Revolutionary War Correspondence

The greater part of the New Jersey soldiers’ time was occupied by such mundane duties as mounting guard, cutting wood, and maintaining garrisons in several towns in the area. There were occasional opportunities during this period for excitement or at least a change in the mundane rounds of daily living. In August 1778 General George Washington directed Brigadier General Maxwell to station a party of fifty men in Monmouth County “at some place … most convenient for commanding a view of the Hook and its environs; in order to watch the motions of the Enemy’s Fleet and to advise me from time to time of every thing that passes …” By and large this duty must become routine after the men had settled in to their new environs, but to break the monotony there were occasional forays against “Wood Tories,” a popular term for local inhabitants Loyal to the crown. One attempt to capture them or “burn their Cabin” was made around the end of August, and on the 30th the 2nd New Jersey’s Major Richard Howell, commander of the observation post, moved with his men to forestall a rumored Loyalist attack at “the Sale of Ship and Cargo at Toms River”; the outcome is unknown.1

Major Howell’s party was less than the fifty men the commander in
chief had recommended. On 9 October the major wrote from “Tinton
falls” that “As to parties of Observation alas I have but
thirty men [which is] insufficient to guard our little post & am
… unable to detach a party on so dangerous a command but obligd to
expose my person every Day alone.” Howell’s detachment remained
on this duty until January 1779. In reference to a force of “250
Men from the line, properly officered, to go upon that service”
of stopping the trade between Monmouth and New York, Washington
stated on 9 January “There will be no necessity of Major
Howell’s remaining in Monmouth … be pleased therefore to direct him
to join his Brigade, with the Men that are with him as soon as they
arrive …” 2




Washington Papers, Reel 50, Richard Howell to William Maxwell, June 24, 1778.
Finding that the Enemy were extreamly carless I [illegible
word] about & Detach’d my Corps in three Divisions hoping that by
that means [to] Collect a number of prisoners, Captn. Ross had a
smart fire with the Enemy as they were taking up the Bridge tis
thought he Kill’d some of them. The success of the other parties is
as yet unknown. Provisions is extreamly difficult to procure as the
Enemy have swept all before them, but my Method is [to] Leave men
behind to Cook & bring on [to] the rendezvous where we meet in
the Evening. Colo. White [who] has been in their rear says [they]
Incline towards Emly’s town beyond Allentown. Capt. Ross always
beheaves well & so will the other two beyond Doubt. Tell Colo.
Shreve by means of the Hessian General Nothing has been hurt in his

1. Washington
to William Maxwell, 8 August 1778, Fitzpatrick, Writings of
Washington, 12, (1934), 295. Richard Howell to William Maxwell, 26
August 1778, George Washington Papers, series 4, reel 50; Howell to
Maxwell, 30 August 1778, series 4, reel 51 (henceforth cited as GW

2. Richard
Howell to Washington, 9 October 1778, reel 52. Washington to the
Board of War, 9 January 1779, Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 13
(1936), 497.

On 24 March
1779 Brigadier General Maxwell wrote Colonel Shreve, “Yours of
Yesterday I was favoured with by Major Howell, and agreable to your
orders, have given the Major the Command at Spank Town – Your letter
informs me of almost a Brigade of troops on the lines more than I
knew of before; that is the one at Bonum Town; I believe it is
cheifly imaginary. I know of a Brigade at Westfield, but confess I do
not understand their business to be the same that you do; for instead
of its being their business to ease us on the lines in point of duty,
I suppose them to be sent there to support any part of the lines that
may be attacked.”

30. William
Maxwell to Israel Shreve, 24 March 1779, Israel Shreve Papers, Buxton
Collection, Prescott Memorial Library, Louisiana Tech University,
Ruston, La.

Washington requesting a vigilant officer to make observations and
report to him. Major Richard Howell was chosen.

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Head Quarters,
August 8, 1778.

Sir: I am
uncertain whether you may not already have a party somewhere in
Monmouth County, but however this may be, it is my wish you should
without delay have one of 50 Men stationed under a very vigilant and
intelligent Officer at some place in that County most convenient for
commanding a view of the Hook and its environs; in order to watch the
motions of the Enemy’s Fleet and to advise me from time to time of
every thing that passes, of all Vessels that arrive to them, or go
out from them. Lieut. Colo. Brearly, 37 Ray 38 or Major Howel 39
would either of them be very proper for this business. I would wish
the Officer who is to have the charge of the party to go instantly on
and his party to follow as soon as possible. If you have any Militia
Horse it would be desireable to send a few with him, and to remain
with the party.

[Note 37:
Lieut. Col. David Brearley, of the First New Jersey Regiment. He
resigned in August, 1779.]

