Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Refugees of '1776' from Long Island to Connecticut,

The Refugees of '1776' from Long Island to Connecticut, by Frederic Gregory Mather, Compiler and Editor of "New York in the Revolution" and "New York in the Revolution--Supplement." ALBANY, N. Y. J. B. LYON COMPANY, PRINTERS 1913.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirteen, By FREDERIC GREGORY MATHER, In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington


The late Mr. Berthold Fernow was the Archivist, or custodian, of the Original Documents relating to the history of the Province and State of New York. His office was held under the direction of the Board of Regents of the University. Down to the year 1882, but little had been done in the way of publishing the Documents relating to the Revolutionary War. Indeed, there was no printed information as to the contents of those Documents. In this respect the State of New York was far behind her neighbors. But, with the Centennial of 1776, there came a revival of the Revolutionary spirit; and New York shared in this, along with the other States which succeeded to the 13 original Colonies.

So, in the year first named above, the Board directed Mr. Fernow to examine the MS. Records, and to cull therefrom all items relative to the Military establishment during the War. In 1887, the results of this work were pub- lished in a quarto entitled: "Vol. I of New York State Archives New York in the Revolution." The editor drew upon the Proceedings of the Pro- vincial Congress, the Committee of Safety and the Convention of New York; quoted liberally from the " Miscellaneous Papers," the " Assembly Papers " and other Original Documents in preparing the New York Line of the Con- tinental Army; and provided an Alphabetical Roster of the State Troops. The work was well done; but it had the serious defect of three separate Indexes, instead of one General Index covering the whole.

During the progress of Mr. Fernow's work I was a resident of Albany. I made frequent visits to his office, took part in his investigations, and felt that I was of some value to him. The office was in the South-East corner of the third floor of the State Building, on Eagle St. On the same floor, in the North- West corner, there was a room which had been, and still is, used for storage purposes by the State Comptroller whose main offices are on the first floor. At that time neither Mr. Fernow, nor I, nor any one else, knew that the store-room contained Revolutionary War Documents quite as impor- tant as any which were passing through our hands. 'Nor did I dream that, more than ten years later, I should be doing for those yet undiscovered papers what Mr. Fernow was then doing for the papers which were under his control.

The new Documents were finally discovered when Hon. James A. Roberts was Comptroller. They consisted, mainly, of the receipts of soldiers for their pay, with an occasional pay-roll. These Documents were in the care of the Comptroller because they were vouchers for money paid out by the Auditor-General, the predecessor of the Comptroller as the financial agent of the State. (Pages 134-137) Mr. Roberts at once realized the value of the papers; and he secured the services of Col. Charles O. Shephard to arrange and classify them. Col. Shephard prepared about 10 Folio Volumes of the " Revolutionary War MSS.," with a card Index to the same; and he found that the State should be credited with 41,633 soldiers, instead of the 17,781 allowed by Gen. Knox at the end of the War. He had not finished his inquiry when the Legislature demanded something in the way of a book to show for the appropriation. Of course the demand had to be considered, or there would have been no funds for continuing the work. Therefore, in 1897, the First Edition of " New York in the Revolution, as Colony and State " was printed. It was incomplete as to the papers which had been looked over; and it had no Index.

At this point, Col. Shephard had other engagements which made it impos- sible for him to continue the work. Mr. Roberts then called upon me to continue and to finish it. Fearing that some papers had been overlooked, I explored every corner of the store-room. In this way I secured all Docu- ments which had a bearing on the War whether or no they related to the service of the soldiers. The mounting of all Documents of this nature in a permanent form was continued until, at the end, there were 52 Volumes of the " MSS.," with a corresponding increase in the card Index. The number of soldiers to be credited to the State also arose to 51,972. (Page 1046) The Legislature having made further appropriations, a Second Edition of " New York in the Revolution, etc.," was published, under my editorship, in 1898. This contained much additional matter, and it was provided with a General Index. In regard to terms of service, it was not so full as Mr. Fernow's book; but it had a much longer list of soldiers, and the proof of their pay in their own signatures. It proved to be, and it still is, the standard evidence of service in the War by soldiers from the State of New York. As such, it continues to be the chief reliance of those who seek to join the several Patriotic Societies.

