George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 21 April 1779

From Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Fairfield [Conn.] April 21st 1779


Agreeable to your Excellency’s Instructions I have forwarded the Vial delivd me & the directions for C——’s future Conduct.1 In Answer to which he wrote, but as I wished to see him to communicate many things, I appointed an Interview at Brook Haven on Long Island, where I met C—— on the 16th instant, & was detained on the Island ’till this morning by a violent Storm & contrary Winds.

In addition to What C—— informs, by the enclosed, he has given me some memorandums.2 You may perceive in the close of his 2d Letter, No. 10, he mentions something respecting the Transports lately arrived at N.Y. from Rhode Island. He assures me that the business of their mission is a profound secret, & that by diligent attention & Enquiry, he finds they are taking on board the remaining baggage of the Troops now at Rhode Island. The Conjecture among them is that they intend to evacuate that post, & by their taking their baggage from N.Y. they cannot be returning there.

He thinks there never has been such a prospect of peace as at present. Betts are now laying 2 to 1 that there will be a peace in less than 2 months from this. Many of those who have been particularly active against us are selling off their Estates. Genl Delancey & Mister MacAdams in particular have proposed their Estates for sale; neither of them in want of money.3 In England, Government take up Money at most enormous Interests, from 10 to 14 pr Ct.

The Troops at the E. End of Long Island are ordered to supply themselves with forage for 14 Days, & by the begining of next month it is tho’t they will move westward. Most of the flat boats have moved thro’ South bay for N.Y.4

In addition to the 20 Guineas acknowledged to have been recd by C——, in the enclosed, I have handed him 30 more. He informs that his Expences are necessarily great, but whenever your Excellency may wish him to discontinue his present Correspondence, he will most chearfully quit the employment, as he proposes no advantages to himself from the Undertaking.

I have urged by Letter & verbally the plan of forwarding Letters by some shorter route to Hd Qrs—C—— wishes, as much as your Excellency, to hit on some more speedy mode of Conveyance, but finds such a Step difficult & dangerous. That same Brown at Bergen, whom Your Excellency mentioned to me, C—— informs is now in provost on suspicion of having given information of the late movement of the Enemy to Elisabeth Town. If he should soon get released, C—— thinks he would be a very proper man for the business.5 He will in the mean time pay the greatest attention to the proposal. He says a Man may be engaged to reside on Staten Island (if he can be supported) who will receive his dispatches & forward them at all times—In this Case some Person must be appointed to go across with a boat to an appointed place. I must now relate an Anecdote respecting the Vial which I forwarded C—— Much pleased with the curious Ink or Stain, & after making some Experiments with the same, he was set down to answer my letter which accompanied it. He had finished the enclosed when very suddenly two Persons broke into the Room (his private apartment)—The Consideration of having several Officers quartered in the next Chamber, added to his constant fear of detection & its certain Consequences made him rationally conclude that he was suspected, & that those Steps were taken by sd Officers for discovery. Startled by so sudden & violent an obtrusion, he sprang from his seat, snatched up his papers, overset his Table, & broke his Vial—This step so totally discomposed him that he knew not who they were, or even to which Sex they belonged—for in fact they were two Ladies who, living in the house with him, entered his Chamber in this way on purpose to surprise him—Such an excessive fright & so great a turbulence of passions so wrought on poor C—— that he has hardly been in tolerable health since. The above Relation I had from his own mouth. He is much pleased with the Ink, & wishes, if any more can be spared, to have a little sent him. By this he thinks he could frequently communicate intelligence by Persons permited to pass the Lines.

Some pieces of useful intelligence respecting the movemt of the Enemy in their late intended Expedition to Nw London; & which I have reason to believe in a great measure defeated their intentions, have been communicated by C——. There are some Men on this side the Sound who conduct most villanously towards the Inhabitants of Long Island, by lying on the Roads & robbing the Inhabitants as they pass. C—— was the other day robbed of all his money near Huntington, & was glad to escape with his life. I know the Names of several, some of whom under sanction of Commissions for cruizing in the Sound, land on L. Island & plunder the Inhabitants promiscuously.

