George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Alexander Clough, 2 June 1778

From Major Alexander Clough

June 2d 1778


The last night I recd a letter from Col. Hamilton informing me that your Exellency was not acquainted with my motives for sending Capt. Mclean the order he inclosed to you,1 for fear my conduct might be thought blameable in that respect, I beg to represent what occationed it, I had been informed by the greatest part of the officers who had been on that duty, that Capt. Mclean and his party plundered with out distinction every one thay met below Germantown, and frequently discharged them afterwards as if thay where not answerable to any one for thayr conduct, I was ⟨led⟩ to think from your Exellencys letter of the 21st,2 that I had the command of both partys, and of consequence in some measure accountable for their behaviour, which I expected would be condem’d where you informd of it that I might be justified when that should be the case I sent him the order mentiond before, and the inclosed to the Captain commanding the party of horse, that you might be a judge of our actions while on this command.3 I am Your Exellencys Most Obt Hbl. Ser.

A. Clough


1None of these letters has been identified.

2This letter has not been found.

3The enclosure has not been identified. John Laurens replied to Clough for GW on 3 June: “I am commanded by His Excellency to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterdays date, and to acquaint you that he is perfectly satisfied with your motives for giving pointed orders relative to persons passing and repassing within the extent of your command—and that the Letter which he directed to be written to you by Colonel Hamilton was only meant to apprise you that as Capt. McLane frequently employs Spies to bring him intelligence, it would be improper for him to subject persons whose safety depends on secrecy to the examination of any but the officer in whom they have a confidence—and who has engaged them to act.

“The light troops employed to cut off the intercourse between the Country and city, have been allowed to seize whatever marketing &c. they found in the hands of persons going into philadelphia or carrying on an illicit commerce—this perhaps has been mistaken by your officers for indiscriminate and arbitrary violence on the part of McLanes men—and I am the rather inclined to think so as he has hitherto conducted himself with great discretion on the lines—where his knowledge of the country and inhabitants makes him singularly useful. it is nevertheless right in you if he does any thg contrary to his Excellency’s intentions which will be the case whenever he oppresses innocent persons—or exercises unnecessary severity—to restrain him & represent the matter.

“of the prisoners sent by your order—two are committed to the provost. viz. the Deserter and Cook alias Mills—the others His Excellency thinks proper to dismiss—and as there appear no criminal circumstances against Gabel—he directs that his horses may be restored—as well as Apples” (DLC:GW).

Richard Kidder Meade had sent Clough a short note on 2 June: “I have it in command from his Excellency, to desire that you will immediately send to this place, the Light Horse man now under Guard with you, for Killing Richd Osborne. You will also collect all the witnesses on both sides, & send them with him” (DLC:GW).

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