George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 22 October 1778

From Major General Stirling

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] Octobr 22d 1778

Dear Sir

Inclosed your Excellency will receive what Intelligence I have been able to Collect Since Yesterday when I wrote by Major Monro.1 there is undoubtedly another large embarkation soon to take place, and many Circumstances makes me think Still it will become a general Evacuation of New-York; when Rivington come’s to be furnished with all the particulars of Major Ferguson Enterprize he will have nothing to bragg of If a Report be true which I have Just heard, it was but a small part of polaski’s Corps that was attacked, & that on the Alarm he Came up himself with a reinforcemt and drove the Enemy to their boats with very Considerable loss.2 Another person who Came from Staten Island says that One fleet is gone to England and another to the West Indies or South Carolina;3 that preparations for a further embarkation are Makeing, that they are dismantling & demolishing the fort at the flag Staff at the Narrows—that the Artillery of 5th 40th & 55th are removed to New york to Embark, that those Regiments are now on the Island and will embark as soon the detachments return from the Eggharbour expedition.4 Bartons & Isaac Allens Corps are about embarking,5 the Merchants and Sutlers attending the Army are packing all up for Sea Voyage. the Officer at Amboy reports three Ships arrived Yesterday and went up to New-York. only the two Guard Ships at the Hook. I have received your Excellency’s letter of the 19th and shall observe the Contents. I am your Excellency’s Most Humble Servt



1Stirling enclosed the brief letter that Cornet Larkin Smith of the 4th Regiment of Light Dragoons had written to him at 2 p.m. on this date. It reads: “The three Ships I saw yesterday Evening off the Hook, proceeded up to New york; there are also four Standing for york to day. the two guard Ships still continue at the Hook” (DLC:GW).

2On 15 Oct., during the British expedition to Little Egg Harbor, N.J., a party of British troops commanded by Capt. Patrick Ferguson had attacked Pulaski’s Legion on Mincock Island (see Stirling to GW, 7 Oct., and note 2 to that document). James Rivington’s Loyalist New York newspaper, the Royal Gazette, reported in its issue for 24 Oct.: “Intelligence being received of a detachment of 600 rebels, consisting of Polaski’s legion, Proctor’s artillery, the militia, and four pieces of cannon being posted with an intention to oppose the operations of his Majesty’s troops, it was determined to surprize them; 250 men were accordingly landed on Mincock Island, and at 4 o’clock in the morning, led by Captain Ferguson, who, having passed the bridge undiscovered, presently surrounded 3 houses, in which the infantry of Polaski’s legion was posted, these were instantly charged with bayonnets by the King’s troops, and 60 of them put to death, amongst them were a Lieutenant Colonel, two Captains, an Adjutant, and three or four more officers; the loss sustained in this attack was one man killed, one wounded and two missing; about ten o’clock the same morning the troops returned to their vessels, and after waiting a considerable time for a favourable wind, arrived here on Thursday last [22 Oct.].”

Pulaski gave a very different account of this engagement in his letter to Henry Laurens of 16 Oct.: “The Ennemy . . . atta[c]ked us the 15th inst at three o’Clock in the Morning with 400 Men, They seem’d at first to attack our Pickets of Infantry with fury who lost a few Men in retreating, then the Ennemy marched to our Infantry, The [Lieutenant] Colonel [Charles] the Baron de Bose who headed his Men and fought vigourously was killd with several Bayonet wounds as well as the Leut [Joseph] de la Borderie and a small number of soldiers and others were wounded, this slaughter would not have ceased so soon if on the first allarm I had not hastned with my Cavalry to protect the infantry which then kept a good countenance[.] The Ennemy soon fled in great disorder and left behind them a great quantity of Arms Accoutrements hats Blades &ca. We took some Prisoners and should have taken many had it not been for a swamp thro which our Horses could hardly walk[.] notwithstanding this we still advanced in hopes to come up with them, but they had taken up the Planks of a Bridge for fear of beeing taken, which accordingly saved them, however my Light Infantry and particularly the Company of Riflemen got over some of the remains of the Planks and fired some Volies on their Rear, the Fire began again on both sides[.] we had the advantage and made them run again altho they were more in Number, I would not permit my hunters to pursue any further because I could not assist them, and they returnd again to our line without any loss at that time, Our loss is esteem’d Dead wounded and absent at about 25 or 30 Men and some Horses[.] that of the Ennemy appears to be much more considerable; We had cut off the retreat of about 25 Men which have retired in the Country and the Woods and we can’t find them. the general opinion is that they are concealed by the torys which are very numerous in the Neighbourhood of this encampment” (DNA:PCC, item 164). For Ferguson’s accounts of the engagement, see his letter to Henry Clinton of 10 Oct. in N.J. Archives description begins Documents Relating to the Colonial, Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey. 42 vols. Newark and Trenton, 1880–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 3:155–57, and his letter to Clinton of 15 Oct. 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 , 15:225–26; see also 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.

Patrick Ferguson (1744–1780), who had been appointed a cornet in the Royal North British Dragoons in 1759 and a captain in the 70th Regiment of Foot in 1768, had arrived in New York in May 1777 in command of a rifle corps armed with breech-loading rifles of a design that he had patented the previous December. Although Ferguson’s right arm was shattered at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777 and he never regained full use of it, he continued on active service. His rifle corps having been disbanded during the summer of 1778, Ferguson commanded a detachment of volunteers on the Little Egg Harbor expedition (see 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). He became major of the 71st Regiment of Foot in October 1779, and he was given the rank of lieutenant colonel in America effective 1 Dec. 1779. About that same time, Ferguson raised a Loyalist Corps called the American Volunteers, which in late December 1779 sailed with Gen. Henry Clinton’s expeditionary force to South Carolina. Named by Clinton in May 1780 as inspector of militia in the Carolinas and Georgia, Ferguson subsequently recruited and trained about four thousand Loyalist militia. He was killed on 7 Oct. 1780 when his Loyalist corps and several hundred Loyalist militia were defeated by Patriot militia at King’s Mountain, South Carolina.

3For the sailing of this fleet to England on 18 or 19 Oct., see Richard Howell to GW, 9 Oct., and note 3 to that document.

4These three regiments were among the ten assigned to Maj. Gen. James Grant’s West Indies expedition, which embarked between 25 and 28 Oct. and sailed from Sandy Hook on 3 Nov. (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:165).

5Lt. Col. Joseph Barton’s 1st Battalion and Lt. Col. Isaac Allen’s 3d Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers were part of Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell’s East Florida expedition, which sailed for Sandy Hook on 7 Nov. and departed from there on 26 Nov. (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:165, and Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 185).

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