From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
November 23.—This evening Major Tallmadge1 returned to Fairfield, in Connecticut, from a very spirited and successful enterprise against Fort St. George on Long Island; having destroyed the fort and such forage and supplies as could not be carried away by his men, and taken fifty prisoners. The following is the official report made by the major, to General Washington:—On the sixteenth of November, in obedience to your Excellency’s orders, a detachment of Colonel Sheldon’s dismounted dragoons, under the command of Captain Edgar, were ordered to march the next day to Fairfield, to which place I directed a number of boats to repair. The troops arrived in the vicinity of Fairfield on the evening of the 18th, at which place, by reason of a very severe storm, we were detained till the 21st instant; on the evening of which, at four o’clock, I embarked the troops in eight boats; the whole in number, including the crews, amounted to about eighty men. With a favorable wind we landed safely on Long Island, at a place called the Old Man’s, about eight o’clock the same evening. After leaving about twenty men with the boats in charge of Captain Sutton, we began our march to put your Excellency’s orders in execution, but a very severe storm coming on, however it might have favored an attack on the fort, obliged me to postpone it, as I was well aware that attention must be paid as well to a favorable time for re-crossing the Sound (which is at this place more than twenty miles wide) as to attacking the fort. I accordingly concealed the troops till the evening of the 22d, when, at seven o’clock, we began our march across Long Island, and, at three o’clock the next morning, were within two miles of Fort St. George, at South Haven. By the most accurate information, I found that the fort and other works had been entirely completed but a few days before, and that the garrison consisted of about fifty men. It may be necessary here to observe, that the works of Fort St. George consisted of two large strong houses, and a fort about ninety feet square, connected together by a very strong stockade or line of sharpened pickets twelve feet long, the whole forming a triangle, the fort and houses standing in the angles. The fort consisted of a high wall and a deep ditch, encircled with a strong abatis, having but one gate, a sally port, which led directly into the grand parade within the pickets. This fort had embrasures for six guns, though but two were mounted; the houses were strongly barricaded. From this description I found it necessary, small as my detachment was, to make three different attacks at the same time. I accordingly detached Lieutenant Jackson with sixteen men, with orders to advance as near the fort as he could undiscovered, and there to halt till the alarm was given by the advance of the detachment under my immediate command. The van of this detachment, who carried axes to beat down obstructions, was led by Lieutenant Brewster, directly against the new house, while the remainder, with Captain Edgar and myself at their head, followed close after. Another small division was directed to file off and surround the other house; Mr. Simmons bringing up the rear, with directions to halt where the breach might be made, to prevent the garrison from escaping. Thus prepared, the troops were put in motion precisely at four o’clock, and, contrary to my expectations, the pioneers advanced within twenty yards of the works before they were discovered. The sentinel firing, the different detachments immediately rushed on, and passing all obstructions, met at the same instant in the centre of the fort, where the watchword was given from all quarters at the same time. The guard in the fort was secured, but the two houses contained the main body of the garrison, who began to fire from the windows. I immediately ordered the troops to enter the houses, the doors of which, though strongly bolted and barred, were soon burst open, and in less than ten minutes the whole garrison were our prisoners.
Being informed that a vessel lay within view of the fort, loaded with stores, rum, wine, sugar, glass, &c., I detached a party who boarded and took her. Thus masters of the whole, my first object was to demolish, as much as possible, their works, &c. We accordingly set fire to the small garrison, buildings, stockade, and abatis, consuming at the same time the public stores that could be collected, including a considerable quantity of ammunition and arms, which the troops, so much fatigued, and having so long a march to make back, could not carry. We remained at the fort from four to eight o’clock in the morning, when having destroyed as much of it as possible, we began our march back. The vessel being aground was burnt.
I feel particularly happy that I can inform your Excellency, that we had not a man killed in this enterprise, and but one wounded; him we brought off. The enemy’s loss was seven killed and wounded, most of the latter mortally. The surprise was so complete, that before they could rally they were all prisoners.
On our return, I mounted ten men on the horses taken at the fort, and, while Captain Edgar marched the detachment and prisoners across the island, I filed off with Lieutenant Brewster, to Coram, and set fire to the whole magazine of the king’s forage at that place, supposed to contain more than three hundred tons, and joined the detachment again in less than two hours. By this time the militia began to muster, but prudently avoided coming near us. Some guns were fired, but no damage received. By four o’clock in the afternoon of the same day we reached our boats, and having embarked the troops and prisoners, arrived safe at this place at eleven o’clock on the evening of the 23d. Thus, in about twenty-one hours, we performed a march of near forty miles, took Fort St. George, &c., &c., and in less than six hours more were landed at this place.
I should be remiss in my duty, should I omit to observe that the officers and soldiers under my command behaved with the greatest fortitude and spirit, both upon their long and fatiguing march, and in the moment of action. Mr. Muirson, a volunteer upon the occasion, deserves commendation. He advanced with a part of Lieutenant Jackson’s detachment over the abatis and wall, into the fort. In fine, every order that was given was executed with alacrity and precision.2
1 Benjamin Tallmadge.
2 Pennsylvania Packet, December 12.