George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel George Baylor, 19 October 1778

From Colonel George Baylor

Taapan [N.Y.] October 19th 1778

Dear Sir

You have been informed of my unfortunate Surprize of the 28th ultimo, & I make no Doubt of the Circumstances, but I think it my Duty to make them known to you, & at the same Time, to justify my Conduct.

On the 26 of Septr I was at Paramus with the Regt, where we had been four Days. I directed Major Clough the 26th to send the Quarter-Master out to provide Quarters for the Regiment within four or five Miles of Paramus, & at the same Distance from the Enemy that we then were, & at the same Time gave him my Reasons for so doing; “which he approved of”[;] they were; that I was apprehensive that the Enemy would; if we remained more than three or four Days in one Place, attempt what they executed in two Days afterwards.

On the Morning of the 27th I marched the Regt to the Quarters provided for us at Herringtown, & made it my Business, the Moment I arrived there, to make every necessary Enquiry about the Roads leading from the Enemy’s Encampment to our Quarters, & also went out & examined the Country myselfe—I was of Opinion it was the most secure Place I could have stationed myselfe in, & that it was convenient to gain the earliest Intelligence of the Movement of the Enemy as it would have been had not they recieved the most particular Intelligence of our Guard & Patrole.

There were two Roads leading from the Enemies Camp to our Quarters, one on each side of the Hackensack River, they joined at a Bridge, at half a Mile’s Distance from our Quarters, where I myselfe fixed a Guard, of a Serjeant & twelve Men, with particular Orders to keep a Patrole of two Men out on each of these Roads constantly w[hic]h were to patrole a Mile below the Guard, & to be relieved every hour, the Guard were orderd to keep the strictest Looch out at the Bridge, & I have Reason to believe that these Orders were punctually obeyed.

On the 28th early in the Morning the Enemy marched up on the west Side the Hackinsack River within half a Mile of the Distance the Patroles went down the Road—they there sent off a Detachment through the Fields some Distance from the Road untill they had got above the Guard, which they cut off without our hearing of it. All Communication being cut off from our Parties they marched up to our Quarters, & executed the horrid Massacree of which Doctor Griffith will inform you the particulars as appears from the Depositions.1

I am happy to inform you that my wounds are nearly well & that I hope soon to regain my former State of Health. I am with Respect your most obt and very Humble Servant

George Baylor


1For Major General Stirling’s request that Dr. David Griffith collect affidavits about the British attack on Baylor’s 3d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment that had occurred on 28 Sept. near Old Tappan, N.J., see Stirling to GW, 16 October. Griffith enclosed thirteen affidavits with his letter to Stirling of 20 Oct., in which he wrote: “The inclosed Testimony will shew that Congress was not misinformed respecting the Savage Cruelty attending the surprize of Colonel Baylors Regiment; in taking which, I do assure you, regard has been had, only, to essential facts, without taking notice of the many exagerating circumstances of inhumanity, such as Opprobrious Language without distinction; beating, even those they thought were mortally wounded, not excepting any of the Officers, And stripping every Man, in a very cool Night, of almost all their Cloths: All this is confirmed by the concurring Testimony of all the Officers and Men, & their Nakedness proves, in part, their Assertions.

“Your Lordship desires me to be circumstantial in every thing that respects the surprise of this Regiment: The following Account, of the Cause of it, is given by Colonel Baylor, and the Officers who were present. Colonel Baylor, in order to be at a Post where he coud better Observe the Enemy, and get the earliest intelligence of their movements, moved his Regiment from Paramus to Herring-Town, to which place are two Roads leading, one on each side the Hackinsack River. Half a Mile distant from the Village is a Bridge over the River, where a Serjeant & 12 Men were posted with Orders to Patrole a Mile below the Bridge, & at some Distance from the Roads; the Patroles were to be relieved very hour. The Enemy had been informed of this, tho the Regiment took that station but the proceeding Day, & sent a large party to get in the Rear of this guard: This they effected by going through Fields & bye-ways a great way about, & took or killed the whole guard without giving any alarm to the Regiment.

“The Officer who commanded the Detachment of the Enemy on this Service was Major General [Charles] Grey, who had with him the 2nd Lt Infantry, 2nd Grenadiers, the 33d and one Other [the 64th] Regiment of Foot, and some Horse. That he ordered no Quarter to be given appears, as well as by the inclosed Testimony, from the Report of many Inhabitants who have heard the British Officers speak of it, publickly; & also that the Charges were drawn from their Firelocks & the Flints taken out, that the Men might be constrained to use their Bayonets only: This has occasioned the General to be nicknamed, among such of the British Officers as can feel the compunctions of humanity, the no Flint General. The principal Agents of General Grey, in this Bloody business, appear to be a Major Straubenzie [Turner Van Straubenzee], Captain Sir James Baird, & a Captain[-Lieutenant Bent] Ball, all of the 2nd Lt Infantry. The inclosed Letter from the Aide de Camp of Genl Grey to Sir James Baird, found at the Quarters of Sir James, will Shew, that the Companies, commanded by the Above named Captains, were at the Places where the greatest Cruelties were exercised; As the Officers, whose Watches are enquired after, commanded the Troops which suffered most.

“It appears that very few, or none, of the British Officers, entered the Quarters of our Troops on this occasion, that no Stop might be put to the Rage and Barbarity of their Bloodhounds. It appears, indeed, that one of their Lt Infantry Captains, had the feelings of Remorse, & Ventured to disobey his Orders, He gave Quarter to the Whole 4th Troop, & not a Man of them was hurt, except two that happened to be on guard: For the Honour of Humanity it is to be wished this Gentleman’s name had been known” (DNA:PCC, item 53; for Griffith’s report of casualties, see Israel Putnam to GW, 28 Sept., n.1). Stirling forwarded Griffith’s letter and its enclosures to Henry Laurens on 21 Oct. (see Laurens Papers description begins Philip M. Hamer et al., eds. The Papers of Henry Laurens. 16 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1968–2003. description ends , 14:435–37). Griffith’s letter was published with the affidavits collected by him and by William Livingston in the Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia), 29 October. For other accounts of the attack on Baylor’s regiment, see Charles Stewart to GW, 28 Sept., and note 1 to that document; Otho Holland Williams to GW, 28 Sept.; and Israel Putnam to GW, 29 Sept., and notes 1 and 2 to that document.

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