George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 12 October 1780

From Major General Lafayette

Light Camp near totawa
october the 12th 1780

My dear general

From Major Lee I just Now hear that he has seen A Man Who has been in Newyork and told him that An Embarkation has Certainly taken place, Said to be going to Virginia—that he Got the intelligence In the City on Monday last, and that dragoons were on Board.1

A Young man that Went into the City has Lately Sent Word to his family that he had been press’d on Board a fleet which Was Going to Sail.

Some days Ago Major lee Communicated to Me A private letter from Mr simcoe who Commands the Queen’s Rangers wherein that officer Seems politely wishing for a personal interview As he will Remain Some days in Newyork2 From All those Circumstances and what We have heard from other Quarters, I am Much inclin’d to Believe that the Embarkation has taken place and wish to know if Any intelligence as to the fact itself, the destination, or the Number is Come to head Quarters.

There is A plan, My dear General, Which if Successfull would be Very Brillant, and which at least is Worth inquiring into its possibility.

The Ennemy Are far, I Believe, from Suspecting Any Enterprise from us Against the Works on staten island—I think they May be Surpris’d in that part, and Can’t help Believing that A Corps Cross’d over at Elizabeth point, or What I would like Better Sent down the passaic in Boats Might Attempt a Stroke on the Works at the Watering place and Richmond, and I also think that With a Sufficiency of Boats and Some other precautions We Might Make our Retreat Good—I don’t give you, My dear general, Any Arrang’d plan about it, and Confess that I Want informations on that Matter—the only thing I would Request (if you don’t dislike the idea) would be that the Boats at Kakeat or Any where else be Sent for as Soon as possible,3 and that people be procur’d Who Might Give to us intelligences.

in the Mean while, there is a Way of Getting Boats which I Beg the liberty to adopt—Major lee having Ask’d from me the permission of Attempting the Boats of the Refugees as well as theyr Galley in the Night, and in the Same time to Strike at theyr troops on the point,4 I have directed him to Come to Morrow Morning that he May Explain me his Scheme and if I find it a prudent one I Beg leave to let him Go on With it.

Unless we hunt for Enterprises they will No More Come in our Way this Campaign—We Can’t Any More Build Upon Certain Calculations—I Go further, My dear general, and if the ennemy have Made a Considerable detachement, I would Carry up My ideas to Such a point as will perhaps have less difficulties than we Believe When we will be Upon the Ground—We Might at least Make a diversion to give Uneasiness to the Ennemy—But the thing which I want now to Submit to You is the staten island project, and the little Enterprise propos’d By Major Lee.5 With the Most tender affection and high Respect I have the honor to be My dear general Yours forever


ALS, PEL; ADf, in French, Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France.

1For this British embarkation from New York City, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 Oct., n.2. The previous Monday was 9 October.

2Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe’s correspondence with Maj. Henry Lee, Jr., may have involved Maj. John André (see Major John André’s Capture and Execution, 23 Sept.–7 Oct., editorial essay, and n.12).

3Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering wrote GW from camp at Totowa on 15 Oct.: “Capt. Clark of the corps of Artificers was sent yesterday agreeably to your Excellency’s directions, to examine the boats near Suffren’s. He now reports to me That the boats are in a pond, & appear to be in good order; the water in them he supposes to be merely the effect of the late rain. Some of the carriages want bolsters & stakes, and one wheel a few spokes. These repairs being made the whole he judges will be fit for service. I have directed Colo. Baldwin to make the repairs accordingly without delay. … P.S. I have also directed that a caulker go up to examine & caulk if necessary the seams of the boats” (ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 93, Records of Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering, 1780–87; copy, MHi: Pickering Papers).

Nathaniel Clark served as a lieutenant from 1775 to 1776 in the Massachusetts regiment that became the 14th Continental Regiment. He joined Col. Jeduthan Baldwin’s Continental regiment of artificers in January 1777 and rose to captain in November 1779. He left the army after 1780.

4The draft indicates that these vessels were at Bergen Point, New Jersey.

5For Lafayette’s abortive attack against the British on Staten Island, N.Y., see his two letters to GW dated 27 Oct. [letter 1; letter 2]; see also Pickering to GW, 28 Oct. (MHi).

Index Entries