George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 21 May 1776

From Major General Israel Putnam

New York Tuesday past 12 at Night
[21 May 1776]

Dear General

Capt. Wm Goforth arrived here about an hour since with the enclosed letters—Express from Canada, which I mean to forward on to Amboy very early in the morning, and beg your Excellency’s particular answer in regard to what you would have forwarded from this place1—Capt. Goforth commanded the Schooner in the River St Lawrence—he says—that not more than 100 Men are taken prisoners & them all sick—the Frigate gave him chase—he crouded all Sail possible but found it in vain, he then quitted wt. his Crew, save a Son of Colo. McDougall’s & one more who were so obstinate they would not leave the Vessel & were taken Prisoners2—he further says that he did not see a single Man land from the Ships that came up—nor does he believe the Enemy sallied out on our Troops—of this he is confident, that not a Gun was fire’d but between the Frigate and himself. the Troops from the Island of Orleans—Point Levy—& all out Guards had got safe off, and join’d Genl Thomas.

Misfortune on misfortune—A Vessel from France arrived yesterday on the back of Long-Island & came to Anchor, loaded with 12 Tonns powder—500 Small Arms & dry Goods—the English Capt. with a Boats Crew came on shore for Assistance to land his Goods—soon after the French Capt. who was on Board—saw a small Sloop to Leward beating up to him, ’tis supposed he tho’t them friends—he immediately weigh’d anchor and bore down for them, when unluckily it prov’d to be one of the Asia’s tenders—who took and carried her into the Hook—I have seen the Capt.—he was own’d by Mr Brown of Providence—she was seen comeing into the Hook this morning in Company with the Tender, that there can be no doubt of the truth of it.3

The Committee this Evening applyed to me to let the arm’d Petty-Auger Cruise of the back of the Island to protect a number of Vessels which are hourly expected in with Arms & Ammunition. she is a very Swift Sailor and draws but little water and probably may be of great service to us in this way—this Request I shall comply with unless otherways ordered by your Excellency. I have the Honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient & Very Hume servt

Israel Putnam


1Captain Goforth brought Schuyler’s letter to GW of 16 May and its enclosures. GW left New York earlier this day for Philadelphia (see Expense Account of Journey to and from Philadelphia, 21 May–12 June 1776).

2Gen. David Wooster put Goforth in command of the armed schooner Maria at Quebec in late April 1776 (Wooster to Hector McNeill, 26 April 1776, in Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 4:1259), and on 6 May Goforth abandoned the vessel to the British during the retreat of the American army from that city. Ranald S. McDougall, a second lieutenant in the 1st New York Regiment, was apparently captured on that occasion. In 1779 he was serving as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Alexander McDougall.

3On this date “Capt. Jonathan Clarke, late from the French West Indies, and bound to some port to the eastward,” attended the New York provincial congress and informed the members that he “had the misfortune to have his vessel and cargo seized and taken by an armed tender near Block Point, below Sandy Hook” (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:456).

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