George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 1 May 1781]

May 1st. Induced by pressing necessity—the inefficacy, & bad tendency of pushing Military Impresses too far and the impracticability of keeping the Army supplied without it, or money, to pay the transportation I drew for 9000 dollars of the Sum sent on by the State of Massachusetts for payment of their Troops; and placed it in the hands of the QM General1 with the most positive orders to apply it solely to this purpose.

Fixed with Ezekiel Cornell Esqr. a member of the Board of War (then on a tour to the Eastward to inspect some of the Armoury’s &ca.) on certain articles of Cloathing—arms and Military Stores which might be sent from hence to supply the wants of the Southern Army.2

Major Talmadge was requested to press the C——s Senr. & Junr. to continue their correspondence and was authorized to assure the elder C—— that he should be repaid the Sum of 100 Guineas, or more, with interest; provided he advanced the same for the purpose of defraying the expence of the correspondence, as he had offered to do.3

Colo. Dayton was also written to, and pressed to establish a correspondence with New York, by way of Elizabeth Town for the purpose of obtaining intelligence of the Enemys movemts. and designs; that by a comparison of Accts. proper & just conclusions may be drawn.4

1Timothy Pickering (1745–1829) had been appointed quartermaster general in Aug. 1780.

2Ezekiel Cornell (1733–1800), was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Rhode Island 1780–83 and member of the Board of War. In the spring of 1781 he had received leave from Congress “for visiting the military Magazines, Laboratories, etc., and causing some necessary reforms” (LMCC description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed. Letters of Members of the Continental Congress. 8 vols. 1921–36. Reprint. Gloucester, Mass., 1963. description ends , 6:65). See also GW to Board of War, 8 May 1781 (DLC:GW). Cornell reported back to GW on 24 May 1781 (DLC:GW).

3Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (1754–1835), a native of Brookhaven, N.Y., conducted secret service operations for GW in the New York area, operating under the name of John Bolton, from 1778 to the end of the war.

Samuel Culper was the name used by two New York intelligence agents who furnished information on British troops and naval movements in the area of New York and Long Island. Samuel Culper, Sr., was Abraham Woodhull (c.1750–1826) of Setauket, Long Island. Samuel Culper, Jr., was Robert Townsend (1753–1838) of Oyster Bay, Long Island. From 1778 to the end of the war, both, usually reporting to GW through Benjamin Tallmadge, gave invaluable information on British activities. For the operation of this intelligence ring, see PENNYPACKER description begins Morton Pennypacker. General Washington’s Spies On Long Island and In New York. Brooklyn, 1939. description ends , BARBER description begins A. Richard Barber. “The Tallmadge-Culper Intelligence Ring: A Study of American Revolutionary Spies.” Master’s thesis, Columbia University, 1963. description ends , and FORD [4] description begins Corey Ford. A Peculiar Service. Boston, 1965. description ends .

Tallmadge had written to GW, 25 April, stating that the Culpers had decided Townsend should take up residence in New York City if his frequent trips back and forth from Long Island to the city were not to lead to enemy suspicion. A sum of money was therefore necessary to defray his expenses and Woodhull had volunteered to advance 100 guineas (DLC:GW). GW’s letter to Tallmadge concerning the Culpers is dated 30 April 1781 (DLC:GW).

4On 1 May, GW wrote to Elias Dayton (1737–1807), a colonel in the New Jersey Line, stressing the importance of intelligence from New York (Kunglia Biblioteket, Stockholm).

Elizabethtown is now Elizabeth, N.J.

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