George Washington Papers

General Orders, 17 March 1779

General Orders

Head-Quarters Middle-Brook Wednesday March 17th 79.

Parole Indostan.C. Signs Newbury. Korson.

After orders March 17th—Major General Lord-Stirling’s division to be held in readiness to march at a moment’s warning with two days provision and their blankets.1

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell’s orderly book entry for this date includes the following additional general orders before the after orders: “The Troops to draw & cook two days provision, exclusive of the present—The Officers to remain in Camp and see that the soldiers do the same.” (orderly book, 22 Dec. 1778–26 June 1779, DNA: RG 93, Orderly Books, 1775–1783, vol. 28).

1GW issued this order because during the previous night he had received intelligence suggesting the possibility of an enemy incursion into New Jersey from Staten Island, an attack for which the British apparently had no current plans and which, in any event, did not occur at this time (see GW’s letters of this date to Thomas Clark, Alexander McDougall, and Israel Putnam).

GW’s assistant secretary James McHenry had written Col. Josias Carvil Hall from Middlebrook at midnight, 16 March: “I have it in command from his Excellency to inform you that he has just received intelligence, of the enemy meditating an excursion from Staten Island, which from their parade and movements it is imagined, will be in the first instance directed to Elizabeth Town; and is supposed to be near the time of execution. You will be pleased to take such immediate measures as to have the sick—and hospital stores ready to move at a moments warning—and in case the enemy make any effort your way, you will convey them to the rear of this camp to which place you will retire with your men” (DLC:GW).

The source of GW’s intelligence probably was a letter of 16 March from Maj. John Conway, stationed at Woodbridge, N.J., to Major General Stirling, which reads: “I employ’d a person (of whose fidelity and veracity there cannot be a doubt) to go to Staten Island last night for intelligence. He is this moment return’d & informs me that from the extraordinary parade and movement of the Enemy on the Island, his friends believe an expedition is forming, & that the Enemy will in a night or two land in force at Elizabethtown or blazing star, and probably at both. It is supposed that their principal object is to collect cattle & other plunder, but perhaps they may have something greater in contemplation. I think it my duty to send your Lordship this intelligence, as it cannot be prejudicial to be prepared for them, and neglect may be very injurious. I will immediately send the acc[oun]t to Genl Maxwell, & will take every precaution to prevent my post being surprized, or the Enemy landing undiscovered. I expect a further acc[oun]t of the Enemy’s movements to night if any thing extraordinary happens. When I receive it I will instantly forward it to your Lordship” (DLC:GW; see also William Maxwell to GW, 15 March).

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