George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Benedict Arnold, 5 September 1780

From Major General Benedict Arnold

Head Quarters Robinson’s House Septr 5th 1780.

Dear Sir

In Consequence of Your Excellency’s Favor of the 2nd inst., which I had the Honor to receive on the 3rd, I gave immediate & pressing Directions for sixty flat Bottom Boats to be sent to Kings Ferry without Delay;1 But as most of the Boats were at Wappings Creek to be repaired & few Batteaumen to be procured, (most of them being on the Mohawk river & at Albany), I was under the Necessity of draughting the best Men from the Militia, and notwithstanding every Exertion, I have not been able to get the Boats brought down to West Point, untill this Morning. They were immediately dispatched to Kings Ferry under the Commd of Captn Denny, who I am informed is an active spirited Officer;2 He is there to receive his Directions from Colonel Livingston. A Copy of the Orders sent to him, I now inclose, that if they are not perfectly agreeable to Your Excellency, such Alterations or Amendments as You shall think necessary may be made.3

I have made every necessary Preparation in my Power to receive the Enemy, should they have Temerity enough to attack these Posts. I believe the Troops will do all that can be expected from Militia; But the best of Militia are not to be depended upon; Many of the Works are incompleat and the Garrison is not sufficiently numerous for the Defence of them all.

I shall pay very particular Attention to Y⟨our⟩ Excellency’s Instructions, “That when the Enemy make Demonstrations of a serious Attack on the Posts in the Highlands, to collect all the Troops from the Outposts.[”] In Addition I expect the Militia of the State will come in, in considerable Force, to our relief.

I expect about seven hundred Barrels of Flour in a few Days, by the Way of New Windsor; the Beef on Hand is trifling; the Commissary gives me Encouragement of Supplies; to prevent our consuming any more of the salted Provisions: Only two Days Allowance of it has been issued to the Troops.

Baron Steuben informs me, it is out of his Power at present to appoint an Inspector & Depty Adjutant General to this Department,4 And as there is not One Field Officer here, qualified to do the Duty, I have been under the Necessity of appointing Captn Lieut. Hubbell to that Office who is both willing and capable, Which I hope will be agreeable to Your Excellency.5 I have the Honor to be with the most perfect, Respect, & Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedt & Very Hble Servt

B. Arnold

P.S. I had the Pleasure of Genl Schuylers Company last Night, who set off this Morning for Poughkeepsie; He inform’d me that Your Excellency’s Apprehensions respecting an Attack on the Main Army, or this Post, had in great Measure subsided before he left Head Quarters.6



1See GW’s first letter to Arnold on 2 Sept., and Richard Varick to William M. Betts, 3 Sept. (DLC:GW).

2See Daniel Carthy to Arnold, 2 Sept. and this date (both DLC:GW).

John Denny became a New York militia captain after resigning from the Continental army in 1778.

3The enclosure from Arnold to Col. James Livingston, written on 4 Sept. 1780, reads: “His Excellency General Washington informs me, He is apprehensive that the Enemy intend an Attack on the Posts in the Highlands; When that Matter is asscertained & they appear in force, it is his Intention to have Stoney & Ver Plancks Points evacuated, & the Cannon, royals [mortars] & Stores removed to this Place; for Which Purpose I have by his Orders, sent down sixty flat Bottom Boats with five Men in each, under the Command of Captn John Denny of the Batteaumen, who has Orders to put himself under your Command & follow your Directions.

“Whenever the Enemy appear in Force near your Post, & it is clearly demonstrated to You, that they intend an Attack on these Posts, You will immediately embark All the Troops, Stores, Cannon &ca at Kings Ferry & come with them to West Point. This Measure is not to be undertaken precipitately or on any slight Alarm, Nor neglected so long, as to risque any thing, or render it difficult to execute; As You are on the Spot, You will be the best Judge of the Time proper to execute it; Perhaps on any Movement of the Enemy up the river, it will be prudent to remove the stores to the Landing or put them in the Boats, to be ready, so that no Time may be lost, in Case the Movements of the Enemy should be rapid” (DLC:GW; see also Robert Howe to GW, 29 Aug., source note). The boats were loaded before the enemy’s appearance (see Livingston to Arnold, 6 Sept., and Varick to Livingston, 7 Sept., both DLC:GW).

4See Steuben to Arnold, 2 Sept. (DLC:GW).

5GW replied to Arnold from headquarters in Bergen County on 7 Sept.: “I have recd your favor of the 5th inclosing your instructions to Colo. Livingston, which perfectly comprehend my Ideas of the rule of conduct which is to be observed should the enemy come up the River in force.

“I hear nothing further of any extraordinary preparations, but our precautions should be continued, because if they do operate against you, it will be rapidly.

“I have no objection to the appointment of Capt. Lieut. Hubbell to do the duty of Deputy Adjt. Genl and sub Inspector.

“We have very disagreeable accounts from the southward—General Gates’s letter does not go into particulars, but only mentions that the Army under his command had been totally defeated on the 16th Augt about eight Miles from Camden. … P.S. There are eight Men of Colo. Putnams Regt who were employed as Bargemen by Genl Howe and left at West point. You will be pleased to send them down to join their Regt. an Officer goes up to take charge of them” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Samuel Huntington, to GW, 31 Aug., n.1). Arnold replied to GW on 12 September.

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