George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel William Stephens Smith, 25 February 1781

From Lieutenant Colonel William Stephens Smith

Morris Town [N.J.] Feby 25th 1781. Twelve oClock


The Marquis set off this morning for Philidelphia since his departure I have received from below the enclosed letters which I have the Honour of transmitting to your Excellency, haveing first taken Copys & forwarded to the Marquis,1 we shall march early in the morning and arrive at trenton the 28th instant.2 I have the Honour to be Your Excellency’s Most devoted Servt

Wm S. Smith Lt Colo.

ALS, DLC:GW. Smith wrote “The express is desired to ride night and day” on the cover. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote on the docket: “intelligence from N. York thro’ Colo. D-y-n.”

1Smith likely enclosed an undated letter with the salutation “Jack” and signed “Littel D,” the alias used by Col. Elias Dayton’s spy John Vanderhovan. It reads: “I wrote you yisterday But for Reasons perticular I Did not Send you perticulars of any Accoints Ever Since the packet Arrived hear they Seem to Be in the Dumps, Last Saturday the forty second and twenty third and two Ridgments of Hessians Riced Orders to hold them Selves in Readyness to Imbarck at A minnits warning And Still Are Under the Same Orders those troops Are Supposed to DisCend for Chessepick to Reinforce Arnold and to Sail Under convoy of the Iris and Parl frigots, two Exspresss have Been Sent off] On Satu⟨rday⟩ and Sunday to Adml Arberthnot at Gard⟨iners Is⟩land What news Came By the packet is Kept a Secret this much I have Been Abel to Lern And that By a Letter from Mr Galleway to Mr Shewmaker formerly Maoyr of philidelphile he Acquaints Mr Shewmaker that a fleet of ten Sail of the Line and twelve thowsand french troops had Saled for Some part of this Contenent And that it was Exspected in England that they would Reach Some part of the Contenent Before the packet would, he Concludes with this Exspression ‘I am Sorry for My friends and Can feel for you Sir as I Exspect nothing more than Newyk will Be Beseged Early next Campain’—I Shall Keep A Good Look Out and Give you the Earliest accounts of the Saling of this Imbarcation, I have Some things to acquaint you with of the Conduct of Some perticular persons amongst you But must Refer that till a more Conveniant Oppertunity Various are the Congicters Concerning this Imbarcation Some thinck that a fleet of french troops have Blocked Arnold in the Chesepick Some Say that Lord Cornwallis is Defeeted” (DLC:GW). Vanderhovan probably wrote the letter between 18 and 25 February. “Last Saturday” probably was 17 Feb.; on the afternoon of 17 Feb., the British 42d Regiment had received orders to prepare for embarkation on short notice (see Rochambeau to GW, 20 Feb., n.7).

Smith also may have enclosed an intelligence report from an unidentified correspondent who indicated that his letter was “For Col. Dayton.” The report, dated 22 Feb., reads: “I have This Moment Arrived from N. york—The News of Tarltons defeat Gives them the Greatest Concern This with the Most Disagreeable Accounts from poor Benedict—puts them to their wits End Almost—he is Block’d up in James River by Two 74 Gun Ships and Two Frigates—the Current Report Among them is that Two Frigates of 32 Guns Each and one Store Ship is Come into the Chesepeak not knowing that Arnold was there that one of the Frigats was Run aground and the British were preeparing to Attack them whin the Last Accounts Came Away which was Last Saturday Morning—be this as it May—a Number of Troops are prepareing to Embark the Transports are Gitting Ready with the Greatest Disparch many of them very Large—Their number and Number of Troops not known but from the Best accounts I Could Gain I Believe to be Considerable. and it May be Depended on that their Destination is to Reinforce Arnold—upon the Receipt of the News from Arnold Express was Immeadiately sent to Adml Graves and by Land over Long Island and by sea and it is Thought that Some of his fleet will be sent to virgina” (DLC:GW).

2Smith refers to the detachment ordered to Virginia (see GW’s second letter to Lafayette, 20 Feb.).

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