George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 25 April 1779

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

Redding [Conn.] 25th Apl 1779

Dear General

your Excellency’s Letter of the 23d Inst. with the Inteligence from Genl Maxwell inclosd I receivd this Afternoon.1

I have receivd Information that about the 22d Inst. a large Number of Empty Waggons came up to Fort Washington; the Enemy for about a fortnight past have Prohibited all Passing over King’s Bridge and observe the greatest Secrecy in their Transactions at that Post.

The Accounts we have of the removal of Cannon & throwing up Works at Brookline & the Narrows are Facts more likely to be assertaind from Jersey than here. The inclosd Letters will shew the State of the Enemy in Respect to Forage & may aford some other Light.2

In Consequence of your Orders of the 17th3 I had orderd the Artillery & Waggon Horses (which were removd at a considerable Distance) to be in Camp by the 10th of May but your Excellency’s Directions of the 23d render it necessary for them to be in immediately & I have accordingly orderd them into Camp: and shall hasten the march of the Troops to Camp from the Commands at a considerable Distance from this Place; I shall also call in all the Coast Guards & small Detachments and hope by the End of this week to have most of the Troops collected.

I have given Orders to the Quarter Master to remove all Stores from Danbury to Fishkill which cannot be left without a Guard.

I have no Returns of Genl Poor’s Brigade, but beleive, the Invalids, Guards Artificers & every Person belonging to them left in this Camp was short of fifty Men, their Baggage could not be removd till their Horses arrivd (which were more than One Hundred Miles distant): I have orderd every Man to march & I beleive there are not fifteen now remaining here. I imagine Col. Hazen’s Regt (which was near One third of the Brigade) and the Men returnd on furlough will nearly account for the Deficiency in the Numbers not arrivd at Peekskill.

I shall Strictly comply with your Excellency’s Orders communicated in your last Letter, and hope the Movements of the Army which depend on the Readiness of this Division will not be disconcerted by any Delay on our part: The Returns of Arms, Accoutrements, Tents and Camp Utensils necessary to our taking the Field, I am informd has been made, that of Arms & Accoutrements is now herwith forwarded again to your Excellency as these are to be Supplied from Springfield and can only be furnishd by your Excellency’s Order I must request your Excellency’s early Attention to the Subject.4

I herewith transmit the Report of the Court Martial on the Trial of Col. Holdridge and also on the Trial of Serjt Gray. I would beg your Excellency’s early Attention to the Case of Col. Holdridge that if the Report is Satisfactory he may again take his Command before we march.5

On the other Report in the Case of Gray I can only say that Two Sons of the Family have died in our Service and there appears some Reason to suppose he was coming in upon your Excellency’s Proclamation of Pardon. I suppose if he is pardon’d the Payment for the Horse &c. may be securd.6

If I continue in my Command this Campaign I have Col. Webb’s Request that his Regiment may again be annexd to my Brigade: if it can consist with the Public Good I shall be Particularly obliged by having this Regiment again under my Command, but I have not a Wish the public Welfare should be made Subservient to my Attachments to Particular Regiments or Corps in the Army. I am with the highest Esteem & Respect yr Excellency’s Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons

P.S. Capt. Mattocks has forwarded his Commission & the Cirtificate of his having settled all Public Accounts and desires a Discharge: under His Circumstances I think he ought to be dischargd and request your Excellency to grant his Discharge as of the 20th of this Month.7 Yr Excellency’s Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons


1This letter was addressed to Israel Putnam; Parsons opened it in his absence.

2Parsons apparently enclosed two copies of letters that Capt. Lewis J. Costigin had written to him on 13 April. The first letter reads: “Your Letter of the 3d Inst: came duly to hand pr ⟨mutilated⟩. I Yesterday morning returned from New York, at which place I had been for three Days and Night[s] in a secret manner, my freinds whilst I was in town sent for a C⟨ertain⟩ Gentleman to Converse with me who came from England the 1st of Jany with the Fleet: sd Fleet consisted of 280 sail (cheifly Store and Merchant ships,) was convoyed 230 Leagues westward from England by the Channel Fleet, those that were bound to America which consisted of 21 Sail—parted with the Grand Fleet the Convoy returned, the Remainder of the Fleet went to different Qrs of the World, some of the store ships with 7 ships of the Line bore away for the West India’s in order to reinforce Byron—Count DeEstaing was reinforced with 9 ships of the Line, before the arrival of Byrons reinforcements—The Gentleman further Asserts that there is no reinforcements to Come out as their was none ordered to be raised the time of his departure. sunday evening I went through the Forage Yards which were Guarded by Hessians—five small stacks in it, about 2 1/2 Tons in each stack 3 Tons in the Market—the Inhabitants of the Island is now bringing in all their Hay otherwise they must lose their Horses. I veiwed their shiping, I am of the Opinion that their is not a sufficient number of transports to Carry their stores and Troops off, Should they have Orders. An Exchange is talked of but I am ⟨not⟩ so sanguine as many is respecting it... P.S. with this I send 3 London & 4 York Papers. The freinds expect that the packet will bring terms of peace she is hourly expected” (DLC:GW).

The second letter from Costigin to Parsons reads: “The great Bugbear of the Russians is over, we beleive that no reinforcements will be sent this spring—about 500 scot[c]h Emigrants were sent from Hallifax—One of their Transports were stranded and all to 26 out of 160 of the poor D——went home the short way—Admiral Gambier is gone home and the Command devolves on sir Knowles from Hallifax[.] by best accounts there is two thousand Troops at south Hampton—Orders are Issued and Have for 4 Days past been executing to take all Hay and grain from the Inhabitants of this Country it is said Part of which is put into Vessels Holds without being pressed—Commissiones for to settle a Cartel have been setting for 3 or 4 Days nothing as yet transpires—we Flatter ourselves the happy period of Exchange is near at hand—Please to give my Fillee de Chambra a tip of the Quil and tell her to keep her head to the Wind as I hope to be Home some time in May” (DLC:GW).

3GW’s letter of 17 April was to Israel Putnam; Parsons opened it in his absence.

4The enclosed return has not been identified. GW wrote to Brig. Gen. Henry Knox on 4 May, instructing him to resupply Parsons.

5For more information on the trial and acquittal of Lt. Col. Hezekiah Holdridge on a charge of diverting the cargo of a captured British schooner to his own use, see George Clinton to GW, 7 March; GW to Clinton, 12 March; GW to Israel Putnam, 13 March; GW to Parsons, 1 May; and General Orders, 2 May.

6GW commuted the sentence of death passed against Sgt. Eliphalet Gray (1753–1810), who had enlisted and been promoted to corporal in the 5th Connecticut Regiment in January 1777, been promoted to sergeant in January 1778, and deserted in February 1779; see General Orders, 2 May. For GW’s offers of pardon to deserters, see his proclamations to deserters of 10 March and 22 April.

7Samuel Mattocks (1739–1804) of Hartford, Conn., had been appointed a captain in the 8th Connecticut Regiment in January 1777; in April 1780 he would be appointed captain of a company of the Connecticut state artillery.

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