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From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 11 September 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

Head Quarters West Point 11th Sepr 1779

Dear Sir

I am pleased to hear, by yours of the 9th, of the success of Major Tallmadges excursion.1 the stroke, tho’ small, may serve to check an insignificant yet troublesome kind of enemy.2 Your movement must be directed in a great measure, by your own judgment, and by circumstances.3 I have only one general caution to give you, which is, to let your position (if you find it advisable to take another) be at such a distance from the Enemy as to put it out of their power to reach you in the course of a night, even by mounting foot behind Dragoons. I would also observe to you—that the nearer the Enemy, the less should you be encumbered with Baggage Nor would I wish you, for the sake of a little forage, to put your covering party to the least danger. I am &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found.

2GW is referring to Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge’s 5 Sept. raid against “marauders” camped near the British fort at Lloyd Neck, Long Island. This expedition, originally planned by Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons against the Loyalist garrison at Lloyd Neck, had been deferred from the previous month. In August, GW had given the raid qualified approval, but he soon canceled it for unstated “private motives” (see William Heath to GW, 10 [first letter], 11, and 13 Aug.; GW to Heath, 10 Aug. [first letter]; and GW to Howe, 15 Aug.). Tallmadge described the raid in his memoir: “on the 5th of September, 1779, I undertook an expedition against the enemy on Lloyd’s Neck, on Long Island. At this place, and on a promontory or elevated piece of ground next to the Sound, between Huntington Harbor and Oyster Bay, the enemy had established a strong fortified post, where they kept a body of about 500 troops. In the rear of this garrison a large band of marauders encamped, who, having boats at command, continually infested the Sound and our shores. Having a great desire to break up this band of freebooters, on the evening of said 5th of September I embarked my detachment, amounting in the whole to about 130 men, at Shipam Point, near Stamford, at 8 o’clock in the evening, and by 10 we landed on Lloyd’s Neck. Having made my arrangements, we proceeded in different divisions to beat up their quarters. Our attack was so sudden and unexpected, that we succeeded in capturing almost the whole party—a few only escaping into the bushes, from whence they commenced firing on my detachment, which gave the alarm to the garrison. This prevented our attempting any attack upon the out-posts and guards of the fort, and after destroying all the boats we could find, as well as the huts of those refugees, we returned with our prisoners to our boats, and embarked for Connecticut, where we landed in safety before sunrise the next morning, and without the loss of a single man” (Tallmadge, Memoir, description begins Memoir of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, Prepared by Himself, at the Request of his Children. 1858. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 32–33). In a letter to Howe dated 6 Sept., Tallmadge asserted that “The whole Affair was conducted with so much secrecy, & Dispatch, that I am confident this Refugee-plundering Banditti must have been broken up—The Alarm being spread to the fort, it was now too late to attempt to surprise their Guards; I accordingly gave over that Design. I cannot here omit observing that had I been authorised to have attacked the fort, I am almost certain we could have carried it” (CtLHi).

3GW had discussed the movement of Howe’s division in his letters to Howe of 28 Aug., and 5 and 7 Sept.; see also GW to Howe, 24 August. Two days later, GW ordered Howe to position his division near Pine’s Bridge, N.Y., for potential offensive operations (see GW to Howe, 13 Sept., and GW to William Heath, 14 Sept.).

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