George Washington Papers

XVI. George Washington to Major William Crane, 23 November 1780

To Major William Crane

Hd Qrs Passaic falls Thursday Novr 23d 1780.


Captn Ogden will communicate to you in confidence (and more fully than I can do by letter) the business on which he is sent in the execution of which I must require your aid and best exertion1—The Boats with the Army are inadequate to the purposes I have in view—more therefore must be provided at, and in the vicinity of Elizabethtown. they will be wanted tomorrow night by one o’clock at farthest. The mode of collecting them in a way least liable to suspicion at the point of Embarkation or contiguous thereto will be left to your discretion.

It is much my wish to know also if it be practicable without creating2 suspicion to have a few Boats drawn together at the old blazing Star or some other unsuspected place in that part of the Sound3 by means of which a party could be thrown undiscovered upon the Island.

Several good Guides well acquainted with the roads leading to the enemys Works at the Watering place flag Staff & Richmond will be wanted by the4 hour the boats are required to be in readiness—the necessity of using art & address to provide these without giving suspicion you will readily see the propriety of & act accordingly.

As I presume the detachment at New Ark under Captn [ ] Ogden5 is subject to your command I have to request that you will order him and his party to join you at Elizabeth Town after dark on friday Night & be in perfect readiness yourself to follow such further Orders as you may receive from me or other Superior Officer by whom you may be join’d. If you could with any kind of certainty know what Troops are upon Staten Island—whether any reinforcement has been sent there lately or is expected & whether they have any suspicion of our making an attempt upon the Island it would be very acceptable to me & the earlier I could receive the intelligence6 on Friday the better.

You must, I am perswaded, be too deeply impressed with the necessity of secrecy in the managt of this business to need of admonition.7 I am Sir Yr Very Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW had written Capt. Aaron Ogden from headquarters on Wednesday, 22 Nov.: “The letter for Major Crane is left open for your perusal. You will converse with this Officer on the several objects of it, and after obtaining a knowledge of the number of Boats—their sizes—and how they can be got to the places I have mentioned to you, & have fixed the matter with respect to guides, you are to return with a report of your proceedings—at any rate you must be back by Noon on friday.

“Your own prudence will dictate to you a cautious conduct—not only with respect to secrecy, but for the safety of your person” (ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; GW wrote and struck out “the necessity of” after the word “you” in the final paragraph of his draft).

2GW wrote and struck out “much” after this word on his draft.

3GW refers to the Blazing Star Ferry on Staten Island Sound (Arthur Kill).

4GW wrote and struck out “same” after this word on his draft.

5Capt. John Ogden commanded that detachment (see his letter to GW, 11 Nov.).

6GW wrote “it” on his draft and then interlineated the previous two words without striking out the original word that the phrase replaced.

7GW again wrote Crane from headquarters on 24 Nov.: “Circumstances having rendered the prosecution of the enterprise which I had in view inexpedient, you will be pleased to lay aside the enquiries and preparations which I desired you to make” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Documents XVIII, and XIX).

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