George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 1 November 1779

From Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Bedford [N.Y.] Novr 1st 1779


I have just recd the enclosed Dispatches from the C——r’s.1 I was obliged to touch the Counterpart on the enclosed Letter written with the Stain2 to discover whether it was the right Sheet or not as it was in a Quire.

With Respect to the Robbery lately commited at Setauket, as related by C——Senior, I have additional Accounts of the same from others. In addition to the Crime of plundering the distressed Inhabitants of Long Island, t⟨he⟩ Perpetrators of such Villany never bring their Goods before any Court for tryal & Condemnation, but proceed to vend them at option. This Species of privateering (for it goes by this name) is attended with such numberless bad Consequences, that to a Gentleman of your Excellency’s feelings, I am confident I need not state them. If being so plundered by the Enemy that the Inhabitants have hardly a Subsistance left, be not sufficient (for the Marauders from our Shore make no Distinction between Whig & Tory further than wher⟨e⟩ Interest may point out) it surely cannot be equitable to leave it in the power of Individuals to punish at pleasure, & enrich themselves by the plunder they take—Perhaps your Excellency may have seen the Proclamation lately issued by Governor Clinton prohibiting such practices.3

I would further observe that the boat which crosses for dispatches from C——has been chased quite across the Sound by those Plunderers, perhaps for the Sake of being the more secret in their Villany, while our Crew has supposed them to be the Enemy. Indeed if some stop cannot be put to such nefarious practices, C——will not risque, nor 725. [Caleb Brewster] go over fo⟨r⟩ Dispatches. I should be happy to have permissio⟨n⟩ to take the Men who have been concerned in this Robbery, & have them delivered over to the Authority appointed by Governor Clinton (as mention’d in his proclamation) to take notice of such Offenders, or otherways punish them. What would give a peculiar Sanction to such a proceeding is that some of the Perpetrators of this Villany belonged to Long Island, & of Course to the State of N. York.

One of the Gentleman who was plundered was Col. Floyd, who not long since was bro’t over a Prisoner, & is now on Parole. From a long & intimate acquaintance with this Gentleman I believe him to be of more service to the Whig Interest in Setauket, than every other man in it, tho’ from his family Connexion I believe he has been in favour of Royal Government.4 The other Gentleman, Mr Seaton, is from England, & purchased a plantation at Setauket before the War began. This Family is of the first fashion of any on L. Island. The whole of their furniture,Jewels, Cloaths, Money, Bonds, & papers⟩ of all kinds were bro’t off.5 I hope some Steps may be taken to prevent such Conduct in future.6 I have the Honour to be with much Esteem your Excellency’s most obedt Servt

Benja. Tallmadge

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, CtLHi.

1A copy of the letter from Samuel Culper, Jr., to John Bolton, dated 29 Oct., is printed as an enclosure to this letter. The other enclosures were letters from Samuel Culper, or Samuel Culper, Sr., to Tallmadge, dated 26 and 29 October. Both Samuel Culper and Samuel Culper, Sr., were aliases for Abraham Woodhull.

The letter from Culper written on 26 Oct. and headed “No. 25” reads: “Your No. 18 with the Inclosed came to hand, And Was Imediately forward[e]d to 723 [Samuel Culper, Jr., an alias for Robert Townsend], And the Inclosed blanks are his return. Wh[i]ch hope may be Satisfactory at this conjuncture. I have again heard Count D’Estang with his Whole Fleet are in Delaware Bay. This Glorious Assistance togather with the dejection of our Enemies, bids fair for our delivery. The Pleasing hope of Which hath almost transported all our freinds—But here much may be done towarord our destruction within the Space of a Week, And to the great advantage of the Enemy, To Prevent Which requires your Imediate Opperations. From the effect of that Infernal Tryons expedition into this County last year and Branding a number of Cattle that he left behind, last Week a demand for 198 was made not one Quarter of that number Was ever marke⟨d⟩ and about 30 head was drove up but are not Satisfied, and Insist upon the Whole number, And are now at Smith Town with Carts from Loyds Neck and a Number of Wagons are hourly expected with a number of Troops at that Place for hay They have nearly Collected all the forage in Queens County and carreing it to Brooklin in one Word every Preparation is a makeing for their defence—I hope you will not forget to grant us assistanc[e] as soon as Possible Your Letters to Mr C——r Jun’r Was Instan[t]ly forward forgot to mention it in my last then being in Such hast[e] as I had not time to Write before Dark and, 725 [Caleb Brewster] I expectd Was a Waiting. I received 20 Genes from 725 Which I Lent to 723 I have nothing more to Say—And may God grant us Success” (DLC:GW).

