Revolutionary War: Action at Pelham
History of Col. Glover's 14th Continental Regiment
The battle at Pelham in Colonel Glover's Own Words
Excerpts from a paper entitled "Memoir" read at a meeting of the Essex Institute, March 9th 1863,
as a Report upon a donation to the Library of certain books formerly belonging to Gen. Glover:*
The following letter was taken from the American Archives, 5th series, Vol. II.
"EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM COLONEL GLOVER"
"MILE SQUARE, DATED Oct. 22, 1776."
"You no doubt heard the enemy landed all their army on Frog’s Point the 11th instant, leaving only twelve hundred men in 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 Major Lee express to Gen. Lee, who was about three miles distant, and without waiting his orders, turned out the brigade I have the honour 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 advanced 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 Shepherd’s in the rear and to the right of him, Colonel Baldwin’s in the rear and on the right of Shepherd’s, my own regiment commanded by Captain Courtis (Colonel Johonnot being sick, and Major Lee being Brigade Major,) bringing up the rear with the 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 honour, my own life, and every thing 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 —looked 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: they now advance, keeping up a constant firing 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 them 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 Col. Shepherd and on his left; they then shouted and pushed on till’ they came on Shepherd; 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 Shepherd’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 on 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 theirs. At dark we came off, and marched about three miles, leading 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 Shepherd, 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 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 distance. 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 distance; 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 distance. 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."
Footnotes to the battle:
"The British Army under Howe, amounting at that time of 30,000 men, nearly twice the number of the Army, on the 18th of October, made their first landing on the mainland at Frog's Neck in West Chester county, a few miles to the east of Kingsbridge, which is the most important position in the American lines, being their only means of passage from the Island. Washington regarded with much anxiety this movement of the enemy. A successful landing at this place would turn the left of the American Army and deprive them of their only means of escape; and it was evident that such a landing could not long be prevented. It was therefore by the urgent advice of Gen. Lee, who had just arrived from the field of victory at Charleston, determined to withdraw the army from the Island. Meanwhile, to delay the advance of the British, Col. Glover's Brigade was dispatched to West Chester, where they met them and soon became engaged in conflict. Glover succeeded twice in repulsing the enemy, but finally, finding their force to be greatly superior in number, by Gen. Lee’s orders, he withdrew to a strong position in the rear.
"This skirmish served to check the British and thus give time for the withdrawal of the men and army stores from N. Y. Island. By it, Glover had the honour of being the first to resist the landing of a British Army on the main land of America. For his services he was thanked, in General Orders of the 19th, by Gen. Lee as follows:
"MILE SQUARE, Oct. 19, 1776."
"Gen. Lee returns his warmest thanks to Col. Glover and the Brigade under his command, not only for their gallant behavior yesterday, but for their prudent, cool, orderly and soldierlike conduct in all respects. He assures these brave men that he shall omit no opportunity of showing his gratitude. All the wounded to be immediately carried to Volantine’s Hill, at the second Liberty pole, where surgeons should repair to dress them; they are afterwards to be forwarded to Fort Washington."
"The following are the General Orders of Washington:
"Head Quarters, Oct. 21, 1776."
"The hurried situation of the Gen. the two last days having prevented him from paying that attention to Col. Glover and the officers and soldiers who were with him in the skirmish on Friday last, that their merit and good behavior deserved, he flatters himself that his thanks, though delayed, will nevertheless be acceptable to them, as they are offered with great sincerity and cordiality; at the same time he hopes that every other part of the Army will do their duty with equal bravery and zeal whenever called upon, and neither dangers nor difficulties nor hardships will discourage soldiers engaged in the cause of Liberty... and while we are contending for all that free men hold dear and valuable."
"...namely one, containing copies of the letters written by Gen. Glover herein referred to as "The Letter Book"; and the other six are "Orderly Books", kept in the 21st Provincial Regiment, afterwards the 14th Continental Regiment, commanded by Col. John Glover from the commencement of the Revolution until the 21st of February 1777, when he was made a Brigadier General."
Revolutionary War: History of Colonel Glover's Regiment: Action at Pelham
Last modified: January 20, 2013