CHURCHILL, Elijah, Sgt. [1755-1841] -- American soldier, carpenter
Churchill was a 32-year old carpenter from Enfield who entered the 8th Connecticut as a private on July 7, 1775. On May 7, 1777, he re-enlisted for the duration of the war as a corporal in the 2d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment, later the 2d Legionary Corps, and was promoted to sergeant on October 2, 1780. He was cited for gallantry in action at Fort St. George near Brookhaven on Long Island, at Coram, New York, in November 1780, and at Tarrytown, New York, in July 1781, and awarded the first Badge of Military Merit by Gen. Washington in 1783.
On the afternoon of November 21st, 1780, Sergeant Churchill accompanied Major Tallmadge with a party of 50 - 80 dismounted dragoons in a raid against a supply depot on Long Island. After crossing Long Island Sound at night in eight whaleboats they landed on a deserted shore but were held up by a storm. They marched to Fort St. George at Mastic, at dawn on the 23rd.
The fort was a triangular enclosure of several acres. At two angles were fortified houses and at the third, a strong redoubt, 96 feet square with bastions, a deep moat, and an abatis. The fort was connected to the houses by 12-foot high stockades. Sergeant Churchill was in charge of one of the three attacking parties. At dawn the invaders rammed their way through the stockade. Shouting "Washington and Glory," they ran across the parade ground and stormed the redoubt from 3 sides. The fort was quickly taken, 300 prisoners were captured, and the fort was destroyed. Several heavily laden vessels at the wharf were burned and over three hundred tons of hay were burned at a depot in nearby Coram.
On October 2nd 1781 Churchill took part in a second raid, crossing
the sound from Compo Point in Westport with a force of 100 men from his 2nd Continental
Dragoons and from the 5th Connecticut Infantry Regiment. Their objective was the British
outpost at Fort Slongo, near present day Northport. Fort Slongo was an embankment forming
a hollow 50-foot square, constructed of trees set perpendicularly and filled with earth.
It was a notorious rendezvous for Tories and Loyalists, with a usual compliment of 80 -
140 men who frequently raided neighboring farms, seizing stores of produce and cattle. The
successful attack resulted in the destruction of a quantity of artillery, small arms and ammunition. Sergeant Churchill was the only one wounded in the raid which captured 21
|First recipient of the Badge of Military Merit, a/k/a Purple Heart of the American Revolution, precursor to the Medal of Honor (by Pres. Washington)|
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- The Badge of Military Merit (Purple Heart) Designed by Washington himself, and first awarded in 1782, it was forgotten until revived by Gen. MacArthur (as the Purple Heart) in 1931.