Blue Mountain Valley Off Sandy Hook, New Jersey

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Blue Mountain Valley Off Sandy Hook, New Jersey

BLUE MOUNTAIN VALLEY OFF SANDY HOOK, NEW JERSEY. 22-23 January 1776. When the Elizabethtown, New Jersey, Committee of Safety learned that a British transport had been sighted off the coast, the committee ordered its capture. Elias Dayton and Colonel William Alexander (Lord Stirling) assembled a body of eighty volunteers from the town and a thirty-man detachment of Stirling's First New Jersey Regiment, which put off from the shore in four small boats (three shallops and a pilot boat). They came up with the British vessel about forty miles from Sandy Hook and approached it while all but a few men stayed hidden. The ship was the Blue Mountain Valley, a victualler that was one of a group of twenty-one merchantmen under a contract let in the fall of 1775 to the firm of Mure, Son and Atkinson to transport an emergency shipment of food and coal to the Boston garrison. The master, James Hamilton Dempster, mistook the approaching Americans for fishing vessels and allowed them to come alongside. The boarding party then poured through the hatches and easily took the surprised vessel on the 23rd.

Two months later, on 27 March, the Royal Navy got its revenge. Lieutenant Robertson set off at 10 p.m. from a point off Bedlow's Island with the ship's boats of the ship of the line Asia and frigate Phoenix and under cover of darkness rowed to Elizabethtown Point, where the Blue Mountain Valley and another captured vessel were moored. They burned the Blue Mountain Valley but recaptured the Lady Gage.

This otherwise minor occurrence took on great importance in propelling not only New Jersey but also New York City into active participation in the war. It also caused considerable consternation in British command circles and back in London and led to major policy changes prohibiting the use of transports sailing without naval escorts. That policy change helped to limit losses of vessels, but it also greatly complicated the Royal Navy's burden. Secondary sources disagree on the details, reflecting a squabble over credit among the participants.