Captain David Hawley In the early years of the war, the Captain sailed to the West Indies for a cargo of gunpowder for Stratford and Fairfield. All went well, he returned safely and part of the powder was stored in the Nichols Tavern on North Avenue (modern Bridgeport, but referred to as Stratfield at that time). Some time later, Captain Hawley again sailed from the harbor at Black Rock, in command of a privateer sloop. But this time, he was taken prisoner by the British. Escaping, he retaliated by bringing no less than four different enemy vessels into the Black Rock harbor. He was able to free General Gold Selleck Silliman who was captured by the British and being held in Long Island in November 1779. Silliman had been taken from his home in Fairfield in May 1779.
With the governor’s blessing, Captain David Hawley of Stratford and Captain Samuel Lockwood of Norwalk gathered together a whaleboat and a crew of twenty-five men. On the evening of November 4 they embarked for Long Island; on reaching the shore, they “drew their boat up and hid it in the woods, and they lay concealed all the day & travelled in the night.” They had many miles of enemy country to traverse. When they arrived at Judge Jones’s house, which looked to their unsophisticated eyes “like a castle,” it was about nine o’clock on the night of Saturday November 6 and they could hear sounds of music and dancing. Captain Hawley rapped on the door. No one answered. He broke in a panel, entered, and by a piece of remarkable good luck found the judge himself just enter-ing the hall with a guest, a young man named Willett. Hawley’s crew jumped in behind him, seized both men, and hurried them out into the night.
They knew that they would have to pass a point where Judge Jones kept a guard on duty. As they drew near the place, the judge began clearing his throat loudly and repeatedly; warned to stop, he persisted until Hawley threatened to run him through. After that, the Americans continued without further incident, marched as far and fast as they could that night, and at daybreak retired with their prisoners under cover of the woods. It was on the third night of the expedition that they reached the whaleboat, and, as Hawley told Mary, “glad they were to find it, for had it been taken in their absence they would have been in a woeful plight.” Next morning she received the welcome news that, though the raiders had lost six men who were captured when they lagged behind, those who had returned brought with them not one prisoner, but two, the second of whom they hoped to exchange for Billy.