Weekend Reading: General John Glover vs. Howe's Attempt to Outflank the Continental Army's Retreat to White Plains
I have ancestors who were with General John Glover and his Marblehead Mariners Regiment during the Revolutionary War. Given that my brother Chris has decided to publicly continue the feud that we descendants of Artemas Ward have been carrying on for 238 years with the too-much-overpraised Virginian with too much political influence who took the army that Artemas Ward had raised, trained, maintained, and supplied that fought the Battle of Bunker Hill and then threw 90% of it away as Howe outfought and outmaneuvered him in New York...
Here General John Glover and his Marblehead Mariners keep Howe from bagging the remnants of the army Ward had created entire as they retreat from Manhattan to White Plains:
...leaving only twelve hundred men in New York, and there remained until the 18th, which was Friday. I arose early in the morning and went on the hill with my glass, and discovered a number of ships in the Sound, under way; in a short time I saw the boats, upwards of two hundred sail, all manned and formed in four grand divisions.
I immediately sent off [Brigade] Major [William] Lee express to [his cousin Continental Second-in-Command] General [Charles] Lee, who was about three miles distant, and without waiting his orders, turned out the brigade I have the honor to command, and very luckily for us I did, as it turned out afterwards, the enemy having stole a march one and a half miles on us. I marched down to oppose their landing, with about seven hundred and fifty men. and three field pieces, but had not gone more than half the distance, before I met their advance guard, about thirty men; upon which I detached a captain's guard of forty men to meet them, while I could dispose of the main body to advantage. This plan succeeded very well as you will hereafter see.
The enemy had the advantage of us, being posted on an eminence which commanded the ground we had to march over. However, I did the best I could, and disposed of my little party to the best of my judgment; Colonel Reed's on the left of the road; Colonel Shepard's in the rear, and to the right of him, Colonel Baldwin's in the rear and on the right of Shepards, my own regiment, commanded by Captain Courtis, (Col. Johonnot being sick and Major Lee being Brigade Major), bringing up the rear with three field-pieces of artillery. Thus disposed of, I rode forward (— oh! the anxiety of mind I was then in for the fate of the day, — the lives of seven hundred and fifty men immediately at hazard, and under God their preservation entirely depended on their being well-disposed of; besides this, my country, my honor, my own life, and everything that was dear, appeared at that critical moment to be at stake. I would have given a thousand worlds to have had General Lee, or some other experienced officer present to direct, or at least to approve of what I had done — looking around, but could see none, they all being three miles from me, and the action came on so sudden it was out of their power to be with me) to the advance guard, and ordered them to advance, who did, within fifty yards, and received their fire without the loss of a man; we returned it, and fell four of them, and kept the ground till we exchanged five rounds.
Their body being much larger than mine, and having two men killed and several wounded, which weakened my party, the enemy pushing forward, not more than thirty yards distant, I ordered a retreat, which was masterly well done by the captain who commanded the party.
The enemy gave a shout and advanced. Colonel Reed's laying under cover of a stone wall undiscovered till they came within thirty yards, then rose up and gave them the whole charge; the enemy broke and retreated for the main body to come up. In this situation we remained about an hour and a half, when they appeared about four thousand, with seven pieces of artillery; we kept our post under cover of the stone wall before mentioned, till they came within fifty yards of us; rose up and gave the whole charge of the battalion, they halted, and returned the fire with showers of musketry and cannon balls. We exchanged seven rounds at this post, retreated and formed in the rear of Colonel Shepard and on his left; they then shouted and pushed on till they came on Shepard, posted behind a fine double stone wall; he rose up and fired by grand divisions, by which he kept up a constant fire, and maintained his post till he exchanged seventeen rounds with them, and caused them to retreat several times, once in particular so far that a soldier of Colonel Shepard's leaped over the wall and took a hat and canteen off of a captain that lay dead on the ground they retreated from. However, their body being so much larger than ours, we were for the preservation of the men forced to retreat, and formed in the rear of Baldwin's Regiment; they then came up to Baldwin's, but the ground being much in their favour, and their heavy train of artillery, we could do but little before we retreated to the bottom of the hill, and had to pass through a run of water, (the bridge I had taken up before) and then marched up a hill the opposite side of the creek, where I left my artillery; the ground being rough and much broken, I was afraid to risk it over.
The enemy halted and played away their artillery at us and we at them, till night, without any damage on our side, and but very little on their's. At dark we came off, and marched to Dobb's Ferry, after fighting all day without victuals or drink, laying as a picket all night, the heavens over us, and the earth under us, which was all we had, having left our baggage at the old encampment, we left in the morning. The next morning marched over to Mile Square. I had eight men killed and thirteen wounded, among which was Colonel Shepard, a brave officer.
Sunday, General Lee sent for and informed me there were two hundred barrels of pork and flour at East Chester, if the enemy had not taken it, would be glad if I would think of some way to bring it off. I sent out and pressed fifteen wagons, and at night turned out the whole brigade, and went down so nigh the enemy, we heard their musick and talk very plain and brought off the whole.
Wednesday, sent out a scouting party, principally from my own regiment, who met with a party of Hessians, and attacked them, killed twelve and took three prisoners. One of the slain was an officer of rank, on horseback; the horse was taken and brought off. We had one man mortally wounded of Colonel Baldwin's regiment.
Sunday, the enemy struck their tents, and were on a march in two columns, one to the right and the other to the left, towards the North River. General Lee immediately gave orders for his division, which consisted of eight thousand men, to march for North Castle, to take the ground to the eastward and north of them, about fourteen miles distant. We had not marched more than three miles, before we saw the right column advancing in a cross road to cut us off, not more than three-quarters of a mile distant; this being our situation, eight thousand men on the road with their baggage, artillery and one hundred and fifty wagons filled the road for four miles. We then turned off, and marched by Dobb's Ferry road, and got into White Plains about ten o'clock Monday morning, after being out all night. We left General McDougall's brigade posted on a height between the enemy and us, to cover our march. About twelve o'clock they attacked him with a heavy column, supported with twelve pieces of artillery, who pressed him so hard, he was obliged to retreat, having twenty men killed and about forty wounded, and wholly from their artillery.
I am posted on a mountain, commanding the roads to Albany and New England; the enemy on one opposite, about one mile distant. We expect an attack every moment. I don't care how soon, as I am very certain, with the blessing of God, we shall give them a drubbing. Where you will hear from me next is very uncertain.