George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Secret Committee of the New York Convention, 27 September 1776

From a Secret Committee of the New York Convention

Poughkeepsie, Sepr 27. 1776.

Sir.

The Committee which the Convention of this State appointed for devising ways and means to obstruct the Navigation on Hudsons river, have lately received directions from the Convention to purchase vessels to be sunk near fort Washington. To effect this, we immediately proceeded up to this place, with Capt. Grennal, whose assistance, by reason of his naval experience, the Convention conceived might be useful to the Committee.1

The Committee upon their arrival here, sent down an old Sloop which we had purchased some time before, and directed that another Sloop lying in the highlands should also be sent down: both are intended to be sunk; and we make no doubt but, by this time, they are at the Bridge, as also the fire ship charged by Capt. Hazelwood, he having charged but one here, for want of Materials.2

The Committee have also impressed and now send down two large ships and two Brigs—And in order to ascertain their respective values, have appointed persons of unexceptionable characters and great experience to appraize the same on oath, for the purpose that the Owners there of may receive from the Public a Recompence—The said appraisement stands as follows.

The Brig of Lowthrop & others £ 400 00 0
The Brig of Malcom & others 760 00 0
The new Ship of John Franklin 3429 00 0
The new Ship of Samuel Franklin 2800 00 0
7389 00 0
The fire sloop was purchased for £ 200 00 0
The sloop sent from Poughkeepsie 125 00 0
The sloop in the Highlands 130 00 0
455 00 0
total amot £ 7844 00 0
We found in the Brig owned by Mr Lowthrop, a quantity of Boards, and knowing that they were much wanted at the Bridge, we concluded to send them down, and have requested Capt. North to deliver them to such officer as may be appointed to receive and purchase the same, and at the price usually paid, with power to receive the money.3

The two ships have never been out at Sea, and by the Report of Masters of vessels and ship Carpenters they are exceedingly well built, and of the very best materials—It would therefore become a matter of Concern to sink those vessels, if the interest of the public should not render the measure absolutely necessary and unavoidable.

In order to afford Capt. Cook all proper assistance in procuring plank, we directed Capt. Casewell of the Sloop of War Cambden, equipped by this State to carry down all the spare plank in the ship Yards here. We have also purchased upwards of 6,000 feet and sent them down by Capt. Donaldson; and as those sloops proceeded down with a fair wind on Tuesday last,4 we make no doubt but they are safely arrived. We have the honour to be with great respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humle servants

By order of the Committee

Robert Yates Chairman

LS, DLC:GW; Df, NNgWHM.

1This secret committee, which had been appointed on 16 July, was directed on 21 Sept. to purchase up to six vessels and “to request the services of Capt. Thomas Greenell in ballasting and navigating, and delivering those vessels to Capt. Cook at Fort Washington” (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 , 1:639; see also a Secret Committee of the New York Convention to GW, 17 July, and William Duer to GW, 22 Sept., and note 2). Thomas Grenell, who had been one of the commissioners for fortifying the Hudson highlands during the fall of 1775, was appointed by the Continental Congress on 15 June 1776 to command the frigate Montgomery at New York, and by August he was designated captain of the new frigate Congress at Poughkeepsie (see ibid., 139; 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 , 5:444; 6:861; and Francis Lewis to Grenell, 22 Aug. 1776, in Smith, Letters of Delgates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 5:47, n.2).

2The old sloop was the Clinton description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends (see Robert Yates to the convention, 25 Sept., 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 , 1:650). For the convention’s resolution of 21 Sept. ordering fireships to Fort Washington, see Abraham Yates, Jr., to GW, 21 Sept., n.1. The “Bridge” is King’s Bridge.

3One of the brigs, Robert Yates wrote the convention on 25 Sept., “belongs to Malcom, Kip and Lott, the other is a New-England vessel, about 120 tons burthen, loaded with wheat, staves, and a considerable quantity of inch boards; the wheat and staves we have ordered to be stored, but send down the boards for public use” (ibid.).

4The previous Tuesday was 24 September. The sloop Camden, which had been fitted out by order of the secret committee, was commanded by Capt. Robert Castle (see ibid., 771; see also Robert Yates to the convention, 25 Sept., in ibid., 650).

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