George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 13 November 1780

From Major General Lafayette

Light Camp [near Cranetown, N.J.]
November the 13th 1780

My dear general

On My Return from Your Quarters, I found here One of My Spies from Newyork, and after having taken down his information I have Sent him Again to the Ennemy’s lines from which he is to Bring fresh intelligences On Wenesday Morning1—the fellow is Sensible Enough, But how far we May depend upon him I Cannot tell.2

he left Newyork friday evening, and on Saturday Was at Bergen point—the British Army lay on long-island about White Stone and jamaica where they are fitting up old hutts and Will take theyr Winter Quarters—in Newyork 1st Regiment of Anspackers, 42d Regiment Call’d highlanders, one Compagny of hessian Grenadiers, and Robertson’s Regiment of New levies—towards the North End of the island Chiefly hessians—At Staten island, the Same troops as Before at the Watering place, detachements at the flag Staff—Richmond Reinforc’d By an hessian Regiment, Sixty men at decker’s ferry—at Bergen the Refugees.3 general Clinton is in Newyork, Knypausen on Long island, Arnold Quarters at Robertson’s.

Rodney’s Ships are the sandwich, terrible, intrepid, Alcide, Ademant, triumph—Many frigats—the Rabauk, Rowley, and two other frigats have sail’d on friday Last4—twesday, Wenesday, and Thursday A Very hott press—Rodney was to Sail Yesterday—his Ships were in North River5—Some Believe he Means to intercept paul jones who it is Said is Coming with Many vessels full of Stores, and to prevent the Communication Betwen the delaware and Rhode island.6

in the last Embarkation Under Leslie and (he Believes) two Brigadier generals they had Betwen three And four thousand men With forty three transports—the Number difficult to be So well ascertain’d as there were Many detachements7—the present Embarkation which Was Said to Sail with Rodney And to Reinforce the Corps under Leslie, Consist of Seventeen or Eighteen hundred Men, and are chiefly detachements from Regiments Without Artillery—theyr Transports to the Number of Sixteen Were Ready at the Watering place—The troops to Embark from long island—The Recruits Arriv’d from England are Said to Amount to two thousand or thereabout—with this Embarkation they take Spare Arms.8

Since our last Attempt they Are Much More Careful on Staten island—they double the Centries—The Militia patrole on horse Back—The Nearest post to us is decker’s ferry—The Boats are in or By The City.9

None of the Cork Fleet Arriv’d—they have Certain Accounts that this fleet has been Eleven Weeks out—it is Reported they have been taken By the french off Madeyra10—No late Arrival from England Nor from the Southward—they Are Scanty for provisions—Nothing But hard Bread for the Soldiers who Complain about it—the Allowance Some What Reduc’d.

My informant is a London trader11 is well Acquainted in Newyork, and Sometimes examin’d By them—they Say he is a very honest Man, But I don’t think it impossible that My Louis d’or may Sometimes Meet With English, guineas in the Bottom of his purse—I gave him an instruction and some intelligences for the Ennemy, which, if he Betrays me, May Answer an other purpose.

When last in the City, Arnold enquir’d of him when Mistress Arnold (who, he knows, was Sent over to Newyork) was expected in Elizabeth town.12

An other intelligence I have Receiv’d (But how far to be Credited I don’t know) Says that We May depend Upon Rodney’s Going to the West indias—that his fleet Consist of eight Sails of the line—Weather Arbuthnot Goes With him or Not, The informant Cannot tell—one hundred drafts chiefly from the 22d Regiment are Gone on Board The Men of War—Number of our officers taken in frigats and privateers are on Board the fleet, and from thence will it is Said be Sent to England there to be Exchang’d.13

I expect Some other people’s intelligences and will Communicate Every one of them to Your Excellency, So that we May Compare them with Such as you Will, I hope, Soon Receive, and from them form a general idea of the Ennemy’s Situation.14 I have the honor to be With the highest Respect and Most tender affection dear general Yours


P.s. to Morrow Morning if Nothing New occurs, I will Send a party of Eighty light infantry men towards the opposite side to Aquakanac, and Vanyer’s horse towards Schuyller’s ferry,15 where they say we may get Some hay to feed them for a few days.16

ALS, PEL; ADf, in French, Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France. For the location in the dateline, see Lafayette to GW, 28 Oct., source note.

1The next Wednesday was 15 November.

2A translation of Lafayette’s draft indicates that the spy was a boy.

3For the winter quarters of British, German, and Loyalist units in New York City and environs, see Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 251.

4British officer Archibald Robertson wrote in his diary entry for Wednesday, 8 Nov.: “Recruits sail’d to Carolina and the Raleigh Frigate to Virginia” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 241).

5For the impressment of sailors and the departure of British admiral George Rodney’s fleet, see Lafayette to GW, 11 Nov., and n.3 to that document; see also Rochambeau to GW, 29 Oct., and n.5, and n.13 below.

