George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nathaniel Shaw, 23 November 1780

From Nathaniel Shaw

New London [Conn.] Novr 23d 1780.


Agreeable to your Excellencys Letter of the 31st July last to establish a Chain of Expresses from N. London to Tower Hill, and that you would be answerable for their pay while in Service, I found it necessary only to employ three trusty men & their Horses for this & the Post at Tower Hill for five days, before the French General releav’d those at Tower Hill, & Capt. Hurlbut of Col. Sheldens Regt Dragoons extended his Light Horsemen to this Post.1 The expence of which amo. £453.18s/ as ⅌ Bill Inclosed. After Capt. Hurlbut had established his men at this post, I was obliged to find their Horses with Hay & Oats &c. untill I could apply to His Excellency our Governor to get an assistant D. Qr Mr appointed at this Post (which was much wanted before) the amo. of which is £1462.10/, as ⅌ Inclosed Bill.2 The Post is now supply’d by this D. Qr Mr who is furnished with money from our Govr & Council. I was in hopes of not troubling your Excellency with this triffling affair, as I made no doubt but it would be settled by this D. Qr M. & accordingly wrote by him to N. Hubbard Q.M.G. for his orders, & recd the following reply—“neither can I pay the expence of the Express Riders provided by you, as I am entirely destitute of money, and have not the most distant prospect of a Supply—I should emagine you might get your money soonest by applying at Head Quarters”—I am obliged therefore to take this liberty of Inclosing those Bills to your Excellency, and hope it will not be long before they are settled. The defferent Bills & Receipts if necessary can be forwarded. I have taken the most prudent care and attention in the expences.

The British Fleet still lie at Gardiners Bay, as I wrote you in my last, making no movements excepting one or two Ships that are frequently runing off Block Island & returning to them again.3 I am with the greatest respect and esteem Your Excellency Most Obt & very Humle Servt

Nathel Shaw

N.B. The above Fleet lies 3 Miles W.N.W. Gardiners Point, (consisting 9 Sail of the Line) 3 or four Miles South Plumb Island.4 It is said that Admiral Arbouthnot is to go to New York to take the Command their, when Admiral Rodney leaves it,5 & Admiral Graves to command in the Bay this Winter.6 Yrs &c.


ALS, DLC:GW. Shaw wrote “⅌ Capt. Geo. Hurlbut” on the cover.

1For the establishment of these expresses, see GW to Shaw and Elisha Sheldon, both 31 July; Sheldon to GW, 1 Aug.; and George Hurlbut to GW, 8 Aug.; see also Shaw to GW, 5 August.

2The enclosed bills have not been identified, but see n.6 below.

3See Shaw to GW, 30 Oct., found at Rochambeau to GW, 27 Oct., n.2.

4Plum Island is located just east of the northeastern tip of Long Island, N.Y., and about eight miles northwest of Gardiners Island, New York.

Gardiners Point was a peninsula of Gardiners Island until a blizzard in 1888 turned it into an island.

5For the departure of British admiral George Rodney’s fleet on 15 Nov., see Rochambeau to GW, 29 Oct., n.5; see also GW to Rochambeau, 14 November. Serious differences had arisen between Rodney and Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot (see Arbuthnot to Earl of Sandwich, 11 Nov., and Rodney to Earl of Sandwich, 15 Nov., in Barnes and Owen, Sandwich Papers description begins G. R. Barnes and J. H. Owen, eds. The Private Papers of John, Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1771–1782. 4 vols. London, 1932-38. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vols. 69, 71, 75, 78. description ends , 3:259–64).

New York City printer Hugh Gaine wrote in his journal entry for 27 Nov.: “Admiral Arbuthnot arrived this Day from Gardiner’s Island in a small Frigate, his Errand unknown” (Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:105). William Smith, royal chief justice of New York, wrote in his memoirs for Thursday, 30 Nov.: “Admiral Arbuthnot comes through the Sound to Huntington and thence by Land, and last Monday arrived in Town. He calls at Head Quarters and then here. He rattles against Clinton and Sir George Rodney. …

“The next Day the Admiral, General Robertson and Philips were at Head Quarters in long Conference” (Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends [1971], 350). Arbuthnot remained in New York City for several weeks (see Henry Clinton to Arbuthnot, 9 Dec., in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 18:251–52).

6For similar intelligence, see Rochambeau to GW, 27 November. Arbuthnot had been ordered to take command at Jamaica, a move that placed Rear Adm. Thomas Graves in temporary command at Gardiners Bay, N.Y. (see Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 237, 249; see also George Germain to Henry Clinton, 13 Oct., in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 18:186–87).

GW replied to Shaw from headquarters at New Windsor on 8 Dec.: “On my arrival at New Windsor I was favored with your Letter of the 23d Novr enclosing Bills of expence incurred in forwarding Dispatches between Rhode Island & Head Quarters, in consequence of my Letter of the 31st of July last—The Accts are delivered to Col. Pickering Qr M.G. with an Order for settlement, which will be done, as soon as he shall receive any public money.

“I have also, to thank you for the trouble you have taken to procure & transmit intelligence” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Humphreys struck out the final portion of the closing sentence on the draft: “and to request a continuation of your favors Should any capital Movement be made by the Enemy in the Sound”). For subsequent reports from Shaw, see his letters to GW on 31 Jan. and 6 Feb. 1781 (both DLC:GW).

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