George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 7 October 1778

From Major General Stirling

Aquakanock [N.J.] 7th Octobr 1778 Eleven oClo. a.m.

Dear Sir

I have received your Excellency’s letter of the 5th. As to the report “of the Brittish fleet of Men of war having Sailed in quest of the french fleet,”1 I belive there [is] Nothing in it, for I saw a Certain person Yesterday who must have known it, had it been so, and would have Mentioned it; as he was desireous of telling me every Circumstance that has lately happend Among the rest he informed me, that an Expedition has taken place against Egg harbour, Some frigates and Small Armed Vessels with some troops from Staten Island under the Command of Courtland Skinner are Sailed for that place;2 Also that the Ship or frigate on board of which Genl Robertson and others have taken their passage,3 had a Number of Vessels under Convoy but that out Sailing some of them she left them, one of which a large transport is taken, having on board some person of Consequence, which Shagreens them much. the Sailing of these two fleets might have deceived the Sailor’s. and account for the two fleets lately seen on the Coast. however I am much Surprizd at Major Howels Silence. ’tis possible this Egg Harbour Expedition might have engrossed his Attention. A Gentleman I have this Moment seen, assures me that all was queit at Eggharbour on Sunday last.4 Genl Maxwell has sent two Messengers to Major Howell for Intelligence, I have now desired him to send Capt. Forman (who is well acquainted in that Country) to go to Middletown Naversink &c. and get all the Intelligence he can and immediately to return.5

I wrote your Excellency Yesterday that the Enemy Continued forageing about four Miles Easterly from this place all day on the 5th and in the Evening retired to their former Station near the New Bridge. where they have Continued very quiet ever Since. there was some fireing of Cannon—about Eight this morning in New York Bay Near the Narrows the Meaning of it I cannot guess. I take the Oppertunity of Sending this by Col. Craig who is going immediately to head Quarters. and Am your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servt


p.s. Major Washington is arrived with Moylens Regt I shall Keep him in this Quarter & will send all the other little detachments of Horse to Genl Woodford.


1This intelligence report was contained in Horatio Gates’s second letter to GW of 4 October.

2A force of sixteen British ships under Commander Henry Colins of the Royal Navy, carrying about three hundred troops commanded by Capt. Patrick Ferguson of the 70th Regiment of Foot, sailed from New York on 30 Sept., and on 5 Oct. it arrived at Little Egg Harbor, N.J., to stop or at least cripple American privateer operations there. During the next two days, the British burned a village on Chestnut Neck and destroyed eleven ships, three saltworks, and two landings. Delayed by adverse winds from leaving Little Egg Harbor until 22 Oct., Ferguson on 15 Oct. attacked Pulaski’s Legion on Mincock Island (see Stirling to GW, 22 Oct., and note 2 to that document). The British expedition arrived back in New York Harbor on 23 October. For other accounts of this expedition, see William Livingston to Stirling, 11 Oct., in Stirling to GW, 14 Oct., n.2; Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 223; and Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 152–53.

3Maj. Gen. James Robertson deferred going to England (see Henry Clinton to George Germain, 11 Aug. 1778, in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 13:335). He remained in America until 1783.

4The previous Sunday was 4 October.

5Stirling is referring to either Capt. Jonathan Forman of the 4th New Jersey Regiment, which was in Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s brigade, or Capt. Thomas Marsh Forman of Col. David Forman’s Additional Continental Regiment, who became one of Stirling’s aides-de-camp in January 1779. Both men were familiar with Monmouth County, New Jersey.

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