George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joshua Mersereau, 25 March 1782

Elizabeth Town March 25. 1782

Thincking the inclos’d a matter of importance take the Earliest Oppertunity of Transmiting it to Your Excellency—Should it meet your Approbation it Will give me pleasure.

The lines mark’d (check mark) in the margent I Suppose to be the Object, Should your Excellency Wish any farther information, a line Sent to the Care of Col. Dayton, Can allways be forwarded, and on the receipt Shall be Duly Honour’d. I have the Honour to be Your Excellencys Most, Obedt, & Very Hum: Serv’t

Joshua Mersereau

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


New York 23d March 1782

Dear Sir.

I had Some hopes of Seeing you again before you return’d, but your Stay being Short, obliges me to take this Method of bidding you farewell, flattering myself that e’er long every Obstacle to our Meeting Shall be removed, & we may congratulate each other on a restoration of those valuable Priviledges, which we’ve So long been depriv’d of.

I would fain give you an Ample Detail of public Occurrences Since I had the Pleasure of Seeing you last, but Time will not permit So extensive a Plan: however a few Hints in regard to political Matters may perhaps meet a welcome Reception.

The Trade of the Southern States exceedingly embarrassed, & according to the present System of the British, must be entirely annihilated, without Speedy Succour can be had for its Protection. Scarce a Day Passes without the Arrival of Prizes, & in the Course of last Week & the present there has been Sent Nine & five of a Day, frequently four, & if but one, there is Scarce any Mention made of it. These are both inward & outward bound from Chesapeak & Delaware, laden with Flour, Tobacco, Dry Goods, West India Produce, Naval & Military Stores &c. which has lowered Stocks amazingly. Flour has fallen [20/ per wk]. In my last I wanted to inform you of an Expedition that was just taking place of abt 300 Refugees—They have Set out & I Suppose you have heard of their Route. Another is on the Eve of being executed, consisting of four British Regts a Detachment of the Legion & Rangers. Supposed to be abt 15,00 Men. Their Destination is kept a profound Secret; tho various are the Conjectures on the occasion—Some of the Officers give out that they are bound to Charlestown—Some of the most judicious among us, are Stedfastly of Opinion that it is intended for the Destruction of A considerable Magazine belonging to the States, at Fish Kill, which, by favour of Wind & Tide, they think may easily be effected, as that place is in a weak State of Defence—Others ground their Opinion on the late English Papers, Some of which are loud in the intended Plan of the opening Campaign—It is by that Channel Signified that the War in America is to be entirely defensive, & that only One Sea Port is to be held in Possession; for the reception of Such as Shall be disposed to quit the Continental Cause & also to Serve as a Harbour for their Ships of War, and the Disposal of their Prizes—As this Port will be most Convenient to be in a Centrical Part of the Continent, it is farther Said that New York or Rhode Island is the Spot pitched upon, which is at the Option of the Commander in Chief—As Rhode Island is an excellent Harbour & a Post that can be maintained with half the Number of Men that this can, Many opine that this Expedition inclines thither, but a far greater Number (for good Reasons) are of opinion that this Place being already in their Possession, & by reason of it’s Contiguousness to Connecticut & Jersey abounds with Provisions of all kinds, is most probably, the Place selected where the Glory of Britain, will receive it’s final Stab. What renders it a Matter of just Supposition, is the Measures that are taking for it’s Defence—A Strong Line of Fortifications is constructing acros the Island, just without the City. Bunkers Hill will be the principal Fortress, parallel to which, on each Side, will be a Chain of Redoubts, & when finished, will, no doubt make a formidable Appearance. To Compleat these Works, great Exertions are made daily, Sabbaths not excepted. Militia as well as regular troops are employed. I think, by a rough Calculation, not less than 1.000, or 12,00 Men are Continually busy—I have been out myself a day (which you may think a Crime) but I assure you every Man, without Discrimination are called upon, even those who make a Plea of their Conscience—Every tender feelings must be parted with, it Seems. Pro bono publico, that we may become equally flinty in Body & Soul, to Stand the furious Assault impending but, I fancy if I can preserve my Senses, my Courage will at that Time be all in my Heels. However previous to Such Event, I expect we Shall See one another again, when I may possibly furnish you with a Plan or give you, at least a more Satisfactory Accot of this Stupendous Work—Great Seem to be their Apprehensions here—Abt a fortnight Since a Number of Flat Boats were discovered by a Centinel from the Bank of Hudson’s River, which are Said to have been intended to fire the Suburbs & in the Height of the Conflagration, to make a Descent on the lower part of the City, & wrest from our Embraces. His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, Prince William Henry, & Several other illustrious Personages—Since which Great precautions have been taken for the Security of those Gentlemen, by Augmenting the Guards, & to render their Persons as little exposed as possible. Baron Knyphausen is about taking his Departure for Europe, In the Pearl Frigate, & will be either accompanied or Soon followed by his Royal Highness; while Sir Harry is to Stand the Brunt. I must just Remark, that I am well pleased with a Performance call’d (Rivington’s last Will & Testament) except the part relating to Genl Knyphausen; which I think is unjust, attacking with Mal Aspersions an Old Gentleman; whose private Character is deemed unexceptionable, (Apropos.) Squire Coghill Knapp observing he was mentioned in Said piece Sent a polite Note to Mr Rivington, informing him, that he understood he intended Constituting him one of his Executors, which (tho’ he was thankful for the favour) he must beg Leave to decline, on account of his Infirmities, which would prevent his Acting in that Capacity; therefore would be glad, if Mr Rivington would Appoint another in his Stead; at which modest Request that Gentleman was highly irritated.

As, Dear Sir, the Time we alloted for an Interview is too near at Hand to admit of your going to Philadelphia ‘ere it arrives it will be necessary to postpone it to Some future Day; for which purpose you will please to leave a few Lines in your Brothers Care directed to me, appointing the Time when, & Place where you will meet me, to which I Shall pay the strictest Adherence—I beg Leave to recommend to you to furnish yourself, when at Philadelphia with as complete a Body of Intelligence, respecting the Movements of the American Army as you can collect; that I may have it in my Power to give a timely Notice to Some well disposed People here, in Case an Attack is meant that they may remove their Persons & Property to a place of more Security & thereby prevent A train of Calimities (Attendant on a Siege,) from being their Portion.

I Shall be always glad to hear from you Dr Sir, as I Sincerely not only wish you well; but would gladly, were it in my power Contribute to your Happiness—May the Almighty Smile on your laudable Pursuits, & grant you whatever is meet for a good Man to enjoy. Having made your Passage thro’ this transitory State may you be found numbered among the righteous at his Right Hand.With the most Cordial Esteem, I am, Dear Sir, Your Friend & hble Servt

J. Addison F.S.

N.B. The Balls I have in hand I will deliver to your Brother he will provide you Papers &c.

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