Casualty estimates following Sullivan's Staten Island Raid varied considerably based on the writer's proximity to events and his partisanship. The British initially downplayed their losses while inflating the number of Americans killed and captured, while Sullivan played up the prisoners his men took on the raid and the destruction of military stores (as distinguished from looting, which was widespread). At the same time, he distanced himself from responsibility for the large number of his men taken prisoner or missing.
I have identified seventeen contemporary or eyewitness accounts that mention casualty figures either for the entire raid or for discreet episodes within it such as the attack on Captain Heron's men in the house near Decker's Ferry, or the stand of the picket and stranded men at the Old Blazing Star Ferry. From these, and a number of published muster rolls, pension records, and 19th Century sources such as Heitman's Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army and the records of various state historical societies, it is possible to get a clearer sense - but by no means complete accounting - of the casualties of the Patriot and Crown forces during the raid.
Casualty Estimates from Royalist Sources: British or loyalist accounts include the after action report of Brigadier General John Campbell to his superior, Sir Henry Clinton; the journal of Clinton's Deputy Adjutant General Lt. Col. Stephen Kemble; a letter from an officer in the 52nd Regment of Foot (possibly its Lt. Colonel Campbell) published in a loyalist paper, an account printed in the loyalist New York Mercury and Gazette three days after the fighting, and the diary of Chaplain Philipp Waldeck of the 3rd Waldeck Regiment. Mention is also made in American accounts of figures provided in a list of American prisoners to General Sullivan by Brigadier General Cortlandt Skinner of the New Jersey Brigade of loyalists.
Skinner's figure identified 9 American officers and 127 privates held as prisoner after the raid. American accounts that reference this figure include General Sullivan's report to Congress on August 31, 1777 and a letter from an officer in DeBorre's Brigade published shortly after the raid in a patriot newspaper. They also note that four officers were not mentioned in the official British tally, and concluded that three of these were killed or missing and one had deserted. In fact all four had been captured, but this was not clear in the confused aftermath of the raid and took a while afterward to sort out. As shall be seen, there were many more American officers taken during the raid than appeared on Skinner's list.
Other Royalist accounts estimate that the Americans had suffered 200 killed and 300 captured. Chaplain Waldeck wrote;
"I rode along the way some hours later and met a group of prisoners. The number of prisoners amounted to more than 260 and 21 officers. In dead, the rebels suffered a noticeable loss, as many drowned while attempting to swim to safety. The rebels, who were now completely disorganized, ceased firing and were taken prisoner from behind every bush."
"about 150 surrendered themselves to lt.-colonel Campbell of the 52nd regiment...We have taken in all 259 prisoners, among whom are 1 lieutenant-colonel, 3 majors, 2 captains, and 15 inferior officers. Their loss in killed cannot be ascertained, but must have been considerable."
"the Rebels soon were put to flight, with the loss of 200 Killed and 300 made prisoners, whenj the night facilitated the Retreat of the rest of the Party; Our Loss is not more than 50 killed, wounded and prisoners. Colonel Dungan [of the 3rd Battalion NJV] and Major Timpaney [of the 4th Battalion NJV] of the new Troops (both Brave officers) are wounded, the former we are told is in a fair Way to recover."
The source for this may have been Lt. Colonel Kemble, Sir Henry Clinton's Deputy Adjutant General in New York, who recorded in his diary:
"The 52nd soon came up, and charging the Rebels with the Bayonet, they immediately gave way; killed about 70 and took 150; a Colonel, Lieut. Colonel, and Major, with 3 Captains and other officers among them...the Rebels have lost, by last accounts, near two hundred Killed and three hundred Prisoners; ours about six Killed and twenty five Prisoners; 1st mentioned 3 of the 52nd Killed; Colonel Dongan, who behaved with spirit, mortally Wounded and died a few days after."
"We suffered no one killed and no one wounded in the action, although three men were struck down by the heat. I would never believe that this heat, and the strenuous marching, could have such a result. Youths, as strong as trees, crashed to earth and showed no signs of life, but nevertheless, soon recovered. Still, in this manner, four men of the 52nd Regiment died, including one who discovered a pail of cool water, drank, and fell dead. To this was added that the men were hungry and had marched off without taking anything with them."
