To John Jay
Head Quarters West Point 25th Sepr 1779
I have been honored with yours of the 15th covering a Resolve confirming the arrangement of the Massachusetts line, and a printed Copy of a circular letter from Congress to their constituents.1 I sincerely hope, that the measures pointed out may be pursued, and that every good effect, to be wished for, may be the result.
Since mine of the 19th I have recd several pieces of intelligence from my confidential Correspondents in New York and upon Long Island, and from persons in other quarters: The following are substantially the contents of their different letters, from which you will perceive, they all agree that a very considerable embarkation is in agitation, tho’ there are a variety of opinions respecting the numbers and destination.
New York 11th Septr2
“It is generally beleived that the 44th and 3 Hessian Regiments which embarked and sailed a few days ago, went to Quebec. Sir James Wallace in the Experiment of 50 Guns3 sailed at the same time for Georgia, having under his convoy a Store ship and two or three other Vessels, but no troops. The Europa 64. Russel 74. Renown 50. and four or five Frigates in the harbour of New York. It is thought the large ships will be sent to the West Indies to reinforce Admiral Byron.4 The general opinion that nothing further could be done in Georgia without a reinforcement, which it is thought will be sent about the beginning of October.[”]
From the same Sept. 18th
“The 54th 77th Rawdons or Irish Volunteers Queens Rangers—Cathcarts Legion—all the Grenadeirs and Light Infantry and the greater part of the Horse under orders for embarkation. It is generally beleived they are bound to the southward,5 and that Charles town will be the great object this Campaign—Every 6th Man from King and Queen County at work upon the Fort at Brooklyn. The inhabitants of Suffolk County having refused to turn out for the same purpose, were threatned with military execution in case of further non compliance. The gorge or pass at Fort Washington strongly fortified, and the Works upon Bayards Hill,6 in the Rear of the City, are repairing. The grand Battery repairing—and to be mounted with 40 twenty four pounders.[”]
Long Island Sepr 19th
“An account is just recd from General prescot at Rhode Island, that a Vessel had arrived there which left a French Fleet in latitude 25 or 35 (not certain which) steering N.W. this had occasioned great confusion, and the immediate call of a general Council of War.[”]7
Monmouth County Sepr 21st
“A fleet of 30 sail went into the Hook this day, from whence, or whether any troops on board not known.8 When they hove in sight, they appeard to come from the Eastward. A deserter from the fleet at New York mentions that the press had been exceedingly hot, and that Admiral Arbuthnot was to sail in a few days with three sixty four Gun ships with a fleet under Convoy.[”]
Eliza. Town 22d Sepr
“On the 20th a Mr Edward Fox of Philada an exchanged prisoner, came out of New York.9 He says the embarkation was by accounts to consist of seven thousand Men, and that a number of Hessian and English Regiments had embarked before he came away. their destination said to be Virginia.”
From the foregoing, Congress will readily perceive, that the destination of the embarkation referred to, must be merely conjectural—this however seems to be certain, that the Enemy, from their preparations for defence upon New York Island, and upon the heights of Brooklyn upon Long Island, mean to put themselves in a situation to hold the City and its environs with their remaining force.
From the movements of the enemy upon Stoney and Verplanks points for a few days past, an evacuation of the latter seemed probable;10 but an intelligent Deserter yesterday informs, that one Regiment from Verplanks and two from Stoney point had gone down to New York, which was the occasion of their demolishing some of the old Works, and contracting themselves within new.11 I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect and Esteem Sir Your Excellency’s most obt Servt
LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 30 Sept. (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 15:1128).
1. In this lengthy letter of 13 Sept., addressing the states’ debt and the depreciation of the currency, Congress tried to shore up faith in the success of the American cause and in the states’ ability to repay the debt. Congress asked the people of the states to “keep your battalions full, to encourage loans, and to assess your taxes with prudence, collect them with firmness, and pay them with punctuality” (see 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 15:1051-62; see also Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 13:495). The particular copy Jay enclosed with his letter has not been identified.
3. The 50-gun warship Experiment sailed for Georgia on 12 Sept. (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 17:234).
James Wallace (1731-1803) entered the Royal Navy in 1746, became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy in March 1755, was promoted to commander in November 1762, and was made a captain in January 1771. On the North American station, he commanded the 20-gun Rose and then the Experiment. He served as a captain for over twenty years before becoming a rear admiral in April 1794 and a vice admiral in June 1795. From 1794 to 1796, he was governor of Newfoundland. Wallace ended his career as an admiral of the blue, to which rank he was advanced in February 1799.