[Note 38:
Lieut. Col. David Rhea, of the Fourth New Jersey Regiment, who had
retired in July, 1778.]

[Note 39: Maj.
Richard Howell, of the Second New Jersey Regiment. He resigned in
April, 1779.]

For conveying
any important intelligence with dispatch, I inclosed you a letter to
Mr. Caldwell40 directing him to station expresses at proper distances
between the party you send and

[Note 40: Rev.
James Caldwell.] Elizabeth Town; and I shall expect whenever it comes
to you, you will not lose a moment in forwarding it to me, by a
trusty hand, on whose activity and care you can depend; and when
there is any thing particularly interesting you will send duplicates
for fear of accidents. As the obtaining good and certain intelligence
is a matter of great importance to us, I must intreat you to continue
your other exertions for procuring such as may be depended on. I am

P.S. I just now
recd. your favor of yesterday and the intelligence it contains
respecting the Fleet seems so certain that it cannot well admit of a
doubt. Yet should it be otherwise, I must request you to give me the
very earliest information of it. The importance of such a
circumstance you must be fully sensible of, and therefore I make no
doubt you will upon similar occasions have the fullest proof, before
you hand it to me as fact. I have transmitted a copy of that part of
your letter which Count D’Estaing is so materially interested in, to
him. You will be pleased to Seal the inclosed before you forward

[Note 41: The
draft is in the writing of Richard Kidder Meade.]

Major Richard
Howell making observations concerning the British Fleet.\

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

August 21, 1778.

Dear Sir: On
Wednesday afternoon I received your favor of the 12th58 and 13th
Inst. by Mr. Hulet the Pilot, who did not arrive in Camp ’till then.
I am much obliged by your particular relation of matters, and request
that you will continue it from time to time whenever opportunity will

[Note 58:
Greene’s letters of August 12 and 13 are not found in the Washington

There is one
circumstance in your relation, of which I was exceedingly sorry to
hear.59 You will readily know which it is. I wish the utmost harmony
to prevail as it is essential to success; and that no occasions be
omitted on our part to cultivate it.

[Note 59: At
this date misunderstandings and antagonism were already existent
between the American and French officers.]

Your operations
have been greatly retarded by the late violent storm; but as it is
now over, I trust things will go on prosperously and that you will be
rejoined by Count D’Estaing who has been kept out so long by it.
Indeed from General Sullivans Letter of the 17th., I flatter myself
you will have made a compleat reduction of the Enemy’s force before
this reaches you, and that the next advices I receive will announce
it. If the fact is otherwise, let me beseech you to guard against
Sortee’s and surprizes. The Enemy, depend upon it, will fall like a
strong Man, will make many Sallies, and endeavor to possess
themselves of, or destroy your Artillery; and in one of these, they
once put the Militia into confusion, the consequences may be fatal.

By a Letter
which I received yesterday from General Maxwell, inclosing one from
Major Howell,60 (who I have stationed at black point for the purpose
of observn) it appears certain, that Sixteen of Lord Howe’s fleet
entered the Hook on the 17th.

[Note 60: Maj.
Richard Howell, of the Second New Jersey Regiment.] That on that, and
the preceeding day, there had been heard severe Canonades at Sea, and
that it was reported in New York that a 64 Gun Ship and several
Transports had been taken by the French Squadron. I wish the fact may
be so as to the capture, and that the Count may be with you to give a
narrative of it himself. I cannot learn that Admiral Byron is
arrived, nor do I believe that he is. It is said that one Ship only
of the Cork Fleet is yet arrived. I have not time to add more, as
Majr. Blodget61 is in a hurry to proceed, than to assure you that I
am, etc.62

[Note 61: Maj.
William Blodgett, aide to Greene.]

[Note 62: From
the Nathanael Greene Papers in the Library of Congress.]

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Head Quarters,
Fredericksburg, October 22, 1778.

My Lord: I am
favd. with yours of the 19th. and 20th. with their inclosures, and
thank you for the important and particular intelligence which you
have communicated. I must now beg of you to continue your endeavours
to find out whether a total evacuation is intended, or a Garrison to
be left in New York. If the latter, the Knowlege of the number of
Troops, the Corps, and the ships of War will be very essential. If
your expresses can with safety cross to South Amboy, your
communication with Major Howell will be much more expeditious.

If you obtain
any material intelligence, I shall be obliged to you for transmitting
it immediately to Congress; but I would just hint to your Lordship
the necessity of mentioning to the president what information they
may give to the public as authentic, if they chuse to publish: As I
see they have printed a postscript to one of your letters, in which
you speak of the evacuation of Fort Independence as a report only.

If the small
detachment of Major Lee’s has not yet left you, be pleased to send
them forward to join their Corps.

