The Taking of the Shuldham, 1781

War at Sea and Waterways (1775–1783)

December 29, 2021
by Selden West Also by this Author


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The fabulous news of the victory at Yorktown was announced in the small town of Stamford, Connecticut, on the coast of Long Island Sound on October 27, 1781. Surely steeple bells clamored and there were prayers of thanksgiving at the Congregational meetinghouses. Soldiers stationed in Stamford were marched to a small hill half a mile outside the village for “a day of rejoicing by firing &c.”[1]

Two weeks later, there was a distinct sense of letdown. Maj. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons had been in Stamford for more than a month, meticulously planning a surprise attack on the enemy fort across the Sound at Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island. Over the past year Associated Loyalist raiding parties from this fort had plagued Connecticut coastal towns. Loyalists landed their boats in hidden coves by night to plunder homes and farms, murder coast guards, and kidnap civilians. Stamford judge Abraham Davenport wrote to George Washington in August that nearly sixty men had been abducted from Stamford alone.[2]

By the end of October, under Parsons’ direction, whaleboats from along the coast had gathered secretly in Stamford harbor. A fleet of heavily armed privateers from New London had been arranged in support. A detachment of Continentals and another of Connecticut militia were held in readiness to embark. At the last minute, however, days after the glorious news of Yorktown, Parsons’ invasion plan had been abruptly canceled by orders from above. Meanwhile Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge had taken twenty Continentals covertly across the Sound in whaleboats, only to be marooned in hiding for more than a week by high northwest winds. His detachment returned exhausted after nights of cold wet weather and surviving on clams. Finally, Capt. Jabez Fitch, who commanded the defensive corps of whaleboats on the Connecticut front lines, had been captured in Greenwich by Col. James DeLancey’s Westchester Refugees and carried to New York.[3]

Likely it was Capt. Samuel Lockwood, Jr. of Greenwich who came up with the proposition to lift everyone’s spirits: an attack on the tiny British fort at Whitestone, Long Island, called the Clinton Redoubt, a minor defensive position garrisoned by a small Loyalist force of the Queens County Militia.[4]

Samuel Lockwood always had a plan of action. At forty-four he was a middle-aged sea captain not above middling height, but his energy and local reputation were prodigious. In 1775 Lockwood had joined Gen. Richard Montgomery’s invasion of Canada and distinguished himself for courage and daring. A newspaper extolled him as“the indefatigable Captain Samuel Lockwood,”who with forty men in a gondola had taken eleven armed vessels and 260 prisoners at Sorel. Lockwood himself had been captured at Quebec and spent time in irons for his part in leading an escape attempt. After six months’ captivity and another six on parole, he had served a year as a captain in Col. John Lamb’s artillery, but life in the regular army soon palled. After several detachments as a scout for General Parsons, Lockwood resigned his commission in late 1778 to return home to Greenwich Point and the tides of Long Island Sound. He would be at the heart of whaleboat warfare on the Sound for the rest of the war. Nor were his exploits confined to water. In January 1780 he had led eighty volunteers and militia more than thirty miles in an all-night march through four feet of snow to kidnap a guard of Loyalist militia near Kingsbridge, surprising them before dawn.[5] Lockwood was brave and tireless, a tough and compelling leader of men.

In newspapers he was often in these years called “Captain Lockwood of the militia,” and it doesn’t appear that he ever corrected this misapprehension. There were, in fact, two local Captain Lockwoods of the militia,[6] but Samuel Lockwood was no longer in the military. He was a quick-thinking, hard-driving whaleboat captain whom men instinctively followed. As Parsons had worked with him for years, likely it was Lockwood’s participation that clinched permission for the use of Continental troops in the proposed small strike against the Clinton Redoubt. Bitterly disappointed by the cancellation of the major attack on Lloyd’s Neck, Parsons had been forced to unpick all his careful plans. The gathered whaleboats were dismissed. The armed vessels Parsons had personally hired were canceled. The militia went back to their quarters and the detachments from the Connecticut Line under Lieutenants Timothy Taylor and Samuel DeForest were sent back to camp in the Hudson Highlands—all except about twenty-five men and Lieut. DeForest himself.[7]

