Sunday, May 9, 2021

ARP200 Culper Spy Ring

 

By the fall of 1778, it seemed clear that the British garrisons at New York City and Newport, Rhode Island were going to remain where they were for the foreseeable future.  The Continentals maintained armies nearby both garrisons in case they ventured out for any reasons.  But the Continentals could not take either garrison while the British navy controlled the waters around them. 

Washington had hoped that the arrival of the French fleet under Admiral d’Estaing would assist in the recapture of these cities.  But as I’ve already discussed, d’Estaing declined to attack at New York and ended a planned coordinated attack on Newport after the British fleet arrived and a storm damaged both fleets.  After that, d’Estaing went to Boston for repairs.  In November 1778, per his instruction from Versailles, d’Estaing took the French fleet down to the West Indies, where the winter was the prime fighting season.

As a result, Washington knew the standoff would remain in place at least over the winter.  He had to wait for another opportunity to fight in coordination with the French Navy.

Early Espionage Efforts

To keep tabs on the British in New York, Washington realized he needed a better intelligence system, so that he could respond to British raids, or any military builds ups or redeployments.  This was not Washington’s first attempt at intelligence.  The Continentals had made attempts to deploy spies and build spy networks since the war began.  Their lack of experience in such matters , meant that they had trouble getting intelligence, or agents, such as Nathan Hale, ended up hanging from a tree.

Washington had engaged Nathaniel Sackett to build up a civilian spy ring in and around New York City to provide intelligence on the British there.  Sackett was a merchant who lived in Fishkill, more than fifty miles north of the city.  As a young boy, Sacket had served an apprenticeship in the city, learning the merchant trade in his uncle’s shop.  He had many contacts in the city.  

In the early years of the war, Sackett had served in the New York Provincial Congress’ Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies, which tried to reveal British spies, collect intelligence, and out any loyalists trying to keep a low profile.  As part of his work, Sackett had developed some experience in writing in cyphers and using secret codes. His work on that committee with William Duer and John Jay led them to recommend him to Washington.

In early 1777, Washington paid Sackett to develop a civilian network in and around the city. Sackett recruited a number of people, but never really got Washington the intelligence that he needed.  After getting frustratingly little information about General Howe’s decision to begin the Philadelphia campaign in the summer of 1777, Washington terminated Sackett that fall.  Sacket returned to his real life’s work as a merchant, serving as a sutler for the Continental Army.

Over the fall and winter, Washington’s focus was not on New York but on Philadelphia.  New York intelligence became less of a priority.  After the British abandoned Philadelphia and Washington moved his army back to northern New Jersey, intelligence from New York City became more of a priority again in the spring of 1778.  

Charles Scott

Rather than turning to another civilian for help, Washington turned to his officers.  He made General Charles Scott his new chief of intelligence.  Scott had been commissioned as a brigadier in the spring of 1777.  Since then, his career seems to have been, to put it charitably, mixed.  General Scott had served under General Adam Stephen at Germantown.  His troops got out of position and ended up firing on another Continental unit.  Scott placed the blame on General Stephen, who ended up being kicked out of the army.  Again, at Monmouth, Scott precipitated the retreat that infuriated General Washington, but once again blamed his superior, General Charles Lee, who also was removed from command following a court martial.

Washington, however, still had faith in Scott, and put him in a key position out in front of the Continental Army.  Scott’s brigade would deploy in West Chester, just north of the enemy lines.  In addition to acting as the front line of defense for the Continentals, Scott was assigned the task of collecting intelligence.  Some of this would be sending out scouts or interrogating deserters or other prisoners.  It also involved use of civilian agents.  It was under Scott’s command that the Culper Spy Ring was created.

Scott, however, was not keen on use of civilian agents, especially when he could not confirm their identity or how they got their information.  He was concerned about the validity of their reports, and often refrained from providing timely information to Washington while he tried to confirm intelligence.

Washington sent Scott several letters critical of the lack of good intelligence.  It was during this time that the British surprised the Continentals with the Kingsbridge and Old Tappan raids, as well as the massive foraging offensive into Bergen county that I discussed a couple of weeks ago.  In that same episode, I mentioned that British Spy Ann Bates had been identified as a British spy. When caught, she appealed directly to General Scott, fed him a lie, and got the general to write her a pass, allowing her to return to the British lines.  Scott also sent at least three undercover scouts behind enemy lines in September, all of whom were captured and hanged.

Scott was also fighting with Washington about what to do with a large portion of his army that had enlistments expiring on December 1.  Scott wanted to let them return home for the winter so that they would be more inclined to rejoin the army  in the spring.  Washington wanted Scott to pressure them to remain in the field. 

As a result, Scott was not happy with his position and in October, requested to resign.  In addition to his problems, Scott was complaining about some sort of illness that had been afflicting him for some time.   Washington responded that only the Continental Congress could accept his resignation.  Rather than go to Congress, Scott instead requested a furlough to return home to Virginia.  In November, Washington granted Scott his requested furlough and turned over his much reduced command to Colonel William Russell

Benjamin Tallmadge

Although Russell took over command of the front lines in the army, the take over the military intelligence aspect of Scott’s work, Washington turned to Major Benjamin Tallmadge.  Major Tallmadge was the son of the Reverend Benjamin Tallmadge, a minister in Setauket on Long Island.  After growing up on Long Island Tallmadge graduated from Yale College in 1773, and took a job as the superintendent of Wethersfield High School in Connecticut.

Benjamin Tallmadge & Son
When the war began, Tallmadge did not rush off to enlist.  In late 1776, one of his friends, John Chester, received a commission as colonel and offered Tallmadge a commission as a lieutenant in the regiment that he was raising.  Tallmadge fought with distinction during the New York Campaign.  At one point, after being evacuated from Brooklyn in the night evacuation.  Tallmadge actually borrowed a ferry and went back to Brooklyn to recover the horse that he had left behind.  He managed to find it and get it aboard the boat just as British troops advanced to his position and fired at him.  In December, he received promotion to captain in a dragoon regiment and returned to Connecticut to recruit a new company.  He spent the winter there raising and training his company.  He returned to the main army in the spring, receiving a promotion to major and providing conspicuous service in the Philadelphia Campaign.  

Part of Major Tallmadge’s duty as a dragoon was to gather enemy intelligence, in part by just riding out toward enemy lines to observe the enemy.  Officers, of course, were encouraged to find intelligence by whatever means they could.  In his memoirs, Tallmadge recounts entering a tavern to meet with a woman who had just been to British-occupied Philadelphia and wished to pass along some information.  The tavern was close enough that the enemy saw him enter the tavern in uniform.  The British attempted to capture him, but he jumped on his horse with the women and rode away, galloping for several miles while exchanging shots with his pursuers.  

