On Aug. 11, 1775, General David Wooster dispatched 120 soldiers to the island, then known as Plumb Island, who were immediately fired upon by the British. After firing a single return volley the soldiers retreated back to Long Island. Although no casualties were reported, this brief skirmish is believed to have represented a number of firsts:
* This appears to be the first engagement between the
Continental Army and the Redcoats during the Revolutionary War.
* Cannon fire between the British ship and the American
landing craft may have been the war’s first naval battle.
* This may have represented the first amphibious assault
by an American army.
The historic Plum Island Lighthouse is located on the island. The first lighthouse was constructed by order of George Washington in 1789. The lighthouse served to mark the location of turbulent tidal waters and shoals.
From 1899 to 1954 the island was home to Fort Terry, a military installation. The federal government bought part of the island to construct the fort during the Spanish-American War. Its military nature caused its reactivation as an anti-submarine base during World War II. Its last use by the military was a Chemical Corps facility. The Department of Agriculture took over the island in 1954.
The island is now under the control of the Department of Homeland Security.