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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

American Diary Account of Events Before, During, and After the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776

Saturday was the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Pelham fought during the American Revolution on October 18, 1776.  To commemorate the Battle, last Friday I published an excerpt of the diary of a British officer who participated in the Battle, Archibald Robertson.  See Fri., Oct. 17, 2014:  First-Hand Diary Account of Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

In further commemoration of the Battle, today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an excerpt from the diary of an American soldier named Benjamin Trumbull for roughly the same span of days (October 12, 1776 - October 19, 1776).  

Benjamin Trumbull was born in Hebron, Connecticut on December 19, 1735 and died in North Haven, Connecticut on February 2, 1820.  He graduated from Yale College in 1759, studied theology under Rev. Eleazor Wheelock and became a preacher who served North Haven for sixty years.  (He received the degree of D. D. from Yale in 1796.)  Trumbull volunteered and served as a Chaplain during the American Revolution.  

The excerpt taken from Trumbull's Journal covers the period from October 12, 1776 as the British and German troops leave New York for a landing on Throggs Neck adjacent to Pell's Point (today's Rodman's Neck) through the Battle of Pelham on October 18, the encampment of the British and German troops along today's Colonial Avenue from the Hutchinson River to the New Rochelle border on October 19, and Trumbull's delivery of a sermon to American troops on Sunday, October 20, 1776.  

Trumbull's Journal does not make clear where he was in the days leading up to the Battle of Pelham, although his descriptions suggest he was not involved in the events he describes in his Journal entries.  His Journal makes clear, however, that he was not present during the Battle of Pelham because it indicates that on October 18, 1776, he marched with American troops to Philipsburg Manor.  Nevertheless, Trumbull's Journal provides interesting insight into the events of that period and the flow of information as Trumbull tried to follow the progress of the War.

"Saturday 12th.  This morning we had an alarm:  The regulars we hear are landing in a large Body near Frogs Point.  The Army at the South Lines were ordered to their Posts and drawn up at the Advanced, and South Lines.  A great Part of the Army on the other Side of Kings Bridge marched for West Chester, to attact [sic] the Enemy.  The Enemy landed about 2,000 [Page 199 / Page 200] men on the Point which is a Peninsula; but did not come off from the Point.  Our Troops Pulled up the Bridge to prevent their coming off, and the Riflemen fired at them over the Marsh and killed some few men.  About 30 Sail of Transports, principally, went up the Sound the Same Day as far as Frogs Point.

Sabbath Day 13th.  There is some firing of Field Pieces at Frogs Point but no movement of Importance.  A Number of Transports this Day come down the Sound.  The Day is Pleasant and the Camp at the Lines quiet.

Monday 14.  A Pleasant Day a Brisk wind to the north or rather North east entirely unfavourable for the Enemy.  Accounts are that the Enemy are almost all moved off from Straten Island, and that they are thined much at the Lines.  The Generals were together yesterday in counsel and are of Opinion that the Enemy are about to make a bold and decisive push, and that a great Part of their Army are on the Move to the Eastward off us to Land above us, and dispositions are making in the Army Accordingly.  General MacDougals Brigade were ordered over Kings Bridge Yesterday, & Some Regiments are ordered over from the Jersy Side; It is said that the Enemy have abandoned Bergen and Powlis Hook.

Tuesday 15th.  Nothing Special happens; it appears that the Enemy are moving their main Body up to Frogs Point and East & West Chester.  Our Generals understand that General Howe is there himself.  General MacDougals Brigade are ordered over Kings Bridge or Congress Bridge, and a Brigade or two from the Jersey Side are ordered over on this Side and march towards the Enemy.  About the Same Time two Regements of [Page 200 / Page 201] Militia were ordered over the Bridge to take Post about the 17 Mile Stone.  

Wednesday 16th.  Generals are all together in Counsel.  Scarce any Fatige men out, and the Waggons Generally  employed in moving the Baggage Tents &c. of the Brigades ordered to match.

Some preparations are begun at the Lines for Barracks.

Thursday 17th.  General Spencers Division have orders to march and form on the left of General Lincoln's Brigade.

General Wadsworth's and General Fellows Brigades march between one and two o'Clock, and encamp in the Evening near the 16 Miles Stone.

Friday 18th.  March to Philip's Burg the Place of Destination.  General Lord Stirling & his Brigade march this Day early from the Lines and towards Night pass us and Encamp on our Left, at Some distance to the North West, between us and the North River.  The Enemy this Day land men East of Frogs Point on another Point of Land [i.e., Pell's Point], and advance a mile or two from the Water, and the light Horse and large Bodies of them move on towards New Rochel.  There was a considerable firing of Field Pieces and Small Arms between Scattering Parties but no geral [general] Engagements of any large Bodies but the Enemy falling into a sort of Ambush sustained much loss.

Saturday 19th.  The Enemy this Day we find by Scouting Parties, have advanced as far as New Rochel and have Spread out Some little Distance from the Water to the Westward; but it does not Seem that they are advancing towards our main Army or are making any disposition for a general attack.  [Page 201 / Page 202]

Sabbath Day the 20 is peaceable and Quiet; General Wadsworths Brigade attended public Service about midday.  I preached to General W's Brigade from Exclesiastees 11.9.  Rejoice O young man &c.  Nothing material happened in our Army; but General Washington this Day received the Meloncholly News of the Destruction of the Continental Fleet on the Lake Champlain, by the Enemy on the [blank space] general Waterbury was taken Prisoner."

