From Brigadier General William Maxwell
Elizth Town [N.J.] 14th Septr 1778 Evening
I believe I can inform you Excellency that Lord How is returned to New york with the whole or greatest part of his Fleet. This I had last night from N.Y. and to day confirmed by Major Howel so far that 29 Sail went in.1 The Brest Fleet is much talked of but no one knows where it is. It is said that with Genl Clinton came Lord Cornwalles & Sir Wm Arskin but that the Troops they took with them was left at Rhode Island or Connanicut with General Grant My Informant says there was a Council of General Officers held in New York yesterday it was thought on Bussiness of the utmost importance to them selves, supposed about their sittuation a Packet is expected in hourly when it is thought they will declare their Intensions, to move off. Three Regts was to leave Statten Island to day or to Morrow whether to embarque or go to New York not known. Viz. the 10th 27th & 55th Regts. Any of the Transports that wanted repair was geting it This is all I can gather at present2 and Am Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant
ALS, DLC:GW. Maxwell wrote and signed a note on the cover, which reads, “To be forwd by Express.”
1. British naval captain Henry Duncan, with Howe’s fleet, recorded that they returned to New York “the afternoon of the 11th September” (“Journals of Henry Duncan,” description begins John Knox Laughton, ed. “Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy, 1776–1782.” The Naval Miscellany 1 (London, 1902): 105–219. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 20. description ends 164). When GW received this letter on the morning of 17 Sept., his secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Maxwell to request clarification of “Whether the 29 Sail … were Ships of War & of what size” (DLC:GW).
2. Col. Matthias Ogden wrote and signed a note on the back of this letter, stating that “General Maxwell’s acct is agreeable to mine except that of Genl Clintons troops having remained at, or in the vicinity of Rhode Island, the greatest part have certainly returned.
“The account of Byrons death is contradicted—It is reported that Lord Howe is going home.”