After the British evacuation, Tallmadge found himself back near New York City under the command of General Scott.  In his memoirs, Tallmadge notes that he “opened a private correspondence with some persons in New York.”  Tallmadge does not really talk about his espionage activities in his memoirs, but it was at this time, in the summer of 1778 that he began to run what would become known as the Culper Ring.

Abraham Woodhull

Tallmadge had quite a few friends from his time growing up in Setauket, Long Island.  Many of these people were still living there behind enemy lines.  One of the problems that Tallmadge observed with earlier intelligence efforts was that a person crossing between lines would be subject to scrutiny by the enemy, making the gathering of more information more difficult.  Tallmadge realized it would make sense to have one group of people gather the intelligence, then pass it off the trusted couriers to get it where it needed to go.  That way, the spies could act in perfectly normal ways and not raise any suspicion when they observed British movements or spoke with British soldiers.

Page from Culper Code Book
Tallmadge had the advantage of being able to reach out to his boyhood friends, young men who he knew he could trust.  For one of his key recruits, Tallmadge did not even need to sneak into Long Island to make contact.  Abraham Woodhull was being held in a Connecticut prison.

Woodhull was the only son of Judge Richard Woodhull.  Although Abraham supported the patriot cause, he did not enlist because his parents needed help with the family cabbage farm.  In 1778, Woodhull attempted to bring some of his crops to New York to sell for specie.  A patriot ship intercepted him on Long Island sound and arrested him for attempting to trade with the enemy. Tallmadge met with Woodhull and agreed to get him released and returned to Setauket so that he could begin gathering intelligence.

Initially, Washington was skeptical.  He saw Woodhull as a smuggler.  It had been Washington’s experience that smugglers liked to use espionage as a cover for their smuggling activities so that they had a get out of jail free card when caught.  Their primarily focus was on making money, not providing intelligence.  Tallmadge vouched for Woodhull and said he would be a good agent.

At the same time, Woodhull was concerned for his own safety.  He really did not want to end up hanging from a tree.  Tallmadge had to assure Woodhull that his identity would only be known to himself and a courier, someone who was also an old mutual friend.  Even Washington himself would not know Woodhull's true identity.  He gave Woodhull the code name “Samuel Culper.”  Samuel was the name of Tallmadge’s father.  Culper was a shortened version of “Culpepper, Virginia” where Washington had spent time as a young man.

Since Woodhull lived in Setauket, miles from the city, he would develop agents who lived in New York to keep their eyes and ears open, make note of troop movements, and listen in on tavern conversations.

Initially, Woodhull would take cabbages into the city for sale, as cover to make contact with his agents.  In order to reduce the suspicion of pickets about a military age man travelling into the main British camp, Woodhull would take along an older woman with him on his trips.  

Anna Strong lived on a nearby farm with her ten children.  Her husband was a British prisoner, by some accounts aboard the prison ship Jersey. Woodhull and Strong would travel to New York, sell their cabbages, and collect the information, then bring it back to Setauket.  After several trips, Woodhull got skittish about traveling into the city.  He recruited a courier named Austin Roe to carry the messages between New York and Setauket.

Caleb Brewster

Once he had intelligence, Woodhull needed another courier to bring the information from Long Island to the Continental Army in Connecticut.  A man named Caleb Brewster took on that difficult role.

Before the war, Brewster worked as a seaman, mostly aboard local ships in Long Island Sound that transported goods around the area.  He had been a member of the patriot militia.  During the first year of the war, he played a prominent role in the militia and had signed an oath to resist British authority.  When the British captured Long Island, that made him a target.  

Brewster fled his home in Setauket to become a war refugee in Connecticut.  There, he helped other refugees, transport their families and possessions from Long Island to Connecticut.  During much of the war, the area of Long Island Sound became a dangerous area, full of smugglers and criminals who took advantage of the no man’s land where neither the British nor the Continentals had secure control.

Brewster obtained a lieutenant’s commission in the Continental Army, but seems to have spent most of his time running whaling boats across Long Island Sound.  Tallmadge recruited his old friend as part of his spy network.  He actually recruited Brewster before Woodhull.  At first, Brewster just kept his eyes open while sailing around Long Island Sound and reported anything noteworthy.  Later, he became the courier between Woodhull and Tallmadge.

Passing Messages

According to local lore, Anna Strong acted as a messenger between Woodhull and Brewster.  She would hang a large black petticoat on her clothesline whenever either man needed to make contact.  That she would hang between one and six handkerchiefs on the line to indicate which of six coves the meeting should take place.  

Woodhull would sometimes write out intelligence for Brewster to collect.  Other times, he would simply pass it along orally.  Brewster would then carry the information to Connecticut to Major Tallmadge. If Tallmadge received written intelligence, he would rewrite it in his own handwriting in order to ensure it could not be traced back to Woodhull.  Tallmadge would then brief Washington about any useful intelligence.

Over time, the ring expanded.  Woodhull used a number of confidential sources in New York, including his sister and her husband.  He later recruited Robert Townsend, who owned a partial interest in a tavern.  British officer John Graves Simcoe had taken Townsend’s farm as his headquarters.  As a result, Townsend had unusual access to British officers and became a prime source of intelligence, getting the code name of Culper, Jr.  

Woodhull recruited other agents as well.  Most of these were ordinary people in New York who might just come across some helpful information.  Many of them are only known by their code names to this day, and have never been identified.

The British became aware that there was some spying going on around Setauket.  Once, a British officer discovered Brewster hanging around on Strong’s farm.  Brewster knocked the man unconscious and robbed him in order to convince the officer he was a common criminal and not a spy. On another occasion, the British intercepted a letter from Washington to Culper, but could not identify the real name of the recipient.

Even so, the British did identify Brewster as a likely Continental agent, probably from local Tories who knew him.  They knew Brewster was working with others, but never identified Woodhull’s role in the ring.

The agents used coded messages and invisible ink to hide communications.  They also used a series of dead drops to avoid meetings that might arouse suspicion. Very quickly, Washington was pleased with the level of information that he received.  It was specific and accurate.

Despite their efforts at secrecy. The British came to suspect Woodhall’s involvement in the ring.  At one point, Colonel John Graves Simcoe of the Queen’s Rangers came looking for Woodhull at his farm.  Woodhull was in New York at the time, but Simcoe roughed up his father, trying to get information out of him.  It was after that incident that Woodhull decided to lay low for a while and his dispatches fell off.

Successes

Sometimes Washington would request that the ring investigate specific questions that he had. Other times, the ring would simply report information that it happened upon.  Much of the information was fairly routine, the size, location, and movements of troops.  It might include build up of supplies, or other facts that might indicate planning for an upcoming action.  Washington was able to keep a better picture of British activity in New York as a result of this intelligence.

Other times the information was of more immediate importance.  In 1780, the ring learned that the British intended to ambush the French fleet at Newport.  In response, Washington made it appear that he was planning an offensive against New York.  This forced the British to cancel deployments of soldiers from New York to Newport, so that they would be available to defend the city.  

