George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 16 May 1778

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Head Quarters [Valley Forge] 16th May 1778

Dr Sir

From many concurrent circumstances it appears that the enemy are preparing to evacuate Philadelphia, whether their design is to withdraw altogether from the Continent or to concenter their forces at new york cannot be ascertained—in case the latter shd be the case it will be proper to have provision of forage made on the road to the No. River for such body of Troops as may be ordered to march from hence in consequence.1

If you could employ an intelligent confidential person to go into new york and inform you of what passes there, it would be of infinite use in the present conjuncture as any similar preparations on the part of the enemy in that place would evince their intention of generally abandoning the Territories of the United States. I am with great regard &c.

Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The docket indicates that the letter was “Sent by Mr Greene.”

GW’s letter to Greene of 17 May repeats much of the information given in this letter, which Greene may have never received (see Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 2:392).

1GW’s aide Tench Tilghman wrote Capt. Allen McLane from Valley Forge on this date: “I received yours by your Orderly Sergeant who brought up one of the young men mentioned by you, he is very intelligent and confirms the account of the intended evacuation of the City. If any of the people who come out for protection, can give you an intelligent account of the movement of the enemy, it will be well to send them up to Head Quarters, if they cannot, you had better let them past into the Country. Continue your vigilance, and be pleased to communicate whatever is material…. you may look for the Marquis on the north side Schuylkill with a large detachment from this army on the 18th inst.” (DLC: Toner Collection).

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