George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Israel Putnam, 8 February 1779

To Major General Israel Putnam

Head Qrs Middlebrook 8 Feby 1779.

D. Sir

Colonel Udney Hay, communicated to me, a proposal of Mr Weeks a D.W. General a late inhabitant of Long Island of considerable property, and the person who will deliver you this letter. Mr Weeks represents that there are several saw mills, on Long Island, very valuable to the enemy, and easy of access to a small party; and that he is willing to conduct a party for the purpose of destroying them.1

Should you find upon a proper enquiry; from the situation of the mills; the disposition of the enemy’s force on the Island; and the distance of the mills from this force; that there is a strong certainty of succeeding in such an attempt with a small party, I hav⟨e⟩ no objection to your puting it into execution⟨.⟩ In case you adopt the scheme, you will take such measures as may seem best calculated to ensure the destruction of the mills and the safe return of the party. I am Sir &c.

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

GW wrote to Lt. Col. Udny Hay on 10 Feb. from Middlebrook: “Your letter of the 29th ultimo reached me in Philadelphia.

“I am much obliged to you for your information, and have inclosed a letter to Genl Putnam on the subject which you will be pleased to put into the hands of Mr Weeks, who will deliver it to Genl Putnam, and take measures with the General (in case he approves of the scheme) for its execution” (Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Hay’s letter of 29 Jan. to GW has not been found.

1GW apparently is referring to Maj. Thomas Wickes, who then served in the quartermaster general’s department and who previously had provided intelligence reports from Long Island (see Wickes to GW, 25 and 27 Aug., and 10 Sept. 1778).

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