George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Jay, 3 June 1779

To John Jay

Head Quarters Middle Brook June 3d 1779.


In the letter which I did myself the honor to write to Your Excellency the 25th of May, I mentioned the appearances which indicated that the enemy had some important enterprise in contemplation. These appearances have since increased ’till they seem to have arrived at a very interesting crisis.1 The inclosed extracts from the intelligence I have successively received will show their progress and the point at which they last stood.2

Congress will observe by General St Clairs letter that he expected to reach Pompton last night.3 The Virginia division commanded by Lord Stirling marched yesterday for the same place.4 Baron De Kalb with the Maryland troops follow this morning.5 We shall press forward with all diligence and do every thing in our power to disappoint the enemy. I expect to set out this day towards the Highlands, by way of Morris Town.6 I mention the route that any dispatches coming from Congress may the more readily find me.

There are five brigades of Continental troops besides the two Carolina regiments under the command of General McDougall.

At the first appearance of a movement among the enemy, I redoubled my efforts to put the army here in a state of readiness for taking the field. These have been seconded by the utmost exertions of The Quarter Master General;7 but the very great difficulty of procuring horses and waggons and the scarcity of forage have unavoidably retarded our preparations.

I beg leave to inclose an extract of a letter I have just received from General Gates of the 25 of May, on the very important subject of money. I entreat that Congress will be pleased to order him an immediate and adequate supply, as the necessity is urgent and it would be dangerous to risk a revival of the discontent which lately appeared among the troops at Providence for want of pay. It is also much to be desired, that he may be enabled to reinlist the men he mentions during the war.8 I have the honor to be With very great respect & esteem Sir Yr Most Obedt serv.

Go: Washington

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 5 June and referred to the Board of Treasury the enclosed extract of the letter from Gates to GW of 25 May (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:694). That extract has not been found, but it probably included the final paragraph of the letter (see n.8 below).

1At this place on the draft manuscript, Hamilton first wrote “till the[y] seem ready to unfold themselves in an attack upon the Forts on the North River. We shall soon however know the issue.” He then struck out those words and wrote “till they seem to have at length arrived at a very interesting crisis.” He then struck out the words “at length.”

2GW is referring to British operations then under way up the Hudson River (see William De Hart to GW, 30 May, n.1, and General Orders, 1 June, n.1).

The enclosed extracts are in DNA:PCC, item 152. These extracts are in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade and consist of partial or full texts from these letters: Richard Hatfield to Alexander McDougall, 29 May (see McDougall to GW, 30 May, n.1); Thomas Clark to GW, 31 May; and McDougall to GW, 1 June (both letters). Complete letters for two extracts have not been found or identified. One, presumably to McDougall, but possibly to GW, is headed “From Col. [Thomas] Clark 1st June” and reads: “I am informed that a large body of the Enemy are landed with a number of field pieces at Kings ferry that a number of Vessels & Boats were then coming up to the same place crouded with troops.” The other, undoubtedly to GW, is headed “From Genl [Arthur] St. Clair 2d June” and reads: “It seems now to be certain that the designs of the enemy are against the posts in the highlands—The party landed on this side the river are probably designed to possess themselves of the Mouth of the Clove for which reason I shall press my march as much as possible to counteract them.”

3GW probably is referring to Arthur St. Clair’s letter to him of 2 June, which has not been found (see GW to St. Clair, this date).

5See GW to Stirling, 2 June, source note, and to Henry Knox, 4 June (first letter), source note.

6GW departed Middlebrook on this date and reached Morristown, N.J., by 9:00 P.M. (see GW to John Jay, this date, third letter).

7Responding to a letter of 29 May from Joseph Reed, Q.M. Gen. Nathanael Greene wrote from Middlebrook on 2 June: “I am at this time so crowded with business in the preparations to put the Army in motion that I have not time to give your letter a full answer” (Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 4:114–16; see also Greene to George Olney, 31 May, to James Abeel and to Jeremiah Bruen, both 1 June, and to Moore Furman, 2 June, all in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 4:104–5, 113–14).

8See the source note above and GW to Gates, 25 May; see also Gates to GW, 8 and 21 June, and GW to Gates, 11 and 13 June.

For the discontent among the troops in Rhode Island, see Gates to GW, 7 May, and n.1 to that document, and Christian M. McBurney, “Mutiny!: American Mutinies in the Rhode Island Theater of War, September 1778–July 1779,” Rhode Island History 69 (2011): 47–71.

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