George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Charles Scott, 16 September 1778

From Brigadier General Charles Scott

[Westchester County, N.Y.] 8 oClock [a.m.] 16th Sept. 1778

Inclosd Your Excellency will receive a note from Majr Tallmadge whith what Intelligences I git from Gists Corps1 I have again given orders to both advanced Parties to keep up a Constant fier on them If they continue to advance we are in Perfect readiness to Support them. I am Your Excellencys Obt Servt

Chs Scott


1The enclosed letter, which Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge wrote Scott on this date from “Shareds house 2 miles below Genl Scott’s Qrs,” reads: “I have this moment returned from Fowlers, where I found Colo. Gest, who has been drove from his post near Mrs Babcock’s, at Day break this morning, by a body of the Enemy. He informs that they had passed his Guards & were in among his men before they were discovered. He thinks he has lost, or are now missing, about 20 men, & 2 or 3 Dragoons. I advanced within a mile of Mrs Babcocks, & hearing a firing, after which being informed by an Officer who had been fired on, that the Enemy were on the heights round Mrs Babcock’s, I returned to my Detachmt, the main part of which I left at this place. It is rather doubtful as yet whether the Enemy are advancing, or in what force; when I am determined in this matter, I will immediately report.

“Colo. Gest has recd no orders from Genl Scott for leaving his post; any which the Genl may wish to send I will immediately convey. “There has been a scattering fire also on or near Volantine’s hill this morning” (DLC:GW).

Tallmadge apparently wrote from Sherwood’s house, which was about three miles northeast of Valentine’s Hill. Fowler’s house was about two miles west of Sherwood’s house and about two miles north of Valentine’s Hill. Grace Isaacs Babcock (b. 1743) lived in a house located about a mile and a half southwest of Fowler’s house on the road running east from the Philipse manor house to Valentine’s Hill (see the printed version of Robert Erskine’s 1779 map of the “Roads about White Plains” in Scharf, Westchester County description begins J. Thomas Scharf. History of Westchester County, Including Morrisania, Kings Bridge, and West Farms, which have been Annexed to New York City. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1886. description ends , 1:732). She was the widow of the Rev. Luke Babcock (1738–1777), an Anglican clergyman who had been a staunch Loyalist.

Hessian captain Johann Ewald, who participated in the engagement, says in his diary: “Yesterday we received the news that General Scott, who stood behind East Chester with a corps of three to four thousand men, had pushed Colonel Gist with five hundred men up to Babcock’s Hill.

“Our three partisans immediately made the following dispositions for a surprise attack. Lieutenant Colonels [Andreas] Emmerich and [John Graves] Simcoe set out with their corps at twelve o’clock midnight, taking their route to the right past Mile Square to attack the enemy on the left flank and in the rear. At one o’clock at night Major [Ernst Carl von] Prueschenck, with two hundred jägers, started to go around toward Philipse’s Bridge, to force this post of the enemy and to cut off the retreat of the Gist detachment at the Albany road. At three o’clock in the morning Captain [Carl August von] Wreden, with one hundred jägers, marched over the hills on Richland road to attack the enemy on his front at daybreak. Each detachment arrived at its point at the appointed time. But Lieutenant Colonel Emmerich, who had actually decided to cut off the retreat of the enemy with his own corps, had made the arc too small, through which the Americans kept open a small ravine for their retreat. Instead of the whole party, only six officers and some seventy men were captured. Their camp and baggage were burned” (Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 145, 149).

Simcoe says in his journal that accurate information about Gist’s position had been given him by a deserter, and that British cavalry commanded by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton also participated in the engagement. Simcoe blames the lack of complete success on the fact “that Major Pruschank had not forced Phillip’s bridge, as had been intended, but had crossed and joined Captain Wreden on Courtland’s-ridge, and that Colonel Gist had escaped through the passage which had been so unaccountably left open” (Simcoe, Operations of the Queen’s Rangers description begins John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe’s Military Journal: A History of the Operations of a Partisan Corps, Called the Queen’s Rangers, Commanded by Lieut. Col. J. G. Simcoe, during the War of the American Revolution . . .. 1844. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 86–88). Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister wrote in his dispatch of 21 Sept. that three American officers and thirty-one soldiers were captured in the engagement (Baurmeister, Revolution in America, description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends 214–15).

Index Entries