On another occasion the ring learned that a top American officer was in discussions with the British leadership about defecting.  They did not learn until too late the identity of that officer as Benedict Arnold. Late in the war, the ring obtained a copy of the British Navy’s flag signals.  That information allowed the French fleet to read British signals and anticipate their moves, which became a critical element just before Yorktown.

The Culper Ring remained active until the end of the war.  It largely remained a secret, even after the war ended.  Washington developed spy rings in other times and places as well, but the Culper ring was the largest and longest running of the war.  Over the course of the war, his appreciation for the value of such intelligence grew.  The commander spent more time focusing on obtaining it, and also developed better experience in running an intelligence agency.

Next week: we return to Philadelphia where local patriots recovering from British occupation look to provide some payback on the loyalists who remained behind.

- - -

Next Episode 201 Treason in Philadelphia (Available May 16, 2021)


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Further Reading

Websites

The Founding Fathers of US Counterintelligence: https://www.intelligence.gov/index.php/wall-of-spies/john-jay

Nathaniel Sackett: https://sackettfamily.info/g5/p5383.htm

American Spies of the Revolution: https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-revolutionary-war/spying-and-espionage/american-spies-of-the-revolution

Benjamin Tallmadge: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/benjamin-tallmadge

The Culper Spy Ring: https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/culper-spy-ring

Culper Spy Ring: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/culper-spy-ring

Schellhammer, Michael “Abraham Woodhull: The Spy Named Samuel Culper” Journal of the American Revolution, May 19, 2014: https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/05/abraham-woodhull-the-spy-named-samuel-culper

Foley, Robert Caleb Brewster in the Revolutionary War: https://bportlibrary.org/hc/historical-accounts/caleb-brewster-in-the-revolutionary-war

Caleb Brewster and the Culper Spy Ring: https://connecticuthistory.org/caleb-brewster-and-the-culper-spy-ring

Anna Smith Strong: https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2011/07/anna-smith-strong.html

Based on a True Story Podcast: A look at AMC’s Turn! and the Culper Spy Ring: https://www.basedonatruestorypodcast.com/139-turn-washingtons-spies-with-michael-troy

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Prather, Michael S. George Washington, America's first director of military intelligence, Monterey: Dudley Knox Library, 2002. 

Simcoe, John G. Simcoe's Military Journal: a history of the operations of a partisan corps, called the Queen's Rangers, commanded by Lieut Col. J.G. Simcoe, during the war of the American Revolution, New York: Bartlett & Welford, 1844.  

Tallmadge, Benjamin Memoir of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, New York: T. Holman, 1858. 

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

Daigler, Kenneth Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence in the Revolutionary War,  Georgetown Univ. Press, 2014. 

Kilmeade, Brian & Don Yaeger George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, Sentinel, 2013. ng, Bantam, 2006. 

Ward, Harry M. Charles Scott and the "Spirit of '76", Univ of Virginia Press, 1988. 

Welch, Richard F. General Washington's Commando: Benjamin Tallmadge in the Revolutionary War, McFarland, 2014. 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



Sunday, May 2, 2021

ARP199 Little Egg Harbor & Pulaski’s Legion

Last week I talked about the fighting around New York City as the British under the command of General Henry Clinton consolidated their position and shipped off soldiers to other parts of the empire. The ministry in London had ordered an end to major combat operations in the region, but expected the army and navy to continue coastal raids.

Adm. Howe Returns to England

The British Navy would take a primary role in the strategy of coastal raids.  The naval commander in North America, Admiral Richard Howe, was not really interested in doing this.  Lord Howe had been reluctant to take the command in North America back in early 1776.  In Parliament, he had opposed British policies toward the colonies.  The only reason he did take the command, was that his brother, General William Howe, was in command of the army in North America, and also because the ministry agreed to allow both of the Howe brothers to act as peace commissioners and try to negotiate a diplomatic end to the hostilities.

Admiral Richard Howe

Peace negotiations, of course, had been a complete failure, even after the ministry sent the Carlisle Commission with far broader authority to concede some authority to the Americans.  By the fall of 1778, Admiral Howe’s brother had been recalled to London and replaced by General Clinton.  Like his brother, Admiral Howe saw the mission as a failure, and that it would never succeed, because the ministry would not commit enough resources.  Admiral Howe had submitted a request to resign in November 1777.  After his brother went home in June, 1778, Admiral Howe was looking for an opportunity to follow.

Until he could leave, Howe remained active, keeping the French fleet under d’Estaing from attacking New York Harbor in July 1778, then following the French to Newport in August, where the two fleets were damaged by a storm while jockeying for position to fight one another.  The French sailed to Boston for repairs.  Howe’s fleet followed them, but found the defenses around Boston too extensive to justify the risk of a direct assault.  

With the French fleet not going anywhere for some time,  Howe sailed south, where he encountered the fleet carrying General Grey for the attacks at Buzzards Bay and Martha’s Vineyard that I discussed last week.  Howe had been trying to find his second in command, Vice Admiral John Byron, who had gone missing after the storms around Newport.

In early September, while Howe was providing backup for General Grey’s coastal raids in Buzzards Bay, he received a letter from Byron that he was in Halifax, but would be headed for New York.  Howe, left immediately, taking his fleet to New York even before Grey completed his raid on Martha’s Vineyard.

Knowing the French fleet would be under repair for quite some time, Howe saw this as his chance to turn over his command and return to London.  He had hoped that Byron would already be in New York, but Byron was nowhere to be found.

Admiral Byron was living up to his nickname: “foul weather Jack.”  He had only left England in June, dispatched to contend with the French fleet under d’Estaing.  When he left, Britain was scraping the bottom of the barrel for sailors.  A large number of his crew had been pulled out of jail for naval service.  Because food for prisoners was so bad, many of them were sick at the time they boarded the ship.  Sickness and scurvy quickly spread among the crew as it crossed the Atlantic.

To add to the problems, on July 3, while in the middle of the ocean, a brutal storm hit the fleet.  The ships were scattered.  On August 18, Byron arrived off Sandy Hook in New York Harbor aboard his flagship, the Princess Royal. There, he encountered several French ships from d’Estaing’s fleet.  Because he was separated from his own fleet, Byron sailed away, headed for Halifax.  Most of Byron’s fleet eventually made it to Sandy Hook.  The other ships stayed there because the French had moved on to Newport by that time.  Most of their crews were sick and many of the ships were badly damaged from the Atlantic storm they had encountered.

Meanwhile Admiral Howe was in New York Harbor and was in no mood to wait around for Byron to show up.  Instead, he turned over his command to Admiral James Gambier and prepared to set sail for London.

Howe’s rather sudden and impatient decision to turn over command to Gambier is a perplexing one.  Immediately after turning over command, Howe remained in New York for several days, but refused to consider any further operations, and forwarded to Gambier all dispatches that were sent to him.  Even after Byron finally showed up just off Sandy Hook on September 15, Howe made no effort to delay his departure.  Instead, he simply sent a note that he had left the more junior Admiral Gambier in command.

