British Voices of the Landing at Staten Island, July to August 1776

Grenadier, 40th Regiment of Foot, 1776

July 2. Ensign (acting Lieutenant) Henry Stirke, Light Infantry Company, 10th Regiment of Foot, 1st Battalion of Light Infantry: 

“[1776, July] 2d… Made our Landing on Staten Island, at 8O’Clock at night, without a Shot being fired; as the Rebels abandoned it, on the appearance of the Troops. This night we lay upon our Arms.” Stirke, p. 156.

July 3. Captain William Bamford, 40th Regiment of Foot:

“3 [July, 1776.] W. this morning the first line of our Army landed on Staten Island. We work’d higher up the River & about 11 at night most of our Army was landed.” Bamford, p. 301

Corporal Thomas Sullivan, 49th Regiment of Foot:

“July  3d…After our landing, we were informed that the Enemy were landing on the back or S.W. part of the Island. Our Regiment i.e. 49th, was ordered to march from the Landing place through the Island, to the New blazing Star, at the Ferry of which place; the Rebels was reported to be landing. But they desisted, upon hearing that our Army were marching towards the Ferry. There were 3 Companies of Light-Infantry before us there; and the whole remained there that night.” Sullivan, p. 45.

July 4. Bamford:

“4th. [July, 1776.] the Troops march’d to their several cantonments round the Island. 40 Quartered on the road between Richmond & Amboy… much firing this morning of great Guns, very hot day” Bamford, p. 301. 

Sullivan:

“July 4th. Our Regiment was relieved at the Ferry by the 5th.Regiment; and we were put into Cantoonments, a mile backward from the New blazing Star.  The whole Army landed upon that Island, and were distributed about it; and there were strong -Parties- sent to the -Old-blazing Star, and Decker’s Ferries.” Sullivan, p. 45. 

General Orders:

“Head Quarters Mr. Bankers. Staten Island 4th. July 1776…Officers to have as little baggage on Shore as possible, as the Brigades are liable to change their ground on the shortest notice.”  Howe Orderly Book. [General Orders are generally read in the evening for execution the following day. SR.]

July 5. Captain William Bamford of the 40th Regiment of Foot landed on Staten Island from on board the “Spy” on July 3 1776:

“5 [July, 1776.] F. dull mg X cleard hot day” Bamford, p. 301. 

July 7. Bamford:

“7. [July, 1776.] Su. very hot day got a small port mantua from on board. Piquet Gd” Bamford, p.302.

July 8. Bamford: 

“8. [July, 1776.] M. hot mg brisk wd N. W.” Bamford, p.302. 

July 14. Ambrose Serle: 

“Sunday, 14th July. An excessive hard Rain, prevented going on Shore this Day…” Serle, p.31. 

July 19. Ambrose Serle: 

“Friday, 19th. July…Walked on Shore in the Evening; but the Heat and Dust made the excursion rather unpleasant.” Serle, p. 38. 

July 22. Ambrose Serle:

“Monday, 22nd. July…A very hot and sultry Day, which rendered the Ship our best Retreat. On the Shore, which is near a Mile distant, I heard that the Weather was extremely close and uncomfortable.” Serle, p. 40. 

July 25-28. Ambrose Serle: 

“Thursday, 25th. July…The Day was very warm, the Thermomr. being at 80°.” Serle, p. 45. 

“Sunday, 28th. [July, 1776.]…No divine Service this morning, the heat being excessive. No Air, and The Thermometer at 94 Degrees.” Serle, p. 49.

August 2. Ambrose Serle: 

“Friday, 2d. August…The Heat was very great to-day. The Therm. gave 94° in the Sun, and 83°in the shade.” Serle, p. 53.”

August 5. Bamford: 

“5. [August, 1776.] M. hot Mg S. E.” Bamford, p. 307.

Captain Francis, Lord Rawdon to Francis, tenth Earl of Huntingdon, at St. James’s Place, London: 

“1776. Aug. 5. Staten Island, near New York. – We are just arrived here, my dearest Lord, after a very pleasant passage. Your letter of April 4th met me as soon as I set foot on shore. The company my letter from Virginia found you in, is certainly the pleasantest in the world.Though I have neither a yellow damask drawing-room nor Constantia Cape [Perhaps Constantia wine?], I cultivate the acquaintance in a tent with Madeira, and after all-there is but little difference.” HMC, Rawdon-Hastings, III, p. 179. 

