George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel David Forman, 12 November 1780

From Colonel David Forman

Freehold [N.J.] 12th Novr 1780


Yesterday my Intelligencer from The Highlands of Neversink Informed me of The Approach of a Considirable Fleet from the Southward to Sandy Hook—& allso of a Considerable fleet Comeing down from New York But Could not be particular in either as The rear of Neither of the fleets was Come Too—The Fleet from New York I am Assured from good Authority has Troops on Board for Carolina and I belive to be Convoyed by Adml Rodney⟨’s⟩ whole Squadron—Rodney to proced to The West Indias.1

Thinking it Highly probable that your Excellency had been previously Informed of the distination &c. of The Fleet from New York I determined to wait a more particular Acct of The Fleet Comeing in2—The Enclosed is An Acct of boath fleets Taken from The Highlands and may I belive be depended on.3

in my letter to Mr Stillwell of yesterday I requested him to give me his opinion Wheather The fleet Comeing in were not the same that went for Virginia on The 17th of last month4—You Excly will Observe on The back of Mr Stillwells letter his Opinion is they are the same.5 I have The Honr to be your Excellencyes Most Obdt Humble Servt

David Forman


1For the departure from New York City of British ships under Adm. George Rodney, see Lafayette to GW, 11 Nov., n.3.

2The arriving ships were part of the British supply fleet from Cork, Ireland (see Lafayette to GW, 14 Nov., and n.1 to that document).

3The enclosed intelligence report provides weather conditions and ship movements between 5 and 11 November. The entry for 7 Nov. includes this sentence: “This Day I am Secretly Informd there is A fleet Prepareing for Sea and Admiral Rodney is Going to Convoy them.” The most substantial entries were 10 and 11 Nov.: “fryday Morning November the 10 Weather Clear Wind N. fresh there Lies to Anchor 23 Vessels there is 3 Large Men of War With these there is 4 Smaller the Others are all Top Sail vessels these took the Cover of the Night to Come in and Anchor.

“Saterday morning Novembr 11 ⟨t⟩here is Some More of the fleet falling Down the[y] Come to Anchor Rather to the West of the fleet that is Come in this fleet are Small in General A number of Brigs Sloops and Schooners there is 3 Large Ships of War one 34 of the Red Sq[u]adron—2 Smaller and Some Others there is Upwards of 40 as Near as I Can Gather in this fleet there is in the Whole Now at Anchor between 80 and 90 Sail there is 15 Gone Up and 2 frigates to Sea Yesterday Morning they Stood to the Eastward there is 16 Ships of War Encluding them Back of the Hook—they Lye 5 Miles in Length in A Lane.

“Saterday November the 11—Weather Clear Wind N. fresh the fleet that Came in from Sea Last are Not all Within the Hook there is 10 Beating in this Morning and four Large Ships Lyeing at anchor Without the Hook there’s Some of S[ai]d fleet Beating Up for the Narrows befo Day Light in this fleet there is betwen 52 and 58 Sail in all the Small ones and Ships of War Enclu[d]ed there is 6 Ships appear Upwards of 40 Guns but None Excee[d]ing 60.

“Afternoon Late, the Wind Light, there is 6 More of Sd fleet Beating Up 2 Ships and 4 Brigs in the Evening the Ships Back of hook are Under Sail Beating in.

“Towards Evening there is Upward of 20 Sail More Appearing the Convoy of these Ships are of the Red Sq[u]adron—they are to the South[w]ard of the Highlands.

“there is this Afternoon Upward of 30 Sail Without the Narrows and A number Within the Narrows Think Admiral Rodneys Ship is Coming Down the Convoy of these are of the White.

“Evening the fleet that is falling Down this time are Coming to Anchor they Lie high Up i⟨n⟩ the Bay there Seems a Number of Small Vessels With these Such as Sloops and Schooners they Seem to Come Near the Shore.

“I Cannot give You Sir A Particula[r] Discription of this fleet they are Not the one Half got Down yet but to Morrow Morning if I am Spared Shall have A fair Veiw of them there is three Line of Battle Ships and one is the Sand Wick of 90 Guns” (DLC:GW).

4Forman’s letter to John Stillwell dated 11 Nov. has not been identified.

John Stillwell (Stilwell; 1709–1794), born in Middletown, N.J., lived his entire life in Monmouth County. He served in 1782 and 1783 as county agent in suits against Loyalists.

5The enclosed letter from Stillwell to Forman was written on 12 Nov., 6:00 A.M.: “I have Been as Particular in Getting the Best Accou[n]ts Relating the fleet that Came in Last but Can No Sertain Intiligince Some Say they are from Ireland With Provisions and Soldiers on Board There is Upwards of 60 Sail Come in Some have Beat in the Narrowes there is A number of Small one Such as Brigs Sloops and Schooners the Ships of Stores or transports are Not Large they have Not A transports flag Amongst them there is 4 Large Ships of War With them I Could Not get So fair a Veiw of them Yesterday morning as I Expected by Reason of the Wind Blowing fresh at N. the Ships Lay Stern to Tree and Large Swell going I Could not Count their Ports there is 8 Large Ship Upwards of 40 Guns and 8 or 9 Smaller in Both fleets ther is bitwen 80 and 90 Sail in the Whole I was Mistaken in Adml Rodneys When She Came Down She is of the Red With A Peaked flag at Mainmast Head A Union Jack on her Bows sprit She is a Commodore I Shall Endeavour With all Posible Speed to Inform You of their Earliest Movement … Sir My Candid opinion is they are the fleet that Sailed from Sandy Hook the 17 of Octobr Last for Virginia—the Reason I have not Sent my Son I am Scant of Horses and Expect hourly the fleet Will Make Some movement and Shall Endeavour to give You Earliest Intiligence” (DLC:GW). For the British expedition to Virginia that departed from New York City in October, see GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 Oct., and n.2 to that document; see also Nathanael Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4. Joseph Stillwell, who had served as captain in Forman’s New Jersey militia, apparently was his father’s only son (see Stryker, Officers and Men of New Jersey description begins William S. Stryker, comp. Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War. Trenton, 1872. description ends , 412).

Index Entries