Sunday, June 28, 2020

Episode 155 Battle of Bennington




Last week, we left off with General John Stark’s New Hampshire militia army marching to occupy Bennington, Vermont, where the Americans maintained a supply depot.  At the same time, German Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum led a force of over one thousand loyalists and Germans detached from Burgoyne’s army to capture Bennington.

Alert listeners may have noticed a trend that when two opposing armies try to occupy the same town, a battle usually occurs.  That will be the case today as the two armies clash in what became known as the Battle of Bennington.

Cambridge

As I mentioned last week, Colonel Baum’s column moved slowly through the wilderness.  They left Fort Miller on the Hudson River on August 11, 1777.  Two days later, an advance force of about fifty Indians had reached Cambridge, New York, a small village of a few houses just over 15 miles away.  Baum’s main column was still in transit.

In Bennington, less than twenty miles from Cambridge, General John Stark received word of enemy warriors in Cambridge and that they were the vanguard of a larger enemy column.  Stark deployed about two hundred men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Gregg to reconnoiter the enemy and intercept any advancing scouting parties.  That evening, August 13, Gregg’s force set up camp at a grist mill just outside of Cambridge.

Battle of Bennington (from RevWar US)
The next morning, Baum’s column was up before dawn and on the march.  By around 8:00 AM on the 14th, the advance of his column reached Cambridge.  Gregg’s patriots opened fire on the enemy but quickly retreated into the woods before doing any damage.  Baum reported only one Indian warrior wounded.  As the British column repaired the bridge that had been destroyed, an optimistic Colonel Baum said that he had made contact with the enemy and that he continued to advance on Bennington, with an expected arrival in two days.

In response to Baum’s request for reinforcements, sent several days earlier when he received his first intelligence about the size of the enemy, General Burgoyne had ordered the deployment another German, Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann at the head of about 600 more Brunswicker soldiers.  Breymann’s column, however, did not leave until August 15th.  The slow moving relief column was on its way, but would not be able to catch up with Baum’s column for several days.  Baum continued on toward Bennington.  He was not certain that the enemy was as large as his intelligence suggested, and even if it was, they were just local militia, who probably would not stand and fight.  Waiting for reinforcements would only give the enemy time to remove the supplies at Bennington that Baum wanted to capture.

As Baum advanced that day, his men ran into another minor skirmish with the militia.  One Mohawk Chief who led too far in advance of the lines was killed.  Baum had about 100 Native American warriors with him, but relations were not good.  The Indians tended to be in the forefront and took most of the casualties.  They also frequently stopped to loot.  What booty they did not want themselves, they often tried to sell to the army.  Baum, however, did not have cash to pay them. Indians who had captured most of the horses so far, simply drove them off or killed them rather than let their allies have them for free.

Baum advancing on Bennington (from Bennington Museum)
Baum’s force continued to advance, but quickly ran into more of the enemy.  American Colonel Gregg had sent word to General Stark that they had made contact with the enemy.  Stark deployed more soldiers to advance and challenge the German offensive.  He also called for reinforcements from the Continentals posted at Manchester.

By the end of the day on August 14th Colonel Baum had placed his men and artillery in a defensive position on a hill just to the east of Cambridge.  The two sides both sent out skirmishers to probe the enemy lines and determine the position and strength of the enemy.  Late in the day, and continuing all day on the 15th, a downpour kept both armies contained.  Both were waiting for reinforcements anyway.

While there were no major clashes on the 15th, the Americans reported killing about 30 Indian warriors.  The British speculated that the Americans were targeting the Indians for revenge.  The memory of Jane McCrea’s murder and the slaughter of other locals was still fresh in everyone’s mind.  Most of the Indians who were not killed, thought this was an opportune time to go home.  They had more loot than they could carry.  Their allies were not interested in buying any of their prizes, and they had no interest in hanging around for a major battle where they might be used as cannon fodder by their allies.  Those who did remain were discouraged and remained behind with the baggage.  At the same time most of the Indians were leaving, local loyalists added more than one hundred volunteers to supplement Baum’s forces.

On the other side, General Stark pulled in more of his own militia.  He also received a group of Stockbridge Indians from Massachusetts who had marched out along with other Massachusetts militia and Continentals led by Colonel Seth Warner to support the New Hampshire militia.

The Battle

When the weather finally cleared on the morning of the morning of August 16, the two armies prepared for battle.  Baum had put his German dragoons on the high ground, forming a redoubt at the top of a hill.  His cannons covered the bridge they would need for their retreat back to Cambridge if necessary.  He deployed his few remaining Indians as well as several hundred loyalist volunteers in a second defensive redoubt further to the south.  This second redoubt was somewhat removed and isolated from the main force and would be the first target of attack by the Americans.

Stark had held a council of war with his colonels on the night of August 14 to develop a plan of attack. Because the 15th was so rainy, they waited until the 16th to put their plan into action.  Stark divided his army into four divisions.  He knew that he outnumbered the enemy and hoped to hit the entrenched defenders from multiple sides at once.  Lieutenant Colonel Moses Nichols would lead 250 New Hampshire soldiers on a march around the enemy’s left flank so that they could attack the German redoubt from the North East.  At the same time Vermont Colonel Samuel Herrick would take 300 soldiers around the enemy’s right flank, ford the Walloomsac River and attack the enemy from the south. Colonels Thomas Stickney and David Hobart would take more New Hampshire Militia and directly assault the loyalist redoubt from the southeast.  Stark would personally lead a 300 man force to storm the German redoubt in a frontal assault from the southeast as well.

By the afternoon of the 16th, the men were ready for battle.  General Stark gave a short speech to motivate his men.  He pointed to the enemy and, referencing his wife, said something to the effect of “There are the redcoats and loyalists, and they are ours or Molly Stark sleeps a widow tonight.

The attack was set to begin at 3:00 PM.  Colonel Nichols made a last minute request for reinforcements and received another 100 men.  Since Nichols had the longest march, the orders were for him to attack when in position. The sound of the gunfire would be the signal for the other divisions to attack.

Nichols and Herrick both hit the German redoubt with a sudden opening volley.  Firing on both sides opened up.  Stark described it as the hottest engagement he had ever witnessed, like a continuous clap of thunder.  The Americans outnumbered the Germans, but the Germans held the high ground and were backed by cannons.

The intense fire only lasted for a matter of minutes before the Americans charged the redoubt and engaged in a vicious hand to hand combat with the defenders.  The Germans broke ranks and fled down the hill with the enemy in pursuit.  The battle devolved into chaotic hand to hand combat between men fighting with swords, bayonets, and using their muskets as clubs.  Within a half hour the German redoubt had collapsed, with all the defenders dead or prisoners.

