George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Maxwell, 17 March 1779

From Brigadier General William Maxwell

Elizth Town [N.J.] 17th March 1779


Your Excellencys Favour of the 15th Inst. did not arive before 11 oclock to day.

I have had Accounts to day by a person from New York that Admiral Gambier Sailed out of the Hook the latter end of the week for Rhode Island;1 and on saturday last 13 Transports with a good number of small craft besides sailed up the sound it is supposed that there is 3000 Troops on the East end of Long Island and that a large part of them is to go on board the Transports gone up the sound and then to proceed on some expedition supposed to the East ward of Rhode Island.2 We have several people in New York that would give us intiligence but we have none that will attempt to go for it; those that have gone formerly have been presented at the last Court, and Bills found against them; they denyed the charges but are bound to the next Court so that we cannot get them to move The person, under the Carracter of Z is out some time ago. I think he lives at Brunswick Viz. Costican.3 I shall endeavour to have a correspondance established if possable. and am Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Humble Servant

Wm Maxwell

½ past 1 oclock P.M. N.B. it is supposed that Lord Rodden is to command the land Forces on the Expedition to the East ward or where ever they are going.4

Mr Boudenot Commissary of Prisoners for the State desires to have a Flag to carry into New York: or 12 barrels of Flour and three or four quarters of Beef.5 I recd the Papers from Mr McHenry which will put me out of debt with my Neighbours.6


1British officer Archibald Robertson says in his diary entry for 17 March that “Admiral Gambier and a Fleet of Empty Transports gone Round to Rhode Island on an intended Expedition against Providence” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 188). Lt. Johann Ernst Prechtel of the Anspach Regiment, stationed at Newport, recorded in his diary entry for 23 March: “Admiral Gambier arrived with a man-of-war from New York and then sailed back there with a fleet from this harbor” (Prechtel, Diary description begins Johann Ernst Prechtel. A Hessian Officer’s Diary of the American Revolution. Translated and edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne. Bowie, Md., 1994. description ends , 156; see also Maxwell to GW, 10 March, and n.4 to that document).

2For British offensive intentions in the direction of Rhode Island, see Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 117–19.

Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister’s dispatch of 14 Feb. from New York possibly corroborates Maxwell’s intelligence on troop movements: “The homeless loyalists who are still here are fitting out forty vessels to cruise under cover of six armed British ships and land anywhere between Rhode Island and Portsmouth and between here and Egg Harbor. They will keep all their booty without exception, which has greatly encouraged them, for all of them had been well-to-do, but have lost everything and are fortunate to be still alive” (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 , 253). Maxwell’s information also may have been connected to preparations for a raid that Loyalists launched on 31 March from Newport “against such parts of the Massachusetts Bay as are within the Vineyard Sound and also the Island of Nantucket” (James Clarke to William Franklin and others in New York, 12 April 1779, 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 , 17:100–101; see also Franklin to George Germain, 5 Feb., in 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 , 17:52–54).

3For Lewis Johnston Costigin, see GW to John Beatty, 21 Aug. 1778, and Costigin to GW, 7 Dec. 1778.

4Lord Rawdon did not lead any expeditions during 1779.

6These papers, probably newspapers, have not been identified. See Maxwell to GW, 26-27 Jan., and n.3 to that document.

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