George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 8–11 April 1779

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

Camp in Redding [Conn.] 8th[–11] Apl 1779


I receiv’d a Letter Yesterday from Colo. Gray of which the following is an Extract.

“This Moment Lt Tiffany1 returnd from Long Island who informs me that a Body of Hessians are marching from the Westward, but were not so far up the Island as Huntington: that Officer’s Baggage every Day is transporting toward the East End, that the Militia of the two western Counties are to assemble this Week at Hempstead; and a Provision Fleet has lately arriv’d that the tory Refugees and others are forming an Expedition against Norwalk which will be put in Execution within Ten Days.”2

All Accounts from Long Island agree that Baggage and Provisions are passing to the East End of the Island; that building flat Boats there is continued, and in general that there are no Appearances of quitting that Post.

The Number of foreign Troops marching from the Westward I have not heard but tis said the Number is considerable and that a Colonel3 commands them.

In Case of a Descent should be made on the Coast of this State at a remote Distance from this Camp I shall not consider myself at Liberty to march the Troops from this Place without your Excellency’s particular Directions for that purpose which I shall be happy to put in Execution if you direct the Troops to be imployd that Way. I am with the greatest Esteem yr Excellency’s Obedt Sert

Saml H. Parsons

P.S. 11th Apl By some later Information there appears some Reason to Suppose the Detachment of the Enemy on the East End of Long Island will return to New York within a few Days but as I expect more full Information very soon I shall be able to give your Excellency more certain Accounts than is at present in my power. I am &c.

S. H. Parsons


1John Tiffany served as a sergeant in Col. Charles Burrall’s Continental Regiment before being promoted to ensign in September 1776. He became an ensign in the 1st Connecticut Regiment in January 1777 and was promoted to second lieutenant in December 1777, to first lieutenant in May 1778, and to captain lieutenant in August 1780. Tiffany transferred to the 4th Connecticut Regiment in January 1781 and left the army in October of that year.

2The British and German troops on eastern Long Island, as Parsons suggested in the postscript to this letter, did not stay there for long; by 12 May most of them had returned to the city (see William Maxwell to GW, 3 and 12 May). These movements were connected with a plan by Gen. Henry Clinton to attack New London, Conn., which he “secretly” shared with Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister. “He expected to use the troops on Long Island and command them in person,” Baurmeister wrote in his dispatch of 4 April. “However, after the fifty-two flatboats and sixteen horse transports which were to land there [at New London] had suffered for two weeks in the most uncomfortable weather, they returned through the Sound. General Clinton also is leaving Long Island” (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 , 263; for more on the abortive British expedition against New London, Conn., see Maxwell to GW, 25 March, n.2, and 28 March, n.1.).

Tiffany was correct about the British provision fleet, which had arrived in New York Harbor on 26 March (see Maxwell to GW, 31 March, n.4). He was also correct about Loyalist plans for a raid on coastal Connecticut, which took place in early May; see Israel Putnam to GW, 7 May, and notes 5 and 6 to that document.

3Parsons wrote “Genl Knyphausen,” then erased it and wrote “a Colonel” instead.

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