George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 30 March 1779

From Major General Israel Putnam

Camp Reading [Redding, Conn.] 30th March 79

Dear Sir

The Inclosures herewith transmitted came to hand by Express from Genl Parsons last Evening.1

I thought it not advisable to detach any more men from the Division, untill your pleasure was known; But have Orderd a Detachment of 300 already on Command near the Sea Coast to move Eastward, as far as N: Haven, and wait Gnl Parsons’s Orders—Of which I have informed him.

That the Enemy have in contemplation some enterprize of importance, is beyond a Question. Their object may be better known to your Excellency, than to me—But it appears to me the destruction of the Shipping at N: London, would be as brilliant a success as any they could flatter themselves with—and perhaps would be attended with less loss to them, and more detriment to us, than any other attempt they can make, except they should possess themselves of the posts in the Highlands.

But I ardently wish (as I have before frequently solicited) to receive your Excellencys particular directions, and to know with what discretion I am to act in the present emergency. I am with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedt Servant,

Israel Putnam

P.S. I have Inclosed you a late N. York Paper2—This is the third letter I have written on the same subject, and have as yet received no Answer, but expect that to mine of the 22nd every moment—As I was closing this your’s of the 21st has arrived.3


1The enclosures are copies of two letters, Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons to Putnam, dated New London, 28 March, and its enclosure, John Shipman II to Parsons of 27 March from Saybrook, Conn. (both DLC:GW). Shipman wrote in his letter to Parsons: “My Boat having this moment returned, (which I thought proper last night to send to L. Island to make discoveries) with advice from a person on the Island directly from N. York, who informs that 6 or 7,000 Troops Embarked there, destin’d by the best information for N: London—That he in person saw Genl Clinton at South-Hampton, and heard s[ai]d Expedition talked of there—The person who gave this account shewed so great a desire it might be made public, that he urged in the most pressing terms, that your Honor might be informed of it.

“A Fleet of 100 Sail, are now coming down the sound, almost abreast of Connt River, which I conclude have the Troops on Board…. P.S. My informer being Capt. Seth Griffing [Griffin] who went in, my Boat, who says the above person his informer, was an old acquaintance, of his, and a known friend to America.”

Parsons stated in his cover letter to Putnam: “I this moment receiv’d a letter of which the Inclosed is a Copy. The Fleet mention’d passed Connecticut River about 9 o’Clock last night, their present State, I am not able to inform; when Day-light appears I hope to have a greater Certainty—I have dispatch’d an Express to General Sullivan, who may be affected by the Intelligence.

“Under the present state of the Enemy, I submit to your Honor’s Judgement the necessity of Ordering a large Detachment of the Army here, and the propriety of your coming in person to Command at this place…. P.S. The Fleet are said to be off Black-Point.”

2This newspaper has not been identified.

3Putnam also wrote to GW about the threat to New London on 28 March. GW advised Putnam in letters of 27 March and 1 April. For the British decision in early April to abandon plans for an attack, see William Maxwell to GW, 25 March, n.2.

Index Entries