Lieutenant John Peebles, Grenadier Company, 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot: 

“Monday morning 5th. Augt. [Near the watering place, Staten Island.] prepared to land. first boat about 11, being a good dist from the shore & a strong wind & tide, it was late in the afternoon before we all got ashore, march’d in the eveng to Quarters in the country Peoples houses about 2 or 3 mile. few of the army Encamp’d almost the whole lodged in the farmers houses & barns Landed the whole coy in good health after being above sixteen weeks on board of ship…” Peebles, p. 54. 

Captain John Peebles, 1778. Miniature in the S.U.S.M.

[The informative John Peebles unfortunately did not keep his diary during the summer and autumn of 1776 while serving as Adjutant to the 4th Grenadier Battalion, but opened it again after the disbandment of this corps. Entries from his Orderly Book kept during this period are however noted below. SR.]

August 6. Bamford:

“6. [August, 1776.] Tu. hot Mg brisk wd S. W.”  Bamford, p. 307. 

August 7. Bamford:

“7 [August, 1776.] W. very hor foggy Mg XII clear &very hot S. W. X Exceeding hot, little wd S. XII pleasnt breeze E. Some heavy rain this Evg.” Bamford, p. 307. 

Ambrose Serle, Secretary to Admiral Richard Howe:

“Wednesday, 7th August. [Staten Island.]…“Went on Shore in the Evening, and walked up to the new Incampments.’ Tis a hard unpleasant Life this of a Soldier’s, which is passed in a little paltry Tent which will neither keep out Wind, Rain, or Vermin, and which seems to have little other Solace on this dusty Island than the association of multitudes in the same Condition. The Ship is a House or a Palace compared with the Accommodations of the military.” Serle, p. 56. 

Image of a typical encampment (not Staten Island; possibly southeast England)

[Serle was a civilian, unused to his surroundings. He was conscious of many things that military men seldom noted, including the swarms of mosquitoes, the din of insects and frogs, and after the battle of Long Island, the odor of unburied corpses in the woods. SR.]

Bamford:

“8. [August, 1776.] Th. dull close Mg very sultry & calm” Bamford, p. 307.

August 9. Bamford:

“9 [August, 1776.] F. close hot day wd variable” Bamford, p. 307.

Ambrose Serle:

“Friday, 9th. of August. Nothing material occurred this Day, wch was extremely warm.” Serle, p.60.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters Staten Island. August 1776…“The Regiments lately joined the Army under the Command of Lieut. Genl. Clinton, will as soon as possible remove their heavy baggage and Women to the Transports allotted to them for that purpose, of which they will make a report to the Adjutant General.” Howe Orderly Book.

August 10. Bamford:

“10. Sa. hot day p. m. II pleasant wd E.” Bamford, p.307.

August 11. Bamford:

“11. Su. close dull some showers, S. much Lightning Thunder & Rain this Evg” Bamford, p. 308.

August 12. Bamford:

“12 M. cloudy Mg cool W.” Bamford, p. 308.

42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot, Regimental Orders:

“The 7 Companys to Embark on board the Brilliant Thames Glasgow & Houston. The Officers are to carry nothing with them but their Tents bedding & a Portmanteau.” Peebles Orderly Book.

August 13 – 16. Bamford:

“13. [August, 1776.] Tu. very bright Mg little wd W.14. hot Mg little wd E…15. Th. rain’d all last nt very wet Mg E.X ceased to rain, cloudy. several drissling showers this day. The Hessians landing to Encamp.16. F. close cloudy Mg heavy showers…” Bamford, p. 308.

Ambrose Serle:

“Friday, 13th August…This has been the most sultry Day I have ever felt.” Serle, p. 63.

August 15. Ambrose Serle:

“Thursday, 15th. August.The Chaplain [O’Beirne] and myself took a Ride almost to the full Length of Staten Island opposite to Amboy in New Jersey, which was about half a mile distant. It was a charming cool Day, having rained in the morning, and the Sun being defended by Clouds, which rendered the Scenes, beautiful as they were in themselves, doubly delightful…”Serle, p. 65.

August 17. Bamford:

“17. [August, 1776.] Sa. a good deal of rain last nt showers this mg N. W. IX soaking rain” p. 309.

4th Battalion Grenadiers (42nd & 71st) Battalion Orders:

“The Officers to send their heavy Baggage on board of ship tomorrow morng by the Provisn Waggons” Peebles Orderly Book.

