George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Huntington, 30 September 1779

To Samuel Huntington

Head Quarters West Point 30th Sepr 1779


I have been honored with your Excellency’s favors of the 22d and 23d instants, with the Resolves to which they refer.1 In obedience to the latter, I have put the North Carolina Regiments under march by the shortest Route to South Carolina.2

I yesterday received the inclosed intelligence—it is said “to be obtained from a public Office which has the best opportunity of determining the numbers, the Commander in Chief has kept the destination unknown even from his own Aids.”3 I cannot undertake to engage for the authenticity of this intelligence in its full extent—the numbers I am certain must be exaggerated. I should suppose, the Corps mentioned may amount to between 5000 and 6000 Men.4 I hope I shall, in a few days, receive a more particular account of the above, from a quarter on which I place great confidence, and which shall be communicated to your Excelly the moment I obtain it.5

I have just recd a South Carolina paper of the 8th instant, by which it appears, that the Count D’Estaing had arrived near that Coast. I learn by a private letter from Philada, that Monsieur Gerrard had received dispatches from the Count informing him of his intended operations.6 Perhaps, upon this change of affairs to the Southward, Congress may think it unnecessary to continue the march of the North Carolina Brigade.7 I shall however order it to proceed slowly towards Trenton, and should Congress be of opinion, from the advices which I presume will be communicated to them, that the service of those troops may be dispensed with, I shall be obliged to your Excellency for directing an Express to meet Colo. Clarke with countermanding orders.8 There are possible operations in this quarter, which may render the presence of that Brigade very usefull9—Congress will judge how far the probability of their being necessary to the southward may overballance this consideration. I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect and Esteem Yr Excellency’s Most obt Servt

Go: Washington

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 4 October (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 15:1138).

1These letters were from John Jay, the previous president of the Continental Congress; the letter of 22 Sept. has not been found.

3The enclosed copy of an undated intelligence report reads: “Compose the 1st Division commanded by Lord Cornwallis sailed from the Hook the 25th in the Afternoon[:] 1000 Grenadiers British 1000 Infantry [British] 600 7th Regt [British.] Compose the 2d division embarked and embarking. The second division to follow the above[:] Regt filled up out of the late arrivals and said to be 600 each, but I suppose not quite so full. between 500 and 600 each[:] 600 23d Regt 600 37th 600 54th 600 57th[.] 2000 in 4 Batts of Hessians supposed that number 500 Queen Rangers 500 Fannings 500 Irish Volunteers[.]

“The second division of Arbuthnots Fleet arrived the 22d with some troops. In both fleets arrived about 4700. On Staten Island about 400 Horse. Forrage for one Month—The destination of the above not known but supposed Virginia or Carolina—Certainly for a Warm Climate. About 50 Transports with Stores and provisions lately arrived from Cork which have not broke Bulk, now fell down to sail with the above” (DNA:PCC, item 152). GW had probably reveived this intelligence report from Maj. Samuel Hayes, commanding the New Jersey troops at Elizabeth, N.J. (see GW to Hayes, this date).

4At this point on the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s aide Tench Tilghman, the following text is marked out: “The first division said to be under the Command of Lord Cornwallis, seems from the number and the quality of the troops, to be destined for some particular enterprize, and may be thought to point to the southward. But the heavy Convoy of stores and provisions which the information tells us is to accompany or follow the Fleet look as if they had a more distant and lengthy expedition in View.” Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s expedition was bound for Jamaica but soon returned to New York (see GW to Jay, 25 Sept., n.5.).

5GW soon received the “more particular account” from Robert Townsend (“Samuel Culper, Jr.”), one of his spies in New York. He relayed the account to Huntington on 9 October.

6The “private letter,” which has not been found, was from John Mitchell, deputy quartermaster general at Philadelphia; Mitchell enclosed the newspaper with his letter (see GW to George Clinton, 1 Oct., and n.2 to that document).

7The march of the Carolina brigade was soon countermanded (see GW to Clark, 3 Oct.; GW to Huntington, 4 and 8 Oct.; and Huntington to GW, 5 Oct.).

8Huntington sent the orders to Clark on 5 Oct. (see Huntington to GW, that date).

9For GW’s plans for an attack on New York in cooperation with Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s fleet, see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 October.

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