George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 8 February 1777

From Major General Israel Putnam

Princeton Febry 8th 1777

Dear Sir,

I receiv’d your Letter of 3rd Inst: by Express & of 6th by Mr Burr—agreeable to your orders I went yesterday with about 400 men, below the six mile Runn, but with little expectation of finding any thing of importance to bring off1—Since I have taken post at this place, the troops have been fed altogether, with what was collected from within the enemy’s reach, & have at present large quantities of Flour; and some Pork collected from the same quarter to Newton—of meat I found none good, and but little eatible, but brought away all that was tolerable, and the few waggons that remained. I shall employ in bringing off Grain of different Kinds and Hay if there are still large quantities, particularly Corn, within 4 or 5 miles of Brunswick—The Waggons if taken are of but little consequence, the forage of much Importance—The Inhabitants of that quarter are much distressed for their Waggons, as they have but little wood, nor any other way of drawing. I shall detain them & continue to employ them as above ⟨until I receive⟩ your further Orders—I found at the 6 mile runn & brought off, a yoke of Oxen, a Cart, 2 Hhds of Sails & a Medicine Chest, left at one Johnsons in our retreat from Brunswick—The parties I sent out went within sight of the Enemy’s Centries—but not a man has been seen without their Lines for some days past. Is this not the time for a general attack? to the greatest without advantage—I find a Correspondence has been carried on between Mr Cochran of this place, now Commisary at Brunswick & his wife—I had intelligence that she receiv’d a letter a few days past—& I obliged her to deliver it up—in this he instructs her to be saving of her Provisions, as there will be probably a scarcity in the Spring—desires her to minute down the names of all the Persons who had taken Hydes or Tallow, while he acted as Commissary here, he expects to be at home early in the spring is weary of a Military life, thinks he could content himself in a log Hutt, if blessed with peace, mentions other letters he had written which she says are burnt—I propose for the next offense to send her to Brunswick, will do it immediately if you think proper2—several of the English Officers were previous to the manœuvre of the 6th Inst: so far recovered, that I proposed removing them, but it was currently reported & believed that a General Attack was to be made on Brunswick—at this they all Sickened—Lt Donop died & was buried yesterday3—the others tho sensibly better since our return are still confined to their Beds—Capt. Gamble has received your Letter4—I continue my scouts & Guards, as usual except that at the Dutch Church or 6 Mile Run which I have taken off5—I detached 50 good Riflemen the 3rd Inst. to the round abouts, a point of woods on the Rarriton below Brunswick to annoy the Enemies Boats that are passing & repassing with Provisions & Stores—Col. Nielson furnishes a pilot & particular Directions—I have had no report from them—The Hessian Major at Trenton is died & buried agreeable to his last request, in true Hessian taste—Booted & spurred—with Hat, Whip, Sword & Pistols that he may rise accoutred to face the last & worst of Enemies.6 I am with the Utmost Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Hume Servt

Israel Putnam

N.B. Since writing the above, I receivd the enclosed Letter from the officers of the Riflemen at the Round abouts.7

LS, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is mutilated.

1GW’s letter to Putnam has not been found, but for his orders to Putnam to join Generals Sullivan, Warner, and Dickinson on Thursday 6 Feb. 1777 in removing all the cattle, horses, and waggons from the area between the Raritan Bay and Quibbletown, N.J., see GW to John Sullivan, 3 Feb. 1777.

2John Cochran of Portsmouth, N.H., who was captain commandant of Fort William and Mary from 1771 to December 1775 when the fort fell to the Americans, apparently was now serving as a commissary for the British army in New Jersey. The letter from Cochran to his wife Sarah has not been identified, but it may be the same one that Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., mentions in his letter to GW of 10 Mar. 1777. The New Hampshire committee of safety allowed Sarah Cochran to join her husband on Long Island in April 1778 (see Sarah Cochran to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, 23 April 1778, in Hammond, Rolls of Soldiers description begins Isaac W. Hammond, ed. Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, 1775, to May 1777. . . [vol. 1]; Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War, May, 1777, to 1780 . . . [vol. 2]; Rolls and Documents relating to Soldiers in the Revolutionary War . . . [vols. 3-4]. New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers, vols. 14–17. Concord and Manchester, N.H., 1885–89. description ends , 4:224–25), and after the war the Cochrans settled in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.

3Lt. Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm von Donop (d. 1777), who was adjutant to Hessian colonel Carl Emil Kurt von Donop, was already sick by the time of the Battle of Princeton (see Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 292).

4GW’s letter to Thomas Gamble has not been found. Gamble wrote GW on 22 Jan. (see GW to Schuyler, 27 January).

5Six Mile Run was a stream that flowed into the Raritan River. A tiny village of the same name was located about four miles from New Brunswick on the post route that ran to Princeton. A Dutch Reformed church was located at the village.

6For the death of Maj. Friedrich Ludwig von Dechow, see GW to Hancock, 12 Jan. 1777, n.1.

7The detachment of riflemen sent to harrass the boats on the Raritan River near New Brunswick were under the command of captains William Macalevy, William Parker, and Samuel Davidson of the Bedford County, Pa., associators. The officers’ report to Putnam of 7 Feb. reads: “Agreeable to your Excelancys order we marchd from prinstown last monday [3 Feb.] & Came to the Roundabouts on Tusday, whare two boats waited for the tide, but being Discovered by sum from a house on the shore we douted if They would venture past the hights whare wee ware veary advantageously placed The next morning, and as wee waited There motion, one Came Down from Brunswick with about twelve men on The Deck, and wee gave Them a how Do you do with about twinty-five rifles and Two muskets, But we Could not say we kild more Then Three That was seen Lay on The Deck and one of our Light horsmen saw a mans hat on The water, and The Rest of Them went so fast Down under Deck That wee Could not see Them any more” (DLC:GW).

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