George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 10 August 1780

From Major Benjamin Tallmadge

North Castle [N.Y.,] Augt [10]1 1780


I have this moment recd Dispatches from the C——s which I have the Honor to enclose to Your Excellency—The Person who crossed to L.I.2 did not go so soon as he was ordered, which has occasioned some delay.

By the Enclosed from C—— Junr your Excellency will percieve he has consented to give intelligence, but does not say how long3—Since I last saw your Excellency I have been endeavouring to open a Communication with N.Y. by crossing over to Cowneck, to the Westward of Oysterbay. If this can be effected, Dispatches may be bro’t from N.Y. to the White Plains in twelve hours, on Emergencies, as the whole land Course on L.I. would not exceed 22 miles, & the sound not more than ten miles over. I am the more induced to this Step as C—— Junr has a near Relation living nigh C— Neck, whom if I can also engage, I am sure of C—— Junr’s Services—A Change of Men thro’ whom letters may pass, will give him fresh Assurance. In a few days I shall have a Boat cross to the above mentioned Place, on the business of establishing a Correspondence, the Event of which shall be duly made known to Your Excellency.4

By C. Senior’s letter Your Excellency will percieve that Detachments of the Enemie’s Horse are scattered thro’ Suffolk County.5 I have other Accounts—which represent them in many Places much off their Guard, living on the honest Whig Inhabitants—If a small Body of Troops could be spared, I doubt not some advantage might be taken of their Situation. If Your Excellency would permit me to take about 50 or 60 Dismounted Dragoons into the neighbourhood of Stamford or Norwalk, I would endeavour to take Advantage of the Enemies Situation, & what would be a much more important Object, I should have a good Opportunity of opening a Correspondence on the Other Side without being suspected by friends or foes.

The intelligence from C. Junr of the Enem⟨y⟩ reimbarking, has been also mentioned to me from Capt. Hunter.6 I have the Honor to be Your Excellency’s most Obedt Servt

Benja. Tallmadge

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NjP: Benjamin Tallmadge Collection. The cover of the ALS is marked “Private”; another notation on the cover of the ALS reads: “pr Express.”

GW replied to Tallmadge on 11 Aug. from headquarters in Orangetown, N.Y.: “I have received your letter from North castle with its inclosures.

“I am very much pleased that the correspondence with C. is again opened. I have the greatest dependence in his good intentions, and I am persuaded when he pleases to exert himself he can give the most useful intelligence. The shorter the line of communication, so much the better.

“With respect to the proposed incursion, I do not think it adviseable under present circumstances. Although the enemy appear to be in small dispersed parties yet the risque in an attempt more than counterbalances the advantage which might be obtained” (LS, in James McHenry’s writing, NjMoHP; LS (photostat), NjP: Benjamin Tallmadge Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

1Tallmadge did not date the ALS; the copy is dated 10 August.

2Tallmadge is referring to Long Island, New York.

3The enclosed letter from “Samuel Culper, Jr.,” the alias used by spy Robert Townsend, addressed fictitiously to Richard Floyd of Brookhaven, N.Y., and dated at New York City on 6 Aug., reads: “I have recd yours by Mr [Austin] Roe and note the Contents. The articles you wanted could not be sent by him as the office was shut before he got down. They shall be sent by next conveyance” (DLC:GW). For the request that Townsend resume his intelligence activities, see GW to Tallmadge, 11 July, and n.1 to that document.

5The enclosed letter from “Samuel Culper,” the alias for spy Abraham Woodhull, to “John Bolton,” Tallmadge’s alias, dated at Setauket, N.Y., on 6 Aug. and partially written in code, reads: “Your Several date of the 23 & 26 of 337. [July] came to hand on the i [4] Inst. And observe the contents Being Still in a feble State. (But mending). Was oblidged again to have recourse unto 724 [Austin Roe] And dispached him the Same evening With Such directions as thought proper And this instant returned with the Inclosed from C. Junr—I hope it contains all the Needfull 724 hath no verbal Accounts Worthy of Notice—Also you have inclosed the State of the Garrison at Loy⟨d⟩ Neck. but it is not Satisfactory to me. but it is the best that could be Procur’d this tim⟨e⟩ Coll [John Graves] Simcoe with his Regt of Rangers and thre⟨e⟩ Companies of Queens County Militia Fo⟨ot⟩ and about thirty of Coll [Gabriel] Ludloes Regt have bene for Sometime Past in the County the Main body at Southhampton Some at the River head Some at South Mills about 30 at Coram What they have come down here for is unknown—I purpose to go to 727 [New York] for the benefit of our 115 [correspond] and have 130 [dispatch] ready for you em [16]. Also have the Promis of the exact S[t]ate of L. Neck Which Shall then Transmit. Am in great hast” (DLC:GW, misdated 7 Aug.). The plan of the fort at Lloyd Neck, N.Y., with the strength of the garrison, given as “about 800,” is also in DLC:GW (filed with Woodhull’s letter). For the code book used in Woodhull’s letter, see Tallmadge to GW, 25 July 1779.

6Tallmadge is referring to the large British corps that had disembarked at Flushing, N.Y., after threatening an attack on Newport (see GW’s second letter to Rochambeau, 27 July, n.3). The letter from Townsend with this information has not been identified. No major embarkation of British troops was under way, but transports were moving between Flushing and New York City (see the entry for 10 Aug. in Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs [1971] description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs from 26 August 1778 to 12 November 1783 of William Smith. . .. New York, 1971. description ends , 323; see also Nathaniel Shaw to GW, 13 Aug., n.1). Preparations for embarking a smaller corps intended for operations in the Chesapeake Bay area were being made during this period, but the force did not depart the New York City area until 17 Oct. (see Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 210, 220, and Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 241).

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