Casualty Estimates from American Sources:
The Pennsylvania Evening Post August 26, 1777 included the following from an unsigned letter apparently written by an officer in De Borre's Brigade, based on the return of prisoners provided by Brig. Gen Skinner.
"many of the party got over the river. The action was grand though horrid. I plainly saw the whole. We have lost three majors, some captains, subalterns, stragglers, and in all one hundred and twenty-seven privates."
General Sullivan's report to Congress August 31st, 1777 uses the same British figure for those Americans who were captured, and provides his own estimate of Patriot killed and wounded:
"In the morning of our landing, Major Powel, Captain Haron and Lieutenant Hall, three brave officers, were taken or killed by the enemy, as they tarried in the rear, to bring up the men. We had in the course of the day ten killed and fifteen wounded. Mr. Skinner [Brigadier General of the New Jersey Brigade of loyalists] sent me an account of the prisoners taken by them, viz., nine officers, and a hundred and twenty-seven privates; among the officers were three Majors, viz. Stewart, Tillard and Woodson. From them, we took eleven officers, among which were two Colonels; we took a hundred and thirty-two privates, and twenty-eight Tories; we must have killed and wounded for them at least four hundred."
Major Bloomfield of the 3rd NJ likewise notes in his journal that the rear guard that was lost amounted to near 127 men, but this is clearly a reference to Skinner's list and not only the men taken while the rest disembarked for the Jersey Shore. Ensign George Ewing of the 3rd New Jersey recorded that just after he and the rest of Ogden's command had recrossed from the Island,
"Genl Sullivans Division who had crossd at the Old Point came down and just as the rearof them were crossing there being about eighty of on that side a strong party of the Enemy came down Attackd killd and took them"
At least one soldier from Ogden's force was taken prisoner - Private John Rounsaville, Anderson's Co., 3rd NJ. A surviving payroll from May, 1778 states that he was taken prisoner on Staten Island in August the previous year. Rounsaville was exchanged in July, 1778. The circumstances of his capture are not recorded.
Other American accounts place the number of captured somewhat higher - Major John Taylor wrote angrily after the battle that "By the Enemies Return they have 130 prisoners of ours; but you may be assured, we shall not get off under 200." None, however, are as high as some of the British estimates referenced above. Further, it appears that some of those taken at the landing managed to escape. Captain Robert Kirkwood's Orderly Book for his company of the Delaware Line mentions; "100 men did not cross" and "the greatest part escaped" during the night.
An officer in the 4th or 7th MD regiment, De Borre's Brigade wrote in a letter published in a patriot newspaper:
"Our division was obliged to leave a part of their men behind; boats sufficient, not having been secured to make safe our retreat. Major Stewart of Maryland, with about 80 men attacked and beat back their main body three times, - he and his men did honor to their country. Many of our brave fellows swam the Sound and others, were no doubt drowned in the attempt. All our regiment are well, except twelve or thirteen stragglers. The Chief loss is sustained in Col. Price's [2nd MD] regiment...We have taken about 120 or 130 privates, two colonels, three captains, and seven or eight subalterns. It's certain that our men killed a great number; they fought until all their cartridges were expended."
Another letters says "Seven Officers swam across the Sound, and got off safe."
Estimates of British casualties at the landing indicate that they suffered more killed and wounded in the fight than the stranded Americans. Lt. William Wilmot, evading capture in the rafters of a barn, observed;
"the reason thay never serched the barn that i was in was that one of their wounded got into the barn immediately after the action. The number thay lost i cannot tell.; they carried two Waggions with wounded men past the barn that i was in. Our loss was not more than 3 or 4 in all.
"Our loss in killed was incredible, not exceeding five men. That of the enemy uncertain to me, but was informed by one of their officers that they had killed and wounded about 20, among whom were Lieut.-Col. Durgan and Maj. Barren were slain.
