Allusion has been made in the preceding address to the circumstances
of East-Hampton at the commencement and during the continuance of the Revolutionary
war--to the entire and united devotion of her inhabitants to their country's
cause. Their union in expressing their sympathy with their brethren of
Boston, in the adoption of a series of resolutions in their meeting held
June 17th, 1774, has been noted. About a year thereafter, when the "Association"
suggested by the Continental Congress was remitted to them for signatures,
they came forward in a body, and without a solitary exception, signed the
Association.(*) This association was said to have been delivered into Congress
on the 22d of June, 1775, and to have been signed by John Chatfield, chairman
of the committee, Col. Abraham Gardiner, Burnet Miller, Rev. Samuel Buell,
Thomas Wickham, member of the first Congress, and fifty-eight others, being
all the male inhabitants of the Town then capable of bearing arms. A rare,
and perhaps unparalleled instance, of unanimity and devotion to the cause
of Liberty, under such inducements to forsake it.(*)For this Association,
and names of the signers, in East-Hampton, see a subsequent page.
After the battle of Long Island, such of the inhabitants as had endangered their safety by their devotion and prominence in the cause of Liberty, and could command the means, as well as many others, left for Connecticut, or some other less exposed part of the Colonies. Burnet Miller, it is said, retired within the American lines, and became a Member of Assembly for the County, which station he held during the war. Thomas Wickham, who had been a member of the Provincial Congress, went to Stonington, Connecticut; from thence he waged war upon the enemy as a privateer in command of a sloop of eight guns, and succeeded in taking several prizes. Wickham at one time, with several armed boats, attempted a surprise of the enemy's forces at Sag-Harbor. Major Davis and Capt. Grinnell, who had removed to Connecticut in consequence of their previous activity and zeal in the Colonial war, were also engaged in the enterprise, and commanded two of the boats. Unfortunately the boats were driven on shore. Major Davis and the crews were taken prisoners by a Hes sian Major and about twenty light horse. An attempt was made to fire the boats, but Wickham succeeded in bringing them off.
Major Davis was taken to New-York and imprisoned, where he died. Tradition has it that he died in consequence of poison administered in his chocolate.
A division of the British army was established at Southampton, and there for a time the Tory Governor, Tryon, had his quarters.
An attempt was made to establish the Royal Government, and officers who had held commissions under the King were called upon to enter upon the civil or military duties of their office. In East-Hampton none were found willing to act under the Royal authority, and Col. Gardinerwas put under arrest, and threatened with Martial Law, for refusing to call out the militia.
The people were called out, by orders from headquarters, to assemble on a certain day, and take the oath of allegiance. A few only obeyed, and among these one Bennet was told by the officer who officiated, to repeat after him what he should say. "Instead of proceeding with the oath the officer then gave some farther directions respecting it which Bennet immediately repeated. The officer explained, and Bennet repeated the explanation. The officer denounced his stupidity, and Bennet repeating the abuse with undisturbed gravity was turned away as a fool. The ridicule this conduct cast upon the whole proceeding, put an end to it. The oath was avoided, and the meeting dispersed. Perceiving the rigor with which they were opposed, and the folly of resorting to forcible measures, the British made little further effort to secure the alliance, or subdue the spirit of the people."
A detachment of the British forces, under Major Cockrane, were stationed at Sag-Harbor. The country still abounds with traditions of his surpassing brutality, passion and cruelty. Many are the instances of his flagrant injustice and merciless, uncalled for punishments. And often the inhabitants of the town of East-Hamptsn felt the lash by the order, or perhaps inflicted by the very hand of this ruthless foe. He as well as others higher in command, often imposed most onerous burdens upon the people. They were called at unseasonable times, to come out with their teams, and do service for the British army. Provisions and cattle were taken, and supplies levied, as the wants of the army required, and often the beasts of the plow were slain for their sustenance, and their owners suffered from the loss. Compensation was generally made, but almost always at the victor's price.
One memorable instance ??s related in which the fury and impetuosity of Cockrane's temper met with a will as strong and with a courage as unquailing as his own.
A vessel had been cast upon the shore at Napeague, east of the village of Amagansett, laden with supplies for the
British army. As usual, the inhabitants were ordered out with their teams, to cart the provision to Southampton, for the army's use.
Major Cockran appears to have had some oversight of the affair. There was a certain number of barrels, and each team took its assigned load; but on the last load it was found that there remained one more barrel than the other teams had taken. The load fell to the lot of Jedediah Conkling, of Amagansett, an uncle of the late Jedediah Conkling, of Sag-Harbor, a man of small stature but unflinching courage. Conkling took the usual load, left the solitary barrel, and was proceeding on his way when he was stopped by Cockrane, and ordered to take the remaining barrel upon his cart. Conkling refused. Cockrane reiterated his order, and told Conkling he should take it. Conkling declared he would not. Each affirmed his decision with an oath. Cockrane threatened. Conkling defied. The one approached with his sword waving; the other, erect upon the cart, brandished his long ox goad. Cockrane threatened to strike him dead. Conkling declared that he would kill him with his goad if he dared approach. The British Major finally yielded, and the teamster passed on his way. It is said that, as they passed through East-Hampton street, the company stopped at the house of Nathaniel Huntting, who then kept tavern; and Cockrane said that Conkling was a man of the most courage he had met with on the Island, and requested of him the favor of drinking with him, to which the incensed Yankee replied that he would not drink with him to save his life.