August 18. Bamford:

“18 [August, 1776.] Su. heavy rain all last Nt very wet Mg N. E…” Bamford, p. 310.

August 19. Bamford:

“19 [August, 1776.] M[onday]. wet last nt wet mg X [10o’clock] ceas’d raining aftn pleasant. A comy of ye Hessian Troops encamp’d close by our Quarters, we remov’d” Bamford, p. 309.

Ensign Thomas Glyn, Brigade of Guards:

“Brigade Orders August 19th [1776.] When the Brigade disembarks two Gils of Rum to be delivered for each mans Canteen which must be filled with Water, Each Man to disembark with a Blanket & Haversack in which he is to carry one Shirt one pair of Socks and Three Days Provisions a careful Man to be left on board each Ship to take care of the Knapsacks. The Articles of War to be read to the Men by an Officer of each Ship.” Glyn, p. 7.

August 20. Bamford:

“Memdms… 20th [August, 1776.] The Troops march’d from their several cantonments & Encampmts & embark’d on board their ships.”

“Remarks… 20 [August, 1776.] Tu[esday]. This mg at IV The 8 Comps of the 40th Regt march’d from their cantonments to the Landing place & embark’d on board ye Wm & Mary.” Bamford, p. 309-10.

 

[The format of Bamford’s diary is that he makes a daily memorandum and at the end of each week adds any remarks. SR.]

Glyn:

“Dacres [Decker’s] Ferry Staten Island August 20th…The Army will land in four Divisions…the 2d Division to consist of the 1st. 2d. and third Brigades of British, under the Command of Majr General Robertson, Major General Pigot & Major General Jones……when the Troops land they are to carry nothing with them but their Arms Ammunition Blankets and 3 days Provisions.” Glyn, p. 7.

Sullivan:

“Aug.- 20th. Our Brigade was relieved at their Cantoonments about the New blazing Star, by a detachment of the Hessians, under the command of Colonel Dalrymple of said Corps. The troops at Amboy and old blazing Star Ferries, were also relieved by other Detachments of the same Troops. We marched from our Cantoonments aforesaid to the landing place at Prince’s Bay, where the whole Army Embarked. Each Regiment (except the Highlanders and Guards)[*] had but one Transport; on board of which was all their Camp Equipage and other Necessaries.” Sullivan, p. 47.

[*Due to being large Corps. SR.]

August 21. Bamford:

“Memdms… 21 [August, 1776.] W[ednesday]. Rain last nt pleasant mg little wind”

“Remarks… 21. [August, 1776.] The embarkation was finish’d & the order of Landing given out.” Bamford, p. 309-10.

Long Island. The British under Howe crossed from Staten Island to Long Island on August 22.

August 22. Bamford:

“Remarks… 22. [August, 1776.] The Army landed on Long Island about IX [9 o’clock] this Mg without opposition the Lt Infantry push’d into the Country & got as far as flat Bush about 6 miles from the landing Place” Bamford, p. 310.

Sullivan:

“Aug. 22d. After our being on board ship a day & two nights,waiting for the weather, which was wet, to clear up; the whole Army got ready for landing on Long-Island… And the whole Army landed then in abody, without opposition, on the South-East end of Long-Island, at a place called Gravesend, near the Narras.”  Sullivan, p. 48.

Glyn:

“August 22d  The Army landed on Long Island without Opposition from the Rebels. we marched to New Utrecht” Glyn, p. 8.

Baurmeister:

“General Howe took quarters at Gravesend, one English mile from the place of debarkation, and there the entire English infantry encamped without tents. All the grenadiers, the jägers, the Scottish Highlanders, and the light dragoons, however, moved further inland,through New Utrecht to Flatbush.” Baurmeister, p. 36.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters New Utrecht Long Island 22nd. August 1776…Each Regiment is to send early to morrow for their Tents, Camp kettles & Knapsacks. The Qr. Mastr. General will endeavour to furnish Waggons to convey them from the Waterside, & it is hoped that Officer swill bring as little Baggage on Shore as possible, & for some time make use of Soldiers tents, or fly Tents.” Howe Orderly Book.

Captain William Haslewood, 63rd Regiment of Foot:

“The Troops without opposition landed on Long Island.- 21st.[sic – 22nd] August. marched a few Miles up the Country and encamped in Soldiers Tents.” Haslewood, p. 55.

