George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston, 30 August 1776

From Lieutenant Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston

Sagg Harbour [N.Y.]
30th August 1776

May it please Your Excellency

On Thursday Last I received an Express from Captain Davis Stationed at Montauk Point notifying me, that he had discovered three saild of the Enemy making for the Point, that they had hoisted out their Boats to the Number of ten or twelve he susspected with design to land and Carry off Stock: After giveing the orders I thought necessary to Captains Roe, and Griffin, I set out for the Point,1 On my Arrival in the Evening at Captain Davis’es Station, I found three Vessels which I took to be Frigates from twenty to thirty Guns, a Brig we immagined a Prize, and a Small Sloop, Close in with the Land; at 7 OClock in the Evening one of the Frigates the Brig and the Sloop made for the Continent south West of New London where they anchered under the Shore, the Other Two Ships Bore away for Block Island. On Saturday Morning the three Vessels under the Eastern Shore, takeing advantage of the Tide of Flood and a fair wind Sailed up the Sound as far as Huntington, about Sixty Miles from hence the tide and wind makeing against them they were obliged to come to an Anchor. how far they have since proceeded is uncertain, but suppose the Communication by water between this and New York is now Cut off, the Ships off Block Island still Continue to Cruise there; we immagine by their movements that they wait the Arrival of a Fleet2—I have just received an Account of My Colonels promotion to the Rank of Brigadier General, as next in Rank to him in the Regiment I should [have] Transmitted Your Excellency a General Return of the whole: But my remote distance from the Major part of the Regiment together with the uncertainty whether it is Your Excellencies Intention I Should succeed him has prevented me.3

The Inclosed is a true state of the Detatchment Your Excellency was pleased to honour me with the command of.4 My respects wait on Mrs Washington. I remain Sir Your Excellencies most Obedient Humble Servant

Henry B: Livingston

P:S: Any Command your Excellency pleases to honour me with will be forwarded by the Bearer Lieutenant Smith of Captain Roes Company.5

My Dear General I have just received an Account by express that the Communication between us and New York is Cut off and that your Excellencies attempts to dislodge the Enemy have hitherto been Successless I have dispatched an Account of this Matter to his Excellency Govenor Trumbull of Conecticut.6 If it meets with Your Excellencies approbation I should think notwithstanding the Ships in the Sound we shall be able in a few Days to get a Body of men from Conecticut whose Attack on the Back of Our Enemies from this way may be a means of Distressing them much: they have now poss[ess]ion of Jamaica and Hemstead plains consequently this Country is exposed to their Ravages, the Communication at Hellgate is not Yet Cut off, I wait with impatience for Your Excellencies Commands. Yours Afftely

Henry B: Livingston

The publick spirit of this Country has reduced its Militia to nothing.

ALS, DLC:GW.

The village of Sag Harbor is on the southeastern peninsula of Long Island about thirty-five miles from Montauk Point.

1The detachment from Col. James Clinton’s 2d New York Regiment that Livingston commanded in eastern Long Island during the summer of 1776 consisted of John Davis’s, Daniel Roe’s, and Daniel Griffing’s companies. John Davis (d. 1782) of East Hampton, Long Island, was a first lieutenant in James Clinton’s 3d New York Regiment from June 1775 to April 1776, when he raised a company and became a captain in Clinton’s new 2d Regiment. In November 1776 Davis was named a captain in Livingston’s newly formed 4th New York Regiment. Davis was wounded at the Battle of Stillwater in September 1777, and in April 1780 he was promoted to major of the 4th New York. In December 1780 Gov. George Clinton sent Davis to Long Island to impress clothing and blankets (see Clinton to Davis, 22 Dec. 1780, in Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:510–12). Davis was captured at Sag Harbor by the British in November 1781 and was treated as a spy. He died in captivity at New York a short time later allegedly of starvation or poisoning (see anonymous letter to George Clinton, 16 Dec. 1781, ibid., 7:584–85, and Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 96, 217, 324).

Daniel Roe (1740–1820) of Brookhaven, Long Island, a veteran of the French and Indian War, served as captain of a company of Suffolk County minutemen from December 1775 to April 1776, when he raised a company for Continental service and was assigned to Clinton’s 2d New York Regiment (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:232, 421, 424, and Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 991). On 20 Sept. 1776 Roe led an expedition to Brookhaven to seize Loyalist leaders and remove his and other families to Connecticut, and on 28 Oct. 1776 he again raided the town, capturing two sloops (see Livingston to GW, 24 Sept., and Onderdonk, Suffolk and Kings Counties description begins Henry Onderdonk, Jr. Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties; with an Account of the Battle of Long Island, and the British Prisons and Prison-Ships at New-York. New York, 1849. description ends , 54, 62). Although Roe accepted a captaincy in Livingston’s 4th New York Regiment in November 1776, he apparently left the army a short time later (see Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 530, 699, 1016–17).

Daniel Griffing (1736–1822) of Southold, Long Island, another veteran of the French and Indian War, became a captain in Clinton’s 3d New York Regiment in June 1775 and continued as a captain in Clinton’s 2d Regiment from April to November 1776. Disappointed at not being promoted, Griffing apparently resigned his commission in January 1777 (see Griffing to the New York convention, December 1776 and 4 Jan. 1777, in the N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 2:329, 392, and Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 368, 1014–16). Griffing became a privateer captain later in the war.

2The frigate Cerberus and sloop Merlin were stationed off Block Island at this time. The three vessels that sailed up Long Island Sound apparently were the frigates Brune and Niger and the brig Halifax.

3Congress appointed James Clinton a brigadier general on 9 Aug. (see General Orders, 12 Aug.). Livingston did not take command of the main part of the 2d New York Regiment in the Hudson highlands. Retreating with his detachment to Saybrook, Conn., on 2 Sept., he remained with it on the Connecticut coast until November when he became colonel of the 4th New York Regiment.

4This return has not been identified.

5George Smith (1749–1822) of Smithtown, Long Island, an attorney who had graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1770, served as a second lieutenant under Capt. Daniel Roe in the 2d New York Regiment from April to November 1776. Smith continued in that rank in the 4th New York Regiment until 5 Oct. 1777, when he was appointed deputy judge advocate general for the northern department, an office that he held until 1 April 1780 (see Smith to Congress, 21 April 1787, DNA:PCC, item 42). In November 1778 Smith and a cousin led a raiding party that seized a prominent Loyalist at Brookhaven, and in the fall of 1780 Smith was allowed to return to Long Island, where he apparently acted as an American spy (see the Royal Gazette [New York], 2, 9 Dec. 1778, and Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 569, 928–29).

6This news was received by Rev. Samuel Buell of East Hampton, who was with Livingston at Sag Harbor. At Livingston’s urging, Buell wrote Governor Trumbull on this date informing him “that the Ministerial Army (Supposed to be about Sixteen thousand) Are on this Side our Army upon the Island, have lined across the Island from the Sound to the South Side, So that we on the East End, can have no access to our Army. . . . The Enemy have 200d Horse Their riders were to Dine the Day before Yesterday at Hempstead—They have the Command of the west End of the Island intirely.” Buell suggested that Trumbull send “a Number of Troops” to reinforce eastern Long Island as Livingston did also in a letter that he wrote to Trumbull of this date (DLC:GW). Trumbull enclosed copies of these letters in his letter to GW of 31 Aug.—1 September.

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