George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 22 March 1779

From Major General Israel Putnam

Camp Reading [Redding, Conn.] March 22nd 1779.

Dear Sir

I have this moment received the Inclosed Letter, by which your Excellency will see the disposition of the Enemy on Long Island.1 They have for a long time past been building Flatt-Boats at the East-End, under the direction of Sir William Erskine, who still continues there.2

Sir Henry Clinton having Join’d the Detachment makes it appear more probable that they are meditating a serious push on the Eastern Sea-Coast of this state. There are about 300 men from the two Connecticut Brigades, now at N: London, as your Excellency has been before informed—These can make but a feble resistance to the force which the Enemy can bring to act against them—I therefore wish your instructions respecting the matter, as soon as possible.3

I have Detachments from my Division at Horse Neck, Stamford Norwalk & Fairfield, sufficient to protect the Country from the ravages of small parties from Long Island.

The Enemy came out of Huntington the other Day, with a number of Gallies & Armed Vessels to take two small Privateers of ours from Horse Neck—They Landed but were drove off withe the [loss] of a few men killed.4 I am in haste Your Excellencys Most Ob. hb. Servt

Israel Putnam

LS, DLC:GW. The cover includes the notation: “To be forwarded with dispatch.” Robert Hanson Harrison inaccurately dated the docket 21 March.

1The enclosure is a letter of 21 March from Cornet Silvanus Dickinson in Fairfield, Conn., to Putnam, which reads: “This day Lieut. Brewster Returnd from Long Island, by whome have the following Intiligence—The enemy had intiligence that a number of our Frigates are at New London, and that we intended to make a decent on Long Island, and have been some time on their guard...

“General Clinton went to East End of long Island on 19th to Take Command with 300 men—which makes the number of 3000 men in all” (DLC:GW). The ellipsed portion of Dickinson’s letter closely follows text in Samuel Culper to Benjamin Tallmadge, 17 March (see Dickinson to GW, 21 March, n.1).

2GW possibly received earlier intelligence about Brig. Gen. William Erskine building flat boats on eastern Long Island, where he was the British commander, from Samuel Culper’s spy report of 26 Feb. to Benjamin Tallmadge (see GW to Tallmadge, 5 Feb., n.1).

3GW responded to Putnam’s concerns in a letter of 27 March. For the British decision in early April to abandon plans for an attack on New London, see William Maxwell to GW, 25 March, and n.2 to that document.

4A report on this engagement appeared in the Connecticut Gazette; and the Universal Intelligencer [New London] for 25 March: “A few Days since, Capt. Havens, in the Sloop Be[a]ver, and Capt. Dennis, in a Schooner, captured a Schooner near Huntingdon, which they sent into Horseneck. The two Privateers were soon after attacked by two Row-Gallies, who drove the Be[a]ver on Shore near Horseneck; but she was defended by her People, till assisted by some Continental Troops who drove the Gallies off. The Be[a]ver had 3 or 4 of her People killed and several wounded.” A related item appeared in the same paper’s issue for 1 April: “We hear that last Week four Persons were taken into Custody at Norwalk, on Suspicion of their having been Guides to the Enemy in their late Excursion to Horseneck.” For a retrospective account by a Beaver crew member, see Narraitve [sic] of the Life of Solomon Mack... (Windsor [Vt.], [1811?]), 12–14.

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