Simcoe and The Queen’s Rangers on Staten Island, Part 2

We have compiled from the works of Colonel Simcoe his own accounts of his service on Staten Island, keeping strictly to his own language, believing that, as a historical record, it would be unjust to the original writer as well as the reader of today to cause a change in either form or phrase. We quote from Simcoe’s Military Journal:

“On the 9th of October, 1778, [the Queen’s Rangers being at Oyster Bay, Long Island], it was hinted to Lieut. Col. Simcoe to hold his corps in readiness for embarkation. On the 19th it marched for that purpose; the cavalry to Jericho, where they were to remain under the command of Lieut.-Col. Fulton, and the infantry to Jamaica, which proceeded to Yellow-hook, and embarked on the 24th. Earl Cornwallis commanded this expedition, consisting of the 7th, 23d, 22d, 33d, 57th regiments, Rangers, and Volunteers of Ireland, commanded by Lord Rawdon; it was supposed to be intended for Jamaica, at that time presumed to be threatened with an invasion from M. d’Estaing. On intelligence being received that his designs were pointed elsewhere, the troops were re-landed, and were ordered to continue in readiness to embark at the shortest notice. The Queen’s Rangers marched to Richmond, on Staten Island. They relieved a regiment which had been very sickly while there. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe immediately ordered their huts to be destroyed, and encamped his corps. Signals, in case of alarm, were established on the Island by General Patterson, who commanded there.


“Two days were lost by a misunderstanding of the General’s order, the Hussars of the Queen’s Rangers only being sent to Jericho, without Captain Sanford’s troop, which was not merely necessary in regard to numbers, but particularly wished for, as it was known that Captain Sanford, when quartermaster of the guards, had frequently been on foraging parties in the country he was to pass through. On the 25th of October, by eight o’clock at night, the detachment, which had been detailed, marched to Billopp’s Point, where they were to embark. That the enterprise might be effectually concealed, Lieut.-Col. Simcoe described a man, as a rebel spy, to be on the Island, and endeavoring to escape to New Jersey. A great reward was offered for taking him, and the militia of the Island were watching all the places where it was possible for any man to go from, in order to apprehend him. The batteaux and boats, which were appointed to be at Billopp’s Point, so as to pass the whole over by twelve o’clock at night, did not arrive until three o’clock in the morning. No time was lost; the infantry of the Queen’s Rangers landed; they ambuscaded every avenue of the town [Perth Amboy]; the cavalry followed as soon as possible. As soon as it was formed, Lieut.-Col. Simcoe called together the officers; he told them of his plan, “that he meant to burn the boats at Van Vacter’s bridge, and crossing the Raritan, at Hillsborough, to return by the road to Brunswick and making a circuit to avoid that place as soon as he came near it, to discover himself when beyond it, on the heights where the General Redoubts stood while the British troops were cantoned there, and where the Queen’s Rangers afterwards had been encamped; and to entice the militia, if possible, to follow him into an ambuscade in which the infantry would lay for them at South River bridge.

Major Armstrong was instructed to re-embark, as soon as the cavalry marched, and to land on the opposite side of the Raritan, at South Amboy; he was then, with the utmost despatch and silence, to proceed to South River bridge, six miles from South Amboy, where he was to ambuscade himself, without passing the bridge or taking it up. A smaller creek falls into this river on South Amboy side. Into the peninsula formed by these streams Lieut.-Col. Simcoe hoped to allure some Jersey militia.”

Here follows a detailed account of the raid into New Jersey, in the vicinity of Morristown, then the headquarters of the Continental army. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe was badly wounded and captured. He was taken to the military prison at Burlington, N. J., where he was afterward joined by Colonel Christopher Billopp, the commander of the Staten Island militia. Major Armstrong assumed command of the Queen’s Rangers. The account continues:

“At South River the cavalry joined Major Armstrong; he had perfectly succeeded in arriving at his post undiscovered, and, ambuscading himself, had taken several prisoners. He marched back to South Amboy, and re-embarked without opposition, exchanging some of the bad horses of the corps for better ones which he had taken with the prisoners. The alarm through the country was general.  Wayne was detached from Washington’s camp m the highlands, with the light troops, and marched fourteen miles that night and thirty the next day. Colonel Lee was in Monmouth County, as it was said fell back toward the Delaware. The Queen’s Rangers returned to Richmond that evening, the cavalry had marched upwards of eighty miles, without halting or refreshment, and the infantry thirty.