In the old store-room there were also Documents of quite as much interest as the ones which were used in preparing the Second Edition; for they threw side-lights on the source of supplies, the confiscation of property and the general conduct of the War within the confines of the State. This material was so good that I suggested to Mr. Roberts the publication of another book which should give certain hitherto unknown phases of the struggle. With Mr. Roberts' hearty co-operation and that of the successive Comptrollers William J. Morgan, Theodore P. Oilman and Erastus C. Knight and aided by several Legislative appropriations, the work was continued until 1901, when " New York in the Revolution Supplement " was published, of which I was also the editor.

It is with much satisfaction that I look back to the four years which were spent in the production of the two books; for all of the statements therein were based upon Original Documents which had not been available down to that time. Many thousands of the books have been printed since they were first published and without change, as the errors are negligible.

For a number of years, the 52 Volumes of " Revolutionary MSS." and the card Index remained in the main office of the Comptroller. It was not a wise move to take them from a place of comparative safety to the more dangerous surroundings of the State Library. Yet this was done just before the fire of March 29, 1911, destroyed the greater part of them. If, only, they had been allowed to stay where they were until the new Education Building was ready! It is fortunate that the more valuable contents of the Documents had been preserved in the two books named above; and that certain other of the Documents, in their entirety, are preserved in the work which I am now publishing. In order to do what I can to make up for the loss, my deposition will appear on Page 15, at the end of the Table of Contents.

While preparing the " Supplement," I came across numerous bundles marked " Refugees from Long Island." For want of space, I was unable to print but a few of the papers, together with an imperfect list of the Refugees. (" Supplement," pp. 127-133) The Refugees sympathized with the American cause; and were not Tories, as is often supposed. The papers were Claims against the State of New York for expenses of removal to Connecticut, in 1776, just after the Battle of Long Island had left the Refugees at the mercy of the enemy. Three copies of all the Claims were made, and compared carefully with the originals. My first thought was to present the copies to certain Historical Societies. But, before doing this, I made further inquiry; and I found that very little had been written, or even recorded, as to those unfor- tunate people. The several Historians of Long Island had mentioned them; but, in nearly every case, there was a quotation from the epigrammatic Notes of Henry Onderdonk, Jr. (Pages 986-988) The question then was: "where is the material on which Onderdonk drew for his Notes"? The State Library, at Albany, could not answer. I looked at the printed and MS. matter in the Library, dated 1776-1800; and what little was found appears in Appendixes A. and B. This was all, aside from the Claims, that the State of New York could furnish. To Appendix A. were added extracts from the Census of 1776 (taken just before the flight), which were of great value. The Claims were called, tentatively, Appendix C.; for I had not thought, down to that time, of expanding the subject into a book. Before Appendix C. was closed, a number of missing parts were supplied by the Connecticut State Library and by individuals.


Having exhausted New York, I turned to Connecticut. Three Auditors passed upon the Claims before they were paid. They were the Refugees: Thomas Bering, John Foster and Capt. Thomas Wickham; and their work was done at Middletown. Surely, that City must have something worth the trouble of getting it. But the office of the Town Clerk had nothing concerning the Refugees; and all the evidence that they had been there was in the shape of a few tomb-stones. I then appealed to Mr. Frank Farns- worth Starr, the veteran Historian of Middletown, who replied: 

The statement you make as to a Board of Auditors acting on Claims against New York and holding meetings in Middletown is something entirely new to me, and I suspect to all other residents. I have no information about Thomas Bering or Thomas Wickham. Foster was not an uncommon name here down to 1800, and two or more John's lived here, so that nothing could probably be proved about your John. I never knew that the Committee of Inspection of any Town in Connecticut kept records, certainly the Middletown Committee did not. I was connected with the Town Clerk's office for 20 years; and twice packed up the papers for removal to other quarters and back again, making four different times that all the old papers were handled by me. I know of no records of any Justice of the Peace which would help you.

This was discouraging. But, on visiting Hartford, the Connecticut His- torical Society and the State Library furnished the Documents which are given in Appendixes D. E. and F. This additional matter was of great importance. It not only gave many new names, but it also especially in Appendix E showed the sufferings of the Refugees. The same Appendix gave the source of nearly all of the Onderdonk Notes. They are printed therein along with the full text of the Documents to which they relate.

