This series has three easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: The English Warships Arrive.
For half a century the Dutch colony in New York, then called New Netherlands, had grown. Under Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor (1647-1664), the colony made great progress. He conciliated the Indians, agreed upon a boundary line with the English colonists at Hartford, Connecticut, and took possession of the colony of New Sweden, in Delaware.
This great port in the middle of the British colonies made it too great a temptation, so presently they came calling.
This selection is from History of the State of New York by John R. Brodhead published in 1871. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Brodhead, the great historian of New York, recounts the steps of this conquest in a manner which brings the rival powers and their agents distinctly before us.
Place: New York City
England now determined boldly to rob Holland of her American province. King Charles II accordingly sealed a patent granting to the Duke of York and Albany a large territory in America, comprehending Long Island and the islands in its neighborhood — his title to which Lord Stirling had released — and all the lands and rivers from the west side of the Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay. This sweeping grant included the whole of New Netherlands and a part of the territory of Connecticut, which, two years before, Charles had confirmed to Winthrop and his associates.
The Duke of York lost no time in giving effect to his patent. As lord high admiral he directed the fleet. Four ships, the Guinea, of thirty-six guns; the Elias, of thirty; the Martin, of sixteen; and the William and Nicholas, of ten, were detached for service against New Netherlands, and about four hundred fifty regular soldiers, with their officers, were embarked. The command of the expedition was entrusted to Colonel Richard Nicolls, a faithful Royalist, who had served under Turenne with James, and had been made one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber. Nicolls was also appointed to be the Duke’s deputy-governor, after the Dutch possessions should have been reduced.
With Nicolls were associated Sir Robert Carr, Colonel George Cartwright, and Samuel Maverick, as royal commissioners to visit the several colonies in New England. These commissioners were furnished with detailed instructions; and the New England governments were required by royal letters to “join and assist them vigorously” in reducing the Dutch to subjection. A month after the departure of the squadron the Duke of York conveyed to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret all the territory between the Hudson and Delaware rivers, from Cape May north to 41° 40′ latitude, and thence to the Hudson, in 41° latitude, “hereafter to be called by the name or names of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey.”
Intelligence from Boston that an English expedition against New Netherlands had sailed from Portsmouth was soon communicated to Stuyvesant by Captain Thomas Willett; and the burgomasters and schepens of New Amsterdam were summoned to assist the council with their advice. The capital was ordered to be put in a state of defence, guards to be maintained, and schippers to be warned. As there was very little powder at Fort Amsterdam a supply was demanded from New Amstel, and a loan of five or six thousand guilders was asked from Rensselaerswyck. The ships about to sail for Curaçao were stopped; agents were sent to purchase provisions at New Haven; and as the enemy was expected to approach through Long Island Sound, spies were sent to obtain intelligence at West Chester and Milford.
But at the moment when no precaution should have been relaxed, a dispatch from the West India directors, who appear to have been misled by advices from London, announced that no danger need be apprehended from the English expedition, as it was sent out by the King only to settle the affairs of his colonies and establish episcopacy, which would rather benefit the company’s interests in New Netherlands. Willett now retracting his previous statements, a perilous confidence returned. The Curaçao ships were allowed to sail; and Stuyvesant, yielded to the solicitation of his council, went up the river to look after affairs at Fort Orange.
The English squadron had been ordered to assemble at Gardiner’s Island. But, parting company in a fog, the Guinea, with Nicolls and Cartwright on board, made Cape Cod, and went on to Boston, while the other ships put in at Piscataway. The commissioners immediately demanded the assistance of Massachusetts, but the people of the Bay, who feared, perhaps, that the King’s success in reducing the Dutch would enable him the better to put down his enemies in New England, were full of excuses. Connecticut, however, showed sufficient alacrity; and Winthrop was desired to meet the squadron at the west end of Long Island, whither it would sail with the first fair wind.
When the truth of Willett’s intelligence became confirmed, the council sent an express to recall Stuyvesant from Fort Orange. Hurrying back to the capital, the anxious director endeavored to redeem the time which had been lost. The municipal authorities ordered one-third of inhabitants, without exception, to labor every third day at the fortifications; organized a permanent guard; forbade the brewers to malt any grain; and called on the provincial government for artillery and ammunition. Six pieces, besides the fourteen previously allotted, and a thousand pounds of powder were accordingly granted to the city. The colonists around Fort Orange, pleading their own danger from the savages, could afford no help; but the soldiers of Esopus were ordered to come down, after leaving a small garrison at Ronduit.
In the meantime the English squadron had anchored just below the Narrows, in Nyack Bay, between New Utrecht and Coney Island. The mouth of the river was shut up; communication between Long Island and Manhattan, Bergen and Achter Cul, interrupted; several yachts on their way to the South River captured; and the blockhouse on the opposite shore of Staten Island seized. Stuyvesant now despatched Counsellor de Decker, Burgomaster Van der Grist, and the two domines Megapolensis with a letter to the English commanders inquiring why they had come, and why they continued at Nyack without giving notice. The next morning, which was Saturday, Nicolls sent Colonel Cartwright, Captain Needham, Captain Groves, and Mr. Thomas Delavall up to Fort Amsterdam with a summons for the surrender of “the town situate on the island and commonly known by the name of Manhatoes, with all the forts thereunto belonging.”
This summons was accompanied by a proclamation declaring that all who would submit to his majesty’s government should be protected “in his majesty’s laws and justice,” and peaceably enjoy their property.
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