George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Thomas Clark, 17 May 1779

From Colonel Thomas Clark

Paramus [N.J.] May 17th 1779


Yesterday, on receiving information that a large body of the enemy had attacked and forced my Scouts from the New Bridge, I desired Lt Colonel Davidson to give your Excellency notice by express whilst I reconnoitered them,1 I found from my own observations and the best intelligence I could get that 500 had crossd the Bridge and taken possession of the hights on this side the river and a considerable body remaining on the other side. all I was able to do in this case was to keep my Light Infantry and a Captains Command joined by a few Militia as near them as possible to prevent pillaging—about 5 oClock in the afternoon, another express from my Scout at Tapan informed me that 500 men were on their march for this place—with two Gentlemen of this place I immediately reconnoiterd that road and found that at 7 miles from this they changed their rout and march’d to the New Bridge—The Continental Troops with a few Militia lay on their arms all day yesterday and last night—the enemy recross’d about 10 yesterday evening taking up the Bridge after them—The Militia came down in great numbers this morning and Seemd to be in high spirits—By two deserters, and other very good information the enemy’s force consisted of the 63, 64 Regmts Buskerks Corps, 100 Fergusons riflemen, the refugees, Some Grenadiers & Light Infantry making 1000 to march by way of Hackensack Bridge, and 500 others to Land at Closter dock and proceed thro Tapan to Paramus Church where they were to make a junction by day Light,2 but by the latter party’s missing their landing place & the vigilance of the scouts, the scheme miscarried—they were if possible, to have possessed themselves of my Artiliry, Baggage and taken or destroyed the whole regmt—they have carried off several Cattle and plundered a number of houses—I have not been able to learn whether they have lost any men in the different skermishes or not—three of mine are wound’d. I expect something of the same kind shortly, but your Excellency may be assured they never shall Surprise me, force me they may—I have the honor to be Sir your Excellencys most Obt Humble Servt

T. Clark

The enemy have returnd to New york and their different Stations.3


1The letter from Lt. Col. William Lee Davidson, presumably written on 16 May, has not been found. Alexander Hamilton wrote to Clark for GW in an undated letter that was docketed 18 May but may have been sent on the previous day: “His Excellency received last night a letter from Lt Col. Davidson written by your direction, informing him of the enemy’s being at the New Bridge. He requests you will advise him punctually of their movements and endeavour to ascertain their force and designs—You will be pleased to do the same to General McDougall. The Quarter Master General is directed to furnish you with some express riders for the purpose” (DLC:GW).

2Closter Dock was located at Upper Closter Landing on the Hudson River just east of the town of Closter, N.J., at the end of Closter Dock Road at what is now the Alpine picnic and boat area in Palisades Interstate Park. The New Dock was located a short distance south of Closter Dock, at Lower Closter Landing. The Old Paramus Reformed Church was constructed in 1735 at what is now the intersection of Glen Avenue and Franklin Turnpike in Ridgewood, N.J., about five miles northwest of Paramus.

3British Lt. Col. Stephen Kemble described this action in his journal, misdating it as having taken place on the evening of 17–18 May: “This Morning the 63d. and 64th. Regiments moved on the Road to New Bridge, the 63d. having crossed the North River the Evening before, and landed at Fort Lee. This Movement to countenance and Co-operate with Captain Ferguson in case of necessity, who crossed the North River at the same time the 63d. did, above Kings Bridge, with the Detachment of 71st. and a hundred Men from the 17th. and 57th. Regiments each, with a view to March to Paramus, and cut off a party of Rebels supposed to be there; but, by the confusion incident to Night Work, Ferguson’s Detachment separated in their Boats, and could not find each other, by which means the Affair Miscarried” (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 , 1:177–78). A brief article in the New-Jersey Gazette (Burlington) on 26 May described a series of atrocities that the British allegedly committed in the course of their march.

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