Soon as General William Howe arrived at Staten Island, the first week in July, 1776, so pleased was he with his reception in the harbor of New York, that he wrote these
words to the British government:
“I have great reason to expect an enormous body of the inhabitants
to join the army from the provinces of York, the Jerseys and Connecticut, who, in this time of universal oppression, only wait for opportunities to give proofs of their loyalty and zeal for government. Sixty
men came over two days ago with a few arms from the neighborhood
of Shrewsbury, in Jersey, who were desirous to serve, and I understand there
are five hundred more in that quarter ready to follow their example.”
General Howe soon after this began to appoint recruiting officers in different parts of New Jersey, and to organize detachments of Provincials as fast
as they presented themselves for service in the army. Mr. Cortlandt Skinner, whose devotion to the interests of the British King before the war had
made him a prominent man in New Jersey, was selected as the proper officer
to organize and to command the men who were anxious to enroll themselves
under the standard of Great Britain. He was commissioned at first a Colonel, Brigadier-Gen. Cortlandt Skinner, and afterwards a Brigadier-General, commander of Skinner’s Brigade with authority to raise five battalions to consist of two thousand and five hundred soldiers, “under command of gentlemen of the country nominated by himself.”
General Skinner established his headquarters, while on Staten
Island, in the old Kruzer house, now familiarly known as the Pelton
house, at West New Brighton, and occupied by Mrs. General Duffy.
The two families had long been on intimate terms, and the Kruzers
were in consequence subjected to no hardships. Staten Island at once
became the refuge for all tories of New York and New Jersey, as well
as for deserters from the Continental army.
General Skinner himself seems to have been stationed on Staten
Island and in New York City during most of the war, and it is very
seldom that we meet him even with his soldiers in any other part of
the contiguous country. We learn from General Howe’s Narrative
that at the beginning of the campaign of 1777 General Skinner had
been able to recruit but five hundred and seventeen men of his complement; but in November, 1777, he had eight hundred and fifty-nine men on his brigade rolls, and in May, 1778, ” after several months of active exertions,” he had enlisted one thousand one hundred and one men.
But at that time the nucleus for six battalions had been made and
the officers commissioned. During that year five hundred and fifty
additional volunteers, mostly from New Jersey, and a few native
Staten Islanders, were enrolled for service, and afterward sent to
Charleston, South Carolina. It is then apparent that General Skinner
recruited about two-thirds of the quota first assigned to him. All of
these soldiers immediately on enlistment were placed in active service, and they began to distinguish themselves at an early day in their great zeal to annoy, intimidate and injure their former patriot friends and neighbors.
In a letter written by General Howe to Lord George Germain, dated
New York, December 20th, 1776, this remark is made: ”I cannot close
this letter without making mention of the good service rendered in the
course of the campaign by Courtlandt Skinner, Esq., Attorney-General in the Jerseys, who has been indefatigable and of infinite service since the army entered those provinces. I therefore humbly recommend him as a gentleman meriting royal favour.” Thus early was General Skinner showing his devotion to the King. This was just after Washington’s retreat through New Jersey, and General Skinner was urging his own friends to take protection from the British.
In Brasher’s Journal, February, 1777, appears the following new
“Q. Who is the most ungrateful man in the world?
“A. Governor Skinner.
“Q. Why do you call him Governor?
“A. Because when Lord and General Howe thought that they
had conquered the Jerseys they appointed him Lieutenant Governor
of that State. Skinner assumed that title over one-tenth part of
said State and continued his usurpation for six weeks, five days,
thirty-six minutes, ten seconds and thirty-one hundreth parts of a
second and was then deposed.
“Q. Why is he called ungrateful?
“A. Because he had joined the enemies of his country and enlisted
men to fight against his neighbors, his friends and his kinsfolk; because he had endeavored to transfer the soil that gave him bread from the rightful possessors to a foreign hand; and because, to gain pleasant ease and transitory liquors, he would fasten the chains of slavery on three millions of people and their offspring forever.”
The answers to these questions clearly show the opinion which
patriotic people held of General Skinner and of the efforts which
he had already made to restore them to their allegiance to England.