“In the distribution of quarters for the remaining winter, Richmond was allotted to the Queen’s Rangers. The post was in the centre of Staten Island, and consisted of three bad redoubts, so constructed, at various times and in such a manner as to be of little mutual assistance. The spaces between these redoubts had been occupied by the huts of the troops, wretchedly made of mud. These Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe had thrown down, and his purpose was to build ranges of log houses, which might join the redoubts, and being loop-holed, might become a very defensible curtain. Major Armstrong followed the plan, and set the regiment about its execution, in parties adapted to the different purposes of felling the timber, sawing it, and making shingles for the roofings. In the beginning of December the regiment was ordered to embark; which order was, soon after, countermanded.

“On the last day of December Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe returned to Staten Island from his imprisonment. He was mortified to find the expedition, under the Commander-in-Chief, had failed; especially, as, upon his landing at the Island, he received a letter from Major Andre, Adjutant-General, saying, ‘If this meets you a free man, prepare your regiment for embarkation, and hasten to New York yourself.’

”He joined the corps at Richmond. Major Armstrong had been indefatigable in getting the regiment hutted in a manner which rendered their post comfortable and defensible, and they soon found the advantage of their very extraordinary labor. The day which Lieut.-Col. Simcoe passed the Sound was the last on which it became navigable for a considerable time, the frost setting in with most unusual inclemency, and, by the 10th of January, the communication with New York was totally shut up by floating ice; and General Sterling was reduced to the necessity of restraining the troops to half allowance of provisions, but with every precaution to impress the inhabitants and soldiers with the belief that this restriction was precautionary against the possibility of the communication being closed for several weeks; and care was taken to investigate what resources of fresh provisions might be obtained from the Island.

“The Sound, which divided Staten Island from the Jersies, being totally frozen over and capable of bearing cannon, information was received that several of the rebel Generals had been openly measuring the thickness of the ice, and it was universally rumored that an attack was soon to take place upon Staten Island. General Sterling commanded there, and he was with the main body at the watering place, the heights of which [Pavilion Hill] were occupied by several redoubts. Colonel Lord Rawdon, with the Volunteers of Ireland, was quartered near a redoubt at the foot of the Narrows; and Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, with the Queen’s Rangers, at Richmond —the whole force on the Island being one thousand eight hundred effective men.

“On the 15th of January, early in the morning, the rebel detachment of near three thousand men, under the command of the person styled Lord Stirling, crossed the ice and entered Staten Island. Lord Stirling marched immediately towards the landing place, and by his position cut off General Sterling’s communication with the Volunteers of Ireland and the Queen’s Rangers. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe occupied the high grounds near Richmond with small parties of cavalry, and the infantry were sedulously employed in what might strengthen that post. There were three pieces of cannon (a nine and two six-pounders), mounted on platforms, without embrasures, in the redoubts. These were pointed at the eminences, where it was expected the enemy would first appear, and where the stones were collected in heaps, so that a round shot, if it struck among them, might have the effect of grape. If batteries, or any cannon, should be opened against Richmond, it was obvious these guns must be dismounted; they were, therefore, not intended to be exposed to such accidents; but the redoubt on the right [now a burying ground on a hill] was meant, on the first appearance of assault, to be abandoned, and its area filled with abatis which were provided, and its gate left open and exposed to the fire of the cannon of the other redoubts placed at their respective gates, of the two regimental field pieces, and of the musketry from the doors, windows and loop-holes of the barracks. The officers’ barracks, which were within the triangular area formed by those of the soldiers and the redoubts, were intended to be taken down, and the logs of which they were composed were to be heaped within a hut, and to form a traverse on a part exposed to the enemy. The rear of the works were secured by their position on the edge of the hill from any possibility of attack, and some of the huts, which ran below the surface of it, were in perfect safety from any shot whatsoever, and nearly so from shells, against the splinters of which their logs were very respectable traverses.

400-pound canon used by the British to repel an attack by the Americans (Cutting Family gift to Conference House). Stolen in 1972.