Battle (from Bennington Museum)
In the loyalist redoubt about 250 loyalists were entrenched on high ground led by Lieutenant Colonel John Peters of the Queen’s Loyal Rangers.  Stafford’s Americans approached the redoubt through a ravine that prevented the enemy from seeing their approach.  When the Americans attacked, they were practically inside the redoubt.  Colonel Stafford ordered the Americans to charge, but was shot down in the first volley.  He soon realized he was just hit in the foot and stood back up to continue to rally his men.

The fighting at this redoubt was some of the fiercest.  These loyalists and patriots were often men who had grown up together in the region and knew each other well.  One of the men who shot Stafford later said that he knew him personally but still took careful aim to drop him.  He was stunned when Stafford stood up again after he thought he had killed his former friend.

As Colonel Peters rallied his loyalist defenders, he heard an enemy shout “Peters, you damned Tory, I have got you” as he bayoneted Peters in the chest.  Peters recognized his attacker as his old schoolmate, and now patriot militia Captain Jeremiah Post.  Peters fired his musket at Post at point blank range, killing him instantly.

With the German dragoon and loyalist redoubts overrun, General Stark could focus almost all of his divisions on the remaining central defensive position under the command of Colonel Baum himself.  Baum’s remaining Brunswickers were heavily outnumbered and quickly running out of ammunition.  They realized that they could not hold out for reinforcements.  Baum ordered a desperate charge into the enemy lines in an attempt to break out and retreat.  The Americans did not give way, leading to more hand to hand combat with swords, bayonets, and muskets used as clubs in a desperate struggle for survival.  Colonel Baum took a bullet during this fighting and collapsed with a mortal wound. The remaining Germans still alive had to surrender, with only a few scattered soldiers escaping into the woods.

Breymann’s Relief Column

By 5:00 PM, the battle was over except for the Americans hunting down a few enemy soldiers hiding in the woods.  Baum’s Loyalist leader, Philip Skene had left before the battle began, trying to find von Breymann’s relief column and get them to hurry forward.

Battlefield Map (from RevWar US)
The night before Breymann had camped about seven miles from Cambridge.  After the battle, Breymann would take criticism for not reaching Baum in time to support him.  Many historians have pointed out that Baum and Breymann did not like each other, and that Breymann might have deliberately moved slowly in order to let Baum fail.  But it had taken Baum three days to march as far as he did. Breymann made that same march in two days.  His men were similarly clothed in a way that was not suited for wilderness marching, and several rather large field cannons with him had to be hauled over hills and across streams.  Remember also that the 15th, when he left, was a day of hard driving rain, so hard that the two sides did not even attempt battle.  Breymann’s relief column had to march through that same storm.

Still a few miles from the battle scene, Breymann met up with Skene and a few other Tories who had escaped battle.  Skene told Breymann that the battle was still raging and that he should hurry his reinforcements forward to battle.  Breymann began to deploy his soldiers when a group of armed men on horses rode toward them.  Skene told Breymann they were loyalists, but it turned out they were not. They men fired on the Germans, killing Breymann’s horse and wounding the colonel.

Angered, Breymann ordered his men forward, and brought up his field cannons.  Most of the Americans were still miles away, engaged in mopping up operations.  They were looting Baum’s supplies as well as the dead and wounded enemy.  The small patriot force under Colonel Herrick that engaged with Breymann was far outnumbered and began to retreat back toward the main army.  Since the Americans were mostly armed with rifles, they could inflict devastating fire on the pursuing Germans, while keeping enough distance that the Germans armed with muskets could not effectively return fire.  Breymann’s officers were particular targets for the American riflemen, and took a disproportionate number of the casualties.

Prisoners after the battle (from Bennington Museum)
With the superior numbers and use of artillery, the German relief force moved forward.  Miles away, a messenger reached General Stark to inform him of the enemy relief column headed his way.  Stark had to scurry to reorganize his militia.  He had not taken many casualties in the first battle, but many of his men were either off looting, or removing prisoners back away from the battlefield.  His army had lost all its organization and now he faced a new incoming army of unknown size.

Colonel Seth Warner had arrived on the scene ahead of his reinforcements, who were still marching from Manchester.  Warner worked with General Stark to set up skirmish lines with the soldiers available.  Hearing the firing, more militia dropped what they were doing and rushed to the sound of battle, giving the Americans more troops.  Even so, the Germans still outnumbered the American defenders.  Breymann detached a regiment under Major von Barner to turn the American right flank.  As the Germans attempted to flank the American line, Warner’s 130 Continentals and another 200 rangers arrived at the battle in time to push back the Germans.  Breymann sent in another several hundred men to flank the Americans but found they could not do so.

After several hours of fighting, the German relief force realized that Baum’s forces were already gone.  They had taken heavy casualties themselves, and were in danger of being overrun.  By 8:00 PM the sun was setting.  Breymann ordered his soldiers to retreat.  They abandoned their cannons, their carts, even their wounded, as men fled the field.  A third of his force was killed or captured.  Breymann escaped with his wounds and marched his remaining force back toward Burgoyne’s army.

Aftermath

The battle had been a brutal one, especially for the Germans.  Nearly all of Baum’s army was killed or captured.  Von Breymann’s relief column lost a third of their men.  In total, the Americans took over 700 prisoners, including 30 officers.  Only nine of Baum’s soldiers escaped capture.  Another two hundred or so loyalists were also killed or captured.  Native American casualties were not recorded, but were a high proportion of those involved as well.  Of the nearly two thousand men committed to the battle, Burgoyne’s forces took a nearly 50% casualty rate.  Instead of capturing much needed weapons, supplies and horses, they had lost around a thousand irreplaceable soldiers, as well as a few of their cannons.  By contrast, the Americans had suffered only about thirty killed and forty or fifty wounded.  Among the dead was Seth Warner’s brother Jesse.

The Americans treated the Germans and the few British regulars captured as prisoners of war, Many wounded went untreated for days, and some reported a few prisoners killed by their guards.  But most of the Germans capable of walking were marched back to Bennington.  After a few days, the Americans marched the captives to Boston where they were held as prisoners of war.

Bennington Memorial (from Wikimedia)
The Indians and Tories did not fare quite as well.  I’ve actually read no accounts of Indian prisoners.  Any wounded on the battlefield were likely dispatched where they lay.  The loyalist prisoners were considered criminals.  The level of hatred against former friends and neighbors, sometimes even relatives, had reached such intensity that there was no respect for prisoners of war.  Many were marched back to Bennington to be tried as traitors and hanged.  There are also quite a few accounts of large numbers of prisoners being tomahawked or shot in the back of the head rather than being taken anywhere.  Some thought a quick death was too good for them and dragged prisoners to death behind horses.