The letter from Culper, Sr., written on 29 Oct., headed “No. 26,” and addressed “727” (code for New York), reads: “Your No. 19 with the Inclosed came to hand, On the 26th And have noted the contents And Shall follow your directions as far as in me lay. And to compleat the Same have desired an Intervew with Culper Jur Which if by the movement of your army it Should become necessary that the present rout of dispaches. Should be Shortend must Principally depend on his acquaintance. if any Secrets are with you, And may tend to the comon good by comunicateing them to us. And enable us to better Judge and assist your measures dont fail to do it. I Sincerely declare to you by all that is Valuable and Sacred that no person but him and me Shall know it—depend nothing Shall be wanting on my Part to forward intelligence to you as frequent as Posseble. And forget not to urge 725 [Caleb Brewster] to his duty Which I must Say he hath lately neglected Mr [Thomas Tredwell] Jackson Perfectly knows it. And he frequenly objects to comeing So often. I most Impatiently Wait the arival of the Count DeEstang, and your Opperations—And as the Season is So far advanced, I greatly fear nothing Will be done, but am not altogather without hopes—Since my last the Sum of about £400 Was Subscribed in this Town to be presented to General Clinton. in order to obtain his favour and evade the Threating Storme. but before it could be Possibly forwared, A general demand for all our Oxen or Cattle of equail Value was Sent. None escaped except Some of our Tory Gentry, And We have concluded Since to keep our money and let them take and be damed it is truly cutting to See the most notorious escape this demand, And the Virtious distressed. I conceive in my own mind, that their vews in takeing the Oxen and breaking up teems in general is through fear they may fall into your hands and be of Service to your Army—The Enemy Still continue to collect hay to the Westward with out estimateing it or giveing recepts as heretofore and carring it to Brooklin Ferry Some to Loyds Neck, Unless Prevented they will Soon be at this Place Night before last a most horrid Robery Was commited on the Houses of Coll Benjn Floyds & Mr Setons by three Whall Boats from your Shore Commanded by Joseph Hulce. & Fade Danolson and one other Master of Boat Name unknown to me. 725 can Well informe you of their Names—from the best Judgment I can forme they tooke to the Value in Money Household goods & Bonds and Notes of Three Thousand Pounds, they left nothing in the Houses that was Portable they even took their Clocks and all their Looking Glases, and all Seaton’s Gold Cloths Perhaps none before them in Amarica—I canot Put up with Such a Wanton Wast of Property, I know they are enemys to our Cause but yet their Property Should not go amongst Such Villans—I beg you Would exert yourself and bring them to Justice” (DLC:GW). For the codes employed in this letter, see Tallmadge to GW, 25 July, and n.2 to that document.

2Tallmadge is referring to invisible ink and components (see Tallmadge to GW, 21 April, and GW to Tallmadge, 25 July; see also the second letter from John Jay to GW, 19 Nov. 1778, and n.1 to that document).

3New York governor George Clinton sent a notice to the state assembly on 8 Sept. that drew attention to a congressional resolution urging measures “to prevent the plundering of the Inhabitants of Long-Island, and other places in Possession of the Enemy” (N.Y. Assembly Proc., 9 Aug.–25 Oct. 1779 description begins The Votes and Proceedings of the Assembly of the State of New-York; At their Third Session, Begun and holden in the Assembly-Chamber, at Kingston, In Ulster County, On Monday, the ninth Day of August, 1779. Fishkill, N.Y., 1779. description ends , 21). For the full congressional resolution, adopted on 22 June, see JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:758–59. The New York legislature then adopted a resolution on 10 Sept.: “That his Excellency the Governor be requested forthwith to issue his Proclamation, strictly forbidding all Persons, Subjects of this State, to plunder the Inhabitants of Long-Island, or any other Place in the Power or Possession of the Enemy, in this or any other of the United States; and thereby declaring, that if any of them shall so offend against the Law of Nations and the Rights of War, they shall be deemed and treated as Pirates and Free-Booters; and that his Excellency be also requested to write to the Executive Powers of the States of Connecticut and New-Jersey, earnestly requesting them respectively, to issue a similar Proclamation” (N.Y. Assembly Proc., 9 Aug.–25 Oct. 1779 description begins The Votes and Proceedings of the Assembly of the State of New-York; At their Third Session, Begun and holden in the Assembly-Chamber, at Kingston, In Ulster County, On Monday, the ninth Day of August, 1779. Fishkill, N.Y., 1779. description ends , 23; see also N.Y. Senate Proc., 24 Aug.–25 Oct. 1779 description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the State of New-York; At their Third Session, Held at Kingston, In Ulster County. Commencing, August 24, 1779. Fishkill, N.Y., 1779. description ends , 15–17). For the letter that Clinton wrote the governors of Connecticut and New Jersey on 4 Oct., see Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers, description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends 5:306–7.

4Benjamin Floyd resided at Brookhaven, N.Y., and helped organize local Loyalists in 1775. Seized from his Long Island home in 1778, he was the target of a prisoner exchange proposal in late 1780 (see James Hamman to George Clinton, 13 Dec. 1780, in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers, description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends 6:494–95). Floyd’s home was plundered in 1779, and an item printed in The Daily Advertiser: Political, Historical, and Commercial (New York) for 3 May 1786 reported the recent destruction from fire of that “very elegant dwelling-house.” Benjamin Floyd should not be confused with his brother, Richard, also a Loyalist with property in Brookhaven (see Tiedemann and Fingerhut, Other New York, description begins Joseph S. Tiedemann and Eugene R. Fingerhut, eds. The Other New York: The American Revolution beyond New York City, 1763–1787. Albany, 2005. description ends 64–66, 72–73).

5The Royal Gazette (New York) for 3 Nov. reported that “a party of about 20 rebels in three whale boats, arrived near the house of Col. Benjamin Floyd, they attacked the house and robbed him of £600 and the most valuable part of his ho[u]sehold goods; two of the party had their faces blacked; and the same night the house of Mr. Andrew Seton was robbed (by the same party) of the most valuable part of his effects; and on the proceeding evening the house of Captain Solomon Davis, at the Old-Man’s, was attacked, they fired several shot through the house, but Captain Davis stood ready to receive the first that should dare to enter, either at the door or windows; he told them that he was accustomed to having balls fly around him, and some of the inhabitants being alarmed, the rebels went off without doing any more damage in that quarter.

“Besides the above, several other robberies have been committed on the South Side.”

Andrew Seton (d. 1794) came from England to Brookhaven in 1773 and later established a residence in Brooklyn. Seton worked as a merchant and sided with the Loyalists. He went bankrupt after the war and moved to Fernandina, Fla., where he died. For further details, see Robert Seton, An Old Family, or, The Setons of Scotland and America (New York, 1899), 312–13.

6GW replied to Tallmadge on 2 November.

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