George Washington Papers

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock, 1 November 1776

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock

White plains Novr 1st 1776


I am directed by his Excellency to acknowledge his receipt of your favor of the 28th Ulto which came to hand Yesterday Evening and to transmit you a Copy of the Letter I had the honor of writing you by the Boston Express by his command.1 Had the Express been charged with no Other Letter, the loss would not have been attended with any material injury to us, or advantage to the Enemy, provided it should come to their Hands, but there were others from his Excellency of a very interesting nature,2 the miscarriage of which gives him much concern. As the bundle was taken away in so sudden & secret a manner, I fear there is but little hope of recovering it, being done most probably for the express purpose of furnishing the Enemy with Intelligence & a State of our Army. besides his Excellency’s Letters, the most material of which was to Mr Rutledge, there were five or Six more from the Gentlemen of his family.3

My Letters of the 29th and of Yesterday which I had the honor of addressing you, will give a pretty full account of our situation and of every matter respecting this Army, antecedent to this date. I only omitted to mention that we have taken thirteen of the Waldeckers & that for several days past, our Scouting parties have brought in, One, two or three prisoners; in addition to these, we have every day a deserter or two.4

About Six OClock this morning a messenger arrived from Lord Stirling (who is with his Brigade between Two & three Miles from White Plains on our right & rather nearer the North River) with Intelligence that the Enemy were advancing towards him in Two Columns. This information has carried his Excellency and Aids out. the result of their movement I have not heard, but most likely they are pursuing their original design of getting by our Flanks & Seizing the Heights above us. every precaution is taking to prevent them & to hurry away our Stores to a more interior part of the Country. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obed. Servt

Rob. H. Harrison

P.S. His Excellency has just returned and says the alarm was premature. It arose from some of Lord Stirlings advanced Guards seeing a body of our men who had been ordered to reinforce him, who were supposed to be the Enemy. His Excellency is very apprehensive that the Army will be greatly distressed for want of Provision, particularly in the article of Flour, owing to the water conveyance both in the North & East River being in the Enemy’s possession. he has wrote the Convention of this State & directed Mr Trumbull that their utmost exertions in this instance may be used.5 there is a good deal of flour on the Jersey side, but there is no other way ⟨to⟩ get it but by Carting & ferrying it over to Peeks Kill[.] This I have wrote to Genl Greene to have done by his Excellency’s direction.6

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; ADfS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 4 Nov. 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 , 6:920).

1See Harrison to Hancock, 25 October.

2The draft reads: “of a very interesting and important nature.”

3The only one of these letters that has been identified is Joseph Reed’s letter to his wife of 26 Oct. (see Hancock to GW, 28 Oct., and notes 1 and 2).

4The 3d Waldeck Regiment, which had been raised in Germany particularly for service with the British army in America, remained at New Rochelle when General Knyphausen left that post with six Hessian regiments on 29 October. On that same day, Baurmeister says, “eighteen men of this [Waldeck] regiment went marauding in the region around Mamaroneck, where they were surprised and attacked by forty rebels and disarmed. One subaltern and twelve soldiers were captured and hurriedly sent away. Two men remained on the field, wounded. At General Washington’s behest the most intelligent of the prisoners were treated like the Hessian grenadiers” (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 , 65–66). Twelve Waldeckers had been brought into the American camp on the morning of 27 Oct., and Tench Tilghman wrote William Duer later that date that they “are amazed at the kind treatment they receive, they say they were torn away from their own Country & will willingly remain among us—They say ‘if their fellow soldiers Knew how kindly they would be treated & how plentifully & happily they might live they would lay down their arms & come among us[’]—We shall contrive to make a good use of these Fellows” (MH: Jared Sparks Collection). “Deserters (especially from the Queen’s light dragoons) come daily over to us,” George Clinton says in his letter to John McKesson of 2 Nov., “and now and then our rangers send in a straggling prisoner” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 1:407–8).

5See GW to Robert R. Livingston, 20 Oct., and note 4, GW to Joseph Trumbull, 20, 21 Oct., and Robert Hanson Harrison to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 2 Nov., quoted in Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., to GW, 31 Oct., n. 3. Harrison wrote Commissary Gen. Joseph Trumbull on this date: “I am directed by his Excellency to inform you that ‘ere this he hoped for your arrival here. His Apprehensions are exceedingly great, lest the Army should suffer much for want of necessary supplies of provision, especially in the Article of Flour. from the best intelligence he is able to obtain, there is not more in Camp & at the Several places where it has been deposited, than will serve the Army longer than four or five days, provided the utmost care & economy were used in Issuing it out; but from the Waste & embezlement for want of proper attention to it, as is reported to him, it is not probable, that it will last so long. he has wrote to the Convention of this State upon the subject, but has little hope of any great releif from them, as almost the whole that can be collected above, is wanted for the Northern Army. he wishes—he entreats your utmost exertions, that a sufficient quantity may be immediately forwarded to North Castle & pines bridge on Croton River, or he fears that every disorder & evil that can be immagined, will ensue, and that the Army must of necessity be disbanded. Your return directly he esteems indispensably necessary for the due ordering & regulation of matters in your important department” (DLC:GW). For the New York committee of safety’s efforts to provide flour for GW’s army, see its resolutions of 22 and 24 Oct. in the N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:686, 689, and 29 Oct. in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:277.

6Harrison’s letter to Greene conveying this order has not been identified, but see Greene’s reply to GW, 5 November.

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