Byron’s ship got blown out to sea the following day and ended up sailing to Newport, rather than into New York Harbor.  A week later, Admiral Howe sailed out of New York and reached Newport the following day.  There, he met with Byron where he supposedly told him that Byron needed to get to New York right away and relieved Gambier.  The next day, Howe weighed anchor and left for London.

James Gambier

As far as I can tell, Admiral Byron never did relieve Gambier of command.  This is all the more perplexing because Gambier was not a leader who inspired much confidence.  Gambier’s father had grown wealthy by fleecing prisoners as warden of the notorious Fleet Prison.  James Gambier joined the navy in 1741 at age 18.  He managed to get command of a small sloop about five year later. 

About this same time, Gambier, stationed in Jamaica, started an affair with a woman about his age who was married to a 52 year old Admiral who was also governor of Jamaica at the time, Sir Charles Knowles.  A year later, Gambier brought his lover and her children back to Plymouth, England with him, the governor apparently still unaware of the affair they were having.

Adm. James Gambier
During the Seven Years War, Gambier took command of two different ships and was wounded.  He was not wounded in battle though.  In fact, it does not appear he ever even took either of the ships out to sea.  One night, while drinking in a Plymouth tavern, a riot broke out and he sustained an injury there.  

Later that year, his ten year long affair with Lady Knowles became public.  Gambier was tried and fined 1000 guineas for the crime of adultery.  The conviction, however, did not seem to slow up his career.  Gambier received another command and went to North America in time for the siege of Louisbourg during the Seven Years War.  Later, he served as commodore of a small fleet that was part of the Battle of Quiberon Bay.

Despite his combat achievements, Gambier did not have a particularly good reputation.  He was known as a bit of a ladies man, and also someone always looking to make a profit from his position.  He was, however, good friends with the Earl of Sandwich, who became First Lord of the Admiralty.  Lord Sandwich appointed Gambier to be commander of North America in 1770.

In three relatively uneventful years in Boston, Gambier pulled in a fair amount of money by fleecing the locals.  When it became clear that the colonies were headed for real problems in 1773, London recalled Gambier.  Rather than go after him for his corruption and incompetence, the Admiralty gave him new positions as Commissioner of the Navy at Portsmouth and Governor of the Royal Naval Academy.

In 1778, when it became clear that war with France was imminent, the admiralty wanted someone more competent in charge at Portsmouth.  So, once again, they promoted Gambier to rear admiral and sent him back to North America.  Admiral Howe told Gambier not to go to sea and to stay in New York City, where he did almost nothing.  

Byron should have taken command within days of Howe leaving. But for whatever reason, he did not, Byron remained at sea and in October headed for the West Indies.  To everyone’s horror, Gambier remained in command of the navy in North America for seven months, finally returning home in April 1779.

Patrick Ferguson

Shortly after Admiral Howe left for London, the British did conduct another raid.  However, it appears that it was not done at the behest of Admiral Howe, Admiral Gambier, or Admiral Byron.  Rather, ti was done at the behest of General Clinton.  Little Egg Harbor was a small inlet in southern New Jersey, about 80 miles south of New York City, just north of where modern day Atlantic City is today.  

American privateers were using the harbor as a base of operations.  They would capture British prizes, move them up the Mullica river, then unload the goods and cart them overland to Philadelphia for sale.  This avoided British patrols near the Delaware Bay, which would have been the more direct way to get goods to Philadelphia.  The small port took on increased importance when the British occupied Philadelphia and the Continentals needed to get supplies from Europe.  Even after the British left Philadelphia, the port remained an active base for privateers.

The British considered the American privateers to be pirates.  The group, in fact, was a pretty rough bunch of cut throats.  Even Continental leaders had to watch themselves when traveling through that area. At the request of General Clinton, Admiral Howe deployed a force of about 200 men to take out this group and put an end to their attacks on shipping.

Patrick Ferguson
In command of the British attack force was Captain Patrick Ferguson.  I’ve mentioned Captain Ferguson before.  He was the same officer who fought under General John Vaughn against Lord Stirling at the battle of Short Hills.  Later, he led the Hessian column at Brandywine where he allegedly declined an opportunity to kill General Washington.

Ferguson was the second son of a Scottish Laird. He had joined the army at age fifteen.  He saw active service in the Seven Years War, where a leg wound ended his service early and got him sent home.  According to some stories, his leg was the result of an illness, not enemy fire.  Whatever the case, it left him disabled.  In 1768, he purchased a captaincy and was deployed to the West Indies.  In 1772, he was back living in Britain, where General Howe was training units in light infantry training.  This was a new style of warfare that made much more active use of soldiers and did not require them to stand shoulder to shoulder in lines of battle.  General Howe and other officers with experience in North America were encouraging this new training.

As part of this effort, Ferguson developed what became known as the Ferguson rifle.  This was a breech loading weapon that had the accuracy of a rifle but could be reloaded faster than a musket.  It was also easy to load while lying on the ground.  

Ferguson had proven his rifle effective in battle at Short Hills and Brandywine in 1777.  However, he suffered a shot in the elbow during the Battle of Brandywine and spent eight months in Philadelphia struggling to heal.  He never did fully recover the use of his arm, but he did avoid it being amputated. He trained himself to shoot left handed and resumed active duty in the summer of 1778 in New York.  It was then that he took command of a small regiment of New Jersey loyalists.

Battle of Chestnut Neck

Eager to prove himself to General Clinton, Ferguson volunteered to clear out the American Privateer base at Little Egg Harbor.

As I said, the harbor had been a privateer base of operations for quite some time.  After the British seized several ships there in 1777, the Americans built a small fort to protect the harbor.  The small town around the fort, named Chestnut Neck, grew to accommodate the privateers.  Two taverns hosted prize courts, where captured ships and cargos were auctioned off to the highest bidder. In August 1778, the harbor was particularly busy, capturing at least thirty ships, including one rather large prize that sold for £16,000 sterling.

In response, General Clinton wanted this “nest of pirates” wiped out.  He deployed a force of 400 soldiers, a mix of regulars and loyalists, under the command of Captain Ferguson.  The force traveled down the coast in nine small ships.  Their mission was to disrupt the privateering operations, capture or destroy anything they found, and also to destroy a small iron works just upriver from the village.

Word of the raid got out even before Ferguson left New York.  New Jersey Governor William Livingston sent a courier to the area to warn the locals of the impending attack.  He also called on the Continental army to defend against the raid.

Due to poor weather, it took the British nearly five days to reach the harbor.  They arrived on October 4 to find the place nearly abandoned.  Privateers had taken their ships out to sea to avoid capture. Locals hid in the surrounding pine barons, taking their personal valuables with them.

