George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benedict Arnold, 12 August 1780

From Major General Benedict Arnold

Head Quarters Robinsons-House 12th Augt 1780

Dear Sir

I am this Instant favored with your Excellencys Letter of Yesterday, On the 10th I received Advice from Col. Sheldon that the Enemy were embarking Troops & heavy Artillery, at White Stone and New York,1 which I thought would justify me in detaining the New York Militia, untill I received an Answer to my Letter of the 8th especially as very few of the Massachussetts & New Hampshire Militia have come in since that Time, & I am informed that two thousand of them have been ordered to Rhode Island, and the Officers present are of Opinion that very few more will join this Garrison, unless those are ordered here, which are said to be gone to Rhode Island.2

By inclosed Returns your Excellency will see that the Massachussetts & New Hampshire Militia Amount to only 1918 Rank and File 485 of which are on Command, which leaves 1433 in Garrison,3 and Col. Hay has requested two hundred Men to cut Wood & make Brick for the Use of the Garrison Next Winter, He informs me that the Wood must be transported a considerable Distance by Water, that the Vessells employed are so badly found with cables; Anchors and Sails that they cannot ply after the Middle of October, I find on Enquiry, that the Wood is destroy’d in the Vicinity of the Garrison, and unless a Stock is laid in this fall they will be put to the greatest difficulty for Fuel next Winter—Col. Hay is of Opinion that with 200 Men he can furnish a sufficient Quantity for the Garrison next Winter—I wish your Excellencys Directions in the Matter.

The New York Levys under Col. Malcomb will march from this Post tomorrow for Haverstraw.

I have ordered the remainder of the Rum requested by Col. Stewart to be forwarded on imediately; 60 of Col. Baldwins Artificers will be draughted and sent imediately to the main Army, The Order which your Excellency mentions respecting Forrage shall be strictly attended to.

I think it requires very little Divination to foresee, that a Change in the Qr Masters Department in the Middle of a Campaign, will throw the whole into Confusion & be attended with more fatal Consequences, than any Abuses which are said to exist in the Department. If Materials are not furnished to compleat the Redouts and Works on the Point this fall, they will in a great Measure be defenceless this Winter, in a ruinous Condition by Spring, and a great Part of the Works which is done will be totally lost & to be done over again. With such Men and Materials as I have, I will do all that can be done.

Inclosed is a Letter from Genl Parsons to Genl Howe, respecting a Flag, which he requests for Capt. Benedict to go to N. York,4 I beg your Excellencys Instructions in this Matter, and on Flags in general.5 I have the Honor to be most respectfully, Your Excellencys most obt, and very humble Servt

B. Arnold


1Col. Elisha Sheldon’s letter to Arnold, written at North Castle, N.Y., on 10 Aug., reads in part: “When his Excellency visited my Quarters a few Days ago, he gave me some general Instructions by which I might Regulate my Command, He has not Confined me to any Post, but on the Contrary advised me by all means, frequently to change my station both for the sake of preventing surprise and procuring forage for my Horses—This Line of Conduct I have constantly pursued, and for that reason cannot call any Post a fixed one, but shall endeavour to make North Castle Centruel as much as possible[.] For the sake of Changing ground and to get Forage, I shall move a little to the left tomorrow, and propose Quartering for a Day or two in the Neighbourhood of Thomas Wrights Mills. Any Intelligence of moment which I may obtain I shall carefully transmit you—I have this Day been Informed that the Enemy are embarking again at Whitestone and New York, and that they are putting some heavy Artillery on board. My Authority is not sufficint to give full Credit to the Report” (DLC:GW). For a similar report of embarkation, see Benjamin Tallmadge to GW, 10 Aug., and n.6 to that document.

2For the diversion of the Massachusetts militia to Rhode Island and their temporary retention in that state, see William Heath to GW, 26 July and 4 Aug.; see also Heath to GW, 9–12 August.

3The enclosed “Return of the New York, Massachusetts & New Hampshire Militia in Garrison at West Point 12th August 1780,” signed by Arnold, is in DLC:GW. One table listed the strength of the militia units, and a second table gave the station and numbers of troops on detached duty and on command.

4The enclosed letter from Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons to Maj. Gen. Robert Howe, former commander at West Point, N.Y., dated 10 Aug. at Redding, Conn., reads in part: “The Bearer Capt. Benedict waits on you with Mr Stevens to request a Flag to go to the Lines or New York, to furnish some Necessaries to Mr Stevens’s Son and a Son of Mr Hoit of Danbury who were made Prisoners by the Enemy the 22nd of July.

“Mr Stevens & Mr Hoit are reputable Citizens and well affected to the Country; Capt. Benedict is a Gentleman of approv’d Character fully acquainted with military Duty and as brave as he is understanding; he has been long a Prisoner with the Enemy during which Time he had the Charge of the Supplies furnishd the Prisoners by the State, part of which still remain undispos’d of and the Accounts relative to that Matter unsettled, which renders it necessary for him to go into New York if he can obtain Liberty; these are the reasons why he is recommended to have the Conduct of the Flag, if it can be obtained.

“If you can indulge the Gentlemen with a Flag, I will pledge myself for their faithfulness in executing the Trust; and the favor will be gratefully acknowledged by them” (DLC:GW).

Noble Benedict (c.1735–1809) of Danbury, Conn., served as a captain in the 5th Connecticut Regiment in 1775 and in a Connecticut state regiment in 1776. He was taken prisoner at the capitulation of Fort Washington, N.Y., on 16 Nov. 1776. In 1779 and 1780 he represented Danbury in the legislature.

Numerous Hoyts were prominent in Danbury, Connecticut.

5GW replied to Arnold on 13 August.

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