Sag Harbor remembers a forgotten battle on a day to honor those who served

Sag Harbor American Legion Chelberg & Battle Post Commander Marty Knab, former Commander Ralph Ficorelli and Sag Harbor VFW Commander Roger King at Monday's ceremony.
Sag Harbor American Legion Chelberg & Battle Post 388 Commander Marty Knab, former Commander Ralph Ficorelli and Sag Harbor VFW Commander Roger King at Monday’s ceremony.

In Sag Harbor, you’ll often hear tales of the Meigs Raid, a 1777 Revolutionary War battle fought on the hill next door to the Old Whalers Church, which is now home to the town’s old burying ground.

But you hear far less often about the little village’s role in the War of 1812, when a militia of Harborites fended off the crews of five British barges, who landed on Long Wharf in the night on July 11, 1813, intent on pillaging the village to replace their dwindling supplies.

According to an account in H.P. Hedges’ 1896 history titled “Early Sag Harbor,”  “the British fleet lay in Gardiner’s Bay, commanded by Commodore Hardy.  A launch and two barges, with 100 men, attempted to surprise the place by night. They landed on the wharf, but an alarm had been given previously and the guns of the fort were with such effect, that they set fire to one sloop only and retreated in such haste as to leave a large quality of guns, swords and other arms behind them. The flames were speedily extinguished by the Americans, who suffered no other loss.”

On the 200th anniversary year of that invasion, Sag Harbor is getting around to remembering its less-well-known place in the history books.

Earlier this year, village dockmaster David Thommen helped raise money for a plaque on the site of the village’s War of 1812 fort on High Street, and today, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele honored Mr. Thommen for his work preserving the history.

Mr. Thiele grew up on Burke Street, not far from the small stone that marked the site of the 1812 fort, but didn’t know anything about the battle fought there until he was much older.

“It’s something I should have known when I was 12, playing Ringolevio on High Street,” he said at Monday’s Veterans Day celebration in Sag Harbor. “We always say ‘we will never forget,’ but this is one battle we almost forgot. We repelled the British, and they never returned again until the British invasion of 1964.”

Mr. Thommen seemed humbled by the proclamation Mr. Thiele presented to him for his work on the history project.

“From the first militia here in 1620 to the returning soldiers today, this is one little bit of all the veterans here,” he said.

American Legion Chelberg & Battle Post 388 Commander Marty Knab expanded on the story of a national cause greater than any one person, telling attendees the story of two wounded Marines who visited and encouraged victims who’d lost limbs this past April after the attack on the Boston Marathon.

“That fighting spirit… it comes from the heart,” he said, adding that Americans with that fighting spirit can be found in the streets, marketplaces and offices everywhere throughout the country.

“Our 22 million veterans are the saviors of our country,” he said. “God bless them, and God bless America.”

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Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

3 thoughts on “Sag Harbor remembers a forgotten battle on a day to honor those who served

  • November 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm
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    Wonderful and relevant local JOURNALISM on Veterans Day.
    Thank You.

    Reply
  • November 17, 2013 at 5:36 am
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    No matter what I click on in the East End Beacon, it’s always, in some way, wonderful and relevant journalism.

    Reply

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