George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Ford, 24 May 1779

From Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Ford

Shrewsbury [N.J.] May 24th 1779

Sir,

Early this Morning a fleet of Twenty Seven Sail put to sea from the Narrows 17 of them were ships but Standing a great Distance from this Shore I could [not] discover whether or not they had any Troops on board from the best accounts I have been able to get from New York I am induced to believe They are a fleet for Cork for provisions.1

When Jas Mount a refugee from New York2 was apprehended at this place Several Articles of Merchandize was taken with him, which I conceived need not have been condemned by a Majestrate as they were taken from an Enemy who is out of the Allegiance of the states. It has been the practice I am told for the Captures to make what disposition they pleased of the Goods—By my instructions I am directed upon seizing any Goods coming from the Enemy to have them Condemned by the Civil Majestrate & Transmit an Invoice thereof to Head Quarters before any Disposition or sale is made of them, I have in obedience thereto herewith transmited an Invoice—also an Invoice of some other Goods I have taken and had condemned and shall wait Your Excellencys directions for a before I proceed farther.3 Some Doubts have arose among the Captures “whether or not the whole of the Detachment at this place are Entitled to a Dividend or whether the party Actually present at the seizure are entitled to the whole,” I should be happy in having your directions thereon—It may perhaps not be unnecessary to inform your Excellency that I had certain information of the Goods being here and only took a Small party of the Detachment sufficent to secure the prisoner & his Goods.

I have sent Mount & Allen the two persons taken here under Guard to Head Quarters & gave the Adjutant Genl as full an account of them as I was able to do—which I presume will be laid before your Excellency.

should your Excellency think it necessary, I believe a person might be sent into New York from this place that wou’d collect all the intelligence possible to be Collected there—I should have endeavoured to collected intelligence by that means but I am induced to believe I can’t without your Express Orders agreeable to some late Resolutions of Congress4—If there are any Articles in the inclosed invoice that would be acceptable to your Excellency I should be happy in being informed thereof that they may be reserved—On Wednesday last sixteen Square Rigged Vessells said to be from Cork with provision went into New York.5 I have the Honor to be with the Greatest Esteem your Excellencys Most Obedt And Very Humble Servant

Benjamin Ford

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter was sent “per Express.”

1Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister wrote in his dispatch of 14 May that “The Cork fleet will return toward the 22nd of this month” (Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 277).

2James Mount, of Shrewsbury, N.J., had joined the British in 1776 and was captured in 1779. He remained in prison until the end of the war, when he moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

3The enclosed “Invoice of Goods taken with James Mount from New York” reads: “1 lb. Sewing Silk[;] 22 papers pins[;] 2½ Yds Cord Duroy[;] 19½ Yds Check linnen[;] 7 Black Breeches patterns (Worsted)[;] 4 pieces Linnen Handkerchiefs[;] 32 pair Coarse white thread stockings[;] 7 pair Coarse Brown Do[;] 7½ Yds Brown fustain[;] 3 Yds Brown Holland[;] 2 Check Handkerchiefs[;] 3 pieces Gauze (Very fine) [;] 12 Gauze Handkerchiefs (Very fine) [;] 1½ Yds Coarse White Linnen[;] 34 lb. Brown Sugar[;] 9½ lb. Loaf Sugar.”

This is followed by a list of “Goods taken at George Allens & Condemned as a prize,” reading: “72 Hatters Bow strings[;] 10 Gauze Handkerchiefs (Elegant)[;] 2½ Yds Black serge Denim[;] 1 Hank of Black silk.” (DLC:GW). Allen rented a house about twelve miles from Morristown, N.J.

4Ford is referring to a congressional resolution of 14 April stating that any officer who permitted a person to cross enemy lines without the permission of a state executive, GW, or a department commander, would forfeit his commission (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 13:447).

5“Wednesday last” was 19 May. For more on the arrival of the Cork provision fleet in New York, see Elijah Hunter to GW, 21 May, and Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 277.

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