Captain William Beatty of the 7th Maryland Regiment in DeBorre's Brigade noted in his journal; "About 10 o'Clock the whole of our forces on the Island, began to more toward the old Blazeing (sic) star ferry to recross. But the want of a sufficient no. of boats made that business go so slow that the Enemy had time to Cut off about 230 of our Rear."
These losses took place both during Sullivan's march to the ferry as stragglers fell behind or were taken while plundering, and during a rear guard action that held the pursuing Royalist forces at bay while the rest of Sullivan's troops crossed from Staten Island to the Jersey Shore. This spoiled whatever military advantages had been gained by Sullivan and Col Ogden in their sectors that morning, and were a significant factor in the court martial proceedings brought against Sullivan by one of his officers for mismanaging the whole affair.
The men of Sullivan's Division were exhausted from marching more than 20 miles the day before and then making a predawn attack. They were hungry and thirsty as the temperatures continued to climb that morning. Some were aware that there were other Royalist forces on the Island and across the bay in New York that could soon be brought against them. Others were too tired to care, or too intent on plunder.
Captain Enoch Anderson of the 1st Delaware Regiment in Smallwood's Brigade later wrote to his nephew that he withdrew his company and hurried after the rest of his Brigade from Decker's Ferry.
"I continued my march at a double quick time and came the the place of crossing. Here was great confusion, - no commander,- soldiers running at their will, and not boats enough; there being some unhappy error about the boats. I saw a boat coming over and kept my eye on it, and as it came nearer the shore I came nearer to it. I kept my men in solid body and I and my company entered the boat. We got safe over and here I met your father [1st Lieutenant Joseph Anderson of the 3rd NJ Regiment]. He had been on another part of the island. Our regiment had crossed long previous to me."
Anderson's men were lucky to have such a level headed and resourceful commander. The only boats available at the Old Blazing Star ferry were those used by Col. Ogden and his 500 New Jersey Continentals and militia who had already completed their attack that morning and had for the most part reembarked to New Jersey by the time Sullivan's units began to arrive at the ferry. Major John Eustace testified that he arrived at the ferry "at 12 o'clock and found Colo. M. Ogden & Mr. Barber Lieut Colo of Daytons Corps whose regiments had just crossed the river."
Eustace also describes how Sullivan and DeBorre's brigades had marched down the Morningstar Road to the heights near Richmond (or Cuckolds Town) and halted there for an hour before continuing another 3 or 4 miles further to the Ferry. This mention of a halt is significant, as it gives credence to claims of a more orderly retreat and establishes the general time that the first elements of Sullivan's Division began to arrive at the Ferry.
Captain Benjamin Chambers with one of the light companies of the 2nd Canadian Regiment found himself with less than 40 men assigned as a rear guard by Sullivan as his company made its way from the Crossroads toward Richmond. He did so for an hour, and later testified that
"in this time a considerable number of officers and men came on and passed by him when he brought the Stragglers to the rear Guards, he retired to rejoin his regiment which was just embarking when he came to the Old Blazing Star Ferry, he and his company followed in teh next Boat - When he got on the Jersey side General Sullivan asked him if he had seen anything of the enemy, he replied in the negative, the General then asked him whether he had brought on all the stragglers as he ordered him, he answered he had, all those who were able to walk, and Waggons were sent for the lame."
One of the more detailed accounts of the withdrawal to the Ferry was as given in testimony by Major James A Reed of the 2nd Canadian Regiment, which describes a general breakdown of cohesion on the march from the junction of Morning Star Rd and New Blazing Star.when Sullivan's two brigades reunited, as well as efforts to use intact units like Chamber's Company to protect the stragglers:
"I...enquired of the Inhabitants how far it was to the [Old] Blazing Star they told me 9 miles. I observing General De Borre to be much fatigued, offered him the Horse I had, which he accepted. I had not marched far before I perceived my strength fail so that I was obliged to fall towards the rear where I saw our people in a scattered disorderly and dangerous situation, I made up of every effort then in my power to curb the licentiousness, and stop the greedy grasp of our Soldiery, but found they had such a propensity to plunder that my exertions were ineffectual, however I proceeded to a small village called Cuckolds Town, when I came there the troops were gone. I myself with a few others stayed there about fifteen minutes, when I heard Captain Heron of the Regiment to which I belong was killed of made prisoner in our rear; Capt [Edward]Oldham [of the 4th MD] and myself got horses and went back, we had not gone far before we met Capt Chambers with the light Company of our Regiment, I asked him if there were any of our people behind,, he said there were, we went on but soon discovered a party in the woods about a quarter mile from the road whom we took to be the enemy attempting to hang on our rear, I called back our light Company to skirmish with them till our straggling rear should get out of the way, but finding them to be our own people sent them forward telling them their danger, we then went back about a mile and a half where we met some soldiers who said they were so overcome with hunger and fatigue; that they could go no further, but we perswaided (sic) them to rise and hurried them on till we came in sight of Cuckolds Town, when we left them and followed our Army; our People were then scattered from that place tot he ferry, at which place when I arrived our Regiment was crossing over when I embarked and came over to this side, shortly after I came over I saw the enemy appear."
Sullivan's Deputy Adjutant General, Major Edward Sherburne later testified that he had informed Sullivan that there were a number of stragglers who had not yet reached Cuckholds Town and was ordered to send back waggons for them. Nonetheless, it is certain that a fair number of these were taken prisoner by the pursuing Crown forces.
If Sullivan's Division had a nine mile march to make from the Crossroads to Old Blazing Star, starting out at 10 a.m. with an hour's pause near Richmond (Cuckholds Town), it is unlikely that Smallwood's lead Brigade reached the Ferry by noon as Major Eustace testified. It is more likely that they started to arrive by early afternoon. Evidently Major Woodson of the 2nd Canadian Regiment in De Borre's Brigade was assigned to supervise the embarkation, but as Smallwood's Brigade was ahead of De Borre's it is quite possible that at first there was no one with that responsibility at the landing.
In addition, there was a great deal of plunder (legitimate military spoils and otherwise) and a number of prisoners as well as over 1,000 men needing transport to the Jersey Shore, and just three boats to do it with. It took these same men about two hours to cross over in three of their own boats that morning at Halsted's Point, but according to Ensign Andrew Lee of the 2nd Canadian Regiment they were still embarking at New Blazing Star at 5 p.m. when the enemy appeared. Even accounting for the wider distance between Staten Island and the Jersey Shore, there would seem to have been a reasonable amount of time to recross unmolested had all the troops been at the landing and the loading of the boats been appropriately supervised. This was not the case, and before Sullivan had completed bringing over his tired Brigades, the final fighting of the Raid took place at the landing. We will discuss the counterattack of the Crown Forces and the brave stand made by Sullivan's rearguard after the boats had gone in a next post in this series.