George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 4 December 1778

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] 4th Decr 1778.

Dr Sir

I have to acknowlege the receipt of your last letters of the 30th Ulto and the 1st Inst. which met me on the way to this place.1

If Mr Wallace can spare two rooms below Stairs, it will <certainly> make our quarters much more comfortable as well as render them more convenient for public business. You <will be pleased> to concert measures with Mr Wallace for this purpose.2

I consider with you the line of communication to the Eas[t]ward much endangered, by leaving pararmus exposed, and shall order the Carolina brigade to that station and its vicinity.3

The New-York paper of the 2 speaks of the taking of Col. Ward and Captn Bradford as an enterprise of <much> spirit conducted by tories, thro’ a great many hazards. <It has an ungenerous remark on the Colonel’s former profession.>4

From a late application it is necessary to detach a regiment to Trenton and another to Philada for the security of the public stores.5 As I think of braking in upon Genl Woodfords brigade, you will in the plan for hutting have respect to this diminution.

I shall endeavour to reach the quarters you have allotted me by that time Major Gibbs may have made his arrangements. I am <D Sir Your most hble Sert

Go: Washington

P.S. Col. Moylan’s horse will march to-day for their quarters at Lancaster.>

Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Typescript, MiU-C; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The words in angle brackets are from the typescript, which apparently was taken from the receiver’s copy.

GW’s aide Robert Hanson Harrison wrote to Greene from Elizabeth, N.J., on 5 Dec.: “His Excellency was informed last night by a Letter from Colo. Febiger to Lord Stirling, that 52 Vessels yesterday morning were proceeding up the North River with flat bottom boats and supposed to have troops and were as high up then as Closter landing. We cannot tell what their object is, but the intelligence occasioned the General to send orders for halting all our Troops on the march—and himself and Lord Stirling to set out between four & five OClock this morning towards Acquackinunck bridge, from whence they will proceed farther or return as circumstances point out. The Enemy certainly must have some Object—more than to divert us from Quarters—and I should suppose—it One of three—to intercept our march—or to attempt a rescue of the Convention troops—or to attack the Highlands posts. For the first & Second—they must be too late & for the last I hope they are too weak. If Patterson & Learned’s brigades are arrived—at their ground & they must be, unless they have used the most cruel & wanton delay, the force in the highlands must be sufficient to resist their whole Army, especially when we take into consideration the aid which may be derived from the troops at Danbury. At any rate we are sure Nixons brigade was in the pass in the mountains—on the other side the Carolina at the clove and several men in the fort, which, tho possibly they might not, be equal to repel the Enemy if in full force, would—very probably be sufficient to maintain their Ground till succoured. This movement of the Enemy as I observed before, hurried his Excellency away this morning when he desired me to acknowledge his receipt of your favor of yesterday and said he could not determine which of the positions you mention is best, without seeing them. Nor did he decide positively that I recollect as to his own Quarters—but I believe Mr Wallace’s is the place for such has been the run of conversation and family expectation. You are very well acquainted with the General’s ideas as to a proper situation for the troops, I should suppose—and I would fain hope—the part you take will coincide with his sentiments. He designed to set out to day towards the intended encampment which would have obviated every difficulty but Sir Harry thought to interpose his manuvres. I dare say he will arrive as soon as, or before the Troops, which may prevent some of the inconveniences you forebode. I must request you to excuse this hurried scrawl—For in truth—Hamilton & Myself are immersed in thought and difficulties about our meeting Colos OHara & Hyde at Amboy on Monday not so much on account of the business—as because Amboy is destitute of Meat—bread & all the &c. that you can imagine—but we are trying to put things in train” (DLC:GW).

Harrison wrote to Greene again from Elizabeth on 6 Dec. at 9:00 p.m.: “I wrote you yesterday from this place in answer to your Letter to His Excellency on the subject of quartering the Troops. This minute Colo. Hamilton received a Letter from Doctr McHenry dated to day at paramus, with the following paragraph ‘desire Colo. Harrison to write to Genl Greene on the subject of his Letter respecting a change of ground for hutting. He may tell Genl Greene that the situation marked out in the first instance seems to His Excellency the most eligible—but that Genl Greene must be a more competent judge, to which place the preference should be given.’

“With respect to the movements of the Enemy the said McHenry writes thus. ‘We are informed by a Major of Militia that the Enemy’s Vessels are near King’s ferry—and it is said that a body of about 2,000 men are as high up as Tarrytown. their Object would appear forage & provision to be collected Kingsbridge and the posts at the Highlands.’ [‘]Genl Wayne is ordered to Sufferans—Genl Muhlenburg to the same place—we shall move that way immediately.’

“Ham and I (this is against the rules of grammar, but it is consistent with those of modesty and the merits of the man therefore I’ll let it stand) shall set out to morrow morning, for Amboy—by sunrise” (DLC:GW).

The detachment at Tarrytown consisted of five regiments—one German, one Tory, and three British—under the command of Brig. Gen. William Erskine. This expedition left New York on 4 Dec., simultaneously with the departure of an amphibious force under Gen. Henry Clinton, with the intention of intercepting a portion of the American force escorting the Convention Army to Virginia. Erskine made it to Tarrytown, but returned to New York on 5 Dec. “without anything happening or seeing any parties of Rebels to Annoy him” (Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:168; see also GW to Alexander McDougall, 5 Dec., n.1, and Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 156–57).

1The 1 Dec. letter has not been found.

2GW stayed at the Wallace House, about four miles west of Bound Brook on the Raritan River at what is now Somerville, N.J., from 11 Dec. 1778 to 4 June 1779, except for a trip to Philadelphia from 23 Dec. 1778 to 3 Feb. 1779. The house had been built in 1775–76 by the Philadelphia merchant John Wallace (1718–1783), who remained there during GW’s tenure. Caleb Gibbs paid Wallace $1,000 on 4 June for the use of his house and furniture over the preceding months (Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts, 1776–1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 29). Greene’s headquarters were about a mile east at the Van Veghten House.

4The Royal Gazette of 2 Dec. referred to Joseph Ward as a former schoolmaster; for his capture, see Christian Febiger to GW, 29 Nov., n.5.

5The petition had come from the Board of War; see GW to Richard Peters, this date.

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