George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 6 November 1778

From Major General Stirling

Eliz. Town [N.J.] Novr 6. 1778

Dear Sir

A small Touch of the Rheumatism in my right Hand and Shoulder prevents my writing to your Excellency myself.

Some Circumstances in Major Howells last journal induces me to send you the inclosed Original.1 they have become very strict within these few last Days at New-York about permitting any Persons to pass or repass. I have therefore found it difficult to get Intelligence from thence. they talk of an intended Expedition that is to take Place very soon, others say the Troops which remain are bound to St Augustine and Halifax. certain it is that many of the principle Tories appear to be in great Distress and at their Wits End what to do.

Colonel Spencer informs me that untill Yesterday there remained four different Encampments on the Island of New-York near Fort Washington that two of them moved from thence about nine oClock in the Morning that a Body of the Enemy was seen on the Move some Distance below towards New-York. the other two Encampments still remain. I am Your Excellency’s most humble Servant


LS, DLC:GW; copy, NHi: William Alexander Papers.

1The enclosed letter of 3 Nov. from Maj. Richard Howell to Stirling reads: “The Storm has prevented my transmitting any Intelligence since the 29th because, as well Nothing happen’d, as My Express was detain’d at The Ferry—In Continuation of my Journal.

“On the 29th A Large Ship of Force went up with a Jack at Foretopmast Head. One large Ship and frigate sail’d out to meet her after her firing a Gun, then Stood to the Westward.

“30th Not one Vessel appear’d.

“31st & 1 Novr a severe Storm at Northeast & nothing appear’d.

“2d One 40 Gun ship & Schooner came into the Hook.

“3d The fleet Consisting of 100 sail went out of the Hook & Stear’d out in Line of Battle to the Eastward—4 more appear in View who now Join the Fleet in View. The whole Fleet chang’d their Course & bore S.E. or more southerly—the Wind at N.W. So that they could not well keep more southerly if they wish’d to.

“Reports. By a man I sent to Newyork for that pourpose, I learn by the Opinion of Friends to Government that there are 3 destinct Expeditions going on—Certainly by accounts from Newyork, some of the Army are embark’d with Camp Equipage &Ca suppos’d to be for the West Indies, a greater part embark’d only with marching Equipage who are said to be design’d for an Expedition on the Coast, suppos’d for Boston—A Detachment are said to be for St Augustine—Ten Regiments of Brittish Troops & all the New Levies are said to be imbark’d in fact, tho’ they report there are twelve Thousand Troops on Board, but I believe about Eight, hardly so many, is the Compliment. They have certainly the 16th Lt Dragns on board—St Kitts & Montserat are taken by Strategem, the Guard Ships being gone on a Cruise, they were Surpris’d by sudden Invasion, as the Enemy report.

“Remarks That the Enemy may Steer Eastwardly when off the Land, but if they are design’d southerly, they Could not Hugg the Coast nearer. . . . I have sent to Squan again to discover what may appear off” (DLC:GW). The British had two expeditions underway; see John Beatty to GW, 1 Nov., n.1. The British West Indian islands of Montserrat and St. Kitts did not fall to the French until 1782.

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