Samuel DeForest was thirty-five, a seasoned soldier from Norwalk (now Wilton) who had served in the northern campaign and at Germantown, Monmouth, Stony Point, Valley Forge, and the Highlands. One imagines Lockwood selling him on the plan to attack Whitestone. Parsons gave permission for DeForest and his small group to stay in Stamford for this purpose, and then left town himself.[8]

The same days of high winds and rain that had stranded Tallmadge on Long Island delayed the Whitestone expedition in Stamford. During that time both Lockwood and DeForest gathered more volunteers. Capt. Ebenezer Jones, Stamford’s most successful whaleboat privateer, who regularly worked alongside Lockwood on raids, would join this one, too, with his armed boats and men. But the largest group was from Fitch’s Independent Volunteers, the whaleboat soldiers on the front lines whose commander, Capt. Jabez Fitch, had recently been taken prisoner. Though the corps reported to the state governor rather than the military (thus the “Independent” in the name), a month earlier Fitch had lent his men and boats to Tallmadge to support an attack on Fort Slongo, and Fitch himself had been part of Parsons’ planning for the attack on Lloyd’s Neck.[9] Now, with Fitch a prisoner, command had devolved on Lieut. Joseph Hull, who in seamanship and daring had much in common with Lockwood.

“Lieutenant Hull was a very bold, enterprising officer,” recalled Isaac Quintard of the corps. Joseph Hull was thirty-one, dark-haired and blue-eyed, a sea captain from Derby. When the war broke out, Hull was commissioned ensign in the Connecticut infantry and drafted into Henry Knox’s artillery as a lieutenant just in time to man a battery at Fort Washington, firing down at Hessians, when the garrison surrendered in November 1776. After a short stint in “Loathsome stinking Gaols” in New York, Hull spent nearly two years as a prisoner on parole on Long Island. On his exchange there had been no place for him or his captain as officers in the artillery. Instead they were given a company of Rangers and assigned to the front lines at Horseneck (now Greenwich). In early 1781, when Jabez Fitch of Horseneck was awarded a captain’s commission and asked to raise an independent company of men and whaleboats to defend the state borders on land and by water, Fitch’s first request had been for Joseph Hull as his second in command. Hull was a skilled and confident mariner. One night he led a half dozen whaleboatmen in a canoe past a guard ship, boarded nine sloops anchored in the guarded cove, and ransomed all nine vessels, taking the paroles of sixteen men before escaping.[10] Surely he was content to join the effort to surprise the Clinton Redoubt.

At last the brutal winds died. The small flotilla of whaleboats sailed from Stamford toward Whitestone in the late afternoon of Monday, November 12. Hull was in command of his corps’ gunboat—a row galley of eighteen oars with a four-pounder mounted in the bow. The sun went down at 4:43 PM and the Sound was shrouded in the darkness of early winter. There was no moon. Snow alternated with driving sleet.[11]

Cruising up the Sound, the convoy captured a sloop loaded with cordwood going to New York. From the crew of the captured sloop they learned that five more wood boats lay under the protection of a British guard ship in Eastchester Creek.[12]

After sending the sloop into Stamford, the group continued down the Sound toward Whitestone. John Dibble of Middlesex Parish (today’s Darien), at twenty-one a volunteer with Lockwood, recalled that when at last they approached the goal they found two large armed vessels guarding the harbor: “Lockwood knew it would not do to attack the fort then.” Their mission “having been frustrated and abandoned,”[13] said George Mills of Stamford, they were momentarily aimless.

It appears that the three commanders, Lockwood, Hull, and DeForest, now recalled the British guard ship and its covey of wood boats in Eastchester Creek. In their current mood the wood boats seemed a negligible target. “Lieut. Hull told us he intended to have that guard ship,” recalled Elijah Crane. The party landed on Hart Island to reorganize and lay their plans.[14]

For all their similarity in boldness and daring, in one aspect Lockwood and Hull were quite different. Lockwood was tough and even brutal. He had men whipped; he smashed the teeth of a relative of whose political views he didn’t approve. Hull for all his intrepidity was a gentle man. After the war his son would chide him for hiring or giving away his money to anyone with a hard luck story.[15] Now he seems to have been troubled that a daring scheme to attack a British ship bristling with ten carriage guns and four swivels might feel different from the original plan to take a weak fort by surprise. He addressed the young men of his corps.

Elijah Crane remembered, “Lieut. Hull paraded us in single file, informed us of his intentions, & asked who would volunteer, remarking that he wished no one to go ‘unless he had as lieve go to Hell as not.’”[16] Crane was eighteen years old. He and his friends, brothers Enoch and David Blackman, and Miles Dickson, all of Stratford, had enlisted under Hull eight months earlier. All stepped forward, as did twenty-six year old Ensign Andrew Mead of Horseneck and others. In the end, including DeForest’s twenty-five Continentals, the group going for the guard ship numbered about forty. Lockwood seems to have automatically assumed command.

The whaleboat sails were furled and the masts unstepped, perhaps to be left on the island, along with some of the whaleboats, men, and the gunboat. At 3 A.M. the attackers pushed out of the cove, rowing with muffled oars.[17] All carried their arms: the Continentals and volunteers their muskets, and the whaleboatmen their muskets, cutlasses, and the occasional pistol.

The guard ship lay in the mouth of Eastchester Creek (now the Hutchinson River), not far from City Island. The plan was to portage their whaleboats across Pell’s Neck (now Rodman Neck) to a spot upriver from the target, so they could approach the ship from the direction no one would be watching.

Each whaleboat was approximately twenty-eight feet long with a six-foot beam, and, empty, weighed between 800 and 1,000 pounds. The men crossed the Neck wading through freezing mid-November water, mud, reeds, and grasses. “We drag[g]ed our boats thro the marsh,” Elijah Crane testified, “some times they would float & then we had to drag them.” Thomas Marble of the Continentals remembered carrying their whaleboat “on poles.”[18]

Finally emerging into the deep water of Eastchester Creek, the cold, wet men peering into the dark perceived a small sloop lying at anchor only 200 feet away. They climbed into their boats and rowed silently over. It was a matter of minutes to take the sloop. “The hands were all asleep,” explained Elijah Crane. It proved to be a market boat from New York owned by the Loyalist John Stanton, loaded with barrels of salt and kegs of brandy.[19]

As Lockwood, Hull, and DeForest’s men tied their whaleboats to the stern, Capt. Ebenezer Jones and a volunteer, David Maltbie of Stamford, with their boats and crews set out after the wood fleet.[20]

On board the sloop, Joseph Hull opened a keg and sprinkled gunpowder over the brandy to approximate the traditional pirate’s potion for courage before a sea battle. “We all took a good dram,” said Crane. The promise was made: ten dollars to the first man who boarded the guard ship, five to the second. Warmed by the brandy, at 4 AM they hoisted the foresail, cut the anchor cable, and were underway downriver. They concealed themselves in the dark by lying flat on the deck.[21]

The northwest wind blew whitecaps in the water and a light snow fell. Lockwood was at the helm, with Hull beside him.[22] The guard ship lay at anchor not far from City Island. As they drew closer the men could dimly see the vessel’s protective boarding nets rising nearly twelve feet above its gunwales.

As they approached, the ship’s watch shouted, “What sloop is that?”

Lockwood called back: “The Little Stanton, John Stanton, commander.”

“Take care—take care—you’ll be foul of us!”

“Never fear—never fear!” Lockwood called. “The rebel boats are out tonight and we want to get under your lee.”

A moment later he and Hull ran their bowsprit into the ship’s netting.[23]

Everything then happened quickly. Someone sprang forward and lashed the sloop fast. The sentinel fired, hitting Ensign Mead in the shoulder. Mead fired back and missed. It was so dark that the attackers could only see by the flashes of gunfire. Seventeen-year-old Isaac Quintard of Fitch’s corps and Thomas Marble of the Continentals both remembered jumping up to fire from the sloop to sweep the ship’s deck. A Continental soldier named Allen slashed the netting with a cutlass, and Mead, though wounded, leapt aboard.[24]

Mead was followed first by one Gregory, a Continental, and then David Blackman of Fitch’s corps. As the men swarmed aboard, Mead shouted to those behind him to close the hatches, locking the crew below.[25] In the confusion, this did not happen.