In Rivington’s Army List of 1778, we find the first complete roster
of the officers of the six battalions of Skinner’s Brigade. This probably shows the state of the organization in the early part of the summer of that year. The compilation has been carefully made, the spelling of the names corrected, and it is now set forth in proper official style:
Brigadier-General, Cortlandt Skinner;
Chaplain, Edward Winslow.
First Battalion. — Lieutenant-Colonel, Elisha Lawrence; Major,
Thomas Leonard; Adjutant, Patrick Henry; Quartermaster, James
Nelson; Surgeon, William Peterson; Captains, John Barbarie, John
Longstreet, Garret Keating and Richard Cayford; Captain-Lieutenant, James Nelson; Lieutenants, John Taylor, Thomas Oakason, Samuel Leonard, John Throckmorton, John Monro, Patrick Henry and Robert Peterson; Ensigns, John Robbins, John Thompson, Richard Lippincott, William Lawrence and Hector McLean.
Second Battalion. — Lieutenant-Colonel, John Morris; First Major, John Antill; Second Major, John Colden; Adjutant. Thomas T. Pritchard; Quartermaster, Thomas Morrison; Surgeon, Charles Earle; Surgeon’s mate, James Boggs; Chaplain, John Rowland; Captains, Donald Campbell. George Stanforth, Waldron Bleau, Norman McLeod, Cornelius McLeod and Uriah McLeod; Lieutenants, John De Monzes, Thomas T. Pritchard, William Van Dumont, Josiah Parker and William Stevenson; Ensigns, William K. Hurlet and Thomas
Third Battalion. — First Major, Robert Drummond; Second Major, Philip Van Cortlandt; Adjutant, John Jenkins; Quartermaster, John Falker; Surgeon, Henry Dongan; Captains, John Hatfield, Samuel Hudnut and David Alston; Captain-Lieutenant, John Alston; Lieutenants, Anthony Hollinshead, John Jenkins, John Troup, William Chew, and Francis Frazer; Ensigns, James Brasier Le Grange, John Camp, John Willis and Jonathan Alston.
[Note: The Third Battalion had no lieutenant-colonel at first, when it was commanded Major Drummond. Shortly afterward, however, Edward Vaughan Dongan, formerly of Staten Island, was appointed lieutenant-colonel to command it, and he continued to serve as such until his death in 1778. ]
Fourth Battalion. — Lieutenant-Colonel, Abraham Van Buskirk;
First Major, Daniel Isaac Browne; Second Major, Robert Timpany;
Adjutant, Arthur Maddox; Quartermaster, William Sorrell; Surgeon,
John Hammell; Captains, William Van Allen, Samuel Heyden, Peter
Euttan, Patrick Campbell, Daniel Bessonet, Samuel Ryerson and
Arthur Maddox; Lieutenants, Edward Earle, Martin Ryerson, John
Van Buskirk. Michael Smith, James Servanier, Donald McPherson and John Hyslop; Ensigns, John Simonson, James Cole, Justus Earle,
John Van Norden, Colin McVane and George Ryerson.
Fifth Battalion. — Lieutenant-Colonel, Joseph Barton; Major,
Thomas Millidge; Adjutant, Isaac Hedden; Quartermaster, Fleming
Colgan; Surgeon, Uzal Johnson; Surgeon’s mate, Stephen Millidge;
Captains, Joseph Crowell, James Shaw, Benjamin Barton and John
Williams; Lieutenants, John Cougle, Isaac Hedden, Joseph Waller,
William Hutchinson, Christopher Insley, Daniel Shannon and John
Eeid; Ensigns, Patrick Haggerty, Ezekiel Dennis, Peter Anderson
and Joseph Bean.
Sixth Battalion. — Lieutenant-Colonel, Isaac Allen; Major, Richard V. Stockton; Captains, Joseph Lee, Peter Campbell and Charles
Harrison; Lieutenants, John Vought, John Hatton and Edward
Steele; Ensigns, Daniel Grandin, Cornelius Thompson and James
Quoted From: Morris, I. K. (1898). Morris’s memorial history of Staten Island, New York. New York: Memorial Pub. Co.