George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 30 September 1778

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters Fredericksburgh Sepr 30th 1778


I have received advice, that a considerable body of the enemy, in addition to those already in the Jerseys, had crossed the North River on the morning of the 28th and landed at a place about two miles from Orange Town. There are rumours, that they were marching towards Kakeate and had detached a party to take possession of the Clove;1 but these want confirmation. They have surprised and cut off Col. Baylor, with the principal part of his regiment. I have not yet received an account sufficiently distinct, of this affair; but it appears to have been attended with every circumstance of barbarity. Most of his men, it seems, were killed unresisting and begging for quarter. Colonel Baylor himself and Major Clough were left wounded at Orange Town, on parole.2

I still continue to think as I did at first of the enemy’s intention; yet as appearances grow more serious, it is necessary our dispositions should be adapted to them, so far as not to lose sight of other essential objects. With this view, I have ordered General Woodford’s brigade into the Jerseys, with which Maxwell’s brigade, Pulaski’s corps and the militia are to be united under the command of Major General Lord Stirling, whose knowlege of the country will be of importance in this service. My instructions to him convey this general idea, that he is to take such positions as will be best calculated to cover the country and at the same time, secure a communication with the Forts and with the main body of the army. General Putnam with his two remaining brigades is thrown across the river to West Point, for its immediate defence. Baron De Kalbs division is advanced to Fish Kill-town.3 Two brigades from the second line will march this morning to take his place; and I am now to desire, that you will direct General McDougall, with his division to march immediately hither.4

I shall myself, presently set off to Fish-Kill-town, where I shall remain ’till the present appearances have come to an issue—Your dispatches will find me there.5 I am Sir Your most Obedient servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to John Jay, 14 April 1779, owned (2006) by Mr. Joseph Rubinfine, West Palm Beach, Fla.; copy, NHi: McDougall Papers; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW is referring to the foraging expedition commanded by Lieutenant General Corwallis that landed in New Jersey on 22 Sept., and the detachment commanded by Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell that had crossed the Hudson River from the Philipse house on the night of 27 Sept. to participate in an intended attack on Tappan, N.Y. (see Israel Putnam’s and Charles Stewart’s letters to GW of 28 Sept., and the notes to those documents). For the unconfirmed intelligence reports about a possible British threat to strategically important Smith’s Clove, see Israel Putnam to GW, 29 Sept., and note 2 to that document, and William Woodford to GW, 29 September.

2For the British attack on Col. George Baylor’s 3d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment on 28 Sept. near Old Tappan, N.J., see Israel Putnam to GW, 28 Sept., and notes 1 and 2 to that document.

3For these orders, see GW to Johann Kalb, 27 Sept.; GW to William Maxwell, 27 Sept.; GW to Israel Putnam, 27, 29 Sept.; GW to Casimir Pulaski, 29 Sept.; and GW’s letter and instructions to Stirling, both 28 September.

4Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall docketed the copy of this letter in the McDougall Papers: “Copy of Letter to Genl Gates from the Commander in chief 30th Sepr 1778 on which I marched from Danbury.”

5Pvt. Elijah Fisher of GW’s guard says in his diary entry for this date: “His Exelency with his addecamps went to Fishkills” (Godfrey, Commander-in-Chief’s Guard description begins Carlos E. Godfrey. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard: Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C., 1904. description ends , 282). GW lodged near Fishkill, apparently at Derick Brinkerhoff’s house, until 8 Oct., when he returned to John Kane’s house near Fredericksburg (see GW to Horatio Gates, 1 Oct., and note 1 to that document, and GW to Charles Scott, 8 Oct.). GW’s guard apparently did not accompany him on this trip. The general orders continued to be issued at Fredericksburg while GW was at Fishkill, and his papers apparently remained at Kane’s house, making it necessary for his secretary, Robert Hanson Harrison, to return there by 4 Oct. to conduct some of the headquarters business (see Harrison to Alexander McDougall, 4 Oct., in GW to the President of the Maryland Senate and the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, 5 Oct., source note).

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