From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
August 22. –This night we have reason to expect the grand attack from our barbarian enemies; the reasons why, follow: The night before last, a lad went over to Staten Island, supped there with a friend, and got safe back again undiscovered. Soon after he went to General Washington, and upon good authority reported, that the English army, amounting to fifteen or twenty thousand, had embarked and were in readiness for an engagement; that seven ships of the line, and a number of other vessels of war, were to surround this city and cover their landing; that the Hessians, being fifteen thousand, were to remain on the island and attack Perth Amboy, Elizabethtown. Point, and Bergen, while the main body were doing their best at New York; that the Highlanders expected America was already conquered, and that they were only to come over and settle on our lands, for which reason they had brought their churns, ploughs, &c.; being deceived, they had refused fighting, upon which account General Howe had shot one, hung five or six, and flogged many.
Last evening, in a violent thunder storm, Mr. —- (a very intelligent person) ventured over. He brings much the same account as the above lad, with this addition: –that all the horses on the island were by Howe’s orders killed, barrelled up, and put on board–the wretches thinking they could get no landing at New York, and of consequence be soon out of provision; that the Tories were used cruelly, and with the Highlanders were compelled to go on board the ships to fight in the character of common soldiers against us. The British army are prodigiously incensed against the Tories, and curse them as the instruments of the war now raging. Mr. —- further informs, that last night the fleet was to come up, but the thunder storm prevented. The truth of this appears, from the circumstance of about three thousand red coats landing at ten o’clock this morning on Long Island, where by this time it is supposed our people are hard at it. There is an abundance of smoke to-day on Long Island, our folks having set fire to stacks of hay, &c., to prevent the enemy’s being benefited in case they get any advantage against us. All the troops in New York are in high spirits, and have been under arms most of the day, as the fleet have been in motion, and are now, as is generally thought, only waiting for a change of tide. Forty-eight hours or less, will determine it as to New York, one way or the other.
The thunder storm of last evening was one of the most dreadful we ever witnessed; it lasted from seven to ten o’clock. Several claps struck in and about New York. Many houses were damaged, and several lives lost. Three officers, a captain and two lieutenants, belonging to Colonel M’Dougal’s regiment, were struck instantly dead. The points of their swords, for several inches, were melted, with a few silver dollars they had in their pockets; they (the persons) were seemingly roasted. A dog in the same tent was also killed, and a soldier near it struck blind, deaf, and dumb. One in the main street was killed, as likewise ten on Long Island. Two or three were much burnt, and greatly hurt. When God speaks, who can but fear? 1
1 Pennsylvania Journal, August 28.