George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 18 November 1780

From Major General Lafayette

Light Camp [near Cranetown, N.J.]
November the 18th 1780

My dear General

I have Receiv’d Three different Accounts from Newyork, and Tho’ the Authorities Are Not Unquestionable I will lay them Before you that we May Compare them with other Accounts.

A Man Sent in By dr Burnet Says That part of the Cork fleet is Arriv’d, Betwen twenty and forty Sails—That the Rest is given over for lost1—The troops in Newyork about 1500—at Bergen 250—There was an alarm on the 15th at Staten island—Rodney had Sail’d The Same day—No troops went with him.2

A letter from Newyork Through hend⟨ricks⟩3 Says That The troops in the City Consist of The 42d General Robertson’s Corps, one Bataillon of hessians, Some of Brown’s Corps4—Sir henry Clinton’s Baggage Return’d from long island, one Mr A.B.H. had given intelligence that I was on the 15th Going to Attak Staten island With three thousand Men—The Main part of the Army lays from flushing to donices ferry5—Rodney had Not Sail’d, But was to Set out immediately—All Ships of the Line fell down The Narrows except The Adament 74 Who Lays at The Battery and Rides Commodore—Rodney has taken with him about Seventy of odel’s New Corps,6 and a draft of hundred And Ninety Soldiers from Several Regiments to Serve As Marines—A Number of invalids about 200 are Embark’d in The fleet for England which as well as the West india Fleet Will Sail With Rodney and on parting from him the first one will be Convoy’d By the Sandwich and Terrible7—The Above letter is Brought over By one Woodruff whom You know, and whose Account is pretty much The Same—he only thinks from Some Questions Which Were ask’d That the Ennemy will be out in Eight days to forrage—The Number of provisions Carried in from Shrews Bury is above Conception—on this Account the price of Beef much lowered—Bergen Refugees above 200.8

An other Man writes me—That At paulus hook they have the 54th and two Compagnies of hessians, in all about 428 men9—at fort Washington about 500 all most all Germans—at King’s Bridge does not yet Know—in Newyork one German Regiment, some Thing Second British which I Can’t Read10 and Robertson’s New Levies11—on staten island one Regiment of Germans, Simcoe’s legion, Two Regiments of New levies12—The Main part of the Army on Long island some at Flatt Bush, Some at Newtown White Stone &c.—theyr winter Quarters will, he thinks, be to the North ward of jamaica where a Large Number of hutts is Built—They will Soon Go into winter Quarters13—Then the Man Gives me an account of piquets an patroles at paulus hook and Staten island—Rodney has not Yet Sail’d, But Will Soon—he has taken about 228 Soldiers, and Some invalids—the Fleet Consists of Men of War and Merchant Men But No Embarkation14—About ten days Ago About 4 or 5 frigats have Sail’d—The fleet fell down To The Narrows.

from These Accounts, My dear General, I find that Rodney has sail’d, or will Soon Set out—that The Main Body of the Ennemy Are upon Long island—That they have few troops in Newyork—But What Surprises me is to hear That No Embarkation takes place—after what you Told me Some days Ago, I Thought There was Certainly A detachement Going to the Southward, and Can’t help Believing it still in Some Measure.

Clel smith Return’d Last Night—I have sent him This Morning to A Man who if he Chooses May Give us intelligences15—I expect also to hear in a few days from A Gentleman who takes no Money—But would like Better to have a letter from Tamage’s friend.16

inclos’d You will find Some News papers wherein the Ennemy Announce General Woodford’s death17—You will find That in one of the papers an impertinent performance of Mister Revington’s which however does not Want humour.18 With the Most Affectionate and Respectull sentiments I have the honor to be, My dear General, Yours


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

1Ships had arrived from this British supply fleet (see Lafayette to GW, 14 Nov., and n.1).

2For the departure of British admiral George Rodney’s fleet, see Lafayette to GW, 11 Nov., n.3; see also Lafayette’s second letter to GW, 13 Nov., n.13.

3This letter has not been identified. John Hendricks was an active spy (see his letter to GW, 17 Oct.; see also John Vanderhovan to GW, 6 Nov., and n.4 to that document). Lafayette also could mean Capt. Baker Hendricks.

4Besides the 42d Regiment of Foot, the 22d Regiment of Foot and several German regiments were in New York City (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).

5A ferry crossed the Narrows below New York Harbor between Staten Island and Denyse Point on Long Island.

6Beginning the previous summer, William Odell, “Major Commandant Of the Loyal American Rangers,” had been authorized “to raise a corps” for service against Spanish interests (Royal Gazette, 11 Nov. 1780).

William Odell (d. 1783) served as an officer in the Jamaican militia before he formed the Loyal American Rangers—apparently as lieutenant colonel commandant—for service against Spanish colonies in the West Indies and central America (see Dornfest, Military Loyalists description begins Walter T. Dornfest. Military Loyalists of the American Revolution: Officers and Regiments, 1775-1783. Jefferson, N.C., 2011. description ends , 263). He recruited in New York from Loyalist refugees, Continental army deserters, and prisoners.

7See n.2 above.

8Lafayette may refer to Isaac Woodruff, who resided in Elizabeth, N.J. (see Elizabethtown Committee of Safety to GW, 3 July 1776, and Elias Dayton to GW, 16 July 1780).

9The 54th Regiment of Foot was stationed at Paulus Hook, N.J. (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).

10The French draft indicates that Lafayette was trying to read the unit’s coat of arms.

11See n.4 above.

12Hessian captain Johann Ewald reported these troops on Staten Island, N.Y.: “The 43 Regiment at the flagstaff, Hessian Regiment Bünau near Watering Place, two battalions of [Cortlandt] Skinner’s in Richmond” (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).

13Ewald detailed the disposition of troops on Long Island, N.Y., including “English grenadiers at Newtown” (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).

14The French draft indicates that Lafayette meant without smaller transport vessels; see also n.2 above.

15Lt. Col. William Stephens Smith sought intelligence (see Lafayette’s first letter to GW, 13 Nov., and n.1 to that document).

16Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge managed the Culper spy ring.

17The Royal Gazette (New York) for 15 Nov. reported “Rebel General” William Woodford’s burial at Trinity Church on the evening of 13 Nov.: “This gentleman had been permitted, thro’ the grace of Government, to embark in the Carolina fleet for this city, in hopes of recovering his health, he was one of the group of Chiefs taken at the surrender of Charlestown.” For the surrender of Charleston, see Duportail to GW, 17 May.

18Lafayette comments on an “Extract of a letter from a German wine merchant to his friend in the Empire, dated February 10, 1780, received through France,” printed in The Royal Gazette for 11 November. The letter claimed that GW maintained “at head quarters an extraordinary and beautiful soldiers girl,” and that upon her becoming pregnant, “Lady Washington” prepared “with her own hands the swadling cloaths, shirts, and other little furnitures for the young hero, which the soldier’s girl in December last brought into the world.” The young woman is identified in The Royal Gazette for 15 Nov. as not the daughter of “a soldier, but a tap-house keeper, of the name of Sidman,” whose establishment was “at the Mouth of Smith’s Clove.” No other accounts or facts sustain the implausible assertions regarding GW or Martha Washington. James Rivington published The Royal Gazette.

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