George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 9 October 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

Danbury [Conn.] 9th October 1778.


At five yesterday evening, I had the honour to receive Your Excellency’s Letter of the 7th: Inclosed is the proceedings of a General Court Martial held upon two Men, suspected to be Spies; they are sent to Your Excellency under the care of Brigade Major Marshall, who has a quantity of Counterfeit Money to deliver to Your Excellency, that was found upon the delinquents. The Prisoner, Farnsworth, is recommended by the Court Martial, as he seems the most penitent, and best inclined to make discoveries, both in regard to the Makers, and Dispersers, of Counterfeit Money; and of the State, Condition, and intended movements of The Enemy.1

I also inclose Your Excellency a Letter I this moment received from Genl Scott, in which is a Letter to me from the Earl of Balcarras, and one for Colonel Magaw.2 Your Excellency will also find in the packet, the Examination of Samuel Goldsmith, of Marblehead, who lately escaped from the Enemy; if his account of the Sickness raging in Admiral Byron’s Fleet, is true, I cannot think them in Condition for much Enterprize; nor will the Enemy be able to evacuate New York this Fall, unless they leave their Sick to the care of The United States.3 A counterfeit Bill, of each denomination, is sent to the Legislatures of the Four Eastern States; if Your Excellency thinks proper to forward the rest to Treasurer Hilligas, he may be directed to do the same to all the other States.4 I am Sir Your Excellencys most Obedt Servt

Horatio Gates

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NHi: Gates Papers.

1The enclosed copy of the proceedings of David Farnsworth’s and John Blair’s court-martial at Danbury on 8 Oct. has not been identified. Convicted of spying and possessing a large sum of counterfeit money, Farnsworth and Blair had been sentenced to death, and GW subsequently declined to spare either man (see GW to Gates, 10 Oct., and General Orders, 23 Oct.). Both men were executed on Rocky Hill at Hartford on 3 Nov. (Connecticut Courant, and the Weekly Intelligencer [Hartford], 10 Nov. 1778).

Gates enclosed an undated examination of Farnsworth, which reads: “Farnsworth Says Cummings told him that the British Fleet was designed for Boston, and that twelve Pilots went on Board the Admirals Ship the Day before they left New York and that they were to Sail very soon, that it was his viz. Cummins’s Opinion the Army would follow them imediately, and leave New York without a Garrison, that no Soldiers had imbarked (as he understood) when he came away, that the Day he came from New York, the Troops from Long Island were crossing over to the City—that Holland Cumins &C. told them they were going imediately to Rhodes Island, and urged them to stay and go with them, that Starks Corps (and several others as he understood) were drafted into the Regular Regiments. that the Body of the British Army was on the Jersey shore as he was informed” (DLC:GW). Cummings may be Thomas Cummings, a Loyalist from New Hampshire, and Holland may be John Holland, another New Hampshire Loyalist. Maj. William Stark, the Loyalist brother of Brig. Gen. John Stark, had partially raised a corps of New Hampshire volunteers, which eventually was drafted into one or more other Loyalist corps.

2The enclosed letter that Brig. Gen. Charles Scott wrote to Gates on 8 Oct. from a position near Bedford, N.Y., reads: “Inclosd You will Receive a letter for Your Self and another for Colo. McGaw, they Came to my hand by a Flag from York the Day before Yesterday. the enemy being out Yesterday Prevented my Forwarding them untill this morning. From every Acct that I have Been able to git, from Deserters (which are very numerous) and other wais, they all agree that Ten thousand are to imbark as Soon as possable For the West indies. the two partyes that was Out Yesterday was up one of them to Claps Tavern and the other a little above the [White] Plains. they Burnt Claps Store and a number of houses on the Roads as they Returnd. they took from Claps one of my Horse Patrolls of an officer and ten men. the officer and two men Since made their Escape” (DLC:GW). For more detailed accounts of this engagement, which occurred on 8 Oct., see Scott to GW, 7 Oct., and note 1 to that document.

The letters that Alexander Lindsay, 6th earl of Balcarres (1752–1825), wrote to Gates and Col. Robert Magaw on 30 Sept. concerning his parole as a prisoner of war were forwarded by Gates to Congress on the advice of GW (see GW to Gates, 10 Oct.). They are in DNA:PCC, item 154. Balcarres, who had been appointed major of the 53d Regiment of Foot in 1775, had commanded a light infantry battalion on the Burgoyne campaign and had been captured when Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga in October 1777. Subsequently promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 24th Regiment, Balcarres had recently been paroled to New York City in exchange for Colonel Magaw’s being paroled to the American lines, and he was now seeking permission to go to England on parole. For Congress’s refusal of his request, see Henry Laurens to GW, 30 Oct., and note 3 to that document; see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 12:1033. Balcarres returned to England only after he was exchanged in 1779. He was promoted to colonel in 1782 and ultimately attained the rank of general in 1803. He served as governor of Jamaica from 1795 to 1801.

3The enclosed examination of Samuel Goldsmith at Danbury on 6 Oct. reads: “Samuel Goldsmith, of Marblehead, was taken on Board the Union, Mast Ship, by Capt. Scott, of the Lapwing, Privateer, and carried to Falmouth [England], thence to plimouth [England], and afterwards, draughted from a Guard Ship, to serve as a Sailor, on board the Monmouth, with the Fleet under Admiral Byron, which sailed the 9th of June, and brought him to New York, the last of August. With about 140 Sick Men from other Ships, he was landed on Staten Island, three Weeks ago; and the 29th Ulto, escaped from the Island, to Berghen point; and went to Brig. Genl Winds’ Quarters, from whom he obtained a Pass, which he left with another Man, who escaped with him, and on Account of Sickness staid at Pumpkton [Pompton].

“To the best of his knowledge, 2000 Men of Admiral Byron’s Squadron have been Landed on Staten Island, being Afflicted with the Scurvy, the Flux, or other Diseases, which rage on board that Fleet. About 450 of them came from the Conqueror, a 74—They die very fast—Seventy, out of the Monmouth, died at Sea, & 80 on Staten Island.

“There are about 1500 Regulars on the Island—the 48th—55th—a Hessian Regiment, and, he believes, part of the 4th—Provissions were very Scarce on board the Monmouth: She was watered, but had not been wooded. The Fleet is Stationed near the Island.

“Admiral Byron’s Ship [the Princess Royal], a Three Decker, is supposed to have gone to Halifax, there being no Sufficient Depth of Water for her, within the Hook.

“Goldsmith does not know, who Commands the Fleet in the Harbour of New York” (DLC:GW).

4Michael Hillegas (1729–1804), a Philadelphia merchant who had served in the Pennsylvania assembly 1765–76, was appointed by Congress in July 1775 as one of the two joint Continental treasurers, and when the other treasurer resigned in August 1776, Hillegas became the sole Continental treasurer, a position in which he served until September 1789.

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