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To George Washington from Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 3 December 1779

From Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Stanwich [Fairfield County, Conn.] Decr 3d 1779


By the Bearer of this I have the Honour to forward to your Excellency Dispatches from C—— Senior & C—— Junr1—Possibly the Situation of the British Army is such at present that your Excellency would think it unnecessary, thro’ the severe part of the Winter, to have C—— attempt a regular Continuation of intelligence thro’ the former Channel. Crossing the Sound in the Winter is often precarious & difficult; nevertheless if your Excellency thinks proper I will endeavour to keep up the Communication with C—— as regular as possible. I cannot yet say where our Regt will Quarter this winter,2 however I can trust the Dispatches with a friend of mine, Mr Jackson,3 who will enclose them and leave them with Genl Poor to be forwarded to Hd Qrs—Any Instructions for C—— which your Excellency may have for C——, by being forwarded to me can be soon conveyed as heretofore—I shall not forget to remind C—— of the importance of opening some Channel of Communication from N.Y. across the No. River by which his intelligence can soon arrive at Hd Qrs.4 Yours &c.


Copy, CtLHi.

1Tallmadge apparently enclosed two letters from Samuel Culper (an alias for Abraham Woodhull) to John Bolton (an alias for Tallmadge), one headed “No. 28” and dated “427. eg” (code for 13 Nov.), and another headed “No. 29” and dated 29 November. For the code employed in Culper’s letters, see Tallmadge to GW, 25 July, and n.2 to that document; see also Culper Spy Ring Intelligence, 6–17 Aug., editorial note. Internal evidence from Culper’s two letters suggest that he wrote both from his Long Island, N.Y., home at Setauket. Tallmadge also enclosed a letter from Samuel Culper, Jr. (an alias for Robert Townsend) to Bolton headed “No. 14” and written at New York on 27 November.

Culper’s letter dated 13 Nov. reads: “Your No. 20 & 21 came to hand pressing an immediate answer to Sundry questions, It not being then in my Power to Send a person, to make the necessary inquiry, And the next appointment very Short, And dispaches Waiting thought best to Order his returne—Accordingly on the 7th Sent a person Who visited every Quarter betwixt this and Heampstead our Harbour. And on the 9th returned to me, and reported—No Piles of Wood on any Neckes or Shores. Assoon as it is cut it is Put on board and carried to N. york. Lord Cathcart Legion are Stationed at Jerico and Oyster bay—In Huntington and Loyds Neck are Coll Ludlos Govr [Montfort] Browns Coll Fanings Regments New Levies 43 of foot 17 Dragons one Regt of Hessians. All commanded by Genl Leland if do not mistake his Name However I am Sure it is Similar to Such a Name, and are collecting Large Magazins of Wood & Forage near the House of Nathl Williams the Whole Number it computed to be Sixteen Hundred Men—On the 10 day Was to see C. Jur at a House he appointed twelve Miles West from here. And Set out with all my letters to meet him. And Just before I arrived at the appointed Place I Suddenly met a forageing Party of 40 Horse & 200 foot and about one Hundred Wagons. Was much Surprised but after answering a few questions Passed them unmolested. This Party were draughts from the 17, 43, & the Hessian Regt, all under the Command of Coll Burch [Birch] of the 17—But to my great mortification Culper Jur did not come That day. I Waited all the next, And Sent a Person Westward to Several Houses Where I thought likely to find him, but could hear nothing of him. I am much concernd fear Some accident hath befallen him—but yet wish to entertain a favourable thought that he may be Sick—The Wagons went from Smith Town yesterday loaded but am informed the Troops all Stayed behind waiting their returne. We have 20 Horse & 4 foot bilited about in Houses but no Wagons have loaded here yet. they are exceedingly afarried and keep a very Strict guard at the foot of Seatons Neck Coll Floyds E. Jones above the Mill J. Thompsons P[arson James] Lions [Lyon] John Bayles is Head Quarters Main guard in kellys House. Their not expectd to Stay here more than 10 days Some Say not longer than a week. It will be precarious to attack them they may be reinforced in one days time. they are continualy recoinetring the Shores—And the Weather is very uncertain. I am told the Newyork Paper Saith Adml Parker hath taken 5 Ships of the line from the french, I think Something is the matter or they must have bene here before now—I give over all hope of their coming to our releaf this Winter, And it is a killing Thought to me. We Shall See more distress this Winter than ever Since the War begun, The Inhabitants of this Island at Present live a miserable life, which you may readily Judge When haveing the reafuge of three kingdoms an[d] Thirteen Stats amongt them, Plundering and rapine increaseth at no Small rate I am tired of this buisiness it gives me a deal of Trouble, especially When disappointment happen, Could not consent to be any longer an assistant if I Was not almost an Enthusiast for our Success—I am perfectly acquainted with a full years anxiety Which no one can Scarcely have an Idea of, but those that experience and not long Since there was not the breadht of your finger betwixt me and death—but So long as I reside here my faithfull endevours Shal never be Wanting—725 [Caleb Brewster] loudly complains of his fateauge and declares he will not Come So often—Should the Enemy be Stationed her[e] this Winter it will be very dangerous for him to come. You Say you will take all the Panes Possible to Secure Coll Floyd and Mr Seatons goods I hope they may be Saved and the Publick yet be benefited I have no love for Coll Floyd nor for no Tory under Heaven. but in my Present Situation am obliged to cultivate his friendship, And for that reason dare not mention to him, What you Purposed I do not doubt he Would be glad to hear it and perhaps keep it intirely Secret for his own Intrest, but yet he Would vew me with an Evil Eye. I have not as yet heard of 725 arrival but as the Weather is now favourable expect him this Night—and Shall expect his return on the 20th Instant When Shall hope to be ready for him—and Shall if no accident hath befallen C. Jur I hope to See him Soon” (DLC:GW). Tallmadge’s two letters to Culper have not been identified.

