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SB tD 5bM 



OF THE ^/i/ 


Christian Association 












New-York Historical Society. 


One Hundredth Anniversary. Sept. i6, 1876. 

The expenses of this Celebration were defrayed by the following gentlemen in subscriptions 
of Twenty-five Dollars each. 

Joseph W. Alsop, 
John T. Agnew, 
Benjamin G. Arnold, 
James W. Beekman, 
Erastus C. Benedict, 
David Wolfe Bishop, 
August Belmont, 
Samuel L. M. Barlow, 
John C. Barron, 
William Cullen Bryant, 
Clarkson Crolius, 
Mathew Clarkson, 
B. F. Carver, 
Addison Carmack, 
Frederic de Peyster, 
J. Watts de Peyster, 
Evert A. Duyckinck, 
John A. Dix, 
Henry Drisler, 
Edward F. de Lancey, 
William M. Evarts. 
George Ehret, 
Benjamin H. Field, 
Courtland de P. Field, 
John Fitch, 
Moses H. Grinnell, 
F. Frederic Gunther, 
John W. Hamersley, 
Wilson G. Hunt, 
A. Hupfel Sons, 

John Hunter, 
Adrian Iselin, 
George Jones, 
John J. Jones, 
William L. Jenkins, 
William Jay, 
John D. Jones, 
Morris K. Jesup, 
David Jones, 
Robert Lenox Kennedy 
A. Gracie King, 
A. C. Kingsland, 
Robert E. Livingston, 
William Libbey, 
James Lenox, 
A. A. Low, 
John McKesson, 
George H. Moore, 
James M. McLean, 
Fordham Morris, 
Richard E. Mount, 
Henry A. Oakley, 
Charles O' Conor, 
Samuel Osgood, 
Willard Parker, 
Frederic Prime, 
George T. Plume, 
Royal Phelps, 
William C. Prime, 
S. Whitney Phoenix, 
Robert Ray, 

Charles Roome, 
William Remsen, 
Lewis M. Rutherfurd, 
Jacob Ruppert, 
Theodore Roosevelt, 
Augustus Schell, 
Charles W. Sanford, 
James Struthers, 
Benjamin B. Sherman, 
, Rutherfurd Stuyvesant, 
Robert L. Stuart, 
John Austin Stevens, 
Benjamin D. Silliman, 
Henry F. Spaulding, 
Philip Schuyler, 
James H. Titus, 
William R. Travers, 
Charles L. Tiffany, 
William M. Vermilye, 
Washington R. Vermilye, 
Jacob D. Vermilye, 
E. W. Vanderhoof, 
Stephen C. Williams, 
John A. Weeks, 
Henry R. Winthrop, 
Andrew Warner, 
William H. Wickham, 
J. Butler Wright, 
William H. Webb, 
Frank Work, 






September 16, 1876 






Mr. President, Fellow-Countrymen, Ladies and Gen- 
tlemen : 

Our Centennial year, fraught with cherished memories, has 
brought us to the anniversary of the spirited engagements 
which took place on the heights and plains around us an hun- 
dred years ago, between some of the Continental troops under 
the command of Washington, and a part of the British army 
under Sir William Howe. The action for the American army 
and the American cause had a great significance. Our troops 
engaged in it represented all sections — Virginia, Maryland, 
Pennsylvania, New York, and New England — indicating the 
common ties that have bound us in a common destiny, and 
recalling the generous thought of Patrick Henry, when he 
said, " I am not a Virginian — I am an American." 

It was the first success of the Americans in the New York 
campaign, and it occurred at a moment when both officers 
and men were discouraged by disaster and retreat, and mor- 
tified and alarmed at an exhibition of panic the day before, 
which had wounded their self-respect, and impaired their 
courage and their hopes. 

It developed the bravery and spirit of our newly levied 
troops, and their ability, when fairly led, to meet in the open 
field the flower of the English army and the trained veterans 
of the Continent. It inspired with new ardor the Commander- 
in-chief, his officers and men, and it thus became an important 
link in that chain of events, military and civil, which, by the 
wisdom of Washington and the help of God, established, after 
a seven years' struggle, our Union and our Independence. 
The New York Historical Society, which is faithfully prose- 
cuting the work on which it entered seventy-two years ago, 
under the presidency of Egbert Benson, whom some of us well 
remember, of rescuing from forgetfulness and decay the fleet- 

8 Commemorative Oration* 

ing reminiscences of our historic times, has brought us to-day 
to this pleasant spot where the fast advancing city has but 
partially changed the natural features so bold and picturesque 
which marked it a century ago ; on those Heights the army 
of Washington was encamped, and here you look upon the 
field of battle. The occasion is fitly graced by this brilliant 
assemblage, including our distinguished and welcome guests, 
and by. our gallant Seventh Regiment, of which New York 
is justly proud — that school of soldiers which in our late war 
furnished more than six hundred officers to the army and 
navy of the United States. 

When I ventured to accept the duty with which I have 
been honored, of addressing you on this occasion, I recalled 
the touching words of Lincoln at Gettysburg, when, alluding 
to the brave men by whom that great battle had been won, 
he said, " The world will little note nor long remember what 
we say here ; but it can never forget what they did here." I 
felt that the sacred memories invoked by the scene would 
appeal to your imaginations and your hearts with an elo- 
quence of their own, and that you would kindly accept some 
thoughts suggested by the day and a simple narrative of the 

Practical as may be the character, active as is the life of our 
countrymen, theirs is not the frigid philosophy denounced by 
the English moralist which might conduct one unmoved over 
ground consecrated by wisdom, bravery, and virtue. If, as 
Dr. Johnson observed, that man is little to be envied whose 
patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, 
or whose piety would not burn brighter amid the ruins of 
Iona : the American, could he be found, would be still less 
to be envied, whose patriotism at this Centennial season would 
not be refreshed on the battle-fields of the Revolution, where 
our independence was won under the lead of Washington. 

If Marathon and Iona inspire touching memories of a dead 
past, our revolutionary scenes, whilst they also remind us 
of ages that are gone, are linked with a living present, and 
an impending and limitless future. 

In America, too, each citizen shares the sovereignty of the 

Commemorative Oration. g 

people, to whose wisdom and virtue are committed from 
generation to generation the character and destiny of the 
Republic ; and this thought enhances the personal interest of 
each in the past of the country whose great future we are 
moulding and carving and determining to-day. 

It has been said that those will not look forward to pos- 
terity who do not look back to their ancestors. We are 
accustomed as a nation to do the one and the other, and the 
habit strengthens as we advance. No story was more fasci- 
nating to our childhood than that of America — itsydiscovery 
by Columbus, the adventurous navigators who followed in 
his steps, its settlement by colonists from every part of 
Europe with their varied languages, characteristics, and 
traditions, bringing with them the promise and the power of 
that magnificent age of European advancement, of which 
there has recently been given us, with unrivalled skill, so 
striking a picture. 

We trace the rough progress of the colonists in their battles 
with the wilderness, with the Indians, and with each other, 
up to the heroic story of our Revolution, which still grows in 
interest as we read it anew in the thoughtful and brilliant 
page of Bancroft. 

Our interest was attended by the thought that the Republic 
which had grown from those long processions across the sea, 
and nearly two centuries of preparation, was, as Burke 
declared, a new power, which, in its relations to the rest of 
the world, might be compared to a new planet with its dis- 
turbing influences suddenly appearing in the solar system. 

The prediction in other lands that the Republic might 
prove rather an erratic comet that would vanish in space, 
or a baneful meteor, whose brief splendor would expire 
in darkness, was thought in Europe likely to be accomplished 
by the recent convulsion that threatened to terminate our 
national career. The result of that contest has crowned the 
accomplishments of our first century with the conviction, that 
neither foreign power nor internal strife can reach the life of 
the Republic; but that it contains within itself moral elements 
of stability and permanence which were utterly discredited 

io Commemorative Oration. 

by other nations, and were but partially appreciated among 

In this view our Centennial commemoration becomes more 
than a sentimental expression ; it marks the entering of the 
Republic upon a new epoch, no longer as a doubtful experi- 
ment, but as a fixed fact — a power of continental boundaries, 
of limitless resources, of unmeasured energy, of schools and 
churches, and universal freedom, more closely united than 
ever before on a basis of equal rights and mutual interests, 
and with no lingering element of sectional discord to again 
disturb its harmony. 

Other anticipations, where the wish was father to the 
thought, were indulged in across the water by those who 
hastened to announce our national dissolution, and to hail it 
asa" blessing and a boon." They dreamed that the Ameri- 
can Union was broken, that " the bubble of democracy was 
burst," and that it would devolve on the European powers 
whom we had dismissed from our territories to re-enter them 
once more, to save the remnants from destruction. France 
wrote, an officer of the old empire would retake the ter- 
ritory of Orleans ; England might appropriate Oregon, the 
State of Maine, and the harbor of Portland ; Mexico, under 
foreign protection, would reclaim New Mexico, Texas, and 
California ; while an Austrian prince from the throne of the 
Montezumas would look upon the distribution of the effects 
of the defunct Republic, and lend his imperial countenance to 
the system of perpetual slavery that was expected to flourish 
amid its ruins. 

The heart of the nation may well beat high with joy and 
thankfulness, as our Centennial sees the gathering of the na- 
tions at Philadelphia, not to sing our requiem and divide 
our heritage, but bringing their congratulations and their 
treasures to lend magnificence to the birth-year of the re- 

Having dismissed to their homes her army of a million, 
and retained for the protection of the Republic some 25,000 
men, less than the garrison of an European capital, she cor- 
dially greets in friendly rivalry her welcome guests in a way 

Commemorative Oration. 1 1 

to assure them that if " Westward the Star of Empire takes 
its way," our Star of Empire is the harbinger of peace. 

Our Centennial is teaching us the unity of history by the 
most striking of lessons, as Egypt leads the throng, mother of 
civilization, with her untold ages of hoar antiquity — the land 
of the Pharaohs and the Pyramids ; of the Nile and of the 
Sphinx, with scriptural memories of Abram and Sarah, of 
Joseph and his brethren, when the great pyramid had been 
standing some 2,000 years ; of the second Joseph, the mother 
and the Child, recalling Memphis and Thebes, Rameses and 
Cambyses, with dim thoughts of Tyre and Sidon and Baby- 
lon, as shadowed forth by Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Egypt, 
which in her remote origin was a sphinx to the ancient Greeks, 
brings from the East with oriental courtesy her greeting and 
her gifts. She salutes us as of old the statue of Memnon 
greeted the rising sun ; and as we read the message written 
on her pcrtals at Fairmount, " The oldest people sends her 
morning greeting to the youngest nation," we feel that our 
youthful Republic, child of the brightest centuries of Euro- 
pean development, is akin to all the nations and heir to the 
culture of all the ages. 

There is one pleasant thought connected with the Centen- 
nial, — pleasant in every aspect and in its significance to the 
world at large, of which we are naturally reminded as we 
recall the battle here fought between England and America, 
■ — the thought that the Revolution which severed our political 
connection with the British crown, has enlarged our relations 
and confirmed our friendship with the British people. 

Nothing could have so crowned our majestic celebration, 
ordained by Congress and proclaimed by the President — the 
nation commemorating its founders and the world assisting at 
the fete — as the magnanimity, worthy of the Anglo-Saxon 
race, and which America will not soon forget, with which 
England deputed her accomplished and honored Envoy at 
Washington to represent the British Empire at the ceremonies 
in honor of the birth-year of the Republic. 

Wars that are provoked by passion or ambition may 
produce new storms of international hate, to desolate in turn 

12 Commemorative Oration. 

successive generations ; but with wars that result from # the 
antagonism of principles and systems, after the lightning and 
the crash may come the clear sky, while nature smiles with 
freshened verdure, teaching us that in the Divine Economy 
it is often the conflict of discordant powers that produces 
the harmony of the universe. 

Touching the dispute between England and her colonies, 
which Englishmen and Americans can now discuss with calm 
philosophy, there is one fact creditable alike to both parties 
and essential to a correct appreciation of the position, which 
has been curiously ignored, even in recent discussions of the 
question on both sides the Atlantic. The impression still 
obtains in various quarters, that for many years previous to 
the Revolution a desire for independence had been growing 
in the Colonies, and that when the struggle was entered upon 
the American leaders aimed at a separation. Jefferson on the 
contrary declared : 

"It is well known that in July, 1775, a separation from 
Great Britain and establishment of republican government 
had never yet entered into any person's mind." The accur- 
acy of that statement was in accord with the assurance given 
by Franklin in August, 1774, to Lord Chatham, that he 
" never had heard in any conversation from any person, drunk 
or sober, the least expression of a wish for separation," and 
it was distinctly confirmed by the testimony of John Adams, 
who added, his sturdy patriotism giving significance to the re- 
mark : " For my own part, there was not a moment during the 
Revolution when I would not have given everything I possessed, 
for a restoration to the state of things before the contest be- 
gan, provided we could have had sufficient security for its 
continuance." The character of the ties that attached the 
Colonies to England was too little appreciated at the Court of 
St. James ; and Lord Russell, in his Life of Charles James 
Fox, remarked that " it was the peculiar infelicity of George 
the III. and Lord North, that they turned to gall all those 
feelings of filial piety which had so long filled the breasts of 

The principles on which our fathers resisted the powers 

Commemorative Oratioii. 13 

assumed by Great Britain, are still occasionally criticised in 
that country, but it can never be forgotten that the State 
papers developing their views commanded the approval, even 
the homage of the great Lord Chatham. 

With the impressive diction that marked his transcendent 
oratory, he said in words that can bear to be repeated, but 
not to be abridged : 

" For myself, I must declare and avow that in all my read- 
ing and observation, and it has been my favorite study — I 
have read Thucydides, and have studied and admired the 
master states of the world — for solidity of reasoning, force of 
sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion under such a complication 
of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand 
in preference to the General Congress at' Philadelphia." 

That Chatham, who as William Pitt had been the great 
Commoner of England, the expounder of the popular features 
of the British Constitution, the most powerful orator of 
modern times, whose " character had astonished a corrupt 
age," found the statesmanship of the Continental Congress 
to surpass that of the master states of ancient and of modern 
times, is a noteworthy incident, as we review after the lapse 
of a century, the full development of that political capacity 
whose early exhibition at Philadelphia called forth that gener- 
ous tribute from the foremost statesman of Great Britain. 

Turning a deaf ear to the advice and warnings of Chatham 
and of Burke, who stood on the American question like 
" guide-posts and land-marks in the state," the ministry 
adhered to the principle of the act, which said — what an his- 
toric lesson it teaches to-day — " It is expedient to raise a 
revenue in America." 

On the soundness of that proposition the ministry deliber- 
ately staked the dignity of the Crown and the integrity of 
the Kingdom. 

Dr. Johnson, in his " Taxation no Tyranny," ignoring the 
principles and the characteristics of the American Colonists, and 
the fact that their ancestors in every country of Europe had 
been accustomed to resist oppression, anticipated as the 
result of the struggle, " English superiority and American 

14 Commemorative Oration. 

obedience," nor dreamed that he was assisting in the dismem- 
berment of the British Empire and the erection of an 
American Republic. 

Never was a ministry trifling with the interests and honor 
of a great nation more frankly and fearlessly warned, and the 
speeches of Chatham on the American question show the 
difference between the true statesman, maintaining the truth 
with outspoken independence against an obstinate king, a 
convenient ministry, and a subservient parliament ; and supple 
courtiers who bend the knee where thrift may follow fawning, 
and sustain with unquestioning acquiescence governmental 
policies that assail the morality and the dignity of the nation. 

" My Lords," said Chatham, and his words may be repeated 
from age to age in every country, " this ruinous and igno- 
minious situation, where we cannot act with success nor suffer 
with honor, calls upon us to remonstrate in the strongest 
language, to rescue the ear of majesty from the delusions 
which surround it." 

When, after the rejection of their second petition, Congress 
resolved upon the necessity of separation, and declared the 
inalienable rights which formed the basis of its action, the 
great truths which it announced, if thought strange and novel 
in Europe, had little of novelty in America. They were here 
regarded not as something newly discovered, but old as the 
creation, written in the Bible, uttered by others than 
Christian philosophers from Aristotle to Locke, — truths which 
had descended from their ancestors among the Hollanders, the 
Walloons, the French Huguenots, the English, the Irish and 
the Scotch, the Swedes, the Germans, and the Swiss, the 
Bohemian Protestants, the Italian Waldenses, the Salzburg 
exiles, the Moravian Brothers, and refugees from the Palati- 
nate, Alsace, and Southern Germany. 

They were rights that had been asserted and battled for in 
England by those who believed in the enjoyment of personal 
and religious freedom : which had animated the great charter 
wrested from John : which had inspired the Petition of Right : 
which had been reduced to practice in the English Revolution : 
which were the proper heritage of the colonists from their 

Commemorative Oration. 1 5 

earnest, freedom-loving, stout-hearted sires : truths self-evi- 
dent, " the unassuming commonplace of nature." 

When at our centennial commemoration of the Declaration 
of Independence at Philadelphia, ordained by Congress to be 
held under the auspices of the Government, and assisted in 
by the Powers invited by the President, with the illustrious 
Emperor of Brazil and a royal prince of Sweden, presenting 
a scene unique in its political significance and its historic 
associations, our acting Vice-President, Mr. Ferry, remarking 
that the regretful absence of the President had o&st upon 
him the honor of presiding on that eventful occasion, said 
that the heroic statesmen who had there chosen between 
royal rule and popular sovereignty had been inspired, in their 
declaration that all men are born free and equal, by the truth 
uttered on Mars Hill that God hath made of one blood all 
nations of men. The religious sentiment thus alluded to by 
the Vice-President has been recognized by the most philo- 
sophic writers in America, as having lain at the root of the 
governmental theories as well as of the social characteristics 
of the colonists. Burke, in the greatest of his speeches on 
America — that on conciliation — referred to the stream of 
foreigners which had flowed into the colonies as being for the 
greatest part composed of dissenters from the establishments 
of their respective countries; and soon after that speech, and 
a week before Congress was driven from Philadelphia, that 
body ordered an importation of twenty thousand Bibles for 
its constituents, at the public expense. 

An interesting example of the recognition of the divine 
rights of people, by the government of Holland, the parent 
state of this part of our country, and of whom we are 
reminded by these Harlem plains, is found in the reply of the 
States General to the request of Great Britain for troops to 
assist in the subjugation of the rebellious Americans. 

It was in December, 1775, that Derk VAN DER CAPPEL — 
may his name be cherished — declared, in answer to the 
British demand for troops, that "the Americans were worthy 
of every man's esteem — a brave people, defending in a 
manly and religious manner those rights which, as men, they 

1 6 Commemorative Oration. 

derive from God, and not from the Legislature of Great 

It was the fine thought of Bryant in his Ode to Freedom — 

Thy birthright was not given by human hands ; 
Thou wert twin-born with man. 

But we may not linger on the civil questions involved in 
our Declaration which have already been treated in our recent 
centennial orations with so much of learning, eloquence, and 
deep philosophy, by statesmen, jurists, diplomatists, and 

The military question to which this battle scene recalls us 
was, in fact, the question on which our success in the war 
immediately depended ; for that success hung not alone on 
the soundness of our political theories, but on our ability to 
defeat the armies and fleets of Great Britain, then in the 
height of her pride and the most powerful government in the 

We began the struggle with no certainty of any foreign aid, 
and so unequal seemed the contest that Vergennes, the Min- 
ister of Louis XVI., assured our envoys that it would not be 
safe for France and America together to attempt to match 
England, unless they were assisted by other powers. This 
inequality must be remembered if we would appreciate aright 
the importance of the battle fought on this spot an hundred 
years ago. The Declaration of Independence but just 
adopted, closing the door to conciliation and compromise, 
had alienated our friends in England. France had not yet 
become our ally. There had not yet come to us the gallant 
and generous Lafayette, of whom Washington wrote: " Treat 
him as though he were my own son." We had not yet wel- 
comed to our camp and to our hearts Kosciusko, whose 
soldierly fame lives alike in Europe and America ; nor Steu- 
ben, who had learned the art of war under the great Frede- 
rick ; nor De Kalb, who had served with the French and 
who fell at Camden with eleven wounds ; nor Rochambeau, 
with his brave command of six thousand men, who was made 
Marshal of France for his services at Yorktown, and who 

Commemorative Oration. 17 

brought in his gallant train such men as D'Estaing, Du Por- 
tail, De Choise, Deuxponts, Custine, De Noailles, Montmo- 
renci, De Grasse, Lauzun, St. Simon, De Broglie, Berthier, 
Segur, and Montesquieu. 

The 1st of January, 1776, opened gloomily, with the defeat 
at Quebec and the death of the brave Montgomery. In 
March, the British had evacuated Boston. In April, Wash- 
ington had arrived in New York. On the 2d of July, Con- 
gress had resolved on separation, and on the 9th the New 
York Convention at White Plains had given, as Sparks happily 
said, the finishing stroke to the Declaration of Independence, 
which that evening was read at the head of each brigade 
of the army, and the same night the leaden statue of George 
III. in the Bowling Green was broken up and run into bullets. 
Presently arrived in the Hudson two British ships, and a 
third with the Admiral's flag of Lord Howe. Soon the High- 
landers, Hessians and other troops began to be landed at 
Staten Island. The British force near New York amounted to 
30,000 men. That of the Americans was less than 20,000, 
imperfectly equipped and armed, composed in part of" hasty 
levies of countrymen." The yeomen summoned from the 
plough, and destitute of arms, were ordered to bring with 
them a shovel, spade, or pickaxe, or a scythe straightened and 
fastened to a pole. 

On the 27th of August was fought the disastrous battle of 
Long Island. Two nights afterwards, on the 29th, was 
effected the masterly retreat of Washington from Brooklyn to 
New York, one of the most signal achievements of the war, 
and perhaps unsurpassed in military history, by which " 9,000 
men with their munitions of war, were successfully withdrawn 
from before a victorious enemy, encamped so near that every 
stroke of spade and pickaxe from their trenches could be 

On the 2d of September, Washington wrote to Congress 
that the situation was truly distressing ; that the check on the 
27th had filled the troops with apprehension and despair ; that 
they were dismayed, intractable, and impatient to return ; and 
that great numbers had gone off, " in some instances almost 

1 8 Commemorative Oration. 

by whole regiments, by half ones, and by companies at a 

A council of general officers had decided with regret that it 
would be necessary to evacuate New York, which Washington 
said had become the grand magazine of America. Put- 
nam was stationed in the city with only 5,000 men, while 
General Heath with 9,000 men was to guard the upper part 
of the island and oppose any attempt of the enemy to land. 
On the 13th of September three frigates and a British man-of- 
war sailed up the East river towards Hell-gate, firing as they 
passed. On Saturday, the 14th, Washington's baggage was 
removed to his new headquarters at Kingsbridge. It was 
now clear that the enemy were preparing to encompass our 
army on the island, and their landing at Harlem or Morrisania 
was apprehended. But the evening passed quietly, excepting 
that six more ships had moved up the East River. 

