Published on February 8, 2013 by Carol
By the summer of 1778, the Stockbridges had served in every major campaign in the eastern theater of the American Revolution, from Bunker Hill to Monmouth. At the latter battle, fought just ten days after the British evacuated Philadelphia in a move to consolidate their forces in North America, approximately twenty Stockbridges fought in several New England regiments, shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors in what was the largest, longest land battle of the entire war.
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By early July, the British were ensconced in and around Manhattan while the American forces were camped at White Plains, just several miles north. The area between the two armies, present-day Bronx and Yonkers, was indeed a dark and bloody ground, as patrols skirmished and ambushes laid. On the British side, the best unit for such maneuvers was the Queen’s Rangers led by young Colonel John Simcoe. This unit was the direct descendent of Rogers Rangers from the French and Indian War some twenty years earlier, and in fact, Rogers was the first commander of the Queen’s Rangers during the Revolution. Consisting of loyalists, the regiment was formed into both cavalry and infantry units, all clothed in short green jackets. While serving in the Bronx area, the regiment often worked in cooperation with Hessian troops. On the American side of the lines, the forward troops consisted of light infantry. These men were the shock troops of the Continental Army; lightly equipped and always ready to move quickly. They patrolled the no-mans land between the two armies during the summer of 1778.
During July, a group of Stockbridges under Daniel Nimham (the Wappinger sachem who moved his people to Stockbridge during the French and Indian War) joined the American army at White Plains. Abraham Nimham, seeking to fight alongside his father, requested of the army that all the Stockbridges from the several regiments be allowed to serve together. In addition to the Stockbridges, it is possible that other Indians in the New England regiments were allowed to form up with the Mohicans for their patrolling activities. This combined Indian force served in conjunction with the light infantry. Thus the stage was set for a showdown between the loyalist Queen’s Rangers, formerly Rogers Rangers, and the Stockbridges, formerly a vital element of that very same unit some two decades earlier.
On one occasion during July, a group of British troops led by Lt. Colonels Simcoe, Tarleton and Emmerick were patrolling near the Valentine house (near present-day Woodlawn Cemetery). Proceeding northerly on Mile Square Road (now Van Cortlandt Park East), they stopped at the entrance of a lane (DeVoe’s Lane, now an unpaved continuation of Oneida Ave. in Van Cortlandt Park) next to Daniel DeVoe’s farmhouse. From Col. Simcoe’s own narrative we ream:
Simcoe was not one to let this incident go unrequited. Towards the latter part of August, he devised his own ambush that would punish the Stockbridges.