George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General Alexander McDougall, 5 December 1778

To Major General Alexander McDougall

Paramus [N.J.] 5th Decemr 1778. 1 OClock P.m.

Dear Sir

I am this moment arrived here from Elizabeth Town upon receiving intelligence of the Movement of the Enemy up the River.1 I have halted Genl Wayne at this place. Colo. Morgan with Woodfords Brigade is at Pompton, Colo. Clarke with the Carolina Brigade at the Clove and Baron Kalb with the two Maryland Brigades on the other side the Mountain. All these troops have orders to hold themselves in readiness [to] move towards the Posts in the Highlands should there be occasion. I do not yet know the intentions of the Enemy, but from what I have just learned it looks more like a forage than any attempt upon the posts. I shall be glad to learn what information you have received as quickly as possible, and whether Pattersons and Learneds Brigades have reached Fishkill. If they have not, you should send to hurry them on. I shall wait your answer in this neighbourhood. I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I beg you will strengthen the posts immediately as far as lays in your power and not depend upon the troops upon this side who may not get up in time should there be occasion.

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, NSchU: W. Wright Hawkes Collection of Revolutionary War Documents. GW signed the cover of the LS.

1GW’s aide Robert Hanson Harrison wrote to Henry Laurens from Elizabeth, N.J., on this date: “I have the Honor to address you by command of His Excellency, who went from this place at four OClock this morning in consequence of advice received last night, that fifty two Vessels great & small, including a Bomb Ketch, with troops on board, had the day before yesterday moved up the North river as far as Cloyster landing—and yesterday morning got under way and were proceeding further up. He proposed to make his first stage at Acquakanunck and to proceed as his future intelligence might require. He is much at a loss to determine the design of the enemy; but thinks it may either have respect to the Forts in the Highlands or to the Convention troops. When he left peeks Kill, the two Massachussets brigades, on their march thither from Hartford were not arrived, so that the troops on the Spot were only the original Garrison of West point and Nixon’s brigade, which lay near the Continental village; but without the most inexplicable delay, those must have reached their destination some days since. If so, and the Enemy should meditate a stroke against West point, they will probably fail in it, unless there should be something like a surprize. The General also thinks it probable, that the Maryland division was yesterday evening at the Clove; Their instructions were to communicate with West point and reinforce it on an emergency. They were, in addition to them, directed, last night, by express to move immediately toward the forts, divested of baggage and Artillery, for the more speedy communication. The Carolina Brigade has been some time stationed at the Entrance of the Clove.

“One brigade of the Virginia Troops is at pumpton—and the other two were expected to reach Springfield yesterday. The pensylvania troops it is supposed would be at Acquackinunck or in the neighbourhood of paramus. These troops, immediately on receiving the present intelligence were ordered to halt—and his Excellency is gone forward to regulate their movements, according to circumstances. The Brigade in this Town is ordered to hold itself in readiness.

“If the Convention troops should be their object, it is probable the attempt will be too late to answer any purpose. The rear division was to cross the North river on Wednesday last; but must certainly have done it on thursday—the front must be not far from the Delaware and the whole too far advanced to be subject to a rescue. Added to this, there is a pretty strong guard with each division. His Excellency, however, has sent on the intelligence to Colo. Bland, who directs their march, urging him to hasten them forward, with all possible dispatch.

“One Brigade of Connecticut troops was at Danbury—the Other at Fredericksburg when we came away—and Genl poor’s was in full march for the former and must long since have arrived. . . . P.S. Your Excellency will excuse this hurried scrawl” (DNA:PCC, item 152).

A brigade of British Guards, Grenadiers, and Light Infantry under Gen. Henry Clinton embarked at New York on 4 Dec. and sailed up the Hudson River, intending “to cut off some of the Rebels conducting the Convention Army to the Southward, as well as to facilitate the Escape of some of the latter.” On 5 Dec. the British landed at Stony Point, only to discover that the Americans and their prisoners had crossed the Hudson two days earlier and were now out of reach. The British “re-embarked after being on the shore one hour, saw nothing but a few Straggling parties, and returned to Town on the next day” (Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:167–68; see also GW to Nathanael Greene, 4 Dec., source note, and Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 156–57).

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