“Having fired their guns and pistols, Mead ran to the windlass and called upon the men to arm with the spears (boarding pikes) on board,” recalled his widow decades later. “An officer with some of the marines appeared, who cried out, ‘Kill him! Kill him!’” A marine thrust a pike into the belly of David Blackman, who fell to the deck, his intestines spilling from the wound.[26]

Carrying his own pike, Mead ran to the vessel’s cabin door to seize and close it. Instead he met the captain emerging with a cocked pistol in each hand. The captain immediately fired, hitting Mead in both shoulders. Despite his wounds, Mead managed to stab the captain viciously twice with his pike, puncturing his chest and side. The captain sagged, calling for quarter. According to William Patchen, a volunteer, some of the enemy “retreated to the cabin and bolted the door against us. We turned one of the pieces, a six-pounder, and threatened to put a ball among them. They then surrendered.”[27]

It was all over. The entire action had taken four minutes.[28] The guard ship was theirs.

The ship turned out to be Shuldham, a sixty-ton armed sloop named for British admiral Molyneux Shuldham. “Shuldham,” though surely easier than “Molyneux,” would prove difficult for the Connecticut conquerors to remember, much less spell. It appears in their recollections as “Shuldam,” “Shouldum,” “Sholedrum,” and even “Shoulder’em.” Similarly, the Shuldhams captain was recalled alternately as Irish or Scottish or “from the Northumberland”— suggesting that he spoke with an accent—and his name was recorded variously as Lieutenant Roney, Ronoi, Ronoy, Ryoni, Rooney, and O’Rooney.[29]

Twice gutted, the enemy lieutenant was surely not capable of speaking much. Andrew Mead slumped bleeding from three bullet wounds. David Blackman had stuffed his own intestines back into his belly and lay on the deck, holding the gash closed with his hands. Several more on both sides were wounded, three of the enemy severely. Apart from Mead, all the injuries were stab wounds from pikes and bayonets. A surgeon on the Shuldham tended to the sufferers.[30]

Meanwhile there was work to be done in the pre-dawn hours. The unscathed among the twenty-five men taken on Shuldham were herded into the hold under guard. Ten of the marines were Loyalist soldiers from a small corps, the Loyal Foresters. Of these, seven were French, likely prisoners who had enlisted in the British army to get out of jail. Perhaps it was Connecticut farm boys hearing them speak that led to a garbled rumor that a detachment of Anspachers had been captured.[31]

The vessel itself required preparation to get under sail. Surely there was ice on the shrouds and running gear, and though it was still dark, there wasn’t a lot of time. The enemy was not far away—though out of range, one man remembered, “they fired at us fiercely from City Island.”[32]

The twenty-five Continentals on Shuldham proved to be useless as seamen. Lying in pain on the deck, Abraham Mead watched in disgust. “They were unused to water and vessels and moved slowly and awkwardly, not to say timidly, or as Mead used to say, like old women,” his widow recalled. Even the whaleboatmen were mostly just young men who could fire a musket, wield a cutlass, and pull an oar. John Dibble explained, “No one of us understood the management of the stern top sail.”Time ticked by. Lockwood and Hull, experienced mariners who knew a speedy getaway was essential, offered freedom to any prisoners who would help get the job done. Two accepted, an Englishman and an Irishman.[33]

With this help, Shuldham weighed anchor before dawn, course set for Stamford. Stopping at the cove on Hart Island, they retrieved the gunboat and their extra whaleboats and men. Around sunrise—on that grey November day, a brightening of the dull sky at 6:44 AM—they saw a small sloop and schooner through the sifting snow. Men piled into the boats to give chase. The vessels proved to be two wood boats, each having aboard only two men who were quickly overpowered. Somewhere on the trip home they were joined by Ebenezer Jones and his boat crews, shepherding captured wood sloops from among the five previously guarded by Shuldham (some were ransomed and left behind because the group didn’t have enough sailors to bring them in).[34]

Only a few hours after Shuldham limped from Eastchester Bay, the fourteen-gun British armed brig-sloop Keppel cruised past City Island, noting nothing amiss.[35]

Scant record has been found of the prisoners who were marched out of the hold of Shuldham in Stamford. Five Frenchmen would be sent under guard to Peekskill as possible deserters. The Englishman who won his freedom by helping to sail the prize, William Ellis Chapman of the Loyal Foresters, would marry a Stamford girl six weeks later and join the Stamford coast guard, rising to corporal.[36]

Of the wounded, Ensign Andrew Mead was carried to the house of Peter Quintard, Isaac’s father. Lieutenant Roney was carried to the home of Quintard’s sister, the widow Mary Hubbard, a Loyalist. David Blackman with his gut wound was also lifted ashore. Dr. William Fitch of Stamford, who tended the whaleboatmen and occasionally served on the gunboat, was summoned.[37]

It was soon clear that the British lieutenant could not survive. Isaac Quintard remembered, “Roney said he didn’t wish to recover, considering himself disgraced by the way he was taken.” He died within hours. Mead’s injuries were also believed mortal. The doctor tended his wounds several times a day and young Isaac was detached to serve as his nurse and waiter. Though David Blackman was strong enough to leave his bed after six weeks, Mead languished for seven months.[38] Both shoulders would be crippled for life, but he did not die.

