George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 11 August 1781]

11th. Robt. Morris Esqr. Superintendant of Finance & Richd. Peters Esqr. a Member of the Board of War, arrived at Camp to fix with me the number of Men necessary for the next Campaign and to make the consequent arrangements for their establishment and Support.1

A Fleet consisting of about 20 Sail, including 2 frigates & one or two prizes, arrived within the harbour of New York with German recruits—to the amount—by Rivington—of 2880 but by other, & better information to abt. 1500 sickly Men.2

1The Continental Congress had appointed, 26 July 1781, a committee consisting of Daniel Carroll, Theodorick Bland, and James Mitchell Varnum to confer with GW, Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris, and Secretary of the Board of War Richard Peters on the arrangements for the army for 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 21:791). On 13 Aug., Morris and Peters sent GW a number of queries in preparation for drawing up the 1782 arrangement, touching on such matters as the contribution of the states to the military establishment, the possibility of reducing the numbers of officers and men required, and the settlement of periods of enlistment (DLC:GW). GW replied to the committee of conference on 21 Aug., advising against a reduction of the Continental Army in the new arrangement, considering “how much more expensive & less servicable Militia are than Continental Troops” (DLC:GW).

2GW was clearly not aware of all of the facts noted in this entry as early as 11 Aug. In the evening of that day Brig. Gen. David Forman wrote GW from Freehold, N.J., that his observers had sighted a British fleet of 20 sail off Sandy Hook but weather conditions prevented identification of the vessels. At first it was conjectured that the fleet was carrying part of Cornwallis’s troops from Virginia to reinforce Clinton in New York (Forman to GW, 11 Aug. 1781, GW to Forman, 13 Aug. 1781, DLC:GW). The fleet observed by Forman, however, consisted of 2 British armed ships and 23 transports carrying German recruits. According to a “Return of the troops arrived from Germany. 11th Augt 1781,” 2,750 Hessian troops arrived (MACKENZIE [2] description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 2:585). The soldiers were under the command of Col. Friedrich von Benning, and “a little more than one hundred and thirty sick, most of them suffering from scurvy, of which they will soon be cured, were disembarked earlier and taken to hospitals.” Twenty-two men had died during the 13–week voyage (BAURMEISTER description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 457).

The arrival of the transports was reported in the 15 Aug. issue of the Royal Gazette by editor James Rivington (1724–1802). Rivington, a native of London who emigrated to America in 1760, had established Rivington’s New York Gazetteer in 1773, after a varied career as printer and bookseller. Openly supporting the crown when the Revolution broke out, he was appointed the king’s printer in New York in 1776, and his newspaper, now operating under various titles, became a leading Tory organ until he suspended publication in 1783. After the war he remained in New York City, but his business ventures failed to prosper and he died in comparative poverty. For his secret career during the Revolution as an agent for GW’s intelligence system in New York, see CRARY description begins Catherine Snell Crary. “The Tory and the Spy: The Double Life of James Rivington.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 16 (1959): 61–72. description ends , 61–72; FORD [4] description begins Corey Ford. A Peculiar Service. Boston, 1965. description ends , 323–24.

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