George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 6 September 1776

From Major General William Heath

King’s Bridge Sepr 6th 1776.
3 oClock P.M.

Dear General

Colonels Nicoll DuBois & Drake1 are just come in and give the following Information vizt That one Mr Cornwall of Cow Neck came over to Frogg’s Point the last Night (Co[r]nwall is a stanch Friend to the Liberties of America, a Relation to Comfort Sands Auditor General of the State of New York) and says that he is a Soldier in the Militia of Cow Neck, under the Command of Capt. Stephen Thorn of that Place who held a Commission as Capt. of that Militia under the Governor of New York. That (he) Thorn waited upon General How to resign his Commission who told him that such as held Commissions under Government & resigned them would be severely punished, upon which he continues with his Company of Militia to guard the Coast at Cow Neck altho he appears to be friendly to our Cause, and allows all Persons to Land and pass without Mollestation.2

Co[r]nwall further says that the Enemys Main Body is at Bedford, that they have impressed from 1000 to 1500 Waggons & Carts to transport their Baggage Boats &ca—This Account is also confirmed by a Letter from one Mr Stephen Sands of Cow Neck to his Brother Richard Sands at New Rochelle both of whom are esteemed Friends to our Cause3—Co[r]nwall further adds that he heard Capt. Thorn say that the Enemy woud land in two Places between Hell Gate and Frogg’s Point, one of which he supposed would be a feint Vizt that meant the latter Place—That the Militia was to be mustered To morrow to give an Opportunity for raising Recruits for the King who were to be commanded by Colo. Ludlow.4

Cornwall goes on to the Island again this Night—Capt. Thorns Company may be taken with the greatest Ease; but we fear that at present it would rather diserve the Cause.

Colonels Nicoll and Drake are returned to their Posts that not a Moment may be lost in this Important Business—We are also informed by the same Channel that one Kissam—a late Tory Member of the Assembly of this State is employed in distributing Royal Pardons to the Inhabitants of Long Island.5 I have &ca

Wm Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1Although Joseph Drake of New Rochelle had resigned his commission as a colonel in the Westchester County militia on 24 July in a dispute over military precedence, he readily obeyed the New York committee of safety’s resolution of 27 Aug. directing him to call out immediately “as many of the militia . . . as he shall think sufficient to watch the motions of the enemy’s ships now in the Sound, and to prevent all communication with the disaffected inhabitants” (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 , 1:593; see also ibid., 537, 556, 565, 597, 598).

2Cow Neck, now called Manhasset Neck, is on the northwestern shore of Long Island between Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor. James and Aspinwall Cornwell of Cow Neck served in Capt. Stephen Thron’s militia company during 1775 and signed the Queens County association in January 1776 (see Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 1051). Aspinwall Cornwell served as an ensign in Capt. John Sand’s Great Neck and Cow Neck militia company from October 1775 to March 1776 when he was promoted to second lieutenant (see O’Callaghan and Fernow, N.Y. Documents description begins E. B. O’Callaghan and Berthold Fernow, eds. Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York. 15 vols. Albany, 1853–87. description ends , 15:286). Stephen Thorn of Hempstead remained loyal to the British crown throughout the war. His property, including a 371–acre farm and two sloops, was confiscated by the state, and he settled in Nova Scotia after 1783 (Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists description begins Gregory Palmer. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Westport, Conn., and London, 1984. description ends , 861).

Comfort Sands (1748–1834), a wealthy New York merchant who was building a house in New Rochelle, served in several provincial congresses and state assemblies and was state auditor general from 1776 to 1782. During much of the war Sands was a major provisions contractor for the Continental army. In 1782 Sands joined Walter Livingston, William Duer, and Daniel Parker in forming Sands, Livingston & Co., a firm that held a contract for provisioning West Point and the moving army. About the same time Sands began furnishing GW’s household supplies. Sands’s reluctance to cooperate in meeting the army’s changing needs, however, soon led GW to seek new contracts (see GW to Robert Morris, 31 Oct. 1782, DLC:GW; see also Sands, Livingston, Duer, & Parker to Morris, 11 Sept. 1782, in Ferguson and Catanzariti, Morris Papers description begins E. James Ferguson et al., eds. The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784. 9 vols. Pittsburgh, 1973–99. description ends , 6:356–64).

3Stephen and Richardson Sands were brothers of Comfort Sands. Richardson Sands (1754–1783), who lived in Philadelphia, was a partner in Comfort Sands & Co.

4Gabriel George Ludlow (c.1736–1808), who commanded the Queens County militia at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, was arrested as a suspected Loyalist by order of the Continental Congress in January 1776 and was sent to Philadelphia (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:27–28, 114, and 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 , 1:289). Obtaining his release a short time later, Ludlow did not return to Queens County until General Howe’s army landed on Long Island in August, when he raised 700 men to reinforce Gen. William Erskine at Jamaica, New York. At this time Ludlow was recruiting a battalion for Gen. Oliver De Lancey’s Loyalist brigade, and he subsequently commanded that battalion with rank of colonel until 1783. Ludlow’s property, which included 144 acres on Long Island and 17,000 acres in Ulster County, was confiscated by the state during the war, and he subsequently settled at Carleton, New Brunswick (see Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists description begins Gregory Palmer. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Westport, Conn., and London, 1984. description ends , 509–10).

5Daniel Kissam (d. 1782) of Cow Neck was a judge of the court of common pleas for Queens County, and in 1774 he became a member of the county’s committee of correspondence. As a member of the New York general assembly in 1775, Kissam voted against approval of the acts of the first Continental Congress, and in January 1776 he was among the suspected Long Island Loyalists arrested by order of Congress (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:27–28, 114). Kissam’s 330-acre Long Island farm was confiscated by the state later in the war.

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