George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 13 June 1779

To Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Smiths Tavern in the Clove [N.Y.]
June 13th 1779.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of yesterday with the inclosures from C——r came duly to hand1—Should suspicions of him rise so high as to render it unsafe to continue in N—— Y—— I would by all means wish him to employ some person of whose attachment and abilities he entertains the best opinion, to act in his place, with a request to be critical in his observations rather than a mere retailer of Vulgar reports.2 To combine the best information he can get with attentive observation will prove the most likely means to obtain useful knowledge—A mode of conveying it quickly is of the utmost importance & claims much attention.

When I can procure3 more of the liquid C——r writes for, it shall be sent, at present I cannot say when this may happen.4 I thank you for the information respecting long Island.5 The letter to Mr Deane shall be sent6 & I am Yr Most Obedt

Go: Washington

ALS, MiU-C: Clinton Papers; L, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, UKLoBM, Add. MSS 34416; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of his letter, which is addressed to “Major Talmadge of the 2d Regt L. Dragoons.” The letter in Meade’s writing is so clean that it may be a copy rather than a draft. Tallmadge received the ALS, but it was subsequently captured, along with other letters and papers, during a British raid on 2 July; see William Heath to GW, 4 July, and GW to Tallmadge, 5 July.

1Tallmadge’s letter to GW of 12 June has not been found. The enclosures probably were a letter from Samuel Culper to Tallmadge, dated 8 June, which covered two other letters from Culper to John Bolton, both numbered “13” and dated 5 June. Samuel Culper was an alias for Abraham Woodhull, and John Bolton was an alias for Tallmadge.

One 5 June letter, addressed “20,” code for Setauket, N.Y., reads: “Your No. 7 came to hand and have observed the Contentes. I Purpose this only to informe you of my Misfortune on the 24 of April. John Wolsey returnd from Connecticut being Paroled by the Comissary of Prisoners (Although taken in a Privateer). And Lodgid information againts me before Coll Simcoe of the Queens Rangers who thinking of finding me at Setauket Came down but happily I Set out for N. york the day before his arrival. And to make Some Compensation for his Voige he fell upon my father and Plundered him in a most Schocking Manner. I hearing of it and his intentions used every endevour to defeat his designs which I hapily did in a measure by a freind of mine makeing intrest with the Genl Aid and only that Saved me. but I am very Obnoxious to them and think I am in Continual danger you will See the Contents of the other letter and the Proposals there made—and at once See the necessity of destroying these letters after Parusall I was in Town that night you was I wish I had a known it” (DLC:GW). Tallmadge’s letter “No. 7” has not been identified.

