Battle in a Blizzard - January 15, 1780
Colonial Army General, Alexander Lord Stirling,
invades British occupied Port Richmond, burns their fort.
The British burn our hexagonal 1715 Church.
Port Richmond, known as Decker’s Ferry during the Revolutionary War,
was a vital transportation hub between New York and Philadelphia.
It was so important that the last fort which the British erected on Staten Island, of which there is any authentic record, stood east of the intersection of Richmond Terrace and Richmond Avenue [now Port Richmond Avenue], on the south side of Richmond Terrace.
Our Congregant, the Tory Isaac Decker, began operating a tavern and ferry there in 1774. He promised that his tavern offered guests “the best of liquors, eatables, and lodgings” (New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, 16 May 1774). In April 1776, Royal governor William Tryon appointed Decker to the
command of a troop of militia cavalry, which he commanded throughout the
war. When the Americans evacuated Staten Island in 1776, they burned the stone tavern.
After the British arrived on the island, they took over the gutted building and converted it into a fort in January 1779 with loopholes (openings from which a defender can fire in various directions), and surrounded it with a line of abatis. It stood on the future site of the St. James Hotel where Aaron Burr died. After the war, Decker settled in Nova Scotia.
1797-1780 was known as the “hard winter" because of the severe cold.
By January 14
the Kill van Kull was completely frozen over.
View Near Elizabethtown, N. J.,
oil painting by
Régis François Gignoux,
1847, Honolulu Museum of Art
Lord Stirling crossed on Jan 15, 1780 with 2,500 men
in a gallant attempt to surprise the British.
He managed to transport 2,500 men in 100 sleighs
through the snow and across the ice
to attack the British on Staten Island.
Failing to surprise the enemy,
and though they burned their fort,
the expedition became
more of an annoyance
than a threat to the British.
They landed in the night near what is now Elm Park.
They marched along the shore road
to the foot of Clove Road in West New Brighton.
The British burned our 1715 hexagonal wooden church.
Read more about this battle at THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR ON STATEN ISLAND
General Lord Stirling claimed the Scottish title of Earl by right of survival after the death of the previous Earl of Stirling.
American born and a patriot, he was denied the title by the King,
but insisted on using it as a form of protest.
William Alexander, Lord Stirling, was made a colonel in the New Jersey colonial militia when the American Revolution began in April 1775. Because he was wealthy, he outfitted his militia at his own expense in support of the Patriot cause.
His mother was a successful merchant. He expanded the business to supply the British military during the French and Indian War. He married Sarah Livingston, whose brother, William, later became the first state governor of New Jersey. The couple had a house in Manhattan, which they sold after building a large estate on 1000 acres in what became Basking Ridge.
Alexander made the most of his New Jersey property,
cultivating over 2000 grape vines
to support the growth of the winemaking industry in the New World.
Willam Alexander, Lord Stirling by Bass Otis
The Second Continental Congress appointed him brigadier general
in the Continental Army in March 1776.
He made a major contribution to the colonial cause at the Battle of Long Island when, in August of that year, he led the stalwart, well-trained 1st Maryland Regiment in repeated attacks against a superior British Army force under the command of Gen. William Howe and took heavy casualties. Outnumbered 25 to 1, his brigade was eventually over-whelmed and Stirling himself was taken prisoner, but not before holding off the British forces long enough to allow the main body of Washington's Continental troops to escape to defensive positions at Brooklyn Heights, along the East River.
Later, under the cover of fog which enveloped the river
and thanks to the rear-guard covering actions of Stirling's Marylanders,
Washington was able to barge his remaining troops and equipment back to Manhattan Island.
He was praised by both Washington and the British for his bravery and audacity, and released in a prisoner exchange.
Throughout most of the war, Stirling was considered to be third or fourth in rank behind General Washington.
Washington held him in such high regard that he placed Stirling in command of the entire Continental Army for nearly
two months while he was away on personal business.
Because of his actions at Long Island, one newspaper called Stirling "the bravest man in America."