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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Abel Deveau, An American Skirmisher on Rodman's Neck as British and Germans Landed Before the Battle of Pelham

Early on the morning of October 18, 1776, Col. John Glover stood on a hill overlooking the Hutchinson River near today's Memorial Field in Mount Vernon, New York.  He looked across the rolling hills and what he saw caused a chill up his spine.  Thousands of British and German troops were landing on the western shore of Pell's Point (today's Rodman's Neck) from ships anchored in Eastchester Bay 

The story of Col. John Glover and the few hundred men that he led that day in a successful effort to slow the advance of the British and German troops in their effort to cut off the withdrawal of George Washington's army toward White Plains is well known.  Surprisingly little, however, is known about the details of the battle with only a couple of brief eyewitness accounts known to exist. 

As luck would have it, we now know a little about the American skirmishers who first met the British and German troops as they landed on Pell's Point.  A local resident named Abel Deveau was among the group of skirmishers located on Pell's Point charged with the task of slowing the British advance along Rodman's Neck and alerting the distant American troops that a battle likely was imminent.

Detail from Map by Charles Blaskowitz Depicting
the Landing Area of the British and German Troops
Before the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.
Source:  Blaskowitz, Charles, A Survey of Frog's Neck
and the Rout[e] of the British Army to the 24th of October
1776, Under the Command of His Excellency the Honorable
William Howe, General and Commander in Chief of His
Majesty's Forces, Manuscript (1776) (Library of Congress
Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.; Library
of Congress Catalog No. gm71000648; Library of Congress
Digital ID g3802t ar115200 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3802t.ar115200

Typically, skirmishers are infantry or cavalry placed ahead of, or alongside, a larger body of friendly troops. They are usually placed in a skirmish line to harass and slow the advance of the enemy as the main body of friendly troops prepares to meet the enemy.  Often skirmishers will harass the enemy troops as they fall back to their own main line of troops to join the fight.

In the nineteenth century, a local resident named Abel Deveau often related stories of how he and others served as skirmishers who met the mass of 4,000 British and German troops as they landed on today's Rodman's Neck in advance of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.  Robert Bolton included a brief reference to Deveau's account of his exploits in his two volume revised history of Westchester County published in 1881, shortly after Bolton's death.  The brief reference is quoted immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.

“Deveau town is a small scattered hamlet in this vicinity, so named after Abel Deveau, an old whig of the Revolution, and proprietor of a small estate. This individual was proud of relating how he and others were deployed as skirmishes [sic] to way-lay the British near the causeway, after their landing on Pelham Neck, in 1776, firing behind the rock near Rapelye’s and retiring, as they advanced, towards Eastchester. The late Abel Deveau, of Pelham, was his son; and one of his grandsons is the present Richard Deveau, of New Rochelle.” 

Source: Bolton, Robert, History of the Several Towns, Manors, and Patents of the County of Westchester, From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, Carefully Revised by Its Author, Vol. II, p. 100 (NY, NY: Chas. F. Roper, 1881) (Edited by Cornelius Winter Bolton).

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