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To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston, 11 September 1776

From Lieutenant Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston

Saybrook [Conn.]
11th Septr 1776

May it please your Excellency

Since my last by Lieutenant Smith I have been able to collect no assisstance,1 the Malitia of Southold about one Hundred and fifty in number deserted me at the River Head on my way to Huntington haveing heard that long Island was given up to the Enemy, Colonel Mulford was gathering the Malitia of South and East Hampton when this Report (industriously Circulated by our Enemies) was spread among them, in Vain I endeavoured to remove the Falacy: Colonel Smiths Regiment haveing been dismissed by their Colonel, arrived in small Parties and Confirmed the Report, I received at the same time Letters from the Town of Huntington praying me for Gods Sake not to advance any farther, as they had already submitted to the Enemy, and much feared Terms would not be granted them Should I proceed any farther, these Considerations togather with a fear that Our Retreat might be cut off as I had engaged no Boats to take off the Troops induced me to determine a Retreat which was effected on the 2d of September In three Hours after we arrived at this Place since that time I have almost Constantly been employed in Assisting the unfortunate Inhabitants of Long Island to remove their Stocks2—On my way from the River Head hearing that the disaffected in and about Huntington were disarming Our Freinds I took the same method and have Collected about 236 Small Arms have also Brought Off 6 Peices of Ordnance one 9 one 12 and 4 Six Pounders all unmounted 5 Qr Casks Powder 2½ Boxes of Ball 190 Cartouch Boxes 160 Powder Horns filled 153 Bayonets3—before I left Long Island The Towns of East Hampton and Southampton had sent for their Pardons to Lord How since I have left it they have almost universally taken the Oath of Allegiance to his Britanick Majesty tendered to them by Colonel Gardiner I have since taken him and have him now in Custody at this Place with two others Governor Trumbull has appointed a Committee to examine them and if they Merit the Indulgence to permit them the liberty of a Town in Connecticut on their Parole,4 the Governor has also sent about 280 Men to My Assistance as my own are not to be depended on their Connections being on Long-Island, twenty one deserted on the day of our Retreat since that many others; this has reduced the Detatchment to a Trifle I propose sailing from this Place for Huntington tomorrow Morning and hope to have an Opportunity of being Serviseable the whole of the Troops I Shall have with me will be about 420 I am thus particular as I understood Your Excellency was informed I had a greater Number, I beleive if 10,000. Men were sent on the East End of Long Island they woud give a verry unexpected turn to Affairs the Division would Certainly surprize our Enemies, I would not have had the presumtion to Mention this had I not heard it was Your Excellencies Intention, they are now perfectly Secure their whole attention is bent on their Operations at New York. I send enclosed a True State of the Detatchment under my Care5 & remain with respect Your Excellencies Most Obt Humble Servant,

Henry B: Livingston

P.S. The inclosed are the Proclamations of Generals How and Erskin which I intercepted at River Head.6

ALS, DLC:GW.

2Livingston marched his detachment west from Southold to Riverhead, N.Y., on 1 Sept., and the next day he evacuated Long Island, ferrying his men across the sound to Saybrook on the Connecticut coast (see Livingston to the Connecticut Council of War, 4 Sept., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 2:170). David Mulford, Sr. (1722–1778), of East Hampton, who had held a commission as an officer since 1748, was named colonel of the 2d Regiment of Suffolk County militia in August 1775. After Gen. Nathaniel Woodhull was captured on 28 Aug. 1776, Mulford took command of the militia at Huntington. He was forced to swear an oath of allegiance to the king on 7 Sept. but subsequently took refuge in Connecticut (see Mather, Refugees from Long Island description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 476–77, 992, 997).

3For the disposal of these items, see Livingston to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 11, 14 Sept., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:296–97, 336–37.

4Abraham Gardiner (1721–1782), a member of the East Hampton committee of correspondence in 1774 and a signer of the Suffolk County association in 1775, received a commission from Governor Tryon to administer British loyalty oaths to his neighbors after the Battle of Long Island. On 9 Sept., however, Gardiner transported his family and livestock to Saybrook, where he was arrested by Livingston. Gardiner apparently was exonerated by the examining committee because in March 1777 the state of New York reimbursed him for his cost in moving to Connecticut (Mather, Long Island Refugees description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 116–17, 351–52, 770–71).

5The enclosed return of 12 Sept. shows that Livingston’s detachment contained 13 commissioned officers, 1 adjutant, 25 noncommissioned officers, and 224 rank and file, of whom 178 rank and file were present and fit for duty, 2 on furlough, 16 on command, and 28 deserted. The detachment had 320 good and 60 bad arms. In a note on the return, Livingston writes: “I Shall be joined tomorrow by Captain [Christopher] Leffingw[el]l’s independant Company of 50 Men and three Companies of Colonel Wolcuts [Erastus Wolcott’s] Regiment 60 Men each by Gove[r]nor Trumbulls Order they are Command[ed] by Major [John] Ely who is Commanded to act in Concert with me” (DLC:GW).

6General Howe’s proclamation of 23 Aug. offers pardon and protection to the loyal inhabitants of Long Island who had been “forced into rebellion” and encouragement to “those who choose to take up arms for the restoration of order and good government within this Island” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:1121). Brig. Gen. William Erskine’s proclamation of 29 Aug. calls upon the inhabitants of Suffolk County to lay down their arms and provide the British troops with cattle, wagons, and horses. If they fail to show “a dutiful submission in all respects,” Erskine warns, he will march his troops “without delay into the country” and lay “waste the property of the disobedient, as persons unworthy his Majesty’s clemency” (ibid., 1211–12). William Erskine (1728–1795), who entered the British army in 1743 and served as a major of light dragoons in Germany during the Seven Years’ War, was knighted by George III in 1763 when he presented colors captured by his regiment. Named lieutenant colonel commandant of the 1st Battalion of the 71st Regiment in 1775, Erskine sailed to America in the spring of 1776 as commander of the 42d and 71st regiments with the rank of brigadier general, and during the Battle of Long Island he commanded a brigade. After the battle General Howe appointed Erskine commanding officer for the eastern part of Long Island, and on 7 Oct. 1776 he became quartermaster general of Howe’s army (see William Howe to George Germain, 3 Dec. 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:1054–55). Erskine served as quartermaster general until he returned to England in the summer of 1779. He also participated in Tryon’s raid on the Connecticut coast during the spring of 1777 and commanded troops at various other times during his stay in America. Erskine was promoted to major general in 1779 and lieutenant general in 1787.

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