George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General John Neilson, 30 May 1779

From Brigadier General John Neilson

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] 30 May 1779


I am order’d by his Excellency Governour Livingston with a small number of Militia consisting of about one hundred & twenty Rank & File to this Place for the Protection of the Shore of Essex & Middlesex, before guarded by General Maxwells Brigade, with directions to procure what Intelligence I could from the Enemy and Communicate it to your Excellency;1 At Colonel Shrieves Departure Yesterday I took the Command, I am Inform’d by a Person from Staten Island last Night, the Whole of their Force, supposed About Eight thousand Men, is Collected at White Plains, one British Regiment Only left in New york, Two Sloops Loaded with Fascines lays in the Harbour opposite the White Hall, A Number of Vessells prepared to take troops on Board reported two thousand for Virginia, Yesterday all the Horses & Waggons on Staten Island were pressed into the Service and sent to New York, The 26th, 37th & one foreign Regiment & Bartons Regiment on Staten Island General Clinton in New York, Genlls Vaughan & Sir William Erskine gone to White Plains2—This is the only Intelligence I have yet been Able to Collect, I shall continue while in Service to make what discoveries I can and transmit to your Excellency with the most early Expedition, and Execute as far as in my Power with the few Men under my Command any Instructions I may receive—I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant

John Neilson Colo: Comd. Militia3


1On 1 May, in response to GW’s letter to William Livingston of 23 April stating that he would withdraw Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s brigade from its positions in New Jersey, the New Jersey Privy Council advised Livingston to order out the following Classes of Militia to wit from Somerset, Morris and Bergen Counties one Class to be stationed in Bergen and Commanded by Colonel Frelinghuysen, from Gloucester, Burlington and Monmouth one Class to be stationed in Monmouth County and Commanded by Colonel Holmes, from Middlesex, Hunterdon and Essex one Class to be stationed in Essex County, and Commanded by Colonel Neilson, to continue in Service for one Month unless sooner relieved” (Bernstein, N.J. Privy Council Minutes description begins David A. Bernstein, ed. Minutes of the Governor’s Privy Council, 1777–1789. Trenton, 1974. In New Jersey Archives, 3d ser., vol. 1. description ends , 114; see also Livingston Papers, 3:78–79).

2For the reasons for this British activity, see William De Hart to GW, this date, n.1.

3Although Neilson was appointed a brigadier general of the New Jersey militia in February 1777, he was usually referred to as a colonel and seems to have been acting in that capacity at this time.

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