Camp Wikoff and Wars

The Fort Pond Bay area, and Second House, have not remained untouched by war.

Before the white settlers came, the Montauk Indians had trouble. Not with other Long Island Indians–Wyandanch of Montauk was also chief of all the Long Island tribes; but with the Narragansetts of Rhode Island.

William Wallace Tooker, an acknowledged authority on Long Island Indians, said in 1895 that Montauk (“Manatacut,” or “Meuntacut”–it was variously spelled) meant “the fort country.” Before the settlers came, an Indian fort stood on the west side of Nominick Hills, overlooking Napeague Harbor. In 1661, a “new fort” stood on what is still called Fort Hill, overlooking Fort Pond and the bay, in front of Montauk Manor. Its outline was just visible, thirty years ago.

“Massacre Valley,” beside Fort Hill, is where Narragansett warriors abducted Chief Wyandanch’s daughter on her wedding night, killing her bridegroom and several other Montauks. She was later rescued through Lion Gardiner of Gardiner’s Island.

During the Revolution, a company of militia was sent to Montauk to guard the stock. When three British men-of-war and nine transports left Boston with 600 men, bound for Long Island, doubtless to replenish supplies, local authorities were notified. Some 2,000 cattle were taken off Montauk to safety. But over 3,000 sheep remained. Captain John Hulbert of Bridgehampton, with only 69 men, posted a rider to East Hampton for help.

Captain John Dayton of The Creeks offered to go if forty men would volunteer to accompany him. By the time the hundred-odd men had assembled at Shepherd’s Neck, the enemy fleet was in Fort Pond Bay, preparing to land.

The colonials marched single file to the top of a hill just west of Fort Pond, then round it to the foot, where they turned their coats wrong side out (the first “turncoats”) keeping this up for some time. The British commander, observing through his glasses that there seemed to be more men than sheep, decided to look for an easier landing and sailed away to plunder Fisher’s Island instead.

This was in August 1775. After the disastrous Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, all Long Island was within British lines.

During the War of 1812, a British fleet again lay in Gardiner’s Bay. Once more the herds and flocks of Montauk were endangered. Uriah Miller, who kept Second House at that time, is the hero of the following story: The English came ashore and killed and carried off cattle. Uriah swore that they should pay him. Alone he would force indemnity. He drove an Indian at the point of a cowhide whip to take him in a canoe out to the English Commodore’s ship. Over the vessel’s side he clambered with his cowhide. The officer of the deck demanded his business. Uriah replied that he wanted pay for his cattle or he would take it out on somebody, if he had to thrash the whole English fleet. Uriah was taken to the Commodore, Sir Thomas Hardy, but did not, wilt nor abate his demands in the least. He was paid. The Commodore, amused at his audacity, declared him the bravest man in America.

In the summer of 1898, Montauk hills were dotted with tents for 29,500 soldiers returning from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Florida. Many brought back yellow fever and typhoid. Doctors and nurses did heroic work and only 263 men died here. Col. Theodore Roosevelt’s : Rough Riders were disbanded at Montauk, and his boom for Governor of New York State began here. After the governorship, he was elected Vice President in 1900, and in 1901 became President, following the assassination of President McKinley. “Ten-gallon” hats have never gone out of style on Montauk, since they were introduced by Col. Roosevelt in 1898.

In World War I, a United States Naval Training Station and a Naval Aviation Base were established on the shore of Fort Pond …. In World War II, the Army and Air Force took over much of the Point, and the Navy took over Fort Pond Bay. The Air Base is deactivated.