George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 17 August 1776

To John Hancock

New York Augt 17th 1776


The circumstances of the Two Armies having undergone no material alteration since I had the honor of writing you last, I have nothing particular or Important to communicate respecting them.

In my Letter of Yesterday I forgot to mention the arrival of Lord Dunmore here. By the examination of a Capn Hunter who escaped from the Enemy and came to Amboy on the 14th transmitted me by Genl Roberdeau, I am certainly Informed his Lordship arrived on the 13th—The Examination does not say any thing about the Ships he brought with him, It only extends to his Force which It mentions to be weak.

I before now expected the Enemy would have made their Attack—Nor can I account for their deferring It, Unless the Intelligence given by Captn Hunter & Another person who escaped about the same time, is the Cause. to wit—that they are waiting the arrival of Another division of the Hessian Troops which they say is still out. Whether that is the reason of the delay I cannot undertake to determine, but I should suppose things will not long remain in their present state. I have Inclosed a Copy of Genl Roberdeaus Letter and of the Examination of these Two persons, which will shew Congress all the Information they have given upon these Subjects.1

I am just now advised by Mr Aires who came from Philadelphia to build the Row Gallies, That Two of our Fire Vessels attempted last night to burn the Enemies Ships & Tenders up the River—he says that they burnt One Tender and One of them boarded the Phenix and was grapled with her for near Ten Minutes, but she cleared herself—We lost both of the Vessels—his Account is not so particular, as I could wish, however I am certain the Attempt has not succeeded to our wishes—In a little time It is probable the matter will be more minutely reported.2 I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Your Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2For fuller accounts of this attack on the British warships Phoenix and Rose and their tenders, see Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 62–63, and the Phoenix’s and Rose’s journal entries for 16 Aug., 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 , 6:206; see also William Heath to GW, this date. The burned tender was the Charlotta.

Benjamin George Eyre, an experienced shipwright who with his two older brothers operated a shipyard at Kensington near Philadelphia, built the frigate Washington for the Continental navy earlier this year, and during GW’s visit to Philadelphia in late May, he was engaged by GW and Thomas Mifflin to go to New York to build row galleys for the defense of the city and the Hudson River (see GW to Hancock, 7 June 1776, and Eyre’s memorial to Congress, 21 May 1777, DNA:PCC, item 41). On 27 Sept. 1776 Q.M. Gen. Stephen Moylan certified that Eyre had “built & completely finished two Gondolas or Row Galleys, one other, is finished all but the smiths work, and one was Left on the Stocks at Newyork entirely Timberd & Rigged. that he was actively employed about the Water frize [chevaux de frise], Sunck in the North River & has been allso employed to appraise sixteen vessells taken up to sinck in the North and the east River, that he has gone up to Albany to engage & hurry down plank and boards for the use of the Army” (DNA:PCC, item 41). The three galleys that Eyre completed were the Lady Washington, Putnam, and Independence. Eyre returned to Philadelphia sometime in October, and on 13 Nov. Congress allowed him $427 77/90 for his work and expenses in New York (see 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 , 6:949, and Eyre’s memorials to Congress, 18 Nov. 1776 and 21 May 1777, DNA:PCC, item 41). Eyre served as brigade major of Gen. John Cadwalader’s Pennsylvania militia brigade from 1 Dec. 1776 to 29 Jan. 1777, and between 1777 and 1779 he was Continental superintendent of ship carpenters and boat builders, a position in which he proved to be so useful that GW refused to let him resign in December 1778 (see Nathanael Greene to Charles Pettit, 12 Dec. 1778, in Showman, Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 3:112–13). In 1780 Eyre became lieutenant colonel commandant of the 2d Battalion of Philadelphia militia.

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