General Stark became a national hero.  Patriots toasted his victory across the country.  New Hampshire’s Assembly awarded their hero general a new suit.  Less than two months later, the Continental Congress finally commissioned Stark as a brigadier general in the Continental Army.  Stark’s army did not fare quite as well.  His 1500 man force remained in the area for a few weeks.  During that time, a measles epidemic swept through the camp.  About half of his force either died or became unfit for duty as a result.

For the British, the battle was devastating.  It meant the loss of most of Burgoyne’s remaining Indian auxiliaries. Those who survived, returned home.  The loss of the Brunswickers and loyalists eliminated about one-sixth of his total army, soldiers that he could not replace nor afford to lose.

The two surviving leaders, Colonel von Breymann and Philip Skene, blamed each other for the loss.  Skene was highly critical of how slow Breymann moved to relieve Colonel Baum.  Had he arrived earlier in the day, he could have provided the necessary reinforcements.  Breymann attacked Skene for telling him that Baum still needed rescuing, even though Baum’s army had already been defeated.  Breymann said that, had he known that, he never would have taken his men into battle against a superior army.

Following Bennington, Burgoyne, who had up until that time used Skene as a trusted advisor on local issues, no longer sought his counsel.  Skene and Colonel von Breymann both remained with the army as it continued its march south.

- - -

Next  Episode 156 The Siege of Fort Henry (Available July 5, 2020)

Previous Episode 154 John Stark Raises an Army

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Further Reading

Websites

Battle of Bennington: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/revolutionary-war/battles/bennington

Battle of Bennington: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/battle-of-bennington

Battle of Bennington: https://www.britishbattles.com/war-of-the-revolution-1775-to-1783/battle-of-bennington

Barbieri, Michael "Bennington Fatally Delays Burgoyne" Journal of the American Revolution, June 11, 2013: https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/06/bennington-fatally-delays-burgoyne

Hargreaves, Reginald “Burgoyne and America's Destiny” American Heritage Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 4, June 1956: https://www.americanheritage.com/burgoyne-and-americas-destiny

The Bennington Battle Monument: https://www.benningtonbattlemonument.com

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Anbury, Thomas Travel through Various Parts of North America, Vol. 1, William Lane, 1789.

Baster, James (ed) The British Invasion from the North: The Campaigns of Generals Carleton and Burgoyne from Canada, Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1887.

Bird, Harrison March To Saratoga General Burgoyne And The American Campaign 1777,
Oxford Univ. Press, 1963

Brandow, John H. The story of old Saratoga; the Burgoyne campaign, to which is added New York's share in the revolution, Brandow Printing, 1919.

Clay, Steven E. Staff Ride Handbook for the Saratoga Campaign, 13 June to 8 November 1777, Combat Studies Institute Press, 2018 (US Army Website):.

Eelking, Max von, (translated by Stone, William L.) Memoirs of Major General Riedesel, Vol. 1, J. Munsell, 1868.

Hall, Henry Davis The Battle of Bennington, Monpelier, 1896.

Hadden, James Hadden's Journal and Orderly Books, Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1884.

Hudleston, Francis J. Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne : misadventures of an English general in the Revolution, Bobbs-Merrill Co. 1927.

Luzader, John Decision on the Hudson, National Park Service, 1975.

Moore, Howard P. A Life of General John Stark of New Hampshire, New York self-published, 1949.

Riedesel, Friederike Charlotte Luise, Freifrau von Letters and journals relating to the war of the American Revolution, and the capture of the German troops at Saratoga, Joel Munsell, 1867.

Stone, William Leete, The Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne  and the expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger, Albany, NY: Joel Munsell, 1877.

Walworth, Ellen H. Battles of Saratoga, 1777; the Saratoga Monument Association, 1856-1891, Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1891.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Furneaux, Rupert The Battle of Saratoga, Stein and Day 1971.

Gabriel, Michael P. The Battle of Bennington: Soldiers & Civilians, History Press, 2012 (book recommendation of the week).

Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga, Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War, Henry Holt & Co, 1997.

LaBree, Clifton New Hampshire's General John Stark, Peter E. Randall, 2007.

Logusz, Michael O. With Musket and Tomahawk, The Saratoga Campaign and the Wilderness War of 1777, Casemate Publishing, 2010

Luzader, John F. Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution, Casemate Publishers, 2008

Mintz, Max M. The Generals of Saratoga: John Burgoyne and Horatio Gates, Yale Univ. Press, 1990.

Polhemus, Richard & John Stark; The Life and Wars of John Stark, French and Indian War Ranger, Revolutionary War General, Black Dome Press, 2014.

Rose, Ben Z. John Stark: Maverick General, Treeline Press, 2007

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Episode 154 John Stark Raises an Army




This week we are back in upstate New York.  By the beginning of August 1777, General Burgoyne’s Northern Army had reached the Hudson River.  To the west, Fort Stanwix was still under siege, awaiting General Arnold’s relief force that I discussed a couple of weeks ago.  We last left General Burgoyne following the murder of Jane McCrea which has helped to spur patriot opposition to his army and also preceded some of his Indian warriors abandoning the mission and going home.

The American defense, however, was still in complete disarray.  General Phillip Schuyler was trying to rally an army of both Continentals and militia near Fort Edward to stop Burgoyne’s march on Albany. But after the loss of Fort Ticonderoga, many Americans had lost faith in the army.  Desertions were far outnumbering the small numbers of reinforcements that General Washington had sent marching north to join Schuyler.  General Burgoyne had taken Fort Edward, again without a fight.

General Schuyler moved to the other side of the Hudson River, using the river as a barrier between the Continentals and Burgoyne’s British.  He moved the Americans further south toward Saratoga, still with no apparent plan to mount a stand.

John Stark

With the bulk of the Continental Army still in New Jersey, and having to remain there to face General Howe’s army in New York City, the only way to stop Burgoyne’s northern army was to call out the militia and hope that they were up to the task.

A key figure in the effort to mobilize the militia was a former Continental colonel named John Stark.  You may recall that Colonel Stark played a key role in the battle of Bunker Hill, which I discussed back in Episodes 65 and 66.

 Gen. John Stark
(from Wikimedia)
Stark was a New Hampshire native.  When he was in his twenties, he was captured by Abenaki warriors and taken to Canada.  There, he and another prisoner were forced to run a gauntlet.  This was a common practice among natives to beat and humiliate prisoners.  The men had to run through a row of warriors armed with sticks.  The warriors would beat them as they ran through.  Prisoners would try to run thorugh as fast as they could before they were beaten to death.  Instead, Stark grabbed the stick of the first warrior in line and proceeded to beat the warrior.  The Chief was impressed by Stark’s bravery and fighting ability that he permitted him to live and hunt with the tribe over the winter.  He was adopted into the Chief’s family. The following spring, Stark was part of a prisoner exchange that allowed him to return to New Hampshire.

