George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 5 July 1779

To Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Head Quarters [New Windsor] July 5th 1779.


I have just received your letter of the 3d—the loss of your papers was certainly a most unlucky accident—and shows how dangerous it is to keep papers of any consequence at an advanced post—I beg you will take care to guard against the like in future1—If you will send me a trusty person I will replace the guineas.2

I observe yourself and other officers have lost some cloathing— Though I have not given an order of the kind before, yet in this particular exigence I am ready to give one on the Clothier to those officers who have been the sufferers for such articles as are absolutely necessary—You will be pleased to communicate this to Col. Sheldon and request him to send the Pay Master with a proper return to Head Quarters.

The person who is most endangered by the acquisition of your letter is one Higday who lives not far from the Bowery on the Island of New York3—I wish you could endeavour to give him the speediest notice of what has happened—My anxiety on his account is great, if he is really the man he has been represented to be, he will in all probability fall a sacrafice.4 I am with regard Sir Your most Obedt servant.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Tallmadge’s letter to GW of 3 July has not been found. It undoubtedly apprised GW of an attack on his camp during the early morning of 2 July, which Tallmadge later described in an account that reads: “Not long after we took the field, about July 1, 1779, Lord Rawdon, with nearly all the British light horse, accompanied by a body of light infantry, made an attack upon our corps in the night. The onset was violent, and the conflict carried on principally with the broad sword, until the light infantry appeared upon our flanks, when Col. Sheldon found it necessary to retreat. This was done with so much celerity, that the enemy gained but little advantage. I lost in the affray a fine horse, most of my field baggage, and twenty guineas cash, which were taken in my valise with my horse” (Tallmadge, Memoir, description begins Memoir of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, Prepared by Himself, at the Request of his Children. 1858. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 32; see also William Heath to GW, 4 July, and n.1 to that document).

2See GW to Tallmadge, 27 June (first letter), and n.2 to that document.

3The Bowery, or Bowery Lane, ran northward from near Bunker Hill to Harlem village and was then on the outer fringe of New York City.

4George Higday, apparently a laborer with little or no formal education, had been incorporated into GW’s spy network as a courier. For his arrest on 13 July and his letter of confession, see Van Doren, Secret History, description begins Carl Van Doren. Secret History of the American Revolution: An Account of the Conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and Numerous Others drawn from the Secret Service Papers of the British Headquarters in North America now for the first time examined and made public. New York, 1941. description ends 238; see also GW to Tallmadge, 27 June (first letter).

Index Entries