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To George Washington from Colonel Elias Dayton, 4 May 1780

From Colonel Elias Dayton

Chatham [N.J.] May 4th 1780


By intelligence received this Morning it appears that the enemy have a number of boats in readiness to move from N. york this evening probably with about 1500 men their Object supposed to be our provision at Brunswick,1 as Capt. Ross2 who commands the armed sloop in the Kils3 mentioned to a person I sent over on Monday last4 he then expected our stores in Brunswick were in their hands.

In consequence of the intelligence5 I have sent an express to the commanding officer at the post And waggons are now going by order of Mr Caldwell sufficient I hope to load up all the provision this night. I should have gone immediately to my Regiment had I not the promise of hearing from the other Side by Sun riseing tomorrow morning. I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Most Humble Servant

Elias Dayton

ALS, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade wrote an undated note on the cover of this letter: “Will it be practicable to detach 3 or 400 Men immediately.”

GW wrote Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington from Morristown on this date: “By a letter just rec’d from Col. Dayton I am informed that a Detachment of the Enemy supposed to be about 1500 is preparing to make a stroke at our provisions at Brunswick—They have Boats in readiness for the expedition—I therefore wish you immediately to march as many of your detachment as you conveniently can spare that way in order to give opposition to such an attempt.

“I have directed a Body of Men to March from this place for the same purpose. … P.s. As the Commanding Officer of Col. Daytons Regt at Brunswick has notice of the Enemy’s intention, it will be well to inform him of yr March immediately” (Df, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW again wrote Huntington at “6 O Clock” on this date: “I wrote to you an hour or two ago requesting that you would march as many of the Troops under your command as you could conveniently spare towards Brunswick—since which I am informed by Col. Stewart Commissary of Issues, who was there the day before yesterday that there is every reason to believe that all the flour &c. is removed from that place—It therefore becomes unnecessary for you to put the detachment in motion & I request, should you have given orders for that purpose before this reaches you, that you would prevent its march. … P.s. As the Stores at Brunswick was only the supposed object of the Enemy—it will be well for you to be much on your guard” (LS, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, CSmH; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

1GW had been concerned about securing the flour stored at New Brunswick, N.J. (see William Livingston to GW, 20 April, and notes 2 and 3 to that document).

2Stewart Ross, who captained the armed sloop George in late 1778, presumably supplied this intelligence (see John Combs to Stirling, 1 Dec. 1778, and a receipt that Ross signed on the same date, both in DNA:PCC, item 162).

3Dayton is referring to the body of water north of Staten Island and now more commonly known as Kill Van Kull.

4The previous Monday was 1 May.

5Contemporary British and Loyalist sources do not corroborate this intelligence. A detailed letter on political developments and military operations, written on 3 May at New York City by New York royal governor Maj. Gen. James Robertson to Gen. Henry Clinton, makes no mention of a force poised for a strike (see Klein and Howard, Letter Book of Robertson description begins Milton M. Klein and Ronald W. Howard, eds. The Twilight of British Rule in Revolutionary America: The New York Letter Book of General James Robertson, 1780-1783. Cooperstown, N.Y., 1983. description ends , 96–104). In his memoirs for this date, William Smith, royal chief justice of New York, noted that he had urged Robertson to launch “a Sortie to Jersey before the French arrived. …

“This is precisely the Moment to invade Jersey or to attack the Highland Forts” (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends [1971], 260).

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