Nor did the glow of the victory over Shuldham. It’s hard to know why Shuldham shone so very brightly in the memories of the men who took her. From the British perspective she was not an important vessel. Her loss was never mentioned in the loyal New York press, nor the surviving correspondence of any British commander in the area. Though Shuldham had been one of the vessels carrying Benedict Arnold’s troops to attack New London eight weeks earlier, a British naval captain on that expedition didn’t bother to note her name in his log.[39]

Nevertheless the Connecticut captors exulted. Of the forty men involved, no fewer than thirteen survived to remember that night in pension applications and oral histories forty, fifty, even sixty years later. The Stratford boys who enlisted under Joseph Hull recalled it so vividly that local histories recorded that Hull was in sole command and brought the vessel in jubilation back to Stratford. Hull’s younger brother, Gen. William Hull, noted the capture in his memoirs. Hull’s son, Commodore Isaac Hull who in 1812 became a national hero as the captain of Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), was a small boy in 1781 and his father had been absent at war since 1775. His personal memoir, too, referred to his father’s feat of taking Shuldham.[40]

All of these men, including Hull, were part of numerous deadly missions, and several more important ones. Was it the trickery that made the Shuldham victory so satisfying? The daredevil Samuel Lockwood had pulled the same bluff two years earlier, flying British colors on a sloop that he sailed up to an enemy brig, capturing it without a shot; buton that occasion they had been chased and the brig retaken off Norwalk.[41]

Perhaps it was the trickery, perhaps it was the speed—four minutes!—or perhaps it was the overwhelming success. The men returned to Stamford in triumph: Shuldham, six or seven Loyalist wood boats, and forty prisoners.

“A gentleman near the lines”—the lines just beyond Stamford—wrote an account of this “partizan bravery on the coast” that was reprinted in newspapers from Boston to Philadelphia. To the writer, it was the David vs. Goliath aspect, the small, unarmed market boat against Shuldham, that made it memorable.

“They . . . threw their little vessel along side of her, and commenced the attack—and with that determined bravery which knows no repulse, in the space of a few minutes, with their knives and bayonets, made themselves a passage through her netting, and properly vindicated their superiority . . . . Though this is an instance of the petite guerre, yet the difficulty of the object, compared with the situation of the assailants, does no less honour to the individuals in point of reputation as soldiers: and shews that they share the same spirit of military ardor and enterprize, which has crowned us with the successes and expectations of the present day.[42]

Maj. Gen. William Heath, commanding the troops in the Highlands, wrote a more restrained and coherent, yet still flattering account—“This enterprise was conducted with much address and great gallantry”—to inform George Washington at Mount Vernon as well as the president of Congress in Philadelphia.[43] This too was widely published.

* * *

And then came the dull follow-up paperwork. All enemy vessels and cargoes taken “on the high seas” were reviewed in Connecticut’s county maritime courts. Three whaleboat captains from the Shuldham expedition signed depositions before Judge Davenport in Stamford, attesting to the captured items. Interestingly, co-leader Joseph Hull was not among the men testifying (though a lieutenant, he served as a whaleboat captain and libeled numerous other vessels in his career on the Sound). Was he too busy? Or was he left out deliberately? In the testimony, the ten-gun sloop Shuldham became an eight-gun sloop, and the cargoes of the sloops and schooner became “some remnants of English goods” and “Wood & Empty Hogsheads.” Capt. Jabez Fitch, commander of Hull’s corps, was apparently now home on parole. Fitch was a lawyer, a stickler for rules, a justice of the peace—“an honorable man, always held in high estimation.” Perhaps Hull was skipped over, just in case. The legal papers refer repeatedly to the libellants as “Samuel Lockwood &c.,” and Lockwood, though brave and resourceful, was not one who troubled to hew too closely to the law.[44]

The court date for the libel was set for December 26. After a quick hearing, Shuldham, John Stanton’s market sloop, and the wood sloop and schooner taken by Shuldham were condemned to the libellants.[45] The vessels and goods would be sold, all proceeds to be split among the participating officers and crews.

