General Nathanael Greene's letter to His Excellency General WASHINGTON, June 24, 1780

Springfield, June 24, 1780


I have been too busily employed, until the present moment, to lay before your Excellency the transactions of yesterday.

The enemy advanced from Elizabeth-Town about five in the morning, said to be about 5000 infantry, with a large body of cavalry, and 15 or 20 pieces of artillery. Their march was rapid and compact. They moved in two columns, one on the main road leading to Springfield, the other on the Vauxhall road. Major Lee, with the horse and pickets, opposed the right column, and Col. Dayton, with his regiment, the left, and both gave as much opposition as could have been expected from so small a force. Our troops were so extended, to guard the different roads leading to the several passes over the mountain, that I had scarcely time to collect them at Springfield, and make the necessary dispositions, before the enemy appeared before the town, when a cannonade commenced between their advance and our artillery, posted for the defence of the bridge. The enemy continued manoeuvering in our front for upwards of two hours, which induced me to believe they were attempting to gain our flanks: My force was small, and, from the direction of the roads, my situation was critical. I disposed of the troops in the best manner I could to guard our flanks, secure a retreat, and oppose the advance of their columns. Col. Angell, with his regiment, and several small detachments, and one piece of artillery, was posted to secure the bridge in front of the town. -Col. Shrieve's regiment was drawn up at the second bridge, to cover the retreat of those posted at the first. Major Lee, with his dragoons, and the pickets, commanded by Capt. Walker, was posted at Little's bridge, on the Vauxhall road; and Col. Ogden was detached to support him. The remainder of General Maxwell's and Stark's brigades were drawn up on the high grounds at the mill. The militia were on the flanks. Those under the command of General Dickinson made a spirited attack upon one of the enemy's flanking parties, but his force was too small to push the advantage he had gained.

While the enemy were making movements to their left, their right column advanced on Major Lee. The bridge was disputed with great obstinacy, and the enemy must have received very considerable injury; but by fording the river, and gaining the point of the hill they obliged the Major with his party to give up the pass. At this instant of time, their left column began the attack on Col. Angell; the action was severe, and lasted about 40 minutes, when superior numbers overcame obstinate bravery, and forced our troops to retire over the second bridge; there the enemy were warmly received by Col. Shrieve's regiment, but as they advanced in great force, with a large train of artillery, he had orders to join the brigade.

As the enemy continued to press our left on the Vauxhall road, which led directly into our rear, and would have given them the most important pass, and finding our front too extensive to be effectually secured by so small a body of troops, I thought it most advisable to take post upon the first range of hills in the rear of Bryant's tavern, where the roads are brought so near to a point, that succor might readily be given from one to the other. This enabled me to detach Col. Webb's regiment, commanded by Lieut. Col. Huntington, and Col. Jackson's regiment, with one piece of artillery, which entirely checked the advance of the enemy on our left, and secured the pass.

Being thus advantageously posted, I was in hopes the enemy would have attempted to gain the heights; but discovering no disposition in them for attacking us, and seeing them begin to fire the houses in town, detachments were ordered out on every quarter, to prevent their burning building not immediately under the command of their cannon and musketry. In a few minutes they had set fire to almost every house in town, and began their retreat. Capt. Davis, with a detachment of 120 man, several smaller parties, with a large body of militia, fell upon their rear and flanks, and kept up a continual fire upon them till they entered Elizabeth-Town, which place they reached about sun-set. Stark's brigade was immediately put in motion, on the first appearance of a retreat; which was so precipitate that they were not able to overtake them.

The enemy continued at Elizabeth-Town Point until 12 o'clock at night, and then began to cross their troops to Staten-Island; by 6 this morning they had totally evacuated the Point, and removed their bridge. Major Lee fell in with their near guard, but they were so covered by their works, that little or no injury could be done them. He made some Refugees prisoners, and took some Tories, which they abandoned to expedite their retreat.

I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency, that the troops who were engaged behaved with great coolness and intrepidity, and the whole of them discovered an impatience to be brought into action. The good order and discipline which they exhibited in all their movements do them the highest honor. The artillery under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Forest was well served. I have only to regret the loss of Captain-Lieutenant Thompson, who fell at the side of his piece by a cannon ball.

It is impossible to fix with certainty the enemy's loss, but as there was much close firing, and our troops advantageously posted, they must have suffered very considerably.

I herewith inclose your Excellency a return of our killed, wounded, and missing, which I am happy to find is much less than I had reason to expect, from the heavy fire they sustained.

I am at a loss to determine what was the object of the enemy's expedition: If it was to injure the troops under my command, or to penetrate further into the country, they were frustrated. If the destruction of this place, it was a disgraceful one. I lament that our force was too small to save the town from ruin. I with every American could have been a spectator; they would have felt for the sufferers, and joined to revenge the injury.

I cannot close this letter without acknowledging the particular services of Lieutenant-Colonel Barber, who acted as Deputy Adjutant-General, and distinguished himself by his activity in assisting to make the necessary dispositions.

I have the honor to be, &c. N. GREENE, Major-General.

There were a number of prisoners made, but as they went on to Morris, I had no return of them.


Lovell, Louise Lewis. Israel Angell, Colonel of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment. [New York]: Knickerbocker Press, 1921, pg 165-167.

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