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The enclosed return, made up to the first of the month, will show the number of recruits, who have joined this post of the Continental army since its formation upon the new establishment. My requests to the executives of the several States have been earnest, and my orders to the officers in them have been pointed and positive, to send forward the recruits as fast as possible. What to expect, or rather to apprehend, from these delays, Congress can more easily conceive than I can describe. Some States, I am told, despairing of getting their quotas for the war, or three years, are resorting to the old expedient of temporary enlistments, while impediments of another kind withhold the recruits from the army in others.
The bare relation of these facts, without combining other circumstances of equal magnitude and uncertainty, or adding to them the difficulties with which we
are surrounded for want of money, will convince Congress of the impracticability of my fixing at this time on any definitive plan of a campaign, and of my inability to carry into effect those, which have heretofore been the objects of contemplation. They will readily see, that our future operations depend upon contingencies, and that our determinations must be the result of the moment, and dependent upon circumstances.
In this view of matters here, the progress of the enemy under Lord Cornwallis, and in consideration of the reinforcement which has lately gone to him, I have judged it expedient to order the Marquis de Lafayette to proceed with his detachment to the southern army, and put himself under the orders of Major-General Greene. The greatest objection I had to the measure, circumstanced as things now are, was, that the detachment was not formed for the campaign, or for so distant a service as that on which they are now ordered ; consequently neither officers nor men were prepared for it; but the urgent call for succour to the southern States, the proximity of this corps to them, the expedition with which it can join the southern army, and the public expense that will be saved by its advance, have overcome all less considerations in deciding upon it. I wish the march of the Pennsylvania troops could be facilitated, and that Moylan's cavalry could be recruited, equipped, and marched without delay ; for every judicious officer I have conversed with from the southward, and all the representations I received thence, confirm me in the opinion, that great advantages are to be derived from a superior cavalry. Without magazines, and with an interrupted communication, I do not see how Lord Cornwallis could have subsisted his army, if we had outnumbered him in horse.
I think it my duty to inform Congress, that there is great dissatisfaction at this time in the New York line for want of pay. Near sixteen months' pay, I am told, is due. If it were practicable to give this and the Jersey troops, if they are in the same predicament, a small portion of their pay, it might stop desertion, which is frequent, and avert greater evils, which are otherwise to be apprehended. The four eastern States have given a temporary relief to their troops, which makes the case of others, those of New York particularly, appear more distressing and grievous to them.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR BENJAMIN TALLMADGE.
New Windsor, 8 April, 1781.
The success of the proposed enterprise, must depend on the absence of the British fleet, the secrecy of the attempt, and a knowledge of the exact situation of the enemy. If, after you have been at the westward, the circumstances, from your intelligence, shall still appear favorable, you will be at liberty to be the bearer of the enclosed letter to the Count de Rochambeau, to whose determination I have referred the matter; as any coöperation on our part, by moving troops towards the Sound, would give such indications of the design, as would effectually frustrate the success. Should you not proceed to the Count, you may destroy that letter. If, on the contrary, you should go to Newport, by keeping an account of the expenses, they will be repaid by the public.
In the mean time, I wish you to be as particular as possible, in obtaining from your friend an accurate
account of the enemy's strength on York, Long, and Staten Islands, specifying the several corps and their distributions. This, I think, from the enemy's present weak state, may be procured with more facility and accuracy than at any former period. I wish to know, also, the strength of the last detachment from New York, and of what troops it was composed.
I need scarcely suggest, if you should go eastward, that it will be expedient to do it in such a manner as not to create suspicion. Indeed, secrecy is absolutely necessary in the whole affair. As Count de Rochambeau does not understand English, it may be well to communicate your business to the Chevalier de Chastellux in the first instance, and through him to the Count, lest it should accidentally get abroad in the communication. I am, &c.*
* In the letter to which the above was a reply, Major Tallmadge had written as follows.
« Since the establishment of the Board at New York for the direction of the Associated Loyalists, there appears to have been a regular system adopted to open a more effectual communication with the disaffected in Connecticut Chains of intelligence, which are daily growing more dangerous, and the more injurious traffic, which is constantly increasing, are but too fatal consequences of this system. My informer has requested me to propose to your Excellency a plan to break up the whole body of these marauders. At Lloyd's Neck, on Long Island, it is supposed there are assembled about eight hundred men, chiefly refugees and deserters from our army. Of this number there may be about four hundred and fifty or five hundred properly armed. Their naval guard consists of one vessel of sixteen guns, two small privateers, and a galley. About eight miles east of Lloyd's Neck, they have a post at Treadwell's Bank, of about one hundred and forty men, chiefly woodcutters armed. I have seen an accurate draft of this post and works.” Hartford, April 6th.
Major Tallmadge believed, that, if two frigates should enter the Sound, in the absence of the British fleet, and at the same time a suitable body of troops were embarked in boats, the posts might be cut off. He offered to aid or direct an enterprise for such an object.
On receiving General Washington's letter, Major Tallmadge passed over in person to Long Island, and obtained exact knowledge of the TO COLONEL JOHN LAURENS, AT PARIS.
New Windsor, 9 April, 1781. MY DEAR LAURENS, Colonel Armand, who was charged with the delivery of many letters to you from the Marquis de Lafayette, imparting to his friends and the ministry of France your mission, unfortunately arrived at Boston after you had sailed. By him I gave you an account of the revolt of part of the Jersey troops, Arnold's expedition to Virginia, Leslie's arrival at Charleston, and such other matters as occurred after your departure.
Since that period several interesting events have happened; some favorable, others adverse. Among the former may be reckoned Morgan's brilliant action with Tarleton; among the latter, the advantages gained by Lord Cornwallis over General Greene. The official accounts of these I enclose to you. Cornwallis, after the defeat of Tarleton, destroyed his wagons, and made a violent effort to recover his prisoners, but, failing therein moved equally light and rapidly against General Greene, who, though he had formed a junction with Morgan, was obliged to retreat before him into Virginia. Whether from despair of recovering his prisoners, of bringing Greene to a general action, or because he conceived his own situation critical, I do not take upon me to determine; but the fact is, that here commenced Cornwallis's retrograde movements, and Greene's advance from the Roanoke to the place of action.
condition and strength of the forts at Lloyd's Neck and Treadwell's Bank. He then returned, and proceeded to Newport, where he found Count de Rochambeau disposed to assist in the expedition, if it could be made practicable; but, all the armed French frigates being then absent on different destinations, it was not possible at that time to provide the proper naval force.