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, May 29, 2007

British Ship Grounds on the Devil's Stepping Stones Near Pelham on April 23, 1777

The journals of Henry Duncan, a Captain in the British Navy during the Revolutionary War, contain a brief account of the grounding of a troop transport ship near Pelham in the spring of 1777. The account is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.

"North River, New York. - Having previously been appointed to the command of an expedition destined up the Sound:

On Tuesday, the 22nd April, 1777, at 1 p.m. got the fleet under way, consisting of twelve transports, an hospital ship, and some small craft; the army, consisting of about 2,000 men, under the command of Major-General Tryon, stood into the East River, while the admiral made a diversion with some frigates and transports up the North River. The wind was about SE in Hell Gate. The fleet got all through about half after four. Joined the Swan and Senegal at the Brothers; they proceeded on with us, and the fleet anchored at dark near City Island. I went with the general on board the Senegal. At eleven at night the wind came to NE, and very thick foggy weather.

23rd April. - At 11 a.m. the weather cleared up. At 3 p.m., the turn of tide, weighed and worked to windward. One of the transports got on the Stepping Stones [i.e., the Devil's Stepping Stones in the Sound] and made the signal of distress. Sent Captain Molloy to her assistance, with orders to shift the troops, &c., if necessary.

24th. - At daybreak made the signal for the sternmost ships to weigh and come near us; the wind was easterly and the sternmost ships could get no farther than the Senegal in the course of the tide; therefore did not weigh in the Senegal. Captain Molloy reported this morning that he had taken the troops out of the transport that run on the Stepping Stones. Got the ship off in the night, and re-embarked the troops in their proper ship again. Half-past nine Mr. Tonkin, with two transports and Brown's corps embarked on board them, joined us [Page 139 / Page 140] from Oyster Bay, agreeable to the orders I had sent him. At noon the fleet all close to us; the wind about ENE, hary weather, and a pretty fresh breeze of wind. Half-past 3 p.m. got under way with the fleet. Hazy weather, with the wind at SE by S. At six came to an anchor. Thick hazy weather, so that I coul not see all the fleet. Night coming on, appearances of bad weather, and most of the transports without pilots; I thought it unsafe to work any longer to windward; it turned out a rainy, blowy night, the wind at ENE."

Source: Laughton, John Knox, ed., Journals of Henry Duncan Captain, Royal Navy 1776-1782 in The Naval Miscellany, Vol. I, pp. 139-40 (The Navy Records Society 1902).

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