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Instructions to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 17 October 1779

Instructions to Major Benjamin Tallmadge

[West Point, 17 Oct. 1779]

C——Junr to remain in the City, to collect all the useful information he can—to do this, he should mix as much as possible among the Officers and Refugees, visit the Coffee Houses and all public places. He is to pay particular attention to the movements by land and Water in and about the City—especially—

How their transports are secured against an attempt to destroy them—whether by armed Vessels upon the flanks—or by Chains, Booms or any contrivances to keep off fire Rafts.

The number of Men destined for the defence of the City and Environs, endeavouring to designate the particular Corps and where each is posted.

To be particular in describing the place where the Works cross the Island in the Rear of the City—how many Redoubts are upon the line from River to River—how many Cannon in each and of what weight, and whether the Redoubts are closed or open next the City.

Whether there are any Works upon the Island of New York between those nea⟨r⟩ the City and the Works at Fort Knyphausen or Washington, and if any, where abouts and of wha⟨t⟩ kind.

To be very particular in finding out whether any Works are thrown up on Harlem River near Harlem Town. And whether Horn⟨s⟩ Hook is fortifyed. If so, how many Men are kept at each place, and what number and what sized Cannon are in those Works.

To enquire whether they have dug Pits within and in front of the lines and Works in general, three or four feet deep, in which sharp pointed stakes are fixed. These are intended to receive and wound Men who attempt a surprise at Night.

The state of provision, Forage and Fuel to be attended to as also the Health and Spirits of the Army, Navy and City.

These are the principal matters to be observed within the Island and about the City of New York. Many more may occur to a person of C——junr penetration, which he will note and communicate.

C——seniors Station to be upon Long Island to receive and transmit the intelligence of C——junior.

As it is imagined, that the only post of consequence, which the enemy will attempt to hold upon Long Island in case of attack, will be at Brooklyn. I would recommend that some inhabitant in the neighbourhood of that place, and seemingly in the interest of the enemy, should be procured, who might probably gain daily admission into the Garrison by carrying in marketting, and from him, intelligence might be gained every day or two of what was passing within—As the strength of the Garrison—the number and size of Cannon &ca.

proper persons to be procured, at convenient distances along the sound from Brooklyn to Newtown, whose Business it shall be to observe and Report what is passing upon the Water—As, whether any Vessels or Boats with troops are moving—their number and which way they seem bound.

There can be scarce any need of recommending the greatest caution and secrecy in a Business so critical and dangerous—the following seem to be the best general Rules.

To intrust none but the persons fixed upon to transact the Business.

To deliver the dispatches to none upon our side but those who shall be pitched upon for the purpose of receiving them.

And to transmit them and any verbal intelligence that may be obtained to no one but the Commander in Chief.

D, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NjP: Papers of Benjamin Tallmadge and the Tallmadge Family; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The letter is undated, but the docket, in Tilghman’s writing, reads: “Instructions for C——Senior and Junior—Octo. 17th 1779.” The docket of the draft, also in Tilghman’s writing, reads: “Instructions delivered to Maj: T. for C——senior and Junr the 14th Octobr 1779.” For the location, see GW to Tallmadge, 9 Oct., and n.4 to the document.

GW and Tallmadge most likely drafted these instructions during the conference that GW had requested five days earlier to discuss intelligence operations in preparation for a prospective joint American-French attack on New York (see GW to Tallmadge, 9 Oct.). A receipt, in GW’s own writing and signed by Tallmadge, reads: “Received this 14th day of Octr 1779 for the purpose of obtaining Intelligence the Sum of Twenty Guineas from George Washington” (Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 2, 1775–1783, DLC:GW, Ser. 5).

During this conference, Tallmadge probably wrote his letter of 12 Oct. to Robert Townsend (which has not been found) that most likely requested the intelligence from Townsend that GW had asked for in his letter to Tallmadge of 6 October. For the full range of GW’s preparations for joint operations with the French fleet, see Planning for an Allied Attack on New York, c.3–7 October.

Responding to Tallmadge’s request, Townsend, writing as “Samuel Culper, Jr.,” sent a letter to Tallmadge dated 21 Oct. from New York. A copy of the letter, in the writing of GW’s aide Tench Tilghman, reads: “I am this day favd with yours of the 12th Inst. and note the Contents. The fleet for New port, contrary to my information, sailed the day I wrote to you. I was led into this error by persons whom I thought could give me the best information, as they belonged to New port, and intended going in the fleet. They have been deceived, for from that beleif they were left behind. I informed you that a number of Vessels had been prepared to sink at sandy Hook, four of which were sunk two days after I wrote you. The Russel, Europa, Raisonable Defiance, Roebuck and several Frigates and a number of armed transports still continue at the Hook. The Renown (dismasted) Solebay and Fowey Frigates are still in the Harbour.

“The Captain of a privateer which arrived on friday last, says that he saw 12 Sail of the french fleet the 25th Septemr off Georgia, not dismasted, as the paper mentions but all well; and that the noted Sir James Wallace was taken.

“The 7th 23d and Lord Rawdons Corps embarked some days ago. The 7th and 23d have disembarked, and the 57th with some of the Artillery have embarked in thier place, and its said will sail in a few days. Some of the officers say they are going to Hallifax, and its generally beleived they are.

“The enemy have large magazines of Wood and Forage and are daily collecting more, particularly Hay. Some of the Comms of provision say they have enough of all kinds to last 9 Months. I beleive they have plenty for six Months. There is considerable on board Victuallers. Of this, and the quantity, I will inform you more particularly in my next. No arrivals of any consequence since my last, except the Robuste from Hallifax, which arrived yesterday. A number of transports have been taking Water and Ballast some days past, from which, and some other circumstances, it is concluded that another embarkation will take place. some transports with some private Vessels sailed yesterday for New port under Convoy of the Hunter sloop of War. No new forts erecting. That on Bayards Hill is compleated, and also the one back of Jones’s House—The Battery and the fort on Governors Island is nearly compleated. I entirely approve of your conveying letters, and shall in future follow it. But shall want some more Stain immediately, as I have scarcely enough for another letter. S. Culper senior will forward you a Receipt for the Guineas” (DLC:GW). The last letter from Townsend to Tallmadge, which has been found, is his letter of 9 Oct. (see GW to Tallmadge, 2 Oct., n.2).

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