On the morning of Sunday, the 15th of September, three 
British ships of war were sent up the North River with " a 
most tremendous firing," as far as Bloomingdale, with the in- 
tention, as appears from Sir William Howe's report, of draw- 
ing the attention of the Americans in that direction. At 11 
o'clock the real business of the day commenced by a cannon- 
ade from three frigates and two forty-gun ships, which were 
drawn up in line in the East River, upon the American 
breastworks near Kip's Bay. Under cover of this fire was 
landed the first division of the British army, consisting of the 
Light Infantry, the British Reserve, the Hessian Grenadiers 
and Chasseurs, under the command of Lt.-Gen. Sir Henry 
Clinton, who had with him Lt.- General Cornwallis, Major- 
General Vaughan, Brigadier-General Leslie, and Col. Donop. 
"The fire of the shipping," wrote Sir Wm. Howe to Lord 
Germaine, "being so well directed and so incessant, the 
enemy could not remain in their works, and the descent was 
made without the least opposition." 

This statement is not without interest as tending to explain 
the panic which seized the militia by whom the works were 
manned, and who had already been disheartened by the de- 
feat at Brooklyn, and perhaps also that of the two brigades 

Commemorative Oration. 19 

who had been sent to support them, and who fled at the ap- 
pearance of some sixty or seventy of the British troops. 
Washington, who had come galloping down at the first sound 
of the cannonade, met them in their flight, and strove in vain 
to rally them. He is said to have been passionately moved 
by their cowardice, which he reported to Congress and de- 
nounced by general order. Recovering his self-possession, 
he despatched an order for the instant occupation of Harlem 
Heights, and another for the immediate retreat of Putnam. 

There is one incident connected with Putnam's/ retreat 
which, although often related, cannot properly be omitted in 
a centennial mention of that eventful day. 

Sir Wm. Howe, in his letter of September 21st, to Lord 
George Germaine, after describing the landing at Kip's Bay, 
said : " The British immediately took post on the command- 
ing height of Inclenberg ; " but Sir William omitted to advise 
his Lordship of the disposition of his staff on their arrival at 
that point, to which the American officers were accustomed to 
attribute the safety of Gen. Putnam's command, the loss of 
which at that stage of the war might have had a serious influ- 
ence on the military situation. 

On "the commanding height of Inclenberg," now known 
more modestly as Murray Hill, resided Robert Murray whose 
wife Mary Lindley Murray — all honor to her memory — in 
the absence of her husband invited Sir William and his officers, 
as they approached her residence, to stop for lunch. A halt 
was ordered and the invitation accepted. The unaccustomed 
heat and their morning's work seem to have prepared the 
commander-in-chief and his officers, who were accompanied 
by his Excellency Gov. Try on, to enjoy the proffered rest 
and repast. In cheerful mood after their successful landing, 
and refreshed with the generous wine, they bantered their 
hostess with British bluntness on her rebel sympathies, and 
Mrs. Murray responded with such graceful tact and pleasant 
humor, that two hours or more were whiled away before 
they had concluded their regale. During that precious time, 
Putnam and his command, in their straggling and disorderly 
retreat along the Bloomingdale road, had passed in safety 

20 Commemorative Oration. 

within a mile of the comfortable parlors where the illustrious 
generals, who were to conquer America, quaffed with appre- 
ciation the old Madeira, jested complacently at the discom- 
fiture of the rebels, and unconsciously measured the military 
prudence of the Royal staff with the patriotic wit of an Ameri- 
can woman. One mile's march during that pleasant lunch 
would have cut off Putnam's advance or cut it in two, and a 
little later, when he had passed, the 42d Highlanders moved 
towards Bloomingdale " to intercept the retreating Ameri- 

Putnam's command, after a weary march, joined the army 
in the evening on Harlem Heights, where Washington had 
made his headquarters at the house of Colonel Roger Morris, 
at that time an adherent of Royal cause, formerly his com- 
panion in Braddock's campaign, and his successful competitor 
for the hand of Mary Philipse. This house, overlooking the 
Harlem River, and commanding an extensive and varied view, 
is now known as the Jumel Place, and here in later years 
resided for a time Col. Aaron Burr, after his marriage with 
Madame, the widow Jumel. About a mile to the north was 
the height of Mount Washington crowned with an earthwork 
mounting thirty cannon. On the heights, at this period, com- 
menced the intercourse of Washington with Alexander Ham- 
ilton, a young captain of artillery, whose skill in the construc- 
tion of some of the defences had attracted the attention of the 
commander-in-chief, and whose splendid abilities as exhibited 
in the work of the National Constitution and the restoration 
of the national credit were soon to command the attention of 
the world. 

The headquarters of the British Commander General, Sir 
William Howe, were at the house of Mr. Apthorpe, which 
stands near the corner of Ninth avenue and Ninety-first street, 
and is now known as Elm Park. The encampment of the 
British extended from the East River, where General Howe's 
right rested on Horen's Hook near Eighty-ninth street, to the 
North River where his left was at Bloomingdale, the distance 
being about two miles and both flanks being covered by his 

Co in mentor ative ratio n. 21 

ships. The encampment extended from the fourth to the 
eighth mile-stone. 

On the heights occupied by the Americans, between the 
ninth and tenth mile-stones, southwest of the Roger Morris 
House, our troops were preparing to form the lines afterwards 
completed between the Hudson River on the west and the 
Harlem river on the east, over a broken surface with breast- 
works, entrenchments and abatis. 

Here it was intended " to make a grand stand." Both 
sides of the King's Bridge were carefully fortified^ making 
this the strongest point. The division of the army lying near 
the Roger Morris House extended southwardly to near the 
Hollow Way running from Harlem Plain to the Hudson River 
at the site of the present Manhattanville, a natural break be- 
tween the Harlem and the Bloomingdale Heights. Between 
the Point of Rocks (the southern extremity of the Harlem 
Heights, now being cut away, the property of the Convent of 
Sacred Heart), and McGowan's Pass at the northern extremity 
of the Central Park, and lying on the eastward of Bloomingdale 
Heights, intervened a low ground known as the Harlem Plain. 
The Point of Rocks at One Hundred and Twenty-seventh street 
was the advance post of the American army, and on the hill 
slope below McGowan's Pass, at One Hundred and Ninth 
street, a mile and a half distant was the advance post of the 
British army. The picket lines of each army extended be- 
yond these points into the plains and along the ridge which 
overlooked them. As night closed around the two armies 
on the opposing heights, a cold driving rain succeeded to 
the sultry heat of the morning, and the contrast between the 
thorough equipment of the British troops and the half-clad 
unsheltered condition of the Americans, without tents or 
blankets, might have extended perhaps to the temper of the 
two armies. The events of the day had tended to confirm 
the impression made by the battle of Long Island ; to increase 
the belief of the British in their resistless superiority, and to 
lower the confidence of the Americans in their officers and in 

In reporting to their respective governments upon the con- 

22 Commemorative Oration. 

duct of their troops at Kip's Bay on this memorable Sunday, 
Sir William Howe gave praise for highly meritorious con- 
duct to his officers and men, while Washington expressed to 
Congress his great surprise and mortification at the dastardly 
behavior of his troops, whose cowardice was said to have 
wrung from him the exclamation, " Are these the men with 
whom I am to defend America ? " 

Whilst Washington in general orders denounced instant 
death as the punishment of cowardice in the field, he devoted 
himself to the task of raising the courage of the army. He 
perfectly understood that dependence upon raw militia was 
resting upon a broken staff. " Men," he wrote to the President 
of Congress, " just dragged from the tender scenes of domes- 
tic life, unaccustomed to the din of arms, totally unacquainted 
with every kind of military skill (which is followed by want 
of confidence in themselves when opposed to troops regularly 
trained and appointed, superior in knowledge and superior 
in arms), are timid and ready to fly from their own shadows." 
He had formed the determination, for which his present strong 
position afforded an excellent opportunity, " to habituate his 
soldiers by a series of successful skirmishes to meet the 
enemy in the field." With clear sagacity, as observed by 
Marshall, he had persuaded himself that his detachments, 
knowing that a strongly entrenched camp was immediately in 
their rear, would soon display their native courage and speed- 
ily regain the confidence they had lost. 

On the morning of Monday the 16th of September, Wash- 
ington concluded a letter to Congress on the affair at Kip's 
Bay, with the remark, " I have sent out some reconnoitring 
parties to gain intelligence, if possible, of the disposition of 
the enemy." From the contemporaneous authority of an 
officer engaged in the affair, it appears that a scouting party 
of the Regiment of Rangers, a body of picked men under the 
command of Lieut. Colonel Thomas Knowlton, set out 
before day-break with instructions to ascertain the position 
of the enemy's advanced guard. Passing over the ridge 
which we have described as the Bloomingdale Heights, then 
known as the Vanderwater Heights (they are so described in 

Commemorative Oration. 23 

Sir William Howe's despatch), they pushed through the woods 
until, near the southern extremity of this ridge, they came at 
day-break upon a large party of the British light infantry, who 
rapidly advanced upon them. A sharp skirmish ensued, 
until Knowlton, perceiving that with their superior numbers 
they were turning his flank, ordered a retreat. His men fell 
back in an orderly manner to the northernmost end of the 
ridge, where close by our advance posts a second stand was 
made. Meanwhile, the firing had attracted attention, and 
soon after Washington's morning despatches were y sentto 
Congress, rumors reached the headquarters of a movement 
by the enemy, considerable bodies of whom were showing 
themselves at the lower end of the plains. 

Adjutant-General Joseph Reed, as he himself informs us, 
was sent to the front to learn the truth, and went down to 
the most advanced guard picketed on the plain below the 
Point of Rocks. He here fell in with the party of Knowlton, 
who had been driven from the hill, and while Reed was talk- 
ing to the officer in command the enemy showed themselves 
and opened fire at a distance of fifty yards. The Ameri- 
cans behaved well, stood and returned the fire till overpowered 
by numbers (ten to one is Reed's estimate), they retreated, 
the enemy advancing with such rapidity that they were 
in possession of the house in which Reed conversed with the 
officer five minutes after he left it. 

Reed encouraged by the behavior of the men started for 
headquarters to make his report and ask for reinforcements. 
Meanwhile Washington had mounted his horse and ridden 
down to our advanced posts. Hardly had Reed reached him 
when the light infantry showed themselves in view, and in 
the most contemptuous manner sounded their bugles as is 
usual after a fox chase. This insulting behavior brought a 
blush to the cheeks of the officers, and caused their blood to 
tingle with shame. It showed them the contempt in which 
they were held by their adversaries and seemed to crown 
their disgrace. 

On reconnoitring the situation of the enemy, Washington 
saw that there was an opportunity for a successful action in 

24 Commemorative Oration. 

which, under favorable conditions, the morale of the army 
could be restored, and, to use his own words, he formed the 
design of " cutting- off such of the enemy's troops as might 
advance to the extremity of the woods." This wood was on 
the northernmost spur of the Bloomingdale Heights, which 
overlooked the hollow way and was divided from a similar 
spur opposite at the Point of Rocks by a gully or ravine at 
the foot of which lay a round meadow known in the topo- 
graphy of the day as Matje (or Mutje) Davits Fly. 

Washington learning that the body of the enemy who kept 
themselves concealed was about three hundred, ordered three 
companies of Colonel Weedon's regiment from Virginia, 
under the command of Major Andrew Leitch, and Lieutenant- 
Colonel Knowlton with his Rangers, to try and get in their 
rear, while a disposition was made as if to attack them in front 
and to draw their attention that way. Knowlton who was 
familiar with the ground seems to have guided his party by 
the left flank of the enemy through the woods of the western 
slopes of the Bloomingdale Ridge in which he had fought in 
the morning, in order to fall upon their rear. Leitch with 
his Virginians, unacquainted with the field, was put under 
the guidance of Adjutant-General Reed. It is worth while 
here to notice that the Virginia troop, which was this day 
under Leitch, had only arrived the day preceding, having 
been ordered from the command of General Mercer in New 
Jersey, and had joined the camp by way of Burdett's Ferry, 
facing Fort Washington. Meanwhile at ten o'clock a de- 
monstration or feint was made on the front which had the 
effect intended by Washington. The British troops im- 
mediately ran down the hill to the round meadow at its foot. 
Here, in the words of General Clinton, who was in the action 
during the greater part of the day, and whose report to the 
New York Convention is the most detailed and intelligible 
account of it, they were opposed with spirit and soon made 
to retreat to a clear field about two hundred paces (eight 
hundred feet distant), south-east of the fly or meadow, where 
they lodged themselves behind a fence covered with bushes. 
This cleared field we take to have been to the east and some- 

Commemorative Oration. 25 

what south of the point of the ridge facing the Point of Rocks. 
A smart firing began but at too great a distance to do much 
execution, when a couple of field pieces being brought to 
bear upon the British, at the second discharge they again fell 
back retreating up the eastern slope of the hill. At this mo- 
ment Major Leitch and his command came upon the field, but 
misled by the movements of the regiment in action, who seem 
to have hailed them as they appeared on the plain, were 
diverted from the path by which Reed intended to lead them 
around the right flank of the British to their rear,vwhere he 
hoped to make a junction with Knowlton's Rangers. Leitch's 
command evidently came from the lines by the Kings Bridge 
road and their course was to have been by an irregular road, 
which leaving it crossed the plain, ran along the eastern slope 
of the ridge and passed over it about 11 2th street, where the 
line of trees now standing marks its course, connecting with 
the Bloomingdale road at its intersection with the present 
Eleventh avenue. Reed finding it impossible to check their 
ardor accompanied them. They joined the regiment in 
action ; the feint was now turned into an attack. In a few 
minutes, in the words of Reed, our brave fellows mounted up 
the rocks, attacked the enemy, and a brisk action ensued. 
Major Leitch fell presently, after the close fighting began, 
wounded with three balls. In a buckwheat field on the top 
of the hill, which General Clinton describes as four hundred 
paces — sixteen hundred feet distant — (and here we must 
remark that there can be no doubt about the accuracy of 
these distances, Clinton himself having surveyed the ground 
a few years previously to settle the Harlem boundary), the 
British troops met the 42d Highlanders, who, dispatched 
at eleven o'clock, had moved up on a double trot without 
stopping to draw breath, to the support of the Light In- 
fantry, whose distance from their lines had caused general 
alarm at Howe's headquarters. 

The effect of the undue and unexpected precipitation on the 
part of the American troops ordered to make the feint, was 
to cause the attack to be made too soon, and rather in flank 
than in the rear, thus thwarting the well-arranged plans of 

26 Commemorative Oration. 

Washington. The interference with his orders was pointedly 
referred to in the General Orders of the next day, in the re- 
mark that " the loss of the enemy yesterday would undoubt- 
edly have been much greater if the orders of the Commander- 
in-Chief had not in some instance been contradicted by some 
inferior officers, who, however well they might mean, ought 
not to presume to direct." At the same time, the Virgin- 
ians of Leitch's command received the thanks of Washington 
for their gallantry. 

On receiving their reinforcements, the British made their 
second stand. Here it is probable that Knowlton made his 
appearance on the British left flank. In the buckwheat field 
which is located to the eastward of the Bloomingdale Asylum 
on the line of 118th street, a brisk action commenced, which 
continued near two hours. In this fight, in which, in the 
words of General Heath, there was good " markmanship on 
both sides," Colonel Knowlton fell about noon. The officer 
of the Rangers, whose account of the early morning skirmish 
we have freely quoted, caught him in his arms, and sent him 
off the field by two of his men, and he was taken to our lines 
on the horse of Adjutant-General Reed, probably by the road 
we have described, which in fact is the only road laid down 
on the maps of the period, and the only path practicable for 
a horse. 

Knowlton behaved with the greatest courage, and accepted 
his fate with brave composure. " He seemed," wrote one of 
his officers, " as unconcerned as though nothing had hap- 
pened to him." His last inquiry was as to the result of the 
action. Notwithstanding the loss of their leaders, the men 
persevered and continued the engagement under the lead of the 
captains, until Washington, finding that they needed support, 
advanced part of Colonel Griffiths' and Colonel Richardson's 
Maryland regiments, with some detatchments from the eastern 
regiments who were nearest the scene of action, who charged 
the enemy with great intrepidity. Among these troops were 
Captain Beatty of the Maryland line, Major Mantz with three 
rifle companies of the same troops, Major Price with three of 
the Independent companies of Maryland troops, and three 

Commemorative Oration. 27 

other companies of the Maryland Flying Cavalry, a battalion 
of Virginians, and some southern troops. Thus reinforced, 
the Americans pushed on with fresh vigor. Generals Putnam 
and Greene, with Tilghman and other officers of Washington's 
staff, joined in the engagement, and animated the soldiers by 
their presence. Greene, in his account of the battle, speaks 
of the noble behavior of Putnam and Adjutant-General Reed. 
The British also received a considerable addition to their force, 
which appears from the official report of Lord Howe to have 
consisted of " the reserve with two field pieces, a battalion of 
Hessian grenadiers, and a company of chasseurs," under the 
command of Brigadier-General Leslie. Notwithstanding this 
assistance they were driven from the buckwheat field into a 
neighboring orchard. This orchard was a field north of 
the line of n 6th street, where the remains of the old trees 
were visible until about the year 1866, when the land was 
cleared. An ineffectual attempt was made by the British 
for a further stand, but they were again driven across a hol- 
low and up a hill not far distant from their own encampment. 
This hollow was undoubtedly the dip of land between the 
Bloomingdale and McGowan's Heights, and the hill the slope 
of the latter elevation. 

Here the Americans having silenced the British fire in 
great measure, Washington judged it prudent to order a 
retreat, fearing that the enemy, as he afterwards learned was 
really the case, were sending a large body to support their 
party, which would have involved his drawing supports from 
his strong position on the Harlem Heights, and have brought 
on a general engagement, which he was determined to avoid. 
The war, as he had written Congress, must be a "war of 
posts," and he had no thought of jeoparding the cause by a 
battle in the open field — at least, not till he had thoroughly 
tried the temper of his troops. The Von Lansing battalion 
was seen to draw near ; two other German battalions, under 
Von Donop, occupied M'Gowan's Pass ; and from eight to 
ten thousand men were under arms, hidden by the hill to 
which the enemy were being driven. The American troops 
obeyed the re-call ordered by Washington, although the 

28 Commemorative Oration. 

" pursuit of a flying enemy was so new a scene that it was 
with difficulty our men could be brought to retreat, which 
was, however, effected in very good order." 

The loss on the side of the Americans, as reported by 
General George Clinton, was seventeen dead and fifty-three 
wounded. On the part of the British, according to the full 
circumstantial report of Bauermeister, quoted by Mr. Ban- 
croft, there were seventy dead and two hundred and ten 

The battle, as we have described it, was chiefly fought 
upon the Bloomingdale Heights ; but as the main action 
commenced on the plains near Manhattanville, it was called 
by Mr. Lossing the battle of Harlem Plains, and that title 
has been adopted in the subsequent narratives of Mr. Dawson 
and other writers. Some manuscript accounts of the battle 
not hitherto referred to have thrown light upon points which 
seemed a little doubtful ; and in this connection I gratefully 
acknowledge my obligations to Mr. Stevens, Mr. Moore, and 
Mr. Kelby, of our New York Historical Society, for their 
kind assistance. 

The general and deep satisfaction at the events of the day 
was dimmed by the sorrow for those who had fallen or who 
were suffering from their wounds. 

The movements of the British left it doubtful what they 
might intend, and Washington's order for the night of the 
16th indicated careful preparation to meet a possible attack 
along the whole line of heights, commanding the hollow way 
from the North River to the main road leading from New York 
to Kingsbridge. The parole was Beale, and the counter- 
sign, Maryland. Gen. Clinton was to form next the North 
River, then Gen. Scott's brigade and Lieut. Col. Sayres, of 
Col. Griffiths' regiment, with the three companies intended 
for a re -enforcement in the morning. 

Gen. Nixon's and Col. Sergeant's division, Col. Weedon 
and Maj. Price's regiments, were ordered to retire to their quar- 
ter and refresh themselves, but to hold themselves in readiness 
to turn out at a minute's warning. Gen. McDougal was to 
establish guards against his brigade upon the heights from 

Commemorative Oration, 29 

Morris's house to McDougall's camp, to furnish proper guards 
to prevent surprise, not less than twenty men from each regi- 
ment. Gen. Putnam was placed in command upon the right 
flank for the night, and Gen, Spencer from McDougall's 
brigade to Morris's house ; and should the enemy attempt to 
pass during the night, Gen. Putnam was to apply to Gen, 
Spencer for a re-enforcement. 

The next day, by general order, Washington returned his 
most hearty thanks to " the troops commanded yesterday by 
Major Leitch, who first advanced upon the enemy^ and the 
others who so resolutely supported them." He contrasted 
their behavior with that of some troops the day before, as 
showing what might be done when officers and men exert 
themselves. Again he called upon them to act up to the 
noble cause in which they were engaged, and to support the 
honor and liberties of their country. In naming the officer 
who was to take command of the party lately led by Col, 
Knowlton, he declared that the gallant officer who had yes- 
terday fallen while gloriously fighting would have done honor 
to any country. The order concluded with a rebuke to the 
inferior officers, whose ill-advised attention to unauthorized 
orders had interfered with the orders of the Commander-in- 
Chief and diminished their success. 

The name of LEITCH was given by Washington for the 
next day's parole — a grateful tribute to the wounded officer, 
who lingered till the 1st of October, and for the countersign, 
with similar significance, was given " Virginia." 

Col. Knowlton — whose grandson we cordially welcome on 
this occasion — was the favorite officer of Gen. Putnam. He 
had distinguished himself, with Prescott, in fortifying Bun- 
ker Hill and in holding the British at bay ; in Trumbull's 
historic painting he stands almost alone, " the hero of the rail 
fence," without coat or hat, grasping his bayonetless musket. 
He became the trusted officer of Washington, and was de- 
puted by the Commander-in-Chief to head a difficult night 
expedition to Charlestown, which he managed with entire 
success. He was buried by order of Washington within the 
lines, and Leitch was presently buried by his side ; what fitter 

30 Commemorative Oration. 

time than this, our Centennial anniversary, could a grateful 
people select for the erection of a monument to their 
memory ? 

