George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 16 October 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Amboy [N.J.] October 16. 1776


General Green has informed your Excelleny that a party pass’d over last night to Staten Island with a view to attack the Enemy, at the east end near the Watering Place—as we advanced towards Richmond Town information was given, that some Companies of British & Hessian Troops, were stationed there—surprising them was therefore the first object, which was effected this morning at break of day—Well disciplined Troops would have taken the whole without the loss of a man—but we only took about twenty prisoners, partly Hessians & English—eight Hessians & nine British, one of those wounded, & besides these two mortally wounded left at Richmond Town—We lost two men in the Action—What we have collected of intelligence from the Prisoners, is enclosed.1

Your Instructions of October the 15th I shall immediatly set about, observing with the utmost diligence and Punctuallity2—Col. Griffin receivd a Wound in the Heel in the Action of this Morning & Lt Col. Smith of the flying Camp was slightly wounded in the Arm3—I shall send the Prisoners on to Philadelphia. I have the honour to be Sir Your Excellencys Most obed. Set

H. Mercer

LS, DLC:GW. The last two sentences and the closing are in Mercer’s writing. Although Tench Tilghman docketed this letter in part “Ansd 18th,” that reply has not been found.

1Nathanael Greene accompanied Mercer and the raiding party to Staten Island, but he was obliged to leave before the attack because about eleven o’clock at night he received orders from GW directing him to come immediately to Harlem Heights. For GW’s limited involvement and a somewhat fuller account of the raid, see Mercer to Hancock, 17 Oct., DNA:PCC, item 159; see also Mackenzie, Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 1:80.

The enclosed examination of one Hessian and two British prisoners, dated 16 Oct., is in DLC:GW. Robert Holbrook of the 14th Regiment says: “There were about 1500 [troops] on the Island at first—about 10 days ago the greatest part of the Hessians embark’d. . . . Genl How has 22000 including Hessians & all other Troops—Some new Troops landed last Monday [14 Oct.]—the Army in good Health—& plenty of Provisions—all Salt on the Island—they expect 15000 Hessians every day—but no English Troops—the only reinforcement is the 6th Ridgment about 150—Hessians in the Army supposed to be 15000.”

Peter Gee of the 6th Regiment says: “150 of them landed on Staten Island last Monday from the Chambury, Transport—left England the 3d July[.] 20 Sail Came out with them 2 Men of Warr & 18 Provision Vessels—they were makeing great preperations in England, recruited very fast—but expected the Press [impressment] to break out—about 700 Hanoverians came out, as many more expected, some of them lay at Plymouth—the greatest part of the Hessians left the Island—a great many Sick on the Island—the number in the Fort not known supposd about 600—only two pieces of cannon in the Fort—expected a reinforcement of the regulars.”

Christian Guiler, a Hessian private, says: “Tis 8 Years since he left his own Country[.] allmost all thier Troops is with Genl How—12000 of them have come, expect more—expected if taken Prisoner to have Mercy Shewn him if we were a Christian People—that he was brought from his Country by force, that detachments were sent through thier Country & if thier Parents interferd were put into Jail—were told they were to be Garrision’d in England—but affter 3 days arrival in England were orderd to embark for America to their great disappointment, & against thier Will[.] were guarded to their Ships—they saw no papers of any kind among them from us—if they knew that they would be well treated by us, would all lay down thier Arms—have no desire to return to thier Ridgments again—are much pleasd & happy with the treatment they have recievd—and are very thankfull for the same.”

2These instructions have not been found. Mercer says in his letter to Hancock of 17 Oct. that “General Washington’s Orders, which I recieved that night [15 Oct.], immediatly to form a new Arangement of the troops in New Jersey oblidged us to return to Amboy” the following morning (DNA:PCC, item 159).

3Samuel Griffin was deputy adjutant general of the flying camp. Jonathan Bayard Smith, whom Congress had appointed deputy mustermaster for the flying camp on 9 July, resigned that office in a letter to Hancock of 25 Sept., and Congress accepted his resignation two days later (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 , 5:529, 830; and Smith to Hancock, 25 Sept., DNA:PCC, item 78). Smith returned to Philadelphia by 2 Nov. when he served as secretary of a citizens’ meeting regarding the new state constitution and the impending elections to the general assembly (see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:483–84). Smith was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress on 5 Feb. 1777.

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