George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Charles Scott, 4 November 1778

From Brigadier General Charles Scott

Near Bedford [N.Y.] Novr 4th 1778


Inclos’d Your Excellency will Receive an Account from Timothy Downing who Seems to be a very Intelligent person.1 You have it in his own hand writing also an Account from Capt. Walls who Came to my Quarters Last evening.2 I have an imperfect Acct from Colo. Gist that all the Sick wear embarked Last Thirsday. but as I cant learn it from any other Quarter I must Suppose the Colo. has been Misinformd.

as my indisposition leads me to wish that my Journey to Virginia could be mad[e] before the weather Sets in very Cold I should be extreamly happy if Your Excellency would be pleasd to order that I be relieved.

I will with pleasure Stay 8 or 10 Days or untill I can Make the Gentleman who relieves me Acquainted with the Several Channils through which intelligence is or may be had. I am Your Excellencys Obedient Servant

Chs Scott


1The enclosed “Account by Timothy Downing who left New York Last Fryday [30 Oct.],” dated 4 Nov., reads: “On Wednesday last [28 Oct.] the Fleet fell down to Staten-Island which consisted of three Divisions, the Whole supposed to be ten thousand British and Hessians. the people’s Opinions relative to their Destination were various. The General Opinion was that they were destined to the West Indies in order to impede the progress of the French—others also were of Opinion that they were intended for Boston. Some also imagined that they were for Carolina they took on Board a considerable Quantity of Stores and provisions, it was also said that a Number of Taylors were employed in making light Clothes for the Troops, which was a corroborating Circumstance of their Intention for the West Indies. the sole Command of this Expediton was given to General Gray. there was also another General who was to act in Conjunction.

“It was also allowed that there were eight Thousand Troops remaining on Long Island Staten Island and the Island of Newyork. Viz. two thousand five hundred on York Island besides what were in the City—one thousand five hundred on Long Island three thousand on Staten Island—&c. a Rumour prevailed in the City three or four Days prior to my Departure that General Clinton was ordered home, and that General Careleton was to succeed him, the Veracity of which was not ascertained—Sir William Erskine & Colonel [William] Sheriff are gone home, Major Drummond first Aid de Camp to General Clinton is called home by Desire of Administration as he (it is said) he laid a plan which if prosecuted, he affirms will put a period to the Contest between Great Britain and the American States—It is confidently asserted by some persons in Newyork that after the Expiration of the limited Time granted by the King’s Commissioners that the British Troops would use their utmost Efforts to destroy the Country. It was also reported that in Case of A spanish War which is supposed to be inevitable, the British Troops would immediately evacuate the Continent. this may be relyed on to be a Truth—Governor Tryon gives the Refugees no Manner of Satisfaction says that if the pairing of his Nails was of any Service the Commander in Chief intirely put it out of his power—The Inhabitants are in a distracted Situation Majr Generals Robertson and Valentine Jones are gone home. it is imagined that the British will not evacuate the City of Newyork this Winter—Common Rum 14/ per Gallon Spirits 22/—a Loaf of Bread which formerly sold for three pence now sells for 2/. Beef from 18d. to 2/ per Lbs. The Hessians are in General displeased with the Service—many of the Inhabitants are gone to Europe in the Corke Fleet. the 9/10 of the Inhabitants of York are attached to the American Cause” (DLC:GW).

Timothy Downing (1755–1816), a native of Maryland, later emigrated to the backwoods of Washington County, Pa., and Mason County, Ky., where he became a noted frontiersman and Indian fighter. For the destination of the departing British fleet, see Stirling to GW, 3 Nov., n.1. Among Downing’s other reports, the rumor about Gen. Henry Clinton’s dismissal was untrue, as were the tales of quartermaster general William Erskine’s and Maj. Gen. James Robertson’s departures (Erskine did not leave America until the summer of 1779, and Robertson not until 1783); Maj. Duncan Drummond and Maj. Gen. Valentine Jones had indeed returned to England.

2The enclosed account of this date by Capt. George Walls, written in Scott’s hand, reads: “He says that on Fryday morning the 30th Octr Fifty one transports and two 64 Gun Ships left the watering place and fell down to the hook. five transports and two 64 Gun Ships fell down from York the same day all with troops on board. he Says there are now lying in the North River fifteen transports and two large Ships of War. there appears to be a large Fleet in the East River. but as he Can only see their Riging cant tell their Number or Size. he thinks from what he Can See of the Several encampments, that there are about 4000 men now on York Island. from the Best Accounts that he can git there are one Regt of foot and three troops of horse on Staton Island under the Command of Colo. Berscock [Abraham Van Buskirk]. he was down as low as powlers Hook on Satterday Last Near which he fell in with two Small partys of ours from Newark whos Business was the Same of his own (Observing the motions of the Fleet) they discoverd a Small party on a point Guarding Som horses that wear at Pasture. they Viewed the Guard and at length agreed to Colect their whole force which amounted To Just twenty Seven officers included, and attack them. which they did, and Carryed them without the loss of a man but one Slightly wounded, and one horse killed. they killed Several of the Enemy. Drove others through a marsh and mad[e] two Prisoners of the 17th Regiment. and Brought of[f] 20 horses” (DLC:GW).

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