George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigade Major Matthias Halsted, 5 July 1778

From Brigade Major Matthias Halsted

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] July 5. 1778


Brigdr Genl Winds having rode out of town last Evening & previous to his Going, Directed me to Communicate to your Excellency every Intelligence I Might Recieve from Staten Island in his Absence, Now Affords me the Honor of Informing you that I have the following Account from a person Who left the Island last Night & In Whom Genl Winds places much Confidance. the Prisoners Mentioned by Genl Winds Yesterday, to have been landed on Staten Island were Carried to New York & Landed there, no troops had Got up from Middle town last Evening, nor were they Expected soon, the report there is that the transports are taking on board the baggage & heavy Waggons, to bring them up to New York, & that the light Waggons were to remain with the Army, Which is shortly to Go in pursuit of Your Excellency & the American Army, In Consequence of positive Orders for that purpose brought by the last Packet, lately arrived, The Distruction of the American Army to be their only Object thus far he was Informed by two Captains seperately, both of Whom told him they had the Information from Br. Gl Campbell (Comdt there.) My Informant Also Adds that bread is Extreemly Scarce at New York & on the Island, that the troops on the Island have not recieved one ounce of flour or bread for above a Week past. he Confirms the following Account of their Fortifications on the Island & the Number & position of their troops Which we had had Nearly before.

On the Heights of Richmond town there is a large fort said to be unfinished, another said to be Compleat on the High Ground at the Narrow & three Redouts in the Hill Near the Watering place North–westwardly from it,1 Which are all the fortifications on the Island, the troops as follows, 400 or 500 foreigners lay Contigious to the fort & Redouts at the Eastern part of the Island; one Batallion of the 71st lay along the Kills,2 said to be 400 strong; the three Corps (formerly five) Dignified with the title of Jersey Volunteers, who Do not Amount to 400 Effective Men, Guard to the westward of the Dutch Church as far as the blazing star, from thenc[e] to the West End is Guarded by the Militia, Whose Numbers are small & the Greatest part Much Disaffected to them of late; about 150 British Troops lay at Richmond town Who Work on the fort there, I believe the Above Estimate Rather to Exceed than fall short of their Real Strength, tho they say they have above 2000 Effective Men on the Island.

Should I learn anything further from the Enemy In the Absence of Genl Winds I will Imediately Communicate it to your Excellency, & you May be Assured that Nothing Will be wanting to Obtain the best Intelligence, Either in his absence or Presence. I have the Honor to be with the Greatest Respect Your Excellencys Most Obdt Humle servt

M. Halsted Majr Brigd. To Br. Gl Winds

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover was docketed as a letter from Brig. Genl. William Winds of the New Jersey militia. Matthias Halsted (c.1746–1835) had served as an ensign and quartermaster in the 1st New Jersey Regiment from November 1775 to August 1776. After his service as a militia brigade major under Winds, he served as an aide-de-camp with the rank of major for Maj. Gen. Philemon Dickinson.

1The British began constructing Fort Richmond (Fort Izzard), centrally located on the island about five miles southwest of the Narrows, in July 1776 and abandoned the fort in 1782. The redoubt on Signal Hill at the Narrows was rebuilt from an American redoubt called Flagstaff Fort. The Watering Place was the area around current Tompkinsville, near the northeast tip of Staten Island.

2Kill Van Kull, also called the Kills, is the channel between Staten Island and Bergen Point (Bayonne), New Jersey.

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