The result of the engagement which, commencing as a skir- 
mish of outposts, had assumed at its close such large dimen- 
sions that from four to five thousand troops were estimated to be 
engaged on either side, had signally accomplished the design 
of Washington to recover the military ardor of his troops. 
It was; as Irving remarks in his Life of Washington , "The 
first gleam of success in the campaign." The importance 
attributed to it by Washington appears from the accounts 
w r ritten by him to the President of Congress ; to the Conven- 
tion of New York ; to Gov. Henry, Gov. Trumbull, Gen. 
Schuyler, and his brothers Lund and John Augustine. To 
Gen. Schuyler he said, " Our men behaved with great 
bravery, and being supported by fresh troops, beat the 
enemy fairly from the field." 

General Greene, who at a later day, wrote of this his first 
close fight, "I fought hard at Harlem," said, on the 4th 
October, in a detailed account of the action: " Had all the 
Colonies good officers there is no danger of the Troops ; 
never were troops that would stand in the field longer than 
the American soldiery. If the officers were as good as the 
men, and had only a few months to form the troops by dis- 
cipline, America might bid defiance to the whole world." 

Gen. George Clinton concluded his narrative of the battle 
to the New York Convention, with the remark: "I con- 
sider our success in this small affair at this time almost equal 
to a victory. It has animated our troops, given them new 
spirits, and erased every bad impression the retreat from 
Long Island, etc., had left on their minds. They find they 
are able with inferior numbers to drive the enemy — and 
think of nothing now but conquest." 

This success following immediately the unfortunate affair 
of Kip's Bay — in which, as was remarked by Heath, the 
officers at least knew that the city was to be abandoned, — 
warranted the opinion which Greene, who soon became the 
first military authority in America, expressed of those stay- 

Commemorative Oration. 31 

ing qualities of the American soldier, which in our day have 
been recognized by high authorities in Great Britain. 

The late distinguished Col. Charles Chesney, of the Royal 
Engineers, in a review of the interesting History of our Civil 
War by the Comte de Paris, referred to Malvern Hill as illus- 
trating " the truth which the world is slowly realizing, that 
the American soldier is most formidable when apparently 
defeated, and least subject to panic when retreating before a 
victorious enemy." 

The bugle blast of the morning that had seemed to Reed to 
liken the contest to a fox chase, had called forth a spirit and 
a policy which resulted in a double lesson of confidence to the 
Americans and of caution to the British. "They have ever 
since," wrote George Clinton on the 21st of September, "been 
exceedingly modest and quiet, not having even patrolling par- 
ties beyond their lines." The British for a time showed no 
desire to bring on the general engagement the American 
officers had believed to be impending, and which Wash- 
ington had been anxious to avoid on the policy recommended 
by our friends in Europe, and which accorded with his own 
conviction. So late as the 2d of October an American party 
of four thousand men gathered in without molestation the 
hay and corn in the Harlem Plains which each army had 
been watching and claiming as its own. 

The British order for the 17th, the day after the battle, 
while expressing the highest opinion of the bravery of the 
troops, who it remarked had yesterday beaten back a very 
superior body of the rebels, and returning thanks to the 
battalion, and the officers and men of the artillery that came 
to their support, expressed the disapproval by the Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the light company in pursuing the rebels 
without discretion, without support. 

No similar imprudence was committed on the part of the 
light infantry during the period of nearly four weeks that the 
two armies remained encamped at Harlem. A brief mention 
of the engagement is found in the Historic Record of the 
Forty-second Highlanders, with the remark, "This being 

32 Commemorative Oration. 

only an affair of outposts, no detailed account of it was given, 
but it was a well contested action." 

Stedman's History of the American War, says, that " the 
action was carried on by reinforcements on both sides and 
became very warm." It assumed that the Americans pos- 
sessed a great advantage from the circumstance of engaging 
within half a mile of their entrenched camp, where they could 
be supplied with fresh troops as often as the occasion required, 
and that victory nevertheless was on the part of the English, 
with a loss to the rebels of three hundred. For the true 
opinion of the affair entertained by Sir Henry Clinton, we are 
indebted to his own copy of Stedman's History, in which 
he had written on the margin of the passage pronouncing it a 
victory, "The ungovernable impetuosity of the light troops 
drew us into this scrape/' 

In recalling after the lapse of a century the battle of Har- 
lem Plains, and remembering the subsequent events of the 
war, we see how completely those events confirm his judg- 
ment of the importance of that day in restoring to the 
American army confidence and self-respect, in compelling the 
soldierly regard of their brave opponents, and in inducing on 
the part of the British commander that caution and dilatory 
policy which accorded with our plans and contributed to our 
success. Excellent as was the material of the English army, 
Washington's hasty levies were composed of men in no whit 
inferior, save in training, discipline, and equipment, for which 
time and opportunity were essential. 

It is true that the army of Sir William Howe, which was 
pronounced by Lord Chatham " the best appointed army 
that ever took the field," was composed of English and Scotch 
regiments, whose pluck and endurance have commanded the 
admiration of the world from generation to generation, 
as exhibited in Spain, at Waterloo, in India, and the Crimea. 
It is true that the Hessian regiments represented the hardy 
and warlike characteristics of its ancestral tribe, which, as 
Bancroft tells us, the Romans could never vanquish ; a nation 
of soldiers whose valor had been proven on the battle-fields 
of Europe, engaged in a former century by Venice against 
the Turks, and who had taken part in the siege of Athens. 

Commemorative Oration. 33 

But the army of Washington came of stock equally ac- 
customed to war and hardship, and they soon commanded 
respect no less for their courage than for their moral traits. 
Gen. Conway, a distinguished French officer, said to Dr. 
Rush, that the people of no other nation were so quickly 
transformed into soldiers as those of the United States. 
"Those men," said Lord Chatham, in December, 1777, after 
the surrender of Burgoyne, — "those men whom you called 
cowards, poltroons, runaways, and knaves, are become vic- 
torious over your veteran troops, and in the midst ofA^ictory 
and the flush of conquest have set ministers an example of 
moderation and magnaminity well worthy of imitation." 

In the American ranks were the descendants of Hol- 
landers and Walloons, who, in the Netherlands, had fought 
under the Prince of Orange against Philip of Spain and the 
Duke of Alva ; of Frenchmen who had served under Coligni 
and Henry of Navarre, whose kinsmen had fallen in the 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew's eve, or had passed through 
the siege of La Rochelle, waiting in vain for the assistance 
promised by Elizabeth and never brought by the Earl of 
Leicester. There were the descendants of those who had 
fought for Denmark against Tilly and Wallenstein, following 
the banner of the great Gustavus ; of the stout Englishmen 
who had battled for tht Parliamentarians at Naseby, and who 
had brought the King to the block at Whitehall ; of the Swiss 
who with pikes in their hands, and stirred by the horns of Uri 
and Unterwalden, had defended the freedom of the Cantons in 
the defiles of the Alps against the trained soldiers of Austria ; 
of the sturdy Burgers who had maintained against the Duke 
of Burgundy the liberties of Ghent and Liege ; of the heroes 
of different nationality but similar vigor who fought under 
Sobieski and saved Vienna from the Turks ; who stood with 
William of Orange or with the partisans of James at the 
Battle of the Boyne, which placed on firmer foundation the 
unity, strength, and freedom of Great Britain ; with the Dutch 
at La Hogue, or with that adventurous warrior, Charles the 
XII. of Sweden, against his victorious rival, Peter the Great 
of Russia. It might have been said of Washington's army as 

34 Commemorative Oration. 

was well said by the poet of the Centennial of the American 


" In one strong race all races here unite." 

It is, perhaps, natural that the philosophic results of such a 
mingling of the best blood of Europe in the American colo- 
nies should have been less appreciated in sections that were 
settled by a single race than in New York, whose cosmopoli- 
tan character recalls the fact that as early as 1643 eighteen 
languages were spoken in the New Netherlands. 

Most happily for our land, the colonies were gradually 
united under the common law and the free institutions of Eng- 
land, and their Teutonic, Celtic, and Latin accents were 
exchanged for the tongue of Shakespeare and of Milton. But 
the varied elements of nationality cannot for that reason be 
forgotten by the student if he would read aright American 
history and trace to its sources American character. How, 
for instance, could he ignore the fact that the New Nether- 
lands, under the influence of the Dutch and Huguenots, 
became a home for those seeking freedom of conscience 
on this continent, as Holland had been the refuge of the 
oppressed of Europe, and that the religious toleration of 
which the New Netherlands set the example was not fully 
enjoyed in New England till William of Orange, in whose 
veins was blended the blood of Maurice and of Coligni, ended 
by his veto the Massachusetts acts touching witchcraft, heresy, 
and blasphemy. 

It has been remarked of the study of history, and with 
reference to its unity, that the entire succession of men 
throughout the world should be regarded as one man always 
living and incessantly learning ; in this view to how wide 
a field of education, and through what ages of training in the 
varied schools of Europe, may be traced the course of Ameri- 
can culture. 

There is another interesting thought suggested by the pro- 
gress of light which has been developed in England by Mr. 
Froude, and in France by M. Flammarion ; that to distant 
observers the events of years and ages that are gone may 
seem to be passing at the present moment. The light of 

Commemorative Oration. 35 

Sinus, for instance, takes nine years to reach us. il Could 
the inhabitants of Sirius," says Mr. Froude, in 1864, " see the 
earth at this moment they would see the English army in the 
trenches before Sebastopol and Florence Nightingdale watch- 
ing at Scutari over the wounded of Inkermann ;" and Flam- 
marion suggests that an inhabitant of the earth instantan- 
eously transported to Capella in 1872, and looking upon the 
stream of light reflected from our planet, could witness the 
bloody field of Waterloo. 

On a like hypothesis the unknown dwellers at further points 
might see passing before their eyes the battle which we com- 
memorate to-day, while yet more distant observers receding 
into space might follow the historic panorama of our planet 
through all the ages, not as a thing of the past but as in 
actual progress before their eyes. 

Misty as may be to us the more distant periods seen 
through the cloudy medium of imperfect annals, we may 
still trace the transatlantic sources of our varied civilization, 
which, as developed in this Western Continent in our hun- 
dredth birth year, make the American traveller, as he sets 
foot in parts of Europe, feel, as Ticknor said when he crossed 
the Pyrenees, " as if he had gone back two centuries in 

Whilst our progress has been respectable in the great ele- 
ments of civilization, sundry changes have been introduced into 
the theory and practice of our institutions since the days of 
Washington, for which Washington and his associates should 
not be held responsible. Among these changes are the ex- 
tension of the suffrage, especially in municipal affairs, with a 
total abandonment of the checks and guards provided by the 
wisdom of our fathers : and the substitution of popular elec- 
tion for gubernatorial or legislative appointment in the choice 
of those officials upon the excellence and purity of whose 
management depend the comfort, the good order, and the 
exact economy of our cities. 

Among the gravest questions presented by our centennial 
is the question how far those changes have tended to raise or 
to debase our moral standard ; how far it has diminished or 

36 Commemorative Oration. 

increased waste, mismanagement, and peculation ; how far they 
have lightened or augmented to rich and poor the burthens 
of taxation. Upon these points we look for light and a prac- 
tical solution from the able State Commission headed by Mr. 

Another radical change in the practical working of our 
popular institutions is exhibited in our existing machinery by 
means of caucuses, conventions, and committees for the regu- 
lation of the State and National elections ; a scheme outeide 
of the Constitution, and, as regards the choice of President, 
at variance with its intent, unsanctioned by law, and yet im- 
mediately affecting and deciding the elections provided for by 
law. It may deserve consideration how far this scheme, 
whatever its advantages, tends to facilitate the people in 
choosing candidates with the traits they require, or whether 
it tends to transfer the choice from the people to the managers, 
who might sometimes have views or interests adverse to those 
of the electors at large. 

Our safety and welfare depend upon the intelligent and 
patriotic exercise by the people of the sovereign power. 
France has taught us that a plebiscite may be invoked to sus- 
tain imperialism ; and from Europe comes the suggestion that 
with all our democratic forms we know something of the 
despotism of oligarchies ; and that despite the boasted virtue 
and cleverness of our people, they are more exposed than 
Europeans themselves to official imbecility and corruption. 

The example of Washington, whether at the head of the 
army or in the chair of State, stands alone in history, and there 
is scarcely an event in our annals in which that stately figure 
is conspicuous, from which we may not learn a lesson. 

Should the opening century have in store for you as the 
sovereigns of the land, trials or difficulties like those which 
Washington encountered at Kip's Bay ; should you chance 
upon emergencies calling for the highest courage and devotion 
to protect the honor of the country, and should you, finding 
cowardice and treachery where you looked for bravery and 
truth, be moved to exclaim, " Are these the men with whom 

Commemorative Oration. 37 

we are to defend America ? " learn from the action of the 
Father of his Country, as he rode down those heights and 
looked upon those plains, how to inspire with courage your 
demoralized forces, and to wrest victory from defeat. 

Show no tenderness to those who betray their posts ; toler- 
ate no policy of silence, concealment, or condonement of acts 
derogatory to the national fame ; denounce openly each act 
of infamy ; threaten official death and public disgrace in your 
general orders against all who resist your instructions or who 
reflect dishonor on the Republic. But at the same tfme, like 
Washington, reanimate your forces : plan with skill your 
schemes for the discomfiture of the enemy : call forth your 
noblest sons from every college and academy, from the bar, 
the pulpit, and the press, as Washington deputed his most 
trusty officers — the Putnams, and Clintons, and Greenes, and 
Reeds — to accompany and direct the columns against the 
boastful foe advancing in open view, and sounding their 
bugles in derision. 

Let each man who through the coming century shall strive 
to defend our national heights against official corruption, 
whether it comes secrectly, in silence and in darkness, or in 
broad day, like an army with banners, — let each man feel as 
Washington taught his troops to feel, that behind him are the 
entrenchments of law and the Constitution, and a watchful, 
loyal, sustaining, and appreciative people. 

We have hastily glanced at the incidents of two days in the 
war of the revolution, and the rounding century will presently 
embrace in turn each chief event in that memorable struggle. 

As we reverently recall our colonial and revolutionary 
fathers in the council chamber and in the field, as we cling 
with affection and pride to the Republic which they found- 
ed, with its widened boundaries, its welded unity, its extend- 
ed freedom ; its relations peaceful with all the powers ; its in- 
fluence for popular rights ; common schools without sectarian- 
ism, and its separation of Church and State, felt in greater or 
less degree by all governments and by all peoples : the thought 
presses that upon us devolves the duty and the responsibility 
of preserving all that is excellent in their work, all that is 

38 Commemorative Oration. 

noble in their political standard, all that is heroic in their 

Even now, as we linger on the century that has closed, 01 
attempt to foreshadow that which has begun, the dignity, 
the purity, the stability of the Republic rests upon the honor 
of the generation of to-day, as it stands " a link in the chain 
of eternal order," between the generations that are past and 
those that are to come. 


From Morns House toM? Gowans Pass , 

Redurfioru>/'- < >iiitt/iier.<>M(ipZ>raTf7iyA ? bi>r/776 

CLCta* JJarradts iviltty tAe 
Americans and burned 
on their retreat. 

: tfu of Stater X fort, /ZTAariStJtr 


gen. washington to the president of congress. 

Headquarters, at Colonel Morris's House, 
i 6 September, 1776. 

On Saturday about sunset, six more of the enemy's ships, one or 
two of which were men-of-war, passed between Governor's Island and 
Red Hook, and went up the East River to the Station taken by those 
mentioned in my last. In half an hour I received two expresses, 
one from Colonel Sargent at Horen's Hook, giving an account that 
the enemy, to the amount of three or four thousand, had marched to 
the river, and were embarked for Barn or Montresor's Island where 
numbers of them were then encamped ; the other from General Mifflin, 
that uncommon and formidable movements were discovered among 
the enemy ; which being confirmed by the scouts I had sent out, 1 
proceeded to Haerlem, where it was supposed, or at Morrisania oppo- 
site to it, the principal attempt to land would be made. However, 
nothing remarkable happened that night ; but in the morning they 
began their operations. Three ships of war came up the North River 
as high as Bloomingdale, which put a total stop to the removal, by 
water of any more of our provision ; and about eleven o'clock those 
in the East River began a most severe and heavy cannonade, to scour 
the grounds, and cover the landing of their troops between Turtle 
Bay and the city, where breastworks had been thrown up to oppose 

As soon as I heard the firing, I rode with all possible despatch 
towards the place of landing, when to my great surprise and mortifica- 
tion, I found the troops that had been posted in the lines retreating 
with the utmost precipitation, and those ordered to support them 
(Parsons's and Fellows's brigades) flying in every direction, and in the 
greatest confusion, notwithstanding the exertions of their generals to 
form them. I used every means in my power to rally and get them 

40 Appendix. 

into some order ; but my attempts were fruitless and ineffectual ; 
and on the appearance of a small party of the enemy, not more than 
sixty or seventy, their disorder increased, and they ran away in the 
greatest confusion, without firing a single shot. 

Finding that no confidence was to be placed in these brigades, 
and apprehending that another party of the enemy might pass over 
to Haerlem Plains and cut off the retreat to this place, I sent orders 
to secure the heights in the best manner with the troops that were 
stationed on and near them ; which being done, the retreat was 
effected with but little or no loss of men, though of a considerable 
part of our baggage, occasioned by this disgraceful and dastardly 
conduct. Most of our heavy cannon, and part of our stores and pro- 
visions, which we were about removing, were unavoidably left in the 
city, though every means, after it had been determined in council to 
evacuate the post, had been used to prevent it. We are now 
encamped with the main body of the army on the Heights of Haer- 
lem, where I should hope the enemy would meet with a defeat in 
case of an attack, if the generality of our troops would behave with 
tolerable bravery. But experience, to my extreme affliction, has 
convinced me that this is rather to be wished for than expected. 
However, I trust that there are many who will act like men, and 
show themselves worthy of the blessings of freedom. I have sent 
some reconnoitring parties to gain intelligence, if possible, of the dis- 
position of the enemy, and shall inform Congress of every material 
event by the earliest opportunity. 

[Writings of Washington, Vol. IV., p. 93.] 


Headquarters, at Coloimel Roger Morris's House, 
18, September 1776. 

As my letter of the 16th contained intelligence of an important 
nature, and such as might lead Congress to expect that the evacua- 
tion of New York and retreat to the Heights of Haerlem, in the 
manner they were made, would be succeeded by some other inter- 
esting event, I beg leave to inform them, that as yet nothing has 
been attempted upon a large and general plan of attack. About the 
time of the post's departure with my letter, the enemy appeared in 

Appendix, 41 

several large bodies upon the plains, about two and a half miles from 
hence. I rode down to our advanced posts, to put matters in a pro- 
per situation, if they should attempt to come on. When I arrived 
there I heard a firing, which, I was informed, was between a party of 
our Rangers under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Knowlton, 
and an advanced party of the enemy. Our men came in and told 
me, that the body of the enemy, who kept themselves concealed, 
consisted of about three hundred, as near as they could guess. I 
immediately ordered three companies of Colonel Weedon's regiment 
from Virginia, under the command of Major Leitch, an# Colonel 
Knowlton with his Rangers, composed of volunteers from different 
New England regiments, to try to get in their rear, while a disposi- 
tion was making as if to attack them in front, and thereby draw their 
whole attention that way. 

This took effect as I wished on the part of the enemy. On the 
appearance of our party in front, they immediately ran down the 
hill, and took possession of some fences and bushes, and a smart 
firing began, but at too great a distance to do much execution on either 
side. The parties under Colonel Knowlton and Major Leitch 
unluckily began their attack too soon, as it was rather in flank than 
in rear. In a little time Major Leitch was brought off wounded, 
having received three balls through his side ; and, in a short time 
after, Colonel Knowlton got a wound, which proved mortal. Their 
men however persevered, and continued the engagement with the 
greatest resolution. Finding that they wanted a support, I advanced 
part of Colonel Griffith's and Colonel Richardson's Maryland regi- 
ments, with some detachments from the Eastern regiments who were 
nearest the place of action. These troops charged the enemy with 
great intrepidity, and drove them from the wood into the plain, and 
were pushing them from thence, having silenced their fire in a great 
measure, when I judged it prudent to order a retreat, fearing the 
enemy, as I have since found was really the case, were sending a 
large body to support their party. 

Major Leitch, I am in hopes will recover; but Colonel Knowl- 
ton' s fall is much to be regretted, as that of a brave and good officer. 
We had about forty wounded ; the number of slain is not yet ascer- 
tained ; but it is very inconsiderable. By a sergeant, who deserted 
from the enemy and came in this morning, I find that their party was 
greater than I imagined. It consisted of the second battalion of 
Light Infantry, a battalion of the Royal Highlanders, and three com- 

42 Appendix. 

panies of Hessian Riflemen, under the command of Brigadier- 
General Leslie. The deserter reports that their loss in wounded 
and missing was eighty-nine, and eight killed. In the latter, his 
account is too small, as our people discovered and buried double 
that number. This affair I am in hopes, will be attended with 
many salutary consequences, as it seems to have greatly inspirited 
the whole of our troops. The sergeant further adds, that a consider- 
able body of men are now encamped from the East to the North 
Rivers, between the seven and eight mile-stones under the command 
of General Clinton. General Howe, he believes, has his quarters at 
Mr. Apthorp's house. 

P.S. — I should have wrote Congress by express before now, had 
I not expected the post every minute, which I flatter myself will 
be a sufficient apology for my delaying it. 

The late losses we have sustained in our baggage and camp necessa- 
ries, have added much to our distress, which was very great before. 
I must therefore take the liberty of requesting Congress to have for- 
warded, as soon as possible, such a supply of tents, blankets, camp- 
kettles, and other articles as can be collected ; we cannot be over- 

[Force's American Archives.] 

gen. washington to gen. schuyler. 

Headquarters, Colonel Roger Morris's, 

ten miles from New York, September 20, 1776. 

I clearly see, and have severely felt the ill effects of short inlist- 
ments, and have repeatedly given Congress my sentiments thereon. 
I believe they are by this time convinced that there is no opposing 
a standing, well-disciplined army, but by one upon the same plan ; 
and I hope, if this campaign does not put an end to this contest, 
they will put the army upon a different footing than what it has 
heretofore been. I shall take care to remind them that the terms 
for which De Haas's, Maxwell's, and Winds's regiments enlisted, 
expire the beginning of October ; but if they have not already 
thought of taking some steps to secure them a while longer, it will 
be too late, except the officers will exert themselves in prevailing on 
the men to stay until their places can be supplied by some means or 

Appendix. 43 

other. If the officers are spirited and well inclined, they may lead 
their men as they please. 