I have informed
Govr. Livingston that you would afford him any assistance in your
power in collecting evidence of the surprise and Massacre of part of
Colo. Baylor’s Regt. I am etc.75

[Note 75: In
the writing of Tench Tilghman.]


A letter from
George Washington to Benjamin Tallmadge in reference to paying Aaron
Woodhull alias Samuel Culper and finding a more expedient route for
transmitting intelligence through Col. Shreve or Gen Maxwell both of
which Richard Howell already was sending intelligence through. This
letter is dated 21March 1779 and Richard Howell resigned in April

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

March 21, 1779.

Sir: With this
Letter you will receive Fifty Guineas for S– C–r,93 which you will
cause to be delivered as soon as possible, with an earnest
exhortation to use them with all possible oeeconomy, as I find it
very difficult to obtain hard money.94

[Note 93:
Samuel Culper, spy, alias of Aaron Woodhull.]

[Note 94: The
following receipt, in the writing of Washington, follows this letter
in the Washington Papers: “Middlebrook, March 21, 1779. Then
received from General Washington the Sum of Fifty Guineas (in Gold)
to be delivered to S– C– for the purpose of secret intelligence
from New York. Benja. Tallmadge.”]

I wish C–
could fall upon some more direct channel by which his Letters could
be conveyed, as the efficacy of his communications is lost in the
circuitous rout. if he could fall upon a method of conveying his
Letters to Genl. Maxwell at Elizabeth town, or to Colo. Shreve at
Newark, they would come to me with more dispatch, and of consequence
render his corrispondance more valuable.

As all great
movements, and the fountain of all intelligence must originate at,
and proceed from the head Quarters of the enemy’s army, C– had
better reside at New York, mix with, and put on the airs of a Tory to
cover his real character, and avoid suspicion. In all his
communications he should be careful in distinguishing matters of
fact, from matters of report. Reports and actions should be compared
before conclusions are drawn, to prevent as much as possible,
deception. Particular attention is to be paid to the arrival, and
departure of all Fleets, and to the alterations in the cantonements
of the Troops and their respective movements with the destination of
them, if to be come at, and before it is too late to profit by the
knowledge. All reinforcements, whether of whole Corps, detachments,
or recruits (for the purpose of filling their Regiments) to be
carefully marked, and the numbers, description, &ca. properly
designated. All detachments and the strength and destination of them
to be scrutinized with an eye equally attentive. The temper and
expectation of the Tories and Refugees is worthy of consideration, as
much may be gathered from their expectations and prospects; for this
purpose an intimacy with some well informed Refugee may be political
and advantageous. highly so will it be, to contract an acquaintance
with a person in the Naval department, who may either be engaged in
the business of providing Transports for the embarkation of the
Troops, or in victuelling of them. Many other things will occur upon
reflection without an enumeration of them: I shall therefore only add
my wishes that the whole may be placed on such a footing as to answer
the end most effectually, and that I am Sir Yr., etc.

P S I wish
merely for curiosity, and that I may be prepared with sufficient
knowledge, for any future favourable contingency, to know the depth
of Water through Hell gate? the largest Ship of war that has ever
passed it? and the largest that can pass it?95

[Note 95: From
a facsimile in the Washington Papers. A copy, in the writing of James
McHenry, also in the Washington Papers, varies from this letter sent
in inconsequential verbal particulars.]

Letter from
General Washington to Alexander Mcdougall concerning double agents
dated 25 March 1779. Washington was gearing up his spy network and
looking for ways to gain reliable intelligence.

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Head Quarters,
Middle Brook, March 25, 1779.

Dear Sir: I
duly received your favour of the 20th instant. Mr. H–20 has just
delivered me that of the 22nd. [The Letter and inclosures referred to
in it are not yet come to hand.] I have had a good deal of
conversation with Mr. H–. He appears to be a sensible man capable of
rendering important service, if he is sincerely disposed to do it.
From what you say, I am led to hope he is; but nevertheless, if he is
really in the confidence of the enemy, as he himself believes to be
the case, it will be prudent to trust him with caution and to watch
his conduct with a jealous eye.

[Note 20:
Elijah Hunter, assistant commissary of forage, at Bedford, N. Y.]

I always think
it necessary to be very circumspect with double spies. Their
situation in a manner obliges them to trim a good deal in order to
keep well with both sides; and the less they have it in their power
to do us mischief, the better; especially if we consider that the
enemy can purchase their fidelity at a higher price than we can. It
is best to keep them in a way of knowing as little of our true
circumstances as possible; and in order that they may really deceive
the enemy in their reports, to endeavour in the first place to
deceive them. I would recommend, that the same rule should be
observed in making use of Mr. H–, who notwithstanding the most
plausible appearances may possibly be more in earnest with the enemy
than with us. By doing this we run the less risk and may derive
essential benefit. He is gone on to Philadelphia.

