George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 16 September 1780

To Major General Nathanael Greene

[New Bridge, N.J., 16 Sept. 1780]


Tomorrow I set out for Hartford, on an interview with The French General and Admiral. In my absence the command of the army devolves upon you. I have so intire confidence in your prudence and abilities, that I leave the conduct of it to your discretion, with only one observation, that with our present prospects, it is not our business to seek an action or accept it but on advantageous terms.1

You will attend to the post at Dobbes ferry, and take such precautions for its security as you judge necessary—As Lt Col. Gouvion accompanies me, a Continental Officer should be appointed to The Command. There is now a Lt Col. of Militia there.2

Should you receive authentic advice of the arrival of a superior French fleet on the Coast you will immediately put the army under marching orders and take measures for collecting all the boats on the North River together with plank &c. to form a bridge across Haerlem River. You will also immediately write to the states of Maryl. Delaware Pensylvania Jersey & New York informing them of the advice You have received—and urging them to redouble their exertions for collecting provisions forage &c. to raise levies for their Continental batalions—and also to put their nearest Militia under marching orders.

You will acquaint me with every occurrence of importance that comes to your knowlege by the rout which Colo. Tilghman will point out3 and any thing that it may be interesting for Congress immediately to know, You will transmit to them.4 Given at Head Quarters New Bridge Bergen County Sep. 16: 1780.

G: W——n

P.S. Since writing the foregoing instructions I have received advices that Admiral Rodney is at the Hook and that the enemy are making an embarkation for Rhode Island;5 If this should be true on the sailing of the embarkation, you will immediately make all the preparations we did on a like occasion for attacking New York & give me instant intelligence of the event.6 If the detachment should be such as to enable you to pass the River with safety at Dobbes ferry, it will save you a march; if not, you will cross the North River at Kings ferry.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Greene wrote his wife, Catharine, on 22 Sept.: “His Excellency is from camp, and I have the command of the army. This makes a great man of me for a few days. … O this war! I would to God it was over! But alas, I fear this is but the middle of the horrid scene” (Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 6:304–6, quotes on 306; see also The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

2Lt. Col. Henry Neill commanded a Delaware militia regiment in Continental service at Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. (see Del. Archives description begins Delaware Archives. 5 vols. 1911–19. Reprint. New York, 1974. description ends , 2:649–50).

3GW interlineated the previous nine words on the draft.

4See Greene to GW, 21, 23, and 24 September. Greene wrote Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, on 18 and 24 Sept. (see Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 6:294–95, 310).

6For these preparations, see GW to Rochambeau, 27 July (second letter), n.3.

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