George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jean-Baptiste de Gouvion, 21 November 1780

Head Quarters Prekaness 21st Novr 1780


You will proceed to Fort Lee and thence with the greatest secrecy and caution along the margin of the North River to the landing which is opposite Spiten Devil Creek. You will observe with the greatest accuracy possible the number & situation of the enemys works from Fort Washington upwards—the huts incampments barracks in or near them—the number of troops that occupy these and are otherwise within view—the landing places on the Island, noting which are easiest for debarking troops, and which admit most of secrecy—the approaches to the several works, particularly Fort Washington, the redoubt on the same ridge to the Northward of it, and Laurel Hill—the guard houses and washing houses along the river; the vessels boats &c. in the river and their several stations.

You will make these observations at different points from the landing opposite Spiten devil to the banks opposite the hollow that extends across to Harlæm river—You will endeavour to arrive in time to-morrow morning to observe where the troops parade at Assembly, which will the better enable you to judge of their number.

In short you will make every observation necessary for forming a plan for surprising the posts which have been mentioned by a night expedition, and for determining the propriety of such an attempt.

You will also remark the state of the road, from the incampment of the light corps to Fort Lee; particularly that part of it from the Heights of Fort Lee to the landing below—to ascertain the practicability of moving down boats in carriages to the landing either in waggons or on the shoulders of men.

The perfect confidence I have in your judgment and address assures me that you will execute this trust in the most proper manner.

For your better security I shall send a patrole towards the three pigeons but who shall not fall in with you or know any thing of your errand. I shall expect your report tomorrow night or very early next morning. I am with the greatest esteem Sir Yr most Obed.

P.S. You will observe whether there are any small boats at any of the landings on this side which the inhabitants may make use of to convey intelligence.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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