George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 18 July 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Eliza. Town [N.J.] 18 July 1776


If nothing unlooked for interveens I intend to prosecute the Plan mentioned in my Letter by Major Putnam—to Night1—We hope to defer the Attack till Break of Day—but if discovered before that time—our operation will commence sooner—From our being able to discover no unusual movements in the Enemies Quarters, it is presumable they have no hint of being surprizd—Our men are drawing together near this place—some Guides are provided on whom I hope we may depend—and I doubt not but our officers & Soldiers will with alacrity execute this Service. I have the honor to be Sir your Excellencys Most obedt hube Sert

Hugh Mercer

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW. Mercer’s addressed cover, which includes the notation “By Mr Ross,” is in DNA: RG 93, Manuscript File, 21617. It is docketed “Genl Mercers Letter. Elizabeth Town 18th July 1776” in Samuel Blachley Webb’s writing. The front and reverse of the ALS contain a biographical sketch of Mercer written sometime after his death by his aide-de-camp John Armstrong, Jr.

Mercer apparently enclosed with this letter a copy of his letter to Maj. Thomas Knowlton of this date, in which he writes: “You are to march your Party of three hundred Men to attack the Enemies Post at New Blazing Star—If possible have your Men near the Enemy before break of day, while you attempt to surprize the Enemy be careful that you are not discovered—have a small Guard advanced & if they come unexpectedly (on a Centinal) endeavour to seize his Arms & prevent giving an Alarm by firing, unless the Enemy is prepared & formidable—Let a Profound Silence be observed during the march & keep your Men in Indian file about one Pace assunder—If obliged to appear openly against the Enemy have some of your best Riflemen on your flanks, with orders to gain if possible the flanks of the Enemy—If they have Artillery a sudden Push is necessary to gain Possession of them—should you be succesful enough to take any of the British Troops Prisoners, secure them well & treat them with humanity—use the People on the Island with Civility unless they appear in Arms—as soon as it is light send out flanking Parties to secure you from surprize” (DLC:GW).

1See Mercer’s second letter to GW of 16 July. Maj. Israel Putnam, Jr. (1740–1812), was an aide-de-camp to his father, Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam, Sr., from 1775 to 1783. For the canceling of this night’s raid on Staten Island, see Mercer to GW, 19 July.

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