John Chilton to Martin Pickett
17 September 1776
Call number: Mss1 K2694 a8
Morris height Camp N. York, Government. 17th Sept. 1776.
My Dear Friend,
I embrace the opportunity of writing to you by Sergt. Beaver[?] of Capt. Wests Comp[an]y whose place Jacob Jessop has taken.
My epistles will be incoherent, scarcely to be understood, but your partiality in my fav[o]r I know will make any thing from me read pleasing, where the news it contains is not too bad.
I have nothing but the news of the camp to give you and that which I have myself seen, there being so many Generals & Field Officers here that a Capt. is only a man of consequence in his own Comp[an]y or Reg[imen]t at most. I will endeavour to state plain matter of facts as they have appeared to me. On Friday last the enemy's cannon played the greatest part of the day from their Forts & Shipping. Friday night we discovered a body of the enemy were landing on a small island in the East River, our Regim[en]t were ordered to march at 3 o'clock in the morning, after marching & countermarching 'till about 7 we returned to our camps. Saturday about midnight we were ordered out and paraded as the day before returned to camp. Tuesday we had scarce time to get our breakfast being informed of the enemy's having taken possession of N[ew] York, and our troops who were chiefly from Connecticut had shamefully abandoned their posts below us without exchanging a fire. Our soldiers were greatly exasperated and being drawn up for Battle it was discoverable that they were determined to fight to the last for their Country; every soldier encouraging and animating his fellow. This night our Reg[imen]t were on Guard posted on an eminince over against the enemy. Monday morn[in]g we marched down towards them and posted ourselves near a meadow having that in our front No. River to our right a body of woods in our rear & on our left we discovered the enemy peeping from their heights over fencings & rocks & running back[war]ds & forwards. We did not alter our position. I believe they expected we should have ascended the hill to them, but finding us still they imputed it to fear & came skipping down towards us in small parties, at the distance of about 250 or 300 yards they began their fire. Our orders were not to fire 'till they came near, but a young officer (of whom we have too many) on the right fired and it was taken from right to left. We made about 4 fires. I had fired twice & loaded again determined to keep for a better chance but Colo[nel] Weedon calling to keep up our fire (he meant for us to renew it but we misunderstood him) I fired once more. We then all wiped & loaded and sat down in our ranks and let the enemy fire on us near an hour. Our men observed the best order, not quitting their ranks tho' exposed to a constant & warm fire. I can't say enough in their praise, they behaved like soldiers who fought from principle alone.
During this three companies of Riflemen from our Reg[imen]t, West's, Thornton's & Ashby's with other Comp[anie]s of Riflemen were flanking the enemy and had began a brisk fire on the right of them on this they began to retreat up the hill carrying off their dead & wounded, for we had galled them a little; and then let me not forget the brave Marylanders who were below us and sustained the hottest of the fire and must have done the greatest execution as they kept a constant fire after we were ordered to reserve ours.
The enemy retreated about a Quarter & half [?] when they were reinforced with men & cannon. We had but one field piece in the battle they had several. The battle began between 8 & 9 in the morn[in]g and lasted 'till about 2. It was rather a skirmish than a battle however it has taught our enemy that we are not all Connecticut Troops and they were more peaceably inclined than before. Their task was to have marched through our camp to Kings Bridge four Miles above us the day of the battle, but they are deceived for once & I hope will be ever so, when they assign themselves such tasks. We had three killed & 8 wounded in our Reg[imen]t. You don't know any of them. Maj[o]r Leitch was also wounded badly he rec[eive]d three balls one just above the groin the other two in the side of his belly just above the one in his groin; he is a man of spirit and bears it as such. It is dangerous but hope not mortal.
There was about as many more killed & wounded in the other Reg[imen]ts. We lost a Colonel I don't know his name Holson a fine man one the New England men. It is said we killed a field officer of theirs and about 50 privates from the blood & bustle they made in carrying off their killed & wounded. They certaintly had many more killed than we had. You will receive a better de[s]c[ription] in the papers.
John Blackwell joins me in our sincerest wishes for you Families & all Friends & hope you will esteem us your Loving Friends.
P. S. Tell the old Planters in Fauq[uie]r their boys are fine solders.
P.S. Since I finished my letter am informed that we had about 20 killed & as many wounded. It is said that the enemy consisted of about 10,000 tho' suppose they had not above 2 or 3,000 in the action we had not so many. We have formed a line from River to River which is about a Mile & half.
I wrote my last of 13th this inst. to Mr. Blackwell which hope will get to his hand.