George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Winds, 10 July 1778

From Brigadier General William Winds

Head Quarters Elizth Town [N.J.]
July 10. 1778

Dear General

The Account I had the Honor of Sending you yesterday is Confirmed in Every Material Circumstance by the Capt. & Hands onboard the flagg of Truce provision sloop Who Came Yesterday from New York with this addition that there was a Meeting of the Merchants of New York on Wednesday last,1 to Consult on What would be best to be Done on the Evacuation of New York, to know how many & who were Desirous of Continuing under the protection of the British Arms, (My Informants understood this Meeting to be by Direction of Genl Clinton.) the press begun on tuesday Night was Continued on Wednesday Night with Great Warmth, a report prevails in New York that a Vessel Just Arrived had brought Account that she had Spoke a large & strong french fleet a few Days ago off the Capes of Virginia, about 20 leagues from land. In Consequence of Which, all the large ships at New York & a Number of frigates are Ordered Imediately to put to sea, Admiral Gambier has removed his flagg from the Ardent to a small frigate to remain at New York,2 the press is said to be to Man the large Ships, the New York paper of Yesterday (which my Informants have seen) Gives the above Account & puff of 1300 seamen from the Transports having Entered—Volunteers, on board the large Ships In Order to Give Monsieurs a Drubing.3 the Scarcity of bread is Confirmed not only by the Hands of the flagg sloop, But also by two Deserters Who Made their Escape from Staten Island last Night, & say they had Drawn but one lb. of flour for 4 or 5 Days, In Genl Skinners Brigade to Which they belonged, they are Men known here, had been Kidnappd & forced into their Service. All Accounts Agree that some troops are Speedily to leave this Continent.

A body of troops are lately landed at Powles hook Cannot as Yet learn any thing of their Numbers.

This Appears to me to be a Critical time with them, that they Might Easily be thrown into Great Consternation & Disorder & their plans frustrated be they what they may.

Harvest will be Generally In, in New Jersey in the Course of this Month, After Which I Can Get out 2000 or 3000 Men from My Brigade for a Short time if Wanted, Or Shall be more Mistaken than Ever I was in My life—I have the Honor to be with sincere Esteem Your Excellencys Most Obdt servt

Wm Winds


1The previous Wednesday was 8 July.

2Capt. John Peebles on Long Island wrote in his journal for 9 July that in consequence of the reported arrival of a French fleet in American waters, “Lord Howe is gone down himself & order’d all the large ships to the Hook” (Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 199–200). James Gambier (1723–1789), who had served as a naval officer since 1743 and as commander in chief on the North American station from 1770 to 1773, was promoted to rear admiral in January 1778 and posted back to America. Gambier’s letter of 6 July to First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, earl of Sandwich, confirms that Howe, having “judged fit to assemble all the ships of his Majesty’s fleet of the greatest force in readiness to put to sea on the shortest notice,” had directed Gambier to remove his flag from the 64-gun Ardent, which would join Howe while Gambier remained at New York “to regulate the duties here and to co-operate with the commander in chief of the land forces” ( Sandwich Papers description begins G. R. Barnes and J. H. Owen, eds. The Private Papers of John, Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1771–1782. 4 vols. London, 1932-38. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vols. 69, 71, 75, 78. description ends , 2:297).

3The New York newspaper of July 9 has not been identified. A report of news brought by Capt. George Sibbles of the armed brig Tryon on 9 July and the resulting voluntary enlistment of seamen appeared in Rivington’s Royal Gazette (New York) of July 11 and the New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury of 13 July. According to that report, the news was secondhand, having been given to Sibbles by Capt. Alan Gardner of HMS Maidstone.

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