George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Laurens, 3 October 1778

To Henry Laurens

Head Quarters Fish Kills October 3d 1778


I am honored with your favour of the 27 of September, with the inclosed resolves of Congress; a copy of which has been transmitted to Major General Lincoln, for his information and direction.1

Being separated from my papers, I am uncertain, whether I mentioned in my last, that the enemy in the Jerseys having received a reinforcement and made some forward movements, I had thought it expedient to detach another brigade thither to act in conjunction with the one already there, together with Pulaski’s corps and the militia, and had sent Major General Lord Stirling to take the command of the whole2—That I had also ordered Major General Putnam3 across the River for the immediate security of West Point and moved a division of troops to this place, to be nearer that post.4 I have since come here myself and propose to remain, ’till the views of the enemy in the Jerseys are decided; though I have had no reason to alter my opinion, that nothing more than a forage is intended. By the last accounts, they had drawn in their out parties, and resumed their first bounds behind Hackinsack River at the Liberty-pole and New-Bridge.

That part of Baylors regiment, which escaped, came off in the first instance, and were afterwards brought off in so dispersed a manner, that the number has not been ascertained; but, from what I have learned, I should estimate the loss at about fifty men and seventy5 horses—Major Clough is dead of his wounds—This affair appears to have been attended with every circumstance of cruelty.6

It is a small compensation for this accident, that Col: Butler, three or four days ago, with a party of infantry and horse, comprehending Major Lee’s corps, surprised about an hundred Yagers below Tarrytown; killed ten on the spot and took a Lieutenant and eighteen men prisoners—The roughness of the country facilitated the flight of the rest and prevented the success being more complete.7

The proceedings in the case of General St Clair accompany this letter.8 I have the honor to be With the utmost respect & esteem Sir Your most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

p.s. I have received advice of the arrival of a Packet from England.

LS, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 7 Oct. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 12:987).

2GW had included this information in his letter to Laurens of 29 September.

3At this place in the text, the draft includes the words: “with two Brigades.”

4For these orders, which GW had not mentioned in his letter to Laurens of 29 Sept., see GW to Israel Putnam, 29 September.

5At this place in the text, the draft includes the words: “or eighty.”

6For the British attack on Col. George Baylor’s 3d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment on 28 Sept. near Old Tappan, N.J., see Israel Putnam to GW, 28 Sept., and notes 1 and 2 to that document.

7For more detailed accounts of this engagement, see Charles Scott to GW, 30 Sept. (second letter), and note 1 to that document.

8The court-martial which had tried and acquitted Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair on charges of neglect, cowardice, and treachery in regard to the abandonment of Ticonderoga in July 1777 sat between 25 Aug. and 29 September. The enclosed proceedings have not been identified, but they were published later this month by order of Congress (see Henry Laurens to GW, 10 Oct., and Early American Imprints description begins American Antiquarian Society. Early American Imprints, 1639–1800. New Canaan, Conn., 1983. Microfiche. description ends , no. 16141; see also Proceedings of a General Court Martial . . . For the Trial of Major General St. Clair, August 25, 1778 [Philadelphia, 1778], reproduced in Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 13 [New York, 1881]: 1-171).

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