George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Moses Hazen, 23 January 1780

From Colonel Moses Hazen

Cranes Mills [N.J.] 23d Jany 1780

Dear General

On receipt of your Excellencys letter of the 21st Instant1 I immediately Set about obtaining the Intelligance there in Directed; I have been to woodbridge and Employ’d one asher Randalph2—who was to go on the Island the last evening; morris Hatfield of Elizabeth Town, I Sent over with the officer of the Flag yesterday, who Conducted mr Boswo[r]th; family and Effects to the Island by Governor Livingstons Pass—Hatfield Saith that he Saw a man on the Island who he could rely on; and who Told him; That Staten Island has not been reinforced—the same Troops Continue who remain much in the Same Position as they did before we went on the Island—That a Subalterns guard only is at and about Dungen’s mills;3 which Some times advance and at others retire a little—That the Sound from New York to Long Island and the Bay from york to Staten Island is open and Clear—That the Ice from york Island to Powler’s Hook4 is Exceeding Strong Sufficent to bear any weight whatever—and that the enemy are actually Transporting Cannon on the Ice from New York to Powlers Hook—That one Regiment at New York is under marching orders either for Powlers Hook; or Staten Island, he thinks the former—That Cannon was also Drawing to a heighth Some where on York Island where It was Said a fortification was to be errected; and that the enemy would break ground for that purpose in a Day or Two—That the enemy in New York ware much alarmed Expecting General washington’s Army which Lay in the Jerseys would march a Cross the Ice from Powlers Hook to York, as also that part of the army on North River to march down and Cross the Harlem River and form a Junction on the Island5 That Sr H: Clinton and Lord Cornwallis ware Safe arrived at Georgia with the Fleet and Transports, with the loss of a few Horses only6—That the People in New york ware much Distress’d for want of wood—This is the Substance of what morris Hatfield Saith which I Took down from his own mouth; he is a man that is well recommended to me which is all I can Say for or against his Inform⟨ation⟩ he returned again Last evening to the Island; and will not be back untill the Night following7—at woo[d]bridg I was Told that the mili⟨tia⟩ Continued to guard the Sound and Patroll on Staten Island.

Your Excellencys favourable opinion of my abilities in leaving me to act as I may think best upon the Plan or a more extensive one than that which I proposed; with so Respecticable a body of men as I at present Command—will make me very assiduous and attentive in obtaining the best Information of the enemys Position in order if Possible to accomplish Something that may merit your Excellencys approbation—The marching at the Head of So many brave men to attack an enemies Post; is an Honr that every military man of any Rank must Glory in—I wish I could flatter my Self with a Probability of Surprising the enemy in any of their post on Staten Island—from Deckers point8 to the watering Place is Near Nine miles—go which road you will It is a Thick Settled Country; Intersected with many Cross roads—The Inhabitant bound either by Inclination or Compulsion to give Information to our Enemies of any; and all Such movements by us—The other end of the Island is at present Covered with militia guards and Patrolls Your Excellency will Please to remember I observed that the enemy might be Drove into their works, or perhaps Some of them made prisoners—a quantity of Hay and grain brought off—That I am Persuaded may be done at ⟨only⟩ very little more in the Present alert Situation of the enemy I am afraid would be Imprudent to attemp. For attacking the enemy in their works without a Probability of Affecting a Surprise might be attended with an expence that even if Successfull would exceed the value of the Purchase. I Shall Keep a watchfull eye and acquaint your Excellency with every thing I learn from the Situation and Position of the Enemy. The Time which your Excellency Proposed may be as Soon as I Shall be able to Satisfy my Self with respect to the Information I am Indeavouring to Collect; I wish it may be Such as would Justify a belief of the enemies being a little of[f] their guard; I am Dear General Your Excellencys most obedt and most Devoted Humle Servant

Moses Hazen

P:S: I have not nor Shall I Communicate any of these matters to any person what ever.



1Hazen is referring to GW’s first letter to him of that date.

2Asher FitzRandolph (1755–1817) of Woodbridge, N.J., later became an officer in the Middlesex County militia, where he rose to the rank of captain. FitzRandolph continued to act as a spy for GW until the close of the war (see FitzRandolph to GW, 15 April 1781, and the enclosed letter of 14 April 1781 from “W.D.” to FitzRandolph; and John Mercereau to GW, 11 Sept. 1780, both in DLC:GW; see also Fitzpatrick, Washington’s Accounts, description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. George Washington’s Accounts of Expenses while Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army 1775–1783, Reproduced in Facsimile. … Boston and New York, 1917. description ends 57, 69, and 132.

3The descendants of former colonial New York governor Thomas Dongan (1634–1715) operated several mills on Staten Island. Hazen most likely is referring to their mill in the north part of the island near Decker’s Ferry.

4Hazen is referring to Paulus Hook, New Jersey.

5British Maj. Gen. James Pattison, commander of the British artillery corps at New York and commandant of the city, reported receiving intelligence at this time that GW was “meditating a great Stroke upon New York, with his whole Force, by different Attacks” (Pattison to Henry Clinton, 21 Feb. 1780, in Pattison, “Letters,” description begins “Official Letters of Major General James Pattison.” Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1875, 8 (1876): 1–430. description ends 146–51).

6For the arrival of Gen. Henry Clinton and Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis in Georgia with a British expeditionary army, see Benjamin Lincoln to GW, 11–12 Feb., n.4.

7GW did not trust Morris Hatfield’s intelligence and suspected him of being a double spy (see, in addition to GW’s reply to Hazen of 24 Jan., GW to William Irvine, 1 Jan., and GW’s first letter to Irvine of 9 Jan.).

8Hazen probably is referring to Lambert’s Point (later known as Collyer’s or Bowman’s Point), the point of land directly opposite Elizabethtown Point (see Map 4).

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