George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 15 April 1778

From William Livingston

Princeton [N.J.] 15th April 1778

Dear Sir

The Letters from General Winds, & Coll Dayton of which your Excellency has the Copies enclosed (together with my Answer to the former) I recieved yesterday1—I would not chuse unnecessarily to embroil myself with General Campbell on the one hand; nor on the other, suffer the Officers under me to be imposed upon by the insolence of Troops who seem to take every occasion of Assuming Airs of superiority, & treating us with disdain—General Campbell has made a constant practice of sending his flags by a set of dirty Villains who are traitors by the Laws of this State, & who being intimately acquainted at Elizabeth Town, & frequently not sufficiently watched by our Militia Officers at that Post, generally made it an Opportunity of sowing the seeds of disaffection among their old Cronies—Tho’ I thought this very uncivil espicially after having remonstrated against it, yet as it might be military, and those miscreants were deserters from the State, & not from the Army, I have put up with it, But as I cannot persuade myself (however sacred a flag may be supposed to be) that it can protect a Deserter from the punishment incurred by his desertion from the Army in which he was enlisted, I thought it best to order his detention ’till your Excellency’s pleasure was signified on the Subject. Possibly there may be some irregularity in his Enlistment, of which he means to take the Advantage—General Maxwell will be able to satisfy you on that Point & I shall farther direct Genl Winds, agreeably to your Excellency’s directions to me.

Our Legislature has been so dilatory in framing the Law for rasing our Quota of Troops destined to reinforce the grand Army, that it puts me out of all Patience.2

The Letter from the Committee of Congress on the Subject of purchasing horses & which I transmitted to the House for that Purpose has been mislaid, & I cannot recollect the mode therein prescribed for the Payment, tho’ I remember the Executive was to be furnished with the material by the first of May3—As the time is rather too short to write to Congress on the Subject & to have an Answer in Season, if your Excellency can enlighten me in the matter, I shall take it as a favour—I expect by the day to be surrounded with Duns, & I have lived long enough in the world to know that nothing is to be done in it, without money. With the greatest Esteem and most ardent wishes for your Success I have the honour to be Dear Sir your Most Obedt Servt

Wil: Livingston

LS, in William Livingston, Jr.’s writing, DLC:GW; copy (extract), probably enclosed GW to Henry Laurens, 27 April 1778, ScHi: Henry Laurens Papers.

1Brig. Gen. William Winds of the New Jersey militia wrote Livingston from Elizabeth, N.J., on 13 April: “On information of Lt Coll Barber that a Job: Hetfield late of this Town, was an enlisted Soldier in Coll Daytons Regiment of continental Troops & had deserted to the Enemy & was then on Staten Island & Coll Barbers request that he might be detained in Case he should come with a flag; an Opportunity yesterday offering & as I concieve it to be strictly agreeable to the Usage of War, I have detained him & sent to Coll Dayton from whom I expect to hear tomorrow, the detention has occasioned a Letter from B. G: Campbell, full of Amazement at my unprecedented Conduct & of threats to stop all Intercourse by flaggs between us, unless Hetfield be returned to the Island, I have answered his Letters & declared my determination to detain him, till the affair is examined into & asserted the right of the detention founded on the Custom of War” (DLC:GW). The enclosed copy of Col. Elias Dayton’s letter to Livingston is misdated 16 April, but the letter was probably dated 14 April. Dayton wrote: “At the request of General Winds I trouble your Excellency with this Letter, informing what I know respecting Job: Hetfields being enlisted as a Soldier in my Regiment; next day after the Enemy left Eliz: Town in the Winter 1777 Hetfield with a Number other Persons suspected of having joined the Enemy when in Town were taken as Prisoners to General Maxwells Quarters in Connecticut Farms, where they were told they must either enlist into the continental Service or be confined. General Maxwell informed me at that time, that Job: Hetfield enlisted & was sworn by him as a Soldier in my Regiment, as I was absent when it was done, cannot assert it, from my own knowledge, although I have not the least doubt of the fact, some time after when I sent for Hetfield to join the Regiment, was informed he had deserted to the Enemy, with another fellow enlisted at same time called free Tite” (DLC:GW). Livingston replied to Winds on 15 April: “Your right of detaining Job: Hetfield will entirely depend on the truth of the fact, of his having enlisted in our Service. If he really was enlisted, it is contrary to Common Sense, that the Enemy’s sending him as a flag, should tye our hands from using him as a deserter. It would rather aggravate his Offence, by adding insult to his Villainy; As to that fact Coll Dayton acquaints me by his Letter, that General Maxwell informed him, that Hetfield was enlisted & was sworn by him as a Soldier in his Regiment—This being such Evidence of the fact, as I cannot doubt, I think you do right in detaining him & you will keep him until farther Orders” (DLC:GW). Job Hetfield (1754–1825) was among those charged by the Essex County court in September 1778 “for joining the army of the King of Great Britain, and other treasonable practices,” and he ultimately was proscribed and had his property confiscated. In his later claim for compensation from the British, Hetfield asserted that he had been confined for two months in this incident but that he continued to act as a partisan and gather intelligence behind American lines throughout the war. After the war Hetfield settled in Shelburne, Nova Scotia (see New-Jersey Gazette [Trenton], 18 Nov. 1778; Coldham, American Loyalist Claims description begins Peter Wilson Coldham. American Loyalist Claims. Washington, D.C., 1980. description ends , 229–30; Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists description begins Gregory Palmer. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Westport, Conn., and London, 1984. description ends , 382).

2A bill “for recruiting the four New-Jersey Regiments in the continental Service” was introduced in the general assembly on 27 Feb., but it was much debated and amended and not passed until 27 March. The council approved the act on 3 April (N.J. Proceedings of the General Assembly description begins Votes and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey. At a Session begun at Trenton on the 28th Day of October, 1777, and continued by Adjournments until the 8th of October, 1778. Being their Second Session. Trenton, 1779. description ends , Oct. 1777–Oct. 1778 sess., 71, 73–74, 76–78, 80, 84–85, 92, 99). However, Livingston apparently believed that measure to be insufficient, as he addressed the legislature on 14 April: “I Lay before you the Resolutions of Congress of the 19th of March, which I received this Day. By those Resolves, and the Letter from the Board of War of the 28th of March, which inclosed them, you will be convinced of the absolute Necessity of expediting the Troops of this State destined to re-enforce the Grand Army, and of procuring the Accoutrements and other Articles therein mentioned with all possible Dispatch. So much depends upon our opening an early Campaign, that every unnecessary Delay must be attended with the most fatal Consequences” (ibid., 110).

3The Continental Congress camp committee had written Livingston on 28 Feb., requesting that New Jersey supply 300 cavalry horses and adding, “In order to provide for the Payment as well of the Purchase Money as the satisfaction to the Purchasers it is proposed that Money & Loan Office Certificates be lodged with the executive Authority of the State to be paid out on the 1st May under such Limitations & Checks as will most effectually guard against Fraud or Mistake—The whole Account to be finally settled between Congress & the State when the Business is compleated” (DNA:PCC, item 192). Livingston transmitted that letter to the New Jersey general assembly on 18 Mar., and the legislature voted to appoint a commissioner in each county to make purchases (N.J. Proceedings of the General Assembly description begins Votes and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey. At a Session begun at Trenton on the 28th Day of October, 1777, and continued by Adjournments until the 8th of October, 1778. Being their Second Session. Trenton, 1779. description ends , Oct. 1777–Oct. 1778 sess., 82, 95, 97).

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