Samuel Culper to Major Benjamin Tallmadge
Jany 22. 1779
Your No. 4 came to hand, And observed the Contents.1 Your approbation of my Intelligence is highly pleasing to me. I Shall use my best endevours to Serve you and think I am under good advantages to do it. I cannot give you any Incouragement about makeing any Incursion on L. Island with Small parties. I know not of any Officer So detached from his Corps that a Small Party might Surprise him, I must Informe you that Continentall Money will not Serve me; It is much lower here now than it was Some time ago, It now Sells for 15 p. C., Priced current See Separate⟨.⟩2 The danger I apprehended of miscairage mentiond in my last3 was owing to my freinds fear (the Enemy lately being very Strict) but hath bene no disservice, As nothing Material transpired in the Interim, Except the Storme did Some damge to the Shiping.4 The Mail that arived mentioned in my last brought nothing Material that I Could lerne. Within few days have had an opportunity of Safely Visiting allmost every Quarter of the Enemy have had two agreeable Tours with good Company to Kings Brige Spent Some time at Genl Tryons Quarters and treated with respect, Tryon Said the War was almost at an end, and that Peace Would be made in Urope.5 I do not in the leas[t] doubt it but in two Month Amarican Independence will be Acknowledged by Britan; I Could not discover any thing different from what I have heretofore informed you of except the 44 Regn. is there and think now you have Certainly got an account of every Regn. on the Two6 Islands I Shall betwixt now and the Midle of march give you a new account of the Genl and Regn. on the three Islands7—the Cork Fleet Consisted of 28 Ships, Sailed under Convoy of the Maria Friget & the Notinham East Indiaman and about Christmas they were Separated by a violent Gale of Wind and have bene ever Since the 10 Instant Continualy droping in togather with Some Ships from Hallifax and Some Comeing up from Staten Island that made it So difficult although upon the Spot I Cannot Certainly determin how [many] hath arived but fully beleive their ⟨mutilated⟩ Missing Perhaps Eight or ten.8 They have Such a Supply of Provision now that they Will not Suffer[.] their is a Fleet from Engld dayly expected with near 5000 Barrels of flour Mostly Private Property which will all help to Serve them that you need not have any hopes of Starveing them out now the English Papers Say the French & Spanish Fleets hath Joyned and gone against Gibralter amounting to Seventy five Sail of the line and many other Such favourable accounts9 their is about 40 or 50 Troops With baggage and Woman that was left as gards at Hempsteed & Jerico on their March to South Hampton—It is Suspectd their is an expedition on foot Perhaps to make Some little Incursion into the Country for to plunder10 We dayly now expect the kings Speech Shall forward it asson as it arives and wish it may be favourable11 in the mean time I remain your most Obt Hl. Servt
ALS, DLC:GW. Abraham Woodhull signed his intelligence reports as “Samuel Culper” or “Samuel Culper, Sr.,” differentiating him from another American spy, Robert Townsend, who usually signed his reports as “Samuel Culper, Jr.” The handwriting of this letter matches that ascribed to Woodhull in Pennypacker, General Washington’s Spies, illustration facing page 82.
1. Tallmadge’s letter to Culper, labeled “No. 4,” has not been identified.
2. The apparent enclosure, an undated and unsigned document in Woodhull’s writing, reads: “English goods sell at about one third advance on the Sterling Cost except, Cloths & Linens.
“Cloths Sell at about 25 Ct advance Linens about 50 Ct.
“All kinds of India Goods are high owing to there demand and scarcity here, they now Sell from fifty Ct advance to 100—fine broad Cloths are Scarce and Sell At about 40 Ct advance….
“Goods in England are about 10 C. hig[h]er now than before this War—Salt from 1/ to 1/6 to 2/ to 2/6” (DLC:GW). The ellipsed text gives prices for shot, brimstone, allum, copperas, coffee, iron, steel, wool cards, pewter, molasses, cocoa, indigo, tea, brown sugar, rum, loaf sugar, Russian duck, flour, Indian meal, rye flour, beef, mutton, pork ham, cordage, Irish butter, wheat, Indian corn, and turkey.
5. Maj. Gen. William Tryon expanded on the confident sentiments he expressed to Culper in his letter of 5 Feb. from King’s Bridge, N.Y., to the British secretary of state for the American colonies, Lord George Germain: “The expectations of the King’s friends grow more vigorous every day as that of the rebels subside. The rebel leaders and their obstinate adherents meriting no farther management on the part of government, I have great confidence that the wisdom of His Majesty’s councils, the force of his arms, and the high spirit of the nation will this campaign effect the much sought for reconciliation” (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 , 17:51–52). For Culper’s previous conversation with Tryon at his headquarters, see Charles Scott to GW, 7 Nov. 1778, n.1.
6. Culper initially wrote “three” on the manuscript. He then struck out that word and wrote “Two” above the line.
8. As many as thirteen of the twenty-eight victualer ships that sailed from Cork, Ireland, on 12 Oct. 1778, including the Maria and Nottingham, arrived at New York on 11 Jan. 1779 (New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, 18 Jan.; Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], 21 Jan.).
9. This widely spread report was erroneous.
10. Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister wrote in his dispatch of 14 Feb. from New York that military stores had “been further increased by the profitable enterprises of General Erskine, who finally made a thorough search in the eastern parts of Long Island, taking from those inhabitants who are still rebels all the grain, hay, straw, and cattle they did not need” (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 , 250).
11. A major portion of King George III’s short speech delivered at the opening of Parliament on 26 Nov. 1778, urging continued efforts to suppress the American rebellion, appeared as early as 6 Feb. 1779 in the Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia].