George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 16 October 1778

From Major General Stirling

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] October 16th 1778

Dear Sir

The last letter I wrote your Excellency was from Hackensack the 14th.1 I have since received your letter of the 12th. as soon as I could be sure that the Enemy were evacuating the County of Bergen, I ordered the troops under my Command to Move down this way. I informed you how I intended to Station them, they are I belive all at their posts, and we have some Militia at detached posts, which I Chuse to keep up, in order to keep the Brigades more Compact.

Every thing is in Motion with the Enemy at New York and Staten Island, the Cause of it we must Guess from Circumstances. the enclosed Letter A will inform your Excellency of many Circumstances up to the 12th.2 the other B brings Howels Journal down to the Same day.3 I have this day seen a Capt. Clun an exchanged prisoner (who Came from N.y. yesterday), an Intelligent and Observant Capt. of a Ship out of a Southern port,4 he has lately been much at liberty and with oppertunity of makeing usefull Observations, and Says that there are about 250 Sail of Transports prepared for the reception of Troops, over & above Ordinance Ships, Store or Victualling Ships, that the Embarkation has in part taken place and going on as fast as Circumstances will admit, that Yesterday he saw the highlanders Embark in the East River as they arrived in flat bottomed boats from powles Hook, in other parts of the Bay & River the same work was going on. the day before yesterday he saw a Number of Troops Marching in towards the Town from Kingsbridge, that the Invalids of all the foreign & Brittish Regts are embarked; that all the heavy Iron Cannon on the Battery have been Unspiked and are Embarked, that 50 days provision is embarked in the transports, one tun & a half allowed per man in them; they Complain of this being too Crowding. the Opinions in town, Various, of their destination; some say Boston others to the British West Indies, others an Expedition to South Carolina, or St Lezie.5 the Leviathan an old 74. Venus, LeBrune and another frigate to Convoy the Ships for Europe & Hallifax.6 that 16 Sail of the Line, to wit 1 of 84. 9 of 74. & 6 of 64 are to go on the Grand Expedition. that it is his own opinion that the Iron Cannon are going to Bermuda, providince & such other Islands as want them; that a General Evacuation of New york will take place; that they will all Sail together, that the Tories and some troops are going to Hallifax, Invalids & others to England, the remainder to their own West Indies while the Grand fleet of Capital Ships after seeing them off the Land will look at the Count de Estainge to prevent his Medling with any of them. he says he thinks they Can not be Setled on board their transports, and ready for Sea in less than five or Six day more; the Sale of goods is hurried at very low prices for the hard Cash, and the Tories much in the dumps. this Intelligence is so very Clearly told and Coroborated by the language of several others Come out, that I am induced to give great Credit to Capt. Clun’s Intelligence. However I shall watch their Motions by every Means in My power; An Officer with a party of Light Horse will every day be at Amboy to give me the Earliest Intelligence of the Sailing of any Number Ships, they can from thence see every great movement, and I shall have Intelligence of it much sooner than from Major Howel; on any such Event takeing place I will be there myself and your Excellency shall have the Earliest Intelligence of it, and I hope in time for Count de Estainge to fall in with some of them at least.

Colonel Martin has at my request Collected all the troops about Prince & Trentown and gone down to act in Conjunction with Count Poulaski.

I have desired Doctor Griffith to Collect every Circumstance relative to the Massacre of Colonel Baylors Corps and to get them Assertaind on Oath.7 Capt. Stith Contrary to your Orders;8 and the Advice of Dr Caldwell has proceeded to Princetown & Trentown, the very places He was desired [to] Avoid, as on the Grand Communication where forage is Scarce, he seems to have taken fright at the Bayonet; I shall order him back to the forks of Raratan where he will be in a fine Country & out of the Way of that Communication.

I recollect nothing more at present and am with most Sincere Affection Esteem Regard and Attachment Your Excellencys Most obedient Humble Servt


here is a Grand Wedding of Miss Smith to Mr Elisha Boudenot the Ladys present their Compts to your Excy and family.9

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to d’Estaing, 18 Oct., FrPNA, Fonds de la Marine, ser. 4, vol. 146, f. 355. The extract consists of all of the second paragraph except for the last few sentences regarding Stirling’s future efforts to obtain intelligence about British ship movements.

1Stirling had written to GW most recently on 15 Oct. from Acquackanonk, New Jersey.

