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To George Washington from Major General Robert Howe, 22 May 1780

From Major General Robert Howe

Highlands [N.Y.] 22d May 1780

Dear Sir

your Excellency’s Letter of the 16th Instant arrived last Night1—Col. Gouvion has been told of your Desire to have him up—He wishes me to inform you that the Want of Forage having rendered it necessary to send his Horses at some Distance from Camp, he can not set out until they are recall’d, which he shall do without Delay, & upon their Arrival will set off immediately.2 I wish he could have finished the Works at Stoney & Verplank’s Points, now within a few Days of being done3—Major Mournon is not able to go upon the Duty your Excellency points out at present—yesterday being the first Day he has been out, & even that against the Direction of the Doctor. I shall inquire of him if there is no Officer or Person he can employ upon this Occasion that will answer the End propos’d, & if there is they shall be sent.4 I shall write to the Officer of Militia upon the Sound,5 but from the Accounts I have had their Numbers are too small to give Room to expect much Service in the Fascine & Gabion Way from them.

One of my Spies writes me that two British, two of Anspach’s & two Hessian Regiments are within New York,6 Worme with his Corps at Mrs Day’s at Harlem7—two Companies of Volunteers under the Command of some Person by the Name of Benson, the other under Talman, & one under the Command of Mathews call’d the Town Company with the Guards are at the out Lines near King’s Bridge8—That it was mention’d about Town that Genl Clinton was raising the Siege of Charles Town & was momentarily expected at York,9 that Discontent was visible in every Countenance, that several Regiments were under marching Orders, said to be going to Quebeck in Consequence of an Express sent from thence, & that the Transports were ready & only waited for a Convoy, not more than one Ship of the Line & one Guard Ship being in the Harbour10—He doubts however that something else is in their Head than going to Quebeck, as great Preparations are making—That Money was much wanted, & great Arrears of Pay due to the Army, tho’ the Bills of Army Agents went a begging everywhere, tho’ the large Discount was offered of receiving ninety Pounds for a Hundred drawn payable in England at Sight—Pretty similar Accounts are also given me by a Mr Prevoust who escaped from York two or three Days since, & who seems to be an intelligent sensible Man & who bears a good Character. Another Agent whose Letter I have this Moment tells me that great Preparations are making for some Movement, but thinks against some Town upon the Sound, or further Eastward, but speaks this only as his own Conjecture11—He adds that two new Works were erecting, one west of Bunker’s Hill,12 the other next the east River on Delancey’s Farm,13 & that the Arrival of the French Fleet was expected & dreaded. The Flour mention’d by your Excellency in a former Letter is not yet arrived14—all further Supplies of that Article in any but trifling Quantities is at an End in this Quarter, & as what we have on Hand is not much, it calls for the Exertion of the Commissary Genl to obtain some from the South’ard, & that without Delay.

How happy should I be Sir, to diminish your Perplexities, & how much otherwise does it make me that it is not in my Power. I am Dear Sir With the greatest Respect your Excellency’s most obedient and very Humble Servant

Robert Howe

LS, DLC:GW. GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison docketed the letter: “Necessity of Flour being sent to West point.” For GW’s reply, see his first letter to Howe on 25 May.

1See GW to Howe, 15 May, and the source note to that document.

2For Lieutenant Colonel Gouvion’s departure for Morristown, see Howe’s second letter to GW of 25 May, found at GW to Howe, 15 May, n.3.

3For the orders to begin construction of fortifications at Stony Point and Verplanck Point, the two terminals of strategically important King’s Ferry, N.Y., see GW to Gouvion, 24 Oct. 1779, and n.1 to that document; see also GW to Anthony Wayne and to William Woodford, both 26 Oct. 1779.

4Maj. Jean Murnan, recently wounded in a duel, proceeded to Long Island Sound in late May (see GW to Howe, 15 May and n.4, and Howe’s second letter to GW, 31 May).

5No letter on this subject from Howe to an officer commanding militia on Long Island Sound has been identified, but in June 1780 Howe requested Connecticut militia colonel John Mead “to take an account of the timber, plank &c. procured in Stamford and Greenwich, and provide teams to transport the same to the sea shore” (Conn. Public Records description begins The Public Records of the State of Connecticut . . . with the Journal of the Council of Safety . . . and an Appendix. 18 vols. to date. Hartford, 1894–. description ends , 3:408).

6This letter has not been identified.

7Susannah Day operated Day’s tavern, located in Harlem, N.Y., at the junction of Harlem and Kingsbridge roads, at what is now 126th Street, west of Eighth Avenue. GW stayed briefly at the tavern while waiting for the British evacuation of New York City in November 1783. Susannah’s husband Isaac, formerly a blacksmith in Hackensack, N.J., managed the tavern until his death, which likely occurred in January 1777 (see Colles, Survey of the Roads description begins Christopher Colles. A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America, 1789. Edited by Walter W. Ristow. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. description ends , 121; see also Freeman, Washington description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 5:459, and Riker, Harlem description begins James Riker. Harlem (City of New York): Its Origin and Early Annals. New York, 1881. description ends , 504).

Lt. Col. Ludwig von Wurmb and part of his Hessian Jäger Corps remained in New York; a detachment served in the southern theater (see Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 190, 221–44).

8Christopher Benson (d. 1817) then commanded the New York Rangers, a Loyalist militia company. From 1777 to early 1780, he captained one of the three companies of the Regiment of Loyal Volunteers of the City of New York.

“Talman” probably refers to Scotland native Normand Tolmie (1734–1788), a merchant who, like Benson, had been captain in the Regiment of Loyal Volunteers and now held that rank in the city’s volunteer militia. He previously served in the New York Highland Volunteers. He died in England.

“Mathews” most likely refers to Charles Mathewson, who had been serving since February as a lieutenant in the 6th company of the New York City militia. In June 1780, he became the company’s captain.

9The Americans had surrendered to Gen. Henry Clinton’s forces at Charleston, S.C., on 12 May (see Duportail to GW, 17 May, and n.1 to that document). Clinton did not return to New York until 17 June (see David Forman’s second letter to GW, that date, and n.2 to that document).

10For a similar report, see Elias Dayton to GW, 19 May, and n.2 to that document.

11This letter has not been identified.

12For the fortifications and proposed new redoubts along Bayard’s Hill, known as Fort Bunker Hill, and at Corlear’s Hook, N.Y., see GW to James Duane, 13 May, and n.9 to that document.

13Howe is referring to the large estate owned by James De Lancey, a Loyalist. The estate’s East and West farms extended from present-day Division Street north to Stanton Street, and from the Bowery to the East River.

James De Lancey (1732–1800), son of former New York lieutenant governor James De Lancey, was educated in England and served as a captain in the British army during the French and Indian War. Schooled in law but never an attorney, De Lancey sat on both the New York Committee of Correspondence and the Committee of Grievances in 1774 and 1775. He then left New York and ultimately sailed for England. The New York government confiscated his estates in 1779. Following the war, De Lancey acted as an agent for New York Loyalists prosecuting their claims. The British government awarded him over £29,000 to cover his losses. De Lancey’s birthplace later became Fraunces’s tavern.

14In his letter to Howe of 5 May, GW directed that 150 barrels of flour be sent to King’s Ferry.

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