George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Elias Dayton, 27 March 1780

To Colonel Elias Dayton

Hd Qrs Morris-town 27 Ma[rch] 1780.

Dr Sir,

If through the Channel you mentioned to me the other day, or any other, you could speedily ascertain the following points you would render an essential service to the Public & to me a favr.

Whether Transports under Convoy of one or more Men of War hath lately arrived at New York from Georgia, or So. Carolina?

Whether any Troops are under orders for Imbarkation? or whether from report, or appearances, things point that way?

In a word, from a full & comparative view of all circumstances, whether the preparations said to be making at New York, & on Staten Island, indicate a movement in this quarter or look more like a reinforcement to the Southern Army?

Whether the Troops appear to be Assembling to any point on York Island or Staten Island—or towards the hither end of long Island? In short whether any change has taken place from their Winter Cantonment that looks like a general movement.

Whether Horses and Waggons are getting in readiness? Whether Transports are fitting for Horses? &ca. If not, nor nothing indicates an embarkation, and appearances nevertheless bespeak some enterprize whither does it point? what is the object or the conjectural object of the en[e]my?1

ADf, NjMoHP.

1The queries in this letter relate to matters considered during a council of war on this date. Dayton provided much of the requested intelligence when he wrote GW on 6 April.

Dayton had provided espionage services since summer 1777 (see his two letters to GW, 10 July 1777 [letter 1, letter 2]). For a broad overview of Dayton’s subsequent espionage activities, see Bakeless, Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes description begins John Bakeless. Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes. Philadelphia, 1959. description ends , 177–81. Dayton’s spy network included his eldest son, Jonathan, an officer in the Continental army, and Abraham Bancker, both Princeton graduates (see McLachlan, Princetonians description begins James McLachlan et al., eds. Princetonians, 1748–1794: A Biographical Dictionary. 5 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1976–91. description ends , 3:31–32, 137–39; see also Bancker to GW, 10 Sept. 1789, in Papers, Presidential Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 19 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987–. description ends 4:8–10).

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