George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 20 July 1780

To Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

Head Quarters Colo. Deys [N.J.] 20th July 1780

Dear Sir

You will proceed with the 1st and 2d Pennsylvania Brigades and Colo. Moylans Regt of Dragoons upon the execution of the Business planned in yours of yesterday.1 I do not at present think of any necessary alterations in plan submitted to me, except that of detaching a few Horse this Afternoon to patrol all night, and see that the Enemy do not, in the course of the Night, throw over any troops to form an ambuscade. They need not go so low down, or in such numbers, as to create any alarm. They may inquire as they go, for Deserters, after whom they may say they are in pursuit. The enemy have so many emissaries among us that scarce a move or an order2 passes unnoticed. You are so well acquainted with the critical situation of the Ground, that it is needless in me to recommend the extreme of caution.3 I most heartily wish you success being with real Esteem Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

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

On this date, Wayne wrote GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton from Totowa, N.J.: “Will you be so very obliging as to ask his Excellency to give me written orders for executing the business mentioned in the inclosed.

“The troops will move from this ground at 3 o’clock—I am at present very busy in preparing instructions for the respective officers—but should his Excellency have anything particular to mention or recommend—I will wait on him if necessary” (NN: Bancroft Collection).

1On 19 July, Wayne wrote GW: “⟨The first and second Penna. Brigades with four field pieces and Col. Moyland’s Horse to take up their line of march … tomorrow afternoon for the purpose of destroying the blockhouse near Bulls Ferry and securing the cows, horses … in Bergen Neck and between the Hackensack and North Rivers from Newbridge and Liberty Pole southward. Desposition: A captain and twenty horse to proceed for Closter Landing so as to be in possession of the lookout opposite Philips by the dawn of day, calling on Capt. [Thomas] Blanch to join him with his company … in order to watch the motions of the enemy on Voluntine’s Hill, and should he discover any attempt to land troops on this side of the river, he will immediately raise a large smoke and continue it, despatching at the same time two trusty horsemen with the particulars towards Bulls Ferry below Fort Lee, giving every opposition to the enemy, whilst attempting to pass at the defile which the militia under Capt. Blanch will be employed in. A field officer with one hundred men and one piece of artillery to remain in possession of New Bridge—two regiments to advance with a few horse—one to the beach opposite Kings Bridge, the other to Fort Lee in order to defend those landing and to make the proper signals in case of any attempt from Fort Washington which, for my knowledge of the ground, is an event more to be wished than dreaded. These posts all to be occupied by the dawn of day … and all persons prevented passing or repassing. The remainder of the troops will move in two columns to Bulls Ferry—one on the summit of the mountain—the other with the artillery and horses along the open road. Whilst this is performing, unless circumstances render it improper, the remainder of the horse will⟩ push with rapidity towards bergen town & when they reach as low as is necessary, or prudent, begin & Drive off every Speces of Cattle & horses moving back with Velocity—whilst an other party are advanced to cover them.

“this will effectually guard against any serious Consequences—and afford an Oppertunity of Effecting our purpose—or withdrawing Occationally.

“shou’d this meet your Excellency’s Approbation—or shou’d y[ou] think it expedient to alter or amend it, I will with some Degree of Confidence take charge of the affair—these are the out lines—the minutia will be attended to on the March” (ADfS [incomplete facsimile], Kenneth Rendell catalog 118, item no. 47; the portion in angle brackets is taken from the typescript in the catalog).

2On the draft, which was penned by GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman, the previous three words are in GW’s writing.

3GW and Wayne were planning an attack on the troublesome blockhouse erected at Bull’s Ferry, N.J., by a party of Loyalist associators. For more on the associators and the situation, garrison, and defenses of the blockhouse, see Thomas Lloyd Moore to GW, 22 May, and n.3; see also William Maxwell to GW, 28 May, and n.8. Wayne and his troops carried out the attack on 21 July. After delivering heavy musket fire against the fort, a point-blank bombardment with field pieces, and an infantry assault that all failed to take the post or force the surrender of the garrison, he ordered a retreat. For his preliminary report on the operation, see Wayne to GW, 21 July. For the full report, see Wayne to GW, 22 July; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 26 July.

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