As a member of the New Hampshire militia, Stark had fought in Canada during the French and Indian War.  At that time, he had risen to the rank of captain in Rogers’ Rangers.  Stark resigned his commission after refusing to attack the Abanaki village where he had lived a few years earlier.  He had no wish to attack his adopted parents and fellow tribe members.  Instead, he ended his military service in the French and Indian War early.

After the battle of Lexington, Stark accepted a colonelcy in the New Hampshire militia and marched his regiment to join the Provincial Army just outside Boston.  He led one of the few units that actually marched out onto Bunker Hill to support Colonel Prescott’s defenders on Breed’s Hill.  There, he commanded the American left wing where his men tenaciously fought off several British assaults.  His men provided covering fire as the main force on Breed’s Hill was overrun and had to escape.

His leadership landed him a colonelcy in the new Continental Army once Washington took command.  Stark’s regiment provided support for the northern army that had been pushed out of Canada.  After British General Guy Carleton opted not to attack Fort Ticonderoga in late 1776, Stark’s regiment was redeployed to Pennsylvania in time to join General Washington’s campaign to take Trenton and Princeton.  Stark commanded the American right wing at the Battle of Trenton.

So Colonel Stark had played a key role in most of the battles and campaigns of the war so far.  His leadership was conspicuous, brave, and effective. He seemed to be one of the best field officers in the Continental Army.

Gen. Enoch Poor
(from Wikimedia)
After Washington settled in Morristown for the winter, he directed Colonel Stark to return to New Hampshire and raise more volunteers.  While in New Hampshire, Stark learned that Enoch Poor, another New Hampshire colonel had been promoted to general in February 1777.  This was the day the Baltimore Congress promoted nine generals.

Stark was outraged that Poor received the promotion for New Hampshire rather than him.  Poor had also been promoted as a militia colonel just after Lexington.  But Poor kept his regiment in New Hampshire while Stark’s was fighting multiple battles.  Poor had participated in the Quebec campaign, but his combat experience was minimal compared to that of Stark.  Poor had been a politician before the war and had contacts in the Continental Congress that probably resulted in him receiving the one general’s commission slated for New Hampshire.  Poor’s promotion was one of a great many frustrations that Stark had experienced in the Continental Army.  A month after Poor’s promotion, Stark resigned his commission in the Continental Army and returned home, once again cutting short his military service.

New Hampshire Militia

In July 1777, after Burgoyne captured Fort Ticonderoga, the patriots were in desperate need of soldiers to contest this invasion.  However, most of their best leaders and soldiers were already with Continental Army, either with Washington in New Jersey or Schuyler in New York.  There was no real front line defense of New England.

New Hampshire offered Colonel Stark a commission as a brigadier general in the New Hampshire militia.  Stark was still embittered by his experience in the Continental Army, but wanted to put his military leadership to use in defending his home.  He accepted the commission with the explicit understanding that he would not take orders from Continental officers.  He would fight to defend New Hampshire, but he was finished with the Continental Army.

John Langdon
(from Wikimedia)
Next, New Hampshire needed hard money to pay and equip the militia.  You cannot raise an army on patriotism alone, even when the enemy is at your front door.  Fortunately, one of its leaders, John Langdon, stepped forward with $3000.  Langdon was a longtime patriot, an early member of the Committee of Correspondence for his state.  You may remember him from Episode 51, when he led the 1774 attack on Fort William and Mary at Portsmouth.
Langdon had accepted a colonelcy in the New Hampshire militia, but he was more politician than soldier.  He had been Speaker of the New Hampshire Assembly and also served in the Continental Congress.  Langdon also ran a fleet of privateers, which had earned him some serious coin in the first couple of years of the war.

When he put up the money, he figured he would be reimbursed if the Americans eventually won.  If not, he would probably be hanged as a traitor anyway.  Signing bonuses for soldiers and proper supplies to support them, along with the knowledge that they could be under attack any day, led militia to flock to New Hampshire’s defense.  Knowing that General Stark would lead them also influenced many to join.  He was a well respected officer and a leader of men.

Within a few weeks, General Stark had raised a force of nearly 1500 militia, about twenty-five companies.  General Stark spent that time organizing and training his men.  Most of his militia were frontiersman, familiar with the region and experienced Indian fighters. Many older men had combat experience from the French and Indian War.  Stark focused on organizing the men into units and drilled fighting as a unit.

By early August, he sent about half of his force to Manchester, Vermont.  Stark remained in New Hampshire organizing the remainder of his force and then marched to catch up with his advance force in Manchester.

When he arrived, he found his soldiers preparing to march south to join up with Schuyler’s Continentals near Fort Edward in New York.  General Benjamin Lincoln had already arrived on the scene and issued the order. Stark and Lincoln had a private conversation, the details of which are not known.  However, the gist of the discussion was that Stark told Lincoln that the New Hampshire militia would remain where they could defend New Hampshire.  They were not under the command of continental officers and were not going to New York.

This actually fit in with General Schuyler’s original plans.  He wanted to maintain a force in Burgoyne’s rear that could harass the enemy as it moved south toward Schuyler’s main army near Saratoga.  General Washington had already approved this plan.  But as Burgoyne moved south against Schuyler’s dwindling army, Schuyler changed his mind and wanted to consolidate  his army for a large scale stand that would stop the British movement southward.  To do that, he wanted Stark’s militia to move to join them in New York.

Benjamin Lincoln
(from Wikimedia)
Stark, however, was not interested in doing this, and made clear that he would not put himself or his army under the command of Continental officers.  General Lincoln was a good enough politician to realize that Stark could not be pushed or bullied into joining up with the main army.  If Stark quit and went home again, most of his army would probably follow him.  Rather than lose this desperately needed army entirely, Lincoln agreed not to push the issue.  After Schuyler learned of the situation, he agreed with Lincoln’s assessment.

But that did leave Lincoln with little to do.  Schuyler had ordered Lincoln to command any New England forces while Schuyler commanded the main army in New York.  But since the only significant forces still in New England were Stark’s militia army, which would not listen to him, Lincoln did not have much of a command.  After a few days, Lincoln went back to New York to be with the main army under Schuyler.

On August 8, Stark moved his army from Manchester to Bennington.  The town was a patriot supply depot and a likely target for a British attack.  It was about thirty miles southeast of Saratoga.  If the British opted to move into New England and march toward Rhode Island, Bennington would be a key transit point.  Stark left the remnants of Seth Warner’s Continentals, who had survived the Battle of Hubbardton, to occupy Manchester and left General Lincoln with that small force as well.  Stark’s militia army marched off to encamp in and around Bennington.

