George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 21–22 March 1778

From William Livingston

Trenton 21[–22] March 1778

Dear Sir

I am just now honoured with your favour of the nineteenth—As it is impossible to guess to what particular part of the State the Enemy’s detachment you mention will direct their operations, and as the tract of Country in which we carry on the manufactury of Salt (if that be their object) is very extensive, it is exceedingly difficult to issue any orders to the Militia upon the Occasion. I have therefore only sent the Intelligence to the Coast to spread the Alarm, and put people on their guard as generally as the time will permit.

Not knowing whether Collo. Blaine is at C⟨am⟩p or not, or where to direct to him, I take the Liberty ⟨to⟩ inclose his Letter to your Excellency, which is upon a Subject of considerable importance to the public, I mean the pointing out to him to procure Affidavits of such facts relative to Mr Leaming’s demand for a quantity of salt taken from him by Commissary Hugg (his complaint having been referred by the Treasury Board to the Governor and executive Council of this State) which I apprehend will greatly conduce to retrench Mr Leaming’s demand, which I confess appears to me at present very exorbitant.1

Accidentally hearing that the woman; whose deposition I inclose you, was in this neighbourhood, and could give a particular account of the treatment of our Prisoners in Philadelphia, I thought it my duty to send for her & furnish your Excellency with her affidavit, thinking it might be of use upon some occasion or other—As her husband is now a Prisoner in New york, she beggd me that her name should not be published at length, which I was obliged to promise her before she consented [to] be sworn.2

22d March Dear Sir Since writing the above, I received by express a Letter of which I inclose you a Copy3—I had yesterday ordered two Classes of the four Battalions of Hunterdon, & of Collo. Wests Battalion of Sussex, and Capt. Clun’s artillery company to reinforce Collo. Ellis, & directed him to call out two classes of the Burlington, Gloucester Salem & Cumberland Militia—But considering how slowly the Militia generally collect, I fear they will not be able to give any seasonable Relief; & both Salem & Gloucester are miserably infected with Tories.4 I entirely submit the matter to your better Judgment what assistance you are able to afford us in addition to Collo. Shreve’s Regiment, for which you have my hearty acknowledgments—I have the honour to be with the greatest Esteem Your Excellencys most humble Servt

Wil: Livingston


1Livingston enclosed his letter to Ephraim Blaine, asking for affidavits in the case of Thomas Leaming, Jr., of Cape May, N.J. (see John Chaloner to Livingston, 4 April, Ephraim Blaine Papers, DLC: Peter Force Collection). A memorial from Leaming had been read before Congress on 6 Mar. and referred to the Board of Treasury. The board reported on 7 Mar., recommending that “the governor and supreme executive council of the State of New Jersey . . . be requested to ascertain the quantity of salt taken by the assistant commissary of the United States, or lost in consequence of the seizure, and the sum that ought to be allowed for the same; and that Ephraim Blaine, Esq. deputy commissary general of purchases, be directed to pay Mr. Leaming the amount of the said salt, upon his producing a certificate from the governor and council aforesaid, specifying the sum to be paid” (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 , 10:227, 232). The New Jersey council of safety read the memorial on 20 Mar. but “thought proper to defer the hearing till depositions were taken” (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 , 216). Leaming’s memorial has not been identified, and the final disposition of the claim has not been determined. Thomas Leaming, Jr. (1748–1797), a lawyer, attended the New Jersey Provincial Congress in 1775 and 1776, but later in 1776 he moved to Philadelphia and joined the Philadelphia Light Horse, which served with the Continental army until late January 1777. During the war Leaming engaged in mercantile pursuits, especially the importation of salt at both Cape May and Philadelphia, and privateering. In 1789 he solicited a position with the federal courts, but he was not appointed (see Leaming to GW, 11 Aug. 1789).

2The enclosed deposition of Elizabeth Chatham has not been identified. She may have been the wife of John Chatham, a lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Gloucester County militia.

3The enclosed letter from Cumberland and Salem County militia colonels Elijah Hand and Benjamin Holme to Livingston, written from “Glass Works Salem County” and dated 21 Mar., reads: “These with our Respects & would earnestly inform & recommend to your Excellency’s Notice the suffering State of our Counties, [(]viz.) on Tuesday last a large number of the Enemy landed at Salem Town as near as we can learn about or between two or three thousand & are advancing into the Country & plundering very fast, we have had two or three Skirmishes with them & have lost on our Side as near as we can yet learn it yet, about twelve killed & near forty taken Prisoners, the loss on the Enemys Side we cannot as yet possitively learn, however we are well assured we have killed some of them: We have made our stand on Allaways Creek the lower Side at Hancocks, Quintans or Thomson’s Bridges, but last night the Enemy landed out of their Boats below all the aforesaid Bridges & surrounded our Guard at Hancocks Bridge & took & killed almost all of them which is a part of the aforesaid loss. and we fear they will advance over all these lower Counties (as we find our Numbers at present are not large enough to make a proper stand against them) except you Sir by some means can hold us to some relief which we desire you to do, either by sending down some Militia or if that cannot well be done we desire you to inform General Washington of our Necessity of some of the continental forces to assist us at this Time & desire you Sir to use your influence with him to send some forces to our relief—We are under a disadvantage at present for want of feild Pieces & should be glad if we could be furnished with four or five of them by some means as soon as possible” (DLC:GW).

4Jacob West of Greenwich, N.J., became a lieutenant colonel of the 1st Regiment of Sussex County militia in September 1776 and was promoted to colonel of that regiment in June 1777. Joseph Clunn (1735–1816) of Trenton became an ensign in the 1st Regiment of Hunterdon County militia in June 1776, was promoted to lieutenant in May 1777, and became a captain in 1778. On 23 Mar., Col. Joseph Ellis advised Livingston that it was “not safe for Capt. Cluns Artillery” to come to Haddonfield “’till we are reinforced by some Infantry to support them” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 2:270).

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