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Francis Stephens to General Gage



Office of Ordnance, New-York, July 31, 1775.

HONOURABLE SIR: In my letter of the twenty-fourth June, I acquainted your Excellency with the depredations committed on such of His Majesty' s property as remained at Turtle Bay; and occurrences of the like nature having since happened at this place, I now beg leave to transmit you the following particular account of the same, viz:

On Wednesday, the twelfth instant, between the hours of nine and ten o' clock at night, I being then at the house of Mr˙ Banyor, in the neighbourhood, the clerk of stores came and acquainted me that a number of men with side-arms, &c˙, had just then got over the fence of the shot yard, and were breaking open the several, doors of the armoury, store-house, and those of the artificers' shops; whereupon I immediately repaired to the front doors of the two first mentioned places, and on hearing a most violent noise proceeding from their ransacking the premises, I immediately called on Mr˙ Alderman Brewerton, acquainting him therewith, and requested his interposition; but he replied, as an individual he could by no means render me any assistance, and advised me, in that case, to call on the Mayor, which I accordingly did, but he was not in Town. I then, in my way to the Governour' s, met with Captain Thomas William Moore, who had the command of the guard appointed to preserve the peace of the City, to whom I communicated the foregoing, and entreated his assistance, in order to put a stop to the felonious proceedings of a number of armed men who were carrying off His Majesty' s stores, as also some of my own private property, and which I conceived it was his duty to protect. Soon after, Mr˙ Moore came down to the store-houses; and brought with him a party of armed men, who, with myself, went in amongst the people that were committing the depredations, demanding by what authority they presumed to carry off the King' s stores; when some of them replied to


Mr˙ Moore, that it was by order of their Colonel Ritzema they came there for that purpose. Upon which they were told, that no person whatever had a right to order them to behave in the manner they had done, and therefore advised them to disperse; which they soon after accordingly did, taking with them several drums, a considerable quantity of iron ramrods, and sundry other articles of His Majesty' s property. Two hours after they were gone, viz. about two o' clock in the morning, a great party of the Connecticut Troops, supposed to be upwards of a hundred, came from their encampment, in the environs of the City, to the storehouses aforementioned, where they continued until nigh day-light, rummaging and ransacking every place, and carried away such articles as they thought proper.

Thursday the thirteenth, about eight o' clock in the evening, Francis Staples, the person who has the care of Turtle Bay, came to town and informed me of the following particulars, viz: that about three o' clock this afternoon, the same sloop which carried off the stores from thence on the night of the twelfth ultimo, came again to that place, and was met by a party of the Connecticut Troops, supposed to be about fifty men, who put on board the said sloop (as near as he could well guess) about five hundred twenty-four pound round-shot, fifty ten-inch, and the like number of cohorn shells; they likewise broke open the store-house, took out the major part of what remained there, such as old sand-bags, empty boxes, &c˙, and then went off.

The same night, about half past nine o' clock, a company of armed men came to my dwelling-house and demanded admittance, pretending that they had received certain intelligence of a number of small-arms being concealed in the upper apartment of said house, and as such were determined to be satisfied by searching it, &c˙; which was accordingly done to their great disappointment. They then requested of me the keys of another store-house, which they said had not as yet been examined into, observing that the arms must of course certainly be there; and notwithstanding my utmost endeavours to dissuade them to the contrary, they violently broke open the doors of the same, and robbed it of the following articles, viz: two brass petards, some tents, mostly unserviceable, a few powder-horns, nails, baskets, and other things, which at present is not in my power to particularize. In consequence of the above facts haying been represented to the civil magistrates, a deputation from their body waited on their Committee of Safety for the Colony of New-York, who sit during the recess of the Provincial Congress. The latter, on hearing what had happened, gave immediate orders for printing and publishing handbills to the following purport, which were soon after distributed throughout the City.

"Whereas, information hath been given to this Committee, by the Civil Magistrates of the City of New-York, that an attack was made, without provocation, upon a boat belonging to His Majesty' s Ship Asia, and the boat wantonly destroyed; and also, that the house and stores of Mr˙ Francis Stephens were violently broken open, and robbed of private property, and military stores taken from thence; and whereas the said Magistrates have requested the advice of the Committee on the premises:

"Ordered, That it be recommended to the Civil Magistrates to examine strictly into the several matters and things above mentioned, and to punish all persons who are guilty of perpetrating the same, as the law directs; and that it be, and hereby is recommended to all the citizens and others, to aid and assist the Magistrates in the execution of their offices.

A true copy from the minutes:

"ROBERT BENSON, Secretary.

"July 13, 1775."

The Mayor and Court of Aldermen, agreeable to what is recommended to them in the above, proceeded to take the depositions of several persons who were by at the time the depredations were committed, and issued their warrants for apprehending those who were reported to be guilty. But the Grand Jury, who were sitting at the time, and had the complaints with many affidavits laid before them, nevertheless thought proper to decline doing any thing further in the affair; nor does there appear the smallest shadow of a probability that I shall be able to obtain any redress,


so very much are the insulters and robbers of Government property at present befriended in this place.

I am, with the greatest respect, Sir, your Excellency' s most obedient and most humble servant,


His Excellency the Honourable General Gage.