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To George Washington from Colonel Elias Dayton, 15 May 1780

From Colonel Elias Dayton

Elisabeth Town May 15th 1780


By intelligence I have just received it appears, that the fleet which has been laying at Sandy hook for some days past, sailed last Thursday,1 That the enemy have a great number of Vessels loaded with Stone to be sunk in such parts of the channel as may best answer their purpose.2

Flour it is said is becoming scarce in New york and that the Inhabitants are much distressed on account of the present prospects with respect to provisions—Yesterday afternoon between twenty and thirty of the enemy’s vessels passed Cranes point3 & went up Hackensack River, they appeared to have very few if any troops on board;4 but I understand from the other side that a number of troops Marched yesterday from fort Lee towards Hackensack town, what their object may be cannot at present determine, it is said by some persons supposed to know something of their plans, that they are after cedar to prepare fire Ships, others say they are after firewood and at the same time to take all the forage and provisions of every kind they can find.5

Yesterday there was not any news in N.Y. from the southard. I am your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Elias Dayton


1The previous Thursday was 11 May. GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton reported that at least five ships sailed from Sandy Hook, N.J., on that date to escort a vessel carrying dispatches and then to cruise. The rumored arrivals of a squadron under American Capt. John Paul Jones and the squadron convoying the expected French expeditionary force prompted the ship movements (see Hamilton to La Touche-Tréville, 19 May, DLC:GW, and GW to Samuel Huntington, 5–6 May).

2For the British plan to sink vessels in the Sandy Hook channel to obstruct the passage of the expected French squadron, see Robert Howe to GW, 11 May, n.6; see also James Robertson to George Germain, 18 May, in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 18:95–97.

3Dayton probably is referring to De Hart’s Point, N.J., a Crane’s Ferry terminus on Newark Bay (see Meyer, “Map of Elizabeth Town, N.J.” description begins Ernest L. Meyer, “Map of Elizabeth Town, N.J. at the Time of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. Showing that Part of the Free Borough and Town of Elizabeth, which is now the site of the City of Elizabeth.” 1879. Reprint. Newark, N.J., 1964. description ends ).

4For Dayton’s assessment of these movements, see his letter to GW of 19 May, and n.2 to that document; see also William Maxwell to GW, this date.

5Dayton’s intelligence likely pertained to the movements of Loyalist associators from New York City organized for the purpose of supplying wood for that place. In a letter of 18 May, Hamilton reported to French legation secretary François Barbé-Marbois: “The enemy have a detachment between Hackensack and the North River foraging and cutting wood, and have lately sent a number of vessels up the latter river. They probably are endeavouring to lay in a stock of forage and fuel against future exigencies. ’Tis not easy to obstruct them where they now are” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:325; see also Thomas Lloyd Moore to GW, 22 May, and n.3 to that document; Lemuel Trescott to GW, 8 May, and n.2 to that document; and Trescott to GW, 14 May).

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