George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Caleb Brewster, 15 September 1778

From Lieutenant Caleb Brewster

Norworlk [Conn.] Septr 15th 1778


this Morning Returnd from Long Island where I find that the Garrison on Lloyds Consists of 250 Men Including Wood Cutters, they Have a Small fort Situated upon a Clift Joyning the Sound, with a Small Entrenchment about three feet in Height, Nearly four Square Abatied on three Sides in about fifteen feet of the Lines & nothing but Musquetry to Defend it, the Garrison Consists Entirely of New Levies Commanded by one Colo. Patterson1—the Ships of war are Left the Harbours in and about Huntington—Genrl Tryon and Delancee have their Quarters at the Fly at the Head of Flushing Bay2 with about Seven Hundred Troops that Returnd with them from the East End of the Island, there is a Garrison of about 500 Men at Brooklins Ferrey, Cobble Hill fort & a Fort on the East Side Fronting the City, I am Informed from Good Authority that Admiral Bryon is not Arrived nor none of His Fleet nor any of the Cork Fleet,3 Likewise that there is but three or four Ships of war at N. York—There is a Large Fleet Laying of[f] Sandy Hook which has been there four Days we dont know who they are, it is thought by the Inhabitants they are French or Spaniards,4 their Transports are in a very Poor Condition. they are Refitting them with all Possible Dispatch. It is Said in N. York that there is Ten thousand Troops to Embark Soon, & Give it out they are going to Canada,5 An Embargo is Laid on all Vessels in N. York. there is the Hottest Press that Ever was known in the City, Tryon is Sent to the East End of the Island for the Inhabitants to Collect & Fat their Swine Immediately as he is Determined to Make an other Excursion there, All the Cattle that Tryon has Collected on the Island is killing & Salting with all Possible Dispatch, It is the Opinion of our Friends and Even of our Enemies that they will Leave us as Soon as they Possibly Can. I am Sir with Due Respect Your Excellencys Most Obedt & very Humbe Servt

Caleb Brewster


Although Tench Tilghman docketed this letter “Norwalk 15 Sept 1778 from Capt. Brewster,” Brewster was a lieutenant at this time. He did not become a captain-lieutenant until 1780, and he never attained the rank of captain. GW refers to him in other letters of this period as Lieutenant Brewster. For GW’s instructions to Brewster regarding his intelligence activities, see GW to Brewster, 8 Aug. 1778.

1Thomas Pattinson, formerly a cornet in the British 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons, was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Prince of Wales American Regiment in February 1777. This regiment, which had been raised among Connecticut Loyalists and which had participated in the Danbury raid in April 1777, was sent from New York to Newport, R.I., in late May 1778 to reinforce the garrison there. On 17 June 1778 Pattinson took a detachment of two hundred men and six officers to Lloyd Neck on the north shore of Long Island near Huntington, N.Y., where it cut firewood for the Newport garrison until it returned to Newport on 12 October. The fortification on Lloyd Neck that Brewster describes in this letter was called Fort Franklin, in honor of New Jersey’s last royal governor, William Franklin. In the spring of 1780 Pattinson accompanied the regiment to South Carolina, but he returned to New York a few months later because of ill health. In 1781 he went to England on leave and probably did not return to America.

2“The Fly” is an American corruption of the Dutch term “Da Vly,” which means “the swamps or marshes” (Adams, The Hudson description begins Arthur G. Adams. The Hudson: A Guidebook to the River. Albany, 1981. description ends , 261).

3Vice Adm. John Byron’s fleet, which had sailed from England in June, was scattered by storms while crossing the Atlantic and was not reassembled until later this month (see GW to Stephen Moylan, 30 July 1778, n.1). Byron arrived off Sandy Hook in his flagship, the Princess Royal, on 16 Sept., but not finding pilots to take him into New York Harbor, he proceeded to Newport, where he arrived two days later (see Alexander Clough to GW, 18 Sept., and note 2 to that document; see also John Sullivan to GW, 21 Sept.). The fleet of victualers from Cork arrived on or about 9 Oct. (see 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 , 225).

4Brewster apparently is referring to Lord Howe’s fleet, which had arrived at New York on 11 Sept. (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:162, and Laughton, “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 164).

5The British were planning to send from New York about five thousand men to the West Indies, about three thousand men to the Floridas, and smaller detachments to Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Halifax.

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