The Battle of Setauket, Aug. 1777

Photo by Michael Kleen

This near-bloodless skirmish on the Long Island coast was one of many raids and counter-raids during the Revolutionary War.

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The Battle of Setauket was fought on August 22, 1777 between American patriot forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons and British loyalist forces commanded by Lt. Col. Richard Hewlett in Setauket on Long Island, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle ended in British victory when Americans withdrew after realizing they couldn’t capture British fortifications without significant casualties.

In early August 1777, British loyalist Lt. Col. Richard Hewlett’s 3rd Battalion of DeLancey’s Brigade, consisting of approximately 260 men, fortified a Presbyterian church in Setauket with breastworks and four swivel guns in anticipation of an attack. In fact, Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam had ordered Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons to take his 500-man force and raid Loyalist outposts on Long Island.

On the night of August 21, Parsons and his force crossed Long Island Sound with several small cannon. The next day, he sent a flag of truce to Richard Hewlett and demanded his surrender. Hewlett refused. The two sides traded fire for three hours, but the Patriot’s small cannon failed to make a dent in Loyalist fortifications. During the fighting, Parsons’ men took cover behind a large boulder now known as Patriot Rock.

As the hours ticked by, Parsons became nervous that word of the fighting would bring British reinforcements, so he ordered his men to withdraw back to Connecticut. Not a single Loyalist was injured, while one Patriot was wounded. This skirmish would later be dramatized in the Season One finale of AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies (2014-2017).

Fought between Great Britain and her Thirteen American Colonies from 1775 to 1883, the Revolutionary War led to a Declaration of Independence and the formation of the United States of America in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies won their independence, at the cost of an estimated 158,000 British, American, French, German, Spanish, and American Indian lives. It was a dynamic and surprisingly international conflict.

Setauket-East Setauket remains a sleepy Long Island community proud of its colonial heritage. It is a summer vacation spot for wealthy New Yorkers, and a bedroom community for students and faculty at Stony Brook University. The Mayflower Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution placed a memorial plaque on Patriot Rock in 1927, and New York State erected a small sign on Setauket Village Green at an unknown date.

Patriot’s Rock is located along Main Street in the woods behind Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, at GPS coordinates 40.94524, -73.11383, in Setauket, New York. Roadside parking is available along Main Street. The Setauket Village Green sign is located in the park in front of the Presbyterian Church at the intersection of Main Street, Dyke Road, and Caroline Avenue.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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