Chauncey Judd: Capture

Updated May 14, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


The pursuers were baffled, but not discouraged. From their knowledge of localities upon the Island, they did not doubt that, if immediately followed, the robbers might still be secured, and their unfortunate captive rescued. This could be done, however, only after suitable preparations. The undertaking would be difficult and dangerous. Boats must be obtained, and a suitable party enlisted to man them, and to meet and overcome any force that would be likely to be encountered. It was decided, therefore, to return to Derby for this purpose; and, meanwhile, persons were sent up into the meeting-house belfry at Stratford, with a spy-glass, to watch the course of the robbers, and note the point of their landing upon the opposite shore.

Among the persons who had fled from Long Island in company with Captain Dayton, on its coming into possession of the British, was Captain William Clarke. He had been a townsman and neighbor of Dayton at Brookhaven, a lieutenant in one of the militia companies of that place, and actively engaged in all the measures of annoyance against the enemy and their tory allies, including the privateering expeditions of Dayton and others.[1] Of course he was intimately acquainted with the Island and its shores. He was now residing at Derby, and offered to be a leader of the expedition in pursuit of the robbers.

Two large whale-boats were promptly fitted out, with some fifteen men, well armed, in each; indeed, there were a hundred who were ready and eager to engage in it. All needed supplies were placed on board, and by the middle of the afternoon, the two craft, under the impulse of both sails and oars, started down the river. Calling again at Stratford Point, as they passed, they received the report of the lookout in the belfry, which confirmed them in their expectation of success.

Come on, men, said Captain Clarke; we cannot go amiss. They have gone to Brookhaven, and I know the very house where they will be found. We'll trap them all before morning. Pull away, my hearties!

Long Island Sound is here about twenty miles wide, and the passage, even with a favoring wind, requires some three or four hours. It was, then, late in the evening before the boats reached their destination. They drew up in a small cove at Crane's Neck, about three miles west of Brookhaven village. Two men were left as a guard over the boats, with orders to keep them in readiness for instant departure; and the rest, having carefully pre-arranged their plans, took up their march to the village.

At that time, a man named John Bailey kept a tavern at Brookhaven. He was a known tory,[2] and his house a somewhat favorite resort for persons of that party and for British officers stationed in that vicinity. Captain Clarke was of the opinion that the men of whom they were in pursuit would be found there. He assumed that, having reached a supposed place of safety under British protection, they would seek, before all other things, food and sleep. For two days they had had nothing to eat, and for twice that number of nights, little sleep. The flight from Gunntown, and the labor of rowing their leaky boat across the Sound, had been most exhausting, and wearied nature must have imperatively demanded rest. He believed, therefore, that the place to look for them was at Bailey's Tavern, and laid his plans accordingly.

The houses of the place were, for the most part, wrapped in darkness, and the village seemed sunk in repose. As they drew near to the tavern, however, they perceived that there was a light burning in one of its front rooms, making extra caution necessary to prevent an alarm. All but two or three of the men were stationed around the house, while Captain Clarke, Captain Harvey, who commanded the other boat, and Walter Judd, a brother of Chauncey, advanced and knocked at the door.

To the first summons no answer was returned; but soon after, a louder knock brought a person with the light into the entry, with the inquiry,-

Who's there?

Friends, was the reply, and on business with Mr. Bailey.

He's not at home to-night.

We are sorry for that. Our business is urgent, and we cannot leave without seeing him.

After an interval of a few moments, as if a consultation was had with another person, the door was unfastened, and a young woman appeared.

My father, she said, has gone down to the city. We expected him to return to-night, but he has not done so, and from the direction of the wind, it is probable that he cannot get home before morning; perhaps not even then.

Such being the case, we must crave a lodging with you to-night, for we have come too far not to see him now.

I am very sorry, she replied, that we cannot accommodate you. Another party of travelers ar­rived here to-day, whom we have been obliged to en­tertain, and our beds are all full.

This was a confirmation of their suspicions as to the presence of the robbers, and without risking further parley, Captain Clarke, who had hitherto carefully kept his face in the shade to avoid being recognized by the lady, dextrously slipped by her within the door, at the same moment saying to her in a low tone,-

Give no alarm, on peril of your life!

At the same moment his companions, first signaling to their men, as had been agreed upon, rushed also into the house, where, to their mutual surprise, they found a British officer, who had been enjoying the so­ciety of the young lady. With an instant command to silence, they assured him that no hostile design was entertained against him or the family, their sole object being the arrest of a gang of burglars whom they had tracked to that house, and that if be made no resistance he should not be molested. By that time six or eight more of their men had entered, and learning from the lady the whereabouts of her guests, they seized the light, and ascended to the chambers.

The whole proceeding was the work of a moment, and such was the silence of their movements, and so profound the slumber of the robbers, that, with a single exception, none of them were aware of their peril till the heavy hands of their captors were upon them. Chauncey was found sleeping, as usual, by the side of Graham, and was first aroused by being lifted bodily from the bed in the strong arms of his brother, while two others, on the opposite side, sprang upon the unconscious leader of the gang, and before be had time to make any resistance, pinioned his bands and his feet.

The others were secured, in like manner, with little comparative difficulty. Martin alone, hearing the noise in an adjacent room, leaped from the window, and fled. He was pursued by one of the men on guard, who several times snapped his musket at him, but the old fire-lock refused to be discharged, and after a sharp race of half a mile or more, he succeeded in reaching a thicket of bushes, where be was lost to view.

We cannot undertake to truthfully depict the emotions of the culprits when thus surprised in the midst of their slumbers. To Chauncey, notwithstanding his weariness, we may well believe it was a joyful awakening. He was almost dead from fatigue and exposure, and was fast sinking into the apathy of despair. To find himself now out of the power of his captors, greeted by the cheering words of a brother, and with the promise of an immediate return to his home, which he had despaired of ever seeing again, was almost enough to rouse and animate him had be been literally in the grave.

To the others, and Graham especially, it was like the knell of doom. After all they had suffered in their flight, almost in the very first moment when they had dared to feel themselves safe, to be seized and bound like felons, with the certainty of a felon's punishment before them, was more than they could endure. Graham knew that no mercy would be shown to him. The part he had acted in this mad expedition, his relentless cruelty to his young captive, and behind all this, a long record of desertion and crime, which he could not hope to keep from exposure, all rose like specters before him, and pointed out to him a swift and ignominious fate.

Little time, however, was allowed for anticipations, whether joyous or gloomy. Captain Clarke and his party knew that they were upon the enemy's territory, and that, especially since one of the robbers had escaped, they were liable to a return surprise at any moment. So, carefully tying their prisoners, two and two, and securing their arms and packs of stolen goods, the whole company speedily set off for their boats. Everything was in readiness for them. The prisoners were separated, - three in each boat, - and Chauncey carefully wrapped in their loose outer jackets and covered by a sail, so as to be as much as possible out of the reach of the wind, and a straight course then laid for the mouth of the Housatonic.


Onderdunk's Incidents, p. 78.


Onderdonk's Incidents, p. 20.

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