George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Maxwell, 24 April 1779

From Brigadier General William Maxwell

Elizth Town [N.J.] 24th April 1779


I was favoured with Your Excellencys of the 22d in due time, and will carefully note the contents. We have sent to Morris Town for the Portmanteaus, Haversacks Canteens and Tents, the lat[t]er is to be stored there till further Orders. There is but one Continental Waggon with the Brigade either with Commissary or any other.

We have got some very bad salt Beef, sent here yesterday, great part of which I suppose will be condemned. I think if that article in general should turn out to be bad, it should be examined before it is forwarded, and that which is most likely to perish should be issued at the nearest posts, and by having now pickle aded to those barrels that have lost it in the winter, would save much. Much expences & disapointments will be saved by taking care not to forward bad provisions, or those likely to parish soon. Beef should be as little exposed to the sun as possable. This is a branch I was well Acquainted with last War.1 I inclose a note of intiligence I got last nigh[t], he may be depended on for as far as he knows, but his conje[c]tures are like other peoples some right & some wrong, his directions to his Father, and requesting pay for the Coffe, I believe to be a cloak if the Billet should fall into the Enemys hands.2 I last night Received Mr McHenrys Favour of yesterday with the Officers Commissions & the late Philadelphia paper inclosed.3

I have been informed this Morning that some of Buskirks Corps & other robers belonging to the Enemy are commiting depredations continualy on the Inhabitants of Bergan, along by the Clouster Scrawnborrough4 &ca 16 or 18 Horses have been drove off from there a few nights ago, and a Capt. Jonathan Hopper murthered in his house, by four Villains;5 in short they say the people there is in the greatest distress I am informed there is a Company of Militia there but they are not half sufficient. The Mountain near Toppen is where they pass out and in.

Was there a Judicious Officer sent from Camp acquainted in that part of the Country, he might be able to inform Your Excellency if there was any likely method to put a stop to such Villanious & cruel practises. The Inhabitants will not be able to till their ground there.

This also accompanies the Field Officers reasons for recommending Capt. Ogden & Mr Martin to the Committee of arangement for such places as they were apointed to.6

There was the same complaints in the second Regt but Believe they have setled it am[o]ng themselves after seeing the orders from Congress and the Committee respecting the matter. Was the present matter given up to the complainants, no doubt but the second would apply also and when their request would be granted, then the Ensigns would apply, as I have been creditably informed they had declared that none of those Gentlemen who had not been in the Line formerly, should come above those that was in then, besides there is three more frome the Staff in these two Regiments whose stations is Equaly disputable and which I am sure they would do, as well as those in the 2d Regt. I have no late papers and am Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant.


1GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry wrote to Royal Flint from headquarters on 25 April, quoting Maxwell’s remarks on beef and adding that “It is his Excellency’s desire that the most immediate & effectual measures may be taken to prevent the like in future; and in case much of the salted provision is spoiled to have as much of the plan for its recovery and preservation put in practice as may answer the purpose recommended by Genl Maxwell” (DLC:GW).

2Maxwell enclosed a copy of an unsigned intelligence report, dated 23 April: “Dear Father, I am in Good Health my Self and Likewise my Sister and Brother All the perticulars that I Have to Acquaint you with is that theire is at preasent Nine Ridgments of British troops Under Orders to march at the Shortest notis these I Beleive are Designd for Amboy if not they are Going Either to the Sotherd Or to the Westindies the frigots are ordered Out of the East River theire Are four Gun boats Bulding at the yard, almost Ready to ⟨Lance⟩ those it is thaught will Be sent to Amboy as Govener Francklins Going and takeing post theire is much talked of Generals Lesley and Vaughen are to take the Command of the Nine Ridgments And the Command of the Island will fall to General Skinner As Soon As the Commisioners Leaves Amboy Keep a good Look Out. N.B. if you Could Send me the money for the Coffe By the Bareer the next Oppertunity it will much Oblidge your Humble Servt as I Am Interily ⟨illegible⟩ at preasent 1/6 is the price” (DLC:GW).

4Maxwell is referring to the village of Schraalenburgh, New Jersey.

5Jonathan Hopper (1752–1779), who had served as a captain in the Bergen County, N.J., militia, was at the time of his murder on 21 April operating a grist and sawmill near New Barbadoes Neck, New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) reported on 15 May that “a party of Tories perpetrated a most horrid murder on the body of capt. Hopper of Pyramus. Some villains were heard breaking open the stable door in order to carry off his horses; his wife hearing the noise called to her husband, who went out in his shirt on the balcony, and civilly called to them, ‘Lads, what are you a doing?’ On which their centinel shot him through the body. After they had taken the horses out of the stable, they came to the wounded man, who had cast himself on the bed, immediately thrust their bayonets into his body several times, continuing the barbarity while they heard a groan; and lest life might still be remaining in him, they cut both his arms with a knife, in the most inhuman manner.... Notwithstanding the many wounds capt. Hopper received, he lived two days, and told the names of his atrocious murderers.”

6The enclosure, which GW had requested in his letter to Maxwell of 14 April, has not been identified.

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