George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Elias Dayton, 28 May 1780

From Colonel Elias Dayton

Elizabeth Town [N.J.] May 28th 1780


From New York I understand they are in daily expectation of a French fleet upon the coast—They are busily employ’d in building a large fort at Cuyler’s hook1—the naval force very small not more than one frigate and three or four privateers in the harbour. The Galatea on tuesday last brought into the harbour, the privateer ship Harrison and sailed again the day before yesterday on a cruise.2 Four or five days since, a packet from England with the April mail was driven on shore upon the south side of Long-Island; the Captain reached the Island with & saved the mail, but the vessel was totally lost & stripped by our privateers of ev’ry thing they thougt proper to take.3

I understand that Genl Maxwell has determined to continue me in the command at this town and, intends to order my Regt to join the Brigade at two miles distance, doing the duty of the post by daily detachments. Should your excellency approve of my continuing at this place, I shall do it with pleasure, but must beg the favor of being indulged with my own Regt as I conceive that the duties of the post can be done with greater regularity & safety by them, than by the detachments as proposed.4 I am your Excelencys most Obedient and very Humble Servnt

Elias Dayton


1For the fortifications at Corlear’s Hook, N.Y., and the strengthening of New York City’s defenses, see GW to James Duane, 13 May, and n.9.

2The Royal Gazette (New York) for 27 May (Saturday) reported the capture of the New Hampshire privateer Harrison by the 20-gun Galatea: “Last Monday morning the Galatea and Delight fell in with three rebel ships 15 leagues S.W. from Neversink [N.J.], from their manreuvres they shewed a disposition for action, but on the approach of his Majesty’s ships, they made a signal and separated. The Galatea chased one in the S.E. and at two o’clock took her, she proves to be the Harrison of 20 guns, and 100 men from Newberry, a fine new ship and her first cruize.”

3Dayton is referring to the packet ship Carteret, Capt. Charles Newman, that had departed from Falmouth, England, “with the mail for New York” (London Chronicle, 15–18 April 1780). New York printer Hugh Gaine wrote in his journal entry for 24 May: “Last Night the Packet Carteret was drove ashore on the South Side of Long Island by 3 Rebel Privateers but the Captain saved the Mail and arrived in Town with same this Evening” (Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:88). The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 13 June printed under the heading “PROVIDENCE, May 27” an account with more details: “We learn that four privateers, three of them belonging to New-London, on Wednesday last [24 May] drove a copper-bottomed ship ashore on Long-Island Beach, 6 miles from Sandy-Hook; she mounted 22 nine-pounders, and by some papers found on board proves to be the London packet, from Falmouth, which place she left the 15th of April. Her crew, 55 in number, escaped with the mail.” See also The Connecticut Gazette; and the Universal Intelligencer (New London), 26 May.

4For GW’s intention that Dayton and his regiment remain at Elizabeth, N.J., see his letters to William Maxwell, this date, and to Dayton, 31 May.

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