George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Judah Alden, 5 November 1780

From Captain Judah Alden

Dobbs’s Ferrey [N.Y.] Novr 5th 1780


The Serjeant by whome your Excellency will Receive this I have sent under his cair three disarters from New York who came to this post this afternoon; the Newspapers and other printed Letters Inclos’d with this, I took from them.1

A schooner from New York under the sanction of a Flag of truce came up the River this afternoon. I brought hir too, found by hir passport she was bound to Sing Sing, to take of three Famileys with their Effects, and Return with them to New York. Lieut. Edes who commands the Guard Boats happen’d to here, has taken hir into his charge, and is to let them take the Familes with their Effects on board, and as Sing Sing is within the Enemys lines, will let them Return to New York.2 And as tis probable that Flags of Truce will be frequantly up the River, could wish for your Excellencys Instructions concerning them.

By information from the other sides the River there is large droves of Cattle sheep and hogs frequently drove to New York, and when down as low as here with a few men and unguarded. If your Excellency thinks proper to give me permission to send a party of men over the River. at some proper time to intersept and take some of them. Lieut. Lawrence an inhabitent nigh this post who is well acquainted with the Inhabitents and ground will undertake to pilot them.3

The Cannon your Excellency mentioned in your instructions to me is not arrived.4 am sir with every sentiment of Esteem, your Excellencys most obedient and veary humble Servent

Judah Alden Capt.


Judah Alden (1750–1845) served as lieutenant in a Massachusetts regiment from May to December 1775 and then in the 23d Continental Infantry during 1776. He became captain in the 2d Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777 and remained in the army until the end of the war, receiving the brevet rank of major in September 1783.

1The enclosed newspapers and letters have not been identified.

2Joseph Edes served as sergeant in a Massachusetts regiment from May to December 1775 and as ensign and lieutenant in the 26th Continental Infantry during 1776. He joined the 9th Massachusetts Regiment as lieutenant in January 1777, and his promotion to captain was dated 15 Sept. 1780. Edes resigned from the army in June 1781.

3Alden probably refers to Jonathan Lawrence, Jr., formerly a lieutenant in an Additional Continental Regiment (see William Malcom to GW, 30 July 1778, n.4).

4No written instructions from GW to Alden have been found. GW replied to Alden from headquarters at Passaic Falls on 7 Nov. 1780: “I have received your Letter of the 5th by the Sergt who conducted the deserters to this place.

“The idea of an Enemys sending a flag by a post of the adverse party into what they call their own lines, is very preposterous & inadmissible—I would not advise that any flag of truce be permitted to go beyond your Post for any purpose whatever.

“However desirable it might be to intercept the provisions which are forwarded to the Enemy on the East side of the River, I cannot consent you should run the hazard of detaching any of Your Garrison for fear the Enemy should have intelligence by thier emissaries, & form an ambuscade for the party, or seize the opportunity of their absence & possess themselves of the Post—On the contrary, I must recommend your utmost vigilence and attention to prevent the possibility of a surprize” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

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