From Colonel Edward Hand
Paulus Hook, June 20, 1776.
Sir: Being under the necessity of crossing the ferry from New-York to this place, I had a fellow passenger in the boat who talked much and very disrespectfully of our efforts to defend the city; particularly that the British troops would land on Long-Island, march up to York, and destroy the city by bombardment; that there was no doubt but they would, at any time, beat us fourteen to ten; that their ships would undoubtedly demolish our fortifications; that while we amused our country by opposition, the people were famishing. When asked how, he said for want of salt, for one instance. I could add more of his impertinence, but think it best not to trouble your Excellency. Three gentlemen who were in the boat sign this paper as evidences. I send the delinquent prisoner for your Excellency’s examination; and am your humble servant,
Edward Hand, Col. First Reg’t.
Caleb Bruen, Capt. of the Artificers.1
Lewis Jones, Serg’t 3d Bat. Yorkers.
Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 6:993.
1. Caleb Bruen’s company of New Jersey carpenters became part of Col. Jonathan Brewer’s provisional artificer regiment later this month (see General Orders, 29 June 1776). Commissioned a captain in March 1776, Bruen apparently served with the Continental artificers until April 1777 when he was captured by Loyalist refugees in Bergen County, New Jersey. In June the British paroled Bruen to New Jersey on the condition that he serve them as a spy, but Bruen apparently acted as a double agent, agreeing with Gen. Nathanael Greene to supply false intelligence to the British while obtaining accurate information about British plans for the Americans. In a petition to Congress in 1786, Bruen claims that he played that dangerous role “Under the Several Orders of General Washington, General [Elias] Dayton and others,” until sometime in 1781 when a deserter from the American army betrayed him to the British. He was subsequently arrested by the British, Bruen says, “and put in the Dungeon, in which he lay ten Months, seven months of which time he lay in the lower Dungeon without Any light; ten weeks of which time he was allowed no Subsistance, Except half a pound of Bread pr Day and water, Untill he was Reduced almost to a Skelton” (DNA:PCC, item 42). Henry Knox, who reviewed Bruen’s case in 1786, concluded that although Bruen may have given the British some useful information during the war, it could not be doubted that he “finally suffered great misery, on account of having betrayed their [the British] cause” and that his services to the United States merited some compensation (Knox’s report on Caleb Bruen, 5 April 1786, in JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 30:153–54). Bruen was allowed $300 on his claim.