Burgoyne’s Raiding Party

As Stark prepared his army, General Burgoyne was looking at the region and planning his next steps.  By this time, Burgoyne had accomplished what most British strategists thought would be the most difficult part of his campaign, capturing Fort Ticonderoga.  The Americans had abandoned the fort without a fight, after seeing vulnerabilities in their defenses that would have resulted in the destruction or capture of the garrison.  Instead, American General Arthur St. Clair retreated southward, hoping to get reinforcements so that he could make a stand.  Burgoyne had continued to move south, albeit slowly as Americans felled hundreds of trees to block his army’s path, By the time  his army reached the Hudson river, it had faced no serious and sustained opposition to his offensive.

Stark leading NH Militia (from British Battles)
This was not to say that everything went according to plan.  Burgoyne had hoped to capture the Continentals at Fort Ticonderoga.  Almost all of the garrison had escaped and had bloodied the British pursuers in a rearguard action at Hubbardton.  Most of Burgoyne’s Indian allies had abandoned him after he put restrictions on them for the murder of Jane McCrea and other civilians.  The second wing of the British offensive under General Barry St. Leger was still stuck besieging Fort Stanwix in early August.

After the difficult wilderness march to Fort Edward, Burgoyne found his army increasingly cut off from his resources in Canada.  He had opened a supply route from Fort George, which had helped some of his artillery and heavier supplies to catch up with the main army.  But an army of thousands also needed food.  It also needed many more horses to carry all the equipment further south to engage with the enemy.

Burgoyne also learned that the main British Army under General Howe, would not be moving up the Hudson Valley to join forces.  Rather, Howe had taken his army south to conquer Philadelphia. At the same time, the scattered Continental Army was collecting its soldiers and being supplemented by militia armies, particularly the large militia army under General Stark.  All of that meant that Burgoyne found his army increasingly isolated.

The conservative move would have been to pull back to Fort Ticonderoga and call an end to the offensive until either Howe’s army would be ready to assist in the Hudson Valley, or London sent a larger army through Canada.  But Burgoyne had gotten this command by criticizing his superiors for being too conservative.  He was not going to fall into that same trap and delay his victory for another year.  Doing so, might have resulted in London sending another general to finish the job for him.  No, Burgoyne was determined to press on and capture Albany.

Germans marching to Bennington (from British Battles)
Although Burgoyne did not have good intelligence of Stark’s militia army preparing to move against him, he did have more general information that the Americans were gathering, and had reason to fear an attack from New England on his rear.  He had planned to send a detachment of Germans to sack Manchester, then move south, eventually reconnecting with the advancing main army near Albany.  Burgoyne’s hope was that the detachment would pacify the region, collect Tory volunteers, and also gather much needed supplies and horses.  Many of the German troops were cavalry.  They had come to America without horses, hoping to become mounted troops when the opportunity presented itself.  The army also found itself in need of more horses to use as pack animals.

This was a pretty audacious mission.  Less than a thousand soldiers, mostly Germans who did not speak English.  Were marching out on a more than 200 mile round trip through wilderness with very little intelligence about what faced them.  The leader of the German troops, and Burgoyne’s second in Command General Von Riedesel thought this was a crazy amount to expect from his soldiers.  After a few days of discussions, Burgoyne reduced the scope of the march to move on the depot at Bennington, capture horses and supplies there, and recruit as many loyalists as they could to join Burgoyne’s army.

To lead the raid on Bennington, Burgoyne selected Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum a German Brunswicker officer who led a regiment of dragoons.  A dragoon is a soldier that normally rides a horse, but unlike a cavalry soldier, dragoons tend to dismount before going into battle and fight without their horses.

In Baum’s case, his men had no horses at all.  They were marching around with heavy boots and equipment designed for riding.  Baum hoped to capture hundreds of horses in the Connecticut Valley to equip both his own men, as well as for the army more generally.

Baum was a career officer who had seen combat in the Seven Years War.  However, he had no experience with wilderness fighting and had never commanded more than a regiment.  I also spoke no English at all.

Burgoyne also deployed with Baum a few British regulars, as well as some of the remaining Native American scouts that remained with the army. Also with Baum was Philip Skene, the Tory militia officer who had assured Burgoyne that most of the region held loyalist views and would rise up to support the army when they arrived.  Burgoyne tasked Skene with raising local recruits and getting them to join local regiments in support of the king.

On August 9, Baum left Fort Edward with about 650 soldiers, almost all German speaking Brunswickers, and a few cannons.  His men moved about eight miles downriver to Fort Miller, which the Americans had already abandoned.  There, he waited for a day for the Native American warriors and the British regulars that would accompany them.  When the regulars were not available, Baum received another one hundred Germans to supplement his detachment.  He also collected several hundred local loyalist volunteers, either at Fort Miller or over the next couple of days while marching.

Movement was slow.  The Germans, outfitted with heavy boots and long wool coats were sweltering in the August heat.  Because they still did not have enough horses, the soldiers had to carry much of their supplies.  The footpaths they used made transporting carts or the artillery exceedingly difficult.  As a result, the column made slow progress over the next few days.

Among the civilians, a great many professed support for the king.  Some of them joined the column as volunteers.  Skene did his best at recruitment.  Many others, after swearing an oath of allegiance, were given documents identifying them as loyalists and permitted to move about.  Some of these were apparently American spies who counted troop levels and reported their intelligence about the size and direction of the force back to Stark.

At one point, Baum’s advance force captured a few patriot prisoners who had been herding cattle.  From prisoner interrogations as well as information from loyalists, he learned that the supply depot at Bennington did not just have a small garrison but rather an army of between 1500 and 1800 men.  Even with the loyalists volunteers that he had recruited, Baum had just a little over 1000 men himself.  If this intelligence was correct, he could be marching toward a superior enemy who had entrenched defenses.

Baum forwarded this intelligence to Burgoyne, along with a request for reinforcements to join his column as soon as possible.  Meanwhile he pressed forward, on toward Bennington.

- - -

Next  Episode 155 The Battle of Bennington

Previous Episode 153 Staten Island and Setauket

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Further Reading

Websites

Battle of Bennington: https://www.britishbattles.com/war-of-the-revolution-1775-to-1783/battle-of-bennington

Battle of Bennington: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/battle-of-bennington

General John Stark: https://www.historynet.com/general-john-stark-a-patriot-who-rose-above-rank.htm

Law, Robert R. “GENERAL JOHN STARK.” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, vol. 5, 1905, pp. 104–112. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42889852

Foster, Herbert D., and Thomas W. Streeter. “STARK'S INDEPENDENT COMMAND AT BENNINGTON.” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, vol. 5, 1905, pp. 24–95. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42889850

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Anbury, Thomas Travel through Various Parts of North America, Vol. 1, William Lane, 1789.

