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To George Washington from the New York Committee of Safety, 10 October 1776

From the New York Committee of Safety

Committee of Safety for the State of New York.
Fishkill October 10th 1776.


We received from Mr Tilghman an Account of the enemies Ships having gone up the River—and have dispatched Expresses to General Schuyler and General Clinton agreable to your Excellency’s request.1

Nothing can be more alarming than the present situation of our State; We are daily getting, the most authentic Intelligence of bodies of Men enlisted and armed in order to assist the Enemy⟨.⟩ We much fear that they co-operating with the Enemy, may seize such Passes as will cut off all communication, between the Army and us and prevent your supplies. We dare not trust any more of the Militia out of this County—We have called for some Aid from the two adjourning ones, but beg leave to suggest to your Excellency, the propriety of sending a body of Men to the high Lands or Peeks Kill to secure the Passes, and prevent Insurrections and overawe the disaffected.2 We suppose your Excellency has taken the necessary Steps to prevent the landing of any Men from the Ships should they be so inclined as no reliance at all can be placed on the Militia of Westchester County. We are most respectfully Your Excellency’s most Obedient & very humble servt

By Order.

Peter R. Livingston, President

LS, in DLC:GW; Df (mutilated), N: New York Provincial Congress Revolutionary Papers; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 11–13 Oct. 1776 DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

Peter Robert Livingston (1737–1794), a son of Robert Livingston, the third lord of Livingston Manor, was in line to become the fourth lord of the manor until 1771 when his father broke the entail on the estate to prevent the profligate Peter Robert from becoming the principal heir of the family fortune. Along with his reputation as a poor businessman, Peter Robert Livingston also developed a reputation as a radical Whig politician while serving in the New York general assembly from 1761 to 1769 and from 1774 to 1775. He was commissioned colonel of the 10th Regiment of the Albany County militia in October 1775, and he was elected repeatedly during 1775 and 1776 to represent that county in the provincial congress and convention. Named president of the convention on 26 Sept. 1776, Livingston served in that capacity and as chairman of committee of safety until 22 Oct. (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:643, 687).

1Tench Tilghman had written the New York committee of correspondence the previous day, informing it that British warships had passed the obstructions at Fort Washington that morning. “How far they intend going up I don’t Know,” Tilghman says, “but his excellency [GW] thought for to give you the earliest intimation, that you may put General [James] Clinton on his guard at the High Lands, for they may have troops Concealed on board with intent to Surprize those forts—If you have any Stores on the water Side, you had better have them removed or secured in time—Boards especially for which we shall be put to great Streights if the Communication above should be Cut off” (MH: Jared Sparks Collection). The committee of safety read Tilghman’s letter on the afternoon of this date and approved a draft of a letter to generals Schuyler and James Clinton about the British incursion and measures being taken to defend against it (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:669).

2On this date the committee of safety directed the commanding officer of the Ulster County militia to send 300 to Peekskill and the commander of the Orange County militia below the highlands to call out as many men “as will be sufficient to guard their shores.” The commander of the Orange militia above the highlands was instructed to send 100 men to Peekskill, and all rangers raised in Ulster Country were ordered to “repair immediately to Fishkill and be subject to the direction of the committee for inquiring into, detecting and depressing all conspiracies formed in this State against the liberty of America” (ibid.). Fishkill is in Dutchess County.

Robert R. Livingston, who was a member of the committees of safety and correspondence, wrote Tilghman later on this date, and referring to this letter from the committee of safety to GW, he says: “In that we mention the weakness of this state, But still make promises which I am satisfied we shall not perform, I wish no reliance may be made on them I dare not explain myself more fully, as this Letter must Lay a day upon the road, as I find the crews of the [British] ships have already found their way on shore. One regiment at least with a good Engineer might be usefully employed here. If it should be necessary to abandon the country below the high Lands this state may still be secure[.] a Chain of Mountains crosses the Country which with a little labour may be rendered impregnable. If proper magazines are laid up which (if I mistake not) Mr [Joseph] Trumble was ordered to provide I shall not even think a defeat at New York of any great consequence except as it would dispirit friends & encourage foes” (NHi: William Duer Papers).

William Duer, who sat on the committee of correspondence and the committee for detecting conspiracies, also urges the sending of a reinforcement in the letter that he wrote to Tilghman on this date. “There is no Event wh[ich] could have happend that could have given me more Uneasiness than the Passage of the Enemys Ships up the River,” he says. “I cannot persuade myself their only design is to cut off the Communication of Supplies by water to our army at Kingsbridge: though that is an Event which will be highly prejudicial to our arms; they certainly mean to send up a Force (if their Ships have not Soldiers already on board) so as to take Possession of the Passes by Land on the Highlands—In this they will be undoubtedly joind by the Villains in Westchester and Dutchess County—it is therefore of the utmost Consequence that a Force should be immediately detachd from the main Body of our army to occupy these Posts—It is impossible for the Convention to draw out a Force which can be depended on from the Counties last mentiond” (NHi: Duer Papers).

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