|[Extract of the Journal of Major Baurmeister, Adjutant General of the Hesse-Cassel Troops.] |
October 21, 1778
I had the honour to send my last letter to your Lordship on the 21st of September this year, when Admiral Howe departed. I should have sent another by General von Mirbach, but it was impossible. Now, just when I am in New York on business, eleven London ships lie ready to sail at any moment. Since all the officers of the 10th, 45th, and 52nd English Regiments are to leave on them, it may be wise not to wait for the ordinary packet, but to take this opportunity to put the continuation of my journal in good hands and have it posted to London.
On the 22nd General Cornwallis and Major Generals Grey and Mathew with two British brigades, the grenadiers, the light infantry, the Guards, two hundred dragoons, Lord Rawdons Irish battalion, and two hundred provincials landed at Fort Lee in Jersey and marched to the Liberty Pole. Their vanguard immediately encountered some militia and fifty dragoons, who lost twenty-nine prisoners and fourteen killed, while the British had one dragoon and two horses killed.
On the 23rd of September the following troops marched out under the command of his Excellency General von Knyphausen: the British light troops under Colonel Campbell to Hunts bridge over the Bronx; the Hessian Jäger Corps to Philipses house; the 71st Regiment to Valentines Hill to support the advanced posts; the two Hessian brigades, von Stirns and the grenadiers, to the left of Van Cortlandts house. On the 24th Colonel von Hackenbergs brigade, six British regiments, and Generals Grant, Leslie, and Erskine marched to Philipses house, where headquarters were established. The left wing was stationed at the twenty-mile stone on the road to Dobbs Ferry, the center rested on Sawmill Creek, and the right wing extended to the Bronx.
Beginning with the left wing, the troops were posted as follows: Donops, the Leib Regiment, the Erb Prinz, Wissenbachs, Köhlers Grenadiers, Minnigerodes, Lengerkes, Linsings, the 7th, 26th, 28th, 49th, 63rd, 71st, and 4th British Regiments.
Lieutenant Colonel von Wurmb covered the left wing; the Phoenix man-of-war, fifty guns, stationed in the North River, afforded sufficient protection for the flank; Captain von Wreden with two companies of dismounted jägers was posted along Sawmill Creek and covered the center of the front; and Colonel Simcoe had his huts across the Bronx built in such a way that he could keep continual watch on the roads between our right wing and the East River which leads from Mamaroneck and New Rochelle to Morrisania, the heights of Kings Bridge, and Fort Independence.
A daring troop of two hundred dragoons could at any time have alarmed the redoubts and the country, for only Colonel von Looss brigade and two companies of DeLanceys Volunteers remained posted at Fort Knyphausen, and they did duty in the redoubts as well. No troops could be spared from New York, for von Seitzs Regiment had already left the garrison with two brigades [sicbattalions] of DeLanceys New York Volunteers and two Pennsylvania battalions, namely, Chalmers and Allens, and embarked on the 8th to reinforce the garrison at Halifax.
On the 24th of September, the corps under General Cornwallis encamped between New Bridge and Fort Lee, occupying a stretch eight English miles long, with Hackensack and Hackensack Creek in front. They threw up five redoubts. The bridge across the Hackensack had not been demolished, and the patrols met many militia, both mounted and dismounted, who had been sent hither and yon to urge the country people to remove their cattle, grain, and forage. It was General Clintons intention to procure all these necessities either by paying for them outright or by giving receipts.
Contrary to expectations, General Cornwallis found an abundance of these provisions in the district he occupied, though at Mamaroneck, on this side of the North River, no more than fifty tons of hay were found. The camp at White Plains and even more the destitute population allow no surplus. Besides, the entire region is quite mountainous, even more so than the Cologne Sauerland.
General Clinton was in Jersey. At ten oclock on the night of September the 25th he called on his Excellency Lieutenant General von Knyphausen, and on the 26th he set out to follow Captain von Wredens strong patrol as far as Tarrytown. He met this patrol on its way back at Dobbs Ferry. Captain von Wreden brought with him from Tarrytown three eminent rebels who have long been hunted and were the only ones he saw.
Moreover, he brought positive news that General Scott was posted at North Castle, and under him, Colonels Butler, Gist, and Sheldon; that General Scott had posted Major Lee of the Dragoons in Kings Street in such a position that he could keep strict watch over Tarrytown on the right and White Plains on the left as well as the road to Horse Neck and beyond. General Washington is encamped between Fishkill and Danbury, his left wing covering Hartford and Bedford. Behind his front at Quaker Hill are two large iron works, where ship cannon, shells, and cannon balls are now being cast. Von Wreden also learned that General Gates, who had started out for Boston with three strong brigades and thirty guns, has been ordered back, and that the Carolina militia refused to march to New England and has therefore been sent to reinforce Forts Clinton, Montgomery, and Defiance. All this has been confirmed by later reports.
