George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Colonel Moses Hazen, 26–27 January 1780

From Colonel Moses Hazen

Cranes mills [N.J.] 26th[–27] January 1780

Dear Sir

I had the Honr to write your Excellency at 3 and 6 oClock in the morning to which I refer—with alteration as I am Since Told that Colo. Hay of the Pensylvinia line Narrowly made his escape—That the enemys force at Elizabeth Town Consisted of about 100 Horse and between four and five hundred Infantry—they Cross’d Trembly Point and Came into Town between the Hours of Eleven and Twelve in the Evening and most Notoriously Surprised the Detachment at that place. Capt: Bedkin who was Sent for the Perticular Purpose of Patrolling the Streets leading into Town has a Share in the Disgrace—he has lost Twelve Horses with all their accutrements four men Taken Prisoners and Two wounded—Lt Bruff of the 6th Maryland Regt Posted at Elizabeth Town point with 20 men had Just time to retire with his party; over the Ice to bergan and then came in to Newark he lost but 3 or 4 men Lt Brusen1 of the Pensylvina line who also Commanded a Subalterns guard at Newark was likewise Surprised, his men Surrounded in the academy, him Self Twice a Prisoner with the Enemy and finally made his Escape—I cannot learn who Command[ed] this Detachment of the enemy at Newark; which is Supposed to have been betwen Two and three hundred foot2—I have not yet got in the exact returns of our Loss But by the best accounts I have Collected It will be four officers and about Sixty men—viz. major Eccleston, Capt: Belt & Capt: Gray of the maryland line—Capt: Gifford of the New Jersey line was also unfortunately Taken not on Duty; But from his amusements.3

The three Regiments Posted at Connecticutt farms; this Place and Raway assembled with in half a mile of Elizabeth Town in less tha[n] Two hours from the first alarm—Buskirk has ⟨b⟩een fortunate; I have been unlucky—I wish it may not However fall to my lot to be releived before I have an opportunity to Retaliate.

Col: Willitt has mentioned to me more than once the Practibility of burning the enemys Transports at New york which he Supposes to be frozen up in the Ice in Turtle Bay;4 where it is Supposed there are many Stores &ca: he wishes to under take it with Twenty or Thirty men only—Col: willit is an active good officer has lived better than Thirty years in New York, he is Perfectly acquainted with every Part of the City and the Island This or any other object which your Excellency may have in view on York Island he wishes to under take.

The foregoing letter was rote last evening But before I had time to Close it, I received advice of the Regt at Raway being alarmd by accounts from the Island of the enemys being in motion.

The approaching evening bids fair for an excurtion on the Island with Some Small Parties, But I have not yet Such Intelligen⟨ce⟩ as would Justify the attempt, tho I hope to obtain Something before the evening. I have the Honr to be your Excellenc⟨y’s⟩ most obedt and very Hume Servt

Moses Hazen

Jany 27th 10 oClock fore noon.

Col: ogdins Detachment are Cantoond at Scots Plains about four miles in my Rear.

M:H:

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 27 Jan. (first letter), DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (extract), DLC:GW; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. The copy (extract) in DLC:GW is a draft, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, of the copy (extract) sent to Huntington. A notation on the cover of the ALS indicates that Hazen sent the letter by “Express.”

In its edition for Wednesday, 2 Feb., the New-Jersey Journal (Chatham) gave an account of the raids on Elizabeth and Newark, New Jersey. The newspaper reported in a column dated at Chatham that day: “A party of the enemy, consisting of about 300 infantry, under the command of Col. Van Buskirk, of the new levies, and about 60 dragoons, said to be under the command of Capt. Steward, of the 17th light dragoons, with several refugees, the whole, in number, near 400, crossed on the ice from Staten-Island to Trembley’s Point, about three miles from Elizabeth-Town, last Tuesday night. From thence they were conducted by Cornelius Hetfield, Job Hetfield, and [John] Smith Hetfield, their principal guides, the nearest and most retired route to Elizabeth-Town. They entered the town, in two divisions, before the alarm was sounded. As soon as the troops that were in town, (consisting of about sixty men) perceived their danger, they retreated; however, they took a major, who was commandant of the place, and two or three captains, that lodged in town that night, and a few troops. They then set fire to the presbyterian meeting and court house, which were consumed; plundered, insulted, and took off some of the inhabitants, and retreated, with great precipitation, by the way of De Hart’s Point, whose house they likewise consumed.