2This enclosure apparently is the letter in DLC:GW that John Vanderhovan, an American spy on Staten Island, wrote on 12–13 Oct. and addressed “To General [William] Maxfield [Maxwell] to Be forwarded By Colel [Elias] Dayton Elizabethtown.” It reads: “Oct. 12th 1778. I Have Indeavoured to Collect All the Intelegance that in my power Lay Since I wrote you Last Theire is two of [Brig. Gen. Cortlandt] Skinners Battallions [of New Jersey Volunteers] Have Ricd [received] orders to Hold them Selves in Ready Ness for imbarkation And Capt. [John] Coogel [Cougle] tells me that they Have Orders to take theire wives With them And All theire Sick that is Abel to Be mooved And the fourth Brogade Commmanded By General [James] Grant it is Said Have the Like Orders the Genel Has Imployed One of the Inhabetents to procure Him forty Or fifty Bushels of Corn And Buckwheet for His poltry for the Voige So He mus[t] Have A Large Stock of fowls Or Exspect A Long passag Admiral Birams fleet Are All fell Down And Are to Sail in two Or three Days And it is Said that He Will Convoy the fleet for Corck And Likewise Another for England Clear of the Land And Count Deasttang [d’Estaing] it is thaught By many Hear that He is Disegnd for An Attack On the Count in Boston And that the troops Now to Imbarck And Land At Newport And March for Boston And Some thinck they Are Bound for the Suthern Collenies But Every thing Seem to four bode theire Going to the Notherd [northward] As they Have Shipt <mutilated> A Large Quantity of Iron Stoves the Expedetion is yet A Greate Mistery Gineral Skinner Says they Are Going to the Sutherd [southward] the Number of men who Are to Be Shipt As Near As Can Be Judged Will Amount to Nine thousand I Spent the Whole Day in the Coffe House yesterday And Could Collect Nothing perticular I Send you Inclosed A Newspaper in it you Will find Admeral Keppels Acct of the french fleet at Least the Acct that is Handed Us But I thinck and So Does many Others that it is not the Aregeral [original] Acct if it is I thinck it [a] most Confused One if you Do Not Get Avi<se> from the Army at Newbridge in a day Or two I Believe you Need not fear theire Comeing at All As theire is Some part of the Army Exspected Down in two or three Days to take the Ground of the fortieth fifty first And [fifty] fifth Who Are to Imbarck.

“Octr 13th. Sir the Quartermasters of the Different Ridgments On this Island have Been On Board to take the Dementions of the Berths in the Ships and Mr [William] Grant Quart[er]m[aste]r of the fifty fifth Informes Me that He Had Orders to provide accomedations for the women & Children of the Ridgment As well As the Men the off[i]cers of the forthieth Says they Exspect to Go to Make an attack On Martineco in the West indias But that is only Conjecter the fleet Are falling Down to the [Sandy] Hook this instant wendsday morning [October] 14th Last Night I Ricd [received] A Letter from A Corespondant in [New] york informing Me that the Army was Returning from the English Naberhood and that the Report in town was that they wair to Imbarck and Land On Jersy at Shroesbury [Shrewsbury] Or Midel town [Middletown] And Directly after I Saw A number of flat Boats Comeing up the Kill As was Sent to take the Baggage of the Different Ridgt On Board But they All Returned this morning By Day Light theire Are 35 Sale of transports at the Watering place to take On Board the troops And four Sale of Manowar [men-of-war] this Sir is All the Intelegance that I am Capebel of Geting at preasent.” The enclosed newspaper containing Adm. Augustus Keppel’s letter to Admiralty secretary Philip Stevens of 30 July 1778 concerning the Battle of Ushant on 27 July apparently was the New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury for 12 October. A long extract from Vanderhovan’s letter, containing the information regarding British ship movements, was enclosed in GW’s letter to d’Estaing of 18 October.

3Maj. Richard Howell’s intelligence journal for 10–12 Oct., which he wrote in the form of an undated letter to Brig. Gen. William Maxwell on or about 12 Oct., is in DLC:GW. It reads: “In Consequence of my late perticular Orders I am to Inform you that on the 10: I was on the [Black] point & the men of Warr lay at anchor as before, not one Vessel moving up or down but two little schooners & a Sloop.

“11: This Day a very heavy Storm, 3 of the Ships Slip’d their Cables and put out to sea. The Adml Struck his topmasts.

“12th The Admiral haul’d in under the high lands, up topmasts & display’d a Flag at foretopmast Head. A Ship said to be off, tho’ I did not myself Observe her, which is suppos’d to be one of those which Slip’d their Cables.

“Some Limes are taken up on the Shore by which we Conjecture that a Providence man was Cast away.

“The Militia boarded a schooner of considerable Value about Middletown Point I think—report says that the Brittish have burn’d Chesnut Neck.

“By undoubted Authority they are but 500 in Number & Colo. Sam. Furman [Forman] has march’d with a reinforcement of 300 to join Gen. Pulaski.”

4This informant may have been Charles Clunn of Cumberland County, N.J., a ship captain who traded in the West Indies and who commanded several privateers during the Revolutionary War.

5Stirling is referring to St. Lucia in the West Indies, which was the destination of Maj. Gen. James Grant’s expedition that sailed from Sandy Hook on 3 November.

6At this place on the manuscript, Stirling first wrote and then struck out the following phrase: “if any for the latter.”

7Dr. David Griffith enclosed these affidavits in his letter to Stirling of 20 Oct. (DNA:PCC, item 53), and Stirling forwarded them with his letter to Henry Laurens of 21–22 Oct. (see Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 14:435–37; for excerpts from Griffith’s letter, see Israel Putnam to GW, 28 Sept., n.1, and George Baylor to GW, 19 Oct., n.1). For the British attack on Baylor’s 3d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment on 28 Sept. near Old Tappan, N.J., see Charles Stewart to GW, 28 Sept., and note 1 to that document.

8See GW to John Stith, 1 October. For GW’s further orders regarding Stith, see his letter to Robert Smith of 25 October.

9Elisha Boudinot married Catharine Smith (1749–1797) at Elizabeth, N.J., on 14 October. For the seizure and sale of the bride’s wedding clothes prior to the wedding, under the provisions of a state law prohibiting trade with the enemy, see Stirling to GW, 24 Nov. 1778 (DLC:GW).

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