In the night of the 27th-28th of September the 71st Regiment under the command of Colonel Campbell as well as Colonel Simcoe embarked on twenty-five flatboats at Philipses house and let themselves be carried by the tide to the mouth of Tappan Creek on the Jersey shore. Colonel Campbell landed his troops on the left of this creek and marched by a short roundabout route as far as Harrington.
At the same time, General Grey marched by a circuitous route on the right from New Bridge to Old Tappan. Twelve dragoons and Maitlands light infantry battalion, who formed the vanguard, surprised Lady Washingtons Dragoon Regiment of 120 horse, which had recently arrived from Virginia under Colonel Baylor. Sixty dragoons, among them five officers, were cut down in some barns, and fifty-seven dragoons and nine officers were wounded and taken prisoners. Three dragoons who were on guard duty escaped. The colonel, the major, two officers, the doctor, and the paymaster were left behind on parole, since with their severe wounds they could not be transported. The men and horses show what Virginia has to offer. Not a single dragoon was younger than eighteen or older than twenty-six.
Colonel Campbell, not so fortunate as to keep his march a secret, was discovered by General Heard, who escaped with four hundred militia between Old Tappan and Harrington. Late in the night of the 28th of September this detachment returned to our camp.
On the 30th of September his Excellency General von Knyphausen again sent patrols to the front from both wings of his camp. Captain von Donop occupied the road to Dobbs Ferry with fifty dismounted jägers and had Lieutenant Mertz ride ahead with fifteen mounted jägers. This side of Dobbs Ferry these mounted jägers encountered some rebels and saw many more in ambush on their right. This discovery made it necessary to recall Lieutenant Bickell, who had been detached to a hill on the left of the road. When Lieutenant Mertz set out to do this, the enemy cut in on the road behind him. He attacked the superior troop of dragoons and beat his way through. Making a short halt, he was again engaged. After a heated skirmish, during which he received several cuts about the face, he was obliged to surrender as a prisoner. Two jägers were killed, one was left severely wounded, and one escaped.
Lieutenant Bickell, who proceeded on foot along the North River, fared much better; he had one noncommissioned officer and one jäger wounded. It was Colonel Butler with 250 men on foot and Major Lee with 200 dragoons who had crept up by way of Horse Neck, proceeded thence to the right to the North River, and waited in ambush, hoping to surprise the entire Jäger Corps. Had the rebel infantry been quieter, and if Captain von Donop had advanced half an English mile further, he, too, would have been cut off and taken prisoner.
Captain Hanger was sent after the rebels with a flag of truce to take equipage and servants to Lieutenant Mertz. However, Major Lee procured the lieutenants release because he had so gallantly defended himself in both attacks, and he returned with Captain Hanger. His wounds, which are across the nose and on both cheeks, are not dangerous. He has already been exchanged for another lieutenant.
On the 3rd of this month six men, who had been sent to New England by Lieutenant Colonel Emmerich in the month of May of this year to buy horses and recruit men for his corps, arrived at our outposts with eleven dragoon horses. They had been discovered and imprisoned in Peekskill, but found an opportunity to break loose. On their way back they untied eleven of Colonel Sheldons dragoon horses on Kings Street and came off with them. A patrol of one hundred horse pursued the fugitives as far as Sawmill Creek, and about nine oclock the same morning they bounded forth in front of Köhlers Grenadier Battalion; but before Captain von Wreden could get there, they were gone, and they have not returned.
On the 7th Colonel Simcoe patrolled with a strong force between White Plains and Horse Neck. He fell in with a dragoon post and captured six men and nine horses. The enemy officer hid in a magazine, which was set on fire; since no one knew that he was there, he lost his life in the flames. Two large smithies were also burned down.
On the 9th General Clinton again called on his Excellency General von Knyphausen and ordered him to march all his troops back to the old camp at Kings Bridge the next day, the 10th. Not until the 12th did a strong rebel force patrol as far as the Hessian Jäger Corpss abates to learn whither we had marched.
General Cornwallis left Jersey on the 13th of this month. He had no enemy opposing him, for the Jersey militia have disbanded to the last man. General Grant is at present embarking with ten British regiments, each one of which has been raised to full strength (five hundred men) from the 10th, 45th and 52nd Regiments. The regiments under him are the 4th, 5th, 17th, 27th, 28th, 40th, 46th, 35th, 49th, and 55th. When they will depart, and whether they will sail directly to the West Indies, is still unknown. But then, nothing can be said with certainty.
Bernhard A. Uhlendorfs Revolution in America, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ) 1957, Pages 216-222.