George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 15 August 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

West point August 15th 1779

Dr Sir

I have received your Favour of the 13th Instant.1 If the Enterprize over the Sound is not already undertaken when this comes to hand, I would wish it to be laid aside intirely—unless its success should appear exceedingly clear & indeed certain. The Object is too unimportant—too contemptible to justify any risk. I have some private motives for not countenancing the expedition in the first instance, which I may possibly communicate to you upon some future occasion.2 I am Dr Sir with great regard & esteem Yr Most Obedt st

Go: Washington

DfS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Howe apparently wrote two letters to GW on 13 Aug., neither of which have been found.

2GW already had canceled the march of some of the troops for this raid (see Heath to GW, 13 Aug., and n.4 to that document). GW’s “private motives” for not authorizing the expedition may have involved the information he had received from his spy Samuel Culper, Jr., regarding troops stationed at Lloyd Neck, N.Y. (see Benjamin Tallmadge to GW, 14 Aug., n.3, and Culper Spy Ring Intelligence, 6–17 Aug., Document I). GW also may have learned of the movement of the British 17th Light Dragoons to Long Island on 13 Aug. (see Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 202; see also Tallmadge to Nathanael Greene, 26 Aug., in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 4:339). The raid was deferred until September, when it was successfully undertaken by Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (see GW to Howe, 11 Sept., and n.2 to that document).

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