George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Maxwell, 3 May 1779

From Brigadier General William Maxwell

Elizth Town [N.J.] 3d May 1779


I have the pleasure to inclose to your Excellency a late New york paper informing us of a Packet having arived there from England last thursday.1 I have information that I think may be depended on, that four Regts was Embarked on board Vesel about three days ago, and it was thought verry probable more would embark in a day or two but no certainty of it. It is thought they were designed for Georgia. A Fleet yesterday fell down to the Hook I neither know their number nor destination.2 I have likewise had a report that the British Troops are all returned from the East end of Long Island.3 They still talk of making a Stroke at this place or Amboy. I am Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant

Wm Maxwell B.G.


1The New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Mercury of this date reported that “Thursday Evening last [29 April] his Majesty’s Packet Boat the GRANTHAM, Capt. BULL, arrived here in 40 Days from Falmouth.”

2British general Henry Clinton, seeking to damage the tobacco trade, disrupt the flow of American reinforcements to Georgia and South Carolina, and destroy stores that the Americans had laid up at Portsmouth, Va., collaborated with Commodore George Collier in planning a raid on Virginia. The expedition, consisting of several British and Loyalist regiments totaling close to 2,000 troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Edward Mathew, embarked at New York City on 1 May, sailed from Sandy Hook, N.J., on 5 May, and landed near Portsmouth on 10 May. After capturing the American fort at Portsmouth, Mathew’s troops and British privateers ravaged the port and the surrounding area, destroying stores, capturing numerous ships, occupying Norfolk, and burning Suffolk. The troops re-embarked on 24 May, stood to sea two days later, and arrived back at Sandy Hook on 29 May, having incurred almost no losses while inflicting severe damage on southeast Virginia. Immediately after Collier’s return, Clinton commenced a planned advance up the Hudson River; see William De Hart to GW, 30 May, n.1. For further accounts of the raid on Virginia, see Charles Scott to GW, 12, 18, and 27 May; John Jay to GW, 22 May; Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:177–79; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 193; Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 122–24; and Clinton, “Expedition to Portsmouth, Virginia, 1779,” in WMQ description begins The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History. Williamsburg, Va. description ends , 2d ser., 12 (1932): 181–86.

3Brig. Gen. William Erskine, the British commander on eastern Long Island, did not finish redeploying his troops to the island’s western end until around 12 May; see Maxwell’s letter to GW of that date, and Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:177. For the purpose of this movement, see Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 8–11 April, n.2.

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