Baster, James (ed) The British Invasion from the North: The Campaigns of Generals Carleton and Burgoyne from Canada, Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1887.

Bird, Harrison March To Saratoga General Burgoyne And The American Campaign 1777,
Oxford Univ. Press, 1963

Brandow, John H. The story of old Saratoga; the Burgoyne campaign, to which is added New York's share in the revolution, Brandow Printing, 1919.

Clay, Steven E. Staff Ride Handbook for the Saratoga Campaign, 13 June to 8 November 1777, Combat Studies Institute Press, 2018 (US Army Website):.

Eelking, Max von, (translated by Stone, William L.) Memoirs of Major General Riedesel, Vol. 1, J. Munsell, 1868.

Hadden, James Hadden's Journal and Orderly Books, Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1884.

Hudleston, Francis J. Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne : misadventures of an English general in the Revolution, Bobbs-Merrill Co. 1927.

Luzader, John Decision on the Hudson, National Park Service, 1975.

Moore, Howard P. A Life of General John Stark of New Hampshire, New York self-published, 1949.

Riedesel, Friederike Charlotte Luise, Freifrau von Letters and journals relating to the war of the American Revolution, and the capture of the German troops at Saratoga, Joel Munsell, 1867.

Stone, William Leete, The Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne  and the expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger, Albany, NY: Joel Munsell, 1877.

Walworth, Ellen H. Battles of Saratoga, 1777; the Saratoga Monument Association, 1856-1891, Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1891.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Furneaux, Rupert The Battle of Saratoga, Stein and Day 1971.

Gabriel, Michael P. The Battle of Bennington: Soldiers & Civilians, History Press, 2012.

Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga, Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War, Henry Holt & Co, 1997.

LaBree, Clifton New Hampshire's General John Stark, Peter E. Randall, 2007.

Logusz, Michael O. With Musket and Tomahawk, The Saratoga Campaign and the Wilderness War of 1777, Casemate Publishing, 2010

Luzader, John F. Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution, Casemate Publishers, 2008

Mintz, Max M. The Generals of Saratoga: John Burgoyne and Horatio Gates, Yale Univ. Press, 1990.

Polhemus, Richard & John Stark; The Life and Wars of John Stark, French and Indian War Ranger, Revolutionary War General, Black Dome Press, 2014 (book recommendation of the week).

Rose, Ben Z. John Stark: Maverick General, Treeline Press, 2007

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Episode 153 Staten Island and Setauket




A few weeks ago, I talked about General Howe’s decision to put most of his army aboard ship and sail out to sea.  No one was sure where he would land, but most thought the ultimate destination was Philadelphia.

British Remnant in New York

When the fleet sailed away from New York City in late July 1777, Howe left General Henry Clinton in command of the city with a few thousand soldiers, most of whom were Hessians or local militia.  General Howe wanted his best combat troops with him for the conquest of Philadelphia.

In preparation for the removal of so many troops from New York City, the British abandoned even the tiny toe holds across the Hudson River in New Jersey, which they had held all winter - places like Elizabethtown, Amboy, and Brunswick.  Although this meant completely abandoning New Jersey, the British did not want to leave any isolated outposts that could be subject to attack.  Putting the Hudson River between the two armies, was a pretty substantial barrier for any army to cross.  The river was deep enough at all points that no army could ford it from New Jersey to New York.

 Gen. John Sullivan
(from Sullivan Co. NH)
British forces, however, were still spread out all over the New York City area, including the occupation of all of Long Island, Staten Island, and Manhattan Island.  This was probably about two thousand square miles of land being guarded by a few thousand soldiers.  With the departure of Howe’s fleet, even holding the New York City area left some units in relatively isolated and in areas potentially vulnerable to attack.

After a slow start that spring, mid-August saw a flurry of activity.  General Burgoyne’s northern army had reached the Hudson River.  General St. Leger was still besieging Fort Stanwix.  Washington was still desperately searching for where General Howe’s fleet was headed.

As Washington moved around the Philadelphia area, trying to get intelligence on General Howe’s army, Major General John Sullivan commanded the army keeping an eye on General Clinton in New York City.  Sullivan, you may recall, had been captured during the Battle of Long Island a year earlier, then exchanged at the end of 1776 in time to command Washington’s right wing at the Battle of Trenton.  Over the winter, Sullivan remained with Washington near Morristown as the Americans contended with the British over northern New Jersey in the Forage War.  Sullivan maintained an independent command after Washington took the bulk of the army south toward Philadelphia in search of General Howe.

Sullivan expected that at some point Washington would determine that Howe was headed for Philadelphia or some other point further south.  Once confirmed, the bulk of the army remaining in northern New Jersey would march to support the main army.  In the meantime, Sullivan’s soldiers mostly remained in camp, just in case the enemy in New York conducted another raid into New Jersey, or in the event General Howe’s fleet returned to New York City.

Staten Island Raid

Although the British had given up their camps in northern New Jersey, Tory militia stationed on Staten Island still conducted raids into the area, looking for prisoners and supplies.  Sullivan learned that these loyalist raiders operated from along the western edge of Staten Island, just across the river from New Jersey, totaling between 400 and 700 militia (accounts differ).  These soldiers were not all in one place, but scattered in groups of between 100 and 250 soldiers per camp.

There were another estimated 1600 or so British regulars stationed at the northeastern edge of Staten Island facing Manhattan.  Sullivan and his officers developed a plan to land about 2000 soldiers on Staten Island, surround and capture the isolated loyalist militia there, then bring back their prisoners and supplies to New Jersey before the larger camp of British regulars could learn of the raid and react to defend the island.

Gen. William Smallwood
(From Wikimedia)
The Americans would land two separate forces totaling about 1000 men each on different parts of the island.  General William Smallwood would command one force.

Smallwood was an experienced officer who had distinguished himself as a colonel commanding Maryland regiments during the New York campaign.  Smallwood’s Maryland Regiment had distinguished itself and had taken very heavy casualties while fighting a rearguard action at the Battle of Long Island that had allowed many of the other American’s to escape capture.  Smallwood was not with his regiment that day because he had been called to court martial duty.  He did, however, lead his regiment with distinction in subsequent battles during the campaign, being wounded at the Battle of White Plains.

While recovering from his wounds over the winter, Congress promoted him to brigadier general and sent him back to Maryland to recruit more volunteers.  He returned to serve under Sullivan’s command.  Sullivan had him lead a division that would row across the river from Elizabethtown, New Jersey and land near the northern tip of Staten Island.