“There was a gun boat, which was frozen up in the creek, at the foot of Richmond Hill. This gun was elevated so as to fire a single round of grape shot; some swivels also were brought into the redoubts. Spike nails, of which there were a quantity for the barrack purposes, were driven through boards, ready to be concealed under the snow in places which were most accessible; all the cattle in the neighborhood were brought in the precincts of the garrison, as were the sledges, harness and horses, and the most cheerful and determined appearance of resolution ran through the whole corps. About midday many deserters came in from the rebel army; by them a perfect knowledge of the enemy’s force was gained, and one of them affirmed that he overheard some of their principal officers say, ‘That it was not worth while to attack Richmond where they were sure of obstinate resistance, and which must fall of itself whenever the main body was taken.’

“Lieut. Col. Simcoe was anxious to communicate with Lord Rawdon, and to obtain any intelligence or orders his lordship might have for him. He sent his adjutant, Lieut. Ormond, with directions to get some of the militia to convey a letter for that purpose by the sea shore [South Beach]. Some scattering parties of the enemy had been that way, on which account Lieut. Ormond could get no one to venture; he therefore went himself, and putting on colored clothes that he might not be distinguished, in case of any small parties lying in ambuscade, he got safely to the flag staff, [now Fort Wadsworth] and returned without discovery. The rebels making no attempt in the daytime upon the redoubts, where General Sterling was, led Lieut.-Col. Simcoe to conclude that they waited for cannon or more forces, and meant to storm them at night or the next morning; for, though no person could hold more cheaply than he thought himself authorized to do, those men on whom the enemy had conferred the office and title of Generals, it appeared totally unreasonable that having so well chosen the moment of invading the Island, they had no determined point to carry, or had neglected the proper means to ensure its success. On these ideas, he desired Colonel Billopp, (who commanded the militia of Staten Island), to get them to assemble to garrison Richmond; but neither entreaties, the full explanation of the advantage such a conduct would be of, nor the personal example of Col. Billopp, had any effect; not a man could be prevailed upon to enter the garrison. They assembled to drink at various public houses, and to hear the news, or were busy in providing for the temporary security of their cattle and effects; and these were not disaffected persons, but men who were obnoxious to the rebel governors, many of them refugees from the Jersies, some who had every reason to expect death, if the enemy succeeded, and all the total destruction of their property,

‘Lieut. -Col. Simcoe was therefore obliged to lay aside his intentions, which were to march with his cavalry, carrying muskets, with as many infantry as he could justify the taking from Richmond, with his field pieces in sledges, together with the swivels fixed upon blocks, and to get near the enemy undiscovered, and to make as great an alarm and as much impression as possible upon their rear, whensoever they attempted to storm the British redoubts. All the roads between Richmond and the headquarters, [New Dorp], led through narrow passes and below the chain of hills; these, where they had been beaten only, were passable, the ground being covered with several feet of snow, so that no patroles were made during the night, which would have been useless and dangerous; and the cavalry were assembled within the redoubts; the night was remarkably cold. A person from the Jersies brought the report of the country, that Washington was expected the next day at Elizabethtown, and that straw, &c., was sent to Staten Island. He went back again, commissioned by Lieut. Col. Simcoe, to observe what stores were in Elizabethtown, and particularly to remake what air-holes were in the ice on the Sound between the mouth of Richmond Creek and Elizabethtown, as it was intended, if nothing material intervened before the next night, to send Captain Stevenson with a detachment to burn Elizabethtown, and to give an alarm in the Jerseys.

“The intelligence which this zealous and trustworthy loyalist brought was very probable. The making a winter campaigning in America had always appeared to Lieut. Col. Simcoe a matter of great facility, and by frequently ruminating upon it, he was alive to the advantages which would attend Mr. Washington in its prosecution. He would without hesitation have abandoned the post at Richmond, and joined Lord Rawdon, or GJeneral Sterling, taking on himself all consequences, had it not appeared to him that the possession of Richmond would insure to Mr. Washington a safe retreat, even should the ice become impassable, and would probably inculcate on him the propriety of his seriously attempting to keep Staten Island at this very critical period, when the Commander-in-Chief was absent with the greatest part of the army, and the troops in New York, under General Knyphausen, were probably not in a capacity to quit it and take the field; particularly as in that case the nominal militia, whose members were so well displayed, as sufficient to garrison it, must form-the greater part have melted away in their attendance on the army, to whose various departments they in general belonged.

