George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Benedict Arnold, 2 September 1780

To Major General Benedict Arnold

Head Quarters Liberty Pole Bergen County
2nd Sep. 1780

Dear Sir

Having received intelligence, that the Enemy are in preparation for some important movement,1 I thought it adviseable that you should be apprised of it—Because it is uncertain (if the information should prove true) whether their object will be an attack on the Main Army or an attempt on the Posts in the Highlands.2 I wish you therefore to put the latter in the most defensible state, which is possible.

Orders are already given for the two State Regiments of Connecticut to form a junction with Colonel Sheldon3—And in case the Enemy should make demonstrations of a serious attack of the Fortifications on the North River, You will immediately call this force to your releif, collect all Your detachments, and withdraw the Garrisons from the Posts at Kings Ferry—At the same time removing all the stores from thence—For this, and other purposes, you will be pleased, without delay, to order sixty of the largest flat4 Boats to that Place, with five Men each, to be ready to act as circumstances may require. I am Dear Sir Your Most Obedient & Very Hble Servant

Go: Washington

P.S. The hands for the beforementioned Boats are to be good Watermen—they are not to be out of call from the Boats—Be under the care of a good Officer & one who understands the management of them—and to be ready to move at a moments warning as they may be suddenly called upon.5

G. W—n

LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW wrote and signed the postscript on the LS.

1Humphreys initially wrote “a movement” on the LS, but GW struck out “a” and penned “some important” above the line.

2GW wrote Maj. William Crane from headquarters in Bergen County on this date: “I have recd intelligence which seems to indicate a move of the enemy, but upon what quarter I cannot certainly determine. You will however keep a very vigilant look out upon the sound from Newark to Elizabeth Town; and if you hear of any preparations made to pass, or perceive any move in considerable force, you will instantly take the speediest means to alarm the Country and to convey the intelligence to me” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Robert Howe to GW, 29 Aug., source note). For similar orders to patrol Barbados Neck, Bergen, and Cedar Swamp in New Jersey, see Tench Tilghman to Bartholomew von Heer, this date (DLC:GW).

Crane replied to GW from Elizabeth, N.J., on 3 Sept: “Your’s of the 2nd Inst: I recd this Morning 4 oClock, & be assur’d that ev’ry Attention in my power, shall be paid to the Movements of the Enemy, & the earliest Intelligence of the same forwarded to Head Quarters” (ALS, DLC:GW).

William Crane (c.1747–1814), of Elizabeth, suffered a leg wound soon after joining the 4th New York Regiment as a lieutenant in August 1775. He led New Jersey militia in Continental service as a captain during spring 1780 and attained fame privateering near New York City in March 1783. Crane became a militia brigadier general after the war.

3GW wrote Col. Elisha Sheldon on this date: “You will perceive by the enclosed that the two Connecticut state Regiments are ordered to join you in the vicinity of North Castle. If you should hear of any serious movement up the North River, you will march with those regiments and your corps with all expedition to reinforce the garrison of West Point—otherwise you will wait orders from General Arnold or myself” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). The enclosure was from GW to Col. Levi Wells on this date: “I have received intelligence from New York which makes it probable the enemy have some important movement in contemplation—Under this intelligence I think it adviseable that the two state regiments under your command should form a junction with Col. Sheldon in the vicinity of North Castle to act as circumstances may require—Col. Sheldon will inform you where to meet him, and as soon as possible after the receipt of this I wish you to march to join him. … P.S. Move as light as you can—that is with as little baggage as possible” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

GW also wrote Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons on this date: “Having received intelligence that the enemy were about some capital movement, I have directed Col. Wells to join Col. Sheldon in the vicinity of North Castle to act as circumstances may require—I wish you to repair to that place and take the command of the troops and if they should not be arrived to hasten their march. In case of a movement of the enemy up the North River, you will march to reinforce the garrison of West Point. otherwise you will wait General Arnol[d]s orders or mine. … P.S. Should the Enemy cross into Jersey you are to menace their lines at Kings Bridge” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Parsons replied to GW on 4 September.

4GW interlineated the previous four words.

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