Sullivan selected General Prudhomme de Borre to lead the other division.  I mentioned in an earlier episode that de Borre was one of the first French officers to reach America with a commission from Silas Deane.  Before Congress got overwhelmed with these commissions, it enthusiastically commissioned de Borre as a brigadier general and back dated his commission so that he would have seniority over more than a dozen other recently promoted Continental brigadier generals.

Up until this time, de Borre had not seen much action in America.  He had joined Washington at Morristown in May and had played a minor role at the Battle of Short Hills.  For the attack on Staten Island, General Sullivan had de Borre  take his division across the Hudson River, landing on the west coast of the island where his army would round up and surround the loyalists, and ship them back to New Jersey.

The Americans rowed across the Hudson River in the pre-dawn hours to avoid detection.  The Continentals assembled and marched inland, the two divisions raiding several Tory militia outposts as planned.  The plan of action was hit and run raids, taking militia prisoners and bringing them back to a ferry which was near a tavern called Old Blazing Star on the west coast of the island.  From there, the Continentals would ship the captives back to New Jersey and hold them as prisoners of war.

Battle of Staten Island (from Wikimedia)
The morning landing and initial attacks went as planned. Colonel Mattias Ogden reported a sharp firefight against a loyalist outpost where he took 80 prisoners.  His force soon retreated to Old Blazing Star Ferry and removed the soldiers and prisoners back to New Jersey.

Generals Sullivan and de Borre took a larger force of Continentals to attack a larger loyalist outpost under the command of Skinner’s Brigade.  These loyalists were named after their commander, Brigadier General Cortlandt Skinner, a New Jersey loyalist now serving as a militia commander for the Tory army on Staten Island.  This outpost was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Barton.  In this case, the loyalists detected the continental attack and fled into the woods and swamps before their attackers could capture them.  The Americans did capture about 40 prisoners, including Colonel Barton.  Some of the soldiers chased retreating loyalists all the way back to General Skinner’s headquarters.  There, a stiff defense from the larger garrison forced them to back off.

At the same time General Smallwood took a separate force led by a local guide.  Their goal was to get behind the loyalist force on the northern coast commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Abraham van Buskirk. He was another north Jersey Tory who led a militia regiment.  His regiment had moved to Staten Island after the British had left New Jersey.  Although Smallwood had hoped to attack this group from the rear, their local guide either through incompetence or more likely Tory leanings, led the Americans right to the front of the loyalist defenses.

Nevertheless, General Smallwood ordered a charge.  The surprised loyalists fled their camp, allowing the Americans to plunder their supplies and capture the enemy standard.

By mid-morning, the raid seemed to be going pretty well for the Americans.  They began moving back toward their designated retreat point at the Old Blazing Star Ferry.  The divisions met up at Richmond, which was a village in the center of the island, and marched together back to the ferry.

That is where things started to break down.  General Sullivan had expected to find the fleet of boats that carried his army to the island there and ready to move them back to New Jersey.  Instead, the boats were not there.  They only had three smaller boats which would require multiple trips and many hours to transport the soldiers across the river.

In the meantime, loyalist militia General Skinner had rallied and organized the militia that had fled in the morning. He began marching a column after the Americans.  Similarly, the regulars on the island received word of the attacks.  British General John Campbell led a column of nearly 1000 regulars and Hessians on a march after the American raiders.

As the Americans attempted to cross their soldiers and prisoners at Old Blazing Star Ferry, the enemy arrived and engaged them.  General Sullivan deployed a rearguard of two companies totaling between 80 and 100 men to hold off the enemy while the Americans did their best to escape across the river.

By about 5 PM, the Americans had managed to evacuate all of their forces, except for the small rearguard that was covering their escape.  Sullivan attempted to extract the rearguard.  However, the boats he deployed refused to come near shore for fear of taking enemy fire.  By this time, the British had brought up artillery and could fire on the boats from the shore.  The frightened pilots tried to return to New Jersey.  The Americans on the New Jersey coast fired on the boats in order to force the pilots to go back to Staten Island and pick up their retreating comrades.  As a result, the pilots simply sat in the middle of the river, trying to avoid fire from either side.

Eventually the men in the rearguard ran out of ammunition. The much larger British and loyalist force overran their position, capturing the about half of the American defenders still on the island.  The rest of the soldiers jumped into the Hudson River and swam across to New Jersey.

Overall the Americans considered the raid a failure.  The British had managed to capture about 150 of the raiders, although the British commander reported to his superiors that he captured 259.  The Americans lost about ten killed and twenty wounded.  General Sullivan reported to Washington that he held about 150 enemy prisoners, although he is vague on whether all of them were captured on this raid.  It appears that many were not.  The British reported only 89 missing after the raid, with another five killed and seven wounded.

General Sullivan later would face a court martial over complaints that the raid was not properly organized, that the goals of the raid did not justify the risk, that the evacuation of the island was bungled, and that exhausted soldiers were marched away without a chance to rest in New Jersey after the battle.  The court martial would acquit Sullivan of all charges and he would continue with his reputation intact.

Battle of Setauket

On the very same day as Sullivan’s raid on Staten Island, August 22, the Continentals conducted a second raid on Long Island.  I have found no evidence that these two were coordinated in any way.  It appears that they were launched on the same date as a coincidence.  The Long Island raid was done under the command of General Israel Putnam, which was a completely separate command from that of General Sullivan.

This attack seems to be a reprise of the Meigs Raid on Sag Harbor when the Continentals raided the eastern tip of Long Island back in May, something I discussed in Episode 139.  Following that raid, which was considered a great victory, General Samuel Parsons began planning additional similar raids on Long Island.  Over the summer, Parsons had been moved to Peekskill to help shore up defenses there and in preparations to deploy forces either north to Fort Ticonderoga or south to support Washington should General Howe attack in New Jersey, and indeed Parsons had participated in defending against several of the British raids into northern New Jersey in late spring and early summer of 1777.
Gen. Samuel Parsons
(from Find-A-Grave)

By mid-July General Burgoyne had captured Fort Ticonderoga and was making his way south.  At the same time, General Howe had put most of his army aboard ship and had sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean for parts unknown.

General Schuyler was screaming for any reinforcements that could be spared to defend against Burgoyne’s invasion.  General Parsons was writing Washington around this time expressing concern that too many reinforcements had been taken from Peekskill, leaving his garrison vulnerable to another raid should General Clinton decide to use some of his army in and around New York City to move a larger force up the Hudson River to support Burgoyne.

