George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Adam Stephen, 14 May 1777

From Major General Adam Stephen

Chatham [N.J.] 14th May 1777


I recd the honour of your Letter last night1—Your Excellency has not Seen an Officer that was in the Action Saturday Night—They were of the party; but to their Staying at Such a distance from the Sceene of Action The Surviving Highlanders owe their Existence.2

I took delight in mentioning the Troops to your Excellency who distinguishd themselves—The Reverse gives me pain; hoping that time, Attention, & habit, will improve us—Whether owing to the order in the field, or to What, I am uncertain—but one half of the troops were not Engaged—& Never had the ground—gaind from the Enemy.

Time will discover the Loss of the Enemy—a more Accurate Acct than I had, is Seldom Obtaind.

The troops who Stayd a Quarter or near half a mile in the rear must needs have run damnd hard to retreat the way the troops engagd did—But the fighting troops Were killd a Considerable time on a Rising ground untill they Had an Opportunity of Coming off.

I can Assure your Excellency, from Intelligence that has never faild or disappointed me; that the Boats for the Bridge, are taken out of the Waggons, & put in the Water—The Expression of a Certain Officer of great Rank is “Sir Wm Howe has been pleasd to lay aside the Expedition agt philadelphia at present; that Troops were daily expected on, to fill all the Regiments, & 6,000 of a Reinforcement—Then they Should Work us.”

They do intend an Attack on Bound Brook—they have had Spies out, Observing their Cannon, Encampmt and the first thing they do, is to take possession of the M⟨oun⟩tain—with a Body of troops in one of these Moon Shine Nig⟨hts.⟩ They have procurd good Guides for the purpose.

Genl Lord Cornwallis, the Genls Grant, Mathews, & Lesly, Sir William Colier, & Sr George Osburn, were Reconnoit⟨ring⟩ the ground about Dickes farm on Munday.3

They have pulld down the fences, & thrown Cut tr⟨ees⟩ into the hollows for ¾ of a Mile round.

They talk of bringing their troops into more Comp⟨lete⟩ Order; that they may be more Capable of acting either on the defensive or Offensive—for that purpose the destroying Rariton Bridge is in Agitation—& forming a Bridge of Boats at Brunswick.

The above Intelligence I esteem Certain & of the Utmost importance. I am with great Respect sr your most Obt hub. Ser.

Adam Stephen

P.S. I beg your Excellency will not countenance the Stay of Officers at Morristown, whose Regmts are in the Lines; nor permit Officers to go home ⟨illegible⟩ ordering them of My decision to Acquaint me. Col. hazen had orders to move near to Bonum Town Sunday4illegible⟩ sent me Word that he was just Setting off for Virginia.


2For accounts of the engagement near Bonhamtown and Piscataway on 10 May, see Stephen to GW, 12 May, and note 3.

3The previous Monday was 12 May. Edward Mathew (1729–1805), who in 1761 had become a captain in the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards with rank as a lieutenant colonel and had been promoted to colonel in March 1775, commanded the brigade of foot guards in America from 1776 to 1778 with local rank as a brigadier general. Given local rank as a major general in February 1779, Mathew in May 1779 led an expeditionary force that destroyed a large supply depot at Suffolk, Virginia. In 1781 Mathew was named British commander in chief in the West Indies with local rank as a lieutenant general, and from 1784 to 1785 he was governor of Granada. He received permanent rank as lieutenant general in 1787. George Osborn (1742–1818), fourth baronet of Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire, who had entered the British army in 1759 and had become in 1765 a captain in the 3d Regiment of Foot Guards with rank as a lieutenant colonel, was appointed in February 1776 commissary of musters for the German troops in America. A member of Parliament from 1768 to 1784, Osborn quit his office in December 1777 and returned to England. He was promoted to colonel in 1777, major general in 1779, lieutenant general in 1787, and general in 1797. Sir William Collier has not been identified. Sir George Collier (1738–1795) was the senior British naval officer at Halifax at this time.

4The previous Sunday was 11 May.

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