George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 23 November 1779

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Baskinridge [N.J.] Nov. 23d 1779


Major Burnet and Col. Dehart has just returnd from the Equacanock [Pequannock] and say that there is (as to wood Water & Sandy soil) a most excellent position, within about four Miles of Equacanock [Forks of Pequannock] and five of the great falls, it is distant 15 Miles from Newark ferry, and twenty from Elizabeth town.1 The left will be coverd by the Pasaic: It lies in a plentiful Country of forage and a great many Houses in the Neighbourhood for the Officers. This position will increase our transportation a little from Trenton; other wise I think it the most agreeable to your Excellencys intentions of any yet hit on. The Gentlemen say there is wood and water in abundance to hut all the Army together.

There is no position in this quarter where the Army can be hutted together, except below the Mountain at Van Muhliners, which I have been examining to day,2 and find there is wood & water plenty to hut the Army together; but I think the ground will be a little spungey and cold like the Virgina Camp last Winter.3

The position at Stony Hill is in front of Dead River and therefore exceptionable,4 but there is a great plenty of wood and ground for four or five brigades together, and not more, the others may be posted within a few Miles. I dont like any of these positions upon a Military view, they lying under the command of higher ground and on the North side of the [Watchung] Mountains. Upon the whole Equacanock position pleases me much the best, except the additional transportation, but the contiguity of the position to West point,5 the great plenty of Wood and water, and its being sandy soil fully compensates for the disadvantage of transportation.

I shall take the liberty to halt the Troops from this promising report until I hear from your Excellency as they should not come on farther than Mr Lotts towards Morris as they will march out of their way, should the Aquackanock position be taken.6

I shall set out in the morning to view the ground, and will wait your Excellencys orders at Equacanock.7 But if I find it as good as it is represented I am perswaded it will please your Excellency as West point is a principal object.8 I am with great respe[c]t Your Excellencys Most Obedient humble Ser.

Nath. Greene

Col. Lawrence has arrivd from South Carolina and is gone to Morris.9

ADfS, DNA:PCC, item 173.

1The Pequannock area that Greene’s aide-de-camp Ichabod Burnet and Lt. Col. William De Hart examined for a suitable winter encampment was about five miles northwest of modern Totowa, N.J., in the vicinity of the Pequannock River. That stream flowed for twenty-seven miles and formed the boundary between Morris and Bergen counties before emptying into the Passaic River. Located in modern Paterson, N.J., the Great Falls of the Passaic River drops fifty feet a little more than five miles below the Little Falls of the same river.

2Greene apparently is referring to an area north of the Second Watchung Mountain and south of Basking Ridge.

3Greene is referring to the encampment at Middlebrook, New Jersey.

4The Dead River, about nine miles in total length, flows in an easterly direction along the northern base of Stony Hill in Somerset County, N.J., before emptying into the Passaic River.

5The position near the Pequannock River was a little under forty miles from West Point.

6For this order to halt the troops marching southward, see GW’s second letter to Greene of this date, n.4.

7Greene’s letter to Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, written “at the Great No[t]ch of the Mountains” about ten miles east of Morristown on 25 Nov., elaborates on his search for a winter encampment. That letter in part reads: “I came to this place last Night to examin a position for hutting the Army; which I find in many respects much to my liking. I should be glad to see you here in the morning to ride over it with me, as it is of importance to determin speedy and to fix right in the first instance.

“I have been riding for five or six days past in search of a position, but with out success. There is a tolerable position about Quibbletown Gap; but it is within surprising distance of Statten Island. And the greatest objection I have to this position, is its contiguity to Newark, which I know will not be altogether agreeable to the General but as it is in many respects favorable for our purposes we must put up with this exception, especially as a position is hard to be found where the wood, water and the ground are suitable” (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 5:116–17; see also Greene to James Abeel, 25 Nov., in 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 5:115–16).

8GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman replied to Greene from West Point on 25 Nov.: “Just as yours of the 23d came to hand His Excellency was getting on Horseback to meet an appointment of Business. He commands me to inform you that should the Acquaquenac [Pequannock] position answer the description given by Colo. Dehaart and Major Burnet you are at liberty to fix upon it. The increase of transportation seems the greatest objection—as his Excellency thinks we shall not probably have such an accumulation of Stores between Trenton and the encampment as will tempt the enemy to penetrate the uncovered Country upon our Right. The Officers commanding the different divisions have directions to follow your orders for their Route between Pompton and Morris Town. If the Acquaquenac position is taken, will it not be well to post an officer where the Road turns off near Mr Lotts to direct the march from thence to the new encampment” (PPAmP: Nathanael Greene Papers). GW subsequently changed his mind and chose a location southwest of Morristown for the army’s winter encampment (see Greene to GW, 27 Nov., and GW to Greene, 30 Nov.).

9For the return of Lt. Col. John Laurens, GW’s former aide-de-camp, from service in the southern department, see GW to Henry Laurens, 5 Nov., and n.8 to that document.

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