George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Continental Navy Board, 25 October 1777

From the Continental Navy Board

Borden Town [N.J.]
25th Octr 1777

May it please your Excellency,

We thought proper to forward the enclosed Letter for your Perusal, partly because it contains a pretty circumstantial Account of the late Action at Red Bank & the burning two of the Enemy’s Ships of War; but principally on Account of the Declaration in the last Paragraph of a Want of Amunition in the Garrison & Fleet.1

We have, whilst at this Place, exerted ourselves in supplying our Ships with Necessaries, which is the Reason Captn Robinson has applied to us for Cartridges & Ball; but as it is altogether out of our Power to furnish those Articles, and a Scarcity of them may be attended with very serious Consequences, we thought it most prudent to inform your Excellency of the Requisition made; not doubting but you will give such Orders as may have a sure & speedy Effect. Sincerely wishing you Health & Success—we have the Honour to be With all Respect & Esteem your Excellency’s most obedient humble servants

Fras Hopkinson

John Wharton

P.S. We wish your Excelly would be so good as to return Capt. Robinson’s Letter by the Bearer.2


Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791), a gifted poet, essayist, and musical composer, practiced law in Philadelphia with little success and then ran a dry goods store in the city before moving to Bordentown, N.J., in late 1773 or early 1774 and establishing a lucrative legal practice there. Through the influence of Lord North, whose friendship Hopkinson had cultivated during a visit to England in 1767–68, he became a member of the royal council of New Jersey in 1774, but he resigned that position and his other offices under the Crown in 1776 in order to support the American cause. As a member of Congress from June to November 1776, Hopkinson was a strong advocate of independence. He was appointed to Congress’s marine committee in July 1776 and to the newly created Navy Board in November 1776. Hopkinson remained on the Navy Board until July 1778 when he became Continental treasurer of loans, an office that he held until July 1781. He also served as judge of the admiralty court for Pennsylvania from 1779 to 1789. During 1787 and 1788 Hopkinson wrote a series of essays in defense of the Constitution, and in September 1789 GW appointed him district judge for eastern Pennsylvania.

1This letter, which apparently was written to the Navy Board by Capt. Isaiah Robinson, has not been identified (see the postscript). For accounts of the unsuccessful Hessian attack on Fort Mercer at Red Bank, N.J., on 22 Oct., see Samuel Ward, Jr., to GW, 23 Oct., and note 2. For an account of the burning of the British warships Augusta and Merlin on 23 Oct., see Robert Ballard to GW, 23 Oct., n.2.

2Isaiah Robinson, who had commanded the Continental navy sloop Sachem during the summer of 1776, was appointed captain of the 14–gun Continental navy brigantine Andrew Doria in September 1776, and he sailed that vessel to the West Indies in the fall of 1776 and the spring of 1777 to obtain supplies for the Continental forces. During the fall of 1777 Robinson assisted in defending the Delaware River until 21 Nov. 1777 when the Andrew Doria was burned at Red Bank, N.J., to prevent it from falling into British hands. In 1779 Robinson commanded the General Mercer, which carried dispatches to and from France.

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