George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Adam Stephen, 20 April 1777

From Major General Adam Stephen

Chatham [N.J.] 20th April 1777


Inclosd is an Acct of Capt. Beals Expedition1—The firing heard when I expected Capt. Bell was attacked, was their New Recruits exersising.

The Enemy came out from Amboy yesterday Six Miles, took a light horseman belonging to the Jersies & Returned again with Impunity—The Mans horse was worth £120 I am told—Genl Vaughan was out, & The Brave Capt. Conways house & plantation was burnt under the Genl Eye—G. Maxwell & my Self had resolved on Retaliation as your Excellency will observe by a Copy of the pass intended for Mrs Smith;2 However, tho’ perfectly Sensible of the Extensive influence it would have had, over Tories, Whigs, & our Enemies, if any Spark of humanity Remains with them—yet, Suspecting that we migh[t] have been Accused of doing it wantonly, as we had not Consulted Your Excellency—We have hitherto let it alone.

The reason I can possibly give for the Enemys returning with impunity, is our people not being Acquainted wt. the Country or their not attending to their knowledge of it properly.

I shall hear, I expect from N. York to morrow, & from Brunswick on Tuesday.3 I have the honour to be sr your most Obt Ser.

Adam Stephen

P.S. Some Recruits are embodying for our Service About Hackensack—Shall I detach Some men to join them, & beat up Col. Beards Quaters at Hoebuck.


In addition to the enclosures that appear in notes 1 and 2, Stephen enclosed a copy of the proceedings of the court of inquiry held at Chatham on 17 April. For that enclosure, see GW to Stephen, this date, n.1.

1Capt. Isaac Beall’s report of this date about his scouting expedition to Hackensack reads: “from the best Intelligence I can get the Enemy Leing [lying] at Bargain [Bergen] is About 10 or 12 Hundred Strong Consisting of Col. Buscarrick [Abraham Van Buskirk’s] Regt of New Recroots, Col. [Joseph] Barton’s Col: Dungen’s [Edward Vaughan Dongan’s] from Statton Island with about Six Hundred & Col. [Robert] Drummond’s Col. Beards [John Bayard’s] Regt Lays at Hobuck [Hoboken] Ferry, at Polus [Paulus] Hook Lay about Two Hundred British Troops & Two Field Pieces, no sertain Intelligence of any Artiliry at Bargain, a Picket Guard Keept Two or Three Miles from Polus Hook by the Brittish Troops A Scouting party is Constantly kept in the English nabourhood detacht from Bargain, we was Inform’d that about Fore Hundred Lay their yesterday, to Guard the Roads in order that the provision Waggons mite pass with Provisions & Forridg to Bargain & New york, some of the New Recroots Took Two of the Inhabitants of Hackensack Prisoners, Thirsday Night last [17 April].

“I am inform’d by Mr Peter Subbrisker [Zabriskie] an Inhabitant of Hackensack that as soon as the Campain is opene’d Some Rogallys [row galleys] & Tenders is to go up the North River to be joined by some Land Forces who are to March by Land to the [Smith’s] Clove & Haber Straw [Haverstraw], to consist of the New Recroots & Regulars, whare they are to be met by Carlton & his Troops in order to attact our Forts in the Hilands, this Information Mr Subbrisker has got from some Relations of the New Recroot Officers, which he thinks may be depended on.

“A Cross way from Second River to Doves [Dow’s] Ferry & another to Mundungo which you ha[d] discription of already, no boats at Mundungo Ferry, only a Couple of Canoes Keept on the other side, 4 Miles from Hackensack bridg to Tener Fly [Tenafly] a Creek in the English Nabourhood Spies always Keept about that place not a single Man to be depended on in that Nabourhood, most every Man being a Spy it is Impossable to pass undiscovered, 15 Miles to Bargain from Hackensack bridg a good Retreet from that Quarter over the Pasiak, Troops can pass easily to Bargain in going by Polus Hook, but small bodys must guard against the Troops Lying at Hobuck, Lest they Cut of[f] their Retreet which they can easily do.

“the Molitia up above Hackensack are imbodying by order of Genl Washingto[n], I was inform’d by a Captn of Molitia that about Two Hundred would be Imbodyed by Mondy Nite [21 April] a plenty of Good Pilets are amongs them—if I could of been join’d by a party of the Molitia which I apply’d for I would of attacted the body that lay in the English Nabourhood, I had not a guid nor could Get non tell the Next day” (DLC:GW).

Isaac Beall (d. 1779) of Frederick County, Va., was commissioned a captain in the 4th Virginia Regiment in February 1776, and sometime subsequent to the date of this letter he became major of the regiment with a date of rank of 21 Feb. 1777. Beall resigned his commission in June 1778 in order to care for his “young growing family” (Beall to GW, 19 June 1778, DNA: RG 93, vol. 169, Commissions 1775–78).

2Capt. John Conway of the 1st New Jersey Regiment lived at Woodbridge, New Jersey. The enclosed copy of the undated, unissued pass reads: “Mrs Smith has been induldged in living happily at home, ever Since her husband deserted the Interests of America—Her house being now burnt, in retaliation for the loss of Capt. Conways House & plantation burnt up this Afternoon, Under the Eye of Genl Vaughan—Mrs Smith is permitted to go to the Same General for Accommodation” (DLC:GW). Mrs. Smith apparently was the wife of William Smith of Woodbridge, a prominent farmer and cattleman, who had served in the New Jersey convention in 1775 but subsequently had refused to support independence. Smith joined the British when they invaded the state in November 1776, and at this time he was living on Staten Island, where he stayed for the remainder of the war.

3The following Tuesday was 22 April.

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