George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Philemon Dickinson, 1 March 1781

To Major General Philemon Dickinson

Head Quarters New Windsor 1st March 1781.

Dear Sir

Having been under the necessity of making a very considerable temporary detachment from the Army in this Vicinity and from the Jersey Line1—I think it not improbable that the Enemy may endeavour to take advantage of our weakness and enterprize something against the Highland posts or make an incursion into Jersey—I have given notice to the Militia of the neighbouring Counties of this State to hold themselves in perfect readiness,2 and I think it expedient that those of Jersey should be put under similar orders—You were pleased to inform me in yours of the 29th January that this power is vested in you during the recess of the Legislature—You will therefore oblige me by issuing your orders generally for this purpose and directing the Beacons and other signals of Alarm to be put in a state of making immediate communication to the Country of an incursion of the Enemy.3 I think it will be necessary (if you are not already there) that you should be in Jersey yourself, untill we see whether the enemy make any demonstrations of an offensive movement.

I shall set out for Rhode Island to morrow4—You will therefore direct any letters of intelligence5 to Majr Genl Heath at West point in my absence.6 I am &.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Tilghman addressed the draft to Dickinson at “Trenton or Philada.”

3For the signal beacons situated in New Jersey to alert militia, see GW to Henry Knox, to William Livingston, to Arthur St. Clair, and to William Smallwood, all 23 March 1779.

4For GW’s departure for a conference with the French commanders, see his letter to Rochambeau, 2 March.

5Tilghman struck out “a public nature” in the draft at this point and wrote “intelligence” above the line.

6Dickinson replied to GW on 14 March from his estate “Hermitage” near Trenton: “On receipt of your Excellency’s favor of the 1st inst: I immediately returned to Jersey and have given the necessary directions, agreable to your Orders—I shall remain here some Days longer, when I shall return to my Family in Town, for a short Time; should anything happen during my absence, I shall in[s]tantly be informed by Express, & your Excellency may be assured, of my immediate attendance” (ALS, DLC:GW). Dickinson had spent the winter in Philadelphia and wrote GW from that city on 2 May (DLC:GW; see also Dickinson to GW, 29 Jan.). Dickinson’s immediate family consisted of his wife, Mary Cadwalader Dickinson, and their children Mary (1768–1822) and Samuel (1770–1839).

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