George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Matthias Ogden, 16 September 1778

From Colonel Matthias Ogden

Elizth Town [N.J.] 16th Septr 1778


The following intelligence may be relied on—That all the enemys transports are watering in and about New York; & that the men are returned to them, that have been on board the Men of War.

A number of troops including some companies of artillery are certainly going for the West Indies very soon.1

By some of the knowing ones, it is strongly suspected the whole army will leave N. York this fall, they judge from this circumstance among others, that several persons among whom ladies, are prepareing for a Voyage to Europe.

Preparations are still makeing for a movement; the Marines are on shore at New York, and the flat bottom boats are repairing at the ship yards—It is the opinion of many Persons formerly residents here; that they intend comeing to Jersey, for the purpose of collecting live stock & forage.2

Guy Johnstone with a number of Officers on board the Elizza of 22 Guns, fell down to the Hook sunday last, with the Bellcour of 20 Guns, both which ships will sail the first fair wind for the River St Lawrence[.]3 The embargo is taken off such Merchant vessells as chose to sail to Quebec, laden with salt, Blankets & coarse cloths.

Forty seven thousand ton of transports are ordered to be got in readiness immediately, they are now prepareing. With all respect & esteem I am Sir, your Excellencies hble servt

M. Ogden


1Maj. Gen. James Grant’s West Indies expedition sailed from Sandy Hook on 3 November.

2For Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’s foraging expedition to New Jersey from 22 Sept. to 15 Oct., see George Baylor to GW, 23 Sept., n.1. That movement was coordinated with the advance on 23 Sept. of a detachment of about five thousand men commanded by Lt. Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen into Westchester County, N.Y., on the east side of the Hudson River. Gen. Henry Clinton explained his strategy in his letter to George Germain of 8 Oct.: “on the return [to New York] of the troops from the expedition to [New] Bedford [Mass.] etc., I proposed taking a forward position with the army, as well to procure a supply of forage which we were much in want of as to observe the motions of the rebel army and to favour an expedition to Egg Harbour, at which place the enemy had a number of privateers and prizes and considerable salt-works.

“Accordingly on the 22nd of last month I requested Lord Cornwallis to take a position between Newbridge on the Hackinsack River in Jersey and Hudson’s River, and Lieut.-General Knyphausen one between Wipperham [in Yonkers, N.Y.] on the last of those rivers and the Brunx.

“In this situation, with the assistance of the flatboats, we could assemble the army on either side of the North [Hudson] River in twenty-four hours, and by our having the command of that river as far as the Highlands Mr Washington could not assemble that of the rebels in ten days; to have done it in Jersey he must have quitted his mountains and risked a general action in a country little favourable to him.

“As by the move beforementioned the provinces of Jersey and New York were opened, we received a considerable supply of provisions and a number of [Loyalist] families came in.

“General Washington did not seem to show the least disposition to assemble his army and the militia kept at a distance” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 15:210–11).

Clinton elaborated on his strategy in his postwar narrative: “should he [GW] be tempted to quit his mountains to interrupt our foraging in the Jersies or support any detachments sent thither for that purpose, I had a good chance of having a fair stroke at him, the probability being very great that by such a move he must have risked a general action. . . . Mr. Washington, however, would not be moved from North Castle, where he continued in perfect security. . . . my views with respect to him were by that means disappointed” (Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 105).

3The previous Sunday was 13 September. Guy Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs in the northern department, wrote to George Germain from New York on 10 Sept.: “I am this day to embark for Quebec from whence (if I am fortunate enough to escape the cruisers) I propose to write more at large” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 15:199–200).

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