George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 17 April 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Morris Town 17th of April 1780


I do my self the honor to inclose your Excellency a piece of intelligence given by Col. Abeel, who seems to be very positive that the facts stated, are well grounded.1 Great allowances are to be made for the natural credulity of his temper, and his general inclination to deal in the marvellous; yet I think the information ought not be altogether neglected. It is natural to suppose the Enemy will be anxious to learn our motions, in order for the better government of their own.

It has been commonly given out in general orders for the Officers to keep a good look out for Spies.2 I take the liberty to suggest to your Excellency the propriety of appointing several good vigilant officers to keep a constant watch upon such Charactors. Let them have it in charge privately to visit all the Houses in the Neighbourhood of Camp—Nothing all strangers and making the necessary enquiry, to find out their business, their Names, and the places from whence they come. This being laid upon them as a matter of duty, will in all probability be executed with fidelity. But when the order is general, it puts the Spies upon their guard, and at the same time lays no personal necessity, to make such enquiry and search, as will be likely to detect the Spies. I am with great respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient humble Ser.

Nath. Greene


1Greene enclosed a report to an unnamed recipient, likely Greene, written by Lt. Col. James Abeel, deputy quartermaster general, at Morristown on 16 April: “A Person in Elizabeth Town informed me yesterday that two Spies were now in or about the Camp from Staten Island the one a Brittish Officer in disguise, and the other an Inhabitant of the Island, & that their orders was to get all the Intelligence they cou’d & continue some time in the Neighbourhood of Camp, the Information was given him by a Person on whose intelligence great dependance can be made being an Inhabitant of the Island but a hearty friend to our Cause” (DLC:GW).

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