The Davenport House
The Davenport House is the only surviving structure in Westchester Country which was held by Continental troops throughout the Revolutionary War as a command post. The property was the command post for Colonel Christopher Greene and the 1st Rhode Island Regiment and was the site of the Battle of Pines Bridge in 1781.
Backstory and Context
Inherited by Richardson Davenport from land previously granted to Stephanus van Cortlandt by King William III of England, construction of the Davenport Inn was completed circa 1750. It was in operation as an inn throughout the Revolutionary War and was chosen as a command post for General George Washington’s troops due to its location on a hill overlooking Pines Bridge and the Croton River.
In May of 1781, the Davenport Inn became the site of a skirmish between the 1st Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army, comprised of freed black slaves and indigenous men, under the command of Colonel Christopher Greene and loyalist Torries from the Royal Refugee Corps, comprised of disenfranchised farmers under Lieutenant Colonel James Delancey. The war created a “no man’s land” territory between British controlled White Plains and colonial controlled northern Westchester at the Croton River. This didn’t stop British troops from raiding northern Westchester towns and farms which drove some Westchester residents to support the American cause. On the other hand, the requisition and commandeering of materials, crops, and livestock by the Continental Army drove many residents to support the loyalists and British Army.
The 1781 skirmish took place on the Davenport property as well as other properties in the area between Pines Bridge and Oblenus Ford south of Turkey Mountain. A Westchester resident and British Captain named Gilbert Totten was arrested just a few days earlier for suspiciously approaching Pines Bridge with a flag. He was released after being questioned and immediately left to deliver information on the defenses of the area to Colonel Delancey. Sources claim that Totten was insulted by having freed slaves as his guard while he was arrested. Delancy’s troops marched throughout the night from Morrisania in The Bronx and attacked the Colonial forces at the bridge just after sunrise. Cavalry and foot soldiers crossed Oblenus Ford over the Croton River and marched up the valley along Turkey Mountain towards the Inn. During the engagement Colonel Greene and Major Ebenezer Flagg were killed, with Greene’s body reported having been mutilated as punishment for leading freed slaves in combat. The death records for the battle are not complete but some reports claim that at least 45 previously enslaved men and colonial officers gave their lives in the conflict and at least 50 were captured. The freedmen were reportedly taken to the British West Indies to be resold into slavery. Colonel Greene and Major Flagg were buried under a stone monument at The First Presbyterian Church in Yorktown, though the burial location of the fallen freedmen soldiers has not been found.
The engagement was a defeat for the Continental Army despite soldiers from the 1st Rhode Island maintaining control over the inn and bridge. After the battle, Colonel Delancey returned to New York City (Then New York Island) where he remained until the end of the war despite several attempts by General Washington to capture him and hold him accountable for the state that Greene’s body was found in. After the war, Delancey fled to Nova Scotia where he continuously attempted to legalize slavery, which was formerly abolished in the province in 1782. He died in 1804 having never succeeded in that cause.
The Davenport House, which survived the skirmish and the war, was continuously occupied by the Griffen family who were directly related to the Davenports. Later, the family built their own home across the street (which is now Peter Pratt’s Inn), which they lived in until 1920. Over the years modifications and additions were built onto the house but musket ball holes can still be seen in the attic and on the western façade of the building.
“[Diary entry: 14 May 1781],” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed September 29, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-03-02-0007-0001-0013. [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 3, 1 January 1771–5 November 1781, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978, p. 364.]
“May 1781,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed September 29, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-03-02-0007-0001. [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 3, 1 January 1771–5 November 1781, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978, pp. 356–375.]
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