George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 10 July 1779

From Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Lebanon [Conn.] July 10th 1779


I received your favour of the 7th Inst. this morning, and am much obliged to your Excellency for your early and seasonable attention for the safety of this State, and by Ordering General Glover’s Brigade to afford their aid to the Militia of this State,1 to repel the incursions of the Enemy here, which has for a considerable time past, been threatned with the full vengeance of the enemy. They have made one or two unsuccessful attempts upon N. London but failed of putting them into execution, partly by the unfavourable weather, and partly by the Alertness of the militia:2 But Governor Tryon & Sir George Collier, in their late proclamation,3 seem to impute our preservation heitherto, wholly to their lenity, but now threaten the whole execution of their Vengeance, and have actually began by their first attempt upon the defenceless Town of New Haven, which was so sudden, as was also their departure, that though the Militia turned out with great alertness, yet but few had arrived before the Enemy evacuated the Town. The few who were collected behaved with a proper spirit, and gave the Enemy considerable annoyance. The Enemy acquired but little, and mostly Soldiers plunder, taken from the houses and persons of the inhabitants.4 Their next attempt was upon Fairfield, where their stay was also short; but their rage great, having Consumed the whole of that Town to ashes, exept a very few houses. they then embarked and put across the Sound under Long-Island shore5 By some deserters & Prisoners we are informed their principal object is New-London, and indeed the whole of our Sea Coast. We are, I beleive, too well prepared at New London for them to make an attempt there at this time, but the season they have taken for these depridations is very unseasonable for us, of which they are well apprized, as they no doubt mean to prevent us of reaping the binifit of a luxuriant crop. They will perhaps lie by a few days, while we are obliged to release our Militia, and then suddenly return to their savage devastations.

We are Just informed by express from Greenwich & Norwalk, that there is a large Body of the Enemy in full march from Kingsbridge up towards those places.6 The inhabitants that way are in the greatest distress—nothing expected since the fate of Fairfield, but flames & distruction on the sea shore. It is impossible for us to keep up such a body of troops in every Town through an extent of One hundred & twenty miles sea coast, as to prevent the distruction of many of our towns, and at the same time secure our hay & harvest—have no doubt your Excellency will from time to time afford such aid from the Continental Army as the movements of the Enemy make it necessary, and as may be consistent with the General security.7

Some days before the receipt of your last, we had sent an Express to your Excellency, requesting the detention of General Glover’s Brigade in this State for the present, or to turn his route on the sea Coast, which your timely provision has happily superseded.8

We have enclosed the late Address of Sir George Collier and Major General Tryon to the inhabitants of Connecticut.9 It was sent to Colo. Whiting of the militia near Fairfield, giving him one hour for his Answer; but before he had time to read it half through, the Town was in flames.

The short answer you have inclosed.10 I am, with great Esteem & Regard, your Excellency’s Most Obedt humbe servt

Jona. Trumbull

Copy, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, enclosed in GW to John Jay, 13 July, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1See GW to John Glover, 8 July; see also Trumbull to GW, 7 July, and n.3 to that document.

2See William Maxwell to GW, 25 March, n.2, and 28 March, n.1.

3For the text of this proclamation, which was printed as a broadside, see Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 14 July, n.8.; see also n.9 below.

4For the British raid on New Haven, Conn., 5–6 July, see Trumbull to GW, 7 July, and n.1 to that document.

5For the British raid on Fairfield, Conn., 7 July, see Norwalk, Conn., Officials and Stephen St. John to GW, 9 July, and n.2 to that document, and Parsons to GW, 10 July.

6The Connecticut Council of Safety met on Sunday, 11 July, because of the “pending exigency of affairs.” Its first record for that date reads: “Fresh intelligence from Col. [Abraham] Davenport, Colo. Whiting, Colo. Hooker, from the westward, that the enemy with 6000 foot and 1000 horse are advancing into this State, were halted near Jay’s on Rye Neck Thursday, 8th, and to march thence 4 o’clock P.M. of that day; that they are to form a junction with the troops on board the fleet and penetrate &c. far as they can &c.; and the express told Col. [Comfort] Sage they were at horse Neck Fryday morning” (Conn. Public Records, description begins The Public Records of the State of Connecticut . . . with the Journal of the Council of Safety . . . and an Appendix. 18 vols. to date. Hartford, 1894–. description ends 2:358).

7See GW’s first and second letters to Trumbull, 12 July.

8See Trumbull to GW, 7 July, and the source note to that document; see also n.1 above.

9The enclosed broadside, titled “ADDRESS, To the Inhabitants of CONNECTICUT,” which GW then enclosed in his letter to John Jay of 13 July, is in DNA:PCC, item 152. GW characterized this proclamation as “truely ridiculous” in his second letter to Trumbull of 12 July (see also n.3 above).

10A copy of Col. Samuel Whiting’s reply to Maj. Gen. William Tryon, dated 7 July, was enclosed in GW’s letter to Jay of 13 July. That copy, which is in the writing of GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison, reads: “Connecticut having nobly dared to take up Arms against the cruel Despotism of Britain; And the flames having preceded their Answer to Your flag—They will persist to oppose to their Utmost the power exerted against their injured innocence” (DNA:PCC, item 152). GW characterized Whiting’s reply as “laconic but to the purpose” in his second letter to Trumbull of 12 July.

Samuel Whiting (1720–1803), a veteran of the French and Indian War, served as lieutenant colonel of the 5th Connecticut Regiment between May and November 1775. He then became colonel of the 4th Regiment of Connecticut militia in October 1776 and held that position into 1780.

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