George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General William Livingston, 28 June 1776

To Brigadier General William Livingston

[New York] 28 June 1776


Since Writing the above we have certain Advice that a Fleet of 130 Sail left Halifax the 9th Inst. bound to Sandy Hook—And We have little doubt but General How is arrived there within these few days in the Grey Hound1—A Moments Time therefore is not to be lost—The Plan proposed by your Provincial Congress of raising the Men as Volunteers upon a Bounty appears to me to be totally inadequate to the Necessity of the Case—as there is not the least doubt but something decisive must happen before they can reach this Place2—Unless therefore you can be certain that a considerable Body of Troops under the Proposed Establishment can be had within a few days: Agreeable to a Power lodged in me for that Purpose by the Provincial Congress I do hereby direct you to call for the Militia under your Command or such of them as are set apart for special Service & March them to this Place with all possible Expedition taking Care that they be provided with Arms Accoutrements & Camp Necessaries such as Blankets Kettles &c.3

Copy (extract), in the writing of William Livingston, Jr, NjMoHP.

Livingston enclosed this extract in the letter that he sent to Samuel Tucker, president of the New Jersey provincial congress, on 29 June. “You will be pleased to observe,” Livingston wrote Tucker, “that agreable to his [GW’s] Directions such part of our Militia as is to march to New York is to be provided with Camp necessaries such as Blankets Kettles etc. as no time ought to be lost in providing those necessaries. I hope the honourable Congress will immediately give orders respecting them” (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 , 1:58).

Joseph Reed wrote to Tucker on behalf of GW on 28 June informing him of the arrival of General Howe and his army at Sandy Hook. “It would be too dangerous a Secret to trust to a Letter,” Reed continued, “to mention how inadequate our Army is to encounter it. Let it suffice, to say, that unless the most speedy and effectual measures are taken to throw a Body of Men well Armed into this City, the most fatal consequences are to be apprehended. I am therefore, to injoin the Honorable Body over whom you preside, to extort their utmost efforts at this Critical juncture, when in all human probability the fate of our Country, our lives, Liberties and property, depend upon the Spirit and activity that will be shewed in a very short time.

“Agreeable to your resolve, impowering the General to call in the Militia, he has wrote Genl Livingston, for that purpose; unless it appears clearly to him that Troops under the new Establishment, and those well Armed can be sooner procured.

“In it is a most melancholy truth, that of our little Army, at least 2000 are destitute wholly of Arms, and near as many with Arms in such Condition, as to be rather calculated to discourage than animate the user” (DLC:GW).

2In its act of 14 June for raising 3,300 militiamen to reinforce New York City, the New Jersey provincial congress stipulated that this force was to “be raised by a voluntary enlistment” and authorized a bounty “of three pounds, Proclamation money,” to be paid to each volunteer (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 6:1619–20).

3At the request of the Continental Congress, the New Jersey provincial congress resolved on 21 June “that in case the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental forces at New-York, upon the arrival of British troops, shall stand in need of the aid of the Militia of this Colony, that he be authorized to call for the same, by applying to one of the Brigadiers-General or the Colonels of Militia” (ibid., 1626–27).

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