Blue Point: British Supply Port

    The Importance of Blue Point as a seaport during the American Revolution has been largely overlooked. As a loading station for cord-wood and products of the farm and sea, for delivery to British held Manhattan it was a very important area, as evidenced by the number of British and Tory operated vessels known to have called there.
    The shallow draft vessels that entered Fire Island Inlet and crossed Great South Bay to drop anchor off the Blue Point shore front could rely on adequate depth of water. The inlet was well to the east of where it is today and the natural deep water channel led directly into the area that would one day give its name to the finest oysters in the world.
    History has made much of the British use of the Manor of St. George, the fort built there and the daring raid of the patriot whaleboat men led by Major Benjamin Tallmadge in November of 1780. The "Tangier" Smith estate was unquestionably an important occupation point but it seems likely that the Blue Point area saw more loading of vessels.
    Even before the Taflmadge raid, a highly successful one was made at Blue Point April 11, 1778 when Captain Ebenezer Dayton, called by the enemy "the head of the banditti", sailed in Fire Island Inlet and surprised the British and Tories at Blue Point where he captured the 25-ton sloop Dispatch, the 22-ton sloop Poily, the sloop Jane and a "pettiauger" which he sunk. He put a prizemaster on the other vessels and after some close calls they all reached New Haven where they were libelled.
    Dayton returned to Blue Point, October 5 with three armed galleys and 16 men. In that raid he captured the sloops Fanny and Eadeavor. Captain Dayton tried it again Nov. 20, 1778 with the sloop Range, 43 men and six guns, but he was taken by a British privateer and carried to New York. Dayton was a merchant and itinerant peddler both before and after the Revolution. He gained a sort of fame down East Hampton way when he attended church there although ill, and against the advice of his hostess and nearly a hundred became infected with the measles.
    Highly incensed, some young men of the town pursued him and brought him back to be dumped repeatedly in East Hamptons town pond. He won a verdict of $1,000 damages in a subsequent action against the young men, his attorney being Col. Aaron Burr, then a young man. "Daytons Measles" were long remembered as they proved fatal to several persons.
    But back to cordwood, produce and privateers. Daytons schooner Suffolk was one of nearly 300 vessels commissioned by Governor Trumbell at New Haven. Another, the sloop Washington, with 40 men and eight guns, under Captain Israel Deming raided Blue Point and captured two British sloop "victuallers" October 1, 1779. And just eight days later the brigantine Defiance Capt. Thomas King, of Groton, with 70 men and 12 guns came through the inlet and captured the British transport Badger with 122 troops and seven Hessian officers.On April 20, 1780 Capt. David Hawley of Stratford with three armed galleys and 30 men, captured 11 British vessels at Blue Point, seven of which he destroyed. On the night of May 8, 1782 Capt. James Young of New London in the schooner Black Sloven with one gun and 25 men, took the 30-ton British schooner Betsey with a cargo of gun powder and lumber bound for New York. On Nov. 1, 1781 Capt Elisha Elderkin of New Haven with the armed sloop True Blue captured the 35-ton schooner "Willing Lass" with a mixed cargo also at Blue Point.
    Further evidence that Blue Point was an important supply port is shown by the capture of the 50-ton schooner Peggy, a market vessel, off Fire Island Inlet March 2, 1783. She was carrying flax-seed and oysters from Blue Point to New York. The Patriot skipper on that occasion was Capt. Thomas Wickham, a refugee from East Hampton to Connecticut, commanding the sloop Hampton Packet, mounting eight guns and with a crew of 30.
    Wickham was in charge of Gardiners Island and the stock thereon before the Battle of Long Island, after which he became a refugee to Connecticut and soon took up the fight again, at sea. He was a member of the 1st, 2nd and 3d Provincial Congresses and after the Revolution a member of the New York Assembly. In 1776 the Congress appointed him one of a committee to confer with General Washington as to the removal or protection of the stock on Nassau (L.I.) and Staten Islands.
    After Wickham fled the island to Stonington, Conn., together with Capt. John Grinnell and Major John Davis, he attempted to surprise the enemy at Sag Harbor. The boats were driven on shore but he managed to get them off before the enemy could capture them.
    Much of the information here used was supplied by Hervey Garrett Smith, director of the Suffolk Marine Museum at West Sayville. Other sources were Mathers "The Refugees of 1776 from L. I. to Connecticut" and Hedges "East Hampton".

First appearing in the LI Forum 1972 No Copyright Information Data Found