Undercurrents of resistance to British rule in the Colonies had become ever more apparent until open rebellion broke out in Massachusetts. Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, General Washington was dispatched by the Continental Congress to take command of the American troops who were besieging the British forces at Boston. The Continental Congress in support of General Washington called upon the colonies to raise an army for the common defense.
In response, New York’s Provincial Congress, in the Summer of 1775, raised a force of 3,000 troops to defend the colony from invasion by the British forces. New York raised five regiments of troops of which the Third New York Regiment was comprised of men residing in Ulster and Suffolk Counties and parts of present day Greene and Dutchess Counties.
Three companies of troops were organized on Long Island: These were: Captain Daniel Griffings (the First, encompassing present day Southold, Riverhead, and Northern Brookhaven Towns), Captain John Hulbert’s (the Third including East Hampton, Southampton and Southern Brookhaven Town) and Captain John Grinnel’s ( the Fifth including the Towns of Huntington, Islip, Smithtown, and Babylon.
The Long Island Companies of the Third New York were immediately called into active duty involving the fortification of the Hudson Highlands through the construction of Fort Constitution. They were also called to the defense of the citizenry, livestock, and foodstuffs on the eastern end of Long Island from British raiding parties. These raiding parties sought supplies for their besieged troops in Boston and the ensuing skirmishes may have been the first instance of Continental forces in combat during the Revolution.
Eventually the Long Island Companies were ordered to New York City to be equipped and united with the full regiment for the invasion of Canada. While the Third New York Regiment participated in the invasion, the Long Island Companies were detached for garrison duty at Fort George (Lake George), as well as picket duty up to Fort Ticonderoga.
In December 1775, nearing the completion of the troops’ six-month enlistment, the Long Island Companies were honored with the duty of escorting and parading before Congress the British troops captured in the Canadian invasion.
Although their enlistment was short, concluding in January 1776, Long Islanders served actively throughout the entire eight year period of hostilities. Long Islanders’ contributions to the war effort were significant, considering that most were exiled from their homes and loved ones following the Battle of Long Island.