Account of Tools Delivered to Defend New York, 1776
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Autograph Manuscript entitled “Intrenching Tools deliver’d March 26, 1776 to the following Captains this day on duty,” New York, March 26 to April 2, 1776. 4 pp., 6 x 12 ¾ in.
These leaves, from the papers of New York Quartermaster General Nicholas Quackenbush, offer a detailed table of various tools delivered and returned for the purposes of constructing defenses around Manhattan. Even as the British were evacuating Boston in March 1776, General Washington already believed that they would seek to capture New York. On March 27, Washington ordered a brigade under James Sullivan to reinforce the city. From March until August, 1776 New York would be a beehive of activity as Washington moved his main army to the area in an attempt to defend the city. Entrenchments were constructed throughout Manhattan and northern Brooklyn in order to stave off the anticipated attack. This account notes the activities of a week’s worth of work noting the captains on the day’s fatigue duty, and the tools they took and returned including “Pick Axes,” “Spaids,” “Iron Shovel,” “Shod Shovels,” “Axes,” “Crow barr,” “Saws,” and “W Barrows.” At this point the majority of the companies involved appear to be from New York, as evidenced by the surnames on the list of Captains which included“Captn. [Henry] Remsen,” “Brevoort,” “De Peyster,” “DWitt” and “Van Deursen.” They would soon be joined by thousands of others. In the end the defenses proved mostly useless against the sheer power of a combined British land and sea force of over 35,000 men. By November 1776, Washington was in full retreat across New Jersey and the British controlled the most valuable harbor in the colonies.