Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Capture of General Woodhull

In an affidavit sworn before Gouverneur Morris, Lieutenant Robert Troup described his sufferings as a prisoner after the British victory at the Battle of Long Island (27 August 1776). 
     Troup testified that the British confined him, “with between seventy and eighty” other captured American officers, on a transport vessel that brought cattle from England.  Troup and his comrades were “obliged to lay upon the dung and filth of the cattle without any bedding or blankets….” 
     Troup recalled that while on the transport, Brigadier-General Nathaniel Woodhull “was also brought on board in a shocking mangled condition….”  Troup asked Woodhull “the particulars of his capture, and was told by the said General that he had been taken by a party of light horse under the command of Capt. Oliver Delancey; that he was asked by the said captain if he would surrender; that he answered in the affirmative, provided he would treat him like a gentleman, which Capt. Delancey assured him he would, whereupon the General Delivered his sword, and that immediately after, the said Oliver Declancey, junr., struck him, and others of the said party imitating his example, did cruelly hack and cut him in the manner he then was….”
     Troup recalled that, despite his gravely wounded condition, Woodhull would have “nevertheless been obliged to sleep on the bare floor of the transport, if a lieutenant of the man-of-war who guarded the transport, had not lent him a matrass; that Gen. Woodhull was afterwards carried to the hospital in the church of New Utrecht where he perished, as deponent was on good authority informed, through want of care and necessaries….”

     Robert Troup’s affidavit was sworn before Gouverneur Morris, a member of the Convention of the Representatives of the State of New York, on January 17, 1777, recorded in volume 2 of Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety and Council of Safety of the State of New-York.1775-1775-1777, 2 vols. (Albany: Thurlow Weed, 1842), and reprinted in Thomas W. Field, The Battle of Lond Island, with Connected Preceding Events, and the Subsequent American Retreat… (Brooklyn: Long Island Historical Society, 1869), quotes on pages 420, 422-423.  For conflicting opinions of historians on the life and death of Nathaniel Woodhull, please consult Edwin G. Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War (New York: Basic Books, 2008), page 14 and note 26 on page 269.

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