Source:  Benjamin Trumbull's Journal of the Campaign Around New York, 1776-77 in Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, Vol. VII:  Orderly Book and Journals Kept By Connecticut Men While Taking Part In The American Revolution 1775-1778, pp. 199-202 (Hartford, CT:  The Case, Lockwood and Brainard Company, Printers, 1899).

Bicentennial Seal of the Battle of Pelham, 1976.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written extensively about the Battle of Pelham fought on October 18, 1776.  See, for example, the following 35 articles:  

Bell, Blake A., The Battle of Pelham:  October 18, 1776, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 41, Oct. 15, 2004, p. 10, col. 1.  

Bell, Blake, History of the Village of Pelham:  Revolutionary War, HistoricPelham.com Archive (visited May 9, 2014).  

Mon., Feb. 28, 2005:  Glover's Rock on Orchard Beach Road Does Not Mark the Site of the Battle of Pelham.  

Mon., Apr. 18, 2005:  Restored Battle of Pelham Memorial Plaque Is Unveiled at Glover Field.  

Fri., May 27, 2005:  1776, A New Book By Pulitzer Prize Winner David McCullough, Touches on the Battle of Pelham.  

Thu., Jul. 14, 2005:  Pelham's 1926 Pageant Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Pelham.  

Wed., Oct. 26, 2005:  Remnants of the Battlefield on Which the Battle of Pelham Was Fought on October 18, 1776.  
Fri., May 19, 2006:  Possible Remains of a Soldier Killed in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 Found in 1921.  

Fri., Aug. 11, 2006:  Article by William Abbatt on the Battle of Pelham Published in 1910.  

Thu., Sep. 21, 2006:  A Paper Addressing the Battle of Pelham, Among Other Things, Presented in 1903.  

Mon., Oct. 30, 2006:  Brief Biographical Data About Sir Thomas Musgrave, British Lieutenant Colonel Wounded at the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Wed., Nov. 1, 2006:  Two British Military Unit Histories that Note Participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Tue., Jan. 16, 2007:  Brief Biography of British Officer Who Served During the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Fri., Feb. 09, 2007:  Extract of October 23, 1776 Letter Describing British Troops in Eastchester After the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.  

Mon., Feb. 12, 2007:  Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site Opens New Exhibition:  "Overlooked Hero:  John Glover and the American Revolution."  

Thu., Jan. 18, 2007:  Three More British Military Unit Histories that Note Participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Mon., Jul. 16, 2007:  Mention of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 in Revolutionary War Diary of David How.  

Tue., Jul. 17, 2007:  Mention of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 in Writings of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Aide-de-Camp to British General Clinton.  

Wed., Jul. 18, 2007:  Another British Military Unit History that Notes Participation in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.  

Tue., Aug. 7, 2007:  An Account of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 Contained in the McDonald Papers Published in 1926.  

Wed., Aug. 8, 2007:  A Description of an Eyewitness Account of the Interior of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester During the Revolutionary War.  

Thu., Sep. 6, 2007:  Information About St. Paul's Church, the Battle of Pelham and Other Revolutionary War Events Near Pelham Contained in an Account Published in 1940.  

Mon., Oct. 8, 2007:  American Troops Who Guarded Pelham's Shores in October 1776.  

Fri., Oct. 12, 2007:  Images of The Lord Howe Chestnut that Once Stood in the Manor of Pelham.  

Fri., Oct. 27, 2006:  Orders Issued by British Major General The Honourable William Howe While Encamped in Pelham After the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.  

Thu., Jan. 22, 2009:  Another Brief Biography of Sir Thomas Musgrave, a British Officer Wounded at the Battle of Pelham on October 18 1776.  

Wed., Feb. 17, 2010:  British Report on Killed, Wounded and Missing Soldiers During the Period the Battle of Pelham Was Fought on October 18, 1776.  

Fri., Apr. 23, 2010:  Charles Blaskowitz, Surveyor Who Created Important Map Reflecting the Battle of Pelham.  

Thu., Feb. 06, 2014:  A Description of the Revolutionary War Battle of Pelham Published in 1926 for the Sesquicentennial Celebration.

Mon., May 19, 2014:  Biography of British Officer Who Fought in the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Wed., Jun. 04, 2014:  An Account of the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776 Presented and Published in 1894.  

Fri., Jun. 27, 2014:  Newly-Published Account Concludes Colonel William Shepard Was Wounded During the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Mon., Jun. 30, 2014:  A British Lieutenant in the Twelfth Foot Who Fought at the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

Fri., Sep. 19, 2014:  Abel Deveau, An American Skirmisher on Rodman's Neck as British and Germans Landed Before the Battle of Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 17, 2014:  References to the Battle of Pelham in 18th Century Diary of Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College.

Fri., Oct. 17, 2014:  First-Hand Diary Account of Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776.

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