George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Elijah Hunter, 12 August 1779

To Elijah Hunter

Hd Qrs Wt Pt Augt 12th 1779


I rec’d your favor of the 8th inst. with Col. Tarletons letter inclosed—I now return it to you with my thanks.1

Inclosed you will find a return of the troops fit for duty under my immediate command2—For the reasons I mentioned to you the other day I have not the least objection to our real strength being known3—and it will be well for you to inform that you came by the knowledge of it from inquiry and your own observations of the troops when under arms upon which you formed an average estimate of the force of each regiment in the different Brigades—to give your accot, the greater air of probability you may observe that the Officers are very incautious in speaking of the strength of their regiments. As the amount of the inclosed return exceeds that which I showed you when here, you may be at a loss how to accot, for it—In that was included only such troops as are on this spot—to the present one is added those under the command of Lord Stirling Genl Howe & the Light Infantry.

There are about 3000 Levies coming on from Massachusetts & Connecticut—500 of which are already arrived.4

With respect to our magazines of provision, I have made it an invariable rule as far as it could be effected to disperse them not only for the accommodation of the army, but that they might not become an object with the enemy—Our principal deposits however are at albany New Windsor Chester & Pittstown.5

The horses generally speaking are in good order, particularly those of the artillery, having been for many weeks unemployed.

For your information of the Minisink affair I inclose you a news paper which contains an accot of it.6 I am Sr Yrs &ca


Df, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

For Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s engagement of Hunter as a double spy, see McDougall to GW, 21, 22, and 31 March; see also John Jay to GW, 28 March. For GW’s cautions regarding the employment of double agents such as Hunter, see GW to McDougall, 25 March, and GW to Robert Howe, 17 August.

1Elijah Hunter’s letter to GW of 8 Aug. has not been found. Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s letter has not been identified.

2The draft of the enclosure, which is in GW’s hand, reads: “Strength of General Washingtons army at West point and in the Neighbourhood of it from the strictest enquiries & the best information & observation that could be made.

R: & File
Pensa Troops { Genl Irvines Brigade consisting of 4 Regts } 1080
2d Pensa Colo. Johnson 4 Do 960
Maryld Do { Smallwoods Brigade 4 Do 1200
Gists Do 4 Do 1050
Massachusts { Genl Patterson Do 4 Do 1000
late Learneds Do Do Do 960
Connecticut { Genl Parsons Do Do Do 1200
Huntington Do Do Do 1150
No. Carolina { No. Carolina ⟨Brig⟩ade sevl Regimts }
thro⟨wn in⟩to 2 Rts 800
Total At the Fort 9400
Detachd from the whole Army
Light Infantry advanced near Fort Montgomery } 1500
Massachusetts { Nixons B. in the rear of the
Continental Village advancd on the East side
Virginia { Woodfords Brigade 4 R. 1400
Muhlenbergs Do Do Do 1320
Note, these Regts have been made out of 15
which was the former No. from Virga They ly
at Suffrans ready to move into the Jerseys or to
the support of this Post
{ Majr Lees Independt Corps of Horse & Foot
lying between Suffrans & Paramus
} 400
Massachuts { Glovers Brigade 4 Regts near pound-ridge } 1160
Moylans, Sheldens, & Armands
Corps of Horse & foot at &
near Pound ridge also—togethr
} 680
Total 17010

Note, The above is what are prest fit for duty—exclusive of the Troops under Genl Sullivan to the West ward—Genl Gates to the Eastward—& Colo. Hazen who is opening a Road from Connecticut River to the River Sorelle in Canada. Our total numbers are much greater than are here set forth—Besides these the New Levies (2000 in number) from Massachusetts—those from Connecticut—& other States are daily arriving—& a Plan is settled & fixed on with the Governors & Commanding Officers of Militia in the States of New York—New Jersey, & Connecticut. by wch the whole strength of them can be drawn together in a few hours upon any great emergency—Boats sufficient to Transport at least 5000 at a turn are now lying at the Fort, New Windsor & Fish kill Landing & can be assembled in two hours at any time” (DLC:GW). This report was deceptive (see notes 3 and 4).

The arrangements for the militia were not as settled as GW implied. Although in March, while the army was in winter encampment in New Jersey, GW had arranged a system of signal beacons to call the militias of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut into the field in case of emergency, GW remained concerned over the states’ arrangements for ensuring that their militia could be rapidly turned out to reinforce the army (see GW to George Clinton, 15–16 March; GW to Alexander McDougall, 16 March; Stirling to GW, 20 and 22 March; GW to William Livingston, to Arthur St. Clair, and to William Smallwood, 23 March; Henry Knox to GW, 25 March; GW to Israel Putnam, 27 March; Livingston to GW, 30 March; GW to Jay, 11 Aug.; and GW to Livingston, 16 Aug.).

3In fact, the enclosed strength report of the Continental army’s brigades was a “deception,” but GW wished the double agent Hunter to believe it represented the army’s true force (see GW to Robert Howe, 17 Aug.). Hunter had first expressed his interest in obtaining a return of the army’s strength in May (see Hunter to GW, 21 May).

4For the actual numbers of recruits GW expected and his dissatisfaction with their slow arrival, see GW to Jay, 11 August.

5Significantly, these locations were all out of reach of the British. GW did not mention the army’s provision magazine near Slot’s in the area of Smiths Clove, N.Y. (see Map 2), which GW considered vulnerable to British raids (see GW to Stirling, 3 Aug., and n.3 to that document).

6For Loyalist captain Joseph Brant’s 22–23 July raid on Minisink, N.Y., see GW to John Sullivan, 1 Aug., and n.1 to that document. An account of the raid appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) of 7 August.

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