Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Minor Revolutionary War Incidents Near Pelham

Slowly I have been assembling information about Revolutionary War events in and around Pelham other than the well-known Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776. I have located a book that describes Revolutionary War events taken from local newspapers of the day. A few of these descriptions relate to ship engagements off the shores of City Island, then part of Pelham. Today's Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a few of those events from that book as well as from books on the Revolutionary War in Westchester County written by Otto Hufeland in 1926 and by Henry B. Dawson in 1886.

"July 3, '79, Riv. On Tuesday last, a party of refugees from Long Island crossed to West Chester, and brought off, with the assistance of the guard ship below City Island, 50 milch cows, 12 or 14 horses, and 150 sheep, which they drove to Jamaica Plains. None of the party received any injury."

Source: Onderdonk, Henry, Documents and Letters Intended to Illustrate the Revolutionary Incidents of Queens County: with Connecting Narratives, Explanatory Notes, and Additions, p. 136 (NY, NY: Leavitt Trow and Co. 1846).

"Oct. 2, '79, Riv. The sloop Sally, Sept. 28, laden with provisions for His Majesty's sloop Swift, between City Island and Oyster Bay, was chased on shore by two whale boats, but the armed Brigantine Edward, Capt. J. Peebles, master, stationed in Hempstead Bay,* retook the Sally and her provisions, with a new 7 oared boat having a swivel and 11 muskets, killed 3 men and took several prisoners. [Capt. Peebles was himself subsequently taken by surprise, and was succeeded by the Ranger, which lay till the peace at the Deep Hole outside the beach. -- Ed.] *In June '79, she lay in the East river."

Source: Id., p. 171.

"Mar. 1, '80. The Grand Duke was a guard ship at City Island a fortnight ago. -- Con. Gaz.

Source: Id., p. 145.

"March 31, '81, Riv. Capt. Ives, of the Associated Loyalists, with 22 men in an unarmed schooner, commanded by Capt. Church, was sailing from City Island to Lloyd's Neck, in company with two other vessels armed with swivels, when he was attacked by four whale boats full of men, from Stamford, which he beat off with muskets only, although the rebels took the armed vessels and turned the swivels against Ives' party. In the midst of the firing, two rebeles were seen to fall overboard, and three others appeared disabled. Two boats, which afterwards drifted ashore, were bespattered with blood, and shot through in several places. One had a dead man, four muskets and several coats in it. Next morning another man was found dead on the shore. During the contest, Capt. Church was forced to run his schooner on shore, when the rebels landed a party to annoy the loyalists more effectually, but were driven off by the militia of Long Island, who readily turned out."

Source: Id., pp. 220-21.

"With the Americans lying between two large navigable rivers about six miles apart, the large army and fleet of the British, put it into the power of Howe to divide his forcs, leave a substantial body in the City of New York in front of Washington and transport the rest up the Hudson or East Rivers or both, to points behind him and cut off his retreat. Howe had made himself familiar with the shores of these rivers, for as early as July 12th [1776], he had sent two vessels up the Hudson as far as Verplanck's Point, which did not return for three weeks, and on August 27th two others sailed up the Sound as far as Pell's Point and City Island. 1 . . . 1 Col. of Revolutionary MSS., I, 463."

Source: Hufeland, Otto, Westchester County During the American Revolution: 1775 - 1783, p. 108 (White Plains, NY: Westchester County Historical Society 1926).

"On August 28, 1776 Colonel Joseph Drake writes to the State Convention from New Rochelle:

The enemy lay yesterday and all last night by Hart Island; this morning they removed a little to the southward of Minefords (City) Island, where they at present lay. They have not been able to plunder much. They got from Minefords Island four horned cattle and some poultry, which is all we have been able to learn they have plundered. I imediately sent Captain Hunt, with about fifty men from New Rochel, who, with the help of a part of Colonel Graham's Regiment drove off all the cattle from the Island, to the amount of thirty odd head. 2 . . . 2 Force, American Archives, 5th Series.

Source: Id., p. 108.

Henry B. Dawson, in his book published in 1886, describes the same incident as follows:

"Early on the morning of the twenty-seventh of August [1776], two ships and a brig anchored a little above Throgg's-neck; and before the troops whom General Heath had sent for the purposes of protecting the neighboring property, could reach the shore, several barges had gone ashore, on City-island; killed several cattle; 4 and carried away the dead animals and one of the inhabitants. The troops managed to secure the remainder of the cattle which were on the island. 5 . . . 4 Colonel Joseph Drake, in his letter to the Convention, dated 'NEW ROCHELL, Augt. 28, 1776,' said 'they have not been able to plunder much; they got from Mineford's-island' [now City-island,] '4 horned cattle and some poultry, which is all we have been able to learn they have plundered.' In his Memories, (page 56,) General Heath said 'the enemy carried off one man and 14 cattle.' 5 Memories of General Heath, 55, 56; Colonel Joseph Drake to General Morris, 'NEW ROCHEL, Augt. 27, 1776' -- Historical Manuscripts, etc.: Miscellaneous Papers, xxxvi., 339."

Source: Dawson, Henry B., Westchester County, New York During the American Revolution, p. 219 (NY, NY: 1886).

The book Memories of General Heath referenced by Dawson describes an additional incident, saying:

"30th of January, 1777, the storm cleared up, when fifteen ships, one brig, two schooners, and two sloops came to, between Hart and City Island. They were from the eastward, and were supposed to have troops on board."

Source: Memories of General Heath, p. 113.

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