“The same night another party of the enemy, consisting of draughts from the different regimen[t]s stationed in New York, passed over the North River, in sleighs, to Powles-Hook, from thence through Bergen, the nearest way to Newark. They entered the town in three divisions, and immediately proceeded to the academy, where they surprized and took about fifteen men, being all the troops that were on duty in town. A lieutenant, notwithstanding he was twice a prisoner with the enemy, by his vigilance, effected his escape. They then set fire to the academy, which they consumed; during which time a party was detached to several of the inhabitants houses, which they rifled of the most valuable effects; that which was not portable they destroyed. They took off Justice Hedden, and Robert Neil, jun. two of the inhabitants. The former gentleman was taken out of his bed, and without any other cloaths on except his shirt and a pair of stockings, carried off, notwithstanding the strongest solicitations of Mrs. Hedden, to the officers, for permission for her husband to dress himself, who received two wounds with a bayonet, one in the face, the other in her breast, by those mighty veterans of fallen Majesty.

“They continued in town about fifteen or eighteen minutes. A few militia being hastily collected, pursued their rear, by which means five of the enemy fell into their hands. Two of them died a short time after with the intense cold.

“We are informed, that Justice Hedden is so frost-bit, that it is thought he will lose both his legs.”

1Hazen probably is referring to either John Bryson (c.1740–1822) or Samuel Bryson (c.1751–1799), both lieutenants in the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment. Ireland native John Bryson, of Allen Township in Cumberland County, Pa., joined the regiment in April 1777. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Paramus, N.J., in April 1780 and did not rejoin the regiment. Samuel Bryson joined the regiment in March 1777 and was wounded at the Battle of Germantown in October of that year. He was wounded and taken prisoner at New Bridge, N.J., in April 1780. He transferred to the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1781 and to the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment in January 1783. He served to the close of the war.

2Maj. Carl Leopold Baurmeister, aide-de-camp to Lt. Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen, claimed that Maj. Charles Lumm attacked Newark with part of his garrison from Paulus Hook and 300 infantry from the New York garrison (see Baurmeister, Revolution in America, description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends 340). The Royal Gazette (New York) of 29 Jan. added that Lumm’s force consisted of the flank companies of the 44th Regiment, with detachments from the 42d Regiment, the Anspach regiments, and the Hessian regiments from the city garrison.

3Baurmeister asserted that Lumm’s force killed eight men and captured thirty-four prisoners, while suffering no casualties themselves. He claimed that Lt. Col. Abraham Van Buskirk’s detachment that attacked Elizabeth, N.J., captured two majors, three captains, “several subalterns,” five dragoons, and forty-seven soldiers (Baurmeister, Revolution in America, description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends 340). The Royal Gazette of 29 Jan. added that “Few of the Rebels were killed, but several were wounded by the dragoons, although they afterwards escaped.” A modern estimate based on contemporary sources puts American casualties at eight killed (all at Newark) and sixty-seven captured (fifty-two at Elizabeth and fifteen at Newark), and it lists British casualties as five captured at Newark (Peckham, Toll of Independence, description begins Howard H. Peckham, ed. The Toll of Independence: Engagements & Battle Casualties of the American Revolution. Chicago, 1974. description ends 67).

John Sprigg Belt (c.1752–1821) of Anne Arundel County, Md., joined the third Maryland battalion of the Flying Camp as a first lieutenant in July 1776. Taken prisoner at Fort Washington in November 1776, he apparently was released and became a first lieutenant in the 4th Maryland Regiment the next month. He received promotion to captain in December 1777. After his exchange, he transferred to the 1st Maryland Regiment in January 1781. He left the army in January 1783.

James Woolford Gray (1740–1793) of Dorchester County, Md., joined the third Maryland battalion of the Flying Camp as an ensign in August 1776 and was made a lieutenant the same month. He transferred to the 5th Maryland Regiment in December 1776 as a first lieutenant and became a captain in December 1777. After his exchange, Gray served briefly in the 1st Maryland Regiment before transferring to the 3d Maryland Regiment in January 1781. In January 1783, he transferred to the 2d Maryland Regiment. When the remaining Maryland troops were formed into a consolidated battalion in April 1783, Gray was retained in that unit. He left the army in November 1783.

4Turtle Bay was located along the East River shore of Manhattan Island.

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