George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Commodore John Hazelwood, 15 November 1777

From Commodore John Hazelwood

Red Bank [N.J.] Novr 15th 1777


Agreeable to your Excellencys request by letter to me of 13 Novr, I have inclosed you the opinion of myself & Officers in Council of War held of Red bank the 14th Inst., a copy of which you have inclosed, where your Excellency will see we are all unanimously of opinion in regard to our holding this Station with the Fleet.1 While we were on this business their Fleet came up & attacked the Fort. I immediately carried all our force against them, & after a long & heavy Cannonading, with the assistance of a two Gun Battery, we drove or caused their Ships to drop down, but they getting their Ship Battery & a Sloop Battery up in the inner Channel close under our Fort Mifflin & under cover of all their Cannon & Bomb Batterys, & keeping up such a warm & hot fire, it was impossible for the Fort & that brave & good Officer to hold it longer, without that Ship could be destroyed. I order’d one half of our Galleys with as brave an Officer as I had, to destroy the Ship & Sloop, but he returned & said it was impossible while they was so well supported by all their Batterys, so at last that brave & good Officer Major Thayer was obliged to set fire to their works & quit the Fort—Our Fleet has received much damage, & numbers kill’d & wounded, which cannot now be exactly ascertained, but assoon as I can get a return made out, shall send it.2 We shall hold our Post as long as possible, & shall anxiously wait to have your answer to this, Whether Your Excellency approves of our determination—Our Men & Officers behaved with spirit & bravery. Having not to add for the present, Am Your Excellencys most Obedient & very Humble Servant

John Hazelwood

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover indicates that Hazelwood sent this letter “per Mr [William] Bradford.”

1The enclosed minutes of the council of war, held “on board the Chatham Galley” on 14 Nov., by Hazelwood and twenty other officers, reads: “After maturely considering the contents of his Excellencys Letter [of 13 Nov.], this Council are unanimously of opinion, That should Fort Mifflin be evacuated & so fall into the enemys hands, it will be altogether impracticable for our Fleet or any of them to keep their present Station, or to prevent in such case the enemys raising works at the aforementioned Fort Mifflin, as in their present situation they are within reach of Shot & Shells from the enemys Batterys on Province Island. But should such evacuation on our side, & possession on that of the enemy take place, this Council are of opinion, that by the Batterys raised & to be raised on this the Jersey Shore on the upper side of Mantua Creek, & above that opposite the Chevaux de Friez, the passage of the enemys Shipping especially those of any considerable force, will be altogether obstructed, as without raising, or removing the Chevaux de Friez, it is impossible such Ships can have a passage.

“Much, indeed all depends on our keeping possession of the Jerseys, for should the enemy prevail there, it is our opinion, that our Fleet will be altogether annihilated, as in that case our retreat & resources will be entirely cut off.

“Should we be by the enemys getting possession of Fort Mifflin, be obliged to retire further up, we have a sure retreat into Timber Creek where all our Fleet may shelter in safety, from whence the Galleys might in a very short time salley out & we trust defeat any light Vessels of the enemy, for which the pass thro’ in the intervals between the Chevaux de Frieze might be practicable, but those Vessels in such case must meet with many obstacles not only the risque of venturing thro’ almost impracticable passes, but be also exposed to the fire of those large Batterys of ours on this the Jersey shore.

“We of the Council are therefore unanimously of opinion, That on our Forces keeping possession of the Jerseys, depends altogether the preservation of our Fleet, & consequently every expectation to be formed from its Manœuvres in future” (DLC:GW).

2In another account of this action to Pennsylvania supreme executive council president Thomas Wharton, Jr., on 1 Dec., Hazelwood says that “we had on that Day 38 men Kill’d & Wounded & all the Galleys Except one much Shater’d with Shot” (PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; see also 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 , 10:645–48).

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