George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tupper, 3 August 1776

From Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tupper

Dobbs’s Ferry [N.Y.] 5. Afternoon 3d August [1776]


I am now to inform your Excellency that my Flag being hoisted on board of the Washington I came up with the Ships & attacked at ¼ past One this Afternoon—The Pheonix fired the first Gun which was return’d by the Lady Washington whose Shot went thro the Pheonix—Upon my Orders the Lady Washington put about to form a Line the tide was such that the Washington & Spit fire was exposed to the Broad Sides of the Ships for ½ of an hour without Suffering mutch Damage, we engaged them an hour & a half and then we thought to retreat to Dobbs’s Ferry about 4 miles below the Ships[.]1 The Damages we Sustaind is as follows Viz.

Washington 4 Slightly wounded Sail & riging mutch Damaged 13 Shot in her hull.

Lady Washington Crackt her 32 Pounder no other Damage Spit fire one killed 2 badly wounded hull & riging mutch Damaged.

Shark2 none killd or wounded hull’d four times, The Whiting one Man lost both Leggs and 4 more wounded riging mutch Damaged Two Men wounded one of them mortally, it is thought of but not yet determin’d whether we shall retreat to Spiking Devil or not3 we wish to give them another Drubing we Saw many Splinters drifting down. I am Your Excellency’s most obedient Humble Servant

Benj. Tupper
Lt Colo. and Commander

Copy, in George Lewis’s writing, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 5 Aug. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1This engagement occurred in the Tappan Zee off Tarrytown. The account in the Phoenix’s journal for this date reads: “At ½ past Noon three Schooners and four Row Gallies, in sight working up the River. . . . at 1 Six of Rebels Schooners & Row Gallies attacked us; we began, & kept up a constant Fire at them for two Hours, at which time they Row’d away down the River & came to an Anchor in sight of us. Perceived one of the Gallies to have Recd considerable damage, by the Rebels being under the Necessity of hauling one on shore. At ½ past 3 hove Short on the Stream & Weighed the Best Bower Anchor, in order to Run down to the Rebels Vessels but the wind coming more to the Westwd The Pilot thought it to dangerous an Attempt, the Channell being so narrow as not to allow the Ship room to Cast. . . . In this Action we Recd two Shott only in our Hull” (Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 6:38). The Rose, which also fought in the engagement, received more damage: “The Starbd Quarter Gallery Shot away, some of the Rigging hurt & several Shot in the Hull.” The Rose had one marine killed and one marine and three seamen wounded (Journal of H.M.S. Rose, Captain James Wallace, this date, ibid., 38–39). See also “A Letter from a Gentleman, who was in the Engagement wth the Ministerial Pirates off Tarry-Town, dated Sunday Morning, Aug. 4,” ibid., 49.

2Lewis inadvertently wrote “Shirk” in the manuscript.

3Spuyten Duyvil Creek, which connects the Hudson and Harlem rivers, separates the northern end of Manhattan Island from the mainland.

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