George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenants Jeremiah Putnam and Nathaniel Cleaves, 9 October 1776

From Lieutenants Jeremiah Putnam and Nathaniel Cleaves

North Rever October the 9th 1776


this is a Coppey of the preceding⟨gs⟩ On Bord the Galley Independance On the 8th Coll Tupper sent Orders On Bord for Capt. Baker to prosceed On shore and that there Was no further Buisness for him On Bord1 On the 9th at about 7 A.M. We Observed the ships Below to Be moving We Imeadetly Cauld all Hands, after seeing the Other Galley Under way We hove Up and stood Up the river after them and When We got Above the Chevux De’ free, spoke With Cook and askt what he Intended to Doo He answered that he Did not know But stood Up the river and said there Was Not Warter Enough to Goo in to the Creek the Wind Being Morderate we gained a head of them wich gave Us Encoregment to keep along it soon after Breessd Up & the ships Gaind Upon Us fast: and at a bout 11 A.M., the[y] Began to fire Upon Us With theire Bow Chases2 at A bout twelf they Over reacht Us which Causd Us to Bare in shore and at ½ P.M. We run her On shore Just Above Dobsey Ferry Where We had not time Enough to Git Our people and things On shore in the Boats: and the shiping Began the fire Wich Oblig’d Us to Swim On shore. But no Livs Lost But, part of theire Guns and Cheif of theire Baggage, And I Observed the Enemy to hawl Up thire Boats And man them, Wich, they Emeadetly Dropt On stern and fired a Brad side of Grape shot as We Ley in the Bushes and Emeadetly sent theire Boat On Bord With a Warp and hove her a long side,3 from your Most Obedt Serts

Jeremh Putnam Lt

Nathaniel Cleaves Liut.

LS, in Cleaves’s writing, DLC:GW.

Although Jeremiah Putnam (1737–1797) signs this letter as a lieutenant, Col. Israel Hutchinson’s return of the 27th Continental Regiment for 5 Oct., lists him as an ensign “on command on board the galley” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:901–2). A native of Massachusetts who had served as a sergeant in the Lexington alarm, Putnam joined Col. John Mansfield’s Massachusetts regiment as a sergeant in May 1775, and on 1 Jan. 1776 he was commissioned an ensign in Hutchinson’s 27th Continental Regiment. Putnam left the Continental army at the end of 1776 and served the remainder of the war as a captain in the Massachusetts militia. Nathaniel Cleaves of Massachusetts, who had been wounded while serving as a lieutenant in the Lexington alarm, was a first lieutenant in Mansfield’s Massachusetts regiment from May to December 1775 and in the 27th Continental Regiment during 1776. Taken prisoner at Fort Washington on 16 Nov., Cleaves was not exchanged until March 1780.

1John Baker, Jr., of Massachusetts, a captain in the 27th Continental Regiment, commanded the Continental row galley Independence until Lt. Col. Benjamin Tupper relieved him on 8 Oct. (see ibid.).

2Bow chasers are guns mounted in the forward part of vessels for use when pursuing other vessels.

3The British warships that passed through the obstructions at Fort Washington pursued the American row galleys up the Hudson, and near Dobbs Ferry they ran ashore the galleys Independence and Crane, two sloops, and a schooner, all of which were subsequently refloated by the British and taken as prizes (see the journals of the Phoenix, Roebuck, and Tartar, 9 Oct., in Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 6:1178–81). Capt. Andrew Snape Hamond of the British frigate Roebuck says in his account of events that the capture of the two American row galleys “was a great acquisition to us, as they [the Americans] never after dared to shew us their Galleys again” (Hamond’s narrative, 3–9 Oct., ibid., 1183).

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