Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock
White plains Nov. 3d 1776
By command of his Excellency, I have the honor to inform you, that our situation is nearly the same, as when I had the pleasure of writing you last;1 It is altered in no instance, unless in the number of our Troops, which is every day decreasing by their most scandalous desertion and return Home. The Inclosed Letter from Genl Parsons who is stationed near the Saw pits, and which his Excellency directed me to transmit, will inform you of the prevalency of this disgracefull practice.2 I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt
Rob. H. Harrison
ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 6 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 , 6:928).
1. Baurmeister and Ewald say that on this morning the two wings of Howe’s army made a demonstration against the American line. “Our right wing advanced slowly through White Plains,” Baurmeister writes, “while our left occupied a height opposite the flank of the enemy’s camp. . . . the Hessian grenadier brigade held the center between the two wings. The enemy, however, remained calm, did not break camp, and permitted us to hear and see that all their batteries were well manned and that we could not get at them. Two 32–pounders killed four men in Dittfurth’s, Rall’s, and the Leib Regiments, and three were severely wounded. General Howe abstained from further attempts and ordered all the regiments to return to camp by the nearest roads” (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 , 66–67; see also 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 , 13). That action is not recorded by British and American diarists at White Plains on this date, and Chaplain Benjamin Trumbull says in his journal that “Sabbath Day Novr 3rd is Pleasant for the Season, & the Enemy give no Disturbance” (“Trumbull Journal,” 207).
2. Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parson’s letter of 2 Nov., which Congress read and referred to the Board of War with Harrison’s letter on 6 Nov., has not been found (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 , 6:928). GW’s general return of this date shows that Parsons’s brigade had 1,810 rank and file present and fit for duty out of a total of 3,192 rank and file (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:499–502). On 9 Nov. Parsons had 864 rank and file present and fit for duty out of a total of 1,999, and by 24 Nov. his brigade was reduced to 529 rank and file present and fit for duty out of a total of 1,316 rank and file (see returns for those dates, ibid., 621–22, 833–34).
Harrison says in his letter to Schuyler of 4 Nov.: “The Enemy Yesterday advanced a Body of their Men from twelve to fourteen hundred in Number, towards the Saw Pits [Port Arthur, N.Y.], but finding that General Parsons was Marching with his Brigade to meet ’em, they retreated before him & over Rye Bridge. he took two Prisoners” (NN: Schuyler Papers; see also Harrison to Nathanael Greene, 3 Nov.; William Douglas to his wife, 7 Nov., in Douglas, “Letters,” 13:161–62; and “Trumbull Journal,” 207). On 5 Nov. Tench Tilghman wrote William Duer: “By two deserters who came from Rogers’ Rangers last night, the General [GW] was informed that Rogers intended to make an expedition early this morning to the Sawpits—General Parsons was immediately dispatched to give him a reception” (transcript, NN: Bancroft Collection, Robert R. Livingston Papers). “The Enemy,” Benjamin Trumbull says, “did not appear there, and nothing happened Material” (ibid.).