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Van Buskirk’s Account of the Elizabethtown Raid

Genl. Sterling

Staaten Island. 26th Jany. 1780


Persuant to the orders I received yesterday, I marched last evening about dark, with the detachment under my command, taking the rout directed by Brigr. General Skinner, the guides led me without discovery to the rear of the town, which I entered without any alarm – immediately detachments were made to take the rebels from their quarters; the first object was the officer commanding, who was instantly secured, with all the officers that were on Duty & 47 Men, Captain Gifford of Maxwell’s who happened to be in the Town, was also taken – The surprise was compleat & if I had had a few more men on this service, not a man on the post could have got off – but the surprise was the aim, & that I have the happiness to tell you was attained about ten o’clock at night, without the loss of a man, & only a few scattering shot.

The horse under Captain Steward were very servicable. I cannot pass unoticed the good conduct of Capt. Hatfield & those under his command, who led me thro deep snow, but with judgement, to a beaten road, that brought me into the town & to effect the surprise; I beg leave to say that the officers and men I had the honor to command kept the strictest silence, and shewed the greatest coolness in entering the town –

The surprise thus effected I returned with the detachment and reached the Island a little after 12 o’clock – It was impossible to prevent the refugees from burning the Presbyterian meeting house & the court house, against both of which (especially the former) the refugees had particular resentment, – Otherwise little injury was done to the inhabitants, A few very obnoxious men only were brought off – and returning DeHarts House, used by the rebels for their picquet, was burned.

I have the Honor to be
Sir your
Very Humle.
Abrm. Buskirk, Lt. Col.

University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 109, item 16. Courtesy of Provincials, the Facebook page of the Online Institute of Advanced Loyalist Studies.