George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major John Conway, 10 February 1779

To Major John Conway

Head Quarters [Middlebrook] 10th Feby 1779


I have received thro the hand of Ld Stirling your report of the Surprisal of the guard from Bonham Town.1 A Disgrace of this kind can never happen to an Officer who is attentive to his duty and takes common precautions. I desire therefore that Lieut. Pierson who had the command of the guard, may be immediately put under arrest—and ordered to Camp if he was detached from hence or to the quarters of the Jersey Brigade if he belongs to those troops that he may take his Trial. I am &.

Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Conway’s report on this surprise attack, which occurred at Woodbridge, N.J., on 9 Feb., has not been identified, but an account of the incident is given in an extract of a letter from an unidentified correspondent at Woodbridge dated 10 Feb. that was published in the New-Jersey Gazette [Trenton] for 17 Feb.: “Last Tuesday [9 Feb.] about 3 o’clock in the morning, a party of the New-Levies from Staten-Island, came over into Woodbridge, and marched up into the town undiscovered, to the house of Charles Jackson, in which there happened to lay that night a scout of Continental troops from Bonem-Town, consisting of twelve men.—The centinel did not discover them till they had well nigh surrounded the house, it being very dark, when he fired and ran off, making his escape; the rest being unfortunately asleep, were taken by surprize without making any resistance. Their principal object was Captain Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, who lived at this house.— He had just returned from Staten-Island, having been over there with a small party chief of the night, and was but a few minutes in the house before he was alarmed by the firing of the centinel, when they instantly rushed into the house and seized him and Mr. Jackson, with the scout as above. The party were gone before the inhabitants had time to collect, without doing any other damage except plundering the house of a few trifling articles, taking the shoe-buckles out of the womens shoes, which was as little or more than could be expected, considering the usual practice of the British troops, as the men were restrained from plundering by their officer, said to be a Captain [Samuel] Ryerson, of [Abraham Van] Buskirk’s regiment.” A brief British account of the attack that was published in the New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury for 15 Feb. says that Ryerson’s party killed two Americans and captured fourteen, including FitzRandolph (see also the brief British report in the Royal Gazette [New York], 10 Feb.).

Lt. Thomas Pearson (1758–1826) of the 6th Virginia Regiment was tried and convicted of misconduct by a court-martial on 23 Feb. and was sentenced to be reprimanded (see the source notes for the general orders of 18 and 19 Feb., and General Orders, 3 March). Pearson, who had been commissioned an ensign in the 10th Virginia regiment in November 1776, had been promoted to second lieutenant in March 1777 and first lieutenant in April 1778 before transferring to the 6th Virginia Regiment in September 1778. He was among the many Virginia officers and soldiers who were captured at Charleston, S.C., on 12 May 1780. He remained on parole until the end of the war.

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