George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 25 May 1777

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

N. Haven [Conn.] 25th May. 1777

Dear General

Having recd Information that the Enemy were collecting Forage, Horses &c. on the East End of Long Island, I order’d a Detachment from the Several Regiments then at this Place, consisting of 1 Major 4 Capts. Viz. Throop, Pond, Mansfield & Savage,1 & 9 Subalterns & 220 Noncommisd Officers & Privates under the Command of Lt Coln. Meigs to attack their different posts on that Part of the Island & destroy the Forage &c. which they had collected; Coln. Meigs Embarked his Men here in Thirteen Whale Boats The 21st Inst. & proceeded to Guilford, but the Wind proving high & the Sea rough could not pass the Sound, untill Friday the 23d. he left Guilford at 1. oClock afternoon of the 23d with 170 of his Detachment & under Convoy of Two Armd Sloops & in Compy with Another unarmd (to bring off Prisoners), cros’d The Sound to the North Branch of the Island Near Southhold, where he arrivd about 6 oClock in the evening; the Enemy’s Troops on this Branch of the Island had March[ed] for N. York two Days before, but about Sixty of the Enemy remaing at a place calld Sagg Harbour About fifteen Miles Distant on the South Branch of the Island; he orderd the Whale Boats with as Many Men as Could be Safely Transported across The Bay, Over land to the Bay,2 where they Re-imbarkd to The Number of One Hundred & thirty & at about 12 oClock arived Safe across the Bay within about 4 Miles of the Harbour, Where having secured The Boats in the wood under the Care of a Guard: Coln. Meig’s formd His Remaining little Detachment in proper Order for Attacking the different Posts & Quarters of the Enemy & Securing the Vessels & Forage at the same Time. they Marchd in the greatest Order & Silence; and at 2 oClock arrivd at the Harbour; the Several Division’s with fixtd Bayonets attackd the Guards & posts assignd them whilst Capt. Throop wth the Detachment under his Command Secured The Vessels & Forage lying at the Wharf: the Alarm Soon became general when an Armd Schooner of twelve Guns & Seventy Men lying within One Hundred & Fifty Yards of The wharf, began a fire upon our Troops which Continued without Cessation for About three Quarters of an Hour with Grape & round Shott; but the Troop’s with the Greatest Intrepitedy returnd the fire upon the Schooner & Set fire to The Vessels & Forage, & killd & Captivated all the Soldiers & Sailors except about Six who made their Escape under Cover of the Night. twelve Brigs & Sloops one an Armd Vessell with twelve Guns: About One Hundred & twenty Tons of pressd Hay, Oats Corn & Other Forage; ten Hogsheads of Rum & a large Quantity of Other Merchandize were intirely consumd: it gives me great Satisfaction to hear the Officers & Soldiers, without Exception behavd with the Greatest Bravery, Order & Intrepidety; Coln. Meigs having finishd the Business on which he was Sent returnd safe with all his Men to Guilford by 2 oClock P.M. Yesterday; with 90 Prisoners: having in 25 Hours: by land & Water transported his Men full Ninety Miles & Succeeded in his Attempt beyond my most Sanguine Expectations; without loosing a Single Man either killd or Wounded. it gives me Singular Pleasure to hear no disposion appeard in any one Soldier, to plunder the Inhabitants or violate private property, in the Smallest Degree: & that even the Clothing & Other Articles belonging to the prisoners, the Soldiers, with a generosity, not learnd from British Troops, have with great Chearfulness restor’d to them, where they have fallen into their hands. Majr Humphry who waits on your Excellency with the Account was in the Action with Coln. Meigs & will be able to give any further Necessary Information.

