George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Charles Scott, 20 September 1778

From Brigadier General Charles Scott

King street two Miles above Claps [N.Y.] Septr 20th 1778


On the 17th & 18th inst. went down the Sound from the Eastward upwards of one hundred Sail of vessels, part of them loaded with forage—Among them were several large ships. I have not been able to learn whether there were any troops on board.1 By the last Accounts from New York, five Brigades embark’d on the 16th and all the Pilots for the sound impress’d about the same time.

I have two very good men now in New York watching their motions—One of them is expected out to morrow, but if any Movement should take place; He will be out sooner.

The intelligence respecting the embarkation of the troops does not come so well as I could wish, but having it from three different hands, whose stories all agree, I am persuaded there may be some truth in it.

I am sorry to be oblig’d to observe to your Excellency that the necessary clothing is not furnish’d to the men of my Corps from their Regiments—In consequence of it, I have had a return made for what clothing they want; An account of which may be given the Clothier, and he may charge them to the several Regiments with as much propriety, as though they had been drawn regimentally.

I have sent repeatedly to the several Regiments for necessaries for their men who are with me, but there seems such an unwillingness in the Officers to serve them, that I have lost every hope of succeeding that way.2 The Men are suffering exceedingly for want of shoes and several other Articles—I should be extremely happy, if your Excellency would be pleas’d to order the Clothier to serve them in the manner above mention’d.

The enemy have been very still since the Army left White Plains, untill this morning, When about One hundred horse & about three hundred foot came out on Wards Road—The Patroll mov’d back, as they advanc’d, untill they reach’d Ward’s house,3 When they turn’d to the left, cross’d the Brunks, and fell in with our Patroll on the Mile square road, all dismounted at an house, and immediately surrounded them—A Serjeant and six Dragoons were made prisoners—The Guide escap’d. The Enemy then return’d4—I am sorry for the loss of the men, but am in hopes it will be a sufficient warning to others on Duty—I do not like my position here, but shall be oblig’d to stay several days to cover some stores at Wright’s Mills, untill they can be got away,5 When I shall <mutilated> two or three miles farther back to a ver<y> s<mutilated > post. The troops with me have h<ad> no bread for two days—The 300 barrels of flour left at Wright’s mills are all damag’d—The Commy has sent to Croton bridge, where I am told there is a Quantity stor’d, and hope they will get some to morrow—The troops with me suffer for want of their pay, owing to the inattention of the Regimental Pay masters, Pray, Sir, be pleas’d to order that they may come down and pay them off.6 I am your Excellency’s mo. obdt humble Servt

Chs Scott


GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman replied to Scott on 21 Sept. from Fredericksburg: “His Excellency recd yours of yesterday, late last Night. He has rode out this morning to reconnoitre our position, which is the reason of his not answering you himself.

“The distance is now so great between you and the army, that it is very fatiguing for a single Horseman to ride through. His Excellency therefore desires you to fix two Dragoons at convenient places, every twelve or fifteen miles apart, that one may be always ready to take up dispatches sent from hence or brought from you. Be pleased to endeavour to ascertain whether the transports that lately came from the Eastward, brought Troops with them, and whether five Brigades did really embark at the time you mention, and if they did, what is their destination. If you have expended the means of procuring intelligence, send His Excellency word and he will supply you with more.

“If you will send up an Officer with a Return of the Cloathing actually wanting by the light Corps, we will endeavour to supply you from hence and the store at Fishkill. I mention actually wanting, because the whole Army is to be put in Uniform next month, and the old Cloathing taken in—The Officer who brings <up the Return, can carry down the Gold, if wanted.> As soon as the Army has taken its proper position, orders will be issued to the paymasters to pay off those men belonging to your Corps.

“The inclosed News paper contains a very good address from W.H. Drayton Esq: to the British Commissioners. His Excellency wishes it to get into New York, and desires you to take the first opportunity of sending it in. He desires you to remind the Officers under your command, that our losses upon the lines have cheifly arisen from being surprized or inadvirtantly led into ambuscades, and he hopes that the damage which they have sustained will be a warning in future—The patrolls should communicate with each other, so that if the Centre or either wing is struck, the whole chain may have notice. They need not be now so far advanced upon the Enemy.

“His Excellency approves of your falling back whenever the stores at Wrights are removed. . . .

“P.S. Be pleased to keep a party of Horse upon the North River and if you receive any advice of a movement by water up the River, communicate it with the utmost dispatch to Genl Putnam at West Point, and to Head Quarters” (ADfS, DLC:GW; the mutilated text within angle brackets is supplied from the Varick transcript in DLC:GW).

The purpose of GW’s reconnoitering in the Fredericksburg area on this date is explained by the letter that his aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton wrote to Stirling on 20 Sept. from Fredericksburg: “His Excellency [GW] finds the relative situation of the country hereabouts something different from what his information led him to conceive and that Fredericksburgh is not quite that intermediate Point between Danbury and the Highlands, which would answer his views but is too far Northerly. He therefore desires you will halt on the ground this will find you upon ’till further orders—He will have a post reconnoitred and give you directions to move to it” (NN: Emmet Collection). For those directions, see GW to Stirling, 24 September.

South Carolina congressman William Henry Drayton’s address to the Carlisle Commissioners of 4 September, the third of four addresses that he wrote to the commissioners between June and October 1778 to refute their arguments, was published in the Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 12 September (see also Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 10:559–70).

1The British fleet carrying Maj. Gen. Charles Grey’s troops back to New York from their recent raids on New Bedford and Fairhaven, Mass., and Martha’s Vineyard arrived on 17 Sept. at Whitestone, Long Island, where the troops landed two days later (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 , 220; see also Charles Scott to GW, 20 Sept., and 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).

2The light infantry corps, of which Scott was the current commander, was formed early in each campaign by detaching light infantry companies from their respective regiments and combining them into a single operational unit. For most administrative purposes, however, each light infantry company remained part of its parent regiment.

3Judge Stephen Ward’s house, which was located on the East Chester Road a short distance east of the Bronx River, was about eight miles southwest of White Plains.

4On the evening of 19 Sept. two Loyalist corps—one commanded by Lt. Col. Andreas Emmerich and the other by Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe—marched north on the East Chester (or Ward’s) Road toward White Plains to obtain information about the recent movements of the Continental army. At the same time a Hessian corps commanded by Lt. Col. Ludwig Johann Adolph von Wurmb moved north for the same purpose on the parallel Albany road, which ran near the Hudson River about six miles to the west of the East Chester road. After reaching White Plains, all of these reconnaissance parties returned to Manhattan Island on 21 Sept. (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 , 149).

5Wright’s gristmills were located on the Bronx River about four miles northeast of White Plains.

6GW included such an order in the general orders of 23 September.

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