On this day in 1779, Lieutenant Colonel James DeLancey’s New York Loyalists and Patriot William Hull’s Connecticut Brigade engage in a civil war for the Bronx in New York. The Patriots destroyed numerous buildings and food stores while also capturing several Loyalists, along with some horses and cattle. First-hand accounts give conflicting figures as to the number of casualties sustained by each side.
As was typical in the American Revolution, the battle for the Bronx involved neighbors fighting neighbors; the two men leading the opposing forces were also both Americans. Hull was born in Derby, Connecticut, in 1753, graduated from Yale University 19 years later and passed the Connecticut Bar in 1775. DeLancey was a scion of a wealthy Huguenot (French Protestant) family that had settled in New York in 1686 and was born in Westchester County on the New York side of the border shared with Hull’s Connecticut. DeLancey first intended to maintain neutrality during the War for Independence but when local Patriots stole one of his favorite horses and its harness, he was convinced that the rebels deserved to be quashed. He joined his Uncle Oliver’s eponymous DeLancey’s Brigade and led the renowned Light Horse troops known as the Westchester Chasseurs. Patriots referred to the horsemen as “DeLancey’s Cowboys,” perhaps because they brought cows to Manhattan in order to supply regular British regiments stationed there.
Following the war, Hull became the governor of the Michigan Territory and served in the War of 1812, while DeLancey found his way to Annapolis, Nova Scotia, in Canada where he served in the legislature and governing council.