The two loyalist officers who are confirmed by subsequent accounts to have been mortally wounded were Lt. Col. Edward Vaughn Dongan, commander of the hard fighting 3rd Battalion NJV, who was shot through the body, and Major John Barnes of the 1st Battalion NJV. If Brigadier General Campbell's reports are accurate, Dongan was still in command prior to engaging the picket guard in the final confrontation and did not fall earlier in the engagement with Col. Ogden and his mixed force of New Jersey Continentals and militia.
Kirkwood's Orderly Book gives the British captives taken on the Raid as "Barton, Lawrence and Allen, 4 Captains 6 subalterns 150 privates all of the Greens." He incorrectly identified Lt. Col. Allen of the 6th Battalion NJV as a captive and combines the civilian captives with those of the loyalist volunteers in his total.
Likely American Casualties: Skinner's number appears to be a bit low, particularly in the number of American officers taken. From reviewing Heitman, various muster rolls, assorted compellations of historical society materials and those mentioned in other contemporary reports as captured, I believe that at least 22 American officers were taken. This accords with the figures given by one of the prisoners, Lt. Andrew Lee, who states that there were 260 taken, including 22 officers. They were as follows:
2nd Canadian (8 officers captured) - Lt. Col. Edward Antil (uncertain where captured but not in command at Old Blazing Star); Maj. Tarleton Woodson (captured supervising the embarkation at Old Blazing Star); Capt. James Gordon Heron (captured in house near Decker's Ferry with many of his company); Capt. John Carlisle (captured with Maj. Tillard's Picket at Old Blazing Star); 1st Lt. Robert Campbell (wounded and captured with Capt. Heron, losing an arm); 2nd Lt. James Anderson (captured with Capt. Heron);2nd Lt. Piere du Calvert (uncertain where captured); 2nd Lt. Andrew Lee (captured with Maj, Tillard's picket at Old Blazing Star).
1st Maryland (Smallwood's Brigade) (2 officers): 2nd Lt. Rignal Hillary (uncertain where captured);Ens. Elihu Hall (captured in house with Capt. Heron).
2nd Maryland (DeBorre's Brigade) (10 officers): Maj. John Stewart (surrendered the rear guard at Old Blazing Star); Captain Robert Chesley (unclear where captured); Capt. Ely Dorsey ( unclear where captured); Capt. Richard Grace (unclear where captured); 1st Lt. John Gale (unclear where captured); 1st Lt. John Gates (unclear where captured); 2nd Lt. Thomas Rouse (unclear where captured); 2nd Lt. James Winchester (unclear where captured) 2nd Lt. Phillip Hill (unclear where captured), 2nd Lt. John De Lavacher Van Brunne (unclear where captured).
3rd Maryland (Smallwood's Brigade): 1st Lt. Henry Lyles (unclear where captured).
6th Maryland (Smallwood's Brigade): Maj. Edward Tillard (commanded the picket at Old Blazing Star)
There are one or two officers on this list wrongly identified by Heitman as having been captured in another state on this date, and one more - Capt.-Paymaster Jacob Laverswyler of the Pennsylvania State Regiment - whose unit was not engaged at Staten Island and who I cannot confirm was with Sullivan.
The bulk of these casualties came from Lt. Col. Antil's 2nd Canadian, and Col. Price's 2nd Maryland. The 2nd Canadian losses included Capt Heron's advanced company captured in the house by Decker's Ferry and at least two other officers who fought with Maj. Tillards picket at Old Blazing Star. The 2nd Maryland lost 8 officers, including Maj Stewart who fought and surrendered at Old Blazing Star. The muster rolls for the Maryland troops that are available on line do not list any enlisted casualties from Price's 2nd Maryland, which suggests that this large group of officers captured from that regiment had been left behind with Tillard when the final boat left the landing.
The pension application of Private Cornelius Acord of Col. Gunby's 7th MD regiment states that he received a ball through the thigh and was taken prisoner, but exchanged in time to participate in the Battle of Brandywine three weeks later. Sergeant-Major Lawrence Manning of the 2nd Canadian was wounded and captured along Surgeon's Mate Duffey when Captain Heron's men were surprised in the house by Decker;s Ferry.
