George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 9 October 1778

From Major General Stirling

Aquakanoc [N.J.] Octobr 9: 1778 at Noon

Dear Sir

I wrote your Excellency yesterday by one of the fixed Expresses returning to Camp from Philadelphia. soon after which I received yours of the 6th and in order to answer it more fully I rode down to Second River to Converse with Colonel Dayton and the Gentlemen who have more particularly watched the Enemy’s forage boats in their way thro’ New Ark Bay. As to the Sort of forage, they have taken in Short every Sort they Could find, Hay which they have Cheifly packed in Bundles very firm, Indian Corn with Stocks & all, wheat and Rye both threshed & in the Sheaf, they have Gleaned every thing of the kind. three or four large Ships lay for some days at the hither end of the kills, the forage boats were observed to go along side of these, Unload & return to Hackensack R. others went thro’ the Kills unloaded & returned to their busyness of getting more forrage, near one hundred Sail of Vessels from 20 tun to 80 tun have been employed in this way, but I belive they are almost done, few have returned the two last days. one of the Vessels burnt in the Bay by our people, was fitted for the Sea, had 60 puncheons of water on Board, Stalls for 32 horses and was going to take in her hay. I am induced to belive their troops will leave this State very soon, the 15th & another Regiment moved of[f] Yesterday morning, their Second line—Composed of two Brigades, and two Batas. of the 71st are not this morning on the ground they lately Occupied, the Granadr light Infantry and the 57th Regt keep their possition near the New Bridge. An Intelligent man who frequently Crosses the Bay to New York, say’s he has lately had reason to Observe a more than Usual appearance of Industry in fitting out the Transports, but as they lay in different Squads and many of them at a distance from his tract he Could not Judge the Numbers, he thinks several hundreds.

A Number of proclamations by the Commissioners at New York dated 3d I find have sent out thro’ Eliza: Town for Congress & the Legislature of this State and the Officers of the Army, had I known of it Sooner they should not have been dispersed without the leave of Congress or your Excellency however I belive they will do no Manner of harm, it fully proves & Acknowledges they had no power to do any thing finally but to grant pardons; they have granted these and will not stay to see who will be Intitled to them, they grant no new Inducement to any man to become of their party, and threaten Vengance with a ruined power, which never Could take it, when in its fullest Vigour. In the frantic Ravings of dispair I belive they will do all the Mischeif they Can.1

I have Just received two letters from Govr Livingston—rather than give them by Extract, I shall enclose the original, in Consequence of the present appearances of the Enemy’s going out of this State, I have desired General Winds to order the two Classes mentioned to be held in readiness to march at a Moments Warning, but not to move untill further Order. I am much pleased with the Govrs good humour in wishing me a Safe delivery, I shall ever think it a very Lucky one, If it ends in the manner I have now some hopes it will.2 I am with Sincere Respect & Esteem your Excellency’s Most Humble Servt


4 oClo. I have received your Excellency’s letter of the 7th. I have already informed you that Count Poulasky is gone down to Eggharbour,3 I have sent such orders to Princetown as If there be occasion the troops fit for Service there may march to the Same place, otherwise all fit to march will come up to Springfeild from whence I shall send them to their Respective Regiments as soon as the duty here will admit.

Major Monro is Just Come in from Hackensack he thinks there is very little alteration in the Scituation of the Enemy.4


1Stirling is referring to the British peace commissioners’ manifesto and proclamation of 3 Oct., copies of which GW already had seen (see GW to George Clinton, 8 Oct., and note 4 to that document).

2Stirling enclosed Gov. William Livingston’s letters to him of 5 and 6 Oct., from Princeton, N.J., both of which are in DLC:GW. In his letter of 5 Oct., Livingston wrote: “I have directed General Winds & Heard to call out two [militia] Classes agreable to your request & have myself orderd out two Classes from the County of Burlington . . . .

“Count Pulaski is at Trenton whither I have directed Your Express—I hope your orders will hurry him as I heard two days ago of his being there; & it is above a week since Congress informed me he had orders to march to this place; & that he might lose no time after he came here, I instantly noticed General Maxwell of his intended march that he might lodge his orders here for him—What you have done is still better, & I hope to see him in consequence of it to morrow.

“I think the Enemy an unconscionable Pack to give this State such a disproportionate share of trouble—Why don’t [they] try their hands in Connecticut? But I hope the August Packet will call them where King George has more to lose, than where he has nothing to which we admit his title. I wish you good luck with all my heart, & in the language of the bar, a safe delivery.”

Livingston’s letter of 6 Oct. reads: “I wrote you last night respecting the orders I had given to the Militia in consequence of your request, & that I had directed your Express to Count Polaski at Trenton—I was then in hope that he would have been upon his march to day in order to join you—But by a letter I received this morning from Colo. Coxe in Philadelphia, he is ordered by Congress to Egg Harbour where the Enemy have made their appearance with about 20 vessels of different sorts—So that I fear your Lordship will not see the Count in some days.

“I this moment received the Copy you sent me of your Letter to General Washington—I hope our militia will turn out with their usual Spirit, but I fear Your withdrawing the troops from Elizabethtown may invite the Enemy into that Village, but presume that step is founded upon the Intelligence you have of their having evacuated Staten Island, which is probable enough.” Livingston apparently is referring to Stirling’s letter to GW of 5 October.

3On the afternoon of 5 Oct., Congress had ordered Pulaski’s Legion “to proceed immediately to assist in the defence of Little Egg Harbour against the attack now made by the enemy on that port” (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 , 12:983–84). For accounts of the British expedition to Little Egg Harbor, N.J., see Stirling to GW, 7, 14, and 22 Oct., and the notes to those documents.

4James Monroe, the future president of the United States, was serving at this time as an aide-de-camp to Stirling.

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