I removed my quarters to this place on Sunday last, it having 
been previously determined by a Council of General Officers on the 
preceding Thursday to evacuate New York. The reasons that prin- 
cipally weighed with them were, that from every information, and 
every movement of the enemy, it was clear that their attack was not 
meditated against the city ; their intent evidently was, to throw their 
whole army between part of ours in New York and its environs, and 
the remainder about King's Bridge, and thereby cut of£ our com- 
munication with each other and with the country. Indeed, their 
operations on Sunday last, fully satisfied the opinion of the Council, 
and the steps taken in consequence ; for on that morning they began 
their landing at Turtle Bay, and continued to throw over great num- 
bers of men from Long Island, and from Montressor's and Buchanan's 
[s lands, on which they had previously lodged them. As we had 
exerted ourselves in removing our sick and stores of every kind, after 
the measure of abandoning had been determined upon, very few 
things, and but three or four men, fell into the enemy's hands. 

On Monday last, we had a pretty sharp skirmish between two bat- 
talions of Light Infantry and Highlanders and three companies of 
Hessian Riflemen, commanded by Brigadier Leslie, and detachments 
from our army, under the command of Lieutenant- Colonel Knowlton, 
of Connecticut, and Major Leitch, of Virginia. The Colonel received 
a mortal wound, and the Major three balls through his body, but he 
is likely to do well. Their parties behaved with great bravery, and 
being supported with fresh troops, beat the enemy fairly from the 
field. Our loss, except in that of Colonel Knowlton, a most valu- 
able and gallant officer, is inconsiderable — that of the enemy, from 
accounts, between eighty and one hundred wounded, and fifteen or 
twenty killed. This little advantage has inspirited our troops pro- 
digiously ; they find that it only requires resolution and good officers 
to make an enemy (that they stood in too much dread of) give way. 

The British army lies encamped about two miles below us ; they 
are busy in bringing over their cannon and stores from Long Island, 
and we are putting ourselves in the best posture of defence that time 
and circumstances will admit of. 

[Force's American Archives.] j 

44 Appendix. 


Headquarters, at the Heights of Harlem, 
September 23, 1776. 

Sir : — Your favour of the 21st instant, enclosing the resolution of 
the Representatives of the State of New York, has come duly to 
hand, and will be properly attended to. I am exceedingly obliged 
by the readiness you declare you will pay to any commands which 
you may receive from me respecting the great cause in which we are 

The manoeuvres of the enemy, before their landing on Sunday last, 
were various and perplexing; however, about eight o'clock in the 
morning, they became extremely plain and obvious. At that time 
they began their operations by sending three ships of war up the 
North River as high as Bloomingdale, which put a stop to the remo- 
val of our stores by water ; and about eleven o'clock those in the 
East River began a constant and heavy cannonade for the purpose of 
scouring the grounds and covering the landing of their troops, where 
breastworks had been thrown up to oppose them. As soon as I 
heard the firing I immediately repaired to the place of landing, when, 
to my extreme astonishment, I discovered the troops, who were 
posted in the lines, retreating in the greatest disorder, and Parsons' s 
and Fellows' s brigades, who were directed to support them, retreat- 
ing in the greatest confusion, and without making the slightest oppo- 
sition, although only a small party of the enemy appeared in view. 
As I perceived no dependence could be reposed in these troops, 
and apprehending another impression might be made on the Harlem 
plains, by which means our retreat to this place might be cut off, 
I directed the heights to be secured, and our retreat was effected 
with little or no loss of men, though of a considerable part of the 
baggage, some of our heavy cannon and a part of our stores and 
provisions, which we were about removing, was unavoidably left in 
the city, though every means (after it had been determined in coun- 
cil to abandon the post) had been used to prevent it. 

On Monday morning last, several parties of the enemy appeared 
on the high grounds opposite to our heights, and some skirmishing 
had happened between our troops and those of the enemy. On 
reconnoitring their situation, I formed the design of cutting off such 
of them as had or might advance to the extremity of the wood. I 
accordingly ordered three companies of Virginia riflemen, under the 

Appendix. 45 

command of Major Leitch and Colonel Knowlton with his rangers to 
endeavour to get in their rear, while an apparent disposition was 
making as if to attack them in front. The enemy ran down the hill 
with great eagerness to attack the party in front ; but unluckily, from 
some mistake or misapprehension, the parties under Major Leitch 
and Colonel Knowlton began the fire on their flank instead of their 
rear. The Major was soon brought off the field wounded, and 
Col. Knowlton soon received a wound, of which he is since dead. 
Their men however behaved with the greatest resolution. Finding 
that they wanted assistance, I advanced part of Colonel Griffith's 
and Colonel Richardson's Maryland regiments, with some detach- 
ments of Eastern troops, who charged the enemy and drove them 
from the wood to the plain, and were still pursuing, when I judged 
it prudent to withdraw them, fearing the enemy might be sending a 
a large i enforcement to their troops which were engaged, which 
was the case, as I have since understood. A sergeant who deserted 
from the enemy has informed me their party was greater than 1 imag- 
ined ; as it consisted of the second battalion of Light Infantry, a bat- 
talion of Royal Highlanders, and three companies of Hessian Rifle- 
men under the command of General Leslie. Their loss, by his 
report amounted to eighty-nine wounded and missing, and eight 
killed ; in the latter his account is altogether imperfect, as our people 
discovered and buried double that number. I am in hopes this little 
success will be productive of salutary consequences, as our army 
seems to be greatly inspirited by it. 

[Correspondence N. Y. Provincial Congress, p. 217.] 


Headquarters, Heights of Harlem, 
October 5, 1776. 

Our retreat from Long Island, under the peculiar circumstances 
we then laboured, became an act of prudence and necessity, and the 
evacuation of New York was a consequence resulting from the other. 
Indeed, after we discovered the enemy instead of making an attack 
upon the city were endeavouring (by means of their ships and supe- 
riour land force) either to intercept our retreat, by getting in our rear, 
or else by landing their forces between our divisions at King's Bridge, 

46 Appendix. 

and those in the town, to separate the one from the other, it became 
a matter of the last importance to alter the disposition of the army. 

These measures, however, although of the most evident utility, 
have been productive of some inconvenience ; the troops having 
become in some measure dispirited by these successive retreats, and 
which, I presume, has also been the case among several of our 
friends in the country. In order to recover that military ardour, 
which is of the utmost moment to an army, almost immediately on 
my arrival at this place I formed a design of cutting off some of the 
enemy's light troops, who, encouraged by their successes, had ad- 
vanced to the extremity of the high ground opposite to our present 
encampment. To effect this salutary purpose, Colonel Knowlton 
and Major Leitch were detached with parties of Riflemen and Rangers, 
to get in their rear, while a disposition was made as if to attack them 
in front. By some unhappy mistake, the fire was commenced from 
that quarter rather on their flank than in their rear, by which means 
though the enemy were defeated and pushed off the ground, yet they 
had an opportunity of retreating to their main body. This piece of 
success, though it tended greatly to inspire our troops with con- 
fidence, has been in some measure embittered by the loss of those 
two brave officers, who are dead of the wounds they received in the 
action. Since this skirmish except the affair at Montressor's Island, 
where Major Henly, another of our best officers was slain, there has 
been nothing of any material consequence. Indeed, the advantage 
obtained over the enemy's light troops might have been improved, 
perhaps, to a considerable extent, had we been in a proper situation 
to have made use of this favourable crisis, but a want of confidence 
in the generality of the troops has prevented me from availing my- 
self of that, and almost every other opportunity which has presented 

I own my fears that this must ever be the case when our depend- 
ence is placed on men inlisted for a few months, commanded by 
such officers as party or accident may have furnished, and on Militia, 
who, as soon as they are fairly fixed in the camp, are impatient to 
return to their own homes ; and who, from an utter disregard of all 
discipline and restraint among themselves, are but too apt to infuse 
the like spirit into others. The evils of short inlistments, and em- 
ploying militia to oppose against regular and well appointed troops, 
I strongly urged to Congress before the last army was engaged. In- 
deed, my own situation at Cambridge, about the close of the last 

Appendix. 47 

campaign, furnished the most striking example of the fatal tendency 
of such measures. I then clearly foresaw that such an armament 
as we had good reason to expect would be sent against us, could be 
opposed only by troops inlisted during the war, and where every 
action would add to their experience and improvement, and of whom, 
if they were unsuccessful in the beginning, a reasonable hope might 
be entertained that in time they would become as well acquainted 
with their business as their enemies. This method, I am convinced, 
would have been attended with every good consequence ; for, besides 
the Militia's being altogether unfit for the service when called into the 
field, we have discovered, from experience that they are lirach more 
expensive than any other kind of troops ; and that the war could 
have been conducted on more moderate terms by establishing a per- 
manent body of forces, who were equal to every contingency, than 
by calling in the Militia on imminent and pressing occasions. 

[Force's American Archives.] 


Heights near Kingsbridge, 
Sept. 17, 1776. 

I wrote you yesterday p r Post giving you an Account of our leav- 
ing New York. This had been determined on several Days ago — 
but the Removal of the Sick & many other Circumstances prevented 
its being done with that Expedition it ought to have been. Had 
the landing of the Enemy been delayed one Day longer we should 
have left them the City. But an unfortunate Idea took Place in the 
Mind of some of our Northern Generals that it might be defended 
or at least that some considerable Opposition might be made to the 
Landing — they undertook it — permitted the Enemy to land without 
even giving one Fire, could never be form'd but were drove by one 
Tenth of their Numbers — However as I gave you a particular 
Ace 1 , yesterday I need not repeat it — Just after I had sealed my 
Letter & sent it away, an Ace 1 , came that the Enemy were advanc- 
ing upon us in three large Columns — we have so many false Reports 
that I desired the General to permit me to go & discover what Truth 
there was in the Ace*. I accordingly went down to our most ad- 
vanced Guard & while I was talking with the Officer, the Enemy's 
advanced Guard fired upon us at a small Distance, our men behaved 

48 Appendix . 

well stood & re turn' d die Fire till overpowered by numbers they 
were obliged to retreat — the Enemy advanced upon us very fast 
I had not quitted a House 5 minutes before they were in Possession 
of it — Finding how things were going I went over to the General to 
get some support for the brave Fellows who had behaved so well — 
by the Time I got to him the Enemy appeared in open view & 
in the most insulting manner sounded their Bugle Horns as is usual 
after a Fox Chase. I never felt such a sensation before it seem'd 
to crown our Disgrace. The General was prevailed on to order 
over a Party to attack them & as I had been upon the Ground which 
no one else had it fell to me to conduct them — an unhappy Move- 
ment was made by a Reg*, of ours which had been ordered to amuse 
them while those I was with expected to take them in the Rear — but 
being diverted by this the Virginia Regim*. with which I was went 
another course finding there was no stopping them I went with 
them the new Way — & in a few Minutes our brave Fellows mounted 
up the Rocks & attacked them then they ran in Turn — each Party 
sent in more Succours so that at last it became a very considerable 
Engagement & Men fell on every side — however our Troops still 
press' d on drove the Enemy above a Mile & a half till the General 
ordered them to give over the Pursuit fearing the whole of the Ene- 
my's Army would advance upon them they retreated in very good 
order & I assure you it has given another Face of Things in our 
Army — the Men have recovered their Spirits & feel a Confidence 
which before they had quite lost — We have several Prisoners & have 
buried a considerable Number of their dead — our own Loss is also 
considerable — the Virginia Major (Leech) who went up first with me 
was wounded with 3 Shott in less than 3 Minutes — but our greatest 
Loss was a brave Officer from Connecticut whose Name & Spirit 
ought to be immortalized one Col Knowlton — I assisted him off & 
when gasping in the Agonies of Death all his Inquiry was if we had 
drove the Enemy. 

Be not alarm' d, my dear Creature when I tell you the Horse I 
rode received a Shot [just] behind his fore shoulder — it happened to 
be [one] taken from a Number on the Hill — Tho' [many fell] round 
me thank God I was not struck [by] a single Ball & I have the great 
Happiness [to know] that I have by getting the General to [direct a] 
Reinforcement to go over contributed in [some way] to the Benefit 
which may result from this [action]. When I speak of its Impor- 
tance I do not mean that I think the Enemy have suffered a Loss 

Appendix. 49 

which will affect their operations— but it has given Spirits to our 
Men that I hope they will now look the Enemy in the Face with 
Confidence— but alas our situation here must soon be a very distress- 
ing one if we do not receive much Relief in the Articles of stores, 
Provision, Forage & c . The Demands of a large Army are very 
great & we are in a very doubtful Condition on this Head. 
[Reed Papers, N. Y. Historical Society.] 


New York, Sept. 22. 1776. 
I have just received yours of the 20 th by which I imagine one of 
mine wrote the Day after the Engagement of the 17 th had not got 
to Hand wherein I gave you the particulars which I was able to do 
better than almost any other Person as I happened to be in it when 
it began & assisted in calling off our Troops — when they had pursued 
the Enemy as far as was thought proper. It hardly deserves the 
Name of a Battle, but as it was a Scene so different from what had 
happened the Day before it elevated our Troops very much & in 
that Respect has been of great Service It would take up too much 
Time & Paper to go into a minute Description of the whole Affair. 
The Substance is, that we had a Party out under a very brave Con- 
necticut officer Knowlton (who fell) watching the Motions of the 
Enemy — an Ace 1 was brought up that the Enemy was advancing 
upon us in 3 Columns — but as we had so often been deceived by 
these Reports — I went out to see what Truth there was in it — & fell 
in with the above Party — while I was talking with the Officer the 
Enemy advanced & the Firing began at about 50 Yards Distance 
as they were 10 to 1 ag* our Party we immediately retreated — I 
came off to the General & after some ^little Hesitation prevailed on 
him to let a Party go up — which as I had been on the Ground I led 
myself they were Virginia Troops commanded by a brave Officer 
Major Leech — I accordingly went with them but was unhappily 
thwarted in my Scheme by some Persons calling to the Troops & tak- 
ing them out of the Road I intended — however we went up both Men 
& Officers with great spirit — at the same Time some of our Troops 
on another Quarter moved up towards the Enemy & the Action 
began — Major Leech fell near me in a few Minutes with 3 Balls 

50 Appendix. 

through him but is likely to do well. Knowlton also fell mortally 
wounded I mounted him on my Horse & brought him off — In 
about 10 [minutes] our People pressing on with great Ardour the 
Enemy gave Way & left us the Ground which was strew' d pretty 
thick with dead chiefly of the Enemy tho it since turns out that 
our Loss is also considerable — The pursuit of a flying Enemy 
was so new a Scene that it was with Difficulty our Men could be 
brought to retreat — which they did in very good Order — we buried the 
Dead & brought off the wounded on both sides as far as our troops 
had pursued. We have since learned that the main Body of the 
Enemy was hastily advancing so that in all Probability there would 
have been a Reverse of Things if the Pursuit had not been given 
over as it was — You can hardly conceive the Change it made in 
our Army — I hope its Effects will be lasting — You will probably 
hear from other Quarters the double Escape I had — My own Horse 
not being at Hand I borrowed one from a young Philadelphian — he 
received a Shot just behind his fore Shoulder which narrowly missed 
my Leg. I am told that he is since dead — But the greatest was from 
one of our own Rascals who was running away, upon my driving 
him back a second Time he presented his Piece & snapp'd at me 
at about a Rod Distance — I seized a Piece from another Soldier 
& snapp'd at him — but he had the same good Luck. He has been 
since tried & is now under Sentence of Death — but I believe I 
must beg him off as after I found I could not get the Gun off, I 
wounded him in the Head & cut off his Thumb with my Hanger — I 
suppose many Persons will think it was rash & imprudent for Officers 
of our Rank to go into such an Action (Gen 1 Puttnam, Gen. Green, 
many of the General's family — M r Tilghman & e were in it) but it was 
really done to animate the Troops who were quite dispirited & would 
not go into Danger unless their officers led the Way. 

Our Situation is very much the same as it was — we are fortifying 
Ground naturally strong. The Enemy lay about 3 Miles from us — 
they have been very busy bringing over Cannon, & c from Long 
Island but we cannot learn what they intend. 

The Night before last there was a most dreadful Fire in the City 
but how it happened we are quite at a Loss — There was a Resolve of 
Congress against our injuring it, so that we neither set it on Fire or 
made any Preparations for the Purpose — Tho I make no Doubt it 
will be charged to us. 

[Reed Papers, N. Y. Historical Society.] 

Appendix. 5 1 


Kings Bridge, September 18, 1776. 

Since my last, many matters of Importance to the Public, and 
more particularly to this State, have taken place ; But I have been 
so Situated as neither to find Leisure or Opportunity of communica- 
ting them to Congress. I returned late last Night from the Com- 
mand of the Picquet or Advanced Party, in the Front of our Lines, 
and was just setting down to write to the Convention, and intended 
sending an Express, when I was favored with yours of Yesterday. 

About the middle of last Week it was determined, for many Rea- 
sons, to evacuate the City of New York ; and accordingly Orders 
were given for removing the Ordnance, Military, & other Stores 
from thence, which, by Sunday morning was nearly effected. On 
Saturday, four of the Enemy's large Ships passed by the City up the 
North River, and anchored near Greenage, and about as many 
more up the East River, which anchored in Turtle Bay ; and from 
the Movements of the Enemy on Long Island and the small Islands 
in the East River, we had great reason to apprehend they intended to 
make a Landing, and attack our Lines somewhere near the City. 
Our Army for some Days had been moving upwards this way, and 
encamping on the Heights, south-west of Co 11 . Morris's, where we 
intended to form Lines, and make our grand Stand. On Sunday 
morning the Enemy landed a very considerable Body of Troops, 
principally consisting of their Light Infantry & Grenadiers, near Turtle 
Bay, under Cover of a very heavy Cannonade from their Shipping, 
our Lines were but thinly manned as they were then intended only to 
secure a Retreat to the Rear of our Army, & unfortunately by such 
Troops as were so little disposed to stand in the way of Grape Shot 
that the main Body of them almost instantly retreated, nay, fled with- 
out a possibility of rallying them, tho' General Washington himself 
(who rid to the spot on hearing the Cannonade) with some other 
General Officers, exerted themselves to effect it. 

The Enemy, on Landing, immediately formed a Line across the 
Island, most of our People were luckily North of it, and joined the 
Army. Those few that were in the City crossed the River, chiefly to 
Powles-Hook, so that our loss in Men, Artillery, or Stores, is very 
inconsiderable. I don't believe it exceeds 100 Men, and I fancy 
most of them, from their Conduct, staid out of Choice. Before 

52 Appendix. 

Evening, the Enemy landed the main Body of their Army, took 
Possession of the City, & marched up the Island, & encamped on the 
Heights extending from McGown'sand the Black Horse to the North 

On Monday morning, about ten o' Clock, a party of the Enemy, 
consisting of Highlanders, Hessians, the Light Infantry, Grenadiers, 
and English Troops (Number uncertain) attack' d our advanc'd Party, 
commanded by Co 11 . Knowlton at Martje Davits Fly. They were 
opposed with spirit, and soon made to retreat to a clear Field, south- 
west of that about 200 paces, where they lodged themselves behind 
a Fence covered with Bushes our People attacked them in Turn, 
and caused them to retreat a second Time, leaving five dead on the 
Spot, we pursued them to a Buckwheat Field on the Top of a high 
Hill, distance about four hundred paces, where they received a con- 
siderable Reinforcement, with several Field Pieces, and there made 
a Stand a very brisk Action ensued at this Place, which continued 
about Two Hours our People at length worsted them a third Time, 
caused them to fall back into an Orchard, from thence across a 
Hollow, and up another Hill not far distant from their own Lines — 
A large Column of the Enemy's Army being at this Time discovered 
to be in motion, and the Ground we then occupied being rather 
disadvantageous a Retreat likewise, without bringing on a general 
Action, (which we did not think prudent to risk,) rather insecure, 
our party was therefore ordered in, and the Enemy was well con- 
tented to hold the last Ground we drove them to. 

We lost, on this occasion, Co 11 Knowlton a brave Officer & sixteen 
Privates, kill'd. Major Leech, from Virginia, and about Eight or ten 
subaltern Officers and Privates wounded. The Loss of the Enemy is 
uncertain. They carried their Dead and wounded off, in and soon 
after the Action ; but we have good Evidence of their having up- 
wards of 60 kill'd, & violent presumption of 100. The Action, in the 
whole, lasted ab* 4 Hours. 

I consider our Success in this small affair, at this Time, almost 
equal to a Victory. It has animated our Troops, gave them new 
Spirits, and erazed every bad Impression, the Retreat from Long 
Island, &c. had left on their minds, they find they are able, with 
inferior Numbers, to drive their Enemy, and think of nothing now 
but Conquest. 

Since the above affair, nothing material has happened the Enemy 
keep close to their Lines. Our advanc'd Parties continue at their 

Appendix. 53 

former Station. We are daily throwing up Works to prevent the 

Enemy advancing ; great attention is paid to Fort Washington, the 

Posts opposite to it on the Jersey Shore, & the Obstructions in 

the River which, I have reason to believe, is already effectual, so 

as to prevent their Shipping passing ; however, it is intended still to 

add to them, as it is of the utmost consequence to keep the Enemy 

below us. 

[Miscellaneous MSS., N. Y. Historical Society.] 



King's Bridge 21st. Sept. 1776. 

I have been so hurried & Fatigued out of the ordinary way of my 
Duty by the removal of our Army from New York & great Part of 
the public stores to this Place that it has almost worn me out tho' as 
to Health I am well as usual ; but how my Constitution has been able 
to stand lying out several Nights in the Open Air & exposed to Rain 
is almost a Miracle to me — Whom at Home the least Wet indeed 
some Times the Change of Weather almost laid me up. 

The Evacuation of the City I suppose has much alarmed the 
Country. It was judged untenable in Council of Gen 1 Officers con- 
sidering the Enemy possessed of Long-Island &c, and was therefore 
advised to be evacuated. The Artillery (at least all worth moving) & 
almost all the public stores were removed out of it so that when 
the Enemy landed & attacked our Lines near the City we had but 
few Men there (those indeed did not behave well) our Loss however 
by our Retreat from there either in Men or Stores is very inconsider- 
able. I would not be understood that it is my Opinion to evacuate 
the City neither do I mean now to condemn the Measure it is 
done intended for the best I am certain. 

