George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 29–30 June 1777

To John Hancock

Head Qrs Middle Brook June 29[–30] 1777
9 OClock. P.M.


I have not been able to ascertain yet with any degree of precision, the loss sustained by the Enemy in the Several Skirmishes on Thursday, though we have many reasons to beleive it was much more considerable, than what it was apprehended to be, when I had the Honor of addressing you upon the subject. The Inclosed Copy of a Letter from Lord Stirling contains the fullest and most particular information that I have received,1 and the Accounts given by Sundry Inhabitants to persons who have been in the Neighbourhood where the Skirmishes were and where the Enemy were encamped, countenance this Intelligence. As to our loss as reported by the Enemy, I am persuaded it is exaggerated beyond all bounds of truth or probability, being assured by Lord Stirling, that it was trifling, and by such Deserters as have come in, that they saw but very few prisoners taken.2 It would have been certainly known before this—(that is, the Number not yet returned)—had not some of the parties, and I beleive the most which were then out, joined the Corps since detached.

In respect to the Enemy’s designs or intended movements, they are not to be determined. It is certain they got into Amboy Yesterday Evening and from advices this Morning from Officers sent to South Amboy to observe their Motions, there were strong reasons to conclude they were evacuating the Town, as their Horse had gone over to Staten Island and as several Boats were also passing with Baggage and Others with Troops. There were further circumstances favouring this Opinion—such as Apparent breaches in some of their Lines—Yet Genl Sullivan informs me by a Letter just now received,3 that from all the Intelligence he has been able to obtain to day, he does not think, they have any serious intention of quitting It, and that all their movements are a feint, calculated merely to deceive and to cover some plans they have in view. I have Two Brigades—Scotts & Conways—now lying at and near Woodbridge, as Corps of Observation and to act as circumstances may require. Genl Sullivan was down in the same Neighbourhood with his Division, till this Evening when he returned, it appearing to him unnecessary to remain longer, and that the Brigades, I have mentioned, would be sufficient for any Event likely to take place. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

P.S. June 30th From Intelligence received last Night, the Opinion that the Enemy are evacuating Amboy, seems to be more confirmed.

As the Facts in Lord Stirlings Letter are rather taken up on Report, than from any certain knowledge of their having happened, I cannot consider them sufficiently authentic for publication—nor are they transmitted for that purpose—Though I am well persuaded, the Enemy’s loss was much more considerable than it was at first immagined to be. It has been reported to me to day, that the Enemy took Sixty four prisoners in the Whole—Whether they were all of our Army or in part Countrymen, I cannot decide—For having detached at that time a Number of Light parties, and many of them having fallen in with the Corps ordered out since, Returns could not be made with accuracy. The prisoners taken by us were Thirteen—Two of which are Light Dragoons—the rest Infantry. Genls Scott & Conway intended to move towards Amboy this Morning, but it is probable the Rain has prevented them. I am &c.

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. This letter and its enclosure were read by Congress and referred to the committee of intelligence on 1 July (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 , 8:514). Charles Carroll of Carrollton enclosed a copy of this letter when writing to his father, Charles Carroll, Sr., on 30 June (see his two letters, 29–30 and 30 June 1777, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 7:264–65, 272–73).

1This letter has not been found.

2The rumors that resulted from the confusion surrounding the evacuation of Howe’s army from New Jersey apparently served as the basis for the following entries in Ambrose Serle’s journal: “Friday, 27th. The Action in the Jersies continued. An imperfect advice came, that the affair is of great magnitude indeed; and the Rebel army has been in a manner surrounded. All men longing for Particulars. . . . Saturday, 28th. The Action not so considerable, as at first supposed. About 300 Rebels killed & 70 Prisoners” (Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 235).

3Sullivan’s letter has not been found. Hessian captain Johann Ewald gives the following account of the evacuation of Howe’s army from New Jersey: “During the night of the 28th and early morning of the 29th the greater part of the army crossed over Prince’s Bay to Staten Island. The rear guard under Lord Cornwallis, consisting of the jägers, the light infantry, and both Highland regiments, crossed the bay toward evening on the 30th. The entire army took up camp from Billop’s Ferry to Richmond” (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 , 69). For the sequence in which the troops embarked for Staten Island, see Howe’s orders of 28 and 29 June in Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:452–54, and British officer Archibald Robertson’s diary entries for 28, 29, and 30 June, in Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 139–40.

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