George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Thomas Clark, 16 April 1779

To Colonel Thomas Clark

Head Quarters Middle Brook 16th April 1779.


Inclosed you have the Confessions of William Cole and William Welcher lately executed in Bergen County.1 I have transmitted them to you, that you may be upon your guard against the persons therein named. If any of them should be found lurking about your Quarters, apprehend them and deliver them immediately to the Civil authority; or if you should be called upon by either of the Governors or the Magistrates of New York or New Jersey to assist them in securing any of the people mentioned by Cole and Welcher, be pleased to furnish the aid required. I would not have you move in the matter without you are called upon by the Civil authority, because you may interfere with some plan that may be laid for the general apprehension of this knot of Villains—You will pay particular attention to the information of the communication carried on between the Country and New York by way of Garlicks House near Fort Lee.2

I would recommend to you to be more than commonly vigilant, as I have lately recd advice that the enemy have lately been endeavouring to make themselves acquainted with the situation of our detached posts, undoubtedly with an intent to attempt surprizes upon them.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1William Cole (d. 1779) enlisted in the Loyalist King’s Orange Rangers in April 1777 but left the regiment later that year because of ill health. His subsequent activities as a Loyalist gang member led to his capture and imprisonment in January 1779, and although he immediately informed on his fellow marauders, he was tried and executed by hanging in Hackensack, N.J., on 9 April. Thomas Welcher (d. 1779), who evidently used the aliases of William Welcher and Jack Straw, served briefly as a private in a New Jersey Loyalist regiment before being captured and executed along with Cole on 9 April. The enclosed confessions, taken on 29 March in New Barbadoes Township in Bergen County, N.J., describe the depredations of Loyalist gangs along the New Jersey-New York border in 1777–78 (see Samuel W. Eager, An Outline History of Orange County [Newburgh: S.T. Callahan, 1846–47], 550–62).

2Loyalist John Garlick’s house, about one mile south of Fort Lee, N.J., served as a way station for Loyalists transporting goods from New Jersey to New York.

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