George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Ebenezer Gray, 10 September 1778

From Major Ebenezer Gray

⟨Norw⟩alk [Conn.] Septr 10th 1778


Having received certain Intelligence that about Forty Refugees from this State were Commissioned by Govr Tryon to Cruise in the Sound in Eight Whale Boats and that their Place of Rendezvous was in Huntington Harbour about one mile & a half from the Town and Two mile from the Fort1 I formed a little Expedition against them with the assistance of some People from Long Iland who had fled to this Place for safety, which I put in Execution the Night before last and returned yesterday to this Place, in which I have taken thirteen Prisoners, all, except one, formerly Inhabitants in this State, and have fled to the Enemy as they say from Principle, not daring to oppose King George in any matter, Eight of them belong to the Privateer whale Boats, the other five are Enemies to the present Constitution of the Country from Principle as they say & have been, (some of them) skulking to and from the Iland for some purposes they don’t chuse to own, Ten of the thirteen were taken at a House after pretty smart Fire from the House, in which Three of their Ringleaders were killed, their Names were Isaac Coffin, Peter Lyon of Reading & Mattw Mallet of Stratford Captains of the Whale Boats. I was so unfortunate as not to find any more of the Party, the remainder having Just gone to Loyds Neck.2

I have them under Guard here and shall wait your Excellenys orders respecting them, should have sent them to Head Quarters, but Genl Parsons advised to give your Excelleny this Information and wait for further Direction. I am with proper Respects your Excelly Obedt Humbe Servt

Ebenr Gray Majr Comg at this Post

P.S. I forgot to mention that I found a Brig Sloop & small Schooner aground on the Beach which I ordered to be burned, and one whale Boat which I took Lt Deney the Bearer was with the Party and will give your Excelly any further that is necessary.3


1Gray was evidently referring to Fort Slongo, east of Huntington Bay at the present town of Fort Salonga, Long Island.

2Brief reports of this raid appeared in the Norwich Packet, 14 Sept.; the Connecticut Courant (Hartford), 15 Sept.; and the Connecticut Journal (New Haven), 16 Sept.; the names of the prisoners were listed in the Independent Chronicle. And the Universal Advertiser (Boston), 17 September. According to a notice in Rivington’s Royal Gazette (New York), 19 Sept., the Americans “landed at Oak Neck, in Huntington, Long-Island, and attacked the house of the Widow Chicester.” Isaac Coffin was reportedly from Woodbury, Connecticut. Lt. Peter Lyon of the 4th Regiment of Connecticut militia, who had subscribed to the Redding Association of Loyalists in February 1775, was ordered before the Connecticut assembly in June 1776 for disobedience of orders. In March 1777 the Redding selectmen, noting that he had “put and Continues to hold and Screen himself under the Protection of the Ministerial Army,” began proceedings for the seizure of his estate (Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, Hudson’s River, New-Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, 20 April 1775; Grumman, Revolutionary Soldiers of Redding, 199–200). Matthew Mallet may have been the man appointed in June 1778 as quartermaster for Andreas Emmerich’s Chasseurs, a mixed Loyalist and Hessian corps.

3The postscript was written on the cover. John Denny, who was commissioned an ensign in the 1st New York Regiment in July 1776 and promoted to second lieutenant in November of that year, was on command at Norwalk in August and September 1778. He resigned from the army in October 1778.

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