons and 10 guns was taken off New London by the Beaver, Capt. Havens, and carried into the port.

  If further particulars can be given of him or others, we hope they will be communicated.  To strangers these two may serve as samples.  In the neighborhood the memories of all should be preserved.

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