Friday, November 4, 2011

Letters from the Front: Flanking Maneuver at Pell's Point

"...Our Men are in good Spirits, ‘thou very ragged & dirty..."

As American forces were cautiously celebrating a Pyrrhic victory at Valcour Island, General George Washington's main army stood poised at the landward side of New York City, holding post at the main bridge over the Bronx River. Huntington, whose last dispatch was written from the same local in late September, notes little change from the army's disposition of nearly three weeks earlier. His most significant concern is that the British forces will successfully outflank the Americans, cutting them off from the mainland and placing them in an untenable position. His letter details the movement of British troops off of their respective land posts around New York City, which, somewhat ironically, was the lead up to a major action that occurred a few days after of his letter: the Battle of Pell's Point. On October 12th, British Commander Sir William Howe had landed a large force of redcoats on Throgs Neck (referred to as "Frogs Point" in Huntington's letter below) in an attempt to out-flank American forces at Harlem Heights. Finding the Neck to be an island, rather than a peninsula, Howe evacuated his men on the evening of October 18th, landing at Pell's Point early the next morning. Meanwhile, Washington had already put the army in marching order, moving towards safer positions at White Plains where his line of retreat could be secured. The skirmish that ensued at Pell's Point between Glover's 14th Continental Regiment (from Marblehead, MA) and 4,000 redcoats bought Washington the time he needed to make good his escape. In the meantime, however, Washington left 2,000 men in garrison at Fort Washington, with orders to maintain a foothold on Manhattan Island. That post would provide the ground for the next major clash of the New York Campaign. For the full text of Huntington's letter, please continue below the fold.


Sol Feinstone Collection No. 595
Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 15 Oct. 1776. Kings Bridge, New York.
Transcribed by Andrew Dauphinee August 2011

                                                                                                “Camp Kings Bridge 15 Octr. 1776

Hond Sir

            I sent you by Mr. Buckely of Withersfield a Bundle of Money & now send by Mr. Thes: Huntington 40 pounds ― not thinking it prudent to keep any more by me (as Appearances are) than just for necessary Expenses – there is great Probability that the Enemy intend a general Action many think their Plan is to pass over from Frogs Point (where they are now in great Numbers) to Phillips Patent on the North River and cut us entirely off from the Country ― We learn by a Deserter from NYork, that only three Brigades are left on York Island (say 3000) 500 on the Jerseys & none on Staten Island ― Genl Washington is ordering the most of his Troops into this Division ― Genls Putnam & Spencer are left with two Brigades Divisions (3 Brigades each) upon our advanced Lines toward NYork – General Lee came into Camp Yesterday ― Our Men are in good Spirits, ‘thou very ragged & dirty ― I hope we shall give the Enemy a warm Reception ― may our Trust be in the all wise & gracious Sovereign of the Universe
                                                                        I am your affectionate Son  Jed Huntington”

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