George Washington Papers

XII. George Washington to Lieutenant Colonel David Humphreys, 22 November 1780

To Lieutenant Colonel David Humphreys

[Passaic Falls, 22 Nov. 1780]


You are immediately to proceed to West Point & communicate the business committed to you, in confidence to Majr Genl Heath, & to no other person whatsoever1—from thence you will repair to the Detachmt at the White Plains, on friday next,2 taking Measures to prevent their leaving that place, before you get to them. And in the course of the succeeding Night you may inform the Commanding Officer, of the Enterprize in Contemplation against the Enemy’s Posts on York Island.3

As the Troops are constantly to lye on their Arms, no previous notice should be given, but they may be put in Motion precisely at 4 OClock, and commence a slow and regular march towards Kings Bridge, untill they shall discover or be informed of the concerted signal’s being made, when the March Must be pressed with the greatest rapidity. Parties of Horse should be sent forward to keep a look out for the signals.4

Altho the main Body ought to be kept Compact—Patroles of Horse & light Parties might be sent towards East & West Chester—And upon the signals being discovered, Sheldon’s5 Regt and the C⟨onnecticu⟩t State Troops (which may also be put in Motion as soon as the Orders can be communicated after 4 OClock) should be pushed forward to intercept any of the Enemy, who may attempt to gain Frog’s Neck,6 & to Cut off the Refugee Corps at Morrissania. A few Men with some address may spread such an Alarm as to prevent an attempt of the Enemy to retreat to Frogs Neck, from an apprehension of surrounding Parties.

You will communicate these instructions to the Commanding Officer of the Detachmt, who upon his approach to Kings Bridge, will receive Orders from me as early as possible.

Should the signals not be discovered,7 the Troops will halt at least 6 Miles from the Bridge, untill further intelligence can be obtained.

The absolute necessity of the most perfect secrecy is the occasion of Communicating my Orders thro this channel.8 Given at Head Quarters, Passaic Falls this 22 Day of Novr 1780

Go. Washington

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

1Maj. Gen. William Heath had been alerted to GW’s general design for an offensive operation (see GW to Heath, 12 Nov., and notes 7 and 8 to that document).

2The next Friday was 24 November.

3See Document VII.

4The precise signals have not been identified, but they probably involved the firing of cannon in a designated sequence.

5Humphreys wrote “Shedons” for this name on the draft.

6GW means Throg’s Neck, New York.

7See n.4 above.

8For the withdrawal of these orders, see Document XVIII.

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