Chestnut Neck
There was still a small garrison at the fort, but they had removed any cannons to prevent their destruction or capture.  When the British fleet arrived, the garrison simply fled into the woods.  The Americans had chosen Little Egg Harbor in part because it had many sandbars and shallow areas, making it difficult for attacking ships to navigate.

Ferguson had to crowd his men onto some of the smaller ships in this fleet to sail into the harbor.  Not facing any resistance, the men spent a day burning all the buildings and a few prize ships still in the harbor.  Because they could not navigate the harbor well, they had to burn the ships rather than sail them back to New York. They also destroyed a small salt works nearby.

After receiving word that a larger Continental force was on its way to confront them, Ferguson simply gathered his men back onto their ships and put out to sea again.

Casimir Pulaski

The Continental response to this attack was led by General Casimir Pulaski.  I gave more of an introduction to this polish-born officer back in Episode 159.  He was one of many European officers who came to America to offer their experience and leadership to the new army.  

Gen. Casimir Pulaski

Pulaski had served with Washington at the Battle of Brandywine, despite not having a commission at the time.  In fact, there is a story that Captain Ferguson saw two officers on Brandywine battlefield and had them in his rifle sight.  He declined to fire on them because their backs were turned to him.  According to some accounts, those officers were, in fact, George Washington and Casimir Pulaski.  Late in that battle Pulaski cobbled together a group of soldiers on horseback and led a charge that helped allow the Continentals to escape.

Anyway, in the days after Brandywine, Congress granted a general’s commission to Pulaski and made him Commander of Cavalry.  This may sound impressive, but the Continentals did not have a cavalry to command.  Although some soldiers had brought their horses when they joined the army, the army often ordered them to send the horses home because they could not afford to feed them.

During the winter at Valley Forge, Pulaski lobbied to put together an independent command of cavalry.  In March 1778 Congress finally authorized a legion of 68 cavalry and 200 light infantry to form Pulaski’s legion.  Pulaski would then have to recruit said soldiers and then train and equip them.

Pulaski set about selecting officers for his new legion, which he pulled mostly from other European officers who were already serving in the Continental Army.  His real trouble was enlisting soldiers.  Pulaski set up recruiting offices from Baltimore to Boston, offering signing bounties.  The problem was that most of the men willing to join the army had already joined.  Those who remained might be persuaded to join local leaders, but very few were inclined to join some European officer who was promising to form some strange legion they had never heard of.

Pulaski’s recruiters got into some disputes after allegations that they had recruited men that had already signed up for other units.  Pulaski also received permission to recruit one-third of his legion from Hessian deserters or prisoners of war.  In the end, the portions of Hessians serving in the legion was much more than that.  As a result, many were concerned about the loyalty of the legion.

Congress had given Pulaski $60,000 to recruit and outfit his new legion. But the inflation of paper money required him to spend more than that, which also led to criticism in Congress.  Pulaski finally had his legion assembled and trained in Wilmington, Delaware by August of 1778.  However, Congress would not activate the new corps.  

In response, Pulaski marched his legion to Philadelphia for a grand review.  He would march his legion through the streets of Philadelphia and get Congress to put the new unit into service.  Instead, Congress responded by calling on Pulaski to appear before the Board of War to explain financial irregularities that took place during his creation of the legion.  

On September 19, General Washington ordered Pulaski’s legion to join him in Fredericksburg, New York, as long as he got Congress’ permission to depart the city.  That was apparently slow in coming because ten days later, Pulaski was still in Philadelphia when he received orders to join Lord Stirling who was, at that time, trying to counter the British move into Bergen County, New Jersey that I discussed last week.

Again, before he could get permission to leave Congress once again summoned him to appear before the Board of War once again on October 3.  It seems the sheriff had tried to serve Pulaski with a lawsuit while he was marching at the head of his column.  Pulaski chased off the sheriff with his sword and continued his march down the thoroughfare. This led to a whole kerfuffle and accusations that the general was refusing to submit to civilian authority.  Pulaski had a second hearing before the board of war to explain himself again.  He essentially had to apologize and plead ignorance of American customs.  The lawsuit related to an unpaid debt incurred while setting up the legion, and the Board of War eventually settled with the creditor.

With all that finally settled, Congress ordered Pulaski to take his legion to Little Egg Harbor in order to defend against the expected British raid there.

Little Egg Harbor Massacre

Pulaski marched his legion across New Jersey but did not reach the harbor until after the British had burned everything and returned to their ships.  Captain Ferguson’s raiders were aboard ship just off the coast, but were awaiting favorable winds before sailing back to New York.  Pulaski billeted his men around the area just in case the British decided to land again.

It is not clear if Pulaski had his entire complement of about 330 men, or whether only some of them had arrived.  It is known that Pulaski scattered his units across several homes and barns in this very rural area.  

Pulaski Memorial
Ferguson received word of Pulaski’s arrival and got detailed intelligence on the location of the enemy.  On the night of October 14, Ferguson took 250 men in longboats and went ashore.  Guided by a local Tory, the soldiers found a group of perhaps at least 50 soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel de Boze.  The British and loyalist force captured an enemy picket by surprise and killed him before he could fire a warning shot.  The attackers fell on the sleeping Americans and bayoneted them without quarter.  Ferguson had ordered no prisoners.  Reports indicate that between 30 and 50 Americans were killed and only five captured.  Following the massacre, the British withdrew.

General Pulaski was sleeping a few miles away when he received word of the attack.  The general mounted his horse and galloped off toward the sound of gunfire.  His cavalry and some of the light infantry with him followed.

The British had withdrawn across a creek and had pulled up the planks of the bridge so that the cavalry could not cross.  A few riflemen and light infantry managed to cross and fire on the retreating British.  Ferguson would later report three killed and three wounded on the raid.  It’s not clear if those casualties happened in the initial assault or during the withdrawal.  In any event, without the cavalry to support them, the American infantry pulled back to the creek and allowed the British to withdraw.

Ferguson’s men boarded their ships and began to sail back to New York. They arrived a week later on October 22.  At Little Egg Harbor, several locals were taken into custody as accused collaborators.  Pulaski’s men nearly beat one of the men to death before officers intervened.  Several of the accused admitted to guiding the British but said they were forced to do so under threat of death.  A court believed them and eventually released them to go home.

Pulaski’s actions were largely seen as a failure.  His remaining legion got deployed up in Northwestern New Jersey, near the Delaware River, far from any possible enemy. Pulaski seriously considered resigning his commission and returning to Europe, but in the end, opted to remain.

Next Week, Washington decides he really needs better intelligence about New York and forms the Culper Spy Ring.