Inclosed is a
copy of a resolve of Congress of the 15th., which so far as it
affects the troops under your command you will be pleased to assist
me in executing as speedily as possible. I am, etc.21

[Note 21: The
draft is in the writing of Alexander Hamilton. The portion in
brackets is in the writing of Washington.]

Letter to
General Maxwell asking for more intelligence and is hoping that the
intercourse with New York has not come to an end.

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Middlebrook, March 25, 1779.

Sir: I was
favored with the receipt of your letter of the 17th. inst. [If you
have any] know[ledge] of the country which lays between Niagara and
our settlements. [I shall be obliged by your] delineating with as
much exactness as you are able, the different Indian villages, the
best routes which lead to them; their names, the nature of the
[country whether hilly or swampy] the waters and such obstructions as
may be in the way. You will distinguish between what you know from
actual observation and what you may have drawn from the accounts and
observation of others. [take no notice of my having made these
enquiries.] You will be pleased to grant a flag in the present
instance for the flour and beef for the use of the State prisoners in
the hands of the enemy. But mention to Mr. Boudinot as the business
is of a State nature it may in future be most eligible to obtain
provisions from the Governor, [which when obtained will be sufficient
for you to grant a Flag on.

I hope your
intercourse with New York is not totally at an end. I have heard
nothing from there of a long while, not from you since the 17th. Have
you not yet heard what Fleet that it was appeared off the Hook last
week? from whence and the contents?, and what the Enemy appear to be
abt. in the City?]

The express who
takes this letter carries the Commissions for the officers of your
Brigade. I am, etc.22

[Note 22: The
draft is in the writing of James McHenry. The portions in brackets
are in the writing of Washington.

On March 25
Washington wrote also a brief note to Lieut. Col. Anthony Walton
White, requesting him to make the returns of his regiment. A
photostat of this note is in the Washington Papers.

Also on this
same day (March 25) Washington wrote briefly to Brig. Gen. James
Clinton, at Albany, sending the resolve of Mar. 15, 1779, and
requesting the returns called for therein.]

Letter from
General Washington to Congress alluding to a secret mission to be
carried out by Richard Howell.

The Writings of
George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799.
John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Head Quarters,
Morris Town, January 11, 1780.

Gentn: On the
8th late in the Afternoon I had the honor to receive Your private
Letter of the 3d Inst.46 I sent the next morning for Captain Bowman,
but owing to his being out of Camp in quest of provision, I did not
see him till yesterday, when I took measures with him for complying
with your views. He will march with his Company and with some
additional Men I directed to be attached to it to make it compleat,
this afternoon or early to morrow morning; also with an Empty
Ammunition Waggon. The Captain has received Instructions in the
Spirit of the Board’s Letter, and an Order on the Commissary at
Freehold for a Fortnights provision and also One directing no Officer
to interfere with his command. Our distressed circumstances for want
of provision and the Jersey Troops not having yet received All their
Cloathing or

[Note 46: “The
Board have a Plan of Intelligence accompanied with same other Matters
of which we will hereafter inform your Excellency and which being
communicated to a Committee of Congress has been approved by that
Committee. To carry this plan into Execution we have employed Major
Howell late of the 2d Jersey Regt commanded by Col. Shreve. Major
Howell desires that, to facilitate the Measures we have communicated
to him, Capn Nathaniel Bowman of that Regiment may be detached with
his entire Company of Light Infantry and ordered to proceed with an
Ammunition Waggon to Squan by way of Freehold…” — Board of
War to Washington, Jan. 3, 1780. The Board of War’s letter is in the
Washington Papers.] any of their Coats from their State Cloathier
have also contributed to the Captains delay. I have the Honor etc.47

[Note 47: The
draft is in the writing of Robert Hanson Harrison.]

New Jersey
Delegates who ratified the constitution of the United States

County: Richard Howell 1787 Andrew Hunter 1787 Benjamin Whitall 1787,_Trenton

More to come =

Richard was
born in 1754. Richard Howell … He passed away in 1802. [1]


↑ First-hand
information as remembered by Berry Henderson, Sunday, June 29, 2014.
Replace this citation if there is another source.

See also:

Add sources

[1] 150th
Anniversary of the Skirmish at Quinton’s Bridge and the massacre at
Hancock’s bridge.

[2] wikipedia
Gov. Richard Howell

[3] Find a
Grave website

Philander D.
Chase, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series
volume 17, 15 September – 31 October 1778. Charlottesville and
London: University of Virginia Press, 2008.


Location (Keziah Howell, Burr-807) New Jersey Marriage Date (KeziahHowell, Burr-807) 0000-00-00 + 1779-00-00

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