George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 28 November 1777

From Major General Israel Putnam

New Rochal [N.Y.] 28 Novr 1777

Dr General

Since I wrote my Last nothing particular has happened in this Quarter.1 some days ago I had made a Desposition to Cross over to Long Island, and Attackt the Forts Huntington & Setauket. but before Matters could be got Ready for the Expedition, they Evacuated both Forts and are now Making very strong Works at the Upper End of the Island.2

I Recd a Letter the other Day from Genl Dickenson Acquainting me that his Intentions was yesterday to make a Decent upon Statten Island, upon which I orderd Genls Parsons & Warners Brigades to March down towards Kings Bridge to Make a Diversion in his favour, which I hope had the desired Effect.3 I am in haste Dr Genl Your Most Obedt Hble Sert

Israel Putnam

LS, DLC:GW. Putnam also signed the letter’s cover.

2Little is known of the abortive American expedition to Long Island in November 1777, but the British had noticed American preparations for it by 18 Nov. when William Hotham wrote Lord Howe: “All Accounts agree that the Enemy are in Force in the Neighbourhood of Marineck and Rye; and that they intend to establish a Post as near Hell-Gate as possible, in order to destroy the Navigation of the Sound, as well as to command a Landing upon Long-Island; For which purpose they are said to have a Number of Boats at Stamford and Horse-Neck, and by every Intelligence their Intentions are bent this Way: I have therefore ordered all the small Armed Vessels which can be spared from other Services into the Sound with particular Directions that they may be constantly kept moving whenever the Weather will permit, as being the surest Means to discover, as well as to prevent, any intended Mischief. The Western part of it is more particularly directed to be attended to; as at this Season of the Year not much is to be apprehended to the Eastward of Huntingdon. And as Long Island is generally supposed to be their Object, Sir Henry Clinton has directed some additional Works to be thrown up, and the old Ones to be repaired at Brooklyn” (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 , 10:531–32). For two other unsuccessful American expeditions against Huntington and Setauket on eastern Long Island, neither of which was heavily fortified, see John Hancock to GW, 27 Aug., and note 3, and Putnam to GW, 16 Dec., and note 1. The minor Loyalist fortification at Setauket, situated at the Presbyterian meetinghouse on Strong’s Road, was later described as “breastworks six feet high, thrown up thirty feet from the building, in which were mounted four swivel guns” (Hall, Life and Letters of General Parsons description begins Charles S. Hall. Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons: Major General in the Continental Army and Chief Judge of the Northwestern Territory, 1737-1789. Binghamton, N.Y., 1905. description ends , 109–10). British and Loyalist forces apparently did not completely abandon the area until January 1778.

3Maj. Gen. Philemon Dickinson’s letter to Putnam has not been identified, but see Dickinson to GW, this date. The 6 Dec. issue of Rivington’s New-York Loyal Gazette gives an account of Putnam’s diversionary movement: “The advanced body of the rebel army, on the Kingsbridge side, which was last week repulsed by a part of Capt. [Andreas] Emmerick’s corps, consisted of 300 foot and 100 horse, with field pieces and mortars; they were driven over the river, and retreated to their main body near Williams’s, consisting of 4000, under Mr. Putnam. This was effected by 17 riflemen, covered by 30 musqueteers, the former killed seven, and wounded twenty six; the small party lost one killed and one taken, and did not retreat until they were fired upon by the enemy’s artillery.”

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