From the Board of War
June 14. 1779 6 o’clock P.M.
The inclosed is a copy of a letter we have just dispatched to Lt Colo. White.1 We thought if these suspicions were well founded that it was of consequence your Excellency should be made acquainted with the facts; & they might coincide with other circumstances which may fall within your immediate knowledge. If any satisfactory intelligence should be recd it shall be forwarded without delay. We have the honour to be your Excellency’s most obedt servants.
By order of the board
ALS, DLC:GW; copy, MHi: Pickering Papers.
1. The enclosed copy of a letter from Timothy Pickering to Lt. Col. Anthony Walton White, written at Philadelphia on this date, reads: “This day at one oClock (or thereabout) a New-York pettiaugre (or a boat in that fashion) came to a wharf in this City. A Citizen Standing by asked the boatmen from whence they came: they replied from Elizabeth Town. He then asked them a number of questions which led to a Suspicion that they came from New York. Just upon this a gentleman came on to the Wharf, and at first sight of the boatmen accosts them thus ‘Hah! How do all our friends do in New York?’ This familiar question turned the enquiry upon the gentleman, who said he was only jesting. The citizen left them, & returned in one hour to the Same wharf, Where he found the suspected Gentleman, but the boat was gone up the River, and had got as far as Petits [Petty’s] Island. As soon as possible a wherry with Sails and oars was dispatched after her: but it is doubtful whether she will be overtaken. Tis on good grounds Suspected the men in the pettiaugre are spies, that they have come up the river to see what Shipping are in it, and what is the Condition of the forts below; and that they will run their boat ashore somewhere up the river between here & Trenton and go by land directly to New York, to give an Account of their discoveries.
“Besides the Boat sent in pursuit of the pettiaugre, four of the Philadelphia light horse are to be instantly dispatched on each side of the river, with persons who saw the Boatmen when at the Wharf. Should they not overtake them sooner, they or Some of them will go as far as Trenton, or until they arrive at your regiment. Upon the receipt of this you will be pleased to dispatch an Officer or Officers with as many horsemen as you think proper, to go in pursuit of the Supposed Spies, in such routes as they will most probably take to get to New York. Your knowledge of the Jerseys will enable you [to] direct this in the most proper manner. Some of the present pursuers will give you a description of the men. We think it absolutely necessary that the persons who saw the boatmen here should accompany your men in the farther pursuit. If these boatmen are really Spies, we may conclude they are the forerunners of a British fleet, and army, who now that they are disappointed in their designs at the Highlands on Hudsons river, & have drawn General Washingtons Army upwards of a hundred miles off, may suddenly run down the river & come up the Delaware to this city. We cannot therefore but consider it as of the greatest consequence to pur⟨sue⟩ with dilegence and apprehend the supposed sp⟨ies⟩. … P.S. Thomas Trigley was one of the boatmen; he used formerly to ply between Elizabeth Town & New-York. One Bonnell was with him, & a lad” (DLC:GW).