Affiliate Link

Skirmish Near Tappan

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

September 29 – The British commander at New York having information that seven hundred rebel militia were cantoned in the neighborhood of Hackensack, New Jersey, a little after eleven o’clock last night, ordered the troops to march. The second battalion of light infantry led the column, supported by the 2d regiment of grenadiers, with the 33d and 64th regiments, these commanded by Major-General Gray. Between one and two this morning they arrived at the rebel cantonments; Major Straubenzee had been detached with six companies of the same battalion of light infantry; the other six under the Honorable Major Maitland, kept the road, by which manoeuvres the enemy’s patrol, consisting of a sergeant and about a dozen men, was entirely cut off. Major Straubenzee moved on with the 71st light company, and in a small village surprised a party of Virginia cavalry, styled Mrs. Washington’s Guards, consisting of more than one hundred, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Baylor, who, with Major McLeod and two other officers, upon forcing the door of a house, attempted to get up a large Dutch chimney; the two former were mortally wounded, the third killed, and the fourth made prisoner. Upon entering the house, one of the rebel officers, demanding the name of the corps which had attacked them, was answered, “The British light infantry,” on which he exclaimed, “Then we shall all be cut off.”

From hence a part of Sir James Baird’s company was detached to a barn where sixteen privates were lodged, who, discharging ten or twelve pistols, and striking at the troops sans effet with their broadswords, nine of them were instantly bayoneted, and seven received quarter. Major Maitland’s force coming up at that time, attacked the remainder of the rebel detachment, lodged in several other barns, with such alertness as prevented all but three privates from making their escape. The troops lay on their arms till daybreak, when moving forward, the light infantry fell in with a volunteer company of militia in a very thick wood and swamp; these gave one fire, which the 40th company, commanded by Captain Montgomery, returned and drove them off, leaving six dead, but afterwards scampering across a road in front of a company of our grenadiers, three more were killed by them. The light infantry in pursuing them up to Tappan, where they were entirely dispersed, took five prisoners, all of them wounded. The whole loss of the British, on this occasion, was one private of second battalion light infantry killed.1


1 Rivington’s Royal Gazette, October 3.