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Skirmish at Burdett’s Ferry

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

October 27. –This morning, about seven o’clock, two frigates moved up the North River, and came to an anchor near Burdett’s ferry, apparently with an intention to stop the ferry way and cut off the communication between Fort Lee and Fort Washington. The enemy at the same time appeared on Harlem plain, and Colonel Magaw, who commands on York Island, ordered the lines to be manned. The ships endeavored to dislodge them by firing on their flanks, but they fired to very little purpose. The barbette battery, on the high hill on the left of the ferry, opened on the frigates, and fired a considerable time without doing them any, or but very little damage. Upon our ceasing to fire, a gun from fort number one on York Island began to play on them with great advantage, and hulled the one highest up above twenty times. At this time two eighteen-pounders, which were ordered down this side the river opposite the ships, gave them so warm a salute that they hoisted all sail; the foremost slipped her cable and appeared to be in the greatest confusion; she could make no way although rowed by two boats, till the lower one perceiving her distress, sent two more barges to her assistance, who at length dragged her out of the reach of our fire. It is very probable that many of her men were killed; and she herself extremely damaged; but the weather was so hazy that it was impossible to see any thing distinctly at a distance. The enemy by this time had begun a smart fire on the island with field-pieces and mortars; our men returned the compliment. They were out of their lines great part of the day. There were but few discharges of small arms. Our men killed about a dozen Hessians, and brought them off. We had one man killed with a shell. This was the account at five o’clock; it is now seven, and the firing has just ceased, but nothing extraordinary has happened. We take this day’s movement to be only a feint; at any rate it is little honorable to the red coats.

Yesterday, a party of the light horse and infantry took possession of Phillip’s Manor, between King’s Bridge and our main army; they continued there all night, but this morning they retired. 1


1 Extract of a letter from Fort Lee; Pennsylvania Journal, November 6.

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