George Washington Papers

Major General Alexander McDougall’s Estimate of Enemy Strength, 16 February 1779

Major General Alexander McDougall’s Estimate of Enemy Strength

[c.16 Feb. 1779]

The Corps on the other Side, have been compared with the Official Letters and paragraphs, in the Enemies Papers; relative to the embarkation and arrival of the Troops at Barbadoes &ce, and Georgia, but neither of those, are among these1—It is certain there are 14 Companies of Light Infantry at South Hampton, and its very seldom, that the Battalion is sent on remote Service, from its flank Compani⟨es. ⟩2 I recollect but one Instance in all my reading. Sensible Deserter⟨s,⟩ Serjeants and Corporals from the Brittish, were confident as to the Cantonments on York, Staten and Long Islands—And, the Hessian privates were equally so, as to the Regiments of that Nation—The York Calendar, containing a List of them was read to them repeatedly and questioned particularly where all these Corps were, at the Time of their respective Examinations—The Positions of the New Levies, are ascertained on as unquestionable Evidence—The 16th Regiment of Light Dragoons, have been Draughted into the 17th, and the Officers sent to England. The former is the reason of the present Strength of the 17th3—The seventeenth of Foot, altho’ cut to Pieces at Princetown, has had large draughts from the reduced Regiments4—A Corporal of it, who detailed the Duty, deserted, and was very minutely examined at my Quarters—He appeared to be a sober intelligent Fellow—The 57th is by the concurrent examination of Sixty Deserters, the strongest in America5—The Compliment of the Granadiers, is always compleat, by a standing General Order. The Strength of the Corps in General, has been ascertained by Questioning the Serjeants, Corporals and sensible privates on the strength of their own Companies, and whether their Regiment was reputed to be stronger or weaker than another with which it was compared?6 The Hessian Regiments except the Grenadiers and Life Guards, consist of five Companies, and when they first came out were an Hundred and twenty Strong, rank and File—now they are from 60 to 80—If it be considered, that the Enemy have but in few Instances, been compelled to make long marches; that they have had the best care taken of them in their Hospitals, well provided with Cloaths, Linnen and Acids, that he recieved frequent recruits from Europe, and several of the Brittish Regiments, were reduced to fill others up, no Question remains an [in] my Mind of the Truth of this Estimate.

Alexr McDougall

DS, DLC:GW. Alexander Hamilton docketed the manuscript: “Estimate of the Enemy’s strength taken by Genl McDougal at sundry times till 16th Feby 1779.”

1The accompanying table is entitled “Estimate of the Enemy’s Strength and Position in New-York and its Dependencies collected and collated from the Examination of the most sensible Deserters, British, Hessian, and the Levies & the Sensible Friends of America taken by M. General McDougall at his Quarters at sundry times ’till 16th Day of February 1779.” It shows the estimated strength and location of each British, Hessian, and Loyalist (New Levy) corps on Manhattan, Staten, and Long islands. The reported totals are 380 British and Loyalist (New Levy) cavalry, 7,305 British infantry, 3,940 Hessian infantry, and 1,540 Loyalist (New Levy) infantry, making a grand total of 13,165 infantry and cavalry.

2The accompanying table shows fourteen British light infantry companies with an estimated strength of 700 men at Southampton on Long Island.

3The British 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons is shown on the accompanying table as having an estimated strength of 300 men on Long Island.

4The British 17th Regiment of Foot is shown on the accompanying table as having an estimated strength of 410 men near Fort Washington on Manhattan Island.

5The British 57th Regiment of Foot is shown on the accompanying table as having an estimated strength of 450 men at and near Fort Washington.

6The accompanying table shows fourteen British grenadier companies with an estimated strength of 700 men at Jamaica on Long Island.

Index Entries