Hempstead, the most loyal town, suffered more than any other, both from the incursions of the whale-boat men, and from the ravage of the royal army. The village was then a hamlet of but nine houses, besides the churches and the three taverns. In 1778, the Seventeenth Light Dragoons were stationed ther under Colonel Birch, than whom no officer was more execrated. The Presbyterian Meeting-house was taken as barracks, later used as a guard-house, as a prison, and finally, removing the floor, it was turned into a riding-school.
In 1779, the Meeting-house in the loyal District of Foster's Meadows was torn down by Colonel Birch, who wished its material for military use.
At Fort Neck, the "Refugees House," belonging to Thomas Jones, in which he had sheltered a band of homeless Loyalist, was burned.
"The Cage" at Hempstead had been built as a town-jail. Colonel Birch wished it as a wash-house, but the Justice, Samuel Clowes, declared that "it belonged to the Town, and could only be given up by vote of the Town." Birch replied that "their consent was quite immaterial, he should have the Cage."
A whipping-post was put up beside the old grave-yard and daily used.
Every winter, the Queen's Own, and the Sixteenth Light Horse, as well as the Seventeenth, were quartered at Hempstead, and often, in the summer, the horses of a regiment were frequently turned into fields of freshly-headed oats, or of clover ready for the scythe. Just before the Evacuation of New York, Colonel Birch collected two thousand sheep on Hempstead Plains, and cutting off their ears, called on the owners to prove property. As this was then impossible, he sold them for £2000, retained as a personal perquisite.
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