George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Francis Barber, 13 July 1778

From Lieutenant Colonel Francis Barber

Elisath town [N.J.] July 13th 1778


One of the persons whom you allowed me to send for Intelligence returned last night from Staten Island—He informs, that the greatest part of the British Army are encamped there, their Baggage with them—That General Grant now commands on the Island—That Generals Clinton & Cornwallis are in New York—That there appears to be no preparations for a Move either by Land or Water—That they talk of nothing else now, but the French Fleet, which some assert is near sandy–Hook1—That their Men of War are in readiness to sail, but have not yet moved—That all Officers on Furlough or half pay are ordered to join their respective Corps—That the Cavalry are on Long Island with some Infantry—That they confess they had more than 300 killed in the last Engagement & cannot immagine what the Devil made the Rebels fight so obstinately—That they are exceedingly alarmed at the Approach of the French fleet on account of their Provision Vessels which they are expecting daily & seem to stand in need of.

The Bearer John Hendricks brother to the Informer, who likewise was on the Island two nights ago being willing to convey this letter, I have sent to your Excellency in preference to another, that you may have an opportunity of asking him many Questions which may have escaped me—You may depend upon his & his brother Fidelity and strong Attachment to your Interest & success—They have served much in this way & suffered much with I believe, little or no reward heretofore.2

Gen: Maxwell, with his Brigade are in this town, I think, by advice from the Governor & Desire of the principal Inhabitants.

I hope my situation will plead an Excuse for every Inaccuracy in my Letter. I am with the highest Esteem, your Excellency’s very humble Servant

F. Barber


1British naval captain Henry Duncan, who was anchored at Staten Island, recorded in his journal that “the French fleet … anchored at the back of the Hook” at “2 o’clock P.M.” on 11 July (“Journals of Henry Duncan,” description begins John Knox Laughton, ed. “Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy, 1776–1782.” The Naval Miscellany 1 (London, 1902): 105–219. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 20. description ends 159).

2In 1777 Col. Elias Dayton had employed John Hendricks and Baker Hendricks (c.1756–1789) as spies. For more on their activities, see GW to John Clark, Jr., 29 Sept. 1777; William Livingston to GW, 22 Nov. 1777 and 26 Jan. 1778; and GW to Livingston, 20 Jan. (second letter) and 2 Feb. 1778. Another informant about this time stated that the Loyalist Brig. Gen. Cortlandt Skinner had said that he knew that John Hendricks and others “had passes from the rebels and that he told them a number of Story that the[y] might communicate” (examinations of No. 1 and No. 2, n.d., FrPNA: Marine, B4, I43). In September 1780, Baker Hendricks was commissioned by New Jersey to operate two whaleboats as privateers, and in the two years following he led numerous raids against Staten Island and Bergen Neck. However, his commission was revoked in June 1782 after he was accused of using the commission to carry on “an illegal intercourse” with the enemy (Prince, Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 4:428–29).

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