George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 25 July 1779

To Major Benjamin Tallmadge

West-point July 25th 79.


All the white Ink I now have (indeed all that there is any prospect of getting soon) is sent in Phial No. I. by Colo. Webb.1 the liquid in No. 2 is the Counterpart which renders the other visable by wetting the paper with a fine brush after the first has been used & is dry—You will send these to C——r Junr as soon as possible & I beg that no mention may ever be made of your having received such liquids from me or any one else—In all cases & at all times this prudence & circumspection is necessary but it is indispensably so now as I am informed that Govr Tryon has a preparation of the same kind, or something similar to it which may lead to a detection if it is ever known that a matter of this sort has passed from me.2

I beg that you will use every possible exertion through C—— & other channels to ascertain with a degree of precision, the enemy’s Corps, & how they are disposed of—I wish to know where every Regiment lyes. in order to govern my own movements with more propriety—To learn with certainty what Regiments are on Staten Island—long Island & in what part of it—The City of York—between the city & the bridge—about the bridge—at Philip’s, or Mile square—&ca—would be extremely useful to me at all times, but more so at this.

I am informed that in the afternoon of the 21st 40 Sail of Vessells passed Eastward by Norwalk.3 I have also advice that a number of Troops imbarked at Dobbs’s Ferry, & fell down the River on the 22d— In short, that Genl Clinton & Sir George Collier were with this Fleet.4 but these things not being handed with certainty rather perplex than inform the judgment. I have heard nothing further of either of these Fleets—nor do I know whether that in the Sound had Troops on board or not. let me hear from you soon on the subject of this letter. I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW wrote Col. Samuel Blachley Webb on this date: “I shall be obliged by your care of the inclosed. If you should not be able to deliver them yourself, be so good as to send them by a safe hand as directed” (ALS, CtY: Webb Family Collection; GW signed the cover of this letter, which he also addressed to Webb “at Genl Heaths Qrs.”) Webb, a paroled prisoner waiting to be exchanged, was at GW’s headquarters on 24 July, when he wrote to Jeremiah Wadsworth that he would leave West Point “so soon as my Horses arrive” for Horseneck, Conn., which he reached by 27 July (Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:183–84; see also Webb to Joshua Loring, 27 July, in Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:184–85, and Tallmadge to GW, 28–30 July). GW, in a letter to Tallmadge of 13 June, had stated his intention to send this ink.

2For background on this invisible ink, and its initial use, see John Jay to GW, 19 Nov. 1778 (second letter), and n.1 to that document, and Tallmadge to GW, 21 April 1779. Sending the ink indicates that GW had received a letter from Samuel Culper to John Bolton, numbered “15” and erroneously dated “June 31” (when the accurate date probably was 1 July). Samuel Culper was an alias for Abraham Woodhull, and John Bolton was an alias for Tallmadge. Addressed “20,” code for Setauket, N.Y., this letter reads: “Inclosed you have Mr Saml Culpers Junr Letter. which is but Short but hope it may be of Some Service. he hath Wrote in the Stile of Loyalty. I think through fear like me at first Unaccustomed to the Buisiness—And filled with fear but the Longer one Continues in the Buisiness if unsuspected of more real Service Can he be. I have appoin[t]ed to See him on the 8th Instt. And Shal⟨l⟩ repeat again to him those In[s]tructions that I have received from time to time from you—And use my utmost endevour—to acquaint him with the Steeps I used to take—And Curcumstancs necessary to Judge from—that a person unaccustomed Would not readily Conceive of. My greatest desire is that he may be usefull and answer your most Sanguine expectations he Wishes that the Inck or Stain might be forwarded. you will here from him very Soon again, he hath hinted to you the Prospect of their macking excurcions in to Connecticut very Soon. very Probable the War will be Carried on [in] that Manner as free liberty is granted to the Refugees to Plunder as Much as they Can—you must Keep a very good Look out or your Shores will be destroyed. it is a Pity that Company Could not be destroyed at Loyds Neck their refugee Boats are Continualy Coasting a long and Much endangers 40 [post riders]. they Intirely disown the defeet of their Troops in Carolina—And I Confess I am not fully Satisfied about have not yet Seen nor heard of its being published by Authority. Just received the Inclosed and the Boat awaiting have not had time to write as I would Please excuse hast and any Imperfections you may discover” (DLC:GW). GW docketed the letter: “From Samuel Culper 31st June—79.” For codes used in this letter, see GW to Tallmadge, 13 June, n.1.

The letter that Woodhull enclosed, numbered “1” and dated “New York 29th June,” was signed “Samuel Culper” but is in the writing of Robert Townsend, who subsequently added “Jr.” to his letters to distinguish himself from Woodhull. Presumably addressed to Tallmadge, Townsend’s letter reads: “The present offers nothing material, save that of the arrival of Capt. Mernaid, who left Plimouth the first of May, at which time the Grand fleet for this place had not sail’d, and was quite uncertain when they wou’d; and likewise that few Troops were coming out—say not more than three thousand: However as he is a Rebel we do not entirely believe it; but are much afraid that its too true.

“I was this day inform’d that 2 Brittish Regts 1 Regt of Anspach, Col. Fannings Corps & the associated loyalists, is now at white stone, where they arrived yesterday from Rhode-Island—This I have no doubt of, as it was told me by a person who came passenger with them—He thinks they are to make excursions into Connecticut—and from what I can collect I believe they are, and very soon.

“Most of the Troops are come from Verplanks point, and are now near and about the Brid⟨ge⟩.

“several Transports are order’d to be in readiness, but no troops embarked.

“We are much alarm’d with the prospect of a Spanish War—Shou’d that be the Case, I fear poor Old England will not be able to oppose the whole but will be obliged to sue for a Peace.

“Wou’d wish to write you more particular, but the person going sooner than I expected prevents” (DLC:GW). The “Grand fleet” refers to a naval squadron that sailed from Portsmouth on 1 May and arrived at New York in late August, bringing 3,800 troops (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]).

4GW is referring to intelligence from Maj. Henry Lee, Jr., which proved false (see Lee to GW, 22 July; GW to Lee, 25 July; and GW to Stirling, 24 and 28 July).

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