From Cornet Silvanus Dickinson
Fairfield [Conn.] March 21. 1779
The inclosed I this day receivd from Mr S. C.—a particular Friend of mine—at the time he went to New York he requested I should Stay at this place, and convey his Letters to your Excellency, as the matter is of such a nature as to require few persons knowing.1
The Letter Major Tallmadg, Carryd your Excellency, I receivd from Mr C. own hands, and he then begged that I would not leave this place, as I have since he went from here engagd in 2d Ridgt Light Dragoons, and as must be some Offcr of the Horse here, Should be exceeding glad if your Excelly would Station me here.2
The Inclosed being of Such Consequence that I have informed Genl Putnam.3 I am Dear Genl Your Hume Servt
Silvanus Dickinson Cornt 2 Ridgt L. Dragoons
ALS, DLC:GW. Robert Hanson Harrison docketed the letter in part: “Answer not necessary.”
Silvanus Dickinson (1755–1832), a New York merchant, had joined the 2d Regiment of Continental Dragoons as a cornet on 1 Dec. 1778 and was promoted to lieutenant the following December. He resigned from the army on 5 April 1780. After the war, Dickinson resumed business activities in New York City. He died at Milford, Conn. (see Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 2:477, 510–12).
1. Dickinson enclosed the letter, designated number “10,” that Samuel Culper (Abraham Woodhull) wrote to John Bolton (Benjamin Tallmadge) on 17 March. It reads: “This Letter compleats your Instructions in No 5 And Shall now expect to continue in the Usual way unless you Shall otherwise direct. I expectd when I wrote my last that by this time I Should have occasion to write two or three Sheats out, but find I Can informe you all worthy of Notice on one Sheat—the Packet that arived with the Cork fleet mentioned before brought nothing of importance. Since which there hath bene no arivals from Urrope nor expresses from West Indies nor Georgia how affairs are in those Quarters are unknown here—An English fleet of Transports hath bene a long time expected, and the enemy are fearfull if Some accident befallen them. Thers two Small fleets of Transports Sailed for Urope Since my last on board of the last that Saild last Saturday went Some Invaleads. The Transport have all bene orderd out of New Town Creek and the Walloboof [Wallabout Bay]. The Enemy had early Intelligence of Some of your frigits being at New London, And of your Intention of makeing a decent on Long Island, And have bene continually upon their guard. And I Sent a verbal account out that they were well ac⟨qu⟩ainted with your design. And on Saturday Sixteen Transports Sailed up the Sound each haveing a flat Boat a Stern, togather With a Sloop of War of 16 guns, and five or Six Strong Privateers, with other Small Sloops to Join the Scorpion, and Thames of 20 guns each I think. And yesterday Sailed the Admiral Ship of 64 guns with a Sloop of War of 16 guns out the Hook. the Adml Took a pilot on board that Was well acquainted with th[e] Island and the Sound I think they are a going to evacuate th[e] Island and also make decents on your Coasts and endevour to take those Frigits at New London or destroy them depend they Will Push hard to do it. I wish they were in Boston again for I am fearfull they will fall into their hand. their determination now is to Plunder and distress the Coast the refuges are Commissionded for that Purpose. I hope this letter will yet reach you before they make their attempt that you may line your Shores with men and be upon your guard. The Enemies Spirits Seems to be much Lower now than When I Wrote you Last. And I have considerably renewed my former hope that we Shall have Peace in the Spring. It was Strongly reported yesterday that the English Fleet was at the Hook but I do not Credit it. the Money expected is much wanted if it Should not come I think their Soldier will Mutiny before Long the Comasaries Isues Bills as Low as Twelve Pounds I Cannot think of any thing further worthy of Notice Wishing this Safe to hand and may be of Se[r]vice” (DLC:GW). Tallmadge’s letter to Culper labeled “No. 5” has not been identified, but Culper acknowledged its receipt and alluded to its contents in his letter to Tallmadge of 26 Feb. (see GW to Tallmadge, 5 Feb., n.1). During March, the British massed forces in eastern Long Island for a raid on New London, Conn., but inclement weather compelled abandonment of the attack by early April (see William Maxwell to GW, 25 March, and n.2 to that document).
2. This letter from Culper that Tallmadge carried to GW may be the one that Culper wrote to Tallmadge on 23 Nov. 1778 (see Tallmadge to GW, 29 Nov. 1778, and n.1 to that document). Support for this determination comes from Dickinson’s indication that he received Culper’s letter before joining the 2d Continental Dragoons, which he did on 1 Dec., and from Tallmadge’s traveling from Bedford, N.Y., to Fairfield (Dickinson’s location) shortly after 19 Nov. (see Tallmadge to GW, 19 Nov. 1778).