George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 8 April 1777

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

New London [Conn.] 8th [April] 17771

Dear Sir

Since mine of the 21st of March I have receivd your Excellency’s Letters of the 6th 12th 20th & 29th of March that of the 6th came to Hand not till the 28th; by the Length of Time between the Date & my receiving it; The Seal not being such as I had ever before seen from Head Quarters; The Direction on the Cover very different from the handwriting of the Letter writer, and the omission of the Usual Note on Public Service, which I have not found to be omitted in any other Instance, with several other Circumstances gave me a Suspicion the Letter had been opend and detaind & a new Cover put to it.2

Immediately on receiving your Letter of the 12th of March (which was not until the 23d) I dispatchd the inclosd Letters to the several Colonels, the Returns I have recd are inclosd & annexd;3 Colos. Charles Webb, Chandler & Swift have made no Returns: Colo. Swift has wrote me he has not been able to collect exact Returns from his Officers who are dispersd at great Distances from One another but has sent his estimated Numbers by his best Information, I have sent for exact Returns which I beleive I shall soon receive; I have never heard from the other Two Colonels though I have repeatedly sent to them.

I have paid the Utmost Attention to forwarding the Troops who have inlisted & to promote the Inlistment of others; but such is the amazing Lethargy of the Country that, little Short of the Sound of the last Trumpet, will rouse them to realize their Danger & awake to their Duty.

I have wrote to Col. Charles Webb about the Arms he had your Excellency’s Order to receive but have no Answer.

There is too much Reason to beleive that Idleness in some & Dissipation in other recruiting Officers prevails too much for the Public Weal, but I hope this does not prevail very generally, I shall attend closely to the Conduct of the Officers in that Business.

By the 8th Article of the 14th Section of the martial Laws, no Sentence of a general Court Martial can be executed until the Pleasure of the Commander in Chief or of the Congress is known; As I am not authorisd by your Excellency to approve or disapprove those Sentences I am obliged to trouble your [excellency] With the inclosd Judgment4—I have orderd the Prisoner forward with the Detachment which marches to Morrow.

I hope to send on about 600 Men next Week & as many more about the 20th—I am certain no Man could have taken more Pains to have forwarded the Troops than I have, I wish, with my Soul, it had been Attended with a Success reasonably expected by your Excellency; I shall continue to exert myself to furnish the Men at this Time so much needed—if a few Companies of Volunteers for 6 or 8 Weeks would be of any Service, I think it probable some such might be ingaged who would not inlist into the Army; perhaps a very considerable Number might be had if a decisive Action was expected.

In the Present Emergency would it be expedient to inlist any in the Army to serve to the first of Jany only? I think a considerable Number may be had soon if inlisted only for that Term of Time, but for this there is at present no Order.

The Young Gentleman who brought me the Answers to the inclosd Questions came from New York the Week before last.5 I am yr Excellency’s Obedt hl. Servt

Saml H. Parsons

P.S. I have receivd a Return of the Number inlisted in Col. Angell’s Regt raisd in Rhode Island which is added to the Account of our own Recruits.6


1Parsons wrote “8th March 1777” on the manuscript.

2Neither the LS nor its cover has been found.

3The enclosed letters have not been identified. The enclosed return of noncommissioned officers and soldiers enlisted by the end of March is in DLC:GW. It reads:

Col. C. Webb no Return
Huntington 280
Wyllys 193
Durkee 163
Bradly 320
Douglass 276
Swift Supposd 150
Chandler no Return
Colo. Saml. Webb 134
Lt Col. Meigs 3 Compy 70
Col. Angell of Rhode Island 240

4Parsons enclosed the proceedings of the court-martial that met at Windham, Conn., from 31 Mar. to 1 April to try “William Placey a Molatto Fellow accused of Inlisting twice into the Continental Service, vizt; once with Capt. Elderkin, and once with Lieut. Waterman.” Placey “pleaded Guilty: and moved for favour in Punishment, by Reason that he was Ignorant of the Continental Article, prohibiting his Offence, that he is unskilld in Reading, and never heard those Articles read &c.” The court sentenced Placey to “be whippd fifty Stripes upon the naked Body with a Cat and nine Tails, and be returned to his Duty in Capt. Elderkin’s Company, with whom he first Inlisted and that the Extraordinary Expence of notifying the Members of the Court be deducted from his first Pay” (DLC:GW). Vine Elderkin was a captain in the 7th Connecticut Regiment, and John Waterman was a first lieutenant in the 4th Connecticut Regiment.

5The enclosed undated intelligence report from this unidentified person reads:

“1. What are the Enemy’s Numbers on Long Island & where are they posted. A. Their Numbers are about 1150[.] at Huntington are Stationd 250 the same Number at Flushing 200 at Jamaica about 200 at Brookline Wallebat [Wallabout Bay] & New Town, 150 at Flatbush the rest at the East End of the Island.

“2. What Public Stores have they on Long Island & how are they Guarded. A. There are Public Stores at Flushing and Huntington but no Particular Guards are set to secure them.

“3. Where are our Prisoners. A. our Prisoners are at Flatbush under a Guard of 150 Men the Particular House where they are Quarterd or the Guard is kept I cannot learn & I could not go to see lest I should be discoverd.

“4. Are any of the Forts on Long Island kept Up & what Artillery have they on any Part of the Island. A. None of the Forts have any Garrison and I cannot learn there is any Artillery on the Island.

“5. What Forts are kept up in New York and where do the Enemy keep their Artillery. A. I cannot learn they have any Guard except at Bayard’s Hill Fort; their Artillery is chiefly at the Grand Battery & Bridewell.

“6. What Number of Troops are in New York or on York Island. A. In the City are the 4th 15th 26th & 45th Regiments making about 1200 Men and about 800 Hessians, between the City & Fort Washington the 23d Regt about 200 and at the Fort 400 Hessians.

“7th. Where is General Lee kept in the City & under What Guard. A. Genl Lee is at the Old City Hall under the Care of the main Guard.

“8. How many Ships of War are in New York. A. There are 8 Ships of War at New York Viz. the Eagle lying against the Fly Market, The Jersey against the Ship Yard, The Phœnix and Roebuck under Long Island Shore, the Brune & Greyhound abreast of the Town, the Merlin & Unicorn in the North River” (DLC:GW).

6Israel Angell (1740–1832), a cooper from Providence, served as major of Col. Daniel Hitchcock’s 2d Rhode Island Regiment during 1775 and Hitchcock’s 11th Continental Regiment during 1776. Promoted to lieutenant colonel of Hitchcock’s new 2d Rhode Island Regiment effective 1 Jan. 1777, Angell became colonel of that regiment after Hitchcock’s death on 13 January. Angell and his regiment participated in several engagements, and they particularly distinguished themselves in the fighting at Fort Mercer, N.J., in October 1777 and Springfield, N.J., in June 1780. When the two Rhode Island regiments were consolidated after the 1780 campaign, Angell returned to civilian life in Johnston, R.I., resuming his trade as a cooper and later becoming an innkeeper.

Index Entries