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Fort Havoc (Wallace Hale)

Info The language of the text is the original used by Wallace Hale. Records acquired by the Provincial Archives are not translated from the language in which they originate.

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Provincial Regiments

 

De Lancey's Brigade

 

Of all the loyalist regiments none attained greater distinction than this which for us has an especial interest since it was the men of deLancey's Brigade who settled the Parish of Woodstock. This fact renders it fitting that the corps should receive somewhat fuller consideration than those that have been previously spoken of. The founder of the brigade was Brigadier General Oliver de Lancey, a prominent citizen of New York, who had seen service in the old French war in which he commanded some 5,000 provincial troops under General Abercrombie.

General de Lancey, strange to say, had not by birth a single drop of English blood in his veins, yet at the time of the Revolution he put his life and property at stake to prevent the dismemberment of the empire. His ancestors on his father's side were French, and on his mother's Dutch. Upon the submission of Long Island to the British in August 1776, General Howe appointed Oliver de Lancey a brigadier general with orders to raise three battalions of 500 men each for the defence of the island. By virtue of his commission Oliver de Lancey became the senior loyalist officer in America during the war.

To raise his battalions the general himself contributed large sums which were supplemented by contributions from the inhabitants of every town on Long Island, amounting in the aggregate to some thousands of pounds. The third battalion, commanded by Col. Gabriel G. Ludlow, consisted from the colonel down to the lowest subaltern of natives of Queen's county, Long Island, and the non-commissioned officers and privates were also natives and included many of the solid yeomanry of the island. In order to stimulate the enlistment, orders were issued that any reputable citizen who raised a company of seventy men should have the appointment of its officers, captain, lieutenant and ensign. The three battalions were soon raised. General de Lancey was colonel of the first, and his son-in-law, John Harris Cruger, was his lieutenant colonel. George Brewerton, an alderman of New York who had rendered distinguished service in the late French war, was colonel of the second, and his lieutenant colonel was Stephen de Lancey, eldest son of the general. Gabriel Ludlow, as just stated, commanded the third battalion, and his lieutenant colonel was Richard Hewlett, of Hampstead, Long Island.

The battalions were organized "for the defence of Long Island and other exigencies." The first winter after their formation they were stationed respectively at Oyster Bay, Huntington and Brookhaven, three considerable towns on the north shore of Long Island. The following summer the second battalion was stationed at Kings bridge just above the City of New York, and the first battalion was ordered to take post and build a fort at Hanington [Huntington?], while the third did the same at Brookhaven. Lieut. Col. Cruger had command of the fort at Huntington, and Lieut. Col. Hewlett of that at Brookhaven. Both were resolute officers, active, alert and vigilant. The consequence was perfect security, peace and safety to the whole island which proved an asylum to the persecuted loyalists of Connecticut, hundreds of whom, driven by bitter persecution from their homes at Stanford, Norfolk, Fairfield, etc., sought and obtained protection within the British lines on Long Island.

In July, 1777, Lieut. Col. Hewlett and his battalion, then about 300 strong, was attacked at Brookhaven by General Parsons at the head of 1,000 men. The latter took possession of a rising ground near the fort and having mounted his cannon ordered the loyalists to surrender. Col. Hewlett replied with a contemptuous refusal; whereupon Gen. Parsons began a cannonade and the fort replied. At the end of twelve hours the Americans retired with the loss of thirty men; Hewlett had but one man killed. Though de Lancey's Brigade had been organized principally for the defence of Long Island, General Clinton in the fall of 1778 sent the first and second battalions with General Campbell to Georgia, and they arrived at Savannah on the 23rd of December. A few day later General Campbell attacked and defeated the American forces under Gen. Robert Howe with the loss of 600 men, capturing Savannah with all its stores including 71 pieces of artillery and a quantity of ammunition. In the engagement Lieut. Col. Cruger and his men gained much credit. In conjunction with the British Light Infantry they gained the rear of the enemy by means of a bye patth and then by an impetuous charge threw them into great confusion.

In the month of September, 1779, the combined French and American forces invested Savannah. The first and second deLancey battalions were with the garrison that defended the town. They fought most gallantly and materially contributed to the successful defence. Lieut. Cruger had charge of an important position and repulsed the enemy in three several attacks. This brave officer and his men gained additional honor at the capture of Charleston, May 12, 1780. Their conduct was also highly commended at the battle of Camden, in which General Gates suffered total defeat. The first and second deLanceys, however, won their greatest laurels in the heroic defence of "Fort Ninety-Six" near Camden, of which an account will here be given.

The garrison consisted of 150 men of deLancey's brigade, 200 men of the New Jersey volunteers and 200 loyal militia under Colonel King. Lieutenant Colonel Cruger had but few cannon and he was short of ammunition while the defences of the post were in a very unfinished state. Every effort was made to strengthen the fortifications but the work was still incomplete when the American General Greene with 4,000 men appeared on the scene.

