George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 4 October 1779

To William Livingston

Head Quarters West Point Octr 4th 1779


It is essential that some good pilots should be ready to go on Board the French fleet the moment it appears perfectly acquainted with the entrance into New York harbour.1 Wm Van Drill who resides in your State I am informed is one of the best that can be had. I shall be much obliged to your Excellency immediately to engage Mr Van Drill to go down to Monmouth and join Major Lee at English town who is instructed on the subject.2 If there are any others on whose skill and fidelity we can depend within Your Excellency’s reach, I request they may be also sent. It will be a point on which the successive operations will much depend that the Count should have it in his power to enter on his first arrival; I therefore entreat your Excellency’s immediate and particular attention to the procuring of pilots3—I have the honor to be With the truest respect and esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obdt servant.

Samuel Ashleton at Brunswick Isaac Symonson Elizabeth Town are recommended as good hook Pilots.

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

GW modified these directions the next day. His letter to Livingston, dated 5 Oct. from headquarters at West Point, reads: “I wrote to you yesterday requesting the favr of you to procure certain pilots at present in Jersey, and send them down to Major Lee at English Town—Monmouth County. I must now desire your Excellency to direct the Pilots to rendezvous at Trenton instead of English town, and upon their arrival at the former place, report themselves to Colo. Jno. Cox Asst Qr Mr Genl and take their further orders from him” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). For GW’s orders to Deputy Q.M. John Cox, Jr., see GW to Cox, 4 and 5 October. GW apparently had been informed by Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, the outgoing French minister, that Vice Admiral d’Estaing was to call at the Capes of Delaware rather than at New York (see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 Oct.).

1For GW’s plans for combined operations with the French fleet, see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 October.

2GW had stationed Maj. Henry Lee’s partisan corps in Monmouth County, N.J., near the coast to give warning of the expected arrival of d’Estaing’s naval squadron and to gather intelligence; see GW to Lee, 13 September.

3For GW’s call for other pilots, see Circular to Pilots and GW to Thomas Hunt, both 5 Oct.; see also GW to Cox, 4 October.

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