“Mr. Washington might without difficulty have assembled from the smaller creeks, and even from the Delaware and Hudson’s river, a multitude of boats, which, while the snow was upon the ground. might be conveyed overland to the Staten Island Sound; and with these, added to those which attended the army, he might transport his troops or form bridges, securing all approaches to them from the water by batteries constructed on the Jersey shore, while by other attacks and preparations he certainly could have thrown great difficulties in the way of General Knyphausen and the British army in the three Islands.

“Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, reasoning on the possibility of these events, waited to be guided by circumstances. If General Sterling could hold out, and was neither overwhelmed by number, or reduced by famine, which was most to be dreaded, it was obvious Richmond would be safe. If matters happened other- wise, he was perfectly certain, from Lord Rawdon’s character, that he should receive some directions from him, who would never remain in an untenable pose, with the certainty (if being made prisoner; and at all events Lieut.-Col. Simcoe determined, in case General Sterling should be defeated, and that he should receive no orders, he would attempt to escape; for since the rebels liad shown a total defect in every private and Benedict Arnold. public principle of honor, when they violated the convention with General Burgoyne’s army, he and the officers of the Queen’s Rangers had determined in no situation to surrender, where by escaping, if it should be but a mile into the country, the corps could disband itself individually, and separately attempt to rejoin the British armies; proper inducements being held out to the soldiers, and great aid being reasonably to be expected from the loyal inhabitants, scattered throughout every colony, and in very great numbers.

“This, which had been his common conversation and steady resolution, in case of any fortunate events, was now determined on by Lieut.-Col. Simcoe; his ideas were to forerun all intelligence and to attempt to surprise Col. Lee, at Burlington, and then to escape to the back countries. For this purpose he had sledges which could carry a hundred men, and he had no doubt of soon increasing them in the Jersies to a number sufficient to convey the whole corps. The attempt was less dangerous in itself and less injurious, if it failed, to the community than the certainty of being destroyed by heavy artillery, of ultimately surrendering, of moldering in prison and becoming lost to all future service to their king and country.

“There was no corps between General Washington’s army and that of Lincoln’s hastening into Charlestown but Lee’s. When once in possession of his horses there was but little doubt in the minds of Lieut. -Col. Simcoe and the officers to which he communicated his ideas, but that he should effect his retreat into the back parts of Pennsylvania, join his friends there, probably release the Convention army, and not impossibly join the Commander-in-Chief in Carolina, all of these ideas, it was with great surprise and pleasure that Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe understood the enemy were retreating from the Island. He immediately pursued them with the flank companies of Hussars, and was overtaken by an order from General Sterling to effect the same purpose; but the enemy had passed to the Jersey shore before he could come up with them. While the troops in the enemy’s front, on their arrival at the heights opposite to the British redoubts, halted for the rear to close up, they were permitted to make fires, which increased the power of the frost, and rendered them totally unable to proceed, and the severity of the night affecting the whole of them, many lost their limbs and several their lives. There were vast mounds of snow drifted before the redoubts, which Lord Stirling gave as his reason for not attempting them; and General Knyphausen, on the first signal of Staten Island being attacked, embarked troops to support it. The enemy in the dark of the evening saw there vessels, (which, whether the passage could be effected or not, were wisely directed to be kept plying off and on); but they did not wait to see if they could reach the Island, which in fact the drifting ice prevented, but immediately determining to retreat, they effected it the next morning, losing many men by desertion, and many British soldiers, who had enlisted with them to free themselves from imprisonment, embraced the opportunity of being in a country they were acquainted with to return to their old companions.”

Quoted From: Morris, Ira K. 1898. Morris’s memorial history of Staten Island, New York. New York: Memorial Pub. Co.

*Morris had included some errors in his text.  If you need more up to date info on Loyalist units, visit the  Royal Provincial website.

