George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 15 August 1776

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Long Island Augt 15th 1776


It having appeared in Orders that Colo: Hitchcocks’s Regiment is to take Possession of the Post opposite to Fort Washington1 I beg leave to acquaint you that their peculiar Attachment to the old regiments that are here, their thorough Knowledge of the Ground, their Discipline and the good Order in which they are respecting Arms makes me desirous of their remaining here, if it can possibly be dispenced with and absolute Necessity does not require their removal—The most of the Troops that come over here are strangers to the Ground, Undisciplined and badly furnish’d with Arms—They will not be so apt to support each other in Time of Action as those who have long been acquainted, and who are not only attached to each other but to the Place—I have made this Application in Consequence of my own Observations and to evince the Propriety of it send you inclosed the Arrangement for your Inspection2—Colo: Hand about Eight OClock yesterday Evening reported that the Hessians were landing on Staten Island to a considerable Number; that after their Landing they paraded upon the Beach and marched up the Hill towards the Flag staf—I have received no report from him this Morning owning as I suppose to the Inclemency of the Weather, should he not send one speedily I shall dispatch an Express to inquire the Cause—I have made Choice of Mr William Blodget and Major William Livingston for my Aid de Camps should it meet with your Approbation you will please to signify it [in] Orders3—I have the Pleasure to inform you that the Troops appear to be in exceeding good Spirits and make no Doubt that if they should make their Attack here we shall be able to render a very good Account of them—I am carrying into Execution the late resolve of Congress respecting the removal of the Cattle dismantling of the Mills, removing the Grain already thrashed and having that which is still in Sheaf so stacked and disposed of that in Case of an Attack it may easily be destroyed4—The Militia of the County that was ordered here have not as yet made their Appearance notwithstanding the Promise I received from the Lieut. Colo: that they should be here last Night—should they delay coming in any longer than5 this Day I am determined not to be trifled with and shall let them feel my Resentment by vigorous and spirited Exertions of Military Discipline and those Powers with which I am invested—A Part of the Militia from the East End of the Island under the Command of Colo: Smith are arrived6—I am very sorry that I am under the Necessity of acquainting you that I am confined to my Bed with a raging Fever—The Critical Situation of Affairs makes me the more anxious but I hope thro’ the Assistance of Providence to be able to ride before the Presence of the Enemy may make it absolutely necessary.7 I am with respect your Most Obedt hume Servt

Nathanael Greene


2This enclosure has not been indentified. Greene’s arguments did not dissuade GW from moving Hitchcock’s regiment (see General Orders, 19 Aug.).

3GW announced these appointments in the General Orders of the next day.

4For the New York convention’s resolutions of 20 July regarding the livestock on Long Island, see Nathaniel Woodhull to GW, that date, and note 1.

5William Smith Livingston, to whom Greene dictated this letter, inadvertently wrote “that” on the manuscript.

6Josiah Smith (1723–1786) of Moriches Neck, Long Island, was commissioned colonel of a regiment of minutemen in January 1776 by the Suffolk County committee of safety (see William Smith to the New York Provincial Congress, 24 Jan. 1776, in N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:284). On 20 July the state convention named Smith colonel of a regiment of Long Island militia levies raised to protect the island’s livestock, and on 8 Aug. it put his regiment under Greene’s command (see ibid., 534, 563–64). Smith’s regiment dispersed after the Battle of Long Island and did not reassemble (see ibid., 605, and George Clinton to Henry Beekman Livingston, 5 Oct. 1776, in Hastings, Clinton Papers, 1:370).

7Greene’s worsening condition over the next several days obliged GW on 20 Aug. to replace him as commander on Long Island with John Sullivan (see General Orders, that date). Dangerously ill and confined to bed for almost two weeks, Greene missed the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug. and did not resume his duties fully until sometime in the first week of September.

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