George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Norwich Committee of Correspondence, 7 August 1775

From the Norwich Committee of Correspondence

Norwich [Conn.] 7th Augt 1775

May it please your Excellency

We the Committe of Correspondence for the Town of Norwich Think it our indespensable Duty to Accquaint your Excellency of a Matter we think may possibly be of the utmost importance at this most Critical Juncture of affairs & hope the occasion of our Writing will Sufficiently apologize for the Liberty, we (tho. Strangers) have Taken—Yesterday Morning this Town was alarmed with an Acct of Eigh[t] Ships one Snow Two or three Brigs & Some other Vessels appearing of N. London Harbour three of Which Were Men of Warr—a Large Number of Men were Soon Collected under arms & Repaird to our Landing N. London Groton &C. when the Ships were Some time in the afternoon. Most of them Came too of the West End of Fishers island but So as to Cut off Communication between these & the Main—Duncan Stewart Esqr. Collector for the Port of N. London. by permission of the Committe of that Town Went over in a Boat to Gain Intelligence Last Evening. but was prevented Returning until this afternoon—When he Was brought back & he with the Boatman Who Carried him over informe[d] they had Taken of That Island about Two thousand Sheep & One hundred & fifty head of Cattle—indeed all the Cattle Sheep & hogs upon the Island Except a Number of Milch Cows—That they had also Taken a Sloop Outward bound from N. Haven with Thirty Six Head of Oxen all which will Probably be immediately forwarded to Boston1—We Can only Say we Wish Some Method might be devisd to Intercept them in Boston Bay before their Arival⟨.⟩ There is undoubtedly a Number of Schooners & Boats at Plymouth which might be improv’d for above purpose—The Bearer Capt. Samuel Wheat2 Came from New London this afternoon he is a Gentlemen on Whose intelligence you may Rely & to whoom we Refer you for farther particulars Relative to this or any other Matter. he Goes on Purpose to accquaint your Excelleny of this matter—we are not without apprehensions they will Endeavour to Take off more Stock from the Neighbouring Island, Which We fear will not be in our power to prevent3—We have not been without Fears Something of this kind might happen & Last Week ordered the Commisary here to purchase all the fatt oxen & Sheep on Fishers island which was done & Brot of Last Friday viz. Fifteen Fatt Oxen & 100 Sheep we have only Time to add we are with Greatest Esteem Your Excellencys Mt Obed. Hbl. svts

Christr Leffingwell4 } Comtee
Wm Hubbard

LS, in Christopher Leffingwell’s writing, DLC:GW. The cover includes the notation “Fav. per Cap. Wheat Express.” It is endorsed in Joseph Reed’s writing “Answd Aug. 8. per Major Johnson.” The reply which Reed wrote on behalf of GW is dated 9 Aug. 1775: “I am directed by his Excelly Genl Washington to acknowledge the Receipt of your Favour last Evening per Express & to thank you for your Zeal & Activity in forwarding the Intelligence. As very early Notice had been given of the Sailing of this Fleet & the very Island mentioned which it has plunder’d: the General cannot help being somewhat surprized, that effectual Measures had not been taken to remove the Stock: which would not only have sent them back with Shame & Disappointment, but have increased their Distress at Boston for fresh Provisions which was very great before this Supply. The Remedy proposed in your Letter would be extremely difficult in our helpless Condition at Sea[.] The Convoy & immediate Relief to be obtained from Boston would make it a very hazardous Enterprize” (LB, DLC:GW). The letter-book copy of Reed’s letter is mistakenly addressed to the committee at New London, but a copy in the Nicholas Cooke Papers at the Rhode Island Historical Society is correctly addressed to the Norwich Committee.

1For the sailing of this British fleet from Boston, see Richard Dodge to GW, and John Thomas to GW, both 25 July 1775. The warships included the Rose and the Swan, which joined the fleet off Newport on 5 August. On 10 Aug. an anonymous correspondent reported from New London: “Last Sunday morning [August 6] about six o’clock, we discovered nine sail of ships, one brig, one snow, one schooner, and two sloops, turning up to this harbour, with the wind at N.E. which alarmed the inhabitants of this town, but we soon found their design was to take the stock off Fisher’s Island, which they accomplished on that day, consisting of 1130 sheep, 40 cattle, and 10 hogs” (Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, or, the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 21 Aug. 1775, supplement). For another account of the raid on Fishers Island, see Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., to GW, 7 Aug. 1775, n.2.

2Samuel Wheat of Norwich was captain of the 2d company in the 20th Connecticut militia regiment.

3The British fleet raided Gardiners Island on 8 and 11 Aug. and returned to Boston on 15 August (Loammi Baldwin to GW, 16 Aug. 1775).

4A man of considerable wealth, Christopher Leffingwell (1734–1810) of Norwich was involved in the manufacture of hosiery, paper, dye, flour, chocolate, and pottery. In a letter to GW of 15 July 1789, Leffingwell claimed that he was one of six men who in the spring of 1775 planned and funded the Connecticut expedition against Ticonderoga and Crown Point. He was also a purchaser of supplies for Connecticut during the war and served in the Continental commissary department under Joseph Trumbull and in the Continental quartermaster department under Thomas Mifflin.

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