George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 6 August 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

West point August 6th 1779

Dr Sir

I yesterday received your favor of the 4th—inclosing a Copy of a Letter from Colo. White.1 The Fleet, of which I had received very particular intelligence before, I believe, is gone to the Eastward in pursuit of our Armed Vessels sent to penobscot.2 Such is my information by a person who left New York the day before they sailed, which was the 1st; and circumstances strongly point to this destination.

From the accidents that have befallen some of our Emissaries—I would request, that when you have occasion to speak of or to communicate any intelligence from the Man you mention in the postcript of your Letter—that you will do it under the description of “the person you mentioned”. Although you should only use a single Letter of his name—yet it might have, which could not or ought not to have fixed any thing conclusively upon him; yet in case of interception it might lead to excite discoveries & suspicions against him.

We have it reported that the Enemy have retired from Stono ferry—and gone part to Savannah & part to Beaufort.3

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Howe’s letter to GW has not been found, but Howe also enclosed Lt. Col. Anthony White’s letter to Maj. Gen. Oliver Wolcott, of the Connecticut militia, in a letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath that was dated 4 August. White’s letter, dated “Wednesday [4 Aug.] 12 oClock,” reads: “By a Woman lately from the quarters of Major Bearemore at Morrissania I have gather’d the following intelligence Viz. 300 Light Dragoons sent to long Island, Emericks Corps & the Legion within one mile of Kingsbridge, the Fleet sail’d, distination unknown, Lord Cornwallis gone with the Fleet—this intelligence the Lady (whom I Know to be a friend to us) got from a person of Character at Morrissania, her business with Major Bearemore was to see a relation lately taken by him, No parties out from the Enemy” (MHi: Heath Papers).

2See GW to the Massachusetts Council, 3 Aug. and n.3 to that document.

3GW probably received this information from Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene. On 5 Aug., Greene wrote to James Varnum: “I inclose you an extract of a letter I have this moment receivd from Mr Pettit of Philadelphia respecting our South Carolina affairs” (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 4:301). The letter has not been identified.

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