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Action at Tarrytown, New York

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

July 20.—On Sunday evening, the 15th instant, two sloops of war, two tenders, and one galley, all British, came up Hudson River, with intention, as is supposed, to destroy the stores then moving from West Point to the army. There were at that time two sloops going down the river, laden with cannon and powder. As soon as they discovered the enemy, they put about and stood in for Tarrytown, where they ran aground. The enemy having a fair wind and tide, came up the river so fast that it was impossible to march infantry down in time to unload or protect the stores, as there were no troops at Tarrytown, except a sergeant’s guard of French infantry. Colonel Sheldon (whose regiment lay at Dobb’s Ferry) immediately marched his mounted dragoons to the place, where he ordered his men to dismount and assist to unload the stores, which was done with great despatch. By this time the enemy having come to anchor off Tarrytown, began a heavy cannonade, under cover of which they sent two gunboats and four barges to destroy the vessels. Captain Hurlbert, of the second regiment of light dragoons, was stationed on board one of them with twelve men, armed only with pistols and swords; he kept his men concealed till the enemy were alongside, when, he gave them a fire, which they returned and killed one of his men. Captain Hurlbert finding himself surrounded, ordered his men to jump overboard and make for the shore, which they did, he following; the enemy immediately boarded and set fire to the vessels, but were obliged immediately to retire, owing to the severe fire that was kept up by the dragoons and French guard. Captain Hurlbert, Captain-Lieutenant Miles, Quartermaster Shaylor, and others, jumped into the river and made for the sloops, in order to extinguish the fire, which they did, and saved the vessels; while in the water, Captain Hurlbert received a musket ball through the thigh, but is now in a fair way to do well. About daylight, General Howe arrived with a division of troops and some artillery, a battery was opened on the enemy, which obliged them to slip their cables and fall down the river about two miles, where they continued till Tuesday about noon, when General Howe again opened a battery on them, and obliged them to make sail up the river. They continued near Taller’s Point till near Thursday, during which they sent their gunboats on shore, and burnt the elegant house of Captain Robert, at Haverstraw. About noon, taking advantage of a fair wind and tide, they made sail and stood down the river. When coming near Dobb’s Ferry, (where the Americans had erected a battery of two eighteen-pounders, two French brass twelve, and seven half-inch howitzers,) they (the Americans) commenced a heavy fire on them from the works, on both sides of the river; the British returned the fire, but did not the least damage. The largest of their ships sustained the greatest damage, many shot were fired through her, and one of our shells bursting on board her, threw them into great confusion; eighteen or twenty of their men jumped overboard, three or four of whom swam on shore, and the rest are supposed to be drowned.1


1 New Jersey Gazette, August 8.