George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General John Neilson, 2 June 1779

To Brigadier General John Neilson

Head Quarters Middlebrook 2d June 1779.


I wish very much to have the information I wrote for yesterday1 sent me.2 How many boats can be drawn together—what kind—and the number of men each boat can contain? These were the principal questions. If you have obtained the answer I request it immediately.

I also am desirous of knowing with all the precision of which the enquiry is capable—the number of men on Staten Island—where they are stationed—whether collected, or at different places—If works are thrown up at each post and their respective force in men. These things I want ascertained without delay. If you have any knowlege of the subject you will communicate it in the mean time; And use every possible means to obtain the most accurate information. I wish you to use diligence—dispatch—and secrecy—and to employ only such persons as you have reason to believe fit for the purpose. The moment you derive your intelligence you will be pleased to forward it by an express.3

I am told the fleet which carried out the troops to Virginia have returned to New-York on Saturday last4—I wish to have this ascertained, and if the Troops have also returned.5 I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in James McHenry’s writing, NjR: Neilson Family Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW supplied the complimentary closing of the LS in his own writing. The LS is addressed to Neilson at Elizabeth, New Jersey. GW also signed the cover.

1GW is referring to his letter to Neilson of 31 May.

2At this place above the line on the draft, McHenry wrote and then struck out “as soon as possible.”

3For further evidence of GW’s interest in intelligence from Staten Island, see his letters to John Mercereau, this date, and to Stirling, 3 June.

4The previous Saturday was 29 May.

5Ships involved in a British raid on Virginia embarked from New York City on 1 May and returned to Sandy Hook, N.J., on 29 May (see William Maxwell to GW, 3 May, and n.2 to that document).

For Neilson’s posting at Elizabeth, N.J., with a small militia force to protect the shores of Essex and Middlesex counties and procure intelligence, see his letter to GW, 30 May, and n.1 to that document.

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