And there the tale of Shuldham should have ended. But it didn’t.


[1]The sign/countersign for October 27 was “Cornwallis”/ “Burgoyned.” Brig. Gen. David Waterbury’s Orderly Book, October 1, 1781 – February 27, 1782, Connecticut State Library, Hartford; Thomas Marble, Connecticut, No. R6896, Collection M-804, Pension and Bounty Land Application Files, National Archives and Records Administration (Pension Files).

[2]Samuel Parsons to Jonathan Trumbull, September 17,1781, in Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons, Charles S. Hall (Binghamton: Otseningo Publishing: 1905), 398; George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: Davenport to Washington, August 10, 1781,

[3]Parsons to Trumbull, November 8, 1781, in Life and Letters, 407-408; Benjamin Tallmadge to William Heath, November 12, 1781, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Seventh Series, Vol. V, 309-311; Elijah Crane, No. W16223, Pension Files; and Enoch Blackman, Connecticut, No. W2059, Pension Files.

[4]Memorial of Robert Morrell, University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 229, item 48, courtesy of Todd W. Braisted.

[5]Samuel Lockwood, 2nd Artillery Regiment Continental Troops, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, M881, Record Group 93, Roll 0025, NARA; Hannah Lockwood Ford interview, “McDonald Papers, 1844-1850,” manuscript, Westchester County Historical Society, Elmsford, NY, 581 (“McDonald Papers”); Heath to George Clinton, January 14, 1780, Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 5:461-462. Heath stated half were from Col. Matthew Mead’s militia under Capt. Keeler and half volunteers under Lockwood. It was reported in newspapers as Lockwood’s command, and remembered that way in oral histories. For more, see

[6]The two local “Captain Lockwoods” were Capt. Timothy Lockwood of Greenwich and Capt. Isaac Lockwood of Stamford, both in command of coast guard companies.

[7]Parsons to Trumbull, November 8, 1781; Parsons to Heath, November 17, 1781, William Heath Papers, microfilm edition, 46 reels (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1981) reel 22.

[8]Emily Johnston DeForest, A Walloon Family in America: Lockwood de Forest and his forbears 1500-1848 (New York:Houghton Mifflin Co., 1914), 1:224-226; Michael Phelps ofthe Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut kindly pointed me to records that distinguished between the often-confused two Samuel DeForests of Wilton Parish; DeForest was an original member of the Society of Cincinnati and was supported by the Connecticut chapter “for the term of six months/ provided he lives so long”starting in 1789; he died in 1795.Parsons to Heath, November 17, 1781.

[9]William Patchen, Connecticut, No. R7993, Pension Files; Jabez Fitch to Trumbull, October 13, 1781, Trumbull Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 15, Part 2, No. 188, Connecticut State Library (Trumbull Papers, CSL); Fitch deposition, Connecticut Archives. Revolutionary War, 1763-1789 Series I, Vol. XXIII: doc. 392.

[10]Isaac Quintard interview, “McDonald Papers,” 612; Edmund Leavenworth deposition in Joseph Hull, Connecticut, No. W7815, Pension Files; Joseph Hull petition, Connecticut Archives. Revolutionary War, 1763-1789 Series I, Vol. XXVII, doc. 11; Fitch to Trumbull, April 10, 1781, Trumbull Papers, CSL, Volume 14, Part 2, No. 180; New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth), December 29, 1781.

[11]Thomas Marble of the Continentals said that the party left the night before, landed in Westchester, and hid in a cellar overnight. No one else remembered this. Marble, as all but two of the men, did not recall the goal of Whitestone. Thomas Marble, No. R6896; descriptions of the gunboat, Fitch to Trumbull, April 10, 1781, Volume 14, Part 2, No. 180 and June, 29, 1781, No. 298,Trumbull Papers, CSL; for all weather and wind speeds: Log of H.M. Sloop Keppel, Captain John Steel, ADM 51/503, The National Archives (TNA).

[12]Connecticut Journal (New Haven), November, 22, 1781.