For me, all of this makes it perplexing why General Putnam would order Parsons to bring a division down to Fairfield Connecticut and prepare for another raid on Long Island.  The point of putting troops in Peekskill was so that they could support Fort Ticonderoga if needed.  Although Ticonderoga had fallen quickly, the northern army was in desperate need of support.  A force under General Nixon had gone north, but Parsons had remained in Peekskill fearing a raid from General Clinton.  Now he was practically abandoning Peekskill, not to go north and support General Schuyler but to engage in a quick one day raid on Long Island.

Putnam ordered Parsons to assemble a force of about five hundred Continentals in Connecticut, to row across Long Island Sound and attack loyalist garrisons at Setauket and Huntington on Long Island.  Parsons should take out the garrisons, free any American prisoners being held in the area, and capture or destroy any loyalist supplies.
Samuel Webb (from Wikipedia)

General Parsons and his second in command, Samuel Webb, brought their brigade to Fairfield Connecticut within a few days of receiving Putnam’s orders.  They assembled whaleboats and prepared for a nighttime crossing.

Over on Long Island, loyalist Colonel Richard Hewlett received word of a raid.  Hewlett was a Long Island native who had been a staunch loyalist.  He had served as a militia officer in the French and Indian under then Colonel Oliver DeLancey.  By this time, DeLancey was, by this time, a loyalist militia general and Hewlett served as a colonel in his brigade.

Hewlett’s command at Setauket consisted of only about 260 loyalist militia.  Hewlett had been using Setaukett’s Prebyterian Church as his headquarters.  The church, which sat at the top of a hill provided a good defensive position.  Hewlett’s men had built earthen fortifications around the church, by some accounts six feet high and five feet thick.  Some accounts indicate they used gravestones from the churchyard to reinforce the walls.  This, however, seems to have been added to the story later and likely is not true.  Primary sources only note that a few of the stones were damaged during the battle.  Hewlett posted four swivel guns, which are basically small cannons usually used on ships.

The loyalist regiment which had been quartered around the village, learned of the approaching column in time to get inside their earthworks and take up a defensive position.  By one account, Colonel Hewlett had to rush from his quarters to reach the fort just before the Americans arrived.

When General Parsons and his army marched into Setauket after dawn they found the enemy well entrenched and ready for battle.  Under a flag of truce, Parsons sent forward a note to demand their surrender.  The loyalists refused and the two sides began firing on one another. Parsons had brought some small brass field cannon with him, while Hewlett defended with his swivel guns.  The American cannons were not large enough to do much damage to the earthen walls.  The Continentals did not have the equipment or overwhelming manpower to storm the walls and did not have enough time to conduct a siege.

After about three hours, Parsons grew concerned that the sustained cannon fire might draw the attention of British warships.  He withdrew his men and returned to the whaleboats where they crossed back to Connecticut.

Battle of Setauket (from Occupied Long Island)
In the end, the raid accomplished almost nothing.  Parsons did not capture any prisoners.  By some accounts the Americans did not manage to kill or even wound any of the defenders.  The American attackers suffered only one man wounded.  In other accounts, they were maybe up to a half dozen killed or wounded on each side.   The Continentals did take a few houses and some other supplies, but nothing of any significance.

The Continentals monitored the Connecticut coast for a few days to make sure the loyalists did not plan a counterattack.  General Parsons then took up a position in White Plains, New York.  From there, he kept surveillance on the British forces in and around New York City to make sure General Clinton did not try to launch some sort of offensive up the Hudson River.  Parsons reported to General Israel Putnam who had moved his headquarters to Peekskill.  Parsons also reported to the new Governor of New York, George Clinton.

Over on Long Island, Colonel Hewlett received praise from British commander Henry Clinton for Hewlett’s defense of his brigade at Setauket.  Clinton’s adjutant Major Stephen Kemble wrote:
The General desires particularly to express his approbation of the spirited behavior and good conduct of Col. Hewlett, and the officers and men under his command, in the defence of the redoubt at Setauket upon L.I., in which Col. Hewlett was attacked by a large body of the enemy with cannon, whom he repelled with disgrace.
Despite the fears of Continental officers though, General Clinton had no wishes to go on the offensive.  He was still concerned that his army, composed mostly of Hessians and militia, was at risk of attack by the Continentals.  The raids on Long Island and Staten Island did nothing to assuage this fear.

The same day the Continentals conducted the raids on Staten Island and Setauket, General Washington received notification that the British fleet was landing in Maryland.  Washington ordered all available Continentals in New Jersey to march down to the main army near Philadelphia where they would prepare to meet General Howe’s army.

Next week, we head north again as militia General John Stark raises a New England militia army to take on General Burgoyne.

- - -

Next  Episode 154 John Stark Raises and Army

Previous Episode 152 Fort Stanwix and Oriskany

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

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You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.




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Further Reading

Websites

Battle of Staten Island: https://revolutionarywar.us/year-1777/battle-staten-island

Sullivan’s Descent on Staten Island, American Account: http://www.historycarper.com/1777/09/15/sullivans-descent-on-staten-island-american-account

Braisted, Todd W. How George Washington Saved the Life of Abraham Van Buskirk’s Son:
Journal of the American Revolution, Sept. 16, 2014: https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/09/how-george-washington-saved-the-life-of-abraham-van-buskirks-son

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hewlett: The Loyal-est Loyalist April 17, 2015: https://spycurious.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/lieutenant-colonel-richard-hewlett-the-loyal-est-loyalist

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Provincial and State Papers of New Hampshire, Vol. 17 (contains records of Sullivan Court Martial pp. 154-210) (Google Books):

Amory, Thomas Coffin The Military Services and Public Life of Major-General John Sullivan of the American Revolutionary Army, Port Washington, N.Y., Kennikat Press, 1868.

Culver, Francis B. “Sullivan’s Descent Upon the British on Staten Island - The Escape of William WelmontMaryland Historical Magazine, March 1911, Vol 6, No. 1 pp. 138-144 (Google Books):

Hall, Charles S. Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons: Major-general in the Continental Army, Otseningo Pub. Co. 1905.

Hamond, Otis (ed) Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army, Vol. 1, New Hampshire Historical Society, 1930.

Onderdonk, Henry Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties, Leavitt & Co. 1849.

Webb, Samuel Blachley Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb, Vol. 1
Wickersham Press, 1893 (Google Books).

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Desmarais, Norman Guide to the American Revolutionary War In New York, Busca, Inc.  2010.

Grasso, Joanne S. The American Revolution on Long Island, History Press, 2016.

Griffin, David M. Lost British Forts of Long Island, History Press, 2017.

McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign Vol. 1, Stackpole Books, 2006.

Ward, Christopher The War of the Revolution, Macmillan, 1952.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.