Simcoe and The Queen’s Rangers, Part 3

The Queen’s Rangers, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe goes on to state, in his  Military Journal,  obtained a great many recruits, and it is very remarkable that neither that corps nor the Volunteers of Ireland had a single man who deserted from them, while there were such opportunities and apparent reasons to do it. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, on his return from Elizabethtown Point, where the enemy passed, had information that a party of plunderers had crossed from the Jersies to the other end of the Island. He detached the Hussars in pursuit of them, but they fled, on the Staten Island militia collecting together. The frost still continuing there were many reports and a general expectation that the enemy would again adventure upon the Island, with superior force, with sufficient provisions to attempt some greater purpose, and patroles were constantly made on all the roads by which they could possibly approach, by order of General Sterling.

The Queen’s Rangers had formerly experienced how ready General Sterling was to represent their services, and they now in common with the other troops, had a further proof of his good inclinations, it being inserted in general orders of the 21st of January,

‘Brigadier Gen. Sterling is happy to inform the troops on this Island of his Excellency Gen. Knyphausen’s fullest approbation of their behavior, and the good countenance they showed when the rebels were upon this Island, which the brigadier had reported to the Commander-in-chief; and his Excellency desires his thanks may be given to them.’

On the 25th [of January], Lieut.-Col. Simcoe gave out the following order: ‘That he expects the order relative to officers and soldiers sleeping in their clothes be strictly complied with, such recruits excepted whom the officers commanding companies may judge as yet unequal to the duties of the regiment; if any half-bred soldier disobeys this order, the first officer or non-commissioned who meets with him, will deliver him to the officer on guard to be put on some internal duty. The Lieut.-Col. has particular satisfaction in seeing the General’s approbation of that good countenance which enabled him, on the late inroad of the enemy, to rest perfectly at ease without augmenting the duty of the regiment. He knows its universal spirit, and certain from the fidelity of those on guard, that the garrison cannot be snatched away by surprise, is confident that Richmond redoubts will be too dear for the whole rebel army to purchase.’

Planned Capture of George Washington

Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe formulated a plan to capture “Mr. Washington,” as he called him, by making a secret march from Staten Island to Morristown. While waiting for Sir Henry Clinton’s conclusions, the Hussars were ordered to march to New York, with a convoy, over the ice. Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe goes on to say : “It would seem that the same negligence in Gen. Washington’s quartering in front of his army had attracted the notice of Captain Beckwith, Gen. Knyphausen’s aide-de-camp, and he had formed a plan to carry off that General, for which purpose cavalry were collected at New York, and among others Captain Beckwith obtained the Hussars of the Queen’s Rangers, of whom he had a good opinion. Brig.-Gen. Sterling communicated to Lieut.-Col. Simcoe the purpose for which the cavalry was withdrawn, as it was intended that a general movement from Staten Island should favor the enterprise.

“Since it did not take place on so large a scale as was at first designed, Lieut.-Col. Simcoe received orders ‘to send a party to surprise the enemy’s post at Woodbridge or Rahway, and to give a general alarm’; this party was to cross the ice at one o’clock in the morning, and not to return until nine or ten. Accordingly Lieut.-Col. Simcoe passed the ice with two hundred infantry at one o’clock; Major Armstrong with some infantry, the cavalry and cannon occupying the heights, at the Old Blazing Star [Rossville], to cover their return. The snow prevented all possibility of marching but in the beaten road; there were no posts in Woodbridge.”

Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe then gives a detailed account of his adventures in New Jersey, where they had a warm engagement with the Continental militia. After that he continues: “The party returned to Richmond without further molestation. The Queen’s Rangers lost only one man, already mentioned; a few were wounded, but they bore no proportion to the number whose cloths were struck by the enemy’s bullets, fired at a distance, through intervening thickets, or more probably by those who had not recollection enough to ram down their charges. The enemy’s loss was supposed to be more considerable, as many of them were seen to fall and the whole of the affair being between single men, the Rangers were better marksmen than the Jersey militia. Captain Beckwith had found it impracticable to carry his attempt into execution, from an uncommon fall of rain which, encrusting the top of the snow, cut the fetlocks of his horses and rendered it absolutely impossible for him to succeed. The Hussars soon afterward returned to Staten Island. The ice floating on the 22d of February, the Sound became impassable. The soldiers were permitted to undress themselves at night, and in case of alarm they were directed to accoutre in their shirts, and to form at their posts.

“Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, on his arrival at Staten Island from imprisonment, had applied to the Commander-in-chief to request that he might join the army to the southward. He had also written in the strongest terms to Earl Cornwallis, soliciting his lordship to support his application. ln case his wishes should not take place, he was anxious to be of what service he thought the present situation of the Queen’s Rangers would admit; for this purpose he made application through the proper channel to General Knyphausen for discretionary permission to beat up the enemy’s forts in the Jersies, and to have boats sufficient to transport three hundred infantry and sixty cavalry, to be manned by the Rangers, and to be left totally to his own disposal.

He proposed by this means to countenanced desertion, then so prevalent in Washington’s army, and to keep the whole coast in continued alarm. He had the most minute maps of the country and the best guides, and the Loyalists, without doubt, would have universally joined him. The first enterprise he meant to attempt was to surprise Col. Lee at Burlington. * * * Lee’s corps were excellently mounted and disciplined; he himself was active and enterprising, and had that weight in the Jersies which capacity and power, with a very free use of it, could give to the possessor. The importance it would have been of to the intended system of operations to have seized upon Col. Lee and demolished his corps is best illustrated by remarking that, although Burlington is nearly seventy miles from Staten Island, he was understood to have his pickets eight or ten miles in his front for his security.

“Lieut.-Col. Simcoe’s proposals were approved of by Generals Knyphausen, Sterling and Tryon. Some of their boats were sent to him, and the remainder were in forwardness when, on the 23d of March, 1780, the infantry of the corps received orders to embark for Charlestown, which it did on the 4th of April. Captain Wickham was left with the Hussars in the town of Richmond, and the duty of the redoubts was taken by a party of two subaltern officers and sixty rank and file, from the 82d regiment, under his directions; this detachment was in a few days relieved by the 22d regiment. The Hessian regiment of Ditforth, Queen’s Rangers, Volunteers of Ireland, and Prince of Wales Volunteers, under command of Col. Westerhagen, sailed on the 7th [of April]. The Queen’s Rangers anchored in Stono inlet on the 18th, and camped before Charlestown, (S. C.,) on the 21st.

New Bridge Rebel Outpost Captured and Battle of Springfield

Captain Wickham, of the Hussars, had by no means been idle while at Richmond. The post was such as might have been a temptation to an enterprising enemy; but General Knyphausen, by frequent and well-concerted expeditions, had kept the rebels fully employed in their own cantonments, the Jersies. On one of these attempts, the Hussars of the Rangers were eminently distinguished, as was detailed to Lieut.-Col. Simcoe by Captain Wickham, and by him read to the Commander-in-chief, who was highly satisfied with it. The report mentions, ‘that on the 15th of April, the cavalry on Staten Island, consisting of Cornet Tucker and twenty of the 17th regiment, light dragoons, Capt. Wickham with a troop of forty-five men and Capt. Diemar with his Hussars, forty men, crossed Cole’s ferry, and marched to English neighborhood, where they joined Major DuBuy, with three hundred of the regiment DuBose, and fifty of Colonel Robinson‘s corps. At New Bridge Sergeant McLaughlin, with six of the Rangers in advance, fell in with and either killed or took the whole of a small rebel outpost.

“On the 21st of June the regiment landed at Staten Island, and marched to Richmond redoubts. At midnight Lieut.-Col. Simcoe received orders to proceed instantly to the Jersies, where General Knyphausen, having thrown a bridge of boats over the Sound, near Elizabethtown Point, was encamped. The Hussars of the regiment here joined the corps.”

Then followed an event that formed one of the very blackest pages in English military history — the battle of Springville, N. J., the burning of the village, and the wanton murder of the wife of Pastor Caldwell. The “Queen’s Rangers” took part in it, of course. They returned to Staten Island in the night. On the 10th of July, (1780), Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe joined his regiment and immediately left Staten Island, going over to Long Island. He received this message from Major Andre, then serving as Adjutant-General of the army on Staten Island: “The General assures you that the Rangers shall be pitted against a French regiment the first time he can procure a meeting.” We further quote from Simcoe’s Military Journal:

