Monday, July 25, 2016

Matthias Williamson jr. describes his Service During Sullivan's Staten Island Raid, 1777

Sometimes you find unexpected gold in the pension files of Revolutionary War veterans. Deputy Quartermaster Matthias Williamson, Jr. of Elizabeth, NJ, for instance, left a detailed description of his involvement with Colonel Matthias Ogden's detachment of New Jersey Continentals during Sullivan's Staten Island Raid in August, 1777.

"…In August in the year 1777 this applicant was called upon by Colonel Matthias Ogden and requested to provide boats for a detachment of the army under the command of General Sullivan who was to cross over from Elizabethtown Point to Staten Island to endeavor to make prisoners of a [New Jersey loyalist] regiment at Decker’s Ferry on the North side of the Island and that Colonel Matthias Ogden with two of the Jersey Regiments and a considerable body of the militia under Colonel Frelinghuysen were to cross at Blazing Star at Woodbridge to Staten Island where Colonel Dongan’s and Colonel Lawrence’s [New Jersey loyalist] regiments were posted. That he depended upon the applicant to provide boats for General Sullivan’s detachment and that he Colonel Matthias Ogden would obtain those wanted at the Blazing Star for his troops. This applicant proceeded to Newark and with difficulty prevailed upon Captain Pierson to collect his men and remove the boats that night with muffled oars to prevent a discovery by the enemy, all of which he affected with success in (season?). This applicant reached Blazing Star that Evening and reported to Colonel Ogden. About Midnight the troops began to cross and the boats had to make several trips. This applicant went over in the first boat – When all the troops had crossed the Sound & came up to the Highland and all the necessary arrangements were made, this applicant with a sergeant and fifteen privates proceeded to a large barn where the enemy’s guard was kept, and a larger party proceeded to the dwelling house, where Colonel Elisha Lawrence quartered in order to secure him – This applicant with his sergeant and men rushed into the barn, surprised the guard and made them prisoners, ten in number with their arms, not one escaping – leaving the prisoners under the charge of the Sergeant, this applicant went to the dwelling house and found Colonel Lawrence had made his escape. This applicant obtained a horse from a soldier with a bridle, but no saddle, and pursued three of the enemy running for the woods, when within a few yards of them they attempted to hide themselves in the bushes. This applicant called them to come out and surrender, promised them they should be well treated – They came out and surrendered. Some of our soldiers coming up took charge of them. Your applicant overtook two more of them with their muskets not loaded, they surrendered declaring it was their intention to desert. They were delivered up to Colonel Frelinghuysen and his party. Most of the enemy that had escaped (next?) appeared [on] a Hill which was their usual place of Parade. Colonel Matthias Ogden with his regiment advanced & engaged them. After one fire they fled and were pursued, some of the stragglers were taken and Colonel Lawrence was captured in a dwelling house with a considerable quantity of clothing in a store. Colonel Ogden’s report amounted to One hundred and twenty prisoners besides Colonel Lawrence and Colonel Dongan, another Refugee Officer, was killed on the same day making an attack (afterwards) on the rear of General Sullivan’s detachment...

This is the most complete description I have found by a participant in this action of the procurement of the boats and the capture of Col. Lawrence's (loyalist) 1st NJV.  Among its revelations, Williamson's Pension Declaration describes some of the movements of the NJ Militia under Frelinghuysen, and Matthias Ogden's volley that dispersed the loyalists who were attempting to rally after the initial surprise attack.  The matter of the boats was very significant, as they were utterly inadequate to evacuate a larger body of men under General Sullivan during the closing phase of the raid.  Williamson is clear about limiting his responsibility for procurement only to those vessels needed for Sullivan to cross over, and that Colonel Ogden saw to those needed for his force at Blazing Star.  The boats from Sullivan's crossing never made it to where Ogden had landed for when the combined forces had planned to leave the Island.

Captain Pierson was probably Jonathan Pierson of Spencer's additional regiment.  There are other NJ Pierson's who were officers but none of the right rank and in service at this time. 

Matthias Williamson's father, for whom he was named, was Brigadier General of NJ militia during 1776 and wore himself out trying to supply men and equipment to the Flying Camp.  The elder Williamson is my direct ancestor.  His daughter married Jonathan Dayton, son of Col. Elias Dayton of the 3rd NJ and a signer of the Constitution.

No comments:

Post a Comment