The same Day the Enemy possessed themselves of the City, to 
wit, last Sunday they landed the Main Body of their Army & en- 
camped on York Island across about the Eight Mile Stone & between 
that & the four Mile Stone. Our Army at least one Division of it 
lay at Col° Morris's & so southward to near the Hollow Way which 
runs across from Harlem Flat to the North River at Matje Davit's 
Fly. About halfway between which two Places our Lines run across 
the River which indeed at that Time were only began but are now in 
a very defensible state. On Monday Morning the Enemy attacked 

54 Appendix. 

our Advanced Party Commanded by Col° Knowlton (a brave Officer 
who was killed in the Action) near the Point of Matje Davit's Fly 
the Fire was very brisk on both sides our People however soon drove 
them back into a Clear Field about 200 Paces South East of that 
where they lodged themselves behind a Fence covered with Bushes 
our People pursued them but being oblidged to stand exposed in the 
open Field or take a Fence at a Considerable Distance they pre- 
ferred the Latter it was indeed adviseable for we soon brought a 
Couple t>f Field Pieces to bear upon them which fairly put them to 
Flight with two Discharges only the Second Time our People pur- 
sued them closely to the Top of a Hill about 400 paces distant where 
they received a very Considerable Reinforcement & made their Sec- 
ond Stand Our People also had received a Considerable Rein- 
forcement, and at this Place a very brisk Action commenced which 
continued for near two Hours in which Time we drove the Enemy 
into a Neighbouring orchard from that across a Hollow & up another 
Hill not far Distant from their own Encampment, here we found the 
Ground rather Disadvantageous & a Retreat insecure we therefore 
thot proper not to pursue them any farther & retired to our first 
first Ground leaving the Enemy on the last Ground we drove them 
to — that Night I commanded the Right Wing of our advanced Party 
or Picket on the Ground the Action first began of which Col° Pawl- 
ing & Col° Nicoll's Regiment were part and next Day I sent a Party 
to bury our Dead. They found but 1 7. The Enemy removed theirs 
in the Night we found above 60 Places where dead Men had lay 
from Pudles of Blood & other appearances & at other Places frag- 
ments of Bandages & Lint. From the best Account our Loss killed 
& wounded is not much less than seventy seventeen of which only 
dead (this Account of our Loss exceeds what I mentioned in a Let- 
ter I wrote Home indeed at that Time I only had an account of the 
Dead — the Wounded were removed — 12 oclock M. Sunday two 
Deserters from on Board the Bruno Man of War lying at Morrisania 
say the Enemy had 300 killed on Monday last,) the Rest most likely 
do well & theirs is somewhere about 300 — upwards it is generally 
believed — Tho I was in the latter Part indeed almost the whole of 
the Action I did not think so many Men were engaged. It is with- 
out Doubt however they had out on the Occasion between 4 and 
5000 of their choicest Troops & expected to have drove us off 
the Island. They are greatly mortified at their Disappointment & 
have ever since been exceedingly modest & quiet not having even 

Appendix. 5 5 

patroling Parties beyond their Lines — I lay within a Mile of them 
the Night after the battle & never heard Men work harder I believe 
they thought we intended to pursue our Advantage & Attack them 
next Morning. 

If I only had a Pair of Pistols I coud I think have shot a Rascal 
or two I am sure I would at least have shot a puppy of an Officer I 
found slinking off in the heat of the Action. 

[N. Y. City during the American Revolution, published by the N. Y. Mercantile 
Library Association.] 



Camp at Harlem Heights, 
September 17. 1776. 

I suppose you have heard of the retreat from Long-Island, and the 
evacuation of New York. The retreats were both judicious and 
necessary, our numbers being very insufficient to hold such an extent 
of ground. His Excellency had proposed to evacuate the city and 
suburbs of New York some time before the enemy made their last 
landing, and had the Quartermaster-General been able to furnish the 
necessary wagons to remove the stores and baggage, the retreat 
would have been effected in good order, had the enemy delayed 
their landing twenty-four hours longer. Almost all the old standing 
regiment was drawn out of the city, in order to oppose the enemy at 
Hell-Gate, where they made an appearance of a very large body of 
troops, and movements as if they intended a landing. 

We made a miserable, disorderly retreat from New York, owing to 
the disorderly conduct of the Militia, who ran at the appearance of 
the enemy's advance guard ; this was General Fellows' s brigade. 
They struck a panick into the troops in the rear, and Fellows' s and 
Parson s's whole brigade ran away from about fifty men, and left his 
Excellency on the ground within eighty yards of the enemy, so vexed 
at the infamous conduct of the troops, that he sought death rather 
than life. 

The retreat was on the 14th of this instant, from New York ; most 
of the troops got off, but we lost a prodigious deal of baggage and 
stores. On the 16th we had a skirmish at Harlem Heights : a party 
of about a thousand came and attacked our advance post. They 
met with a very different kind of reception from what they did the 

56 Appendix. 

day before. The fire continued about an hour, and the enemy 
retreated ; our people pursued them, and by the spirited conduct of 
General Putnam and Colonel Reed the Adjutant General, our people 
advanced upon the plain ground without cover, and attacked them 
and drove them back. His Excellency sent and ordered a timely 
retreat to our advanced post, for he discovered or concluded the 
enemy would send a large reinforcement, as their main body lay near 
by. I was sick when the army retreated from Long Island, which 
by the by, was the best effected retreat I ever read or heard of, con- 
sidering the difficulty of the retreat. The Army now remains quiet, 
but expect an attack every day. Col. Varnum's and Col. Hitch- 
cock's regiments were in the last action, and behaved nobly, but 
neither of the Colonels was with them, both being absent — one sick, 
the other taking care of the sick. 

[Force's American Archives.] 


Headquarters, Septb r 18 th 177b. 
Monday morning an advanced party, Colonel Knowlton's regi- 
ment, was attacked by the enemy upon a height a little to the south- 
west of Days' s Tavern, and after opposing them bravely and being 
overpowered by their numbers they were forced to retreat, and the 
enemy advanced upon the top of the hill opposite to that which lies 
before Dayes's door, with a confidence of Success, and after rallying 
their men by a bugle horn and resting themselves a little while, they 
descended the hill with an intention to force our flanking party, 
which extended from the North river to the before mentioned hill, but 
they received so warm a fusilade from that flank and a party that 
went up the hill to flank them and cut off their retreat, that they 
were forced to give way. Their loss is something considerable, 
ours, about forty wounded and twelve killed. The impression it 
made upon the minds of our people is a most signal victory to us, 
and the defeat a considerable mortification to them. 

[From the original in possession of Harry M. Morris.] 

Appendix. 57 


Harlem Heights, 

17 Sept. 1776. 2 o'cl p.m. 

Yesterday at 7 o'clock in the morning we were alarmed with the 
sight of a considerable number of the enemy on the Plains below us 
about a mile distant. — Our Brigades which form a line across the 
Island where I am were immediately ordered under arms — but as the 
enemy did not immediately advance we grounded our arms & took 
spades & shovels & went to work & before night had thrown up lines 
across the Island — There was nothing before but three little redoubts 
in about a mile & we are at work this day in strengthening them. 
But yesterday a little before noon we heard a strong firing about half 
a mile below us in the woods near where we had two Brigades lying 
as an advanced guard. The enemy in a large body advanced in the 
woods a little before 12 o'cl & began a heavy fire on those two Bri- 
gades who maintained the fire obstinately for some time & then they 
were reinforced by several regiments & the fire continued very heavy 
from the musketry & from field pieces about two hours — in which 
time our people drove the regulars back from post to post about a 
mile & a half & then left them pretty well satisfied with their dinner 
since which they have been very quiet. Our loss on this occasion 
by the best information is about 25 killed & 40 or 50 wounded. The 
enemy by the best accounts have suffered much more than we. 

A prisoner we have I am told says that Genl. Howe himself com- 
manded the regular & Genl. Washington & Genl. Putnam were both 
with our Troops. They have found now that when we meet them on 
equal ground we are not a set of people that will run from them — 
but that they have now had a pretty good drubbing, tho' this was an 
action between but a small party of the army. 

[Notes to Jones's History of New York during the American Revolution, now 
in press for the N. Y. Historical Society.] 


Heights of Harlem, 8 miles from N. York, Sept. 23, 1776. 
The affair of last Monday has had some good consequences toward 
raising the peoples spirits — they find that if they stick to these mighty 
men they will run as fast as other people. Our people pursued them 

58 Appendix. 

nearly two miles — about 1,500 of our people engaged of the enemy 
about the same number viz., the 2d. Battalion light infantry, the 
Highlands or 42d. 6th Battalion of Grenadiers and some Hessians. 
The grounds on which we now possess are strong. I think we shall 
defend them — if we dont I hope God will punish us both in this World 
and the World to come if the fault is ours. 

[Knox Papers, N. Y. Historic Genealogical Society.] 


KlNGSBRIDGE, 19 th Sept r 1 776. 

Our Retreat from the City, you no Doubt must have heard of er'e 
this. This Phoenomenon took Place on Sunday Morn? last when our 
Brigade, who were the last in the City excepting the Guards marched 
to the lines back of Stuyvesants, where from the Movements of the 
Enemy it was evident was the determination for landing. — The Ene- 
my's Ships of War being drawn up in line of Battle parallel to the 
shore the Troops to the amount of about 4,000 being embarked in 
flat bottom Boats, and the Boats paraded — A Cannonade from the 
Ships began, which far exceeded my Ideas, and which seemed to 
infuse a Panic thro' the whole of our Troops, especially the Connec- 
ticut Troops who unfortunately were posted upon the left, where the 
Enemy landed without the least opposition ; for upon their near 
approach to the Shore these dastardly sons of Cowardice deserted 
their Lines & fled in the greatest Disorder & precipitature & I know 
not but I may venture to say Infected those upon the Right, who 
speedily copied their vile conduct & then pursued them in their 
flight. I am sorry to say that the Panic seized as well Officers (& 
those of distinction) as Men, in so much that it magnified the Num- 
ber of the Enemy to thrice the Reality & generated substances from 
their own shadows, which greatly assisted them in their flight to the 
Heights above Harlem. 

We are now in possession of the ground from the Heights of Har- 
lem to the Heights of West Chester, our advance Guard is posted a 
Mile from our Lines ; here it was that our brave and heroic Mary- 
landers, Virginians, &c. made a Noble & resolute stand against the 
Efforts of the Enemy on Monday the 16th drove them back, pur- 

Appendix. 59 

sued, and forced them to retire — The Conduct of our Troops on 
this occasion was so counter to that of some others the preceding 
Day as nearly to form a Counterprise. 

Our troops were in a most desponding Condition before, but now 
are in good spirits. 

P.S. In the action of the 16th we lost about 17 killed and I 
believe as many wounded. It is remarkable that all our killed were 
shot thro' the Head which induces the belief that they were first 
taken Prisoners & then massacred. — The Number of the Enemy 
killed and wounded is not yet known, but it is generally thought, 
they far exceed us. 

[Historical Magazine, Second Series, III., 33.] 


New Jersey. Fort Constitution, Sept. 23. 1776. 
I know you must be anxious for the certainty of events of which 
you can have at that distance but a confused account, as I was on 
the spot will endeavor to give you as Concise & Just account as pos- 
sible ; on the 15th Inst we evacuated New York & took all stores of 
every kind out of the City, and took Possession of the hights of Haer- 
lem eight miles from the City, the Enemy encamp' d about two miles 
from us; on the 16th the Enemy advanced and took Possession of a 
hight on our Right Flank ab l half a mile Distance with about 3000 
men, a Party from our Brigade of 150 men who turned out as 
Volunteers under the command of Lieut. Col° Crary of the Regm* 
I belong to were ordered out if possible to dispossess them, in about 
20 minutes the Engagement began with as terrible a fire as ever 1 
heard, when Orders came for the whole Brigade immediately to march 
to support the first detachment, the Brigade Consisted of ab l 900 
men, we immediately formed in front of the Enemy and march' d up 
in good order through their fire, which was incessant till within 70 
yards, when we Engaged them in that situation, we engaged them for 
one hour and eight minits, when the Enemy Broke & Ran, we pur- 
sued them to the next hights, when we were ordered to Retreat. 
Our loss does not exceed in killed and wounded twenty five men, 
the loss of the Enemy was very considerable but cannot be ascer- 
tained, as we observed them to carry of their dead and wounded the 
whole time of the Engagement, they left a Number of killed and 

6o Appendix. 

wounded on the Field of Battle & a great number of small Armes, 
the great Superiority of Numbers and every other advantage the 
Enemy had, when considered makes the Victory Glorious, and tho' 
but over a part of their Army yet the Consequences of it are at- 
tended with advantages very great, as they immediately quited the 
hights all round us and have not been troublesome since, our people 
behaved with the greatest Spirit, and the New England men have 
gained the first Lawrells. I received a slight wound in the Anckle 
at the first of the Engagement but never quited the Field during the 
Engagement. I'm now Ready to give them the second part when- 
ever they have an appetite, as I'm convinced whenever stir from their 
chips we shall drubb them. 

[N. E. Historical and Genealogical Register, XXX., 334.] 


New London, Sept 27. 
Last Monday the Enemy landed at New York, under Cover of 
their Shipping, when our whole Army retreated to this Place. As for 
myself I was out on a scouting Party as far as Hunt's Point — and on 
hearing the Cannon I immediately returned to the Regiment of Ran- 
gers, but too late to go the City — Well, on Monday Morning 
the General ordered us to go and take the Enemy's advanced 
Guard ; accordingly we set out just before Day, and found where 
they were ; at Day-brake we were discovered by the Enemy, who 
were 400 strong, and we were 120— they march'd up within six 
Rods of us, and there form'd to give us Battle which we were ready 
for ; and Colonel Knowlton gave Orders to fire, which we did, and 
stood theirs till we perceived they were getting their Flank-Guards 
round us. After giving them eight Rounds a Piece the Colonel gave 
Orders for Retreating, which we performed very well, without the Loss 
of a Man while Retreating, though we lost about 10 while in Action. 
We retreated two Miles and a Half and then made a Stand, and sent 
orT for a Reinforcement, which we soon received, and drove the Dogs 
near three Miles. — My poor Colonel, in the second Attack, was shot 
just by my Side, the Ball entered the small of his Back — I took hold 
of him, asked him if he was badly wounded ? he told me he was ; but, 
says he, I do not value my Life if we do but get the Day : I then 

Appendix. 6 1 

ordered two Men to carry him off. He desired me by all Means to 
keep up this Flank. He seemed as unconcern'd and calm as tho' 
nothing had happened to him. In the Spot where the Colonel was 
wounded, at least within 4 Rods round him, lay 15 or 16 of the 
Enemy dead, with 5 or 6 of our People. Several Deserters say we 
made great Havock among them. The next Day we went to bury 
our Dead, and found near a Dozen with their Heads split open by 
the Hessians. 

[Connecticut Gazette, Sept. 27, 1776.] 


We are now encamped between York and King's Bridge, on very 
advantageous heights, and have formed our lines from the North 
River to a Creek that makes out of the East River, running up to 
King's Bridge. 

Soon after we came to New York, there was a council held by the 
General Officers, and the question was put, whether New York was 
tenable against the King's forces. It was carried in the negative. 

Three days ago the whole of our troops evacuated New York ; 
and the day before yesterday the Kings troops landed about three 
miles below this, where there were two brigades stationed, who aban- 
doned their posts with precipitation. 

Yesterday morning the Regulars came within half a mile of our 
lines, and made a stand. A few of our scouts, who were out, 
attacked and drove them off. In two hours after, two thousand of 
them returned. Gen. Beall sent out three companies of Riflemen, 
under the command of Major Mantz, who attacked them. Immedi- 
ately Gen. Washington reinforced with the remainder of our brigade, 
together with Gen. Weedon's regiment from Virginia, Major Price's 
three independent companies, and one regiment of Rhode Islanders. 
Never did troops go to the field with more cheerfulness and alacrity ;. 
when there began a heavy fire on both sides. It continued about 
one hour, when our brave Southern troops dislodged them from their 
posts. The enemy rallied, and our men beat them the second time. 
They rallied again ; our troops drove them the third time, and were 
rushing on them, but the enemy had got on an eminence, and our 
troops were ordered to retreat, the General considering there might 

62 Appendix. 

be a large number of the enemy behind the hill concealed ; which 
was the case. We were informed by a prisoner that our men took, 
there were about eight or ten thousand concealed. 

From the number of the enemy that I saw lay on the field dead 
and wounded, I think their loss must be three or four times ours. 
I have not yet been able to get a full account of our loss, only of our 
brigade, which is as follows : Capt. Low wounded through both his 
thighs. Twelve privates wounded, and three missing. Major Leitch, 
of Col. Weedon's regiment received three balls through his belly. 
More is the pity, for never was a braver hero. He stood the field, 
with the greatest bravery, till the third shot, when he was obliged to 
fall. He appears to be in good spirits. The Doctors are of opin- 
ion that he will recover. Col. Knowlton from Boston, killed in the 
field who distinguished himself at Bunker's Hill, as well as in this 
engagement. He will be interred to-day with all the honours of war. 

From our present situation, it is firmly my opinion we shall give 
them a genteel drubbing, in case the Yankees will fight with as much 
spirit as the Southern troops. As near as I can collect, our loss, 
killed, and wounded, and taken, amounts to fifty men. We expect 
every hour that the general engagement will come on ; and if we 
prove successful, the campaign will be settled for this present year. 
Gen. Washington gave great applause to our Maryland troops, for 
their gallant behaviour yesterday. 

[Force's American Archives.] 


Camp of the Maryland Regulars, Head-Quarters, Oct. 12, 1776. 
General Washington [Sept. 15] expressly sent and drew our regi- 
ment from its brigade, to march down towards New York, to cover 
the retreat, and to defend the baggage, with direction to take posses- 
sion of an advantageous eminence near the enemy, upon the main 
road, where we remained under arms the best part of the day, till 
Sargent's brigade came in with their baggage, who were the last 
troops coming in, upon which the enemy divided their main body 
into two columns, one filing off on the North River, endeavoured to 
flank and surround us ; we had orders to retreat in good order, 
which was done, our corps getting within the lines a little after dusk. 

Appendix. 63 

The next day, about 1000 of them made an attempt upon our lines, 
and were first attacked by the brave Col. Knovvlton of New England, 
who lost his life in the action, and the Third Virginia Regiment, 
who were immediately joined by three independent companies under 
Major Price, and some part of the Maryland Flying Camp, who drove 
them back to their lines, it is supposed with the loss of 400 men killed 
and wounded ; our party had about 100 killed and wounded, of the 
former only 15. Since which we have been viewing each other at a 
distance, and strongly entrenching till the 9th of October, when three 
of their men-of-war passed up the North river above King's Bridge, 
under a heavy cannonade from our batteries, which has^ effectually 
cut off our communication, by water, with Albany. 

[Ridgeley's Annals of Annapolis, p. 261.] 


Camp near Kings Bridge, Sept r 18 th 1776. 
I have something worth telling you of what happened this week. 
Last Sunday the Enemy landed about 3 miles below us, and at the 
sight of 150 of them one brigade & a half of New England troops 
ran away in the most precipitated manner & chief of them lost their 
baggage ; if they had stood their ground they might have cut them 
off. But by their landing they surrounded many of our troops in 
York which had no time to get out But they have a strong fort 
near New York where they are & have 3 months provision & am- 
munition a plenty, & the commander declares that he will not sur- 
render while he has either. On Monday last the enemy thought to 
drive our troops farther, sallyed out & were attact by Major Mantz 
with the 3 rifle companys of our battalion under his command and 
Major Price with 3 of the independent companys of Maryland 
troops & 3 other companys of Maryland Flying Camp & a battalion 
of Virginians & some Northern troops the attack was very sharp on 
both sides for one hour & a half & then the enemy retreated one 
mile & a half to their lines — In all the action we lost but about 20 
men killed & about as many wounded — among the dead is one Col- 
onel of the Northern troops. The men all behaved with much 
bravery. In Capt Goods company there was but two men wounded, 

64 Appendix. 

Capt Reynolds one, Capt Grooh two, one of which is the blind Cup- 
pers son in Fredktown. The other learnt the hatters trade with 
Major Price, his wound is in the breast, the other on the back of his 
arm above the joint of his wrist & so down to his fingers, the bone is 
not broke Our Company lay out from our tents from Sunday morn- 
ing till Tuesday night 

[Historical Magazine, Second Series, I., 147.] 


Fort Washington, Sept. 18. 1776. 
We are now in a much more proper place for carrying on the war 
than when in New York, as the enemy's ships can now be of no 
service to them in attacking. The day before yesterday we had a 
proof of this, when a part of them attempted to force a passage 
through some woods, and to take possession of a number of heights, 
but were repulsed with loss by an equal if not inferiour body of our 
troops who behaved with as much bravery as men possibly could. 
[Shaw's Journals, p. 20.] 


Philadelphia, September 21. 1776. 
On this Day Week the Enemy landed a Body of forces at Turtle 
Bay (after a severe Cannonade from their Ships in the East River to 
scour the Country and cover their Landing) our Troops posted in 
Lines thrown up to oppose their Landing abandoned them at the 
first appearance of the Enemy, in the utmost precipitation and Con- 
fusion : Two Brigades, commanded by Generals Parsons and Fel- 
lows, were ordered to support them, they also fled in every Direc- 
tion, without firing a single Shot, notwithstanding the Exertions of 
their Generals to form them, and oh, disgraceful, on the appearance 
of only about sixty or seventy of the Enemy ! by this infamous Con- 
duct We lost a great part of our Baggage and most of our heavy 
Cannon which had been left at N York — our army retreated, and 
possessed themselves of the Heights of Harlem ; our Headquar- 
ters at Roger Morris's house. On Monday last the Enemy appeared 
in the plains, 2J Miles from the Heights, about 400 under General 

Appendix. 65 

Leslie A Skirmish began between them and a Party of Volunteers 
from several New England regiments commanded by Col° Knolton. 
our People were supported by Companies from a Virginia Battalion 
and from two Militia Maryland Regiments. The Enemy were 
obliged to retreat, with the Loss of about 100 killed and prisoners- 
Col Knolton, a brave officer, was killed. Major Leitch of May d 
was wounded and despaired of. The Enemies main Army is now 
encamped between 7 and 8 Miles Stones General Howe's Head 
Quarters at one M r Apthorp's. 

[Gates Papers : N. Y. Historical Society.] 



