George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 24 October 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

Head Quarters West point 24th October 1779

Dear Sir

Both your favors of yesterday came to hand last Evening as did that of the 22d.1 I have, for some days past, had the destruction of the Enemy’s wood on Lloyds neck in contemplation. Major Tallmadge having been lately over on an excursion is probably better acquainted with the practicability of such a matter than any other person. From some hints which he dropped, when last at Head Quarters, he did not seem to think the enterprize a difficult one.2 Be pleased to consult the Major upon the foregoing, and desire him to gain intelligence of the quantity of Wood cut—the Guard upon it—and whether he thinks the business may be effected without running a greater Risque than the object, tho’ a very considerable one, is worth—Should you upon a full investigation, be [of] opinion that it may be undertaken with a tolerable prospect of success, I would wish you to have it carried into execution by a party from your Division, and if Major Tallmadge would undertake the command of it, I do not know a preferable officer for the purpose, as he is perfectly acquainted with the Ground, and with the preparations necessary for passing the sound.3

I have not the least objection to your ordering Fascines to be cut somewhat lower down, provided it be not so far, that a party of the enemy might venture up to destroy them—I cannot decide upon the propriety of your moving from your present position, till I have determined upon the Works necessary for securing the communication of Kings ferry—I have for this purpose wrote to Colo. Gouvion and desired him to come immediately up.4

You may be assured, my dear Sir, that nothing gives me greater pleasure than to receive the Sentiments of my Officers upon any matters which may occur to them. The variety of Business in which I am necessarily engaged must of course take off my attention from many things which may materially concern the good of the Service, and I am never more obliged than when an Officer communicates to me whatever strikes him as being essential to the general good—I very sensibly feel your expressions of personal Regard, which I assure you is mutual, and I shall be happy in every opportunity of cultivating a continuance of your freindship. If—can find any tolerable pretext for going down with a Flag I have no objection. I do not imagine there is any reason for my writing to Govr Clinton on the subject.5

There is part of Capt. Burbecks Company of Artillery under the command of Lieut. Crowley with Colo. Hazens Regt6 Be pleased to direct him with his party and peice of Artillery to join his Company at West point.

We have not yet recd any official accounts from the southward, which is most amazing.7 I am with great Regard Dear Sir Yr most obt Sert.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Howe’s letters to GW of 22 and 23 Oct. have not been found, but their contents may have been similar to letters that Howe wrote Maj. Gen. William Heath from Pine’s Bridge, N.Y., on those dates. Howe’s letter to Heath on 22 Oct. in part reads: “I have had the enemy watched in their progress down the River they are now at Tarry Town It is not improbable that they may yet come this way I shall be as civil to them as possible if they do” (MHi: Heath Papers). Howe’s letter to Heath on 23 Oct. in part reads: “The enemies Fleet were yesterday as far on their way, to New York as Dobbes Ferry—No Fleet has as yet gone down the Sound from Rode Island—A Guard Ship has been several days reconnoitring very near the shore in the Neighbourhood of Major Tallmadge, and parties at several places have repeatedly strove to land but were opposed & retired.

“I exspect interresting accounts from Long Island & N. York momentarily” (MHi: Heath Papers).

2GW had conferred with Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge about two weeks earlier (see GW to Tallmadge, 9 Oct.).

3Efforts to disrupt enemy wood-cutting operations at Lloyd Neck, N.Y., apparently ended because of a British raid into New Jersey (see GW to Howe, 27 Oct., found at GW to Heath, same date, n.2).

5The unnamed person probably was Elijah Hunter, who apparently coordinated spy activities for Howe (see Howe to GW, 6 Nov., and n.2 to that document; see also Howe to GW, 14 [first letter] and 16 Dec.).

6Lt. Florence Crowley’s detachment from Capt. Henry Burbeck’s company of the 3d Continental Artillery Regiment had been with Col. Moses Hazen’s regiment since 3 March (see DNA: RG 93, Compiled Revolutionary War Military Service Records, 1775–1783, 3d Continental Artillery).

Henry Burbeck (1754–1848) served as a lieutenant in Col. Richard Gridley’s regiment of Massachusetts artillery before joining Col. Henry Knox’s artillery regiment in December 1775. Promoted to captain-lieutenant of the 3d Continental Artillery Regiment in January 1777 and to captain in September of that same year, Burbeck stayed in the service until the end of the war. He rejoined the U.S. Army as an artillery captain in 1786 and held the brevet rank of brigadier general in command of the artillery when honorably discharged on 15 June 1815.

Florence Crowley (d. 1798) served as a sergeant in Knox’s artillery regiment and became a lieutenant in the 3d Continental Artillery Regiment in February 1777. He remained in the army until June 1783.

7For an erroneous unofficial report of recent American and French success in South Carolina and Georgia, see GW to Horatio Gates, 22 Oct., n.6.

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