George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 20 October 1778

To Major General John Sullivan

Head Quarters Fredericksburg 20th Otbr 1778

Dear sir.

In my last letter of the 18th Inst. I observed that the whole tenor of intelligence from New-York suggested an immediate evacuation of the place.1 My accounts since from different quarters still wear the same complexion and seem to bring it nearer to a crisis. An intelligent officer stationed at Amboy reports—that on the 16th Otbr about twelve ships fell down to the Hook—and the 17th early in the morning about one hundred ships of war, and transports also fell down to the Hook. Lord Stirling who transmits this information, says, that the officer does not include Schoone[r]s sloops and such vessels in his report—and adds that signal guns have been firing almost all day (17th) in New-York bay, which he supposes were for more ships to follow.2

Thus we see every circumstance supposes an evacuation at hand, tho’ the enemy’s object or destination cannot be investigated from those circumstances. The preparations, or movements in your quarter if well known I would think more immediately tend to this discovery at least they may serve to ascertain with more certainty—whether a general evacuation of the States be intended. For this purpose you will take every method to discover what is going forward in the garrison—among the shipping—whether it is employed in the embarkation of stores and of what kind—In short every minute motion and circumstance should be collected—you will spare no reasonable expence to gain this information nor make any delay in its communication.

I have directed Gen. Stark from Albany to join you3 From your former request to have the general with you4 I am disposed to beleive you will not be dissatisfied, and that you will be able to find him an agreeable command. I am Dr Sir, your most hble sert.

Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW is referring to his letter to Sullivan of 17 Oct., the receipt of which Sullivan acknowledged in his letter to GW of 18 October.

2This intelligence report from Capt. David Hopkins is in Stirling’s letter to GW of 17 October.

3See GW to John Stark, 19 October. On the draft manuscript, McHenry first wrote: “to join your command.” He then struck out the word “command,” but inadvertently neglected to change “your” to “you.”

4See Sullivan to GW, 1 May 1778 (second letter).

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