George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Forman, 9 July 1780

Freehold Sunday Morning 9th July 1780


Enclosed your Excly has a Diary kept on the Highlands of Middle Town, by it Your Excellancy will Observe that the small Fleet prepared for sinking & to Interrupt the Navigation to New York are returned to Sandy Hook—The same person informs me that two Deserters landed yesterday from one of the Enemies Ships of War who says they had a report on Board that a French fleet was on the Coast.

All the Watermen on the Shoar agree that should the Enemy sink these Vessells at or Near the point of the Hook, That they will drive away with the first gale of Wind that Happins—The place they last removed from is the Shoalist water in the Channell way to New York and so far removed from the Sea that in all probability these Vessells when Sunk would remain unmoved untill they were Weighed—Yet I am of the opinion they will (if at all) sink them at or Near the Point of the Hook & for these reasons—If they have the passage of the Hook open the French fleet as soone as they get in will have a good Harbour behind the Hook or In Amboy Bay by which means they will be secure from all Gales of Wind & have it absolutely in there power to Cut off all supplyes & at there leasure to plan the mode of removing any obstructions they Can throw in the Channell way—betwen the Banks—Which time, and a superior Naval force would Certainly affect, As the Channell betwen the Banks is too far distant to be cover’d by any Sand Batterys they can erect—& by interrupting the Channell way at the point of the Hook & at the same Time Takeing possession of the Hook with a Body of Troops and Heavy Cannon they would make the passage if not Impassable at least very dificult—The same Storm that will displace the Vessells they may sink will in all probability oblige the French fleet to put to Sea & the Weather that will permit them to return will again affoard an Opportunity of Sinking other Vessells.

When I observed the Enemy would by Sinking a Number of Vessells at or near the point of the Hook and occupying it with a body of Troops &c. Make that passage Impassable or at least very dificult. I had referance only to a Naval Attack and that the British Ships with the Assistance of the Troops and Cannon on Shoar would prevent our Allyes from Weighing the Sunk Vessells or Warping through Them.

Should a Body of our Troops attack and take possession of the Hook every Dificulty would be removed in a very Short Time—By landing a few pieces of Heavy Cannon the Troops Could Cover the French Ships while they drew the Sunk Vessells out of the Channell or Untill they Could Warp these Ships Through them. The Hook at present is guarded by a Lieut., and Twenty of the New Raised Troops at the Light House—in the Cedars are about 60 or 70 Refugees White and Black—At the Time Count De Estang lay off the Ennemy Erected a Bumb Battery at the Point of the Hook but sent very few Troops, Last Summer they Erected some Works and Sent some Heavy Cannon from New York for them—the Works are now Intirely out of repair; the Cannon has long since been removed, I belive to New York—Should Your Excely on the Arrival of the French fleet dictate an Attack on New York & think the possession of Sandy Hook of any Importance—it may not be amiss to remind your Excely that the Hook is made of a Very loose sand, a perfect Beach—& That it will be impossable to Erect any Works without the Assistance of Gabions or Fascines, or Some other Materials to give Stability to the sand—and as it is possable they may not be procured in Time should such a plan be in Existance it might be proper to have them prepared.

from the Late Law of State there is so few of the Militia [   ] Horse ordered out and so much use for them that in many Instances I Can not be furnished with one in fore and Twenty Hours and Never untill I [   ] 15 or 20 Miles for them—by which means my Inteligence should the French fleet arrive will probably be delayed—Should your Excly be of Opinion that it will be Necessary I Can ingage a Couple of Trusty Ladds allways to be ready at a Minutes Warning. I have the Honour to be Your Excellancyes Most obdt Humble Servt

David Forman

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


1-8 July 1780

July the 1 Saterday Morning the Weath[r] Clear the Wind N. Nothing Appearing in the Offing.

Saterday After Noon—The Weathr Clear and Calm 2 Large Ships Within Sandy hook gravling their Sides the Gard Ship Gravling on the W. Side of Sandy hook. Sunday Morning

July th. 2 the Weathr Cloudy th. Wind S. Nothing Appearing in the Offing the fleet Said to be for Sinking Lies between the E. and W. Banck.

Monday July the 3 the Weather Cloudy the Wind S.W. Light Some Small Vessels in the offing.

Tuesday July th. 4 the Weather Cloudy the Wind N.E. Small Rains Nothing to be Seen

Wensday Morning July th. 5—the Weather Clear the Wind Light the Gard Ship went to Sea.

Wensday After Noon the Wind Light at S.S.E. Nothing Appearing but Sd Ship in the Offing.

Thursday Morning July the 6 the Weather Cloudy the Wind S.W. Light A Sail in the Offing.

Thursday After Noon the Weather Hasey the Ship that Apeared in the offing Came in and Went Up She is A Small Ship of War.

fryday Morning July the 7. the Weather Cloudy Small Showers and thunder A Sail in the Offing 5 Sail falling Down from the Narrowes.

fryday After Noon the Vessels Came to Anchor 1 is A Large Ship of War 1 Small &c. the others’ Appears Like Transports the Ship that Was Without the hook Lies there Still at Anchor.

Saterday morning July the 8—the Weather foggy Nothing to be Seen twelve O Clock the Air Clearing the Wind beginning to blow at S.—there Appears Several Vessells Beating Down in the Narrowes the Above mentioned Lies at Anchor Without the hook.

Saterday 6 OClock the Weather Clear the Wind hard at S. 1 of them Ships that Came Down is a Large Ship of War 2 Small Ditto 6 Appear Like Transports 33 of the fleet Sd to be for Sinking all Beating Down for Sandy hook they all but 2 Keep Continually upon the Moor there is Now Lyeing Within Sandy hook 3 Ships of War 2 frigates 3 Sloops of War 9 Transports and A Number of Small Vessels the Bay Seems Covered With Sails there Seems Some Movement With the Enm. Yours on Command

John Stilwell

Index Entries