Onderdonk's Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk County gives names of some persons who fled from Long Island to Connecticut. At the dates given the persons named were these:
1776, 31st Dec., Elisha Mulford and Jonathan Tuthill.
1777, 10th Jan, Abraham Hand, Jeremiah Miller, Joseph Osborn, John Mulford, John Tuthill, John Miller, Aaron Isaacs, Jr., Elisha Osborn.
1779, 10th June, Aaron Isaacs, Hartford, Conn.
1780, 24th Jan., Zebedee Osborn, East Haddam, Conn.
1780, Nov., Henry Hoppin, "
From the same authority it appears that "the Culloden, in pursuit of French ships from Rhode Island, in a dreadful storm on Monday night, Jan. 22d, 1781, was driven on Long Island (at Culloden Point.) The men, guns and masts will be saved."
"July, 1815, 12 tons of pig iron and a long 32 lbs. cannon were taken up by a diving machine in Fort Pond Bay, being the wreck of the Culloden."--L. I. Star, July 26.
"The unfortunate Major Andre was, for several weeks, quartered at the house of Col. Gardiner, and his gentlemanly deportment and generous feelings won the esteem of the family. Dr. Nathaniel Gardiner, a son of Col. Gardiner, was a surgeon in the Northern division of the American army during the war, and was on a visit to his father at this period. Having come within the British lines he was liable to be seized as a spy, and though the family took every precaution to conceal his presence, it was soon perceived that Andre was not without knowledge of it. He forebore, however, any allusion to it, and subsequently expressed his regret that their relative situation had prevented him from soliciting an interview. Andre afterward repaired to New-York, and his unfortunate fate is well known. During the night preceding his untimely death, the young surgeon, whom he had thus encountered, enjoyed by a strange coincidence, and in the capacity of an enemy, the melancholy pleasure of his society. He left with the family several memorials of friendship.
Dr. Gardiner continued in the army until the end of the war, and subsequently, in 1786, '89 and '90, was a member of the State Legislature.
"Col. Gardiner finding his residence in East-Hampton unpleasant, and even hazardous, removed with his family to Connecticut."
Although the people suffered from most rigorous, and for them ill timed, exactions, it appears that more or less friendly intercourse was kept between the officers of the British Army and the citizens of the town. Sir William Erskine, commander of the British forces on the east end of the Island, seems to have been particularly pleased with the society of Dr. Buell, and to some extent to have yielded to the Doctor's wishes.
It is related that on one occasion Erskine had ordered the people of East-Hampton to appear with their teams at Southampton on the Sabbath. On the preceding Saturday Erskine and the Doctor met, when Erskine stated to him that he had ordered his people to be at Southampton with their teams on the Sabbath. The Doctor replied, "I am aware of it, but am myself Commander-in-Chief on that day, and have annulled the order." It is said that Erskine yielded, and revoked the order.
With Gov. Tryon, Dr. Buell was intimate, and many letters are still extant which passed between them.
In the sports of the chase Dr. Buell often joined the officers of the army, and on one occasion, being late, the party despairing of his arrival, had mounted, when he appeared in sight. Sir William Erskine, perceiving his approach, ordered them to dismount and receive his friend. Lord Percy, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, and then Aid-de-Camp, while impatiently pacing the floor, was introduced to the Doctor, who asked him what portion of his Majesty's forces he had the honor to command. Percy, (who was in an ill humor on account of the order to dismount,) replied, "A Legion of Devils just from Hell." "Then," said Dr. Buell, with a low obeisance, "I suppose I have the honor to address Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils." The severity of the repartee caused Percy to put his hand upon his sword, which was instantly rebuked by Sir William; and the attention and politeness of the Parson won for him the admiration of Percy, long before the chase was over.
After the Revolution, amid the rapid increase of population, and swelling tide of emigration, this ancient settlement became comparatively of much less importance, and bore but a small proportion to the great aggregate of the population of the State.
Spafford's Gazetteer of New-York, 1813, describes East-Hampton as "first settled in 1649 by about thirty families from Lynn," &c. Population in 1790, 1,492. Town street as having 80 houses; Wainscott 15 dwellings; Amagansett 20 houses; Acabonac 15 houses; Northwest 15 houses; with two school houses in "town street," and one in each of the other places. It describes Sag-Harbor as having 80 houses, and shipping to the amount of about 5,000 tons. The population of the town in 1790 was 1,492; in 1800, 1,549; in 1820, 1,646; in 1830, 1,668; in 1840, 2,076; in 1850, 2,122; in 1860, 2,267; in 1870, 2,372; in 1880, 2,516; in 1890, 2,431.