- - -

Next Episode 200 Culper Spy Ring 


 Contact me via email at mtroy.history@gmail.com

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Further Reading

Websites

Richard Howe, 1st Earl 4th Viscount: https://morethannelson.com/officer/richard-howe-1st-earl-4th-viscount

James Gambier: https://morethannelson.com/officer/james-gambier-1

Hon. John Byron: https://morethannelson.com/officer/hon-john-byron

Foul weather hinders Byron’s pursuit of d’Estaing – June to December 1778: https://morethannelson.com/foul-weather-hinders-byrons-pursuit-of-destaing-june-to-december-1778

Patrick Ferguson: https://www.ushistory.org/brandywine/special/art09.htm

Patrick Ferguson: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/patrick-ferguson

Ruset, Ben “The Battle of Chestnut Neck” Nov. 27, 2007: https://www.njpinebarrens.com/the-battle-of-chestnut-neck

Casimir Pulaski: https://www.nps.gov/fopu/learn/historyculture/casimir-pulaski.htm

Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem at the Consecration of Pulaski’s Banner: https://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=200

Wroblewski, Joseph E. “Casimir Pulaski’s Difficulties in Recruiting his Legion” Journal of the American Revolution, August 28, 2017: https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/08/casimir-pulaskis-difficulties-recruiting-legion

Wroblewski, Joseph E. “The Affair at Egg Harbor: Massacre of the Pulaski Legion” Journal of the American Revolution, October 4, 2017: https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/10/affair-egg-harbor-massacre-pulaski-legion

Little Egg Harbor Massacre: https://www.myrevolutionarywar.com/battles/781004-little-egg-harbor

The Affair at Little Egg Harbor: https://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/the-affair-at-little-egg-harbor.html

The Egg Harbor Expedition: https://morethannelson.com/the-egg-harbour-expedition-october

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Barrow, John, The Life of Richard, Earl Howe, Admiral of the Fleet and General of Marines, London: Murray, 1838. 

Manning, Clarence A. Soldier Of Liberty Casimir Pulaski, New  York: Philosophical Society, 1945: 

Ferguson, Adam, Biographical sketch: or, Memoir of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Ferguson, Edinburgh: Printed by John Moir, 1817. 

Spencer, Richard Henry “Pulaski's LegionMaryland Historical Magazine, Sept. 1918. 

Stryker, William S. The Affair at Egg Harbor, New Jersey, October 15, 1778, Trenton: Naar, Day & Naar, 1894 (Google Books). 

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

Braisted, Todd Grand Forage 1778, Westholme, 2016. 

Gruber, Ira The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution, W.W. Norton & Co. 1975. 

Kajencki, Francis C. Casimir Pulaski: Cavalry Commander of the American Revolution, Southwest Polonia Press, 2001. 

Willcox, William B. Portrait of a General;: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence, Knopf, 1964. 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



Sunday, April 25, 2021

ARP198 Raid on Old Tappan


I haven’t really focused on the continental army since we left the Battle of Monmouth, which took place in late June 1778.  Since then, we’ve gone through a bunch of episodes about attacks in upstate New York which did not really involve the main army.  I also covered a few court martials, which were taking place during this time. This week, I want to catch up on what Washington has been doing since Monmouth.  

The British had pulled out of New Jersey entirely.  They had hunkered down on Manhattan, Staten Island, and Long Island.  Washington’s Continentals camped first in Northern New Jersey, near Paramus, hoping that the French fleet would assault New York from the sea.  When Admiral d’Estaing opted to abandon that effort and move on to Rhode Island, Washington moved his army to White Plains, New York.  From there, Washington could block any overland march from New York City to relieve the British at Newport, Rhode Island.  

Kingsbridge Raid

While the Continentals dug in at White Plains, British General Henry Clinton sent 4000 reinforcements to Rhode Island via ship.  Clinton wanted to keep Washington from sending more reinforcements to Rhode Island, so he sent several regiments north to harass the Continentals at White Plains.  Clinton already had a garrison at Fort Knyphausen, formerly known as Fort Washington, on the northern end of Manhattan.  He deployed several regiments further north of Manhattan Island, to Kingsbridge, only a few miles south of White Plains.

Stockbridge Warrior

These forward detachments were mostly Hessians and local loyalists, most notably the Queens Rangers under Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe.  Another loyalist regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, and a third under Lieutenant Colonel Andreas Emmerich.  These three regiments, along with several companies of Hessian Jaegers, hoped to harass the Continentals.

 On the American side, closest to the front lines were several companies of Virginia riflemen as well as the Stockbridge Indians.

I’ve mentioned the Stockbridge Indians on a few occasions.  These warriors had lived in Stockbridge Massachusetts, where they lived in homes and had interacted closely with the colonists for many years. They had their own militia and had joined the patriot cause early on.  These men had been present at Bunker Hill, and had fought as Continentals ever since.  These were the same soldiers who stopped the British advance at Barren Hill near Philadelphia, allowing General Lafayette to escape with the main force.  They had a reputation as fierce fighters and good soldiers.  They served under the command of their Chief, Daniel Ninham.

In July, 1778, the loyalists on patrol had run into the Stockbridge Indians and had taken a number of casualties.  Simcoe, Tarleton, and Emmerich resolved to attack and destroy this menace to their men.  On the morning of August 31, Colonel Emmerich marched out to confront the Stockbridge.  The two groups began a firefight.  Although the loyalists outnumbered the Stockbridge, the loyalists began falling back slowly, while maintaining a line of fire.  

Battle of Kingsbridge, 1778 by Don Troiani

This was all part of the plan.  As Emmerich’s loyalists pulled back, the Stockbridge pursued them.  This drew them into an area where they quickly became surrounded by hundreds of the Queen’s Rangers and nearly two hundred saber-wielding cavalry under Banastre Tarleton.  They was a brutal hand to hand combat, but the greatly outnumbered Stockbridge were nearly completely slaughtered.  Chief Ninham, according to accounts, made a stand and ordered his warriors to flee.  He was cut down by a saber, as were most of his men.  Accounts differ, but the company of 50-60 warriors suffered between 17 and 37 killed.  About twenty of them managed to escape and returned to the main Continental camp.

General Charles Scott dispatched 300 Continentals, but by the time they were deployed, the loyalists had pulled back to their main lines.

Two weeks after the Kingsbridge Massacre, Colonel Mordecai Gist’s 3rd Maryland Regiment held the front line position in front of the main army.  Once again, Colonels Tarleton, Simcoe, and Emmerich developed a maneuver to trap and destroy the regiment.  Guided by local loyalists, the British forces encircled the Marylanders for a dawn attack on the morning of September 16.  They launched their assault and quickly overwhelmed the Continentals. However the British had failed to cut off all avenues of escape as planned. Gist and his soldiers escaped over an unguarded bridge and made their way back to the main Continental lines.

New England Raids

Attacks were not the only concern of the continentals.  As I said, Clinton had dispatched 4000 regulars to Newport, Rhode Island to assist in the defense of that garrison.  After the French fleet gave up and sailed for Boston, the Continentals under General John Sullivan also gave up their attempted invasion and pulled back out of Aquidneck Island.  The threat of a Continental victory had vanished.  With that, the commander of the British reinforcements, General Charles Grey, figured he should do something before returning to New York.  

