George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Charles Scott, 7 November 1778

From Brigadier General Charles Scott

Near Bedford [N.Y.] Novr 7th 1778


The inclosd letter is from the Gentleman that I place so much Confidence in. Your Excellency will See how Desirous he is to have it Destroyd. But as I could not so well Convey the Intellegence without Sending the letter I have (in order that it Should go Safe) Sent it by an officer.1 I am informd by Lt Brewster that Genl Clinton has this day orderd the Boats men that was with him to Join their Brigade which Puts it out of his power to pass over to Long Island with any Degree of Safety. by which Means we Shall (perhaps) loose the advantage of Some important intellegence from this Gentn whose Letter is in closd. their Names are David Dickinson Zachariah Hawkins Ben Dickinson Jonathan Skinner & Joshua Davis. if Your Excellency Will be pleasd to order that they be Sent back I am Shure they will be of infanit Service.2 inclosd You will Receive a Rough Copy of an Acct from two Deserters.3 pardon Me Sir for Sending it in that Rough manner as I have no body to assist me and Am So onwell that I am hardly able to hold up my head a moment longer. I am Your Excellencys Obt Servt

Chs Scott


1The enclosed letter of 31 Oct. from “Samuel Culper” to Scott (Culper being a pseudonym shared by the spies Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend; see GW to Charles Scott, 25 Sept.) reads: “Since my last have explored long Island City of New York and Island unto the Ten Mile Stone to Tryons Quarters, where I received his threats for Comeing their that made me allmost Tremble Knowing my Situation and buisiness but blessed be God have bene Prosperd & particularly Successfull in engageing a faithfull freind and one of the first Charecters in the City to make it his buisiness and Keep his Eyes upon every movement and assist me in all respects and meet & Consult weekely in or near the City, I have the most Sanguine hopes of great advantage will acrue by his assistance—The whole forse on the three Islands doth not exceed Eight Thousand Men, the whole of the New Leveys (except Coll Robertsons & Ludlos the latter is Said refused to go) Are orderd to imbark & imbarked, Their destination is a profound Secret the Stores and provision that arived in the last Fleet from Cork have not bene landed, Some of the Ships did not Come up to Town, The Sick that was any way fit to move are on board togather with their heavy Baggage, The Officers have Provided themselves with their Clothing. large quantities of Nankeen & Russia Sheeting have bene Sent on board for light leggins for the men the Shiping are not half ma[n]ned, the Ships of war in Particular Monmouth & Sultion 74/ are in the Harbour disab[l]ed the former wants her main mast, A London Paper of firs July mentions a Conclusion of the Counsel to evacuate N. york & Garrison Rode Island & Hallifax, The destination of the main body was not Concluded on them, Great Confusion at home.

“It is Said the officers were forbid takeing their families on board, Tryon was very desireous to know wheather large quantities of flour was going to Boston, Adml Byron is Said to Sail with fiften Ships of the line to Convoy the homeward bound fleet mentioned in my last Clar of the Coast and watch the motion of the french f[l]eet, I am Told larger Quantities of wood has bene Sent to Rode Island than N. york althouge I think there is forage and wood Sufficient for their Troops this winter in N. york, The west India Islands are much talked of they think they will all fall, in Consequence of which Rum Sold on 29th 16/ per Gall. per Hd which is double to what it Was on the 20th. I think their destination is Certainly for the West Indias or Some of the Southern Provinces the latter of Which I think the most likely if Bad Weather doth not Prevent you will hear from me Weekly I have to request that you will destroy every letter in[s]tan[t]ly after reading for fear of Some unforseen accident that may befall you and the letters get into the Enemies hands and proba[b]ly find me out and take me before I have any Warning I desire you will be Particularly Cairfull” (DLC:GW).

Scott also enclosed an intelligence report of this date from Capt. Daniel Williams of the New York militia: “Simcoes Corps & Cathcarts Legion left Fort Independence, on friday last and burnt their Hutts when they went off; Troops were still embarking Yesterday as they have been every day for some days past. Many private Families have Embarked for England the sick were embarked on thursday last, or all such, as could bear moving. Delancee has resigned. The new Levies were drove on board at the point of the British Bayonetts” (DLC:GW). Williams was captured on Christmas Day 1778 and not released until March 1780.

2Most if not all of these men were natives of Brookhaven on Long Island, N.Y. David Dickinson (Dickerson; 1755–1842) enlisted in the 4th New York Regiment as a private in November 1776 and was promoted to corporal in November 1777; he served until June 1783. Benjamin Dickinson (Dickerson; c.1759–1831) enlisted in the 4th New York Regiment as a private in May 1778 and was discharged in February 1779. Joshua Davis (1757–1833) enlisted in the 4th New York Regiment as a private in November 1776 and served until January 1782. Zachariah Hawkins enlisted in the 4th New York Regiment as a private in November 1776 and was discharged in November 1779. Jonathan Skinner (c.1759–1848) apparently was serving at this time in the militia; he enlisted in the 5th New York Regiment as a private in May 1779 and was discharged in January 1780. GW wrote Brig. Gen. James Clinton on 8 Nov. requesting the return of these men.

3Scott enclosed an account dated 5 Nov. at “11 oClock” of “two Deserters from York[,] One a Serjt Peter McNaughton & Dunkin McNab a Sergt the 71st Regt embarked on Wensday and the 4th the Day before. they halled of[f ] in the Stream all the merchants that Chose to embark thier Goods there was a free passage for them one of them Says he was in the Store of Coffin & Anderson and Saw them packing up goods in order to embark the Comesary has Seized all the West india Goods for the use of the armey. they say that there is A great Quantity of wood in the Yards. the forrage Yards they hant Seen the 7th 26—15— 63—17—57 [regiments] ar[e] on Long Island the Jawgers and Simcoes Emricks Cathcarts Walldecks Granadiers at the Bridg. also two Companys of Refugees. Capt. Thomas & Capt. [ ] he Says that he is very Certain that the Fleet has nor will not leave the Hook Before the 11th of Novr. they think a garrison will be kept at York this winter. Rum Yesterday from 18/ to 20 at Vondue the Merchants are Generally Selling off. its Bought for the armey by the Comesary. McNaughten was a Sergt one of the Maryland Regiments and made Prisoner at the Battle on Long Island” (DLC:GW; another, shorter account by these two deserters dated 8 Nov. is also in DLC:GW).

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