Inclosd is a Second Request from the Assembly, for detaining part of the Troops here with a letter from the Governor:3 I have order’d to Horseneck the Number Mentiond, on their Rout to Peeks kill this will Make about one Days March further, if I receive no other Orders from your Excellency they will not be Detaind there. I shall prepare to set off for Camp agreeable to your Excellency’s Directions: and hope to arrive at my post by Sometime next week; Govr Brown’s Brigade, & part of Delancy’s, have removd from Long Island to the Main, they Crossed above Hell Gate. about four Hundred remain on the Island at different posts: Bridges of Boats I am Informd are finishd. A list of the prisoners is Inclosd.4 I am yr Excellency’s Obedt h[umbl]e Servt

Saml H. Parsons

P.S. Col. Meigs informs me one Ginnings, a Serjeant in Col. Huntingtons Regt very much distinguishd himself on this Occasion by his Coolness & deliberate Bravery & good Judgment in some of the Most critical Moments they found: if any small Commission should be given him Coln. Meigs thinks he would not disappoint yr Excellency’s Expectation.


1David Humphreys (1752–1818) of Derby, Conn., who served as an aide-de-camp to GW from 1780 to 1783 and as one of his secretaries from 1789 to 1790, acted as the major of this detachment. A tutor before the war, Humphreys became adjutant of a Connecticut militia regiment, a captain in the 6th Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777, and brigade major to Parsons on 29 Mar. 1777. Humphreys was an aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam from December 1778 to May 1780, and he served briefly as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Nathanael Greene before being named one of GW’s aides-de-camp with the rank of lieutenant colonel on 23 June 1780 (see General Orders, that date). After the war Humphreys became secretary of the American commission at Paris. He was appointed minister to Portugal in 1790 and minister to Spain in 1794. Benjamin Throop (1744–1822) of Norwich, Conn., who had served as a first lieutenant in the 6th Connecticut Regiment from May to December 1775 and as a captain in Col. Charles Burrall’s Connecticut regiment during 1776, became a captain in the 1st Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777. Promoted to major of the 4th Connecticut Regiment in May 1778, Throop became major of the 5th Connecticut Regiment on 1 Jan. 1781. He retired from the army two years later. Joseph Mansfield (1737–1821) of New Haven, served as a first lieutenant in Col. William Douglas’s Connecticut state regiment from June to December 1776 and as a captain in the 6th Connecticut Regiment from 1 Jan. 1777 to 10 May 1780 when he resigned his commission. Abijah Savage (1744–1825) of Middletown, Conn., who had been appointed a lieutenant in the 2d Connecticut Regiment in May 1775, was captured at Quebec on 31 Dec. 1775, and he was exchanged in October 1776. Savage became a captain in Col. Henry Sherburne’s Additional Continental Regiment in January 1777, and he served in that capacity until he retired from the army on 1 Jan. 1781.

2Parsons is referring to Great Peconic Bay.

3The enclosed copy of the Connecticut general assembly’s resolution of 8 May directs Governor Trumbull “to request Genl Parsons to order four hundred of the Continental Troops raisd in this State to be detaind for the present in the Town of Greenwich & parts adjacent for the defence of said Inhabitants” against the frequent enemy foraging raids that were occurring in that area (DLC:GW). Trumbull says in his letter to Parsons of 24 May: “we are still recieving the repeated Alarming Accounts from Stamford & horse neck [Greenwich] of the Continued depredations made upon them by the Enemie which not only Greatly distress the Inhabitants but affords great Aid & Support to the Enemy—We have therefore to request you would Immediately Order at least four hundred of your Troops to those part⟨s to p⟩revent those Unhappy Incursions of the Enemy, the Supply’s ⟨th⟩e enemy gain this way Enables them to Act against the Continental Army & we trust will Warrant your conduct therein supported by our request” (DLC:GW).

4This undated list shows that the ninety prisoners taken on Long Island consisted of a Captain Raymond, commissaries Chew and Bell (or Beel), 10 masters of vessels, 3 sergeants, a corporal, 45 privates, 27 seamen, and a sick soldier “whose Parole was taken.” The list also shows that six of the enemy were killed (DLC:GW).

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