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To George Washington from Major General Johann Kalb, 14 March 1780

From Major General Johann Kalb

Spring Field [N.J.] March 14th morning 1780.


I received the honor of your Excellency’s letter of 11th inst: Mr Caldwell being at Philadelphia I confered with Colo. Jaques of the Militia of Essex County1 on the Subject of the Signals established for allarming the Country: I here inclose a Copy of them in all the parts of this State,2 I understand that those hereabout though neglected are not much impaired, I will take care to See them repaired in Essex and Middlesex Counties, by the Persons appointed thereto.

I have not got, as yet, any particular account of the number and Size of the Vessels taken up at N. York for an intended expedition, I will inform your Excellency with all possible Speed of every occurence worth your Notice or any piece of intelligence I shall be able to get.

The two Companies of Militia lighthorse of 15. privates each, lately employed and dismissed are willing to engage again in the Same Service, at the shortest warning if I can avoid Such an Expence to the United States I will not order them out, therefore but in case I should find it indispensably necessary, for the Security of the passes and for information.3

I have applied to the Governor (and Expect an Answer tomorrow) for Three Boats and Watermen from Brunswick and the Vicinity to be employed as Water guards in the mouth of Rariton River, and the channel of the Sound near Amboy, as Soon as the Commissioners will break up,4 If he complies with my request I shall dispose of them in Such a manner as will, with those I have already established on the Sound, prevent the Enemy’s Landing any where, without discovery.5

Captain Bedkin’s lighthorse being reduced to thirteen privates, whereof Seven are dismounted, and consequently of little or no Service, as I look upon him as a good and Usefull Officer, I could wish it would please your Excellency to order him the recruiting of his Company in fixing the Number of the whole. He thinks he would find in a short time as many able Men as he would be allowed. He also, with an order from Genl Green on Mr Marsh Q.M. of Essex County at Rawway, could provide in a few days Some good horses for his dismounted men.6

I was proposed by the Commanding officers of the Connecticut Division to change their Quarters, Viz. the first Brigade from Westfield to Rawway and Spanktown, the Second from springfield to Connecticut farms and Elizabethtown but I objected to both, as for Elizabeth Town I refused absolutly as an improper place for Troops to be quartered there, and as Connecticut farm could not hold the whole Brigade it would Scatter it too much; I found also that it would not be prudent to occupy spanktn being but three miles from the Sound and rawway river navigable for Large boats up the Bridge in the middle of the Town. Their reasons are to be nearer their Posts at Newark from the Second and Woodbridge from the first, but as they do not relieve often, and a particular Detachment kept at the farm and at Rawway to relieve all the intermediate Gards and Patrolles, and expecting that in a Short time the Roads will be better, I thought proper not to make any Change—However I promised I would Submit it to your Excellency’s consideration.7 I have the honor to be with great Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble Servant

The Baron de Kalb


1Moses Jaques (1743–1816) served as lieutenant colonel of the 1st Regiment of the Essex County, N.J., militia from September 1777 until his promotion to colonel in December 1778. He frequently held local government offices in Essex County after the war.

2Kalb enclosed an undated document headed “Signals on which the militia are Immedeatily to Assemble.” The remainder of this item reads: “A Large fire on the mountain in the rear of Pluckimin—one on the mountain near steals Gap[;] one on the mountain near Mordicas or wayns Gap—one near Linclons Gap—one near Quibble Town Gap[;] one on the Hill the road to Baskinridge four miles north of Col. Van Horns[;] one on the Hill towards princetown[;] one on the hill in front of marten’s Tavern near short hill.

“It is further preposed that prepartions should be made to make the like signals in the following places in this State.

“at the point of the mountain north of springfeild one mile Under the care of Capt. Gillam—On the top of the Hill one mile south East of Chatham Bridge Under the Care of Capt. Horton[;] at Coopers windmill on Long Hill[;] at the point of Kennys [Kinney’s] Hill at morristown—on pidgeon Hill four miles north west of morristown—on Schuylers [Schooleys] mountain N.W. of Pluckimen 12 miles—on the Hill 10 miles west of [Pluckemin;] on the South Po[i]nt of Cushatunk Hill—on the N.W. point of the Southern Hill—on the high hill N.W. of flemingtown—on the Hights of Amwell—looking southward—near princetown looking southward—on Center hill in monmouth[;] on middletown hill[;] on mount Pleasent” (DLC:GW). For the original construction of beacons, or signals, to call out militia in New Jersey, see Stirling to GW, 20 and 22 March 1779, and GW to Henry Knox, to William Livingston, to Arthur St. Clair, to William Smallwood, and to Stirling, all five 23 March 1779.

3For the deployment of New Jersey militia cavalry for patrols, see Arthur St. Clair to GW, 31 Jan., and n.2 to that document, and 7 Feb.; see also Jedediah Huntington to GW, 18 April, and GW to Huntington, 20 April, postscript.

4Kalb is referring to commissioners involved in prisoner exchange negotiations that commenced in Perth Amboy, N.J., on 9 March. Official discussions concluded on 14 March, but informal talks continued for nearly another week (see both letters from the Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners to GW, 26 March [letter 1, letter 2]).

5Kalb had written New Jersey governor William Livingston on 12 March and awaited a reply. Livingston’s letter, written at Trenton on 14 March, in part reads: “Your sentiments Sir both as to the light horse & water Guards I think perfectly just as they would in my opinion constitute the best Centinals to prevent a Surprize that can be devised. But the latter are entirely out of my line to order, and as the United States have boats proper for the purpose, I doubt not the Continental officers might procure volunteer Inhabitants to work them at reasonable Pay. Neither can the Militia light horse be ordered out by the Governor on the duty you mention, tho’ on a particular emergency he lately ventured to do it by Advice of Council. It does not fall within the description of the Guard, which by Law he is authorized to station at particular Posts. The Legislature Must therefore be consulted upon it. To submit it to their consideration I shall lose no time; but of their concurrence I cannot give you any great hope, while so considerable a corps of continental dragoons is kept at Burlington” (Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 3:329–31; see also Kalb to GW, 20 March). The New Jersey legislature took no concerted action, because changing military circumstances and Kalb’s transfer to the southern department alleviated the need for these measures (see GW to Kalb, 2 April).

6Capt. Henry Bedkin’s independent cavalry troop had suffered significant losses during a British raid in late January (see Moses Hazen to GW, 26–27 and 29 Jan.; St. Clair to GW, 28 Jan.; and GW to St. Clair, 30 Jan., and n.4 to that document). For GW’s unsuccessful proposal to incorporate Bedkin’s remnants into another command, see GW to Colonel Armand and to the Board of War, both 6 Feb., and Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 15 February.

7GW replied to Kalb from Morristown on 16 March: “I have been favored with your letter of the 14th with its inclosure.

“With respect to Bedkins corps there have been as yet no orders from any authority to countenance what is proposed: & Till something is adopted for the cavalry in general his corps must remain in its present condition.

“The propriety or impropriety of a change in the cantonments of the troops under your command, can be best determined by your self. If their present position in your opinion should appear to be the safest, little matters of convenience or the like are no inducements for an alteration” (Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also GW to Kalb, 21 March). McHenry initially wrote “best” in the final paragraph but struck out that word and wrote “safest” above the line.

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