George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 5 October 1779

From Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

Light Infantry Camp near Haverstraw Forge [N.Y.]
5th Octr 1779

Dear General

The moment I recd your favor of the 3rd Instant which was not u[n]til 11 OClock yesterday—I orderd out a Covering party & took with me some field Officers, under an Escort of a few Dragoons—& proceeded to the place where Genl Du Portail was to be—but he had gone away about a half an hour before we arrived.

I immediately detached a Light Horse who returned without coming up with him after he had followed several miles—I cou’d wish that the General had sent me a note as we were not more than three Miles distant from him, & any of the Inhabitants where he was could either have carried it or Conducted him to our Camp—howevver we will undertake to give your Excellency full Satisfaction as to the distances from the different points of Attack together with the Respective Elevations on Condition that you will please to direct the Theodolite & Chain which we took at Stoney point to be sent to us by the Dragoon who delivers this1—I believe the Needle is lost—but there is more dependance on the limb of the theodolite then can possibly be placed on any Needle as it is not subject to attraction.

I wish to have the Instruments tomorrow—as we shall make a grand forage in the Vicinity of Stoney Point, On thursday2—& can effect both at the same time under cover of the troops.3

Agreeable to your Excellency’s Orders4 I had an Interview with Lord Stirling on friday Evening5 & again on Saturday morning but could not be understood as to the position which part of his Troops should take in order to Cover my right, & Mutually to support each Other—he was decidedly of Opinion that paramus or its vicinity was the most Ellegeble position for that purpose—& acordingly marched in full force for that post on Sunday Morning where the troops still remain distant about fifteen Miles from our Camp—I was to have met his Lordship at paramus that Evening to Consult further on the Occation6—which I neglected on hearg that he remained behind at his former Quarters & thinking it my duty first to secure my own Corps—which I have done by taking a position that Effectually guards us against a Surprise & ensures a safe retreat in case of Necessity.

as soon as the forage & the other buisness is Effected I shall again Attend him—but as he is perfectly acquainted with the Country—I can’t pretend to advise him—altho’ (as a Military-man) I can’t think that 16 Miles is a proper Supporting distance when the Situation of the Enemy as well as our own are Maturely Considered.7

I have a patrole Constantly passing from Storms to the Dunderberg look out8—so that no move of the Enemy can take place by Land on this side the River to West point, but what we shall discover & of which your Excellency may depend upon the Earliest Intelligence—but I think this is a Manoeuvre rather to be wished than expected—as they never will Commit themselves to the mountains with the Army in fron[t] & this Corps in their rear, without first Attempting us.

by Intelligence from different Quarters I am led to believe that Lord Cornwallis with the troops said to have sailed are yet laying on board thier Shipping in the harbour of New York.9 I am your Excellency’s most Obt & very Hume Sert

Anty Wayne

ADfS, PHi: Wayne Papers.

1Wayne and his light infantry had captured a large array of military equipment and ordnance stores in their surprise attack on the British fort at Stony Point, N.Y., on the night of 15–16 July (see Wayne to GW, 16 July (second letter), and n.1 to that document; see also General Orders, 22 July, and n.25 to that document, and General Orders, 1 Aug., source note). For Wayne’s detailed report on the assault, see Wayne to GW, 17 July; see also GW to John Jay, 21 July, and GW to Wayne, 1 July, n.2.

2The next Thursday was 7 October. The Light Infantry’s “grand forage” apparently alarmed the British, who embarked a corps consisting of five regiments under the command of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis ready to respond to an attack on that post (see Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 203, and Kemble Papers, description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends 1:186–87). At the same time, Gen. Henry Clinton, British commander in chief, made a personal reconnaissance of Stony Point (see Wayne to GW, 13 Oct., n.4).

3For Wayne’s report of his survey, see his letters to GW of 9 and 14 October.

5The previous Friday was 1 October.

6For GW’s most recent orders to Major General Stirling to position his division to support prospective operations against the British forts at Stony Point, see GW to Stirling, 4 October. For Stirling’s shift of position to Paramus, N.J., and his planned meeting with Wayne, see Stirling to GW, this date.

7GW agreed with Wayne’s judgment and ordered Stirling to shift his position (see GW to Wayne, 6 Oct., and GW to Stirling, 7 Oct.).

8Wayne is referring to Dunderberg Mountain and to Storm’s, on the road between Haverstraw, N.Y., and Furnace of Dean, N.Y. (see Map 2).

9The expedition under the command of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis had sailed on 23 Sept. but soon returned to New York (see GW to Jay, 25 Sept., n.5); the troops had disembarked by 30 Sept. (see Ritchie, “New York Diary,” description begins Carson I. A. Ritchie, ed. “A New York Diary [British army officer’s journal] of the Revolutionary War.” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 50 (1966): 221–80, 401–46. description ends 438).

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