George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 16 December 1777

From Major General Israel Putnam

Sawpitts [N.Y.] 16th Decemr 1777

Dear sir

I was last Evening favd with your two Letters of the 28th Ulto and 2nd Inst: with a Remonstrance from Mr Drake inclosd that peice I do aver is made up of Falcity and Misrepresentation, at least what has ever come to my knowledge.

I have ever Acted as near your Excellency’s Orders of last Winter as was in my power—nor has any property been disposd of for the Benefit of the Captors, unless such as was taken in the Actual Possession of the Enemy1—General Parsons, and the Sequestrators have had some dispute, Respecting Cattle that was taken from the Enemy while they were at Verplanks Point and up the River, which I suppose has Occationd this Remonstrance—I could give you Mr Drakes Character in full, but Refer you to Major Yates my Aid-de-Camp who is on his way to Baltimore.2

The Troops at this place shall be Removed to Fish Kill Agreeable to your Orders as speedily as possible, and nothing in my Power Shall be wanting to secure the River, against any further Attempts of the Enemy, but Works without men will Answer but Little purpose—I am sorry to Inform Your Excellency that I have Reason to fear Cols. Saml B. Webb, & Eli, are prisoners with the Enemy, and some men, the Number as yet Uncertain as the Expedition was on Long Island, and Numbers of the Men have gone to the East End—Major Yates can give your Excellency the particulars, of this affair—and what Object we had in View.3 I Beg Leave to Refer you to him for every particular Respecting this department. I am Dr Sir Your Most Obedt Servt

Israel Putnam

P.S. Since I had the Misfortune to Loose Mrs Putnam the Circumstances of my Family are such as makes it Absolutely Necessary that I might have a Little time to go home, to settle my affairs. if you think it not Inconsistant with the Service, I shall be glad of your approbation.4 Yours &c.

I.P.

Your Letter of the 19th Ulto is Just Come to hand.

LS, DLC:GW.

2Thomas Yates, who apparently had resigned his captaincy in the Continental line in May 1777, was appointed an aide-de-camp to Putnam on 26 Aug. 1777 (see Putnam’s General Orders, that date, in Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 1:279).

3The 19 Dec. 1777 issue of the Connecticut Gazette; and the Universal Intelligencer (New London) contains a full report of the American expedition to Long Island, which began on the evening of Tuesday, 9 Dec.: “A Plan having been formed to bring off or destroy a Magazine of Military Stores which the Enemy had at Shetocket on Long-Island, and to destroy some Shipping loaded with Timber at Southold,—on Tuesday Night of last Week part of two Battalions of Troops embarked from this State, under Convoy of the Sloop Schuyler, and the Spy and Mifflin Schooners:—Unfortunately the next Morning, just before Light, the Faulkland, a British Frigate, in her passage from New-York to Newport, came a-cross the Schuyler and two smaller Vessels, when the latter run a-shore upon the Island, but the former in attempting to get in with the Land run on a Spit of Sand called the Old-Man’s, and was taken, with about sixty Troops on Board, among whom were the following Officers, viz. Colonels [John] Ely and [Samuel Blachley] Webb, Capt. [Edward] Buckland [Buckley], Lieut. [John] Riley, Ensi. [Giles] Mumford, Adjutant [Elisha] Hopkins, and Quarter-Master [Jehosaphat] Starr, of Webb’s Battalion, and Ensigns [Sands] Niles and [James] Abbot, and Adjutant [Ebenezer] West, of Ely’s Battalion. On Thursday a Party of Men under Capt. [John] Hart, marched to Southold, and were very near making Prisoners of Capt. [James] Ayscough and upwards of 20 Men belonging to the ship Swan, who were at a House in Southold, but they getting Intelligence of Capt. Hart’s Approach, hasted to their Boats—they were closely pursued, and as they were getting on Board were fired upon, when most of them were either killed or wounded, Capt. Ayscough it is tho’t, was killed. Seven Marines and Seaman were made Prisoners. Our Troops, after tarrying Several Days on the Island, returned to the Main, without having Opportunity to effect any Thing considerable,—the Shipping having left Southold, and we learn the Magazine at Shetocket had been removed” (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 , 10:756; Rivington’s Royal Gazette [New York], 13 and 20 Dec.; Providence Gazette; and Country Journal, 20 Dec.; Journal of H.M. Sloop Falcon, 10 Dec., 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 , 10:699). Col. Samuel Blachley Webb gave a report of the expedition and his capture in his letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath of 16 Dec., and Heath informed GW of Webb’s capture in a letter of 25 Dec. (see Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 1:399–400). Webb himself wrote GW on 29 Dec., the same date that Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons also sent a report of the expedition to GW.

4Putnam for various reasons was prohibited from temporarily relinquishing his command to Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons until 14 Feb. 1778. Putnam returned to active service six weeks later, on 28 Mar. 1778.

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