I have now put the Correspondence with C—— on such a footing that any letters he may forward by the old Conveyance will be sent to Capt. Grenell of this place, on whom I can most implicitly depend—He will forward them to Genl Putnam agreeable to instruction6—Any directions which your Excellency may wish to Communicate to C——you will please to forward to me as usual, no other Person being appointed in this Qr with whom he would be willing to Correspond.

The Bearer having some business to transact & wishing to see his friends, will return in 4 or 5 Days, when your Excellency’s Commds & in particularly the abovementioned Ink, may be forwarded with safety. I am, with profound Respect, Your Excellency’s most obedt Hble Servt

Benja. Tallmadge

P.S. I shall join the Regt immediately.


2Two enclosures have been identified, both of which are labeled “No.10” and similarly worded. The first enclosure, a letter of 10 April from Samuel Culper to Tallmadge, reads: “When ever I Sit down I always feel and know my Inability to write a good Letter. As my calling in life never required it—Nor led to consider, how necessary a qualification it was for a Man—And much less did I think it would ever fall to my lot, to Serve in Such Publick and important buisiness as this, And my letters perused by one of the worthiest Men on Earth. But I trust he will overlook any imperfections he may discover in the dress of my words—And rest assured that I indevour to collect and convey the most accurate and explicit intelligence that I possibly can, And hope it may be of Some Service towards Alleviateing the miseries of our disstressed Count[r]y. Nothing but that could have induced me to undertake it, for you must readily think, it is a life of anxiety to be within (on Such buisiness) the lines of a cruel and mistrustfull Enemy and that I most Ardently wish and impatiently wait for their departure—I Sincerely congratulate you on the miscarriage of the Enemies intended expedition up the Sound. I can discover no Movement on foot at present, Their excursions are always very Sudden and Seldom begin to move before dark. And it will be Ten to one if ever it will be in my Power to give you early Intelligence of Their Sudden excursions. As I can only write at fixed times (All I can Say you must be every where upon your guard—And be more Assiduous then ever in Order to defeat the designs of our implacable Enemies within and without their Lines, I am confident that by their Incendiaries without they are useing every art to distruct your Army and divide the Country, It is a matter of Surprise to me to See Such numbers of deserters come in Since the Generals Parden, Published in the News Paper. But it is Some releaf to find that they are mostly those that deserted from them heretofore—On the 25 Last Month 7 Sail Transports with about one hundred & Seventy Scotch Troops of the Duck of Athols Regm. arrived from Hallifax Under Convoy of the Rainbow of 44 guns Sir George Collier who is come to Succeed Admirl Gambier—On the 26th 23 Sail arrived from England (which Place they left the 2th Jany) Under convoy of the Romulus of 44 guns, they were cheifly loaded with Stores and Provisions for the Army, Very few goods came in the fleet, They Say they have a large Supply of Money come in the Romulus. I have conversed with Several Gentlemen of different Sentiments that came in the Fleet and those that have a desire in favour of the Crown cannot give me a Sufficient reason to think that any Troops will come out this Spring or that great Britan will certainly continue to act against Amarica. And those on the contrary Say they will withdraw their Force and give us Peace. On the 4 April arrived 7 Sail of Transports from Cork with Provisions, the Enemy now have a very large Supply of Provisions and Stores indeed, I think anough for three Months with out any addition. On the 6 Adml Gambier Sailed for England in the Ardent of 64 guns togather with a number of Transports how many I am not able to assertain nor think it very material—and this day Sails another Small fleet under Convoy of the Rose of 20 guns all Transports Laying in the East & North Rivers are compleatly Victualed & waterd for Sixty five days for their complement of Troops that they were accustomed to Transport. The Number of Ships Brigs & Snows in the Harbour differeth not much from two hundred but of which thers two Sloops of War four frigets & two forty four guns Ships and an Old Indiman with their usual Number of guns for their defence, And an Old 74 Store Ship with only her uper teer of guns in—It is currently reported that Adml Gambier met an express Soon after he Sailed from the hook from the West Indies and turned him Back and now Lays at the Hook—We expect every day to hear importent news from England The Enemy Seem to be in high Spirits, And Say now Great Brittan is Roused and will Support them and carry on the War at all events and apper to be more Sanguine than ever. But I dont Wonder at it for they are kept as Ignorant as Possebly, And beleive every report that is in ther favour, The Torys Say they have not the least doubt but that they Shall Succeed and enjoy their Possessions yet, I expected to Send this out of my hands agreeable to the Date but it being detained and not Seald this day being the 12th arrived Twenty Eight Sail (Six or 7 of Which Were Square Riged Vessels) from Rhode Island under Convoy of the falcon I Saw about 30 or 40 Hessians on Board if they Brought more they Landed them before they came down to New York [Culper wrote “10,” which according to a note at the bottom of the letter was code for New York] and hath not come to my knowledge yet I Judge their Bussiness is After Provisions & Baggage” (DLC:GW).

