George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, 29 December 1780

To Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton

[New Windsor, 29 Dec. 1780]

Dear Hamilton,

Your letter of the 19th came safe by the Doctr, who set out this morning for Philadelphia.1

I had, previous to the receipt of it, and without knowing that the Board of War had given any direction respecting the Armory at Albany, requested the Governor to exempt (if he could do it with propriety) the Citizens who were employed in it, from Military Services in cases of alarm, and had written to Genl Clinton to direct the Quartr Master to afford such assistance in his power to have the works repaired, & the business as far as depended upon him accelerated.2 I have now given order for delivery of such hides as Mr Ranselaer shall find absolutely necessary for the use of the Armoury.3

Although a trip to Albany, on more accts than one, would be perfectly agreeable to my wishes; I am so far from having it in my power at this time, to fix a period for this gratification of th⟨em⟩ that I ⟨have but⟩ small hope of accomplishing it at al⟨l⟩ this Winter. There are some matter⟨s⟩ in suspence, which may make a journey to Rhode Island necessary.4 but as the subject is not fit for a letter, I shall with-hold the communication till I see you.

A second embarkation has ⟨ta⟩ken place at New York—the strength of the detachment, & its destination ⟨are⟩ vaguely reported, & no certainty u⟨nde⟩r whose command it goes. Arnold is said to be of it—from whence the Connecticutions conclude that New haven or New london, must infallibly be the object, while more rational conjectures send it to the Southward, from whence no late accts have been received.5

Mrs Washington most cordially joins me, in compliments of congratulation to Mrs Hamilton & yourself, on the late happy event of your marriage & in wishes to see you both at head Quarters. We beg of you to present our respectful compliments to Generl Schuyler, his Lady & Family & offer them strong assurances of the pleasure we should feel, at seeing them at New Windsor. With much truth and great personal regard I am Dr Hamilton—Yr Affecte frd & Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Hamilton Papers. GW did not date his letter, and the docket is not extant. For the supplied dateline, see n.1 below.

1John Cochran carried Hamilton’s letter to GW dated 19 Dec., and he left New Windsor for Philadelphia on 29 Dec. (see Saffron, Cochran description begins Morris H. Saffron. Surgeon to Washington: Dr. John Cochran, 1730-1807. New York, 1977. description ends , 66).

2See GW’s first letter to George Clinton, 19 Dec., found at GW’s first letter to James Clinton, same date, n.2.

3See n.1 with the letter referenced at n.1 above.

4GW presumably refers to plans for military operations with the French (see his letter to Rochambeau and Ternay, 15 Dec.).

5Possibly among GW’s recent intelligence was a letter from Samuel Culper (Abraham Woodhull’s alias) to John Bolton (Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge’s alias), likely written at Setauket, N.Y., on 24 Dec.: “I yesterday returned from New York And Shall now communicate All that have bene able to collect Genl Arnold Saild on the 20 Instant, from Sandy Hook With a detachment not exceeding Sixteen Hundread Men, Consisting of Brittish Germans & Volunteers Arnold is intrusted With the command of a Military Chest, Whereas he may give or take Thousands Coll Simcoe with part of his Regmt is gone with him Various are the conjectures concerning their destination Some Say to the West Indies, Some to the Carolinas, Some to the Floridas. Others to Virginia, The latter the most probable, as a very noted Refugee (I think by the name of Charles Williams) formerly an Inhabitant of the beforementiond place, Is gone with a large quantity of goods Sutable for Cloathing Negroes, I am Told Arnolds haveing the command is displeased many of the independent Gentlemen of the Army, And is called by Some the Rebel Fleet. The Enemy have certain Accounts of a large Fleet Sailing from France, And in consequence thereof Four Thousand Troops may be expectd to arrive Shortly at New York—Or to the Southward—A particular returne of the Army and their cantonements I am unable to give, But I am assured, that their numbers now do not exceed 7500 fit for duty Their Horses are very poor, And the Greatest part of them will certainly die this winter Admiral Rodney hath Sent a considerable number of prisoners, both Masters & Seaman, to England a Step unheard of heretofore, which drew tears from our unfortunate Countrymen, I hope youll endevour to exchange as many as possible. For the prisoners will Suffer more this Winter than ever. As the tender and Well disposed Inhabitants, Are debard from lending them any assistance with out endangering themselves.

“The above is all that I am able to informe you Worthy of notice. I have directd C. Brewster to Cross again on the 12 Or 13 of Jany, And in the Interim Shall visit New York—again Wishing this Safe to hands And you health and prosperity” (DLC:GW; underlines signify decoded text; Culper used the code for New York in his dateline, but that location makes no sense with the first line of his letter, and he typically wrote from his home in Setauket). For the code, see Tallmadge to GW, 25 July 1779. Culper again wrote Bolton on 14 Jan. 1781 (DLC:GW).

For other reports regarding the British embarkation, see William Heath to GW, 18 Dec. 1780 (second letter), and Anthony Wayne to GW, 25 Dec., and n.1 to that document; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 27 Dec., and n.2 to that document.

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