George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Abraham Yates, Jr., 28 August 1776

From Abraham Yates, Jr.

In Convention of the Representatives of the
State of New York at Harlem Augt 28th 1776


I am commanded by the Convention to enclose to Your Excellency the Copy of a Letter they received last Evening from General Woodhull[.]1 The Convention are of Opinion that the Enemy may be prevented from getting the Stock and Grain on Long Island, if the Regiments under the Command of Colo. Smith and Colo. Remsen be sent to join General Woodhull. That this Junction may be effected and how Major Lawrence (who is a Member of this Convention and the bearer hereof) will inform Your Excellency.2 I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect Your Excellency’s most Obedient & most humble servant

By Order.

Abm Yates Junr President

LS, DLC:GW; Df (mutilated), N: New York Provincial Congress Revolutionary Papers. The convention approved the draft earlier on this date (see 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 , 1:595).

1The enclosed copy of Nathaniel Woodhull’s letter to the convention of 27 Aug. reads: “I am now at Jamaica [Long Island] with less than one hundred men, having bro’t all the Cattle from the westward and Southward of the Hills; and have Sent them off with the Troops of Horse, with Orders to take all the rest Eastward of this place, to the Eastward of Hempsted Plains, and to put them into the Fields, and Set a Guard over them—The Enemy I am informed are entrenching from the Heighths near Howards Southward. I have now received yours with several Resolutions which I wish was in my power to put in Execution—But unless Colo. Smith And Remsen mentioned in yours join me with their Regiments or some other Assistance immediately, I shall not be able; for the People are all moving Eastward and I cannot get any Assistance from them—I shall continue here as long as I can in Hopes of a Reinforcement—but if none comes soon I shall retreat & drive the Stock before me into the woods—Colonels Smith & Remsen I think can’t join me—Unless you can Send me some other assistance, I fear I shall soon be obliged to quit this place” (DLC:GW).

Howard’s Inn was near the Jamaica Pass in Heights of Guana. The letter to which Woodhull refers is the one that the convention sent him on 26 Aug., enclosing resolutions that it had passed on 24 Aug. in response to news of the British landing on Long Island. In those resolutions the convention orders all the livestock south of the Heights of Guana in Queens County to be moved to “the fields at east end of Hemstead Plains” and directs Woodhull to “take post” with his brigade of Queens and Suffolk county militia “on the high grounds running through Nassau [Long] island, as near to the enemy as he may think expedient, for the purpose of opposing their incursions.” If it seemed that the British would “gain possession of those heights,” Woodhull was to retreat, “removing and destroying the stock and the grain, and dismantling the mills” (ibid., 588, 590).

2On 24 Aug. the convention had sent two of its members, William Smith of Suffolk County and Samuel Townshend of Queens County, to confer with GW about the removal of livestock from western to eastern Long Island and to submit to his “consideration the propriety of ordering” colonels Josiah Smith’s and Jeromus Remsen’s regiments of New York militia levies, which were attached to Gen. John Nixon’s brigade at Brooklyn, to reinforce Woodhull’s brigade (ibid., 588). Smith and Townshend reported on 26 Aug. that GW “seemed well pleased” with the convention’s actions “but said he was afraid it was too late.” GW assured them, nevertheless, “that he would immediately give orders that Col. Smith’s and Remsen’s regiments should march into Queens county to join Genl. Woodhull; and as to calling out any more of the militia, he asked what time we thought it would take to have the militia of Westchester county embodied? We told him we thought at least 4 or 5 days; upon which he made no reply” (ibid., 589–90).

Although the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug. prevented Smith’s and Remsen’s regiments from reinforcing Woodhull, the convention continued to pursue the matter. After approving the draft of this letter on this date, the convention ordered Cornelius Van Wyck, a member from Queens County, to “repair immediately to Flushing to gain intelligence of the situation of the enemy and what places are now occupied by Genl. Woodhull” and find “the most suitable place for the reinforcement to join Genl. Woodhull to land” (ibid., 595). Woodhull, however, wrote the convention from Jamaica on this date: “As to Colos. Smith and Remsen’s regiments, they cannot join me, for the communication is cut off between us” (ibid., 596).

Jonathan Lawrence (1737–1812), of Newtown, Long Island, represented Queens County in the provincial congress and convention between 1775 and 1777. At this time he was on leave from the convention, serving as brigade major of Woodhull’s militia brigade, and he had come from Woodhull’s camp the previous day to inform the convention about the brigade’s situation (ibid., 595–96). Settling in Dutchess County after Newtown was occupied by the British, Lawrence served in the state senate from 1777 to 1783 and on the state’s council of appointment from 1778 to 1779 and from 1782 to 1784. During the summer of 1778 he apparently participated in the Rhode Island expedition (Mather, Refugees of 1776 description begins Frederic Gregory Mather. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, 1913. description ends , 442–43).

Jeromus Remsen, Jr. (1735–1790), of Queens County was appointed by the New York convention on 13 Aug. as colonel of a regiment of militia levies from Kings and Queens counties (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 , 1:568). Remsen’s regiment was attached to Gen. John Nixon’s brigade at Brooklyn until the American evacuation of Long Island on 30 Aug., when it was assigned to Gen. George Clinton’s brigade at King’s Bridge (ibid., 568, 603–4). The regiment dispersed over the next several days, however, and it was not reorganized (ibid., 605; see also Heath to GW, 31 Aug. [third letter]).

Index Entries