From Major General Nathanael Greene
Fort Lee [N.J.] Octr 31 1776
The Enemy have possession of Fort Independance on the Heights above Kings Bridge, they made their appearance the night before last.1 We had got every thing of Value away, The Bridges are cut down and I gave Colonel Magaw Orders to stop the Road between the Mountains.
I should be glad to know your Excellency’s mind about holding all the ground from Kings Bridge to the lower lines—If we attempt to hold the ground, the Garrison must still be reinforced; but if the Garrison is to draw into Mount Washington and only keep that, the number of Troops on the Island is too large.2
We are not able to determine with any certainty, whether those Troops that have taken Post above Kings-Bridge, are the same Troops, or not, that were in and about Harlem, several days past. they disappear’d from below all at once, and some little time after, about fifty Boats full of men was seen going up towards Hunts Point. and that evening the Enemy were discovered at Fort Independance—We suspect them to be the same Troops that were engaged in the Sunday skirmish.3
Six Officers belonging to Privateers, that were taken by the Enemy made their escape last night—they inform me they were taken by the last Fleet that came in, They had about Six Thousand foreign Troops on board—One quarter of which had the black skirvy, and died very fast.4
Seventy Sail of Transports and Ships fell down to Red Hook, they were bound for Rhode Island had on board about three thousand Troops—They also inform that after the Sunday Action, an Officer of distinction was brought into the City, badly wounded.5
The Ships have come up the River to their Station again, a little below their lines. Several deserters from powlers Hook have come over—they all report that General Howe is wounded as did those from the Fleet; it appears to be a prevailing opinion in the Land and Sea service.6
I forwarded your Excellency a Return of the Troops at this Post, and a Copy of a plan for establishing Magazines. I cou’d wish to know your pleasure as to the Magazines as soon as possible.7
I shall Reinforce Colo. Magaw with Colo. Rallings’s Regiment untill I hear from your Excelly respecting the matter.
The motions of the Grand Army will best Determine, the propriety of endeavouring to hold all the ground from Kings Bridge to the lower Lines—I shall be as much on the Island of York, as possible, so as not to neglect the duties of my own department.
I can learn no satisfactory accounts of the Action the other day. I am with great Respect Your Excellency’s Obedient Servt
1. Lt. Gen. Freiherr Wilhelm von Knyphausen on orders from General Howe marched west from New Rochelle with six Hessian regiments on 29 Oct. and occupied Fort Independence and Valentine’s Hill at Mile Square (see Howe to George Germain, 30 Nov., in 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 , 12:258–64; 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 , 1:95–96; and 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 , 65).
2. Robert Hanson Harrison replied to this letter on 5 Nov.: “I have it in charge to inform you, that the holding or not holding the Grounds between Kings bridge and the lower lines depends upon so many circumstances, that it is impossible for him [GW] to determine the point. he submits it intirely to your discretion and such Judgement as you will be enabled to form from the Enemy’s movements & the whole complexion of things. he says you know the Original design was to garrison the Works and preserve the lower Lines as long as they could be kept, that the communication across the [Hudson] river might be be open to us, at the same time that the Enemy should be prevented from having a passage up & down the River for their Ships. The other parts of your Letter have been answered on former occasions” (DLC:GW).
4. The fleet that arrived at New York Harbor on 18 Oct. after twenty-one weeks at sea brought a reinforcement of seven to eight thousand troops, including Knyphausen’s division of Hessians, a regiment of Waldeckers, and numerous British recruits (see 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 , 125; 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 , 1:82; Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 5–7; and 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 , 61–62). Although the soldiers had exhausted their fresh provisions during the long voyage from Europe, the number of dead and sick was not as great as Greene’s informants said. Sir George Osborn wrote Lord George Germain from Eastchester, N.Y., on 29 Oct., that the recently arrived Hessians “have near six hundred sick, they lost fifty by illness and one lieut.-colonel in their passage. The regiment of Waldeck has likewise eighty sick” (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 , 12:242).
5. No officer serving under Lord Percy was wounded or killed during the skirmish near Fort Washington on 27 Oct. (see Percy to George Germain, 30 Oct., in Bolton, Percy Letters description begins Charles Knowles Bolton, ed. Letters of Hugh Earl Percy from Boston and New York, 1774–1776. Boston, 1902. description ends , 72–75).
6. The rumor that William Howe was wounded during the skirmishing near Pell’s Point on 18 Oct., had been reported as early as 21 Oct. by two deserters from the British 40th Regiment who said that American artillery fire killed a sentry standing at Howe’s tent door, and the “ball entered the tent, and shattered General Howe’s leg so as to endanger his life” (see Extract of a Letter from a General Officer, 23 Oct., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:1202–3). The deserters from the British outpost at Paulus Hook belonged to the 57th Regiment (see 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 , 1:91).