[13]Elijah Crane, No. W16223; John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 586. Dibble said, “We went down to attack the fort being in number about thirty or sixty.” George Mills deposition in Jared Lockwood, Connecticut, No. W16639, Pension Files.

[14]Elijah Crane, No. W16223; George Mills deposition in Jared Lockwood, No. W16639.

[15]Whipping of Jonathan Whelpley in Nehemiah Lyon deposition, March 30, 1781, Volume 14, Part 2, No. 161a, Trumbull Papers, CSL; teeth of Daniel Lockwood in E. Dunbar Lockwood and F. A. Holden, Descendants of Robert Lockwood: Colonial and Revolutionary History of the Lockwood Family in America (Philadelphia: 1879), 116; Isaac Hull to Joseph Hull, Linda M. Maloney, The Captain from Connecticut: The Life and Naval Times of Isaac Hull (Boston: Northeastern Unviersity Press, 1986), 152.

[16]Elijah Crane, No. W16223.


[18]Willits D. Ansel, The Whaleboat: A Study of Design, Construction and Use from 1850-1970 (Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1983); Elijah Crane, No. W16223; Thomas Marble, No. R6896.

[19]Thomas Marble, No. R6896; Elijah Crane, No. W16223; John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 584; several of the men recall hundreds of barrels of salt, brandy, and molasses, none of which were libeled.

[20]The timing of Ebenezer Jones’ departure for and return with the wood boats is unclear. De Forest’s report to Parsons of November 14, 1781 does not appear to survive. Parsons paraphrased it in his report to Heath, describing the taking of Shuldham while “in the mean Time Detachments were made after the Wood fleet.” Parsons to Heath, November 16, 1781, William Heath Papers. Captain Jones and “Mr. Mattbie” are identified in The New-York Packet, and the American Advertiser (Fishkill), November 22, 1781, which says they took the wood boats “in the time of the attack.” John Dibble said, “On occasion of the expedition against White Stone Fort, when we landed at Pelham Neck, we did not all proceed against the Shuldham, but part of us remained with part of the boats at Pelham Neck.” Did Dibble mean Hart Island, or is this where Jones’s men split off? John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 604.

[21]Elijah Crane, No. W16223; potion for courage in Rick Atkinson, The British are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2019), 542; John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 584.

[22]Some recall Lockwood, others Hull at the helm, so perhaps both experienced sea captains were there together. In his report to Heath, Parsons says, “being hailed they answered.” Parsons to Heath, November 16, 1781.

[23]This conversation is edited from accounts from John Dibble, Isaac Quintard, Elijah Crane, and Parsons. The Stratford boys remembered Hull calling in reply to the sentry’s warning: “No, no, room enough!” Rev. Samuel Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut(Fairfield County Historical Society, 1886), 389.

[24]Amah Hobby Mead interview, “McDonald Papers,” 71; Isaac Quintard interview, “McDonald Papers,” 612; John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 586.

[25]John Dibble, ibid; Amah Hobby Mead interview, “McDonald Papers,” 72-73.

[26]Amah Hobby Mead interview, ibid; disability certificate October 4, 1792 in David Blackman, Connecticut, No. S37791, Pension Files.

[27]Amah Hobby Mead interview, “McDonald Papers,” 72-73, William Patchen, No. R7993.

[28]Parsons to Heath, November 16, 1781.

[29]Shoulder’em in Abijah Pelham, Connecticut, No. S3667, Pension Files; “from the Northumberland,” George Mills deposition in Ethan Smith, Connecticut, No. W17845, Pension Files. “Northumberland” was also the name of a French vessel but a search of the muster roll found no name resembling Roney/Ronoi, etc. Matthew Reardon had a researcher at TNA check Bruno Pappalardo, Royal Navy Lieutenants’ Passing Certificates 1691-1902 (London: List & Index Society, 2001), without luck.

[30]Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford, 389. Orcutt wrote his account of Shuldhamfrom information gathered by B. L. Swan in an unpublished 1850s manuscript. He adds that Blackman, because of “a peculiarity of voice, was known as ‘Squeaking David.’”

[31]Loyal Foresters Muster Roll, November 24, 1781, Library and Archives Canada, RG 8, “C” Series, Volume 1892, courtesy Todd W. Braisted; The New-York Packet, and the American Advertiser (Fishkill), November 22, 1781.

[32]Thomas Marble recalled, “The sloop being a good deal out of repair we set about repairing her which employed all hands about two hours.” Perhaps he meant “repair” in the obsolete sense of “make ready.” Eight weeks later, Benjamin Tallmadge would be pleased by Shuldham’s excellent condition and appointments. Several testified to the difficulty of getting underway, but blamed it on the lack of sailing skill. On firing, John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 588.

[33]Amah Hobby Mead interview, “McDonald Papers,” 72-73; John Dibble interview, “McDonald Papers,” 586; William Ellis Chapman married Margaret Loder on January 1, 1782 and had five children; see Barbara Kaye, GEDCOM: Stamford Families (; corporal in coast guard in Rufus Newman, Connecticut, No. 1461, Pension Files.

[34]Thomas Marble, No. R6896; Ebenezer Jones and Mr. Mattbie, The New-York Packet, and the American Advertiser (Fishkill), November 22, 1781. David Maltbie, age twenty-two, appears to be the only “Mr. Mattbie” in Stamford; not enough sailors, Parsons to Heath, note “upon Scraps,” November 16, 1781.

[35]Log of H.M. Sloop Keppel.

[36]Parsons reports “about 25” taken on Shuldham and a total of forty prisoners, which would include those taken on the wood boats. He also says twenty-five were soldiers. Were all of those on Shuldham soldiers? Parsons to Heath, November 16, 1781. Five Frenchmen were sent to the Highlands; as there were seven among the Loyal Foresters, apparently the other two were among the wounded. Waterbury to Heath, November 18, 1781, William Heath Papers.

[37]Isaac Quintard interview, “McDonald Papers,” 612; William Fitch, Connecticut, No. 16990, Pension Files; Amah Hobby Mead in “McDonald Papers” gave a long account of the captain appearing to be on the road to recovery before he suddenly bled to death. She married Andrew Mead in 1788 and the story is not supported.

[38]Isaac Quintard interview, “McDonald Papers,” 613; mortal, George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence: Heath to Washington, November 17, 1781. Manuscript/Mixed Material.;David Blackman deposition in Miles Dickson, Connecticut, No. W20881, Pension Files;Andrew Mead, Connecticut, No. W25700,Pension Files. William Fitch, No. W16990.

[39]New London Casualty Return September 6, 1781, Great Britain, Public Record Office, Colonial Office, Class 5, Volume 103, Page 311, courtesy of Todd W. Braisted; Log of H.M. Sloop Keppel.

[40]Those known to have served, aside from officers: Philemon Smith, Stephen Holly, John Dibble, George Mills, Elijah Crane, David Blackman, Enoch Blackman, Isaac Quintard, Thomas Marble, Thomas Newcomb, James Cole, Seth Mead, Miles Dickson, Joseph Barker, Jacob Smith, Jared Lockwood; Stratford boys: Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford, 388-189. Orcutt says they passed three armed vessels at Eaton’s Neck on their way back to Stamford but it seems unlikely the captors would have cruised the Long Island shore; for a garbled and entertaining version of the victory, see Maria Hull Campbell, Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull: Prepared from His Manuscripts by his Daughter (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1848), 18-19; and Linda M. Maloney, The Captain from Connecticut, 4, account based on memoranda written by Isaac Hull.

[41]New-Jersey Gazette (Burlington), December 15, 1779.

[42]Connecticut Journal (New Haven), November 29, 1781.

[43]Connecticut Courant (Hartford), December 18, 1781.

[44]The three captains were Lockwood, Jones, and Ebenezer Ayres, a commissioned whaleboat captain from Stamford who died in early 1782; Fairfield County Maritime Court Records 1777-1783, Vol. III, Session 36, Box 39, folders 4, 5, CSL; Fitch parole, Abijah Pelham, No. S3667; Samuel Lyon interview, “McDonald Papers,” 306; Lockwood was accused of leading a plundering party against local loyalists in 1779, Connecticut Archives. Revolutionary War, 1763-1789 Series I, Vol. XV:26a, and freeing leaders of a mob from jail in 1781. Silliman to Trumbull, February 5, 1781, The Trumbull Papers, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. IX, Fifth Series (Boston: 1885), 195.

[45]Fairfield County Maritime Court Records 1777-1783, Vol. III, Session 36, Box 39, folders 4, 5, CSL.

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