George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Caldwell, 30 January 1781

From James Caldwell

Pompton [N.J.] Tuesday Night Jany 30. 81.


This day the Commissioners met at the Jersey Camp to hear the Claims of those Soldiers who suppose they have served the term of their enlistment.1 We were happy in the Instructions communicated by Your excellency from Ringwood. They perfectly coincide with the plan we had marked out. From the beginning of the revolt I most possitively refused to treat with the revolted Troops, or to bind myself to any other mode in the enquiry which was to be made, than that of prudence and justice: And your excellency may rely upon it that not a man shall be dismissed the service without clear proof on his side of his title thereto.2

I am very happy to find by a Letter from General Howe to Colo. Barber of this day, that a Detatchment is to be left in the neighbourhood of this Camp for some time.3 It is not a doubt with me but many of the Soldiers will be disapoint⟨ed⟩ when the Commissioners give their judgement upon their enlistments. And although I have no reason to apprehend that it will produce any thing like a general mutany, yet some may attempt an escape privately to the Enemy. This leads me to offer my opinion in favour of the Proposal made by Colonel Barber to Genl Howe for moving the Brigade to the Huts near Morris Town:4 From the position your excellency made of the Army in the first Cantonment, a post there was judged necessary.5 It still appears of importance, not more for a cover to the Country than to preserve the Chain of Communication & Stores. And that the Jersey Brigade would there be better secured against mutany and desertion, is to me very evident. The Years men6 stationed along the lines woud be a great security against the latter, & the Militia in front & the neighbourhood, the best guard against the former. For Your excellency may be assured, that had the Troops delayed to declare themselves satisfied at Chatham, upon hearing what the Legislature had done for them, the Militia would immediately have reduced them. This accounts for their submission while in that neighbourhood & reassuming their evil spirit, on returning towards this place, where the militia were not a terror to them, & the country towards the enemy lay open as a last resource. That Position of the Brigade would also much facilitate the enquiry to be made into their enlistments, which is now rendered almost impracticable from their being so detatched. And I believe it would contribute something considerable towards recruiting new troops to fill up our Regiments. With the most sincere esteem and every kind wish Your excellencys most obedt and very huml. sert

James Caldwell

P.S. I left E. Town last sunday Night, & Chatham Yesterday at noon. There was nothing new from the Enemy. Secret emissaries7 are droping Printed Proclamations, & offers in writing, tending to seduce the Soldiers.8 And General Robinson seems to have listened to, and countenanced, a proposal urged by the Refugees to take Post at Eliz. Town to favour Revolts & collect Deserters. But it has not yet been my opinion that he will cross over to us till his prospects are more flattering.9 At present, he seems rather too much taken up with his new purchase, Mrs Arnold to engage in a frey with the Jersey Lads.10 as before



GW replied to Caldwell from headquarters at New Windsor on 7 Feb.: “I have been favored with your Letter of the 30th Ulto.

“It is with pleasure I learn, that the principles on which the Commissioners are acting, will do justice to the Troops of New Jersey, & eventually give pretty general satisfaction without injuring the service by any considerable diminution of their numbers.

“Upon weighing maturely the reasons for removing the Jersey Troops from their present Cantonment to Morris Town; I have given Orders for the purpose; This I hope will be productive of all the good consequences you suggest; and especially that it will tend essentially to promote the recruiting service; which, I consider as an object of the greatest importance, and to which almost all others ought to be subservient” (Df, in David Humphreys’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). For the orders, see GW to the Officer Commanding the New Jersey Brigade, 7 February.

1For the appointment of these commissioners, including Caldwell, see Frederick Frelinghuysen to GW, 20 Jan., n.2.

3The letter from Maj. Gen. Robert Howe to Lt. Col. Francis Barber has not been identified, but see GW to Howe, 29 January.

4See Barber to Howe, 28 Jan., in Barber to GW, 29 Jan., n.1.

5For GW’s winter encampment assignments, see his letter to Samuel Huntington, 28 Nov. 1780. He sent the Pennsylvania line to Jockey Hollow, N.J., near Morristown (see GW to Anthony Wayne, 27 Nov.).

6Caldwell refers to recently embodied New Jersey state troops. On 26 Dec. 1780, the New Jersey legislature had passed “An ACT to raise, by voluntary Enlistment, eight hundred and twenty Men, for the Defence of the Frontiers of this State,” and the troops were to serve until 1 Jan. 1782 (N.J. Acts, 15 Nov. 1780–9 Jan. 1781 description begins Acts of the Fifth General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey, At a Session begun at Trenton on the 24th Day of October, 1780, and continued by Adjournments. Trenton, 1781. description ends , pp. 23–29; see also 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 , 326).

7Caldwell inadvertently wrote “enissaries” for this word.

8For other reports of these emissaries, see Howe to GW, 29 Jan. (first letter), and Elias Dayton to Howe, 27 Jan., in Barber to GW, 29 Jan., n.1.

9British lieutenant general James Robertson went to Staten Island, but not to Elizabeth, New Jersey. He returned to New York City on 28 Jan. (see Dayton to GW, 24 Jan., n.7, and Sabine, Smith’s Historical Memoirs [1971] description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs from 26 August 1778 to 12 November 1783 of William Smith. . .. New York, 1971. description ends , 381). Robertson explained his failure to engage the New Jersey mutineers when he wrote William Knox on 29 Jan. (see Klein and Howard, Letter Book of Robertson description begins Milton M. Klein and Ronald W. Howard, eds. The Twilight of British Rule in Revolutionary America: The New York Letter Book of General James Robertson, 1780-1783. Cooperstown, N.Y., 1983. description ends , 186–88).

10Robertson had become a friend of Benedict Arnold, now a British brigadier general, and his wife, Margaret, who was living in New York City. They named a son, born in August 1781, James Robertson Arnold.

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