George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 21 July 1781]

21st. Wrote to the Count de Grasse in a Cypher of the Count de Rochambeau’s, giving information of the junction of the allied armys—the Position they had taken—our strength and that of the enemy’s—our hopes & fears & what we expected to do under different circumstances.1 This letter was put under cover to Genl. Forman, who was requested to have look outs on the heights of Monmouth, and deliver it himself upon the arrival of the Fleet and who was also requested, to establish a chain of Expresses for quick communication between Monmouth and Dobbs’s ferry—the Expence of which I would see paid.2

Again ordered abt. 5000 Men to be ready to March at 8 oclock, for the purpose of reconnoitering the enemys Posts at Kings bridge and to cut off, if possible, such of Delancys Corps as should be found without their lines.3

At the hour appointed the March commenced in 4 Columns, on different roads. Majr. Genl. Parsons4 with the Connecticut Troops & 25 of Sheldon’s horse formed the right column (with two field pieces) on the No. River road. The other Two divisions of the Army, under the Majr. Generals Lincoln & Howe,5 together with the Corps of Sappers and Miners, and 4 field pieces, formed the next column on the Sawmill river road.6 The right column of the French (on our left) consisted of the Brigade of Bourbonnis, with the Battn. of Grenadiers and Choissairs, 2 field pieces & 2 twelve pounders. Their left column was composed of the Legion of Lauzen—one Battn. of Grenadiers, & Choissairs of Soussonnis,7 2 field pieces & 2 Howitzers. General Waterbury with the Militia and State Troops of Connecticut, were to March on the East chester Road and to be joined at that place by the Cavalry of Sheldon, for the purpose of Scouring Frogs Neck.8 Sheldons Infantry was to join the Legion of Lauzen for the purpose of Scouring Morrissania,9 and to be covered by Scammells light Infantry who were to advance thro’ the fields & way lay the Roads—stop all communication & prevent Intelligence getting to the Enemy.

At Mile Square (Valentine’s hill) The left column of the American Troops, and right of the french formed their junction, as did the left of the French also, by mistake as it was intended it should cross the Brunx by Garrineaus,10 & recross it at Williams’s bridge.11

The whole Army (Parson’s division first) arrived at Kingsbridge about day light & formed on the heights back of Fort Independance12—extending towards delancy’s Mills13—While the Legion of Lauzen & Waterbury proceeded to scour the Necks of Morrissania & throgs to little effect, as most of the Refugees were fled, & hid in such obscure places as not to be discovered; & by stealth got over to the Islands adjacent, & to the enemys shipping which lay in the East River. A few however were caught and some cattle & Horses brought off.

1GW to the comte de Grasse, 21 July 1781 (DLC:GW).

2GW to David Forman, 21 July 1781 (NHi).

3Although a definite decision had not yet been reached to implement the earlier plans for the attack on New York, both GW and Rochambeau carried on extensive reconnaissance of British defenses in the area. A reconnaissance in force by the French and American armies of the British posts had been scheduled for the evening of 13 July, but was delayed by bad weather. For the order of march, see “Instructions for Reconnoitering the Enemy’s Posts at the North End of York Island,” 13 July 1781 (owned by Mr. Richard Maass, White Plains, N.Y.). For contemporary maps of the reconnoitered area, see RICE description begins Howard C. Rice, Jr., and Anne S. K. Brown, eds. The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783. 2 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1972. description ends , 2:nos. 43 and 44. For contemporary descriptions of the reconnaissance, see CLOSEN description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, ed. The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958. description ends , 97–102; CROMOT DU BOURG description begins [Marie François Joseph Maxime, Baron Cromot du Bourg]. “Diary of a French Officer, 1781.” Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries 4 (1880): 205–14, 293–308, 376–85, 441–52; 7 (1881): 283–95. description ends , 301–3.

4Samuel Holden Parsons (1737–1789) was in command of the Connecticut divisions.

5Maj. Gen. Robert Howe (1732–1786) of North Carolina.

6The Sawmill River Road paralleled the Sawmill or Nepperhan River on the east, turning east north of Philipse’s toward Valentine’s Hill.

7The French regiments referred to by GW in this entry were the Bourbonnais and the Soissonnais, both of which were sent to America in 1780. Chasseurs were light cavalry trained for rapid maneuvering. Lauzun’s Legion was composed of infantry and cavalry units under the command of the duc de Lauzun. The legion had arrived at Newport, R.I., in July 1780.

8Frog’s (Throg’s or Throck’s) Neck is a peninsula extending into the East River from the Westchester shore.

9Morrisania, the estate of the Morris family, in southern Westchester County.

10Garineau’s was about 16 miles north of the mouth of the Bronx River (DLC: Toner Collection).

11Williams’s Bridge crossed the Bronx River in southern Westchester.

12Fort Independence, later called Fort No. 4 by the British, “was located between the old Boston and the Albany Post Roads . . . just within the old line of Yonkers” (HUFELAND description begins Otto Hufeland. Westchester County during the American Revolution, 1775–1783. White Plains, N.Y., 1926. In Publications of the Westchester County Historical Society, vol. 3. description ends , 104).

13De Lancey’s Mills was on the Bronx River near West Farms in Westchester County.

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