Dongan's Patent called for payment of Quit Rent to the King yearly, of "the sum of one lamb, or the value thereof," &c. The state of New-York achieving independence of the Royal authority, succeeded to the sovereignty of the Crown and claimed all quit rents formerly payable to the King. In the deep distress following the Revolutionary war the Legislature of the State absolved all tenants from payment of those rents accruing "between the 29th day of September, 1775, and the 29th day of September, 1783." By the same Act, passed April 1st, 1786, all quit rents could be commuted by paying fourteen shillings for every shilling of such annual quit rent at any time on or before the first day of May, 1787." Other Acts further extended the time of payment, showing the humanity of the Legislature "of the people for the people." It is presumed the town commuted this quit rent by payment at an early day.
A history of the vessels wrecked and lives lost on the shores of East-Hampton would be intensely interesting and tragic. The first wreck I remember was that of the brig Mars, ashore just west of Lily Pond Lane, near Appaquogue, about 1828. She was a large, staunch, almost newly built vessel, so far up on the beach that with little difficulty the crew attained the land and no life was lost. The brig came ashore in fair weather, and not driven thereon by a storm. As I remember, the Captain's name was Ring. Coming ashore in the night, crowds on the following morning went to view the wreck, and among others Capt. Jonathan Osborn, of Wainscott, who closely questioned Capt. Ring as to the wind and weather, and whether he sounded and how often. Evidently Ring was uncomfortable under the examination and roughly replied to Capt. Osborn, "Old fellow, what do you know about a ship? If I should tell you, do you think you would know any more than you do now?" Capt. Osborn replied, "I have commanded a ship, larger than your brig, and never ran her ashore, either."
The next vessel I remember wrecked was the barqueship "Edward Quesnel," which had been engaged in the sperm whale fishery from some eastern seaport, and having a cargo of over a thousand barrels of sperm oil, came on shore at Napeague beach, about the year 1838, in a north-east storm. The ship was a total loss. A part of the cargo was saved. Some ten or twelve of the crew were drowned. The bodies were drawn up on the beach near the banks. A ghastly array of corpses, pitiful to behold. The mortal blow leaves on the lifeless body that mark which appalls the onlooker even in the home where it fell. On the wild ocean, or its wild shore, the surging billows, the grinding and groaning wreck, the crash of breaking cargo, the desolation of the scene adds four-fold to the desolating horror of death. That vision of lifeless bodies lying in a row on Napeague beach, pale, motionless, ghastly, has followed and haunted me in the darkness of night from that day to this.
The territory of Long Island has been exempted from earthquakes, blizzards,
whirlwinds, waterspouts and sto??ms to such a degree that little note of
them is made. No instance of damage by earthquake, whirlwind or waterspout
is known. One great exceptional storm spread wide disaster over the Island,
and its saddened memories have survived to this day. The evening of December
23d, 1811, was wild, hazy, and with some fog. The writer was informed that
it was so warm that a teamster at the Watermill, from East-Hampton, having
procured a wagon load of oysters, at 9 o'clock P. M., thought there was
no danger of freezing, and decided not to run them in the barn. Somewhere
about one or two o'clock that night commenced a sudden, terrific north
east snow storm. In Thomson's History of Long Island, Vol. I, p. 276, it
is stated: "An immense amount of property was destroyed and many lives
lost. It is supposed that more than sixty vessels were cast ashore upon
the north side of Long Island; most of which were destroyed or so greatly
injured as to be of little value. Whole crews were lost; the mercury fell
to eight degrees before the storm abated. The snow continued to fall, the
wind increased almost to a tornado and swept over the plains with desperate
intensity. It raged for twenty-four hours. The snow was so drifted that
no mail could pass and all travelling was effectually impeded. Many vessels
were driven upon Lloyd's Neck, Eaton's Neck and Gardiner's Island. Thirty-six
bilged and stranded vessels were counted in one day. The day previous had
been remarkably pleasant, and the transition from warm to cold was so great
that in many instances human beings perished, on land as well as on water.
Sheep expired in great numbers, domestic fowl were frozen to death and
neat cattle were overcome by the severity of the cold. Almost every vessel
from Hurlgate to Montauk was driven on the shore."
Capt. Conkling and his vessel and crew were lost in Long Island Sound at this time. He was a resident of Amagansett. Hence old people called this the "Conkling Storm," and sometimes the "Christmas Storm." Probably the change from temperate to extreme cold weather was more sudden and disastrous than any of which we have record. My mother told me it was so mild that the horses were left in the pasture all night. In the morning my father and his hired man went out, and the first time failed to find them in the fierce blinding storm. Exhausted, and returning and resting, they again started, and could not see them, but by running against them found and took them home.
THE AMISTAD CASE.
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