34. An Obscure Event

For anyone who’s interested, I wanted to pass along a link to a recent article of mine in the Journal of the American Revolution, which is essentially an adaptation of a chapter in my last book, John Haslet’s World, about one of the least-known military engagements of the War of Independence. The Battle of Mamaroneck on October 22, 1776—or the “Skirmish of Heathcote Hill” as termed by some of the few who know of it—was a rare and, to be sure, very limited victory for the Patriot cause during what was otherwise a dismal New York campaign waged by the Continental Army that fall.

This encounter occurred at night, and one of the men who was there—Dr. James Tilton, the surgeon with the Delaware Continental Regiment that was led by Colonel Haslet and known as the “Delaware Blues” from the color of their uniforms—wrote: “I must confess this the most terrible instance of War I have seen; so much is the horror of this terrible business increased by darkness.” Perhaps it’s fitting that the battle or skirmish occurred at night as so many are, well, in the dark about it.

BTW the image above is from a watercolor by Charles M. Lefferts from c.1910—in the collection of the New York Historical Society (NYHS)—entitled Private, Haslet’s Delaware Regiment, 1776. It was originally created for the artist’s study of uniforms in the Revolution and published by NYHS in 1926. According to traditional accounts, the Delaware soldiers wore mitred caps as seen here in 1776, although military historians differ on this. If the Blues did wear such head gear, perhaps they should have carried writing instruments instead of bayonets because, after all, the pen is mitre than the sword (eeesh). In that case, the regiment would have switched to black cocked hats before the end of the year as its soldiers wore those for the remainder of the war.