In the other 5 June letter, Woodhull employed codes—“10” for New York and “20” for Setauket—established in his letter to Tallmadge of 10 April(DLC:GW; see also Tallmadge to GW, 21 April, and n.2 to that document). That 10 April letter also established “30 & 40” as code for post riders. This 5 June letter, addressed Setauket in code, reads: “Your No. 7 came to hand and have duely observed the Contents, It is now a long time Since I have wrote you, And do Assure you not through neglect but Owing to the dificulty I have laboured under ever Since I Saw you—in my other letter I have Stated the particulars. And I d[a]re Say you will be filled wit⟨h⟩ Wonder and Surprise, that I have had the good fortune to escape Confinement. And am Sorry to informe you that it hath rendered me Allmost unserviceable to you, I Purpose Quiting 10 [New York]—And resideing at 20 [Setauket]. As I am now a Suspected Person, I cannot frequent their Camp as heretofore. And think Only Just resideing at 10 [New York]. And be Oblidged to take up with common reportes will not answer your Purpose. or make by any means compensation for the expence—I have truly the Intrest of our Country at heart. And Could not wish to Spend one Shilling Useless—I Shall Visit 10 [New York] as often as I Can with any degree of Safety—And have not as yet Stoped the Chanel of Intelligence and Shall anxiously wait your direction Wheather I Shall endevour to establish a Confidential Freind to Step into my Place—if agreeabl. direct in your next and forward the Ink. When I have effected this most Probable I Shall Come to you. And Shall Wish to Joyne in the Common defence—I Shall now endevour to give you an Authentick Account of the Principle Arivals and departures of All fleets—foreighn Intelligen⟨c⟩e. And the temper and expectations of the Enemy and movements Since the 14 of May, all before hath bene forwarded. The latter of which I am Sensible can be of little or no Service now but may be Some Satisfaction. About the 15th May Sailed a Cork fleet and on the 18 Arivedd 12 Sail from Cork with Provisions. And Sevaral Private Ships have arived at different times from Urope one bringing the News of the Surrender of Pondicherry in India, but I do not beleive it yet, you may depend that the Cutter that Said to bring the News Saild Some time from Ireland on a Cruse before the last Cork fleet and they Brought no Such Account. Provisions are very Plenty at 10 [New York]—And a Cork Fleet is expected also a large Fleet from England with Ten Thousand Troops is Said to be expected in—In about Ten days. The Troops that went from hence last fall for West India & Georgia it is Said are about returning, I thing it Probable for they are very Sickly in those Quarters I hear Some talk of Peace amongst you God grant it may take Place on honorable termes—But I must tell you thers less appearance of Peace here now than Some time a gone—And thers nothing we can hear from Urope that demonstraits it—The Spirits of their Troups is high, and the expectation of the Torys is great to Admiration. I hope you will not trust to an uncertainty, but Prepare for the Worst. I have a long time expected to here of your appearing in force near the Bridge and keeping them in their Strong holds and hope that their Present expedition May Serve to further convince them of the impractibillity of Subduing this Country. And Call your Army togather and be upon your guard and be very Industerous to find out the Scheems of the Torys Amongst you. Almost every Acction is handed down by them and men is Said to Pass (and I beleive they do) from hence to the Enemy on the Fronteers, The enemy have almost Intirely quit Long Island the Whole of the Army on Long Island doth not exceed three Hundred only a few Invaleads, left at their differe[n]t Stations. they have likewise taken all their Baggage from Long Island And on the 29 arrived their Virginea fleet with about 30 Prises Mostly Small Schooneors and a Number of Negroes and Some White famalies, upon the Whole that expedition is Thought but little of. and on the 30 Saild imediately up the River about 20 Transports the Raisonable of 64 guns and 2 frigetes on the 28 the Army and troops in general left 10 [New York] togather with all their train of Artillery that Stood on the Common there was not on the 3 Instant one Thousand Troups in And about the City only one Battallion of guards and two Small german Regt to do duty in and about 10 [New York]. thers orders for to raise a Number of men for the Terme of Six Month out of the Milita of Kings and Queens Countye to do duty as Occasion may require—This is very disagreeable to the Inhabitants—On the 3 Instant thers was only 3 frigets in the Rivers except those before mentioned—Thus Sir I Shall Conclude with this request that you Would after Sufficient Parusal Consume it for if by any accident this or any other of my letters Should fall into the enemys hands, very Proba[b]le my handwriteing or Some circumstances mentioned might be the Cause of detection.

And Conclude with my great desire for your Success and Welfair. . . . Just as I Was about to Seal this I Saw a Gentleman from 10 [New York] that Said every Sixth Man in 10 [New York] and the before mentioned Places Were Imediately to be Draughfed I Purpose Wating at 20 [Setauket] untill I receive an Answer from you” (DLC:GW). GW docketed this letter: “From Saml Culper 5th & 8th June 1779.” The “large fleet from England” probably refers to a naval squadron that sailed from Portsmouth on 1 May and arrived at New York in late August, bringing 3,800 troops, fewer than anticipated (see Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 17:72, 124, and 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 126, 138, 140; see also GW to John Jay, 24–27 Aug., and Robert Howe to GW, 27 Aug. [both DNA:PCC, item 152]). The “Present expedition” refers to British operations up the Hudson River (see William De Hart to GW, 30 May, n.1, and General Orders, 1 June, n.1). For the “Virginea fleet,” see William Maxwell to GW, 3 May, n.2.

The 8 June letter, addressed “Under a green Bush” and coded Setauket, reads: “I forgot to give you my oppinion in one thing in the inclosed it hath bene in agitation to Make a desent along New England New London the most likely. I do not doubt but their next move will be there and if you hear again of their embarkation you may readily Judge they will go their for they have a Particular Spite against that Place on Ac[o]u[n]t of Privateering. 40 [post rider] gave me a very agreeabl. Acut” (DLC:GW).

2For Woodhull’s employment of Robert Townsend to serve as a spy in New York, see GW to Tallmadge, 27 June (first letter) and notes 2 and 3 to that letter.

3At this place on his manuscript, GW wrote and then struck out the word “some.”

4GW is referring to invisible ink, which he sent in late July (see Tallmadge to GW, 21 April, and GW to Tallmadge, 25 July; see also John Jay to GW, 19 Nov. 1778 (second letter), and n.1 to that document).

5GW may be alluding to sawmills on Long Island and a Loyalist garrison at Lloyd Neck. For Tallmadge’s interest in these subjects, see Culper to Tallmadge,20 June, in n.2 of the first letter from GW to Tallmadge, 27 June.

6This letter, almost certainly from Tallmadge to Silas Deane, has not been identified. For Tallmadge’s later correspondence with Deane, see Tallmadge to Nathanael Greene, 26 Aug. and 24 Sept., in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 4:339, 412–13; see also Hall, Tallmadge, description begins Charles Swain Hall. Benjamin Tallmadge: Revolutionary Soldier and American Businessman. New York, 1943. description ends 10–12.

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