George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 19 August 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

New Ark [N.J.] 19 Augt 1776


This will be delivered at Head Quarters by Mr Ludwick; whom I sent for to Amboy in consequence of your Excellencys Letter of yesterday1—Inclosd is some Intelligence that may be of Consequence2—I am pushing on Troops to Bergen to the Amount of one Thousand—I hear the 3rd Virga Regt is on the March to join the Army—please to signify your Intentions as to the Disposition of such Virga Troops as may arrive—whether they are to proceed on to N. York or remain in the Flying Camp. I have the honour to be Sir Your excellencys Most obed. Sert

H. Mercer


1This letter has not been found. Christopher Ludwick (Ludwig; 1720–1801), a native German who had served in the Austrian and Prussian armies before establishing himself as a gingerbread baker at Philadelphia in 1754, was a volunteer in the flying camp. When Ludwick arrived at headquarters later this day, GW engaged him to distribute copies of Congress’s resolution of 14 Aug. offering inducements to German deserters (see GW to Hancock, this date). “Mr. Ludwig the bearer of this,” Joseph Reed wrote William Livingston on this date, “puts his Life in his Hand on this Occasion in order to serve the Interests of America. We cannot doubt your kind Advice & Assistance as to Mode but must beg it may not be communicated farther least a Discovery may be made which must prove fatal to Mr. Ludwig” (Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 1:119–20). In a brief letter to Livingston of 22 Aug., GW writes: “The Inclosed is left open for your perusal in hopes that you will be able to facilitate the design” (ALS, MHi: Livingston Papers). Although that enclosure has not been identified, it probably concerned Ludwick’s mission. Ludwick crossed to Staten Island on the night of 22 Aug. but “returned disappointed” to Elizabeth the next day (Livingston to Mercer, 23 Aug., ibid., 124). Ludwick may have been more successful a few days later (see GW to Hancock, 26 Aug.).

During the following fall and spring, Ludwick attempted to persuade Hessian prisoners of war to defect to the American cause (see Hancock to GW, 16 Nov. 1776, DLC:GW, and Ludwick to Congress, 8 Mar. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 41). On 3 May 1777 Congress appointed Ludwick superintendent of bakers and director of baking for the Continental army, and he served as such until 1782 (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 , 7:323–34; 19:159; Ludwick to Congress, March 1785, DNA:PCC, item 41; and GW’s certificate for Ludwick, 12 April 1787, DLC:GW).

2Mercer enclosed the 18 Aug. examination of a Captain Britton, whose brig had carried 400 light horsemen from Halifax to Staten Island, and the undated examination of Jonathan Woodman, Isaac Osborne, and Robert Peas, seamen who had been captured by the British warship Cerberus in June and recently had escaped from a transport in New York Harbor (both are in DLC:GW).

Britton says: “From the best intelligence that he could collect, there are about Seven Hundred Light Horse on Staten Island, it is thought there are about twenty five Thousand Effective Men Eleven Thousand of which are Hessians—The General report was that they intended to attact Long Island first and if possible to Storm the Fort opposite the City in Order to prevent their Shippin[g] being Anoy’d when the Attack is made on New York.

“The Hessians were Landing on Staten Island as fast as possible when he left it—and from a conversation he had with several Hessian Officers he has no doubt from Proper encouragement & opportunity they would Join the Americans. That Capt. Talbot of the Niger with two other Frigates had received Orders to go round the East end of Long Island into the Sound in Order to cut off the communication between Long Island & the Main. That it is generally thought They mean to Attack Long Island with their Grenadiers and Light Infantry, and at the same time to send the remainder of their Army up the North River and Land above the Town by which means they expect to secure General Washington & the Army without firing a Shot. That Capt. Britton beleives the Attack is only delay’d untill a favourable Wind and Tide offers as they intended it on Saturday Morning last [17 Aug.], that they are certain of Success as they are of Opinion our Men will not Stand more than one Fire, that the mode of Attack is to give one Fire and then rush on with Fix’d Bayonets. That a number of Boats from Long Island came over with fresh Provisions and intelligence during his confinement, and that a Negro from Statend Island goes over to the Jersey shore every night to receive Letters lodged in some Private Place, and that he beleives they have daily intelligence of all our Movements.

“A Negro escaped from Statend Island this morning who says that all the Troops from this Quarter, were to march on Wednesday next [21 Aug.], and to be replaced by Hessians” (DLC:GW).

The three seamen say in their examination “that the Phenix man of War was grappled by one of Our Fire Ships & Narrowly escaped being burnt—That the Ships in their passage down received some Shots & the Phenix had One Man killed. That on Thursday night last a Boat came from the Phenix down to the Fleet, a Lieutt in which received a Cannon Ball through his thigh from One of Our Batteries—The Accounts as to the Number of the Enemies Troops are Various—That the Army is sickly especially Ld Dunmore’s who brought but 106 Black & White with him—That Genl Clinton’s Conduct at Charles Town is much blamed—he is accused of Cowardice & some say he will be hanged. That before 9 OClock Boats are suffered to pass through the Fleet without Interruption—That they have built about 20 New flat Bottom Boats—Every Ship besides having One. That last Week several Troops were embarked—some Yesterday & the Ships that received them all unmoored. That the Hessian Troops appear old & Indifferent. That the Highlanders seem very desirous of deserting, Three of whom have been lately taken in the Attempt & hanged & one Shot” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries