George Washington Papers

Council of War, 8 July 1776

Council of War

At a Conference of General Officers and others at Head Quarters July 8 1776

Present His Excell⟨y⟩ the Genl[,] General Puttnam[,] General Heath[,] Gen. Spencer[,] Gen. Green[,] Gen. Scott[,] Gen. Wadsworth[,] Col. McDougal[,] Mess: Randolph[,] Green & Dennis & Dewer1

A Proposition having been made to the General to sink Hulks in the North River at Tappan Bay in order to stop the Enemy’s Progress, it was fully discussed & agreed that the same be carried into Execution Capt. Grinell to sound the Channel & fix the Buoys Capt. Dennis to take up the Vessels—& with Capt. Lawrence & Capt. Tudor to have them sunk in a proper Manner Capt. Grinnell to take Notice of the commanding Ground so that if Works should be hereafter erected they may be made in the properest Manner.2

The General proposed to the Genl Officers what should be done with the Troop of Horse from Connecticut, agreed that the Men be detained untill the New Levies arrive but the Horses be sent Home as soon as possible.

The Congress having referred to the Generals Determination the Propriety of marching 3 Regimts of the Continental Troops from Boston to the Northern Army & in Case of Need substituting the Militia in their Place—Unanimously agreed that the sd 3 Regimts be immediately dispatchd to join the Northern Army.

D, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1William Duer (1747–1799), a newly elected member of the New York convention from Charlotte County, took an active part in efforts to obstruct and defend the Hudson River during the next few months. Born in England, Duer served briefly during his teens as an aide-de-camp to Lord Clive in India and subsequently went to the West Indies where he had inherited property from his father. In 1768 Duer, having obtained a contract to supply spars and masts to the Royal Navy, visited New York in search of timber land, and on the advice of Philip Schuyler, he purchased a large tract at Fort Miller a short distance north of Saratoga. Duer settled permanently in the colony about 1773, and although he declined appointment as Continental deputy adjutant general for New York in August 1775 to avoid jeopardizing his family’s interests in the West Indies, he soon proved himself to be an energetic and useful supporter of the American cause. In September 1776 the New York convention named Duer to the colony’s committee of safety and the committee for detecting conspiracies, and in March 1777 it elected him a delegate to the Continental Congress. Duer attended Congress from April 1777 to November 1778 and served on the Board of War for most of that time. He subsequently furnished some supplies to the French army, and in 1782 he secured a contract for supplying the Continental forces in New York and New Jersey. The great financial empire that Duer created after the war, based on western land speculation and banking schemes, collapsed in 1792.

2Thomas Grenell (Grennell; c.1717–1786), who had previously served as one of the New York commissioners for fortifying the Hudson highlands, was appointed commander of the frigate Montgomery by the Continental Congress on 15 June 1776, and a short time later he was named captain of the frigate Congress. Captains Augustine Lawrence and Samuel Tudor were commissioners in charge of constructing the Montgomery and the Congress at Poughkeepsie. The frigates were launched in November 1776, and the following summer they were sent to help defend Fort Montgomery, where in October 1777 they were burned to prevent their capture by the British.

Patrick Dennis (1735-1798), a merchant ship captain from New Jersey, was appointed first lieutenant of the independent artillery company that the Marine Society organized at New York in July 1775. During the summer and fall of 1776 he was employed in various attempts to obstruct the Hudson and East rivers (see GW to Dennis, 13 July), and in 1778 he served as pilot for the French fleet. Dennis was deputy naval officer for eastern New Jersey from about 1786 to 1789, and in 1790 he was given command of the New York revenue cutter Vigilant.

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