Meantime, a printed list of about 400 Refugees all who appeared in Appendix C. was sent to many parties in Connecticut and on Long Island. In half a year, the list numbered 600, with additional names coming in almost daily. The several Appendixes also swelled the number. So that now, at the close, we have a total of 1274 of which 1 124 were from Long Island, and 150 from New York City. (Page 659) Many names were sent after the estimates on Page 187 had been printed. Consequently, the total number of the Refugees is probably in excess of the figures given on that Page. The total of the Refugees is reasonably accurate. A few names may have been omitted; but that is not the fault of this inquiry. The fault is with those who did not reply to the inquiry in the three separate lists of the Refugees which were posted, for several years, in many places in New York and in Con- necticut. If the lists had been held open for 10 years longer, it is doubtful if a considerable number of new names would have been reported.

The decision to print this book came after the discovery of many additional Refugees, and after the valuable material in Appendix E. had supplemented Appendix C. The first plan was to give a brief history of the Refugees, and their names; and to follow with the Appendixes A. to F. As much as this might have been done three years ago. But I was advised that more interest in the work would be taken if the ancestry, families, deeds and descendants of the Refugees were mentioned. Therefore, Part 2 Bio- graphical was prepared, of which more will be said later on. Out of the Biographies grew Appendix G. Military Service; for it would not be fair to the Refugees to state that they left Long Island, and deny them the credit of service in the Army elsewhere. This Appendix was enlarged so as to include the service of every one on Long Island, whether a Refugee or not, just before, and during, the Battle of Long Island which ended all active operations in that quarter. So that Appendix G. is the first attempt to group, in one record, all the Militia of Long Island. The Biographies are also responsible for the first part of Appendix H., The Associations. Here we have lists of all the signers, and those who refused to sign, on Long Island; but the " R " opposite a name, while that of a Refugee, does not always show that he was the Refugee in the Biographies. (Page 1050) The rest of Appendix H. contains Miscellaneous Documents of much ^importance.^ In Appendix I. we have the Biographies of many prominent soldiers and civilians, not Refugees, who are mentioned in the book. For the convenience of the reader, as well as to keep the General Index within bounds, the same trea_t- ment is applied to all Biographies, including the Refugees and those in Appendix I. The Index gives the Page on which the Biography may be found; and in that Biography will be found all references in the book which are not given in the Index. The Biography thus serves as a special Index for each individual, respectively. Appendix J. carries the Illustrations and the Abbreviations. The Illustrations are: Portraits, 115; Autographs, 559; Houses, 77; Monuments, 8; Tomb-stones, 14; Public and Historical Build- ings, 8 ; Fac-stmilies of Original Documents, 19; Maps, 21 ; Plans and Diagrams, 7; General Views, 15; Miscellaneous, 34; Ornamental Pieces, 9 Total, 886. The General Index contains nearly 20,000 names.

If all of the material in the Appendixes had been in hand from the beginning, a better arrangement of it could have been made. But some parts of it came so late that they had to be placed somewhat out of their order. It was impossible to re-arrange the material already in place, because it had been referred to many times on Pages which had been stereotyped. This trouble was minimized by building the book backward that is, by per- fecting the Appendixes first, as far as possible. In a word, the Appendixes are the foundation of the whole work, and without them there would be little of value. They should interest the average reader who might not care for the rest of the book. Even the given names in the General Index might serve to amuse other readers.

On Page 17, it is stated, that this is not a History of the Revolutionary War. Chapters 1-6 give a brief outline so as to show the relative importance of the Battle of Long Island and the Loss of New York City which were responsible for the fact that there were Refugees. Certain little known phases of the War are described in Chapters 7-12. In Chapters 13-20 the istory of the Refugees is given. Finally, Chapters 21-26, we trace the local conduct of the War on Long Island, in Connecticut and in Westchester County, N. Y. wherein many of the Refugees took a prominent part. What is recorded in these Chapters and in the Appendixes may be the last word on the War, so far as Long Island is concerned. If anything, that is the historical scope of this work. Much additional matter might have been given had there not been a persistent desire not to stray from the text. Yet what is recorded between these covers shows such intense suffering and such real heroism, often in most dramatic situations, that some talent might well produce, what has not been produced hitherto, the real Play of 1776.

