George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 23 August 1776

To John Hancock

New York Augt 23. 1776


I beg leave to inform Congress that Yesterday morning & in the course of the preceeding night, a considerable body of the Enemy amounting by report to Eight or Nine thousand, and these all British, landed from the Transport Ships mentioned in my Last at Gravesend Bay on Long Island, and have approached within three miles of our Lines, having marched across the Low, cleared Grounds, near the Woods at Flat Bush where they are halted from my last Intelligence.1

I have detached from hence, Six Battallions as a reinforcement to our Troops there,2 which are all that I can spare at this Time, not knowing but the Fleet may move up with the Remainder of their Army and make an Attack here on the next Flud Tide. If they do not, I shall send a further reinforcment should It be necessary, and have ordered five Battallions more to be in readiness for that purpose. I have no doubt, but a little Time will produce some Important events. I hope they will be happy—The Reinforcement detached yesterday went off in high spirits, and I have the pleasure to Inform you that the whole of the Army, that are effective & capable of duty, discover the same and great chearfulness. I have been Obliged to appoint Major Genl Sullivan to the command on the Island, owing to Genl Green’s Indisposition, he has been extremely Ill for several days and still continues bad.

By Wednesday Evening’s post, I received a Letter from Genl Ward Inclosing a Copy of the Invoice of the Ordinance Stores taken by Captn Manly with the appraisemt of the same made in pursuance of my direction founded on the Order of Congress which I do myself the Honor of transmitting.3

You will also receive the Treaty between the Commissioners and the Indians of the Six Nations and Others, at the German Flats, which Genl Schuyler requested me to forward by his Letter of the 18 Instt. 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. Congress read this letter on 26 Aug. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 5:700–701).

1Ambrose Serle says in his journal that “about 15,000 Troops” landed on Long Island on 22 August. “The Disembarkation was effected upon the flat Shore, near Gravesend, without the least Resistance. . . . Every thing, relative to the Disembarkation, was conducted in admirable Order, and succeeded beyond our most sanguine Wishes” (Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 71–72).

General Howe wrote Lord George Germain on 3 Sept. that the whole landing force, which included Donop’s Hessian corps and forty cannon, landed “in two hours and a half under the direction of Commodore Hotham, Lieutenant-General Clinton commanding the first division of the troops. The enemy had only small parties on the coast, who upon the approach of the boats retired to the woody heights commanding a principal pass on the road from Flatbush to their works at Brooklyn. Lord Cornwallis was immediately detached to Flatbush with the reserve, two battalions of light infantry and Colonel Donop’s corps with six field-pieces, having orders not to risk an attack upon the pass if he should find it occupied, which proving to be the case his lordship took post in the village, and the army extended from the ferry at the narrows through Utrecht and Gravesend to the village of Flatland” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 12:216–18; see also Lord Howe to Philip Stephens, 31 Aug. 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 , 6:373–77, and Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:84–85).

2This reinforcement included Col. Gold Selleck Silliman’s regiment of Connecticut militia levies, Col. Samuel Miles’s regiment of Pennsylvania riflemen, Col. John Tyler’s 10th Continental Regiment, and Col. Jedediah Huntington’s 17th Continental Regiment (see Silliman to his wife, 24 Aug., in Johnston, Campaign of 1776 description begins Henry P. Johnston. The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn. Including a New and Circumstantial Account of the Battle of Long Island and the Loss of New York, with a Review of Events to the Close of the Year. Brooklyn, 1878. In Memoirs of the Long Island Historical Society, vol. 3. description ends , pt. 2, 52–53; Miles’s journal, ibid., 60–61; and Sabine, Fitch’s New-York Diary description begins W. H. W. Sabine, ed. The New-York Diary of Lieutenant Jabez Fitch of the 17th (Connecticut) Regiment from August 22, 1776 to December 15, 1777. New York, 1954. description ends , 25).

3Artemas Ward’s letter to GW of 15 Aug. is quoted in Henry Bromfield to GW, 13 Aug., n.1. The previous Wednesday was 21 August. For Congress’s resolution of 17 June 1776 regarding this appraisement, 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 , 5:454.

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