Headquarters, i6 ,h September, 1776. 
(Parole, Beall) (Countersign, Maryland) 

The arrangement for this Night upon the heights commanding the 
the hollow way from the North River to the Main Road leading 
from New York to Kingsbridge. Gen. Clinton to form next to the 
North River, and extend to the left. Gen. Scott's Brigade next to 
Gen. Clinton's. Lieut. Col. Sayer of Col. Griffith's Regiment, with 
the three Companies intended for a reinforcement to day to form upon 
the left of Scott's Brigade. Gen. Nixon's & Col. Sergeants Division, 
Col. Weedon's & Major Price's Regiments, are to retire to their 
Quarters and refresh themselves, but to hold themselves in readiness 
to turn out at a minutes warning. Gen. McDougall to establish 
proper Guards against his Brigade upon the heights from Morris's 
House, to Gen. McDougalls Camp, to furnish proper Guards to pre 
vent a surprise, not less than twenty Men from each Regiment, Gen. 
Putnam commands upon the right flank to Night, Gen. Spencer from 
McDougall's Brigade up to Morris's House. Should the Enemy at- 
tempt to force the pass to-Night, Gen. Putnam is to apply to Gen. 
Spencer for a reinforcement. 

Headquarters, Sept. 17, 1776. 
(Parole, Leitch) (Countersign, Virginia) 

The General most heartily thanks the Troops commanded yester- 
day by Major Leitch, who first advanced on the Enemy, and the others 
who so resolutely supported them, the Behaviour Yesterday is such 
a Contrast to that of some Troops the day before, as must shew 

66 Appendix. 

what may be done where Officers and Soldiers will exert themselves. 
Once more therefore the General calls upon Officers and Men to act 
up to the Noble Cause in which they are engaged, and support the 
Honour and Liberties of their Country. 

The Gallant and brave Col. Knowlton who was an Honour to 
any Country, having fallen yesterday while gallantly fighting, Capt. 
Brown is to take the Command of the Party lately Commanded by 
Col. Knowlton ; Officers & Men are to obey him accordingly. 

The loss of the Enemy yesterday undoubtedly would have been 
much greater, if the orders of the Commander in Chief had not in 
some instance been contradicted by some inferior Officers, who, 
however well they may mean, ought not to presume to direct. It is 
therefore Ordered that no Officer Commanding a Party, and having 
received Orders from the Commander in Chief, depart from them 
without Counter Orders from the same Authority, and as many may 
otherwise err thro' ignorance, the Army is now acquainted that the 
General Orders are delivered by the Adjutant General, one of the 
Aid de Camps, Mr Tilghman, or Col. Moylan the Quartermaster 

[MS. Orderly Book, McDougalFs Brigade, N. Y. Historical Society.] 


Nov. 10, 1776. General Greene's letter 4th October speaking of 
the Enemy's Landing near Turtle Bay & tak'g possess 11 of the City 
ofN. Y. 15th Sept r . "The Panic that struck Gen. Fellows's & 
communicated itself to Gen. Parsons' Brigade disgraced the last 
Retreat. The 2 Brigades run away from about 40 or fifty men, and 
left Gen 1 Washington standing alone within an hundred yards of the 
Enemy. This disagreeable circumstance made the last Retreat very 
disgraceful. The Enemy next day at Harlem Heights, flushed with 
the successes of the day before approached and attacked our Lines, 
where I had the honor to command. The action or rather skirmish 
lasted about two hours : our people beat the Enemy off the Ground. 
Col. Varnum & Col. Hitchcocks Reg 1 behaved exceedingly spirited 
and all the officers that were with the Regiments. The Colonels 
were both absent. Had all the Colonies good officers, there is no 
danger of the Troops : never was Troops that would stand in the 

Appendix. 67 

Field longer than the American Soldiery. If the officers were as 
good as the men and had only a few months to form the troops by 
Discipline, America might bid Defiance to the whole World. Gen. 
Putnam and the Adj* General were in the Action and behaved 
nobly." End G. Green's Lett. 

It is said in Gen 1 Mifflins Lett, of abot 23 Oct. that a Deserter 
informs, a canon shot killed a Centinel and shattered Gen 1 Howes 
Leg so that his Life is doubtful. 

Extracts from Philad a Letters. Wm Ellery Esq " Phila Oct 5, 
1776. Gen 1 Mifflin told me that our men behaved bravely in the 
action (16 Sept) That we lost about one hundred killed and 
wounded and beat the Enemy from the field of Battle & the 
account he could rely on with about 400 killed and wounded." 

Phil* 21 Sept. "The Enemy's Party consisted of Two Battalions 
and three companies." 

Phil a Oct. 11. " Some of our people did, indeed run from the 
Enemy when they landed at Turtle Bay (Sept 15) — the very next 
day some of those very men fought gallantly. I have this from 
Gen. Mifflin & David Hopkins, who saw the Fight ; and they both 
agree in saying that the last (or best) account they could get & 
fr the appear" of the field of Battle the Enemy lost killed & wounded 
in that fight between 4 & five hundred men : and we had K. & W. 
the former says about 100, the latter says — not so many. Our 
troops drove them off the Field when the numbers on both sides were 
equal. — at present a defensive war seems to be the most prudent." 

Sept. 24 1776. This morning ar Report here at Dighton of a bat- 
tle at N. York last Wednesday. It came thus — One Clark of 
Swanzy returned there yesterday 23 Sept p.m. from Gov. Trumbll 
(to whom he had been sent on business about some Connecticut 
Fire Arms.) He says Gov. Trumbull read him his Sons Letter from 
N. York giving an acco* of an Action — that the Kings Troops 
chiefly Hessians marched out of the City and attacked us about 
half way between the City and Kings bridge ; that we fought and 
repulsed them ; a 2 d Battle since Evacu 11 of N. York. 

Sept 27, 1776. Last Evening a Post came into Taunton a letter 
from L* Ephraim Crossman to his father — dated N. York almost to 
Kings bri'ge Sept 17 (N. B. tuesday) 1776 — * * * * "They 
attacked us next day (I suppose mondy 16 Sept) & I turned out 
volunteer & followed them and we won the ground drove them till 
they brought their ships to bear on us, and the grape shot flew thick 



eno' for once But very few in our Company or Brigade has got a rag 
but what they have on" (Having thrown away everything in the 
Rout of the day before). 

Oct. 18, 1776. When I was at Fairfield I saw Sloss Hobart Esq 
a sensible Gent. & a member of the New York Convention. He 
gave me the following draught of the Action of O 16 Sept which 
began near the 14 m Stone & ended at the 8 m Stone. 


/>? \\Q/oM. 

? i 






A. The North Side of a Hollow way where the Action began. 

B. Fence, behind which the Enemy rallied the first time. 

C. Fence, from whence our People attacked the Enemy at B. 150 yards apart. 

D. No Field pieces, but Virginia Detachmt enfiladed the Enemy. 

E. Buckwheat field, where the Enemy rallied a Second time & an action ensued 
for i£ hour when the Enemy fled and attempting to rally in an orchard at. 

F. Were so closely pursued, that they stood but a few minutes when the Rout 
became general. 

Appendix. 69 

We have two General Clinton's in our Army. From one of them 
who was in the Action Mr. Hobart received the account. Gen. 
Putnam & Gen. Greene commanded in the Action with about 15 to 
eighteen hundred men, the Enemy having in the Action from 30 to 
4500, Gen. Clinton & Gen. Mifflin were present in the Action as spec- 
tators. Gen. Clinton said he was ordered next day to bury the dead 
left on the field and buried 78 of the Enemy, the most of which fell 
in the Buckwheat Field. He judged we lost 120 killed & wounded 
— the Enemy 400 killed besides wounded : but phaps more probably 
less. Mr Hobart saw one who escaped from Harlem who told him 
that he counted 190 wounded of the Enemy in one barn & no in 
another, so 300 wounded & this not all. On the whole we fought 
well in this action. 

Oct. 9. 1776. Major Lamb of N. Y. is just returned from his 
Captivity * * * He also told me that an officer came on board 
on Lds'dy Evening (15 Sept) damming the Yankees for runaway 
cowards & storming that there was no chance to fight & get honor & 
rise — he was in the Monday Action also & came again on board O 
Evening cursing & damming the War, saying he had found the 
Americans would fight & that it would be impossible to conquer them. 


Philadelphia Oct r 11 th 1776. 

I saw General Mifflin lately, and he informed that in the fight 
the day after the enemy took possession of New York, by the best 
accounts he could get, and from the appearance of the field of battle, 
they lost between four and five hundred killed and wounded ; and 
that we lost about one hundred killed and wounded. In the first 
part of this account Jared Hopkins, son of the minister in Newport, 
who saw the fight, agrees with the General, but says, that he saw our 
killed and wounded, and that they were much short of that number. 
They both, too, agree that some of our men who had behaved 
shamefully the day before fought gallantly there, and that with equal 
numbers we drove the enemy from the field. I believe they think 
the Americans will fight notwithstanding we have retreated and 

General Washington, as I am told, played off a pretty manoeuvre 
the other day. Determined to remove the grain and the furniture 

70 Appendix. 

of the houses from Harlem, he drew out into the field a party of 
seventeen hundred. The enemy turned out as many. They 
approached within three hundred yards and looked at each other. 
While they were thus opposed front to front, our wagons carried oft 
the grain and furniture. When this was accomplished, both parties 
retired within their lines. It is said that our men preserved very 
good faces. It would be of use to draw out our men in battle array 
frequently, to let them look the enemy in the face, and have frequent 
skirmishes with them. 

[Force's American Archives.] 


" Yesterday morning eleven hundred men were ordered to parade 
at daylight, to bring off the corn, hay &c which lay on Harlem plains 
between the enemy and us. This property has lain for a fortnight 
past unmolested, both sides looking at it, and laying claim to it until 
to day, when it was brought off by us. A covering party were within 
musket shot of the enemy, but they made no other movements than 
to man their lines ; and three thousand of our man appearing, struck 
their tents, expecting an attack. Our fatigue party finished the busi- 
ness, and not a single shot was fired. These plains would afford an 
excellent field for a fight. I really expected an action, but the 
enemy declined it. 

[Freeman's Journal or N. H. Gazette, Oct. 22, 1776.] 


Sept. 16, 1776. On the Monday there was a tolerable skirmish 
between two battalions of light infantry and highlanders, and three 
companies of Hessian riflemen commanded by Brigadier Leslie, and 
detachments from the American army under the command of lieut. 
col. Knolton of Connecticut and major Leitch of Virginia. The 
colonel received a mortal wound, and the major three balls through 
his body, but is likely to do well. Their parties behaved with 
great bravery, and being supplied with fresh troops, beat the enemy 
fairly from the field. The loss of the Americans, except in col. 
Knolton, a most valuable and gallant officer, was inconsiderable ; 

Appendix. 7 1 

that of the enemy between 80 and 100 wounded, and 15 or 20 killed. 
This little advantage inspirited the Americans prodigiously. They 
found it required only resolution and good officers to make an enemy 
they stood too much in dread of, give way.* The men will fight if 
led on by good officers, and as certainly run away if commanded 
by scoundrels. Sunday was an instance of the last, and the next 
day a confirmation of the first assertion. On Sunday, the officers, 
instead of heading and leading the men on to attack the enemy 
when landing, where the first to scamper off. 


Sept. 15, 1776. Having taken possession of New York, Gen. 
Howe stationed a few troops in the town ; and, with the main body 
of his army, encamped on the island, near the American lines. His 
right was at Horen's Hook on the East river, and his left reached 
the North river near Bloomingdale ; so that his encampment extended 
quite across the island, which is, in this place scarcely two miles 
wide ; and both his flanks were covered by his ships. 

The strongest point of the American lines was at Kingsbridge, 
both sides of which had been carefully fortified. McGowan's Pass 
and Morris's Heights were also occupied in considerable force, and 
rendered capable of being defended against superior numbers. A 
strong detachment was posted in an entrenched camp on the heights 
Haerlem within about a mile and a half of the British lines. 

The present position of the armies favoured the views of the 
American General. He wished to habituate his soldiers, by a series 
of successful skirmishes, to meet the enemy in the field ; and he per- 
suaded himself that his detachments, knowing a strong intrenched 
camp to be immediately in their rear, would engage without appre- 
hension, would soon display their native courage, and would speedily 
regain the confidence they had lost. 

Opportunities to make the experiments he wished were soon 
afforded. The day after the retreat from New York, the British 
appeared {Sept. 16) in considerable force in the plains between the 
two camps ; and the General immediately rode to his advanced posts, 
in order to make in person such arrangements as this movement 

* Gen. Washington's letter to Gen. Gates. 

72 Appendix. 

might require. Soon after his arrival, Lieut Col. Knowlton of Con- 
necticut, who, at the head of a corps of rangers, had been skirmish- 
ing with this party, came in, and stated their numbers on conjecture 
at about 300 men, the main body being concealed in a wood. 

The General ordered Col Knowlton with his rangers, and Major 
Leitch with three companies of the third Virginia regiment, which 
had joined the army only the preceding day, to gain their rear, while 
he amused them with the appearance of making dispositions to attack 
their front. 

This' plan succeeded. The British ran eagerly down a hill, in 
order to possess themselves of some fences and bushes, which pre- 
sented an advantageous position against the party expected in front ; 
and a firing commenced — but at too great a distance to do any exe- 
cution. In the meantime Colonel Knowlton, not being precisely 
acquainted with their new position, made his attack rather on their 
flank than rear, and a warm action ensued. 

In a short time, Major Leitch, who had led the detachment with 
great intrepiditity, was brought off the ground mortally wounded, 
having received three balls through his body ; and soon after the gal- 
lant Colonel Knowlton also fell. Not discouraged by the loss of their 
field officers, the captains maintained their ground, and continued 
the action with great animation. The British were reinforced ; and 
General Washington ordered some detachments from the adjacent 
regiments of New England and Maryland, to the support of the Ameri- 
cans. Thus reinforced, they made a gallant charge, drove the enemy 
out of the wood into the plain, and were pressing him still farther, 
when the General content with the present advantage, called back 
his troops to their intrenchments.* 

In this sharp conflict, the loss of the Americans, in killed and 
wounded, did not exceed fifty men. The British lost more than 
double that number. But the real importance of the affair was 
derived from its operation on the spirits of the whole army. It was 
the first success they had obtained during this campaign ; and its 
influence was very discernible. To give it the more effect, the parole 
next day was Leitch ; and the General in his orders publicly thanked 
the troops under the command of that officer, who had first advanced 
on the enemy, and the others who had so resolutely supported them. 

* The author received the account of this skirmish from the Colonel of the third 
Virginia regiment, and from the Captains commanding the companies that were 

Appendix. 73 

He contrasted their conduct with that which had been exhibited the 
day before ; and the result, he said evidenced what might be done 
where officers and soldiers would exert themselves. Once more, 
therefore, he called upon them so to act, as not to disgrace the noble 
cause in which they were engaged. He appointed a successor to 
"the gallant and brave Colonel Knowlton who would," he said, 
u have been an honour to any country, and who had fallen gloriously, 
fighting at his post." 


Sept. 15*. About noon, the British landed at Kepps's Bay. They 
met with but small resistance, and pushed towards the city, of which 
they took possession in the afternoon. They availed themselves of 
some cannon and stores ; but their booty was not very great. Here 
the Americans, we are sorry to say, did not behave well ; and here it 
was, as fame hath said, that Gen. Washington threw his hat on the 
ground, and exclaimed, " Are these the men with which I am to 
defend America?" But several things may have weight here; — 
the wounds received on Long-Island were yet bleeding; and the 
officers, if not the men, knew that the city was not to be defended. 
Maj. Chapman was killed, and Brig. Maj. Wyllis was taken prisoner. 
A few others were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. The 
Americans retreated up the island ; and some few, who could not 
get out of the city that way, escaped in boats over to Paulus Hook, 
across the river. The house, in the fort at Horn's Hook, was set 
on fire by a shell, and burnt down. The fort was afterwards aban- 

Sept. 16 th . A little before noon, a smart skirmish happened on 
the heights west of Haerlem Plain, and south of Morris's house, 
between a party of Hessian Yagers, British Light-Infantry and High- 
landers, and the American riflemen and some other troops, which 
ended in favour of the latter. The troops fought well, on both sides, 
and gave great proof of their markmanship. The Americans had 
several officers killed and wounded ; among the former, Lieut. Col. 
Knoulton, of the Connecticut line, and Capt. Gleason, of Nixon's 
Massachusetts regiment, two excellent officers ; and Maj. Leech, of 
one of the southern regiments, a brave officer, was among the latter. 
This skirmish might have brought on a general action ; for both 

74 Appendix. 

armies were then within supporting distance of the troops which were 


Sept. 20, 1776. We have the information, that before our army 
evacuated the city of New York, General Howe's army landed, under 
cover of five ships of war, the British und Hessians in two separate 
divisions. So soon as this was announced to our Commander in 
Chief, by a heavy cannonade from the men of war, he instantly rode 
toward our lines, but he was astonished and mortified to find that the 
troops which had been posted there, and also two brigades which 
had been ordered to support them, were retreating in great confusion 
and disorder. He made every effort to rally them, but without suc- 
cess ; they were so panic struck that even the shadow of an enemy 
seemed to increase their precipitate flight. His Excellency, dis- 
tressed and enraged, drew his sword and snapped his pistols to check 
them ; but they continued their flight without firing a gun ; and the 
General, regardless of his own safety, was in so much hazard, that 
one of his attendants seized the reins, and gave his horse a different 

The following fact is of considerable interest. When retreating 
from New York, Major General Putnam, at the head of three thous- 
and five hundred continental troops, was in the rear, and the last 
that left the city. In order to avoid any of the enemy that might be 
advancing in the direct road to the city, he made choice of a road 
parallel with and contiguous to the North River, till he could arrive 
at a certain angle, whence another road would conduct him in such 
a direction as that he might form a junction with our army. It so 
happened that a body of about eight thousand British and Hessians 
were at the same moment advancing on the road, which would 
have brought them in immediate contact with General Putnam, before 
he could have reached the turn into the other road. Most fortu- 
nately, the British generals, seeing no prospect of engaging our 
troops, halted their own, and repaired to the house of Mr. Robert 
Murray, a quaker and friend of our cause ; Mrs. Murray treated them 
with cake and wine, and they were induced to tarry two hours or 
more, Governor Tryon frequently joking her about her American 
friends. By this happy incident, General Putnam, by continuing his 
march, escaped a recounter with a greatly superior force, which must 

Appendix. 75 

have proved fatal to his whole party. Ten minutes, it is said, would 
have been sufficient for the enemy to have secured the road at the 
turn, and entirely cut off General Putnam's retreat. It has since 
become almost a common saying among our officers, that Mrs. 
Murray saved this part of the American army. 


It was now November. I was on guard at a place distinguished 
by the appellation of The point of roeks, which skirted the road lead- 
ing to Kingsbridge. This was our most advanced picket towards 
New York, and only separated from that of the enemy by a valley 
a few hundred yards over. One stormy night I went for shelter to a 
deserted house on the low ground directly across the road about 
thirty or forty yards from our post — a deserter who was brought in 
who informed us that the house was a very unsafe situation as the 
British patroles passed very near it, and might very easily sweep 
us off. 


Head Quarters, York Island, Sept. 21, 1776. 

Mv Lord — I have the satisfaction to inform your Lordship of his 
Majesty's troops being in possession of the city of New York. 

Upon the rebels abandoning their lines at Brooklyn, the King's 
army moved from Bedford, leaving Lieut. Gen. Heister encamped 
upon the heights of Brooklyn with two brigades of Hessians, and 
one brigade of British at Bedford, and took five positions in the 
neighbourhood of Newtown, Bushwick, Hell Gate, and Flushing. 

The two islands of Montresor and Buchannan were occupied, and 
batteries raised against the enemy's work at Home's Hook, com- 
manding the passage at Hell Gate. 

On the 15th inst. in the morning three ships of war passed up the 
North River as far as Bloomingdale, to draw the enemy's attention 
to that side ; and the first division of troops consisting of the light 
infantry, the British reserve, the Hessian grenadiers and chasseurs, 
under the command of Lieut. Cren. Clinton, having with him Lieut. 
Gen. Earl Cornwallis, Major Gen. Vaughan, Brig. Gen. Leslie, and 
Colonel Donop, embarked at the head of New Town Creek, and 

y6 Appendix. 

landed about noon upon New York Island, three miles from the town, 
at a place called Kepp's Bay, under the fire of two forty gun ships 
and three frigates, viz. Phoenix, Roebuck, Orpheus, Carysfort, and 
Rose, Commodore Hotham having the direction of the ships and 

The rebels had troops in their works round Kepp's Bay ; but their 
attention being engaged in expectation of the King's troops landing 
at Stuyvesant's Cove, Horen's Hook, and at Harlem, which they had 
reason fo conclude, Kepp's Bay became only a secondary object of 
their care. The fire of the shipping being so well directed and so 
incessant, the enemy could not remain in their works, and the descent 
was made without the least opposition. The conduct of the officers 
of the navy do them much honor ; and the behaviour of the seamen 
belonging to the ships of war and transports employed to row the 
boats, was highly meritorious. Much praise in particular is due to 
the masters and men of six transports, that passed the town on the 
evening of the 14th under a heavy fire, being volunteers, to take 
troops on board for the more speedy disembarkation of the second 

The British immediately took post upon the commanding height 
of Inclenberg, and the Hessians moving towards New York, fell 
in with a body of the rebels that were retiring from Stuyvesant's 
Cove, some firing ensued, by which a Brigadier General, other offi- 
cers, and several men of the rebels were killed and wounded, with 
the loss of four men killed, and eight wounded on the part of the 
Hessians. As soon as the second embarkation was landed, the troops 
advanced towards a corps of the enemy upon a rising ground three 
miles from IncleVo^rg, towards Kings-bridge, having McGowan's 
pass in their rear, upon which they immediately retired to the main 
body of their army upon Morris's Height. The enemy having evac- 
uated New York soon after the army landed, a brigade took posses- 
sion of the works in the evening. The prisoners made in the course 
of this day were about 20 officers and 300 men. 

The position the King's army took, on the 15th in the evening, 
was with the right to Horen's Hook, and the left at the North River 
near to Bloomingdale ; the rebel army occupying the ground with 
extensive works on both sides of King's bridge, and a redoubt with 
cannon upon a height on the west side of the North River opposite 
to the Blue Bell, where the enemy have their principal work ; in 
which positions both armies still continue. 

Appendix. 77 

On the 1 6th in the morning a large party of the enemy having 
passed under cover of the woods near to the advanced posts of the 
army by way of Vanderwater's Height, the 2 d and 3 d battalions of 
light infantry, supported by the 42 nd regiment pushed forward, and drove 
them back to their entrenchments, from whence the enemy observ- 
ing they were not in force, attacked them with near 3000 men, which 
occasioned the march of the reserve with two field pieces, a bat- 
talion of Hessian grenadiers and a company of chasseurs, to prevent 
the corps engaged from being surrounded ; but the light infantry and 
42 nd regiment with the assistance of the chasseurs and field pieces 
repulsed the enemy with considerable loss, aud obliged them to retire 
within their works. The enemy's loss is not ascertained ; but from 
the accounts of deserters it is agreed, that they had not less than 300 
killed and wounded, and among them a colonel and a major killed. 
We had eight officers wounded most of them very slightly ; fourteen 
men killed and about 70 wounded. 

Maj. Gen. Vaughan was slightly wounded in the thigh on the 15 th 
by a random shot, as he was ascending the heights of Jnclenberg 
with the grenadiers ; and I have the pleasure of informing your Lord- 
ship that Lieut. Col. Monckton is so well recovered, he has been 
walking about some days. 

[Upcott Collection, IV., 410, N. Y. Historical Society.] 


Sept. 17, 1776. The Commander in Chief entertains the highest 
opinion of the bravery of the few troops that yesterday beat back a 
very superior body of the Rebels, and desires to return thanks to 
the Battalion and the officers and men of the Artillery that came 
to their support and disproves the conduct of the light company in 
pursuing the Rebels without proper discretion without support — 
expresses satisfaction at the behaviour of Gen. Clinton's troops who 
took possession of this Island on the 15th inst. 


After the escape of the enemy, active operations were resumed on 
the 15th of September; and the reserve, which the Royal High- 

78 Appendix. 

landers had rejoined after the action at Brooklyn, crossed over the 
island to New York, three miles above the town, and, after some 
opposition, took post on the heights. The landing being completed, 
the Highlanders and Hessians, who were ordered to advance to 
Bloomingdale, to intercept the enemy, now retreating from New 
York, fell in with and captured a corps of New England men and 
Virginians. That night the regiment lay on their arms, occasionally 
skirmishing with the enemy On the 16 th the light infantry were 
sent out-to dislodge a party of the enemy, which had taken posses- 
sion of a wood facing the left of the British. The action becoming 
warm towards the evening, and the enemy pushing on reinforce- 
ments, the Highlanders were sent to support the light infantry, 
when the Americans were quickly driven back to their entrench- 
ments. Perceiving that our force was small, they returned to the 
attack with 3000 men ; but these were likewise repulsed, with con- 
siderable loss. In this affair our loss was 14 killed, and 5 officers 
and 70 men wounded. 


Having completed the capture of Long Island, the army crossed 
the river in the middle of September ; the Royal Highlanders being 
with the leading division, landed above New York, and made a move- 
ment towards Bloomingdale, to intercept the retreating Americans, 
when a corps of Virginians and New England men were captured. 
The Highlanders passed the night under arms, occasionally skirmish- 
ing with the enemy ; and the commanding officer Major William Mur- 
ray, narrowly escaped being made prisoner. He was passing from 
the light infantry battalion, to the regiment, and was beset by an 
American officer and two soldiers, whom he kept at bay some time, 
but they eventually closed upon him and threw him down ; he was a 
stout man of great strength of arm, and he wrenched the sword out 
of the American officer's hand, and made so good use of it that his 
antagonists fled, before several men of the regiment, who heard the 
noise could come to his assistance. 

On the following day the regiment was ordered to support the light 
infantry engaged in a wood, and took part in driving a numerous body 
of Americans to their intrenchments. The enemy renewed the con- 
flict with augmented numbers, and sustained another repulse with 

Appendix. 79 

a severe loss in killed and wounded. This being only an affair of 
out-posts, no detailed account of it was given ; but it was a well- 
contested action. The Forty-second had one Serjeant and three 
rank and file killed ; Captains Duncan McPherson and John Mc- 
intosh, Ensign Alexander McKenzie (who died of his wounds), three 
Serjeants, one piper, two drummers, 47 rank and file wounded. 



After landing in York Island, we drove the Americans into their 
works beyond the eighth mile-stone from New York, and thus got 
possession of the best half of the island. We took post opposite to 
them, placed our picquets, borrowed a sheep, killed, cooked, and ate 
some of it, and then went up to sleep on a gate, which we took the 
liberty of throwing off its hinges, covering our feet with an American 
tent, for which we should have cut poles and pitched, had it not 
been so dark. Give me such living as we enjoy at present, such a 
hut and such company, and I would not care three farthings if we 
stayed all the winter, for though the mornings and evenings are 
cold, yet the sun is so hot as to oblige me to put up a blanket as 
a screen. Tell my best of mothers that my compass has been of the 
greatest use in enabling me to ascertain the proper aspects for our 
houses, and has gained me, in fine, the thanks of all parties. 

The 1 6th of September we were ordered to stand to our arms at 
eleven a.m. and were instantly trotted about three miles (without a 
halt to draw breath), to support a battalion of light infantry, which 
had imprudently advanced so far without support as to be in great 
danger of being cut off. This must have happened, but for our 
haste. So dangerous a quality is courage without prudence for its 
guide ; with it, how noble and respectable it makes the man. But to 
return to our narrative. The instant the front of our columns 
appeared, the enemy began to retire to their works, and our light 
infantry to the camp. On our return we were exposed to the fire of 
the Americans. A man in my company had his hat shot through 
nearly in the direction of my wound, but the ball merely raised the 
skin ; and in the battalion on our left a man was shot so dead when 
lying on the ground, that the next man did not perceive it, but when 
he got up to stand to his arms, kicked his comrade, thinking he was 

80 Appendix. 

asleep, and then found, to his great surprise that he was quite dead, 
a ball having entered under the ear, and very little blood having 
issued from it. 

Before we started in the morning, our dinner, consisting of a goose 
and piece of mutton had been put on the fire. The moment we 
marched, our domestic deposited the above named delicacies on a 
chaise, and followed us with it to our ground. When the fight was 
over, he again hung the goose to the fire, but the poor bird had been 
scarcely half done, when we were ordered to return to our station. 
There again we commenced cooking, and though without dish, plate, 
or knife did ample justice to our fare, which we washed down with 
bad rum and water, and then composed ourselves to rest on our 
friendly gate. Our baggage joined us the next day. 
[Lushington's Life of Lord Harris, p. 78.] 


About four days since the light infantry, who are the van of our 
army, pressed too gallantly upon a very superior body of the rebels, 
and drove them off, but with the loss of 125 killed and wounded. 
[Upcott Collection, IV., 391, N. Y. Historical Society.] 


On the morning of the 16th September, a detachment was sent 
out from the main body of the Americans to a wood facing the left 
flank of the English army. Three companies of our light infantry 
were dispatched to dislodge them. The enemy, with a seeming 
intention of retreating to the main body, retired into the interior 
parts of the wood, where they were reinforced by another detach- 
ment \ which made it necessary that the remainder of the light in- 
fantry, with the 42nd regiment should be sent to support the companies 
that were engaged. The action was carried on by reinforcements 
on both sides, and became very warm. The enemy, however, pos- 
sessed a great advantage from the circumstance of engaging within 
half a mile of their intrenched camp, whence they could be supplied 
with fresh troops as often as occasion required. Victory, neverthe- 

Appendix. 8 1 

less, was on the part of the loyalists ; and the Americans retreated 
with the loss of three hundred killed and wounded. 

Note. — Manuscript note by Sir Henry Clinton in his Copy of Stedman, now 
in the Library of John Carter Brown of Providence, R. I. : " The ungovernable 
impetuosity of the light troops drew us into this Scrape. C." 

ISLAND, JULY, 1 7 76. * 

Four Battalions of Light Infantry, commanded by Brig. Gen. 
Alexander Leslie. i st Battalion Major Thomas Musgrave. 2 d Bat- 
talion Major Turner Straubenzee. 3 d Battalion Major Hon. John 
Maitland. 4 th Battalion Major John Johnson. 

Corps de Reserve, commanded by Lieut. Gen. Earl Cornwallis, 
having under him Major Gen. Vaughan. 33 d Regiment Lieut. Col. 
James Webster. 42 d Royal Highlanders Lieut. Col. Thomas Stir- 
ling. i st Battalion of Grenadiers Lieut. Col. Hon. Henry Monck- 
ton. 2 d Battalion Lieut. Col. William Medows. 3 d Battalion Major 
James Marsh. 4th Battalion Major Charles Stuart. 

Corps of Artillery, commanded by Brig.-Gen. Cleavland. 
[Beatson's Military Memoirs of Great Britain, VI., 49.] 


On the 16th of September quite a brisk tight took place on York 
Island. The Americans on the morning of this day sent from their 
camp a strong detachment which came out of the wood and attacked 
our left wing. The second and third regiments of Light Infantry 
supported by the 42 d Regiment (Highlanders) moved out and 
drove the enemy back into their entrenchments. The latter did this 
intentionally to entice the pursuers deeper into the wood where a 
stronger division was already concealed for their support, computed 
at three thousand men. Gen. Leslie, who was in command of the 
British, soon encountered a severe resistance. Col. von Donop as 
well as the British Regiments next in line to him received orders to 
move up to their support ; the former moved up with his Yagers and 
the Grenadier battalion of Linsingen, while he sent off the two other 

82 Appendix. 

grenadier battalions of von Block and von Minnigerode to occupy 
the defile on the road to King's Bridge. 

The Yagers who swarmed forward soon came into a hot contest 
on Hoyland's Hill — when, however, the Linsingen battalion moved 
up to their support the Americans retired. The Yagers had eight 
wounded, among them Lt. Heinrichs. The Yagers and the bat- 
talions of Grenadiers bivouacked in the wood not far from Bloom- 
ingdale, and when the next morning the two other grenadier battalions 
came up Donop with his brigade encamped here. The Hessians 
here helped the British out of the mire. Donop, usually so modest, 
says in his report to General von Heister : 

" But for my Yagers, two Regiments of Highlanders and the 
British infantry would have all, perhaps, been captured, for they were 
attacked by a force four times their number ; and Gen. Leslie had 
made a great blunder in sending these brave fellows so far in ad- 
vance in the woods without support." 

On this occasion Capt s Wredon and Lorey especially distinguished 
themselves — the former went twenty paces in advance of the Yagers 
in the firing line, and the latter shot down the leader of the hostile 
battalion, upon which they turned their backs and fled. 

The enemy lost about three hundred killed and wounded, among 
whom were Colonel Knowlton and Major Leitch both of whom died 
soon after of their wounds. Our loss amounted to 14 dead and 78 
wounded — among the latter, 7 English officers.* 

[Translated from Die deutschen Hulfstruppen im nordamerikanischen Befreiung- 
skiiege, 1776 bis 1783. Von Max von Elking, corresponding member N. Y. His- 
torical Society.] 


In detached Camp near Hell Gate, 24 Sept. 1776. 
On the 16th (Sept) the enemy encamped before Fort Washington 
in pretty good order ; the left wing extending to Harlem. From 
Fort Washington an entrenchment to King's Bridge, by which they 
secured a further retreat under the protection of the said fort. The 
English Light Infantry advanced too quickly on the retreat of the 
enemy and at Bruckland Hill fell into an ambuscade of four thousand 

* From the Journal of General von Heister and the Diary of Captain von 

AppC7idix. 83 

men, and if the Grenadiers and especially the Hessian Yagers had 
not arrived in time to help them no one of these brave Light In- 
fantry would have escaped. They lost 70 dead and 200 wounded — 
the enemy must have lost very severely, because no Yager had any 
ammunition left, and all the Highlanders had fired their last shot. 
A lieutenant of the Yagers, Heinrichs, was wounded in the left side 
and also four Yagers. By the Parole of the 17 th Genl. Howe, notic- 
ing his satisfaction on the happy landing, found it necessary to recom- 
mend the corps under the command of General Leslie to be not 
only brave but more prudent. The British at Bloomingdale en- 
camped in two lines. Some of the enemy's baggage jmd waggons 
with flour were taken. 

[Translated from original MSS. in possession of Hon. George Bancroft.] 


New York Island, in the district of Harlem, 5 English miles from the City 
of New York, and 100 yards from Hornhogk on the East River, Sept. 18, 1776. 

Last Sunday (Sept 15) we landed under the thundering rattle of 
5 men-of-war, in flat boats from Long Island, on New York Island, 
about 4 miles from New York city. As skirmishers we usually 
formed the advance-guard, etc. Briefly ; in the afternoon this part 
of the island was ours. But just as we were about going into quar- 
ters, the rebels caused a new alarm, and we were obliged to turn out. 
I had the right wing of the out-posts; we marched towards King's 
Bridge, consequently I came close on the East River, which is lined 
with the finest houses. I had the pleasure of taking possession of all 
these houses, together with the hostile battery, where I found 5 can- 
nons ; the rebels all fled. All the houses were crammed with furni- 
ture, rural riches, and jewels ; the people however had all fled, and 
left their slaves behind. But the next day one proprietor after another 
came back and joyful tears of gratitude rolled down the faces of these 
formerly happy people, when they found again their houses, fruits, cat- 
tle, and all their furniture, and heard from one that I had merely taken 
possession for them, and delivered their property back to their hands. 

The next day the rebels 4000 men strong advanced against our 
out-posts, and we sustained a severe fire, until towards the afternoon, 
when they were driven away, as I afterwards heard ; for at one 
o'clock I was compelled to withdraw, as I was shot by a rifle-ball in 

84 Appendix. 

the left side of the breast 4 fingers distant from the heart. To whom 
could I more safely go, and who would receive me in a more friendly 
manner than they who had but yesterday called me their benefactor, 
their preserver ? As I do not like noise, now still less than ever ; 
I selected for myself, although I could have chosen palaces, a small 
house on the East River, to which the widow of a New York preacher, 
Oglyby, had fled with a numerous family of children and step-children. 
Not far distant was the house or rather the palace of her old father, 
who had a storehouse full of porcelain, wine, and brandy, but had 
lost nothing from it. 

All these people came back last evening ; and the emotion I felt 
on seeing mother and children, grandfather and grandchildren, &c. 
down to the black children of the slaves, hugging and kissing each 
other, so affected my wound, that I got a fever in the night. Not 
to be thought of are the flatteries the good people showered on me 
which I did not deserve, as I acted only according to orders. 

[Translated from Schlozer's Briefwechsel meist historischen und politischen 
Inhalts, Vol. II., Part vii., p. 99.] 







September 16, 1876. 

At a stated meeting of the New York Historical Society, held 
in its Hail on Tuesday evening, June 6, 1876, the President, Fred- 
eric de Peyster, in the chair — 

The Executive Committee submitted the following communication : 

The Executive Committee take leave to remind the Society of the approaching 
Centennial Aniversary of the Battle of Harlem Plains, fought on the 16th of Sep- 
tember, 1776. The action, though of minor importance, was one of the most 
brilliant exploits of the Revolutionary War. In a close conflict, the most cele- 
brated of the British regiments, after an unsuccessful effort to break the American 
lines, were repulsed and driven in confusion by the Continental troops. This suc- 
cess restored confidence to the patriot forces demoralized by the retreat from Long 
Island and the subsequent landing of the British at Kip's Bay. 

Such an incident in the annals of New York should not pass unnoticed in this 
year of historic commemoration, and it is fitting that this Society should formally 
celebrate the occasion in an appropriate manner. 

A special Committee on Celebrations has recently been appointed by the Execu- 
tive Committee, and authority is asked of the Society to carry out such programme 
as may be by them proposed. 

Mr. James W. Beekman, 2d Vice-President, after some remarks, 
submitted the following resolution, which was adopted : 

Resolved, That the communication of the Executive Committee be referred back 
to the same Committee, with power. 

Extract from the Minutes, 


Recording Secretary. 



of tup: 


Saturday, September 16, 1876. 

A special meeting of the New York Historical Society was this 
day held, pursuant to its order, to celebrate the One Hundredth Anni- 
versary of the action known as the Battle of Harlem Plains, fought 
on Monday, September 16th, 1776. To this meeting, on the heights 
of Bloomingdale, the crest of the hill overlooking Harlem Plains, 
between 117th and 119th streets, and the Ninth and Tenth avenues, 
the Governors of all States whose troops were engaged in the battle, 
our State and City officials, representative regiments of the city mili- 
tary, and numerous distinguished guests were invited. 

The proceedings were under the charge of a Committee of One 
Hundred of the members of the Society. The guests were received 
at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where a collation was provided, and were 
escorted by the officers of the Society to the ground, where platforms, 
gaily decorated with the Continental, Union, State, and City flags, 
were arranged for their reception. The ground, covered with tents, 
presented the appearance of an encampment, and from its elevated 
position commanding extensive views of the North and East Rivers, 
was visible from a great distance, presenting a scene of rare and 
animated beauty. 

The officers and their guests arrived upon the field at the appointed 

hour, three o'clock in the afternoon, and were closely followed by the 

Seventh Regiment, N. Y. S. Militia, who marched past to the position 

assigned them, where they halted in military formation. In their 


88 Commemoration of the 

rear a large tent had been set up where a generous lunch was pro- 
vided. At this moment there were not less than ten thousand people 
present, including a large number of ladies, for whom ample accom- 
modation in seats had been arranged, and the carriage enclosure was 
also full of gay equipages. 

The meeting was called to order by Frederic de Peyster, LL.D., 
the President of the Society, who introduced the Rev. Morgan Dix, 
D.D., Rector of Trinity Church, who invited the Divine blessing. 

Almighty God, Whose kingdom is everlasting, and Whose power is infinite : 
Have mercy upon all Thy people, and so rule their hearts, that they may above all 
things seek Thy honor and glory, and faithfully obey all in authority, according to 
Thy word and ordinance, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Almighty God, Who hast in all ages showed forth Thy power and mercy in the 
protection of every nation and people putting their sure trust in Thee : we yield 
Thee our unfeigned thanks and praise for all Thy public mercies, and more especi- 
ally for the signal and wonderful manifestations of Thy providence which we com- 
memorate this year. Wherefore, not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy 
Name be ascribed all honor and glory from generation to generation. 

Behold, O God our defender, and give peace in our time ; let the invincible 
defence of Thy power be the bulwark of Thy faithful people ; give us rest evermore 
from the storm of war, that we may continually serve Thee in all godly quietness 
and rejoice in giving praise to Thee, Who livest and reignest, Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghost, world without end. 

Our Father, Who art in heaven, f I allowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom 
come. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily 
bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against 
us. And lead us not into temptation ; But deliver us from evil : For Thine is the 
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen. 

The President, Mr. de Peyster, then addressed the meeting, intro- 
ducing the Hon. John Jay, the orator of the day. 

In the name of the New York Historical Society, of which I have the honor to 
be President, and in the exercise of my prerogative, I welcome you all this day to 
this memorable spot upon which was fought the action, the hundredth anniversary 
of which we are assembled to celebrate. Especially I welcome the distinguished 
officials from neighboring States, as well as of our own City, who grace the occa- 
sion with their presence, and the officers and men of the gallant Seventh Regiment, 
who have so cordially and patriotically responded to our invitation, and now clothe 
this peaceful scene with the bright panoply of war. 

We are standing upon the very ground where the hottest of the Battle of Harlem 
Plains was fought ; and from the crest of this hill we may see to the northward 
the Point of Rocks, and to the southward McGowan's Pass, whence the rival 
armies surveyed the field of contest, the struggle, the flight, and the victory. 

It is neither my purpose nor within the range of my duty to touch even lightly 

Battle of Harlem Pla ns. 89 

upon this historic theme; the battle and its consequences will be related to you by 
the distinguished gentleman whom the Society has selected as the orator of the 
day, whose name you will recognize as one familiar in New York annals. But I 
may call your attention to the fact, that this is the only day which we of New 
York may properly celebrate in this year of Centennial rejoicing, if we except the 
clay of our National Independence. But you and the orator of the day will par- 
don me, if I submit one historic reflection, and at the same time answer a not 
uncommon inquiry : Why does this great city, with its enormous population, 
celebrate an action which was after all rather a skirmish of outposts than in any 
true sense a battle ? Why dignify with military show, the raising of banners, and 
the assemblage of this mass of patriotic citizens an action which would seem at 
first sight worthy of hardly more than a village parade ? 

In the scale of history events are not measured by ordinary standards.^ They are 
great and memorable in proportion to their consequences. Montaigne, the pro- 
found observer, of whom it has been well said that he not only depended on 
the natural force of his own vast and penetrative powers, but that he made of 
all that he committed his own, referring to the extraordinary combat in which 
Leonidas with his immortal band defended the passes of his country, remarked that 
the four famous victories of Greece, the fairest the sun ever shone on— Salamis, 
Platea, Mycale, and Sicily, never opposed all their united glories to the single 
glory of Thermopylae. Yet, this battle — if battle it may be called, the glory of 
which still shines with undiminished lustre after the lapse of twenty three centuries, 
— was but the struggle of three hundred men ; the death roll of three hundred men 
and their gallant king, of whom our own Anthon (my dear personal friend), 
profound classical scholar, has observed, with a knowledge of Grecian character all 
his own, that " they no doubt considei"ed their persevering stand in the post en- 
trusted to them not as an act of high and heroic devotion, but of simple and indis- 
pensable duty." Looking upon the intelligent faces and martial forms of the gal- 
lant regiment, to whom not only our City and our State, but the whole country 
owes so heavy a debt of gratitude, I am forcibly reminded by this illustration of 
the ennobling sentiment that duty to country is the one distinguishing trait, em- 
bracing all other qualities in itself, of the true soldier. 

At the entrance of the pass of Thermopylae a monument stood in antiquity, 
bearing only the simple inscription : " Go, traveller, tell at Sparta that we died 
here in obedience to the laws." I do not propose to establish a comparison be- 
tween the action of Harlem Plains and the Spartan fight, save to claim for 
the one as for the other the glory of its consequences far out of proportion to its 
own immediate importance. The Persian hosts learned the lesson that Sparta 
might be annihilated, but never conquered, and the proud veterans of England 
and the continent, rudely awakened from their dream of easy conquest, on this 
our battle-field first saw the magnitude of their undertaking, and in their 
sharp repulse were made to know the temper and the character of the American 
soldier. A century has passed since the prudent voice of Washington recalled 
the troops, flushed with victory, from their eager pursuit of the flying foe. A 
hundred years — the little city which the patriots defended has overrun the island 
and climbed the very heights whereon they made their last stand, yet this spot, 
this ridge of hill and yonder plains are all unchanged. The rocks behind which 

90 Commemoration of the 

the flying troops sought shelter are still here to-day, and the grass still grows 
upon the rich plain below, while all around, northward and southward, east and 
west, stately buildings show the development of our city, a noble testimony to 
the wisdom of our fathers. The patriotic enthusiasm which beams upon me 
from this audience assures me that here at least there is no want of reverence for 
the past, or love for our country. Our country ! well may we exclaim with 
Cicero: "O! jus eximium nostras civitatis ! " (Oh! matchless right of our 
country !) All that we are and have is hers of right. 

