On This Day...
May 23, 1775, Meigs Expedition claims sole Patriot victory on Long Island. At Sag Harbor, New York, Patriot troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs capture several British vessels and burn Redcoat supplies.
With the help of two local men, Meigs and his Connecticut raiders grabbed the British commander from his bed in the wee hours of the morning, firing only one gunshot. Instead of guns, the Patriots used silent but deadly bayonets to capture the British fort, successfully avoiding announcing their presence with gunfire.
The British had built their fort on the site of a burial ground because it was the highest land in the area and had the best view of the harbor. The Redcoats desecrated colonists' family gravesites, and in the process, lost the important battle for the hearts and minds of the residents. Nearly half of Sag Harbor's families fled to Connecticut during the British occupation.
With six Redcoats dead and 53 captive from their success on land, the Patriots moved from the hilltop fort towards the harbor. The British ships anchored there eventually noticed the body of men moving towards them and opened fire. The Patriots, though, went on to burn 24 British ships and their cargoes of hay, rum, grain and other merchandise. With an additional 37 prisoners in custody, the 170 Yankee raiders returned to Connecticut without having lost a single man in their party.
The Sag Harbor ambush was the only successful Patriot attack on Long Island between the British takeover in 1776 and their departure following the Treaty of Paris in 1783.