George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Maxwell, 28 March 1779

From Brigadier General William Maxwell

Elizth Town [N.J.] 28th March 1779


I have the pleasure to inform Your Excellency that I have last night received intiligence from New york that may be chiefly depended on. Viz. that yesterday and the day before about 28 Sail came into the Hook Mostly Transports from England, at same time landed at New york a Hessian Coll with between 3 & 400 English Troops, last from Hallifax. Governor [General] Clinton is returned to New york it is reported that their Expedition that way to the Eastwd, has failed as they report, owing to the Storm; but more likely if true, that they have found the Troops alarmed that way there is no account of the British Troops or Vessels being returned yet; they may be towards the East end of Long Island. I am informed that Adml Gambier is on the out side of the East end of Long Island, with 6 or 7 Ships and Frigates, his design it’s said is for new London to take our Vessels there.1

Their Troops to the Southward it is said is verry sickley. Report in New york says that their accounts from the West Indies is bad, that General Grant is beat by the French.2

One of my informants says that Governor Franklin & Cornelius Hatfield our old prisoner, is on Statten Island planing some desent from there, but they have no Boats there yet nor any additional number of Men, therefore I do not put any great stress or belief on the report.3

Two Men was set over the Ferry yesterday from New york, to carry dispatches to Coll Butler; I have sent the description of them to Coll Clark this Morning and recommended his sending some Officers to the most publick places and passes in the Mountains to try to get intiligence of them; which if they do, they should spare no cost or pains to secure them and their dispatches.4 It is strange I cannot have but one Express Rider here, without a light horse man of any kind to carry my dispatches, I belive it is because I do not trouble Your Excellency with complaints as much as others. I have taken a horse out of the Team to send to Coll Clark this I am obliged to send by a Soldier. I wrote to Capt. Dun some time ago that I could not do with less than two express riders, and I had them for a few days, and then one of them was ordered away and never returned again.5 I inclose a Paper of yesterday which has a good deal of news in it.6 and am Your Excellencys Most obedien Humble Servt

Wm Maxwell

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to John Jay, 29 March 1779, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. The extracts consist of the first and second paragraphs of the letter with the exception of the very first sentence.

1See Maxwell to GW, 10 March, and notes 3 and 4 to that document; 17 March, and notes 1 and 2 to that document; and 25 March.

Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister wrote a dispatch of 4 April from New York, which reads in part: “Admiral Gambier, having been relieved by Commodore Sir George Collier, is ready to depart.... General Clinton ordered six wing companies of the Halifax garrison to come to New York. One of their ships foundered off Egg Harbor, and of the one hundred and seventy men on board, only twenty-one were rescued.... During the entire month of March we had very cold weather and snow or hailstorms every day.” (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 , 260–65).

British officer Archibald Robertson says in his diary entry for 17 March that he accompanied Gen. Henry Clinton when he left New York on that day for Southampton, Long Island. His entry for 19 March indicates their arrival amid snow and rain, and he then wrote in his entry for 24 March: “Sir Henry left Southampton on his Return to New York. The Expedition did not take Place. Snow and Rain” (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 , 188–89).

2After noting an unexplained absence of reports from Maj. Gen. James Grant, then commanding the British land forces in the West Indies after capturing St. Lucia in December 1778, Hessian major Baurmeister wrote in his dispatch of 3 May from New York: “It is very likely that, except for a small detachment, General Grant has already left St. Lucia, for he may be needed in other quarters, and the island is supposedly well covered by the warships. He is probably leaving behind a large hospital, for there has been much sickness among his troops, twenty-one officers having already succumbed” (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 , 269–70). Grant, who remained on St. Lucia until he left the West Indies on 1 Aug. for England, acted cautiously for several months while coping with sickness in his ranks and a threatening French fleet, but he never suffered a significant defeat (see Nelson, General James Grant description begins Paul David Nelson. General James Grant: Scottish Soldier and Royal Governor of East Florida. Gainesville, Fla., 1993. description ends , 131–41).

3New Jersey’s last royal governor, William Franklin, then in New York, promoted the formation of Loyalist raiding bands (see Franklin to George Germain, 5 Feb., 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). For Cornelius Hatfield’s involvement as a guide in the late February attack on Elizabeth, N.J., see Maxwell to GW, 27 Feb., and n.6 to that document; see also Maxwell to GW, 22 April (two letters [1] [2], both in DLC:GW).

4The description of the two couriers sent to Thomas Clark, if written, has not been identified. American forces did stop men heading west from New York during the winter and early spring on the suspicion of being British spies (see, for example, GW to Clark, 16 April, DLC:GW).

5Maxwell’s letter to Jeremiah Dunn, who led a company of express riders, has not been identified. For GW’s favorable response to Maxwell’s complaints, see his letter to Maxwell of 29 March–1 April.

6Maxwell apparently enclosed a copy of the Royal Gazette (New York) for 27 March.

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