The hardest, and most exacting, work in this inquiry was done in preparing Part 2 Biographical. This required the exchange of letters reaching into the thousands; and it caused delays of many months in the publication. In this effort, I had so many helpers that it would not be fair to call the roll lest some be omitted. All of them are quoted in the text, and the General Index shows where they are quoted. To all of them I extend my apprecia- tion for what they have done. A few of my best correspondents passed away without seeing this book, in which they were intensely interested. But their work survives in these pages, and the Index shows what they did. Foremost among them was Hon. Henry P. Hedges, of Bridge Hampton, L. I., whom I consulted personally several times. He died just as I was about to interview him on some of the closing features of the work. Others on Long Island were: Mr. Charles R. Dayton, of East Hampton; Mr. James F. Young, of Manhasset; Rear Admiral Ebenezer S. Prime, of Huntington; Mr. Samuel O. Lee, of Huntington; and Mr. Oliver H. Perry, of Elmhurst. Elsewhere, there were: Hon. Horace Russell and Mr. John H. Wainwright, of New York City; Prof. James W. Moore, of Easton, Pa.; and Dr. Isaac H. Platt, of Wallingford, Pa.

The beginning of the biographical inquiry was most discouraging. The first " returns " came from Mr. Dayton who described the situation at East Hampton in these extracts from his numerous letters:

The main difficulty appears to be in getting anything from the descendants of these people. Very few of them have any family record as far back, and many not at all. It is surprising how few of them know whether their ancestors went away as Refugees. I am obliged to visit the cemetery to ascertain when they died, in order to know whether they came back at all. So little is known at this late day by their descendants (if they are descendants) that I can identify but very few of the names on your list as being from East Hampton.

It is now 132 years since the battle of Long Island. Many of the persons you have as Refugees were doubtless from this place, but in the absence of family records, in most cases, the inability of persons now living to tell whether they were at all related to the so called Refugees; and even if they could, have no knowledge either from tradition, family records or otherwise, as to whether they were Refugees, or not, is why I could not do more.

All I was able to do was to give the names on the list, that were here, and could have been Refugees, excluding, of course, those who died too early, or were born too late. You would be surprised to know how little the present generation know about their ancestors. The days for reverence for ancestral pride is past, except in very few instances. Why, I actually found an intelligent man the other day, 70 years old, who did not know the name of his grandfather.

Even the Genealogy from which I draw is by no means complete. In some instances, only a part of the families are given. Many genealogies give only one name, and others just enough to trace the line of descent. Being familiar myself with the descendants of many of the names on your lists, I was able to get information (not from the descendants themselves, for that was impossible in regard to them) but from their associates or connections with others, which a stranger could not obtain. The absence of dates of birth and death, the perpetua- tion of the same name through successive generations, made it exceedingly difficult to identify any name on the list with the same name in the Genealogy, and it was only by a diligent search in the Town Records and Church records that it could be done, and even in that case it was often impossible, owing to the frequent omissions, and the repetition of the same name.

Another correspondent gave the following as an example of the difficulties which beset her:

When I asked information from a near relative, he told me that he could not get up the enthusiasm necessary to enable him to assist in my " genealogical boom," as he termed it; that we are all children of God who has us duly entered and accounted for on his Great Book, etc. He then gave me a lecture, from his stand-point of " republican simplicity " and pious indifference to earthly affairs, upon genealogical matters generally, and their vanity. He endeavored to convince me that my labor was neither Godly, commendable nor necessary; and that, consequently, his chances, he being indifferent to such mundane affairs, were much better than mine for an agreeable hereafter.

Still another correspondent we will call him Baynes found fault with the spelling of the name in his immediate family. He wrote in this way:

Long years ago my cousin Stratton came to me and said that the spelling of our name, Baines, was all wrong; that he had looked it up in books, and it should be Baynes. I told him that he was wrong. But, unfortunately for all of us, he persuaded me, and some of my brothers and sisters, and all of his father's family, to make the change. Afterward, when he was an old man, he came to me, regretted the mistake that he had made and said that he had changed back to Baines, and so had almost everybody whom he had persuaded to change to Baynes. He wanted me to change back to Baines; but I told him my name was recorded as Baynes in the office of the Town Clerk, and I could not do it. " But," he said, " your sons have changed back to Baines." " Let them spell the name anyway they like," I replied, "as long as they don't disgrace it. But I won't change." His was not the only family in which the name was spelled variously; sometimes by the individual, more often by the one recording it. Thus we have: Curwin, for Corwin; Hoel, for Howell; Udall and Woodle, for Woodhull; Hulse, for Halsey; Parsons, for Pierson; Cupper, for Cooper; and Tillenness, for Tillinghast. Then, there was the controversy, not yet settled, as to the final " g " in Ailing, Conkling, Griffing &c.; and the final " s " in Youngs. There was much confusion among the given names, also. Joyce stood for Rejoice; Scena, for Asenath; and Deziah, for Desire. It took some time to translate Rich Shary into Capt. Recompence Sherrill. In the end, nearly all of these obstacles were overcome by appealing to those who were best informed as to their respective families.

As a rule, the correspondents gave full and intelligent replies to the in- quiries. If anything, the average of them sent too much. In numerous cases, parties who had seen, or heard of, the printed lists sent the names of Refugees not on the lists; and, with them, much valuable information about their descendants. Two leading instances are Henry Brown, Jr. (Pages 280, 281) and Elias Cooper. (Page 311) A few of the correspondents held back until they saw that a book was in sight, and that their neighbors would be in it. Then they made haste to reply. One man, however, actually refused access to important documents which were in his attic.

Duplicate work in the Biographies has been avoided, when possible. Printed Genealogies have been more often referred to than copied. In rare cases, the origin of the family in Europe is mentioned the line usually beginning with the emigrant ancestor to America. Differing opinions as to the origin of a family have been reconciled ; or, failing in that, all the opinions have been given, with the informants as authorities. Special attention and extra space have been given to families which have no printed Genealogy. Some of the Biographies, it will be noticed, are very scant. This might have been because there was no information to be had; or because the des- cendants did not reply to the appeal; or because the reply came too late.

Of course, many prominent families on Long Island do not appear in the Biographies because they had no representative among the Refugees.

The biographical inquiry often helped itself in unexpected ways. A remark, dropped by Mr. William Higgins Conkling (Page 305), identified four Conkling brothers who were Refugees; and when Mr. Conkling was asked for his Higgins line, he ran it back to Christian Higgins, a Refugee who had been elusive down to that time. A chance expression, made by a boy who accompanied him, proved that a certain man was a Refugee as against the statements of all his descendants that he was not. More important than all, the biographical inquiry put scattered branches of some families in com- munication, and introduced many interested parties to others of whose existence they did not know. The case of Alathea Gildersleeve is in evidence.

On Pages 884 and 885 it is stated that, on March 28, 1780, she, with her child, was allowed to return to Long Island. She was unknown to the Gilder- sleeve descendants. After some inquiry, it was found that the Chatham Portland, Conn., Church Records stated that, as Alathea Overton, she married Henry Gildersleeve on Jan. 29, 1778, and that both were from Long Island. The Overton descendants were not aware of the marriage. Then the Gildersleeve Records informed that Henry, son of a Refugee and brother of two others, was born in 1755 and died Nov. 26, 1779. Thus Henry was himself a Refugee, and Alathea was his Widow. What became of her after she returned to Long Island? The Mattituck Church Records stated that she married Jonathan Tuthill on April 27, 1780, only a few days after her return. Inquiry of the Tuthill descendants then brought out the names of her Tuthill children. (Pages 360, 361, 488, 612) Thus the brief notice of a Widow, but 25 years of age, ended in clearing a mystery in three families. The General Index, too, was increased by about 30 names.

Among those who saw certain proofs of this work, some objected to the very free use of punctuation marks. But it must be remembered that printers and writers differ as to the _ rule. So that I am entitled to decide upon my own rule which is, that it is better to have too much punctua- tion than too little. Sentences of short, or moderate, length are preferable to the long and involved sentences of the late Hon. William M. Evarts or the celebrated loo-line sentence in Victor Hugo's " Les Miserables." The abundant use of Capital letters, herein, has been mentioned. Here, again, there is a reason; for all of the nouns, and many of the adjectives, in the Original Documents began with capitals.

This book should have been written 100 years ago while many of the Refugees, or at least their children, were still alive. It is hard to obtain satisfactory results in dealing with great-grand children. Moreover, many documents have been lost, or destroyed, in the meantime. So that, while others, from Hon. Silas Wood down, might have written the book, they had little incentive to do so. The trouble was that they did not have enough of a foundation on which to build. Appendix C. gave that foundation; and, as I had the only copies, it seemed to devolve upon me to produce the book. There have been many delays which have doubled the time taken, the size of the book and its cost. But the delays have perfected the work, and they have made it more valuable.

As I close these pages, I once more look out upon my oft-time inspiration. From the windows of my study I see, but two miles away, Shippan Point whence Tallmadge made his raids over to Long Island. Across the Sound, six miles away, I see the North shore of the Island from Lloyd's Neck to Setauket. And then I live over again the life I have been living with the Refugees. Their sorrowings and their sufferings are over. May they rest in peace.

STAMFORD, CONN., August n, 1913.

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