Gen. Grey's 1778 raids
On September 6, his troop transports sailed to Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts.  With the support of Admiral Howe’s navy, still in the area after the French fleet had left, Grey landed near the town of New Haven.  His soldiers burned homes, looted property and seized a few suspected rebels.  All night and the next morning, the regulars terrorized locals and marched without much resistance.  A patriot fort across the river in Fairhaven fired on the ships but the garrison took massive return fire from the fleet.  The fort garrison spiked their guns and abandoned the fort.

The next day, Grey marched his regulars up the creek to a point where they could cross, then marched down the east bank to Fairhaven, where they continued their destruction.  The local militia managed to assemble about 150 men, who fired on some of the raiding party.  Not prepared for a full battle, the British returned to their ships and sailed away.

Next, Grey sailed his transports to Martha’s Vineyard.  Due to poor winds, it took the ships several days to reach the island. There, he demanded that the locals deliver 300 oxen and 10,000 sheep, as well as all their weapons and public funds.  The locals dragged their feet, taking about two days to assemble half of what the British demanded.  Grey landed several regiments who rounded up the animals, all the militia weapons and 950 pounds sterling which had been collected in taxes for the Continental Congress.

With that, the British fleet returned to New York.  Grey reported one man killed, four wounded, and sixteen missing from the mission.  He also reported his men had killed four rebels and taken sixteen prisoners with the intent of exchanging them for the missing British soldiers who were presumed captured.

New York Defenses

Washington heard about these raids, but was not terribly concerned.  He was considering an all-out attack on Manhattan.  He could take the northern half of the island, or perhaps take all of it with so many British being deployed to Rhode Island.  There is no record of Washington discussing the attack  plan with his offices, but a draft plan for the attack was found among Washington’s records.  It would have been a daring move. But without clearing the British navy from the water around Manhattan, it faced serious challenges, which is probably why Washington did not pursue the plan.

He did ask his general officers about what they thought about the probability of the success of an attack on New York.  Most of the officers rejected the idea.  Because the British still controlled the Hudson and East Rivers, they could bring up troops and artillery to use against the Americans at any time.  That was the reason they had abandoned Manhattan back in 1776.  Further, even if the Continentals took northern Manhattan, there was not much to prevent British Commander Henry Clinton from marching thousands of regulars from Rhode Island to strike at the Continental rear while the forces in New York attacked its front.  The continentals could easily be walking into a trap.  

Washington did not have very good intelligence about the British numbers and position in New York.  There were just too many variables.  So, he opted not to pursue the plan.

Ann Bates

By contrast, the British had good intelligence on American positions.  Deserters, loyalists and paid spies, including Ann Bates, a loyalist from Philadelphia, were provided General Clinton with intelligence.  General Clinton always maintained an espionage network so that he could keep tabs on the size and position of the Continentals.

Ann Bates
Bates became one of Clinton’s key assets in New York.  She was a thirty year old school teacher from Philadelphia.  She was a loyalist.  Her husband served in the British army.  During the British occupation of Philadelphia, one of General Clinton’s civilian spy recruiters, a man named John Craig, began using Bates for local intelligence-gathering.  As a woman, Bates would not raise much attention nor be seen as a threat.  

When the British evacuated Philadelphia, Bates’ husband marched with the army to New York.  Bates became a camp follower, leaving her home and most of her family behind.  In New York, she again reached out to Craig, hoping to find work.  Craig, along with Clinton’s intelligence officer, Major Duncan Drummond recruited Bates for a more difficult mission.  They proposed to send her straight into the Continental Camp to collect information.

Bates adopted the pseudonym Ann Barnes, a civilian peddler of goods.  The British provided her with money to buy a sack full of odds and ends to sell and sent her marching north to join Washington’s army at White Plains. She spent more than a week in July roaming around the Continental camp, counting soldiers and cannon, and listening in on conversations.  After selling all of her goods, she simply walked back to New York through various check points, and reported what she had learned.  

Her handlers sent her back to White Plains twice more in August, where again she gathered more intelligence, including overhearing a discussion on a planned invasion of Long Island as well as reporting on troop movements to Rhode Island.  Continental officers seemed unconcerned that this woman was capable of gathering military intelligence.  Her cover was solid, and she kept no written notes of what she had discovered.

On her third trip to White Plains, a British deserter recognized her and reported her.  Even so, she was able to elude capture and returned to British lines.  The discovery ended Bates’ undercover activity at Washington’s camp, but she continued to engage in other espionage missions for the British.

Fredericksburg

On September 16, Washington began moving his main army north from White Plains, settling in Fredericksburg, a small village a few miles northwest of Danbury, Connecticut.  From there, Washington set up defensive lines that dispersed his army from Danbury, Connecticut to Fishkill, New York.  Washington could move his army south against New York if needed, but could also march it into New England if the British opted to expand their coastal raids on new England towns into something larger.

Washington figured that if the British went on the offensive at all, it would be a thrust up the Hudson River again, in an attempt to cut off New England, or it would attack the French fleet which was under repair in Boston.  From his position, Washington could pivot easily to either location.  Washington, however, was not ready to consider any other major campaigns.  He was still wrapping up the court martials of several of his top generals, as I discussed a few weeks ago.  Several of his top officers were fighting duels with each other.  Others were unhappy about losing commands because the army had to consolidate regiments.

Once Washington left White Plains in mid-September, he was putting some distance between his army and the enemy.  As the Continentals pulled back, the frontline loyalist regiments advanced, leading to a few more skirmishes.

The British, however, were not prepared for any major offensive operations either.  General Clinton was still under orders to ship much of his army to the West Indies or other parts of the empire.  He was in no position to take and hold more territory than he already had.

Even so, Clinton still had an army in the tens of thousands, not to mention loyalist civilians, all of whom needed to be fed.  The British also needed to collect supplies for the regiments who were about to ship out to other parts of the empire.  

Much of the needed food came from Long Island.  Some was still shipped in from more distant locations.  With the immediate threat of an American attack seemingly gone when Washington's army pulled north, the British leadership turned their attention toward another source: New Jersey.

Old Tappan Massacre

The British had maintained two toe holds in New Jersey: one at Sandy Hook, the other at Paulus Hook.  Both were right on the coast where navy ships could protect the outposts.  With the main Continental army well up into New York, New Jersey defenses relied primarily on the local militia.  A year earlier, even during the forage wars, the British had held much larger areas in northern New Jersey.  They had been able to rely on the area for food and supplies.  Many of the locals were loyalists who were happy to trade with the British and who valued their protection and hard currency.

General Clinton did not want to leave large outposts in New Jersey, where they could be vulnerable to attack.  He was fine with short raids into the region in order to capture supplies.

