George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 18 February 1777

From Major General Israel Putnam

Princeton 18th Feby 1777

Dear Sir

I have the Pleasure to inform you that Major Dick Stockton (of infamous Memory) and his Detachment at Lawrences Island (3½ Miles below Brunswick) are taken—The 50 Men of Bedford Militia who went from here on Sunday were joined by 150 Jersey Militia at Cramberry and the whole commanded by Colo. Nielson—The Affair does real Honour to both Officers and Men, and was conducted with that Secrecy and Dispatch which generally commands Success on these Occasions—The Attack was made this Morning at Daybreak—most of the Enemy were in Bed—a small Resistance was made, one Man of the Jersey Militia was killed—The Enemy had 4 killed and one wounded—supposed mortally—1 Major 1 Capt. and 59 Men including Officers are Prisoners. A Capt. with 5 or 6 Men secreted themselves in a Cellar and were left—The Enemy had another Guard of 60 within ½ Mile of this but the Communication was cut off by taking up the Bridge.1

The Order of Attack I thought proper to enclose you.2 The Deserter mentioned as Pilot to the Rifle Party was in one of the Pensa Regts taken at Fort Washington and inlisted, with a View to make his Escape. Colo. Nielson speaks of him as particularly deserving of Notice—he offered himself for an Expedition of this Nature immediately upon his Escape, gave a very intelligent Account of the Numbers and Disposition of the Enemy and discharged the Trust reposed in him with uncommon Intrepidity.

Thomas Lewis Woodward made Application to me this Day for Leave to pass to the Enemy—from his Papers which I inclose you and his own Account, I thought him a very proper Object for the Gallows, but defer the Matter till I know your Pleasure—he left Staten Island about 3 Weeks past3—I have now Six other Persons in the Guard upon the same Errand—four of them were taken up within 5 Miles of Brunswick, on their Way thither without a Pass—I should be glad to be particularly directed what Property may be taken with them, your first Letter orders that “no Property be carried with them” your last that “they pass with their Furniture.[”] I have the Honour to be Your Excellys most Obt Servt

Israel Putnam

The Prisoners have this Minute all arrived with 63 excellent Muskets and other Articles agreeable to the inclosed Invoice.4


P.S. I have direct Intelligence from Amboy that nine Transports have arrived there, the Men from but one of them had landed—a Deserter from the Marines at Brunswick has just come in and gives Acct of 17 Regts there including Eng. and Hessian—It is rumoured among the Soldiery that an Attack is intended upon Morris—next Week—have plenty of Salt Provision—Horses very poor and die fast—are two Small Pox Hospitals.



1Richard Witham Stockton (“Double Dick”; d. 1801) of Princeton, N.J., joined Brig. Gen. Cortlandt Skinner’s Loyalist corps of New Jersey Volunteers in August 1776 and was promoted to major of the corps’s 6th Regiment the following December. Stockton and his detachment were captured at Lawrence’s Island in the Raritan River near Piscataway, N.J., during an early morning surprise raid on their quarters, led by Col. John Neilson of the 2d Regiment of Middlesex County militia. Putnam placed Stockton and the other prisoners under a “strong guard” and sent them to Philadelphia, where they were confined in the New Jail (Pennsylvania Packet [Philadelphia], 25 Feb. 1777, and GW to Gates, 10 Mar. 1777). Stockton was later sent to Carlisle, Pa. (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 , 9:840), and after the war he settled in New Brunswick, Canada.

2This enclosure has not been identified.

3The enclosed papers have not been identified. Thomas Lewis Woodward was the son of Anthony Woodward, Sr., a Quaker from Upper Freehold, Monmouth County, N.J., who in 1776 abandoned his large landholdings to join the British army. On 23 April 1777 the Woodwards and several others were accused by Thomas Forman, a justice of the peace in Upper Freehold, of conspiring to “procure Aid & Assistance from the British Army, for the Purpose of going to Freehold, and attacking the Militia, who were embodied at that Place” (Deposition of Thomas Forman, that date, Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 1:310–11; see also N.J. Council of Safety Minutes description begins Minutes of the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey. Jersey City, 1872. description ends , 1:32). The younger Woodward denied the charges against him during an interrogation by the New Jersey council of safety on 21 May 1777, but on 6 June 1777 the council ordered the sheriff of Gloucester County to arrest Woodward on charges of “maliciously & advisedly spreading such false Rumours concerning the American Forces, and the Forces of the Enemy as tend to alienate the Affections of the people from the Government . . . and to dispose them to favour the Pretensions of the Enemies of the State” (MHi: Livingston Papers, and N.J. Council of Safety Minutes description begins Minutes of the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey. Jersey City, 1872. description ends , 1:50–51, 60).

4The enclosed invoice has not been located.

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