George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Benedict Arnold, 7 June 1777

To Major General Benedict Arnold

Head Quarters Middle Brook 7th June 1777

Dear Sir

I imagine that since Genl Schuylers departure from Philada you command there. I therefore inclose you the Evidence of a person very lately from N. York, from which as well as from other information it appears that a Fleet is upon the point of sailing from New York1—If Philada should be the place of destination they will make their appearance in Delaware Bay soon after they leave the Hook. I therefore desire that you will as soon as you are certain that the Fleet is in the Bay, give me the earliest Notice by the Expresses that are posted on the Road between this and Philada. Before you send notice to me, be sure that you are not deceived by the signal Guns, which I am told have been fired several times without any Grounds for so doing. A move of this Army upon a false alarm might prove fatal.

Could not you and Genl Sullivan contrive to give each other notice by Signals. We can do it by making lights upon the heights near princetown and at this place, but I am afraid it will be difficult between princetown and philada because the Ground is low. I am &ca.

Copy, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This undated intelligence report reads: “Thomas Bowman came from [from] New York last thursday [5 June] about 11 oClock. He left Bristol the 15th March 1777 & came into new York with the last Fleet the 27 May.

“Said in England that about 5000 Troops were to come over. & that there were no more forraigners to be sent to America.

“That near fifty Light Horse arriv’d from England & landed last Tuesday [3 June]. And at the same time three ships loaded with soldiers came in taking about 2 Regiments but did not come ashore. That five Regiments embark’t last Thursday on board Transports. about 50 or 60 Light Horse embarkd likewise.

“That they were preparing a Vessell call’d the Empriss of Russia she is cut down to carry 24. 32 pounders made in the form of a Floating Battery & is near 13.00 Tons.

“30 sail of the line lay at Spit-head when he came away. but that they were not mann’d & that there was a very hot press for Sailors.

“They intend to put General Lee on board a Ship not daring to trust him in N. York—He was at Brunswick about a fortnight ago & saw no Boats but what were for the purpose of transporting provisions.

“That a great many Transports are getting in readiness to take the Troops on board at New York—& and upwards of 40. for the Light Horse—Waggons &c.—They expect to leave 2 Regiments in New York & expect the Shipping will defend the place.

“That 4 Deserters from us came into N.Y. this day week (Sunday.) & told a Colonel that Genl Washingtons Army was but 5000 strong. that the Colo. shook his head & sent them all to prison.

“Mr Hatfield of Elizth Town says That General Howe went to Amboy by the way of Staten Island, last Fryday Ev’ening—& that all the Waggons were taken from the Island to Amboy & that they intend to [move] to day—or tomorrow—the Waggons were brought over last Wednesday & thursday” (DLC:GW). For additional intelligence about British efforts to convert a warship into a floating battery, their construction of pontoons, and the movement of British ships and troops in New York Harbor, see the 3 June deposition of John Henry, a prisoner who had escaped from New York on 29 May, in DLC:GW. Henry’s deposition was enclosed in David Forman’s letter to John Sullivan of 3 June, and Sullivan apparently forwarded both Forman’s letter and Henry’s deposition to GW.

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