Washington had deployed a regiment of light dragoons to the area with the goal of obtaining intelligence about British troop levels and movements.  Colonel George Baylor had only just resumed command of the regiment after several months away on a recruitment tour.  Baylor was a Virginia officer who had served briefly as an aide-de-camp to General Washington. 

Site of the Baylor Massacre
The British became aware of the presence of these Continentals.  General Grey, having returned from New England, dispatched about 600 regulars on a night raid into New Jersey for the purpose of attacking and destroying the enemy.  As he had at Paoli, Grey ordered his men not to load their muskets, but to rely on the bayonet.  He also ordered no prisoners.  Soldiers were to kill the enemy, even if trying to surrender.

The British received precise intelligence about where a dozen officers and over 100 men were sleeping on the night of September 26.  The regulars moved in after midnight and put everyone to the bayonet.  There does not appear to have been much resistance, as the sleeping Americans were caught by surprise.  There are multiple accounts of soldiers having surrendered, only to have their captors receive orders to put the prisoners to the bayonet.  A couple of men who were dispatched in this way, were left for dead, but managed to survive multiple bayonet wounds and report what had happened.

Casualty reports indicate that only 15 men were killed outright.  Another 54 were wounded or taken prisoner.  Colonel Baylor and several of his officers attempted to hide in the chimney of the home where his officers were sleeping.  The attackers found them and bayoneted the men.  Baylor managed to survive and was taken prisoner.  The British also came across New Jersey militia which they also dispatched without quarter.

The Tappan massacre, as it came to be called, was part of a larger raid by the British.  On the night of September 22, the British regiments crossed the river to Paulus Hook and began tracking the enemy.  At the same time, General Clinton assembled a much larger force of around 10,000-11,000 soldiers in northern Manhattan.  His intent was to begin a grand forage into Bergen County, New Jersey.  Clinton thought he might provoke a Continental attack, which would give his army a chance to defeat the Continentals.  If the enemy remained in their defenses, then the British would have an opportunity to sweep the region for any needed supplies.

After taking out the enemy soldiers in the immediate area, the British began collecting hay, produce, and cattle to ship back to New York.  Dozens of ships ferried supplies across the Hudson River as pickets kept guard against an attack.  

Continental General William Maxwell commanded a few regiments in Elizabethtown to the south.  Washington also deployed Major General Lord Stirling to contest the enemy’s actions in Bergen County.  Stirling used his forces to harass the enemy and succeeded in burning several ships, but the collection efforts proceeded anyway.  Similarly, General Charles Scott commanded Continentals and militia in Westchester, New York, where they made several raids and ambushes which inflicted casualties but did not deter the British from holding the field and continuing their forage.

Troop Transports

After about three weeks, the British had collected the supplies they wanted and returned to New York City.  George Washington received intelligence that the British planned to evacuate New York.  This, of course, proved false.  The British would remain in control of the city.  Clinton did, however, ship a large portion of his New York garrison as per his orders from London.

Over the next few weeks, thousands of British regulars boarded transport ships. Five thousand would go to the West Indies.  Another three thousand would go to Florida and seven hundred to Halifax.  The war with France meant that the British had to protect their colonies in the West Indies, and perhaps capture some vulnerable French islands.  The British also hoped to reclaim several southern colonies, where they believed they could rally more local loyalists to support their efforts.

For the remainder of the war, the number of British soldiers in North America would never come close to the numbers they had in 1776 and 1777.  London was writing off New England and the mid-Atlantic states for the time being.  The attempt to suppress the rebellion quickly had been a failure.  Now, the ministry had to contend with a much larger war with France, meaning North America was no longer a priority.

Clinton would never again deploy such a large force from New York City.  Although everyone thought they would resume at some point, major combat operations north of Virginia were effectively at an end.

Next week: I want to take a look at another operation taking place at this same time, involving Pulaski’s Legion and a massacre at Little Egg Harbor.

- - -

Next Episode 199 Little Egg Harbor & Pulaski’s Legion 


 Contact me via email at mtroy.history@gmail.com

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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. You may also donate via Venmo (@Michael-Troy-20), Zelle, or popmoney (send to mtroy1@yahoo.com)


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Further Reading

Websites

Battle of Kingsbridge: https://gnadenhutten.tripod.com/patriotsblood/id4.html

Hauptman, Laurence “The Road to Kingsbridge” American Indian, Vol. 18 No. 3, Fall, 2017: https://www.americanindianmagazine.org/story/road-kingsbridge-daniel-nimham-and-stockbridge-indian-company-american-revolution

Walling, Richard S. Death in the Box: The Stockbridge Indian Massacre August, 1778: https://www.americanrevolution.org/ind3.php

Andreas Emmerich and Emmerich’s Chasseurs: http://www.loyalamericanregiment.org/emmerick.htm

Grey’s Raid: https://revolutionarywar.us/year-1778/greys-raid

Grey’s Raid: https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2016/06/30/greys-raid

Ann Bates: https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2011/07/ann-bates.html

McBurney, Christian M. “Ann Bates: British Spy Extraordinaire” Journal of the American Revolution, December 1, 2014: https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/12/ann-bates-british-spy-extraordinaire

The Baylor Massacre: https://revolutionarywar.us/year-1778/baylor-massacre

George Baylor: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-baylor

Charles “No Flint” Grey: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/charles-no-flint-grey

Braisted, Todd W. “Massacre Averted: How Two British Soldiers Saved 350 American Lives” Journal of the American Revolution, May 20, 2014: https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/05/massacre-averted-how-two-british-soldiers-saved-350-american-lives

Schenawolf, Harry “The Baylor Massacre of the American Revolution and Earl Grey Tea: What did they have in common?” Revolutionary War Journal, October 27, 2018: http://www.revolutionarywarjournal.com/the-baylor-massacre-sept-28-1778-british-general-no-flint-grey-just-like-the-paoli-massacre-ordered-a-sudden-silent-and-savage-nighttime-bayonet-attack-on-sleeping-american-so

The Baylor Massacre - Sept 28, 1778, Primary Documents: http://revwar75.com/battles/primarydocs/Baylor.htm

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Davidson, J. N. Muh-he-ka-ne-ok, a History of the Stockbridge Nation, Milwaukee: S. Chapman, 1893. 

Simcoe's Military Journal: A History of the Operations of a Partisan Corps, Called the Queen's Rangers, Commanded by Lieut Col. J.G. Simcoe, during the war of the American Revolution, New York: Bartlett & Welford, 1844.  

Stryker, William S. The Massacre Near Old Tappan, Trenton: Bergen Co Historical Soc. 1900. 

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

Braisted, Todd Grand Forage 1778, The Battleground Around New York City, Westholme, 2016. 

Gruber, Ira The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution, W.W. Norton & Co. 1975. 

Willcox, William B. Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence, Knopf, 1964. 

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