George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 21 August 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

West-point Augt 21st 1779.

Dear Sir,

In my Letter of yesterday I observed that through the assistance of —— & his agents,1 and other Channels, you might obtain accurate knowledge of the position of the enemy without Kings-bridge.2 I am still of the same opinion; but under the idea I entertain of —— I do not conceive it would be expedient in you to drop the smallest hint by which he could discover the tendency of these enquiries,3 much more the time and manner of execution, if these should be the result of them. considering him as a double character, it is more than possible he would give some intimitation by which the project would be ruined, if otherwise it bid fair for success. nor would it be in his power to deny to the enemy (who probably would charge him with it) his having any knowledge of the transaction if he really should have had previous intimation of it.

I am now led, though perswaded it is unnecessary, to caution you against a surprize yourself—the enemy will feel themselves much hurt at the repeated instances of disgrace their arms have lately met with; and will most assuredly attempt to bury it in some stroke of retaliation on such parts of the Army as is most accessable—than which none is more so than that under your commd, because every preparation for it can be concealed, & the Troops are on the spot ready to operate at a moments warning, I could not therefore restrain my pen on this head, though I am perswaded you will do every thing that Military prudence can dictate to guard against it.4 With sincere esteem & regard I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt St

Go. W——n.

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW may have sent this letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath to forward to Howe. In a letter of this date to Howe, dated from Mandeville’s (Dutchess County, N.Y.), Heath, who had just received GW’s letter of this date to him, wrote Howe: “I do myself the honor to forward enclosed a Letter from His Excellency General Washington” (MHi: Heath Papers).

1GW most likely is referring to the double spy Elijah Hunter.

2Howe was planning a raid on the British outposts above King’s Bridge, N.Y. (see GW to Howe, 20 Aug., second letter).

3For GW’s opinion of Hunter, see GW to Howe, 17 August.

4On this day, GW issued similar warnings to major generals Heath and Stirling.

Index Entries