George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major Benjamin Tallmadge, 7 November 1780

From Major Benjamin Tallmadge

Bedford [N.Y.]—Novr 7th 1780


Enclosed are two Letters on private intelligence.1 I expect in a day or two to have a more perfect account of the situation of the Enemy, & their late Embarkation. I have had no certain Accounts from New York, via Kingsbridge, since my Return from Head Quarters.2 I have however recd a second hand report, that the Troops said to have lately embarked at N.Y. have actually sailed, & that it consisted nearly of the Corps mentioned in Col. Jameson’s Letter to Your Excellency.3 There are Reports from the same Authority, that another Detachment of Recruits, supposed to be about 2000 men, with some of the Cork fleet, have arrived within a few Days, at N. York—This is but Report4—C—’s next Letter will be more particular.5

With Respect to the information contained in Lt Brewster’s letter, I would observe, that the Place at which the hay is said to be collected is about nine miles from the Sound, & southeast from Setauket, alias Brookhaven—The Detachment of Refugees, mentioned in C—’s letter, to be posted at Mr Smith’s house, is about 8 miles beyond Coram, where the hay lies, & the same Course further on6—They are about 40 in number. If your Excellency wishes to have the hay destroyed, or the Corps taken, I don’t doubt of its practicability, & with about 40 or 50 of our dismounted Dragoons, I would undertake it.7 I have the Honor to be, with Great Regard, your Excellency’s most Obedt. Servt

Benja. Tallmadge

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, NHi: Varick Papers.

1One enclosure was a letter from Samuel Culper (Abraham Woodhull’s alias) to John Bolton (Tallmadge’s alias), written at Setauket, N.Y., on 5 Nov.: “Unfortunately at this time I cannot favour you with any News from New York that is certain or Meterial, Contrary to my expectations Austin Roe was preventd from visiting New York by an unforeseen accident. Disappointing you ever give me pain but is Some release When Consious have done all that I Could—We have a report from New York that their long expectd Cork Fleet (Which is their Sole dependence) is Taken, I do assure you I think thers Some truth in it—The Garrison at Loyds Neck C⟨onsi⟩sts of Coll. Ludloes Regmt a Small ⟨nu⟩mber of the Jersey Volunteirs and Some of [Governor] Wentworth Volunteers The Whole doth not amount to more than 200 Men, The Works remain the Same as When Sent you the draught, This have taken panes to obtain from the best authority and as Such I think you may depend on—and think you may attack them to advantag⟨e⟩ Thers about 150 Refugees built a block House on Jesse Arthurs farme, and are Said to be St⟨rong⟩ly Posted, and much on their Guard I think theirs better prospects to attack L. Neck, Thers about 40 Refugees at William Smith farme at South—They have formed a Stockiade almost round his House, They can be taken at any time The Woods are So near that you may cover yourselves and watch them a Whole day undiscoverd—I am Sorry to Observe That your Commissiond Whale boats make more a Point to Serve themselves than our Country or to hurt the Enemy, Their Cruses are Chiefly to this Island well freighted with articles that are much wanted here for which they Barter for Goods and returne and their voige is up Capt. Barlo⟨w⟩ Capt. Walker an Englishman from N. Haven Capt. Thomps⟨on⟩ a Shoe Maker from East Haven Was here Last week with Shoes Chease Leather Bricks Candles Tallow and many other articles, At the East end of this Island are handed over drovs of Sheep, Chease Br⟨ick⟩s and all kinds of Produce for which they receive Goods an[d] Some Cash Hobart Latham at Sag Harbour Should be anihilated for being a factor, And the Support and Storekeeper for Such an infernal Trade as well as Some others I have certain assurance of Obtaning Some Intelligen⟨ce⟩ from New York this week Therefore have directd C. Brewster to Come again on the 10 Instant When hope to heare from you” (DLC:GW; underlines signify decoded text). For the code, see Tallmadge to GW, 25 July 1779. For the arrival of the British supply fleet from Cork, Ireland, see Lafayette to GW, 14 Nov., and n.1.

Another enclosure was a letter from Lt. Caleb Brewster to Tallmadge, written at Fairfield, Conn., on 6 Nov.: “I proceeded from this place on the 3d & Returned this Afternoon, the time Appointed to Go over again is on the 10th Instant.

“There is three Hundred Tons of Hay at Coram Collected from South Hold: Southampton & East: Hampton, & Staked at Coram, which is Expected soon to be Carried away by the Enemy, at New York. Should be Glad if you would Inform me as Quick is possible whether you would have me go & Destroy it or not—I Can do it without Interfering with my other Business—Tis Reported in New York that the Cork Fleet is taken, & Generally believed there” (DLC:GW; Brewster wrote “Pr Express” on the cover, which he addressed to Tallmadge “at or Near Bedford”).

2The last documented meeting between Tallmadge and GW at headquarters occurred weeks earlier in Tappan, N.Y. (see Tallmadge to GW, 4 and 17 Oct.; see also Tallmadge to Samuel Blachley Webb, 30 Sept., found at n.8 with Major John André’s Capture and Execution, 23 Sept.–7 Oct., editorial note).

5For Culper’s next letter, see Tallmadge to GW, 14 Nov., n.1.

6William Smith (1720–1799) lived on an estate in Suffolk County, N.Y., known as the Manor of St. George. Politically active, he served as a state senator from 1777 to 1783. Smith had met GW during the defense of Long Island, N.Y. (see Abraham Yates, Jr., to GW, 28 Aug. 1776, n.2).

7GW replied to Tallmadge from Passaic Falls on 11 Nov. 1780: “I have received your Letter of the 7th Instant with the enclosures.

“The destruction of the Forage collected for the use of the British Army at Coram, is of so much consequence that I should advise the attempt to be made. I have written to Colo. Sheldon to furnish a Detachment of dismounted Dragoons, and will commit the execution to you. If the party of Refugees at Smith’s house can be attempted without frustrating the other design, or running too great a hazard, I have no objection. But you must remember this is only a secondary object, and in all cases, you will take the most prudent means to secure a retreat.

“Confiding entirely in your discretion, as well as enterprize, and wishing you success. … P.S. The Detachment under Lt Brewster may also be employed on this service” (LS [photocopy], in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW, ser. 9; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also GW to Elisha Sheldon, 10 Nov., postscript). Tallmadge led a successful raid against Fort St. George on Smith’s estate after his persistence and additional information won GW’s approval (see Tallmadge to GW, 24 and 25 Nov., and Tallmadge, Memoir description begins Memoir of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, Prepared by Himself, at the Request of his Children. 1858. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 39–40).

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