Lieutenant Martin Hunter, Light Infantry Company, 52nd Regiment of Foot, summarized the period since the first landing on Staten Island:

“…The fleet sailed for New York with the army on board, arrived at Staten Island, and disembarked without any opposition; encamped, and continued in barns for about six weeks, waiting the arrival of some regiments from England. The army embarked in flat-bottomed boats, and landed in Long Island, near to Flat Bush, and encamped. The enemy were in great force, and strongly entrenched at Brooklyn, on the point opposite to New York. We remained encamped at Flat Bush and Newtown for four days…” Hunter, p. 16.

August 23. Bamford:

“Memdms… 23 [August, 1776.] F. pleasant Mg Landing Artillery, Stores, & ca…” Bamford, p. 310.

August 24. Bamford:

“Memdms… 24 [August, 1776.] Sa. Warm Mg some rain last Nt” Bamford, p. 310.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters New Utrecht, on Long Island 24th Augst. 1776…Those Corps that have landed more Tents than they have present occasion for are to Embark them again immediately. The Light Infantry are not to have Tents as they may expect to be in constant motion.” Howe Orderly Book.

August 25. Bamford:

“Memdms… 25. [August, 1776.] Su. very heavy rain lastnt dull Mg W…” Bamford, p. 310.

August 26. Bamford:

“Memdms… 26. [August, 1776.] M. Much Lightning & Thunder last nt.gloomy day. March’d from ye Ferry Cantonmts about IX this Eveg” Bamford, p.310.

General Orders:

“Head Quarters Long Island 26th August 1776…After Orders 5 O’Clock…The Army will strike their Tents and land their Baggage, at 8O’Clock this night, to form at the head of their respective Encampments, and there wait for further orders. The Men to carry their Canteens, Camp Kettles, Provisions & necessarys with them. No more than two Waggons can be allowed to each Regt. for their Tents & Baggage.” Howe Orderly Book.

Hunter:

“We marched on the night of the 26th August 1776; made a circuitous route to get in the rear of enemy, that were encamped in our front about a mile, on very stony ground. We left our tents standing to deceive the enemy…” Hunter, p. 16.

August 27. Battle of Long Island. Bamford:

“Memdms. 27. [August, 1776.] Tu. fine mg…” Bamford, p. 310.

Captain the Honourable William Leslie, 17th Regiment of Foot, to his parents:

“Bedford Long Island Sept. 2nd 1776…On 22nd August the whole army except 3,000 Hessians who were left to defend Staten Island made a descent upon Long Island in Flat Boats & landed on the South Side without opposition, encamped at Denises,Gravesend, Utrecht, &.” “On the 26th our Brigade (viz the 4th) commanded by Major Gen. Grant & the Brigade on our Right (the 6th) commanded by B. Gen. Agnew received Orders to be in readiness to march at night in one Division, we marched at ten o’clock from Denises…”

“The Day after their Retreat we had orders to march to the ground weare now encamped upon, near the Village of Bedford: It is now afortnight we have lain upon the ground wrapt in our Blankets, and thank God who supports us when we stand most in need, I have never enjoyed better health in my Life. My whole stock consists of two shirts 2 pr of shoes, 2 Handkerchiefs half of which I use, the other half I carry inmy Blanket, like a Pedlar’s Pack.”  Cohen, p. 60-63. [Leslie suggests that the camp and the kit he describes had prevailed for a ‘fortnight,’ or since about September 20, two days before the landing on Long Island. SR.]

Bedford Corners

August 28. Bamford:

Memdms… 28. [August, 1776.] W. very pleasant Mg aftnrain” Bamford, p. 310.

August 29. Bamford:

“29. [August, 1776.] Th. gloomy Mg” Bamford, p. 311.

August 30. Glyn:

“August 30th We marched from Bedford, took possession of the Forts evacuated by the Enemy, returned to Bedford, struck Tents, laid on our Arms on New Town Heights all Night.” Glyn, p. 8.

August 31. A letter from an unknown Officer with the initials “R. G.” in the papers of the Earl of Huntingdon:

1776. Aug. 31. Long Island. -“I am writing in my tent almost full of water owing to a very heavy thunderstorm. I have not my large tent with me, and therefore have not been able to pull off my clothes this week or ten days, but I was never better in my life. It is not very trifling what the whole army undergoes from want of carriages and fresh provisions. They are likewise very much worked by marches, and, what is worse, there is dreadful want of water in this part of the island. I never saw an army better inclined to make all things easy to the general and more zealous to the cause.” HMC, Rawdon-Hastings, III, p. 180-81.

 

 

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