George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Jabez Huntington, 4 September 1778

From Major General Jabez Huntington

New London [Conn.] 4th Sepr 1778, 1 OClock P.M.

Honrd Sir

Yesterday 2 O’Clock P.M. this Quarter was Alarmed by the Appearence of a British Fleet from the Eastward which Appeared to be making an Attempt to Gaine this Harbour. the Wind then at North. at 6 O’Clock the whole Fleet Came to Anchor, About a Mild from the Enterence of the Harbour.1

I Arived here Early this Morning & have Reconoiter’d them as near as possible find they Consist of About Fifty Sail Six of which Appear to be Frigats the other Transports Row Gallies &c. they Appear to be full of Troops. I have Ordered the 3d & 5th Brigade of Militia into this Place. they are now Collecting fast.2

the Fleet still Continue the Position in which they Anchor’d Last Evning Notwithstanding the wind is now Favourable for them to proceed Either East or West.3

it Remains Very Uncertain what there Design may be but with the Present Appearences I thought Proper to Acquaint your Excellency. Interem Remaine your Excellency’s Most Obedt & Most Humb. Servant

Jz Huntington


Jabez Huntington (1719–1786), a member of the Connecticut council of safety, was appointed second major general of Connecticut militia in December 1776, became first major general in May 1777, and served until May 1779.

1An account of the movements of British forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles Grey, “Published by Authority” in the Royal Gazette (New York) of 12 Sept., stated that after the American forces retreated from Rhode Island, “Major General Gray turned his thoughts towards New-London, where he hoped to surprize a number of privateers. When he arrived off that harbour, not more than three or four small vessels were discovered in it, the General therefore would not risque the lives of any of the brave felows under his command for so inadequate an object. Having anchored there for some hours in order to draw the attention of the Rebels to that point, he again set sail” and destroyed stores at the towns of Bedford and Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The account of this alarm in the Connecticut Gazette; and the Universal Intelligencer (New London), 11 Sept., attributed the fleet’s failure to enter the harbor to “the Wind and Tide being against them,” which is in more accord with the account given by British major John André, who wrote in his journal for 3 Sept. that the British intended “to have landed the Troops and proceeded immediately to destroy what shipping or stores to be found; but Captain Fanshaw … asserting that the Troops could not be landed that evening … It therefor became a matter of deliberation whether the Troops should be landed next day, after giving the Enemy so much time to collect force and to remove whatever was valuable; and it was thought more advisable, after having spread an alarm here, to proceed to New Bedford in Buzzard’s Bay” (André, Journal, 87).

2The Connecticut Gazette stated that “Expresses were sent into the neighbouring Towns for Assistance, and by Friday Evening [4 Sept.] about 4000 Troops, well equipt, had arrived in New-London and Groton, and the Roads were crowded with others who continued to march from Towns more remote, till they were countermanded.”

3According to the Connecticut Gazette, the fleet began sailing from its menacing position “between 4 and 5 o’Clock Friday Afternoon.”

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