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Suffolk American Revolution Martyr

Footnotes to Long Island History

Suffolk American Revolution Martyr

                                               

by

Thomas R. Bayles



General Woodhull being slashed by British Dragoons. 

        Among the first notable martyrs in the American Revolution from Suffolk county was Gen Nathaniel Woodhull who was born at Mastic Dec. 30, 1722. his wife was a sister of Gen. William Floyd, signer of the Declaration of independence. In 1769 he was elected to the assembly and during the continuance of the colonial government  was a faithful advocate f the wishes of his constituents  of Suffolk county for the preservation of their freedom and the command over their own purses.

    Col Woodhull was at the head of the delegation from Suffolk county in the first provincial congress which met in New York may 22, 1775 and on the 28th of the following August was elected president to the same position again in 1776.

    The congress of 1775 reorganized the militia of the colony and appointed col Woodhull brigadier general of the brigade which was formed of the militia of Suffolk and queens counties.

    On the 10th of August 1776, Gen Woodhull let his seat in the provincial congress then in session in white plains to take active part in the military operation then being commenced upon western Long Island. While waiting at Jamaica for reinforcements to assist in collecting and driving eastward the cattle on the western part of the island so as to get them out of the reach of the enemy, he was overtaken by a a party of British troops and made prisoner. The officer who first approached him ordered him to say "God save the king" and the general replied, "  God save us all" where upon the officer attacked him with his sword and would have killed him on the spot but for the interference of another officer of more humanity and honor. The General was badly wounded on the head and one of his arms was mangled from the shoulder to the wrist. He was taken to the old stone church in Jamaica where his day was confined in a vessel at Gravesend with about 80 other prisoners. The general was soon released from this vessel which had no provision for medical care and was transferred to a house near the church in New Utrecht where he was permitted to receive some medical attention.

     He sent for his wife with the request that she bring with her all the money she could get together. Which she did and the general had it distributed among the other American prisoners to relieve their sufferings thus furnishing a lesson in humanity to his captors and closed a useful life by an act o charity. It was found necessary to amputate his arm and after this was done infection set in resulting in his death on the 20th of September, 1776.

    The talents of Gen. Woodhull were well adapted for Military operations and he possessed personal courage, judgment, decision and firmness of character which commanded the respect and obedience of his troops. He had more military experience than most of the early officers of the American army, and would have made one of the best officers in the state had he lived.

     The nature of the work assigned to him at the time of his capture and the small force placed under his command were both unworthy of his military abilities but he carried out his orders with characteristic loyalty.

       The following quotations from Silas woods history of Long Island in 1828 give some idea of the high respect with which Gen Woodhull was held by the people of Suffolk.

      The capture of Gen Woodhull was one of the most calamitous events of that disastrous period. It deprived the country of the talents, experience and counsel of one of the ablest and most patriotic of her citizens. The cruel and dastardly treatment of a prisoner, especially of his rank and character, after a peaceable surrender, raised a spirit of indignation in the breast of every honest man.

      Gen. Woodhull was as much distinguished for his private and domestic virtues as fir his zeal for the rights of his country and was held in the highest estimation by all those who enjoyed his society. Long Island and was universally lamented by the friends of freedom and his memory will be cherished among their fondest recollections.

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