Today, the Long Island Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers Lt. Col. Meigs successful raid on Sag Harbor, which began on May 23, 1777.
From The History of Long Island, from Its Discovery to the Present Time, by Benjamin Franklin Thompson, published in 1843:
In retaliation for the burning of Danbury and Ridgefield in Connecticut, by General Tryon and the wretches under his command, April 26, 1777, (in which affair Generals Wooster, Silliman and Arnold acted with great bravery, the former being mortally wounded and the latter having his horse shot under him,) a few soldiers from New Haven went on a predatory excursion to Long Island.
A quantity of provisions had been collected at Sag Harbor by the British forces stationed there, to destroy which, was the object of this expedition.
The enterprise, was one of the most spirited and successful of that eventful period.
General Parsons conceived it possible to surprise the place, and confided the execution of the project to Lieutenant Colonel Meigs, who, accordingly, embarked from New Haven, May 21, 1777, with two hundred and thirty-four men, in thirteen whale boats.
He proceeded directly to Guilford, but on account of the roughness of the sea, could not cross the Sound till the twenty-third; on which day, at one o’clock in the afternoon, he left Guilford with one hundred and seventy men, under the convoy of two armed sloops, and arrived at Southold, about six o’clock.
The enemy’s troops on this part of the island had marched for New York two or three days before, but it was reported that there was a party at Sag Harbor on the south branch of the island about fifteen miles distant.
Colonel Meigs ordered the whale boats to be transported over the land to the bay, between the north and south branches of the island, where one hundred and thirty men embarked, and at twelve o’clock at night arrived safely on the other side of the bay within four miles of Sag Harbor.
Here the boats were secured in a wood, under a guard, and the remainder of the detachment marched quickly to the harbor, where they arrived at two o’clock in the morning, in the greatest order, attacking the outpost with fixed bayonets, and proceeding directly to the shipping at the wharf, which they found unprepared for defense.
The alarm was given, and an armed schooner with twelve guns and seventy men began to fire upon them at the distance of one hundred and fifty yards, which continued three quarters of an hour, but did not prevent the troops from executing their design with the greatest intrepidity and effect.
Twelve brigs and sloops, one of which was an armed vessel of twelve guns; and one hundred and twenty tons of hay, corn, oats, ten hogsheads of rum, and a large quantity of merchandize, were entirely destroyed.
Six of the enemy were killed and ninety taken prisoners. Not one of Colonel Meig’s men was either killed or wounded.
He returned to Guilford at two o’clock in the afternoon, having been absent only twenty-five hours; and in that time had transported his troops by land and water full ninety miles, and completed his undertaking with the most entire success.
On the report of this matter to the commander-in-chief, he addressed the following letter to General Parsons:—
“Head-quarters, Middlebrook, May 29th, 1777. Dear Sir —
“I am just now favored with your letter of the 25th by Major Humphrey. The intelligence communicated by it is truly interesting and agreeable.
“And now I shall take occasion not only to give you my hearty approbation of your conduct in planning the expedition to Long Island, but to return my sincere thanks to Lieutenant Col. Meigs, and all the officers and men engaged in it.
“This enterprise, so fortunate in the execution, will greatly distress the enemy in the important and essential article of forage, and reflects much honor upon those who performed it.
“I shall ever be happy to reward merit when in my power, and therefore wish you to inquire for a vacant ensigncy in some of the regiments for Sergeant Gennings, to which you will promote him, advising me of the same and the time.
“I am, Sir, &c. G. Washington.”
The successful result of this expedition was considered at the time of such importance, and the conductor of it deserving the highest approbation, that congress forthwith directed a sword to be presented to Col. Meigs, as a manifestation of their sense of the prudence, activity, enterprise and valor, with which the undertaking had been executed, and the commander-in-chief published the affair with expressions of his applause in general orders.
The Long Island Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of Lt. Col. Return J. Meigs, Sr.