Culper’s letter dated 29 Nov. (Monday) reads: “Your No. 22 With the inclosed for C. Jur came to hand, And observd the Contents—your No. 23 With the Blank I received this Morning. It is now late in the evening and Just receivd the dispaches have hardly time to Write any thing and Would—As I greatly desire to Send 725 of[f] from this Place of danger I cannot tell the Sheats that are Written with the Stain and agreeabl to your desire have requested the Same from C. Jur This Place is very distressed, and the inclosures about the Town one Common Feild, their Coming Was like death to me at firs[t] but have no fears about me at Present and Soon intend to Visit N.Y. there is about 400 in the Town and follo[w]ing the Wagons they take all the forage and Oats I forbear to Write any Particular for Want of time and to avoid danger I expect they Enemy will leave us about next Monday and have the Pleasing hope they Will not Visit us any more this Winter I have directed 725 to come on the 12 December Say the 11—hope the way Will then be Clear and Safe I expected the express on Saturday last excuse me at this time, I Cannot Serve you better” (DLC:GW). Tallmadge’s letter to Culper, and its enclosure for Culper, Jr., have not been identified.

A copy of the letter from Culper, Jr., dated 27 Nov. (Saturday) and in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman, reads: “It is now said by the most knowing ones that a considerable part of the Army is to go to Georgia as soon as it is known that D’Estaing has left the Coast and some think that several Regiments will be sent to the West Indies. Charles town is fixed on as the grand object this Campaign, and Winter.

“The Spirits of the Torys is amazingly elevated with the repulse of the Army in Georgia—It has been reported some time past that Parker has taken seven sail of French Men of War in the West Indies—and on Friday an account was brought by a Cartel from Boston that there had been an engagement between the grand Fleets in the Channel, in which the combined fleets of France and Spain were defeated with the loss of [ ] Ships sunk and taken. The former account is now thought premature, and the latter improbable, as it is said to have happened on the 2d of Septemb. and the packet left Falmouth the 7th and brings no such account.

“The Tories are extremely anxious for the fate of the British fleet, they think that the success of the Contest depends intirely on it. They have hopes that England will be able to form some Alliances this Winter, which will enable them to carry on the War here another Campaign which they flatter themselves will end in their favour; as they think America will not be able to keep an Army together another Campaign. Further Reasons that their Currency will be intirely depreciated, and that there will not be provision in the Country to supply an Army another Campaign. That of the Currency I am afraid will prove true, as they are indefatigable in increasing the quantity of it. several Reams of the paper made for the last emissions struck by Congress have been procured from Philada. I have taken much pains to find out some of the concerned, but could not accomplish it. But that there is such paper brought in you may depend on as a fact. No arrivals of any consequence since my last. A large ship was sent into the Hook yesterday, but it is not known where she is from—The Men of War at the Hook have taken in Water for several months, and on Friday the Admiral [Marriot Arbuthnot] went down with all his Baggage. A fleet for Cork and a number of Vessels for England will sail in a few days some of which are loaded with valuable Cargoes. However some think that they will not sail till D’Estaing has left the Coast, or till there is some arrival from England. privateering is now almost over, not more than six now out and few fitting. There has not any prizes of value arrived for some time past” (DLC:GW). For the last known letter from Culper, Jr., to Tallmadge, see Culper, Jr., to Bolton, 3 Nov., found at Tallmadge to GW, 8 Nov., n.1.

2Tallmadge belonged to Col. Elisha Sheldon’s 2d Continental Dragoon Regiment, which GW intended to winter east of Danbury, Conn. (see GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 20 Nov.; see also GW to Stephen Moylan, 27 Nov., and n.3 to that document).

3Tallmadge is referring to Thomas Tredwell Jackson, a Patriot refugee from Long Island who gained residence in Connecticut in July 1778 and assisted Lt. Caleb Brewster in ferrying Culper communications (see Conn. Public Records, description begins The Public Records of the State of Connecticut . . . with the Journal of the Council of Safety . . . and an Appendix. 18 vols. to date. Hartford, 1894–. description ends 2:98, and Culper, Sr., to Tallmadge, 29 Oct., found at Tallmadge to GW, 1 Nov., n.1). Jackson joined the 2d Continental Dragoon Regiment as a cornet in November 1778, advanced to lieutenant in November 1779, and subsequently became adjutant of the regiment. The general orders for 8 July 1781 included Jackson’s appointment as Major General Stirling’s aide-de-camp, and he held that post until January 1783. Jackson remained in the army until that November.

4GW replied to Tallmadge on 6 December. For GW’s longstanding desire to secure more rapid transmission of intelligence from the Culper ring, see GW to Tallmadge, 21 March 1779, and n.2 to that document.

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