George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 23 September 1776

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp Fort Constitution [N.J.] Sept. 23 1776

Dear Sir

The Enemy are landed at Powleys Hook, they came up this afternoon and began a Cannonade on the Battery; and after Cannonadeing for half an hour or a little more they landed a party from the Ships. General Mercer had orderd off, from the Hook all the Troops except a small Guard who had Orders to Evacuate the place from the first approach of the Enimy. General Mercer mentions no Troops but those Landed from the Ships, but Colo. Bull and many others that were along the River upon the Heights saw twenty Boats go over from York to Powleys Hook. This movement must have happen’d since General Mercer wrote.1 I purpose to Visit Burgen to Night, as General Mercer thinks of going to his Post at Amboy tomorrow. I purpose to detain him one day longer. I am with due respect Your Excellencys Obedient Servant

N. Greene

ALS, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 24 Sept. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. GW forwarded this letter to Hancock on 24 Sept., and Congress read it the next day (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 , 5:819). A note on the letter’s cover sheet reads: “Express the bearer is to be set over the ferry immediately N. Greene M.G.”

Having taken command of the American forces on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River about 17 Sept., Greene was stationed at Fort Constitution near Burdett’s Ferry, which was renamed Fort Lee on 19 Oct. (see Greene to Nicholas Cooke, 17 Sept., 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 , 1:300–302).

1The British had postponed an attempt to attack Paulus Hook the previous day when a strong northwest wind prevented their warships from getting into position to cover the landing. For contemporary accounts of this day’s attack, see particularly Mackenzie, Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 1:62–63; Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 52; 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 , 1:90; 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 , 112; the journal of Col. Durkee’s chaplain (Benjamin Boardman), 22–23 Sept., in the Connecticut Gazette and the Universal Intelligencer (New London), 18 Oct. 1776; and the journals of the Emerald, Roebuck, Tartar, and Preston, this date, 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 , 6:964–65.

Tench Tilghman wrote William Duer on 25 Sept. that “General Greene informs that General Mercer, seeing the enemy were determined to possess themselves by a stronger force of ships and men than we could oppose, removed all the stores and useful cannon, so that nothing fell into the enemy’s hands but the guns that had been rendered unfit for further service” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:523).

Thomas Bull (1744–1837) was lieutenant colonel of Col. William Montgomery’s regiment of flying camp troops that had been raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Captured at Fort Washington on 16 Nov., Bull remained a prisoner until April 1778 when he was exchanged. He became a lieutenant colonel in the Chester County militia in 1779, and from 1780 to 1781 he served as colonel of the county’s 2d Regiment of militia light horse.

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