“The Queen’s Rangers crossed from Long to Staten Island and marched to Richmond redoubts on the 8th of October. * * * The Commander-in-Chief, thinking it proper, in the general orders, to publish the high idea which he entertained of Major Andre, both as a gentleman and an officer, and the sense he entertained of the loss his King and country had met with in his death, Lieut.-Colonel Simcoe, who had considered his execution as a barbarous and ungenerous act of power in the American General, and who had certain and satisfactory intelligence that the French party in general, and M. Fayette in particular, who sat upon his trial, urged Mr. Washington to the unnecessary deed, took the opportunity in his orders to the Queen’s Rangers, the officers and soldiers of which personally knew and esteemed Major Andre, to inform them that, ‘he had given directions that the regiment should immediately be provided with black and white feathers as mourning, for the late Major Andre, an officer whose superior integrity and uncommon ability did honor to his country and to human nature. The Queen’s Rangers will never sully their glory in the field of any undue severity; they will, as they have ever done, consider those to be under their protection who shall be in their power, and will strike with reluctance at their unhappy fellow subjects who, by a system of the barest artifices, have been seduced from their allegiance, and disciplined to revolt. But it is the Lieut.-Col.’s most ardent hope that on the close of some decisive victory, it will be the regiment’s fortune to secure the murderers of Major Andre, for the vengeance due to an injured nation and an insulted army.’

“It was generally supposed about the latter end of October that the enemy meditated some attempt on Staten Island. M. de Fayette was in the neighborhood of Elizabethtown, in force and with boats on travelling carriages. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe by public conversation, the means of spies, and by marching to Billopp’s Point in the dusk of the evening, so as to be discovered from the opposite shore, and then returning by ways which the enemy could not see, had endeavored to attract their notice and possess them with a belief that an inroad into the Jersies was in contemplation. As M. Fayette arrived in the vicinity the very day subsequent to this feint, it was reasonable to believe that his march was in consequence, and that the boats with him were destined to facilitate his passage across the small creeks with which the Jersies are intersected, in case of the British troops making any incursions into that country. Every proper precaution was taken by the troops in Richmond to prevent a surprise.

On the 12th of November official information was sent by the Adjutant General to Lieut.-Col. Simcoe that his post was the object of Fayette’s design, and that it probably would be attacked on that or the ensuing night. He immediately declared in orders: ‘The Lieut -Colonel has received information that M. Fayette, a Frenchman, at the head of some of his majesty’s deluded subjects, has threatened to plant French colors on Richmond redoubts. The Lieut.-Colonel believes this report to be a gasconade; but as the evident ruin of the enemy’s affairs may prompt them to some desperate attempt the Queen’s Rangers will lay in their clothes this night, and have their bayonets in perfect good order.’

“The Highlanders immediately assembled and marched to the redoubt, which, in the distribution of posts, was allotted to them to defend, and displaying their national banner, with which they used to commemorate their saint’s day, fixed it on the ramparts, saying,  ‘No Frenchman or rebel should ever pull that down.’ The Rangers were prepared if an attack should be made on the Watering Place, which appeared to be most probable, to march out and attack any division which might be placed, as had been in Lord Sterling’s attempt, to mass the troops in Richmond. Two field pieces, six pounders, and Captain Aulthause‘s company of riflemen had reinforced them.

“Lieut.-Col. Simcoe made himself acquainted with the landing places and the intervening grounds, in the minutest particular, and he had the Commander-in-Chief’s directions to abandon his post, ‘If the enemy should land in such force as to make, in his opinion, the remaining there attended with risk.’ The defects of Richmond were not sufficiently obvious for such inexperienced men as the rebel generals to seize upon and profit by at once. How far they might attract the instantaneous notice of the scientific French officers, supposed to be acting with them, it was not easy to foresee. Had the enemy been in a situation to have attacked the place by regular approaches, Lieut.-Col. Simcoe would have done his best endeavors to have maintained it; but had any General, at the head of a very superior force on the moment of his appearance, placed twenty or thirty field pieces on two separate eminences which enfiladed the redoubts, and formed a column to penetrate under cover of the cross fire, he had resolved to abandon what he considered in case of such a disposition to be untenable.

“A false alarm, which was give by an armed vessel stationed in Newark Bay, occasioned a considerable movement in the army, and troops from New York embarked to reinforce Staten Island; the post at Richmond was supposed to be the object of an attack. On the first gun being fired, patrols had been made on all sides by the cavalry, and the infantry slept undisturbed, Lieut.-Col. Simcoe apprehending the alarm to be false. The Rangers were very alert on guard, and proud of their regimental character of not giving false alarms, or being surprised; and the sentinel, as Lieut.-Col. Simcoe remarked in orders upon the only omission which ever came under his cognizance, ‘felt a manly pleasure in reflecting that the lives and honor of the regiment were entrusted to his care, and that under his protection his comrades slept in security.’

Surrender at Yorktown

On the 11th of December, 1780, the Queen’s Rangers embarked on an expedition to Virginia, under the command of General [Benedict] Arnold. They were very active in all the movements of the British army and formed a part of the troops commanded by Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown. When it was certain that the entire force under that distinguished general must surrender. Colonel Simcoe, according to his own writing, “sent Lieut. Spencer to his Lordship to request that as his corps consisted of Loyalists, the object of the enemy’s civil persecution, and deserters, if the treaty was not finally concluded, that he would permit him to endeavor to escape with them in some of those boats which General Arnold had built; and that his intention was to cross the Chesapeake and land in Maryland, where, from his knowledge of the inhabitants of the country and other favorable circumstances, he made no doubt of being able to save the greatest part of the corps and carry them into New York. His Lordship was pleased to express himself favorably in regard to the scheme; but said he could not permit it to be undertaken, for that the whole of the army must share one fate. The capitulation was signed on the 19th of October. Earl Cornwallis, on account of Lieut-Col. Simcoe’s dangerous state of health, permitted him to sail for New York on the “Bonetta,” which by an article in the capitulation, was to be left at his disposal, a sea voyage being the only chance, in the opinion of the physicians, by which he could save his life. On board of this vessel sailed as many of the Rangers, and of other corps, deserters from the enemy, as she could possibly hold. They were to be exchanged as prisoners of war, and the remainder of Earl Cornwallis’ army were marched prisoners into the country. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, on his arrival at New York, was permitted by Sir Henry Clinton to return to England.

“Many of the soldiers, who were prisoners in the country, ‘were seized,’ says Col. Simcoe, ‘as deserters from Mr. Washington’s army. Several enlisted in it to facilitate their escape, and being caught in the attempt, were executed. A greater number got safe to New York, and, had the war continued, there was little doubt but the corps would have been re-assembled in detail. The Rangers were so daring and active in their attempt to escape that, latterly, they were confined in a ‘ goal.’ Captain Whitlock, who commanded them while prisoners in the country, was one of the captains who drew lots with Captain Asgil to suffer for Huddy‘s death.’

Captain Saunders was the last commandant of the Queen’s Rangers in this country. They were, afterwards, both cavalry and infantry enrolled in the British army; but the corps was disbanded at the ensuing of peace, and many of the officers, and most of the soldiers, settled on the lands to which they had a claim in Nova Scotia.

“The following is an extract from ‘the general return of officers and privates surrendered prisoners of war, the 19th of October, 1781, to the allied army under command of General Washington, taken from the original muster rolls’:

“Queen’s Rangers — 1 Lieut. -Colonel, 1 Major, 10 Captains, 15 Lieutenants, 11 cornets, 3 quartermasters, 2 surgeons, 24 sergeants, 5 trumpeters, 248 rank and file — total, 320. ”

John Graves Simcoe, courtesy of the Bibliothèque et Archives Canada

It may be useless now to further recall the character and acts of Colonel Simcoe while serving his king on Staten Island. Let the century that has intervened soften our feelings toward a vanquished foe. When the war ended he was a prisoner and went directly to England where he became a member of Parliament, while holding a commission as Lieutenant-Colonel in the regular army. When Canada was divided into two provinces, Simcoe was appointed Governor of Upper Canada. His headquarters were at York, now called Toronto. It seems that then his chief ambition was to increase the prejudice of the Canadians and Indians against the people of the United States, and the unpleasant, and frequently bitter, feeling existing in that province toward our people to-day, can be traced to the bigotry and vindictiveness of John Graves Simcoe. In 1796 he was appointed Governor of Saint Domingo, and in 1798 he was commissioned a Lieutenant General in the British army. He was sent to join Lord St. Vincent in the expedition to Portugal, and died a few moments after he landed.