George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Mercereau, 13 April 1780

To John Mercereau

Head Quarters Morris Town 13th Apl 1780


I have for some time expected to hear from you in consequence of the plan settled with you when you were last at Head Quarters1—I at present want to be informed with certainty whether the Fleet which fell down to the Hook on the 5th instant, and which was supposed to be bound to the southward, went immediately to sea, or whether it yet remains there—If you have not already obtained this information, you may perhaps satisfy yourself by looking out from the Heights between Brunswic and Woodbridge,2 and if you cannot from such a view gain a competent knowledge, I would wish you to send a person purposely to the Island—It is said that another embarkation is preparing—and I would therefore wish you upon that account to send over a person to learn whether any and what kind of Vessels are watering3—You will be pleased to transmit me what intelligence you can by return of the Bearer, and what further you may obtain in consequence of the foregoing directions, by a Messenger sent for the purpose—It is very material that I should be informed as speedily as possible.4 I am &.

Be pleased to contrive the enclosed to Capt. Lyell in Amboy.5

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

1GW likely saw Mercereau a few days earlier (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 10 April, and n.2 to that document).

2GW probably is alluding to the part of Woodbridge, N.J., now known as Fords. At an elevation of 138 feet, it is the highest point between New Brunswick and Woodbridge with a view toward Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook.

3For this British fleet, which proved to be a reinforcement for the forces operating against Charleston, S.C., see Elias Dayton to GW, 6 April, and n.1 to that document.

4Mercereau replied to GW from Piscataway, N.J., on Friday, 14 April: “the fleat Left Sandy hook fryday Last by the Best accounts about thirty Sail on Saterday last nothing But the Guard Ship at the hook we have accounts of another embarkation the horse which is att Richmond that Simko Commanded is to go we are told But tomorrow Night I Shall indeavour to get Better information if I Can get Over if Not I Shall persue till I Do. See one person whom I have Not Seen yet to fix the Matter in a proper Channel as Soon as that is Done I Shall Come to head Quarters” (ALS, DLC:GW, misdated 1778; see also Mercereau to GW, 23 April).

New York City printer Hugh Gaine’s journal entries for 10 and 15 April contain reports of vessels “below,” which subsequent intelligence confirmed to be no more than one or two British ships on normal duty (Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:84–85).

5The enclosure has not been identified.

Thomas Lyell, who lived in Perth Amboy, N.J., worked as a sea captain engaged in overseas commerce (see Whitehead, Perth Amboy description begins William A. Whitehead. Contributions to the Early History of Perth Amboy and Adjoining Country, with Sketches of Men and Events in New Jersey During the Provincial Era. New York, 1856. description ends , 85).

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