In 2006, I wrote about how Maj. John Crane of the Continental artillery was wounded in the foot during the fight over Manhattan Island in 1776.
In 2007, in response to a query from a Boston 1775 reader also named Crane, I tried to pin down the date of that wounding. I figured it had to be after 3 September, when Gen. George Washington gave orders to Crane, according to a letter the commander wrote the next day. And it had to be well before 23 September, when Col. Henry Knox wrote to Crane’s wife with an update that he was “in a fair way to do well” (not, apparently, her first news of the wound).
Last weekend I came across a mention of Crane’s wounding in the diary that Gen. William Heath published after the war. He wrote:
They [the British] ran a ship past the city [New York] up the East River: she was several times struck by the shot of a 12 pounder, which was drawn to the river’s bank. Major Crane of the artillery was wounded in the foot, by a cannon shot from this ship.So Heath’s entry might pinpoint the date of Crane’s wound—except that its date is 2 Sept 1776, one day before Washington told the Congress that he’d sent Crane to attack that ship.
So what gives? Heath edited his diary for publication, so it’s not really a contemporaneous source, like Washington’s letter. I suspect that Heath added the details about Crane to his 2 September entry at some later date, possibly the next day, possibly years later. The most likely sequence of events seems to be:
- 2 Sept 1776, after dark: A forty-gun ship of the Royal Navy slipped into Turtle Bay, receiving fire from a shore battery to no effect.
- 3 September, morning: Washington sent Maj. Crane, known for his excellent sighting, with two twelve-pounder cannons and a mortar to oppose the ship. That day, Crane hit it several times, forcing its captain to withdraw closer to Long Island. Either that morning or the next day, the ship fired back a ball that struck Crane in the foot.
- 4 September, morning: Washington wrote to Congress, having seen the ship withdraw but not yet aware of Crane’s injury.
At least we’re narrowing down the answer.