George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 28 October 1780

Camp at Totowa Oct. 28th 1780


Sensible how mortifying is Disappointment especially when the Object of our wishes is almost within our Grasp; aware that the supposed Cause of the Disappointment is ever the Subject of Censure and Resentment; and fearing your Excellency will deem me greatly culpable for the Failure of the late Enterprize of the Light Infantry; I beg you will do me the Favor to read the Orders I gave on the Occasion, Copies of which I inclose. Each was given on the Instant of receiving from Colonel Hamilton his several Communications on the subject.

After dispatching an Express with the Letter No. 1 and another Express with the Letter No. 2, and the Instructions No. 3, I rode myself to Major Cogswell, that I might be assured of his having received my Orders. He arrived soon after having received my Letter from the Express, whom I had directed not to cease riding untill he had found him. The Major instantly wrote his Orders relative to the Removal of the Boats, and sent them to his Conductor before I left him.

The next Day (the 25th) late in the Afternoon my Express returned from Kings Ferry—Mr Kiers the Quarter Master there was sick; and unable to do anything; but the Express agreeably to the conditional Instructions I had given him executed the Orders with so much promptitude, that the next Day he put into the Boats near Suffrans three and forty Oars. He inform’d me that there were no double Trees at the Boats; but that the Conductor would endeavor to procure some of the neighbouring Farmers, and if he failed, the Conductor said he would send back one of his People to fetch them from his quarters, and in the mean Time get on with the Boats as far as he could. About seven that Evening, I sent off the Letter No. 5 to Major Cogswell, and immediately afterwards rode myself to Head Quarters—With what passed there Colonel Hamilton is acquainted.

On the first Notice of the Affair I directed Colonel Baldwin to repair the Carriages (which I went to examine) of the Boats in Camp and got them ready to move by ten the next morning—On the 26th I went to the Boats to see if they were in Readiness. The Carriages had been repaired, but the Wheels wanted Tar, and the Boats thole Pins—These Defects I caused to be remedied, and some spare thole pins to be made, lest the other boats should be deficient, and about the Time the Teams were fixed to them the Boats were ready to move.

In the afternoon I rode to the two Bridges (hurrying on the Boats as I passed) where I expected to find the Boats from Suffrans; but to my extreme Mortification they had not arrived. Immediately rode to Dodds where I found Major Cogswell who informed me the Boats were near at Hand. I waited a little for the Arrival of some and rode forward to meet the rest. They advanced with Rapidity; and after seeing half of them over the Hill, and the Residue just ascending I returned to the two Bridges where I expected to meet some Officer with Orders whether to proceed with the Boats or to stop them. For not knowing the Distance they would have to march beyond the Point to which they were ordered to proceed, I could not determine tho I feared, that they would arrive too late. But on coming to the two Bridges, whither Major Cogswell had galloped a little before me he presented me with Major Langborn’s Orders to drive on the Boats with all possible Dispatch, and they were pushd accordingly.

In the Course of the Business I gave many verbal Directions all tending to effect a punctual Execution of Orders, but they would be too tedious to relate and some as they a[rose] from the Occasion, I could not now recollect.

I am sorry to trouble your Excellency with so long a Detail; but I have felt too much pain not to attempt by a Relation of Facts, to remove any unfavorable Impressions on your Excellency’s Mind which the Event of the Affair may have produced. I should also be happy that the Marquis were acquainted with the state of the Matter as here given, if in your Excellency’s Opinion it amounts to a Justification, or will in any Degree lessin the Blame I may otherwise incur.

I should sooner have laid before your Excellency Copies of my Orders on this Occasion, with such Remarks as I have now made; but the Business of my Office, especially the writing divers public Letters, which did not admit of Delay prevented me. I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servt

Tim: Pickering Q.M.G.

MHi: Timothy Pickering Papers.

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