George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major John Mauritius Goetschius, 7 October 1780

To Major John Mauritius Goetschius

Head Quarters [Paramus, N.J.] Octr 7. 1780


Having Ordered a Captains Command from the Continental Troops to Garrison the Block House at Dobbs’ Ferry1—In addition to this I request You will be pleased to detach a Subaltern and 20 Men from Your Corps, to join that Garrison, and be under the Orders of the Commanding Officer;2 The Detachment to be releived as often as you shall think necessary—And as the design of the Post at Dobbs’ Ferry is to protect & cover the Country below as far as practicable, the remainder of your Corp cannot be better employed than in patroling, and guarding the landing places and avenues leading to the Post, in order to obtain early intelligence of any Movement of the Enemy, prevent a surprize & render every assistance in your power to the Garrison.3 I am Sir Your Hble Servt

Go. Washington

Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2GW wrote the commanding officer at Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., from headquarters, probably on 8 Oct.: “In addition to the Continental troops under your command, I have directed Major Goetschius of the Jersey state troops to send you from his corps a detachment of a subaltern and twenty men to be periodically relieved; and for your greater security to communicate with you and patrole the different landing places in your vicinity; but I would not have you to rely upon this; but take every precaution for your own security. You will find covering within the works for your whole party—of which you will mount a third part as a guard every night; and keep small patroles all round you, so as not however to weaken your command too much—You will keep a vigilant look out towards the water by day and night and when you are furnished with a piece of cannon, should a fleet be going up the river, you will announce it by firing five discharges. I mean by a fleet such a number of vessels as may indicate an attempt upon the posts above—You will fire three pieces of cannon distinctly as a signal of a movement in force against you, and you will send off an express instantly to Head Quarters.

“You will maintain the post to the last extremity should you once find yourself surrounded, and for this purpose you will endeavou⟨r⟩ always to have five or six days provision on hand; but should you discover appearances of a serious attack in force and with artillery time enough to withdraw your men you will do it, spiking up your cannon and setting fire to the works for which you should make previous preparation—You will always recollect, that should you be obliged to submit to superior force after a vigorous resistance, you will do honor to yourself; but should you be surprised, as it will denote a want of vigilance, there can be no apology for it. But I rely intirely on your prudence and bravery. … P.S. You will of course keep your instructions a secret” (Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the draft dateline reads 8 Oct., but the docket indicates 7 Oct.).

3Goetschius replied to GW from Closter, N.J., on 8 Oct.: “your Orders Dated Oct. 7. I have receaved am willing and ready to Obey, but am sorrow to Inform your Excellencie that it makes a Great uneseniss among the Inhabitants at the lines in this County. your Excellencie is not unaquainted how the unhappy frinds of this Country here at the lines must suffer by our Cruel Ennimies. my detatchment is perticular listed for a Gaurd at the frontiers of this County, to Compleat the number the Inhabitants at the lines paid a large sum of money to the soldiery perticular to have rest themselves and to follow their Lawfull Imploy. by me laying in this Quarter and Garrisoning the Blockhouse at Dobbs ferry, which lays in york state, is little or no Gaurd to this County there is Hakensack, where I was ordered to march too, by the Law of this state, lays now open. besides the New brid[g]e, Barbados Neck and a number of other Places wher Horse theves and robbers slip t[h]rue to the ruin of the Inhabitants lay all open and my Corps is a Gaurd to york state and very little to this County as we lay at Present, besides our unhappy Condition in regard of provision. I must imploy a number of my men to Collect provision in the Country because we Cannot draw it from the armey it is true we have cheef of the time drawed flower from Commissary Gamble. he absolutely now refuses to issue any more and says we are a state ridgment and must draw from the state, the state purchaser or Contractor in this County refuses, by saying, he has furnessed his Quota according to Law. my men have been now nine days with out flower, or bread, but what they Borrow from the Inhabitants. I have had whilst the armey laid here about fifteen different Commanders as a Piquet to the whole armey yet Cannot receave supply like the Continantle troops. I must now either take an arbitrary Power Contrary to Law, or els may it Pleas your Excellencie to direct me how my troops must be supplyed. Nothing more at Present” (ALS, DLC:GW). Goetschius presumably refers to a New Jersey law passed on 7 June to provide state troops for frontier defense and a congressional quota (see David Forman to GW, 9 July, n.4, and Circular to the States, 2 June, n.1).

Goetschius earlier had written GW from Closter on 10 Sept.: “Being perticular Desired by two justices of the Peace of this County to Petition to your Excellencie for assistance the wicked and unconsidered soldiery due Intirely destroy the Schralenberg Naughbourhood. they have within this three days robbed the Inhabitants of Schralenberg Naughbourhood of five or six head of Cattle a number of sheep and hogs fowels and allmost all their Corn Potatoes and other vegetables and in a violant manner abuse the well Effected in this Place running about with Clubs and Bayonets upon stikcs by whole Companies as Bad as our Ennimie ever have done besides this they desert as the Inhabitants Inform me yestarday there is six desertered through that Naughbourhood from the Pansilvania line one of them my men Got whom I have sent to his Ridgment under Gaurd together with his Pilote being a Refugees wife from New york. If it Pleases your Excellencie order me to keep a sub allterens Command in that Naugbourhood which would Prevent all or least many of those Irregularities to the Great satisfaction of the wel Effected suffering Inhabitants in said Naubourhood. … Done in haste” (ALS, DLC:GW).

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