6Similar erroneous rumors regarding American captain John Paul Jones had been afloat since the spring (see GW to Lafayette, 20 May, and n.4 to that document; see also La Luzerne to the Continental Congress, 16 May, n.3, enclosed with Samuel Huntington to GW, 29 May).

7For Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie’s British expedition to Virginia, see GW to Huntington, 17 Oct., n.2, and Nathanael Greene to GW, 31 Oct., n.4.

8GW conveyed this intelligence when he wrote Lieutenant General Rochambeau on 14 November.

Hessian recruits that had arrived in October sailed to South Carolina (see John Jameson to GW, 31 Oct., and n.2 to that document). Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister reported from New York on 13 Nov. that as of 11 Nov. “the recruits who had embarked for the south still lay at anchor at Sandy Hook” (Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 394). New York City printer Hugh Gaine wrote in his journal entry for 16 Nov.: “All the Ships sailed this Day or last Eve” (Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:104).

9The draft did not include this paragraph. Lafayette’s proposed attack in late October never launched (see his two letters to GW, 27 Oct. [letter 1; letter 2], and Timothy Pickering to GW, 28 Oct.).

10For this British supply fleet from Cork, Ireland, see Lafayette to GW, 14 Nov., and n.1 to that document.

11This term described an individual who conducted illegal transactions with the British (see Johann Kalb to GW, 24 March, n.3, and Jedediah Huntington to GW, 26 April, n.1; see also Isaac Woodruff to GW, 7 May, n.4).

12British general Benedict Arnold reunited with his wife, Margaret, after Pennsylvania officials ordered her on 27 Oct. to leave Philadelphia “within fourteen days” (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 12:520; see also Jacob and Case, Treacherous Beauty description begins Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case. Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America. Guilford, Conn., 2012. description ends , 174–77, and n.14 below).

13In his report from New York City on 13 Nov., Baurmeister wrote: “Admirals Arbuthnot and Rodney no longer exchange rebel naval officers; these are all being transported to England” (Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 394). British admiral Marriot Arbuthnot and his fleet remained in New York and waters off eastern Long Island (see Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 396–97; see also n.5 above and n.14 below).

Rodney related recent British naval operations around New York and plans for his squadron in the West Indies when he wrote British admiralty secretary Philip Stephens from the “Sandwich off Sandy Hook” on 13 Nov. (Rodney of the White Squadron description begins Letter-books and Order-Book of George, Lord Rodney, Admiral of the White Squadron, 1780–1782. 2 vols. New York, 1932. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 65–66. description ends , 1:73–76).

14Additional intelligence came from John Adam, deputy commissary of prisoners, who wrote GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman from Elizabeth, N.J., on this date (Monday): “Yours by the Express with the inclosers of I duly Recd the one for Genl Philips goes immediately by a return Flag, the last Parcel of papers I Recd from New York I sent on to Head Quarters by Mr Skinner, at Present none by me—the latest I have seen was the 8th that barin⟨mutilated⟩.

“I Recd Yesterday by Flag 19 Naval Prisoners, not only from them but information from others, that Admiral Rodney with a Fleet not less than 50 odd sail (reports differ a little) fell down to the Hook seturday last, Genl Philips on Board, how many Troops I am not able to inform you—said bound to the River Delaware to take Possession of Wilmington heights, to put a stop to our Shiping in that River.

“By whose orders (but most likely Adl Rodneys) but this is certain One hundred odd, Naval Prisoners is sent to England Natives of Britain Captured in Privatiers—which practise they are determined to follow up as they take them—the reasons given is, to put a stop to our Navigation by draining us of our men, this circumsta⟨nce⟩ I have mentiond to Mr [Thomas] Bradford, to be reported to the Board of War—They wou’d endeavour to perswade thate the Cork Fleet is Arrived, but from information from my Nephew & that with a good Glass on Seturday at Perth Amboy it appeard to be their own Fleet fallen down—Mrs Arnold came on Yesterday & went of[f] in a few Hours after—himself was on Board of a Sloop about five miles from the Point to receive her & her Child.

“No part of the Sutheren News will go down with them, nor will they admit even of an Action or Colo. Ferguson being wounded, or their Fleet being out of Chassapeak Bay. … P.S. Inclosed is a Letter from Mr. Lloyd whom with his Family went from here Yesterday” (DLC:GW; one of the enclosures probably was GW to William Phillips, 9 Nov., found at Phillips to GW, 4 Nov., n.4; see also Richard Bennett and Joanna Leigh Lloyd to GW, 11 Nov.; Matthias Ogden to GW, this date, and n.1 to that document; and notes 12 and 13 above).

15Schuyler’s ferry (later Dow’s, or Douw’s, ferry) crossed the Hackensack River in southeastern Bergen County, New Jersey.

16This foraging party, which included members of Col. Bartholomew von Heer’s Maréchaussée Corps, did not leave as anticipated (see Lafayette to GW, 14 Nov.).

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