The British at Orient in 1812
Melita Hofmann - 1960

    One day I went to the woods by the bay for wild strawberries. Suddenly I heard a cannon fired. Looking up I saw three barges from British ships in Gardiner's Bay, just off shore!"
    These were the words of Jemima Terry Latham, as told to a reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the year 1896. They were the words of a ninety-three year old lady recalling the time, when, as a little girl of ten of Orient Point, she had been suddenly and rudely surprised, on her pleasant little jaunt of berry picking, to find that three English ships were anchored in Gardiner's Bay and two in the Race. At the time, 1813, the British had taken possession of Plum Island for a drilling ground. Although the War of 1812 had directly affected the community, the people had been mainly inconvenienced by the tight blockade of the eastern end of Long Island.
    Continuing, Jemima said: "To the West I saw a schooner, loaded with pine wood and clams from Riverhead, hoping to slip by the ships and reach Connecticut River. The English, however, had seen the schooner and sent the barges to intercept her. Those on the schooner, realizing their danger, ran the schooner on the Point and escaped, leaving the sails set. The English boarded her and took the clams and whatever they wanted, and then fired the schooner."
    "I ran home. My father was absent and we were all terribly frightened as we feared the English would come ashore and burn our home. My mother put me up in the garret, which had no stairs, to get a box containing silver and valuable papers. In her haste she took the trunks which I had passed down to her and left me in the garret. I had to jump down quite a distance. Then my brother was sent to the garden to dig a hole in which the box was buried. Fortunately the British did not land at that time. Later they used to land two or three times a week to buy provisions. They were always polite and paid liberally."
    "One day my brother and I were on the Sound Shore and saw the British ships chasing one of our privateers with "specie" aboard from Boston. The privateer proved to be the faster and when, at a safe distance, they played "Yankee Doodle." At another time about fifty marines landed at Orient to purchase beef. They bought two yoke of oxen. On hearing this Colonel Moore, Capt. Fred King and Jason King went at night to where the oxen were stalled and drove them away. When the English discovered this the next morning they were very angry. They were obliged to buy what poultry they could find, lieutenant, surgeon, and several marines came to our house and wanted to buy geese of my mother. She told them that they were setting and she could not sell them. The surgeon replied: 'We do not care for that; you ought to be thankful that we do not burn the house over your heads.'
    "On account of the presence of the ships in the bay in 1813, the fishermen dared not to sail down to Montauk for their usual winter supply of fish. But in October the tide brought great numbers of mackerel into an enclosed bay, and when the water receded the mackerel were left on the flats in vast quantities. The whole village went to the flats and got a supply of the fish. This was considered a remarkable providence."
    "In the following year, our government sent a torpedo boat to destroy the three English ships. When in the Sound the boat encountered a fierce gale and was driven ashore abreast of Greenport, near the residence of Mr. Mulford. When the English learned of this fate of the torpedo boat they sailed up there and fired at it, shattering it to pieces. The Mulfords were at church and the British went ashore and plundered the building. Returning to their ships they fired at the house. Many of the bullet marks could be seen for years afterward."
    There were other anecdotes in the history of Orient which refer to the British blockade. However, it is interesting to note, even as related by this nonogenarian, remembered from when she was a small girl, that the raids of the British were infrequent and the supplies they gathered usually paid for.
    Jemima Terry Latham, at the time of this interview with the member of the Brooklyn Eagle's staff, was one of the oldest residents on Eastern Long Island having been born in the Village of Orient on April 5, 1803. Later she lived in Southold, Brooklyn and New York where she married Capt. Jonathan Latham, owner and proprietor of the now historic Orient Point Hotel, becoming his third wife on the 17th of May, 1840.
    Her father, Jesse Terry, had been drafted as a soldier in the War of 1812 but had secured a substitute to serve for him. The war had destroyed his business and he had bought a farm at Orient Point where he and his wife had moved in March, 1813. Shortly after that the three English ships had anchored in Gardiner's Bay and two in the Race.
    Capt. Jesse Terry, who died Feb. 3, 1831, and his brother Capt. Jonathan, who died July 22, 1820 at age of 50, and operated the packet sloop, "Hero" and sailed back and forth to New York with passengers and freight. A quote from Griffin's Journal about them states: "These Messrs. Terry were patterns of industry, prudence, and of business habits; moral rectitude marked all of their dealings." (They were the sons of Jonathan Terry, Junior son of Jonathan Terry, who was the son of Thomas Terry, second, who was the son of Thomas Terry first.)
    The story of the Mulford House is also confirmed in Griffin's Journal: "In 1814, a large torpedo boat, which had been fitted out at New York to annoy the British ships then lying off Fisher's Island, on her way to the rendezvous designated, while off against Southold ,in the Sound, a severe gale of northerly wind drove the boat on shore a little east of Ashamomac Beach. After lying there a day or two, a British ship and brig came and anchored near where she lay. As they were arranging a number of barges for landing men to destroy the torpedo, they kept up an almost constant firing of cannon. The balls flew around said boat, over the farm of Mr. Mulford, and through his house and out-houses, commencing with din and noise, which alarmed the people for miles in every direction. Noah Terry* was on his way to Southold, by the road which passed within a few rods of where this target of a boat lay, at which they were firing. When opposite the torpedo, Noah dismounted, left his horse, got on the torpedo boat, took off his hat, swung it, and gave cheers, remounted his horse, and, amidst the roar of cannon and whistling of balls, some of which plowed deep furrows near the highway, he galloped on his way to town."

*Probably uncle of Captain Jesse Terry and Captain Jonathan Terry. Noah Terry was born Sept. 1744 and died in Oct. 1815, the son of Jonathan Terry and Lydia Tuthill.

First appearing in the LI Forum 1960 No Copyright Information Data Found