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To George Washington from Colonel Elias Dayton, 30 May 1780

From Colonel Elias Dayton

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] May 30th 1780


Lying Rivingtons account of the reduction of C. Town was Sent of[f] by Col. Stewart without my knowledge.1 Least it should give your excellency as much pain through the night, as it did me for one hour, I have Sent this & I do venture to assert it to be one of Lying Jemys Aberations; within this hour I have received three diffirent accou[n]ts of its not being beleived in N. York,2 A variety of reasons are to be given why it should not be beleived, one weighty one with me is the Capt. of the Iris3 Says the Town surrendered the 12th & he left the port the 17th but has no official accou[n]t nor one single letter on board giveing any account of it beside I know there is a man in New york who will at the risque of his life give me the earleyest intelligence of any rejoicing in consequence of such an account being creadited in the City.

The Naval force in new York the same as mentioned in my last4 except the Iris she arrived in N.Y. harbor Sunday night or monday m[o]rning,5 Your Excellencys order of yesterday respecting the flags I have received which shall be punctually obeyed.6 I have the honor to be your Excellencys most Obedient Hbe Sert

Elias Dayton


1Dayton probably is referring to Charles Stewart, commissary general of issues.

James Rivington’s Royal Gazette (New York) dated 29 May reported the American surrender at Charleston, S.C., on 12 May. GW enclosed a copy of the “Gazette extraordinary” in his second letter of 31 May to Samuel Huntington (see also GW to James Duane, 5 June). The Connecticut Courant, and the Weekly Intelligencer (Hartford) for 6 June reprinted the account from Rivington’s extra: “THE Iris left Charlestown the 17th inst. which surrendered the 12th. The garrison consisted of six thousand, among these are General Lincoln and five other Generals. Lord Cornwallis, with a detachment of the army, and at the DESIRE OF THE INHABITANTS, is penetrating the country, for the establishment of their redemption from the tyranny of their late usurpation.” The report also named captured vessels, announced the apprehension of South Carolina governor John Rutledge, and noted that about 900 Americans perished during the siege.

William Smith, royal chief justice of New York, had written in his memoirs for 29 May: “General [James] Robertson very wisely suggests to me the Hint for letting off the good News [of the surrender] with Sobriety in an extraordinary Gazette which I drew and sent him, and he communicated to Rivington.” Smith based his account on reports brought by the Iris (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs [1971], 268–69).

2Others doubted the veracity of the intelligence. New Jersey delegate William Churchill Houston wrote William Livingston from Philadelphia on 2 June, terming it “a Puff, or perhaps a Part of a Scheme they have lately concerted and laboured with much Assiduity, to foment Discontents and Mutiny in the federal Army.” Virginia delegate James Madison wrote Thomas Jefferson from Philadelphia on the same day that “some circumstances attending” the account “leave some hope that it is fictitious” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 15:233–34, 236–38).

3James Hawker (c.1730–1786), a native of Plymouth, England, entered the Royal Navy in July 1743 as an officer’s servant. He served in that capacity until his promotion to lieutenant in 1755. As commander of the Iris, he engaged the French frigate Hermione on 6 June 1780 (see La Touche-Tréville to GW, 10 June). Hawker became captain of the Hero in November 1780 and resigned his command in spring 1781.

5The Iris arrived in New York from South Carolina on the morning of Monday, 29 May (see Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:89).

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