George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Lee, September 1780

c.September 1780


I have engaged two persons to undertake the accomplishment [of] your Excellency’s wishes. In my negotiation I have said little or nothing concerning your Excellency as I presumed it would operate disagreeably, should the issue prove disastrous.

the cheif of the two persons is a sergeant in my cavalry. To him I have promised promotion, the other is an inhabitant of Newark; I have had experience of his fidelity, & his connexions with the enemy render him with his personal qualifications very fit for the business—To this man I have engaged one hund. guineas, five hundd acres of land & three negroes. I gave him the promise of negroes because he is engaged in aiding me to destroy the refugees at Bergen point: success there, puts it in my power to reward him according to compact. If nothing is done, he is to receive an additional sum of money. The outlines of the scheme which I have recommended are, that the sergeant should join Gen. Arnold as a deserter from us, should engage in his corps now raising, & should contrive to insinuate himself into some menial or military birth about the Genls person—that a correspondence should be kept up with the man in Newark, by the latters visiting the former every two days. When the favorable moment arrives they should seize the prize in the night, gag him; & bring him across to Bergen woods.

If your Excellency approves of what is done, the sergeant will desert from us tomorrow—a few guineas will be necessary for him. I have advised that no third person be admitted into the vertuous conspiracy, as two appear to me adequate to the execution of it.

the sergeant is a very promising youth of uncommon taciturnity & invincible perseverance. His connexions and his service in the army from the beginning of the war assure me that he will be faithful. I have instructed him not to return till he receives direction from me, but to continue his attempts, however unfavorable the prospect may appear at first. I have excited his thirst for fame by impressing on his mind the virtue & glory of the act.

I subjoin Sir for your Excellencys information my last account from New York. the fleets which sailed from sandy hook on monday last are under convoy of two 74s & four row galleys. the Sandwich & one 74 lay at New York. It is not certain, but very probable, that Gen. Clinton is gone with the fleet. Virginia pilots were taken on board. the embarkation consists of the British Grenadiers & Light Infantry. the 49, the 82, & another regt two companys [provincials] & 70 horse the Cork fleet arrived on sunday; they report in newyork that five thousand five hund. men came with this fleet from England that part have gone to Carolina, the other part were arrived at New York. the fleet have some troops on board, chiefly Hessians. one of my informants counted the number of ships & says there were but 70 sail. of [   ] the number of troops must be very inconsiderable. the cheif part of the army lays at White stone on Long island. the 54 regt at Poules hook; one hessian [regt] & [   ] at the watering place on Staten isld the 23 at the flags staff, Senicois rangers at Richmond. I have the honor to be sir most respectfully—your Excys ob. sert

Henry Lee Junr

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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