The Maryland and Delaware muster rolls do not provide a complete accounting of those taken prisoner, nor have I been able to read any definitive list of the killed and wounded, but such as there are they suggest that most of these men were taken at Old Blazing Star or dropped out on the road.
1st MD: 2 officers, 1 corporal, 1 fifer and 5 privates captured
2nd MD 10 officers captured
3rd MD 1 officer and 5 privates captured, 1 killed or taken, 1 missing
4th MD 1 corporal and 2 privates captured
5th MD 3 privates captured
6th MD 1 officer, 1 Sgt.-Maj., 3 privates prisoner, 1 missing
7th MD 8 privates taken prisoner
1st DE 1 Sgt, 6 pvts captured, 1 private captured or deserted, 1 Sgt and 4 privates missing.
The 2nd Canadian Regiment had 8 officers captured and modern sources estimate about 40 privates taken. Captain Enoch Anderson of the 1st Delaware wrote years later that Captain Heron lost 18 killed and wounded and the rest of his company taken at the house near Decker's Ferry, and that he began the raid with 70 men in his company.. The ,mysterious Maj. Powell, supposed to have been acting as Brigade Major for Smallwood, was killed at the house where Captain Heron was captured. There are no figures for any casualties from Ogden's New Jersey force aside from the one prisoner described above taken from the 3rd NJ.
Taken together, it is safe to assume that 4 or 5 men were killed at Old Blazing Star and perhaps twice as many wounded there. If Captain Heron lost 18 killed and wounded and Ogden took a few casualties during the day, Sullivan's estimate of 10 killed and 15 wounded is not far off the mark. The number of prisoners was likely greater than Skinner's estimate, and Major Taylor's estimate of 200 is roughly the mean of the various figures given in Patriot and Royalist.accounts.
Likely Royalist Casualties: Except for the 4 men in the 52nd downed from heat stroke (possibly the same as the 3 men from the 52nd mentioned as casualties in Kemble's journal), the Royalist losses on Staten island were confined to the loyalist volunteers and refugees. Ogden's force captured as many as 83 privates and half a dozen or more officers of the 1st NJV, and Sullivan and DeBorre took between 35-40 from the 5th NJV along with Lt. Col. Barton at New Blazing Star. Adding in a few more that Ogden may have taken from the 3rd and 6th NJ and a handful captured at Decker's Ferry in Smallwood's sector, Sullivan's report to Congress of 11 officers,132 privates and 28 loyalist refugees seems to be a reasonable figure. Many of those taken were marched to jail in Trenton and were enumerated there. I have found the names of 10 officers, 4 NCOs, 2 riders and 39 privates taken from the NJV and doubtless there are more complete records in the various muster rolls of these Battalions.
As far as loyalist officers taken by Ogden or Sullivan and removed from the Island, available sources such as the Collections of the NJ Historical Society and Historical Magazine identify the following:
1st Battalion NJV:
Lt. Colonel Elisha Lawrence
Surgeon William Peterson
Captain John Barberie
Captain John Longstreet or Langstreet
Lt. John Throckmorton
Ensign Andrew Stockton
Ensign John Robbins
3rd Battalion NJV:
Lt. John Lambert
5th Battalion NJV:
Lt. Colonel Joseph Barton
Surgeon Uzael Johnson
In aggregate, these accounts suggest a range of American prisoners taken between 127-300 (probably close to 260) and of British captives not more than 150 and almost entirely from Lawrence's 1st NJV and Barton's 5th NJV.
The New Jersey Loyalist Brigade had suffered a very heavy blow, losing three of Battalion commanders and many irreplaceable volunteers. These casualties, combined with the capture of many officers and men from the 6th Battalion earlier in the year, resulted in the six battalions (one of which was on command serving artillery pieces) being consolidated and reduced to four.
There were other repercussions from the Raid for those Americans in Sullivan's force who fought and escaped and those who were taken. We will pick up the stories of two of these men, Lt. Col. Antil of the 2nd Canadian and Lt. William Wilmot of the 3rd MD, in a subsequent post in this series.