4. A British officer in New York wrote in his diary that, on 8 Sept., “the 44th Regiment … together with the Hessian Regiments of Knyphausen & Losberg, embarked on board the several Transports alloted for them, and on Friday the 10th They sailed out of Sandy Hook under Convoy of the Renown, Captain Dawson” (Ritchie, “New York Diary,” description begins Carson I. A. Ritchie, ed. “A New York Diary [British army officer’s journal] of the Revolutionary War.” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 50 (1966): 221–80, 401–46. description ends 436). These troops and transports were indeed bound for Canada; for their ill-fated voyage, see GW to d’Estaing, 4 Oct., n.6. British vice admiral Arbuthnot did plan to send his line-of-battle ships to reinforce the West Indian squadron, but he countermanded his plans when he learned that French vice admiral d’Estaing was coming to North America (see Barnes and Owen, Sandwich Papers, description begins G. R. Barnes and J. H. Owen, eds. The Private Papers of John, Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1771–1782. 4 vols. London, 1932-38. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vols. 69, 71, 75, 78. description ends 3:134).
5. Since 16 Sept. the British had been embarking regiments for Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s expedition to Jamaica. On 23 Sept., the transports carrying six British and two provincial regiments had moved down to Sandy Hook, N.J., bound to sea. However, the fleet soon returned to New York after receiving a report that d’Estaing was on the American coast with a large fleet of warships (see Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 203; Ritchie, “New York Diary,” description begins Carson I. A. Ritchie, ed. “A New York Diary [British army officer’s journal] of the Revolutionary War.” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 50 (1966): 221–80, 401–46. description ends 436-38; and Henry Clinton to George Germain, 26 and 30 Sept., in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 17:221-22, 229-30; see also Willcox, American Rebellion, description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends 143-44).
6. “The gorge or pass at Fort Washington” refers to the narrow gorge just east of that fort, which ran between the high hills in the northern part of Manhattan Island and through which passed the only road to King’s Bridge, New York. The British fortifications defending the north of the city ran along Bayard Hill and Bunker Hill, both just northwest of Hester Street. The chief fort on that section of the line was constructed on Bunker Hill.
7. This information had been provided by GW’s spy on Long Island, Abraham Woodhull (“Samuel Culper”), and was taken from Samuel Culper to “John Bolton” (Benjamin Tallmadge), 19 Sept. (see GW to Tallmadge, 24 Sept., n.1).
8. British officer Archibald Robertson recorded in his journal entry for 21 Sept.: “Sir Andrew Snape Hammond Arrived At the Hook with a Fleet of Victuallers and Transports with some Recruits” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 203).
9. Edward Fox of Philadelphia had held a minor post under the last royal governor of Maryland and, after the state government was formed, acted as a clerk to the state’s board of accounts. In 1778 he moved to Philadelphia, and in May of that year he became a clerk to the Continental treasury board. In August, Fox became a signer of Continental currency. Taken prisoner by the British near the end of August 1779, Fox was taken to Long Island and then to New York, where he secretly engaged with Maj. John André, aide-de-camp to Gen. Henry Clinton, to send intelligence to the British (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 224-26). After his release, Fox made his way through Elizabeth, N.J., to Philadelphia were he relayed his intelligence report to Congress (see Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 13:541-42, 557-58 and 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 15:1103). In October 1782, Superintendant of Finance Robert Morris appointed Fox commissioner to settle the accounts of the hospital department, a post Fox held until May 1786. As part of his appointment, Fox attested to his loyalty to the United States (see Morris Papers, description begins E. James Ferguson et al., eds. The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784. 9 vols. Pittsburgh, 1973–99. description ends 6:551, 643).
11. See GW to Stirling, this date. Robertson says in his diary entry for 18, 19, and 20 Sept. that on those days the 63d, 64th, and 33d British Regiments left King’s Ferry, N.Y., after completing work on the fortifications at Stony Point (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 202-3). GW soon ordered a reconnaissance of the forts in preparation for a possible attack (see GW to Anthony Wayne, 26 Sept., and n.1 to that document; GW to William Heath, 29 Sept. [second letter]; and Henry Knox to GW, 30 Sept.).