I am glad that the narration of the events of September 16, 1776, has fallen to 
a son of New York — a gentleman who worthily upholds the honor of his ances- 
tral name — a grandson of that pure, patriotic, and elevated man, the friend of 
Washington, the first Chief-Justice of the United States, of whom Webster so 
beautifully said that when the ermine of justice fell on his shoulders it touched 
nothing less spotless than itself. I beg to introduce to you the Honorable John 

On the conclusion of the oration the Rev. Richard S. Storrs, 
D.D., rising to move a resolution of thanks, made the following 
remarks : 

Mr. President : — I rise to offer a resolution, which, I am glad to know, has 
already been anticipated in the judgment and the feeling of every one in this vast 
and most respectable assemblage who has been able to hear the admirable address 
to which we have been listening. We must all feel, I am sure, that it has been 
good to stand together upon these heights, consecrated by the courage and the 
devotion, and signalized by the success of a hundred years ago. If it be true, as 
has been said, as has been repeated in the address to which we have listened, that 
one could not stand at Iona without having his piety revived, or at Marathon with- 
out feeling a fresh glow of patriotic impulse, we must all agree that it is still better 
for us, American citizens, to stand where we are ; where no mere picture of distant 
or ancient battle has been engaging our thoughts ; where a fierce struggle, fought 
to a successful issue, became, as has been shown, a principal condition of our 
present, permanent, and glorious American liberty. We must rejoice that the 
defeat and the dismay, the massacre and the retreat of Brooklyn Heights gave 
place to the success and the victory of Harlem Plains. It is every way ennobling to 
stand upon these summits, where, through the enveloping murk and gloom, shone 
forth the transfiguring light of the wisdom and the courage of Washington and his 
comrades, and to be reminded of the precious blood by the shedding of which free- 
dom and hope were purchased for us. 

It is good to remember, too, as we have been told to-day, that not only the men 
whom history celebrates contributed to the success which we commemorate ; that a 
woman's hand turned the poised scales of destiny, and that to a woman's wit and 
patriotic courage was due the rescue of Putnam and his division from the troops of 
General Howe. We do not care to know henceforth the name " Incleberg ! " 
Let it sleep in the historic page ! Let it linger only amid the records which eager 
and patient eyes, like those of our orator, shall explore ! Let us rejoice that it 

Battle of Harlem Plains. 91 

has been swept from present American remembrance by the superseding name of 
that noble woman which shall cling as now to " Murray Hill," and make it her 
monument, while New York continues. Let us gratefully remember that to that 
bright woman, and to the soldiers whose escape she secured, we owe the liberties 
which we to-day enjoy and boast ! Let us not forget, as we go from these heights, 
that the artisan pursues his peaceful industry, because the soldier fought here be- 
fore him ; that this holiday assembly, these holiday flags, the commerce which seeks 
yonder liquid highways, on the right hand and the left ; all the manifold industries 
of the city and of the land ; these asylums, our churches and newspapers, our 
schools and courts, yonder splendid mansions, that beauteous pleasure ground — 
these all are now possible to us because the soldiers of a hundred years since stood 
fast and died in our behalf! And, as we remember this indebtedness \j/> the past, 
let us honor those who represent those soldiers in the present, with an equal readi- 
ness to do and to die ; and let us determine for ourselves, that each of us, by life 
and labor, will contribute in our peaceful individual ways, as far as it is given us 
to do it, to the furtherance of the liberty for which they died, the memory of whose 
sacrifice hallows this ground, to the maintenance of that Republican civilization to 
whose early beginnings their names and work still give renown ! 

Mr. President: We have been instructed by the careful and various know- 
ledge of our distinguished orator. We have been charmed by the vivid and pic- 
turesque grace with which he has unrolled before us this memorable panorama of 
battle. We have been quickened and inspired by his thoughtful and patriotic elo- 
quence. We shall all, I am sure, rejoice together that the Committee of Arrange- 
ments entrusted this office to one of whom it has already been well said that he 
worthily bears an illustrious name — a name which is so great an inheritance that it 
takes a good man and a strong man to bear it worthily ! And I know that I 
simply utter the feeling of all present, when, in behalf of the Society, which has 
done me the honor to count me among its honorary members, I offer the following 
resolution : 

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society be and are hereby tendered to the 
Honorable John Jay for his interesting and instructive address of this day, in 
commemoration of the historic event which took place on this spot a hundred 
years ago ; and that a copy be requested for publication. 

The Hon. James W. Keekman seconded the resolution. 

Mr. President : — In seconding the resolution which has just been so eloquently 
offered by the Rev. Dr. Storrs, I propose to point out, as a peculiar reason for 
its adoption, the justice done to New York by this celebration. 

I venture to claim for Manhattan more honor for patriotic devotion and courage 
than it has been usual to accord her. We are accustomed to hear the praises of 
New England ; and Bunker Hill has eclipsed in fame, by reason of its priority of 
occurrence, all the other considerable battles of the war of Independence. Yet 
New York began resistance to British aggression in the street battle of Golden 
Hill, at the corner of the present John and Pearl streets. The first blood of the 
American Revolution was there shed, on the iSth of January, 1770 (as has been 

92 Commemoration of the 

pointed out by the historian Dawson), two months before the famous "massacre " 
in King street, Boston, and five years and four months before the affair of Lexing- 
ton. Liberty of conscience, which was the later boast of Rhode Island and 
Maryland, always prevailed in New York from its foundation ; liberty of the 
press was maintained in the acquittal of John Peter Zenger, in 1745. In October, 
1764, New York appointed the first Committee of Correspondence, which was 
also the first step towards resistance and union, six years before Massachusetts, 
and nine years before Virgina imitated her example. When an attempt was made 
to put the Stamp Act in force, in 1765, the merchants of New York organized the 
non-importation agreement, and executed it faithfully. There was a tea-party 
here as well as in Boston ; but what was done there by a small body of men by 
night and under the disguise of Mohawks, was done here in broad daylight by the 
citizens in mass-meeting and without concealment. And when hostilities had 
commenced, New York overturned the King's authority in the city, and estab- 
lished a governing Committee of One Hundred, April 24th, 1775, long before such 
action was taken by any other colony or community in America. During that 
critical night, on which Washington withdrew his army silently across the East 
River, after the defeat on Brooklyn Heights, not a single spy was able to carry 
tidings of what was going on to the British on Long Island. The secret was 
kept by New York, and the patriot army was saved. 

On the spot where we now stand the first repulse of the war was sustained by the 
British arms. As we have just heard, the insulting bugle blast, the fox hunter's 
"gone away," given by the bugles of the enemy from the upper slope of this hill, 
as the dashing light infantry drove in our pickets, stung with shame the veteran 
officers, some of whom had seen service in the French war of 1756. The Com- 
mander-in-Chief seized the favorable moment to turn the retreat into success, and 
by a well-concerted move, to raise the morale of our troops disheartened by the 
precipitate flight of the preceding day. A rally of our men took place — of men 
from every colony — and the result was the repulse of the British, which we com- 
memorate now. The American arms had never before been successful : for Bunker 
Hill was a defeat — so was the battle of Long Island. Here was their first 

Although the battle of Harlem Plains has been called only a skirmish, its im- 
portance in a military sense was great. Had the British advance not been thus 
checked, the army of Independence would have been enveloped by superior 
numbers, Fort Washington and our incomplete defences captured, and our entire 
army destroyed. The British plans were very simple. They desired to cut off the 
New England from the other colonies, by seizing the passes of the Hudson, and to 
occupy Albany by an invasion from Canada. The success of the British campaign 
depended, therefore, upon the destruction of the army of Washington. By its 
grim and slow withdrawal into the Jerseys, time was gained to fortify the High- 
lands, and that severing of the colonies, which was aimed at, was finally made 
impossible by the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga in the next year. 

All this resulted from the cheering inspiration and hope which the joy of success 
gave to our forces at the battle of Harlem Plains. Wet, sick, disheartened by 
the retreat from Long Island, and by the rout at Kip's Bay, they learned here 
that British regulars were not invincible. 

Battle of Harlem Plains. 93 

I advocate most heartily, therefore, the adoption of the resolution of thanks to 
the orator, who has commemorated so worthily this eventful day. 

The question was put by the President, and the resolution un- 
animously adopted. 

Mr. John Austin Stevens, on behalf of the Committee on the 
Celebration, offered the following resolutions, which were unani- 
mously adopted : — 

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society be and are hereby tendered to His 
Excellency the Governor of the State of Rhode Island, and His Honor the Mayor 
of New York, for the signal honor they have done us this day by their presence 
on the battle-field where the sons of the sister colonies stood shoulder to shoulder 
with those of New York a century ago. 

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society be and are hereby tendered to the 
Reverend Clergy for their cordial and grateful presence on this occasion. 

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society be and are hereby tendered to the 
distinguished assemblage who have so cordially responded to its invitation, and are 
gathered here to unite with it in its commemoration of a day eventful in New York 
annals and glorious in the history of the struggle for Independence. 

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society and of this meeting be and are hereby 
tendered to the officers and gentlemen of the Seventh Regiment, New York State 
Militia, for their generous and patriotic response to the invitation of the Society 
to be present on this occasion, adding to its interest in a manner so conspicuous 
and so appropriate. 

Resolved, That the Society cheerfully acknowledge their obligations to the 
owners of the ground upon which this celebration is held, Messrs. Drexel and 
Olmstead, for its free use, and to Mr. Henry Tone, the present owner of the old 
De Peyster House, for the obliging manner in which he has placed it at the dispo- 
sition of the Committee of Arrangements. 

Rev. William Adams, D.D., pronounced a benediction — 

God save and bless our country ; enabling us, like our fathers, to "withstand 
in the evil day, and having done all to stand. " The blessing of Almightly God, 
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be with you all, now and for ever. 

The Society then adjourned. 


Recording Secretary. 

94 Commemoration of the 


From the New York Times of Sunday, September 17, 1870. 

" Another of the one hundred years old exploits of the Revolutionary War was 
commemorated yesterday on the high grounds of Harlem, lying between One 
Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-fifth streets and Ninth and 
Tenth Avenues. The event was historic, and was celebrated upon historic ground. 
The battle of Harlem Plains, as a battle, was on a comparatively small scale, but 
its value was positive and emphatic. It brought no actual disaster to the British 
arms — it resulted in a little more than a check to their pretensions — but it gave 
new ardor and confidence to the American troops, and removed the depression 
which since the battle of Long Island had brooded over the army. The story of 
the conflict was told by the orator of the day, and, therefore, it needs no recapi- 
tulation here. Suffice it to say that the trained veterans of Britain assailed the 
American position, were driven back by the raw levies of Washington, and re- 
treated from the field. But out of the slight conflict came a bolder bearing, an 
intrepidity of purpose, to the revolutionary soldiers. They had fought and con- 
quered, and might not the victory be multiplied? The day on which the battle 
was fought was the birthday of an ardor and energy which culminated in the 
loftiest triumph, and accordingly it was deemed worthy of commemoration. The 
Historical Society took the matter in hand, and drew the bright record of the time 
from the archives of the dead century. Success crowned their undertaking. The 
demonstration was unique, simple, and patriotic. Some of the best names in the 
country lent to it their prestige ; the people came to the celebration to the number 
of nearly five thousand ; the military were represented by the Seventh Regiment ; 
Rev. Drs. Storrs, Adams, and Dix were among the representatives of the clergy, 
and in all respects the conflict of a century ago was loyally commemorated. That 
a Marathon should fire the patriotism of one who stood upon the classic ground, 
or an Iona make his piety burn with a brighter ray, was the text of the hour, and 
it was well borne in mind by the assemblage. They stood, after all, on classic 
ground themselves, and they needed no better reminder of their loyalty. Beneath 
their eye lay ' a country well worth fighting for ' indeed. To the south was the 
great emporium of the country's commerce and industry ; its freighted argosies 
went by within their view on the waters of the East River and Long Island Sound ; 
the ground sloped away to the distant High Bridge on the north, and a little to 

Battle of Harlem Plains. 95 

the left they caught a glimpse of the noble Hudson and the Palisades through two 
dark-green clumps of woodland. All around was something to suggest historic 
memories. The yellow gable of the old De Peyster House, near which the battle 
of one hundred years ago was fought, was hard by, and on the broken ground in 
the valley stood the stone fence behind which the British had made their most 
desperate stand. It was the spot where the battle was most hotly waged. 

" The ceremonial of the day took place on the slope of the hill overlooking the 
Harlem Plains. A handsome stand had been erected for the members of the Soci- 
ety and their invited guests, and close by was another stand for the Band of the 
Seventh Regiment. Both were handsomely draped with red cloth, and above 
them waved the American ensign. Flags displaying the city arms were also flung 
to the winds. The slopes of the hill were clotted with tents, above all of which 
waved the Stars and Stripes. The ground was partially enclosed, roe fence around 
being draped in red, white, and blue, and having flags displayed at short intervals. 
It had been decided to begin the ceremonies at 2.30 o'clock, but matters were not 
quite in train at that time. It was nearly an hour later when the members of the 
Historical Society and their guests arrived from the city in carriages, and about 
the same time the sounds of a military band were heard, and the Seventh Regi- 
ment came marching up One Hundred and Tenth street, not far from the spot 
where, a century before, the British troops had passed. The regiment looked 
splendidly as it moved along. There was just a flash of sunlight needed to glint 
back from their bayonets, for the day was dull and sombre, but for all that the 
pageant was excellent. The regiment drew up on the northern slope of the hill, 
and the bandsmen in their gay uniforms took their place on their stand. The 
crowd was now compact and attentive. Ladies were present in large numbers, 
and most of them were provided with seats. Police were in attendance from the 
Twenty-second, Thirtieth, Thirty-first, Thirty-second, and Thirty-fifth Precincts, 
under command of Inspector Speight, but where there was so much disposition 
toward order there was but small need for their service. On the outer edge of 
the inclosure space was provided for a band of boys and girls from a neighboring 
institution, each one of whom carried a miniature American flag. Various trifles 
indicating the patriotism of the people were to be seen. Among others was a medal 
commemorative of the occasion, which was largely circulated. It bore on one 
side the inscription, ' The Centennial year of our national independence.' Be- 
neath this was a portrait of Washington and the date ' 1876.' On the revers 
side was inscribed, ' Battle of Harlem Plains, September, 1776.' Among those 
taking part in the ceremonies of the day or approving of it by their presence were : 
Gov. Henry Lippitt, of Rhode Island, and staff, including Col. Charles Warren 
Lippitt, Chief of Personal Staff; Col. Edward Eames; Col. Theodore M. Cook ; 
Gen. Heber Le favour, Adjutant-General of the State of Rhode Island; Col. J. 
C. Knight, Paymaster-General; Hon. John Jay; Frederic De Peyster, President 
of the Historical Society ; James W. Beekman, Vice-President ; Rev. Dr. Rich- 
ard S. Storrs, of Brooklyn ; Rev. Dr. Adams, Rev. Dr. Morgan Dix, E. F. De- 
lancey, John Austin Stevens, C. H. Ward, Mayor Wickham, ex-Commissioner 
Van Nort, George H. Moore, Fordham Morris, Col. Warner, Charles O'Conor, 
Judge Larremore, Gen. Kilburne Knox, Major Gardner, United States Army ; 
George W. McLean, Major of the Old Guard ; County Auditor Earle, Col. 

g6 Commemoration of the 

Clarke and Lieut. Col. Fitzgerald, of the Seventh Regiment, and Hosea B. Per- 
kins. The orator of the day was Hon. John Tay, who in eloquent terms told the 
story of the American triumph on Harlem Plains, and inculcated the virtue of 
patriotism ; while a few words, magnetic, however, in their effect, were addressed 
to the assemblage by Rev. Dr. Storrs, of Brooklyn. 

From the Evening Telegram of Septe?nber 16, 1876. 

"This afternoon the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of Harlem 
Plains was celebrated on the very ground where the action took place. On 
Thursday afternoon the Telegram gave a resume - of the leading features in that 
brilliant engagement, and therefore no necessity exists for our now referring to 
them save in a general way. The locality where the battle was fought lies be- 
tween 110th and 125th streets, and between Ninth and Tenth avenues, and is one 
of the very few places which is both near the heart of New York City and cele- 
brated in the history of the American Revolution. For the celebration of this 
event the day did not dawn as auspiciously as could have been desired. The 
sunshine ; lternated too frequently with shadow, and a rainstorm seemed imminent. 
The arrangements, however, were made with sense and taste, and carried out in a 
spirit of good discipline. The plateau upon which the exercises were held is 
nearly five hundred feet long, and lies between Riverside Park and Harlem Lane. 
Here a platform and music stand were erected, and tents were pitched for the 
accommodation of guests. The whole place was alive with flags and gay with 
bunting. An immense concourse of people were present. These came in car- 
riages, on foot, by the Second, Third, and Eighth avenue cars, and by the 
Elevated and the Harlem railroads. At the intersection of 118th street and 
Tenth avenue a carriage-way and a station for teams. Opposite this carriage-way 
the Seventh Regiment took its stand. The platform was occupied by the mem- 
bers of the New York Historical Society (among whom are to be found some of 
the most cultured gentlemen of New York), Mayor Wickham, various city 
authorities, and a number of invited guests, and the orator of the day, the Hon. 
John Jay. This gentleman is the grandson of John Jay, the first Chief- Justice of 
the United States. He is now in the prime of his physical and mental powers, 
and by descent, by wise scholarship, by reverence for historical traditions, and by 
a rare gift of eloquence, he is peculiarly fitted for the grateful task which devolved 
upon him. These qualifications were recognized by the vast assembly, for when 
Mr. Jay came forward he was received with loud and long reverberating 
applause. After a brief but felicitous preface, he defined the real importance of 
the battle or skirmish known as that of Harlem Plains. He touched upon the 
defeat which the Americans had experienced in Brooklyn on August 27th, on the 
subsequent evacuation of New York, and on the final landing of Howe near Kip's 
Bay, three miles from the city. He gave a magnificent view of the gallant con- 
duct of Washington, who, reduced to desperation by what he thought the coward- 
ly conduct of his troops, perilled his life by rushing madly into action. Pie de- 
scribed how, on September 16, 1776, exactly a hundred years ago, the advanced 
guard of the American line had been driven in by a superior English force. 

Battle of Harlem Plains. 97 

Washington determined to attack in front, as a feint to draw the enemy down, 
while Col. Knowlton, gaining the high rocks on the Hudson River side, would 
attack in the rear. Finally, the orator, in a burst of impassioned rhetoric, 
related how the English were driven from their successive positions, and took 
shelter behind a fence about two hundred yards distant, where they were rein- 
forced by a body of Hessians. Mr. Jay drew several brilliant and thrilling 
pictures complimentary to the patriotic fidelity of the American forces. While 
doing this, however, he carefully avoided bombast and spread-eagleism. His 
speech was a fitting embodiment of the centennial spirit, devoid of everything 
like turgidity and ranting. The whole affair was one of the most thrilling and 
picturesque of the many commemorations this season has drawn forth. The 
music, the speech, the applause, the flowers, the green sward, the rjpe foliage, the 
waving handkerchiefs, the equipages, the superb toilets, the gay military trap- 
pings, and the beautiful national flags waving over all, made up a scene not soon 
to be forgotten." 

From the New York Herald of September 17, 1876. 

"Yesterday, at one o'clock, there was a meeting of the Committee of Recep- 
tion of the Historical Society of the State of New York, at the Fifth Avenue 
Hotel. The guests received were Governor Henry Lippitt, of Rhode Island ; 
Colonel Charles Warren Lippitt, chief of the personal staff; Colonel Edward 
Eames, Colonel Theodore M. Cook, General Heber Lefavour, Adjutant-General 
of the State, and Colonel Jabers C. Knight, Paymaster-General. The reunion, 
it is hardly necessary to state, was for the purpose of arranging the proceedings to 
take place later in the day, on the site of the battle of Harlem Plains, on which 
historic spot Hon. John Jay was to deliver an oration. 

"On arriving at the place of celebration, a scene of unrivalled beauty was 
unfolded. Upon a large plateau upon the edge of a bluff extending from 115th to 
125th street, were erected two large covered platforms, festooned in an elaborate 
manner with American flags ; tents were pitched upon the ground, from which 
floated the national colors ; the fences and trees were likewise decorated, and 
from every point — not excepting the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum — there seemed 
to be a spontaneous display of red, white, and blue. In front stretched the low- 
lands, now teeming rich with the autumnal vegetation ; to the left, the low brick 
houses of Harlem, seeming almost a phototype of that ancient city in Holland 
from which it takes its name. Far in the distance the sparkling waters of Long 
Island Sound laved the dim shores ; and, city- ward, the spires of the churches 
pierced the dull September sky like lances. The only glittering object, however, 
shining through the ether was the great Cathedral in distant Fifth avenue, whose 
marble fretwork seemed to be mirrored against the heavens and reflect its glory 
on the landscape. In gazing westward the winding Hudson was seen washing the 
feet of the Palisades, and, way beyond, steamers were plying from shore to shore 
as peacefully as if never battles had been lost or won. 

"About three o'clock the Historical Society arrived upon the ground and took 
possession of the main stand. They were accompanied by the following gentle- 
men : Governor Lippitt and staff, Mayor W. H. Wickham, Charles O'Conor, 

98 Commemoration of the Battle of Harlem Plains. 

Judge Larremore, ex-Mayor Tiemann, Major Gardner, United States Army ; 
Rev. Dr. Morgan Dix, General Kilbourne Knox, Senator Beekman, Colonel 
Warner, Major George W. McLean, of the "Old Guard;" Rev. Dr. Richard 
S. Storrs, Rev. Dr. Adams, ex-Commissioner Van Nort, County Auditor Earle, 
James Russell Lowell, Benjamin H. Field, Hosea B. Perkins, Fordham Morris, 
Henry A. Oakley, G. H. Moore, and F. de Peyster."