On the night of the 21st of May 1781 besiegers broke ground and threw up two works within seventy paces of the fort. Whilst they were engaged in strengthening these works the following night they were attacked by a party of the garrison and every man of them put to the bayonet, the works demolished and even the intrenching tools carried off. The besiegers now proceeded more cautiously and by incessant labor during the next ten days advanced their trenches nearly to the fort. They were meanwhile harassed by the frequent sorties of small parties of the garrison. General Greene at this junction peremptorily called upon the garrison to surrender. Cruger answered that ninety-six was committed to his charge and it was his duty as well as his inclination to defend it to the last extremity. He added that the threats or promises of General Greene were alike indifferent to him. The besiegers then opened four batteries and commanded a cross fire continuing their cannonade for several days at the same time pushing a sap and erecting batteries one of which was at a distance of only 35 paces from the abatis of the fort. The besiegers employed African arrows to set fire to the barracks. The African arrows so called were fitted to the boxes of the muskets the heads being armed with a dart and combustibles attached which were set on fire just before the arrows were shot at the buildings. Col. Cruger ordered the barracks to be unroofed thus saving them from destruction but at the same time exposing his officers and men to the night air and the inclemency of the weather. Meanwhile the siege went on and the garrison continued their night sallies, often with success. In spite of all their efforts their position was daily becoming more critical. By the 12th of June the enemy's trenches were advanced to the stockade and a sergeant and six men advanced to set fire to the abatis. It was a vain attempt, they were all killed by the defenders. However by the 16th of June the concentrated fire of the besiegers rendered this outwork untenable and it was evacuated and with it the garrison lost communication with their water supply. Their sufferings were now extreme. With great labor a well was dug within the fort but no water could be found. Midsummer was drawing on and the heat of South Carolina is always at such times excessive. The only way of obtaining water was by sending out naked negroes in the night who brought in a scanty supply from within pistol shot of the American pickets, their bodies not being distinguishable in the night from the dead logs with which the place abounded. In this trying emergency Col. Cruger continued to be the life of the garrison encouraging them by word and example exhorting them to die in the last ditch rather than to surrender.

At last on the 17th June in broad day light a brave loyalist rode at full gallop through the enemy's picket line amid a storm of bullets and delivered a message to Col. Cruger that Lord Rawdon was in full march to raise the siege. A shout went up from the defenders that reached the enemy's lines. Knowing that there was no time to lose General Greene stormed the fort the next day; his forlorn hope gained the ditch and were followed by strong parties with grappling hooks and other tools to pull down the parapet. At this moment a detachment of New Jersey volunteers led by Capt. Campbell and another corps of deLancey's men led by Captain French sprang from their sally posts, entered the ditch at opposite ends, and pushed forward with the bayonet till they met one another having cleared all before them. General Greene beheld with astonishment his design foiled by the desperate valor of a mere handful of men. He could not persuade his soldiers to make another attempt. The next day he raised the siege and shortly afterwards Lord Rawdon appeared on the scene with his army of relief.

The defence of a place so weak and ill provided as fort ninety-six for upwards of 30 days with only 350 provincial and 200 militia against an army of 4,000 is remarkable. The garrison had one lieutenant, 3 sergeants and 23 rank and file killed and the besiegers had 1 colonel, 3 captains, 5 lieutenants and 157 privates killed not counting the loss sustained by their militia. The defence of fort ninety-six will always be regarded as heroic.

At the battle of Eutaw Springs Col. Cruger commanded one wing of the British where, as the loyalist Historian Judge Jones tells us, "his bravery, coolness, resolution, judgment and steadiness turned the fortune of the day in favour of the British."

Meanwhile the third battalion under Col. Ludlow remained at Lloyd's Neck, Long Island, to cover the wood cutters for the British army which says Judge Jones was "a material piece of business and well conducted." It may be noted in passing that many of the loyalists from Norwalk and Stamford were supporting their families during the war by cutting and selling wood for the army. They lived within the British lines at Lloyds Neck, Oyster Bay and Eaton's Neck. About the beginning of July 1781 the 3rd deLanceys were removed. The loyalists thereupon organized a corps for their own protection at the head of which was Major Joshua Upham (his brother Jabez was the ancestor of the Uphams of Woodstock). A party of some 400 Frenchmen attempted to seize the wood at Lloyds Neck, some thousands of cords then in process of shipment to New York. Major Upham and the loyalists with the help of the crews of the vessels loading, beat off the invaders with loss.

At the evacuation of Charleston in February 1782 the two de Lancey battalions (then consolidated into one) returned to New York whence at the peace they returned [removed] to New Brunswick. Their grant of land was almost identical with the limits of the present parish of Woodstock. The men of the 3rd de Lanceys settled chiefly in Queens and Sunbury Counties. Lieut. Col. Hewlett made his home at Hampstead naming the place after his former home, and as a further proof that he had not lost his affection for the land of his nativity he not only reproduced in New Brunswick the name of Hampstead but of Queens County and Long Island. Lieut Gabriel DeVeber jr., settled at Gagetown, Captain Gerhardus Clowes, at Oromocto, Captain Elijah Miles and Captain Ichabod Smith and Lieut Zachariah Brown in Maugerville. These men all filled important positions and their descendants are many and highly respected.

Col. Gabriel G. Ludlow was the first mayor of St. John and after the retirement of Governor Carleton to England he was appointed president and commander in chief of the province and continued the foremost man of the province till his death in the year 1808.

 

W. O. Raymond

 

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[Published 12 June 1895]


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