Nelson, Thomas (1738-1789) to John Page
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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02540 Author/Creator: Nelson, Thomas (1738-1789) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 3 September 1776 Pagination: 3 p. ; 20.7 x 16.5 cm.
Discusses the American defeat at the Battle of Long Island and their retreat. Thinks the British will quit New York City very shortly. Reports that Brigadier General Lord Sterling and General Sullivan have been taken prisoner along with other valuable field officers. Adds that the Americans' 2400 troops bravely and successfully forced their way through enemy lines and kept the enemy's 10,000 soldiers at bay. Feels that the Americans must give up their islands until they build a marine power strong enough to defend them.
Nelson was a member of the Continental Congress from 1775-1777 and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was appointed commander of Virginia state forces in 1777, and served in that capacity until 1781. He later became governor of Virginia. Page served in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
Philada [struck: Aug] Sept 3d 1776
My Dear Page
I do not undertake this Letter with my wanted pleasure, when I [insert: have] writen to you, because I cannot give you so favorable an account of our affairs at N. York as I could wish. Our Troops, after a bloody engagement upon Long Island, were obliged to retreat from Whence the works not being beneath, & I wish [insert: they may not,] may I am certain they will, be obliged to quit the City if New York, as the heights upon the Island command the whole city - On the 27th of last month the enemy made an attack upon our Troops, who fought them twelve hours & were at length obliged to give away, being over power'd by numbers & surrounded, by the superior general ship of the Enemy, who stole  a march upon us unperceiv'd - There was want of conduct somewhere, I do not mean in the commander in chief, for he was at New York & did not get over upon the Island till the mischief was almost done, or at least the foundation for it laid - We had General Tulliman taken prisoner & Brigadier Genl Lord Sterling, with several of our best field officiers- Our loss of Men killed & missing is suppos'd to the about 700- That of the Enemy at the least as many, some say more, but it is not as certain'd yet.
We had not more than 2400 men in the field; the Enemy 10,000 & yet our Men
kept them at bay the time I have mention'd & three companies [insert: of the Maryland] with Major Gest at their head, forced their way thru the enemy & made their escape - Our Men behav'd [struck: boldly] like Heroes- The Engagement  was principally in the field & we should have done very well with the Britains had not a cowardly rascal of a Lieutenant in the train of Artillery refuse'd to fight after his Captain was wounded- Our Artillery was doing [illegible] certain when this accident happen'd
We must give them up all the Islands untill we can get a Marine strong enough to defend them- We'll keep the comment in spight of them-
Every thing shall be done, to procure the passage of our accounts, that is in my power, which I hope to effect this week & you shall have a public Letter by the next post, upon them & such other matters as may occur in the interim-
I am [inserted: with] great sincerely
Thos Nelson Jr
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