The second enclosure, a letter from Culper to Tallmadge of 12 April, reads: “Your No. 6 came to hand, togather With a Vial for a purpose that gives me great Sati[s]faction and Twenty Gines. It is a great Satisfaction to me to hear that his [ ] is well Pleased with my Letter could wish they were wrote in a better manner, But When ever I Sit down I always feel and Know my Inability to write a good Letter. As my calling in life never required it nor led to consider how necessary a quallification it was for a man and much less did I think it would ever fall to my lot to Serve in Such Publick and important Buisiness as this. But trust his [ ] will over look any imperfectsons he may discover in the dress of my Words. And rest assured that I have from the begining endevoured to collect and convey the most accurate and explicit Intelligence that I Possibly Could. And hope that it hath and may be of Some Service towards alleviateing the Miserie of our distressed Country. Give me leaf to tell you I have Known the necessity to pursue your Instructi⟨ons⟩ now laid down from the begining. And can Sincerely Say I have with as much dilligence and Industry as if my life was at Stake—I have not had time to inqure the depth of water in Hellgate, but can at once inform you that a fifty gun Ship hath Passed through. You desired me to use all Money recei⟨ved⟩ with the greates Œconomy. I can assure you I ever have had [Culper wrote, “I ever have I have had”] nothing elce in vew. And in one word a Sufficien[c]y for a Support. Only that I demand—and When the Continent cannot afford me that I cannot afford to Serve her—As I have not an independent fortune—depend I Shall endevour if Possible to find out a Shorter route than they at Present have that they may be more Serviceable. But I doubt as yet of its being Practible—I Sincerely congratulate you on the miscarriage of the enemies intended expedition up the Sound” (DLC:GW).

3John Loudon McAdam (1756–1836) was born at Ayr in Scotland, but after the death of his father in 1770 he was placed under the care of a merchant uncle in New York City. During the war he amassed a large fortune as agent for the sale of prizes, but after the British evacuation of the city at the end of the war he fled to Scotland, losing almost all of his property. He re-established his fortune in Great Britain in the early nineteenth century by inventing and perfecting a process for what came to be known as the “macadamization” of roads, earning an appointment as general surveyor of roads and a grant of £10,000 from the British government.

McAdam had taken out an advertisement in the Royal Gazette (New York) on 24 March 1779 announcing the sale of large quantities of furniture, dry goods, and prize goods. Contrary to rumor, neither he nor Brig. Gen. Oliver De Lancey had taken any steps toward the sale of their estates.

4Tallmadge is referring to Great South Bay, a large natural harbor on the southern side of Long Island. For the purpose of these movements, see Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 8–11 April, n.2.

5No previous mention by GW of “Brown at Bergen” has been found, but see GW’s letter to Tallmadge of 30 April.

6John Grennell (Grinnell), of Long Island, N.Y., was appointed a captain in the 3d New York Regiment in June 1775. He was offered the captaincy of a New York artillery company in January 1776 but declined, resigning from the army two months later. Grennell fled with his family to Connecticut after the British occupation of New York City in the summer of 1776, and in March 1777 the Connecticut legislature appointed him to command a small artillery company stationed at Fairfield. Grennell was captured by the British during an excursion to Long Island in November 1781, and remained in the city provost until March of the following year.

Index Entries