George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Howe, 26 August 1780

26 August 1780

Dear Sir

I went out this morning by Day light in order to make my self acquainted with the approaches of the Camp and situation of the Guards, and am but this moment Return’d. during this Tour I am inform’d that your Excellency did me the Honour of a Visit, I therefore immediately send to know if you have any Business or commands that I may Attend without Delay should that be the case, & which with Pleasure I shall be ready to do. My Emissarys (at least two of them) insist upon it that Sir Henry Clinton is on Long Island with a considerable Force, & that some weighty manœuvre is in object, that on the 21st presant 1 fifty gun ship 2 Frigates and three large Brigs. Came from the 2 [   ] at Gardners Bay near Rhode Island, & went towards New York, & that Vessels were on the 23d Collected at New York, and it was said were to fall down to the Hook. That the Troops between New York & Kings Bridge were Certainly five thousand, that General Kniphausin was to join Sir Harry Clinton & General Tryon to Command on York Island, that Your Excellency’s movements had puzzled Sir Henry & that he appeared to have suspended his Operations from the perplexity he was thrown into by them, & that continual Expresses were passing & Repassing between him & General Tryon to a very remarkable degree; that Conjectures were various as to the End they aim’d at, some said Defence alone would be their Aim & that Sir Henry had chosen Long Island as his Sphere from the persuasion that the French would operate there & that the principal Attack would be in that Quarter, Others are Certain that offensive measures were in View, and that Clinton was under possitive orders to Act Vigorously & to make You his Object, & that however Divided he and Tryon were as persons, a sudden junction would be found when matters were Ripe for Execution & that their motions would be Rapid, a third [Set] are possible that General Tryon is to Keep you at Bay While Clinton went against West Point, imagining that if you could be kept off the Militia at that Post would be an Easy conquest, and that the Ships mention’d above to have been sent from Rhode Island, with those on York were to be Stationed in the North River so as to prevent your crossing any place below New Windsor. The Person himself thinks that Either our Allies on Rhode Island or your Excellency was their Object, and he inclines to the latter as Officers of High Rank are Continually Saying that Washington was America and that Every Risque should be Run to Subdue him, that now was the time that his Army Consisted of a sort of Raw Boys hardly able to weild a flintlock, & that Sir Henry had [but so] freely Exclaimd Against for not making you his Aim, all along, that the writer thought he could not avoid doing it Even if his inclinations were otherwise this Sir is the Substance, indeed almost the words of what has been sent me. I am Dear Sir with the greatest Respect & Regard yr Excellency’s most ob’d Ser.

R. Howe

P.S. I think Captain Lawrences acct that a Body of Troops had saild to the Eastward thro’ the sound must have been premature.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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