Major Richard Howell writes Benedict Arnold

Benedict_Arnold_1color-ABBelow is a letter that Richard Howell wrote on June 20st just 8 days before the battle of Monmouth, which was June 28, 1778. It contains vital enemy tactical intelligence for the planning of that battle to be relayed from Arnold to General Maxwell. Source citations are at the end of this post. It also describes some the atrocities the British were visiting on the civilians in New Jersey.


To George Washington from Major General Benedict Arnold, 21 June 1778
From Major General Benedict Arnold

Philada June 21. 1778,

Dear General

3 oClock Sunday morning

The Inclosed Letter this Minute came to hand, and contains every Intelligence, I have received respecting the Enemies Army,1 Thier Fleet were all below Ready Island except two Ships who lay opposite to it at seven o Clock yesterday morning, which is the last Advice I have received from them.

Seventy Odd Deserters from the Enemy had Arived here last Night, I hope this day will greatly augment the Number. I am very respectfully Dear Genl Your Excellencys Most Obedt Servt

B. Arnold


1. The enclosed letter from Maj. Richard Howell to Arnold, dated 20 June at Haddonfield, N.J., reads: “As I am to give Intelligence to Genl Maxwell of the Enemy by the most Immediate Means, I beg Leave to present the Enclos’d Letter to Genl Maxwell, and request it may be sent on the Pennsilva. Shore as the Extent of the Enemy’s flank and the Intricacy of the roads in the Barons, will make the Conveyance on this side, too tedious as well as precarious. If the Letter is transmitted immediately to Bordentown, it will reach them early enough to serve them. before we Left our Detachment, the Genl had no Intelligence and, being acquainted with the Country, I have procured such as was in my powr—The amt of it I beg Leave to mention to you—The Enemy march’d in 3 Columns—the first approach’d Ayre’s Town yesterday the 2d arriv’d at foster town & the 3d did not remove. this day the 1st arrivd at Mt Holly, 2d at Ayre’s town, (perhaps at Holly) & the 3d Marchd to Morr’s Town. Genl Leslie commands the advanc’d Column of perhaps, 2000 men, Gen. Clinton the 2d perhaps of 5000 men & Gen. Kniphauzen the Last, of 2000 also. Each of these devisions has a great many Waggons, artillery & pontoons: They have many Desertions, & move with great Caution & Slowly—I believe they will halt at Holly until the rear arrives. Their March has been obstructed as much as possible & their flancks harrass’d by our parties. The General is now posted at Black Horse, where he will contend every advantageous post. The Militia are Collected & collecting, resolv’d to do great Things … P.S. The Inhabitants are villianously plundered & some Houses burnt” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed letter from Howell to Maxwell, written on 20 June at Haddonfield, N.J., reads: “As I knew the Country & was Inform’d by Colo: Ellis That an Attempt to gain true Intelligence would be grateful I went on that Buisiness altho’ you were gone out & I could not wait on You for Directions. I went sir, round their flank and found that a very Large body had been at Foster Town and were marched towards Holly. No Intelligence could be obtain’d until I approach’d their rear. Gen: Clinton Commands this Column in person & It consists of 5000 men as it is suppos’d. At Foster town, I Heard that there was another column at Evesham, On which, I resolv’d to Learn the rout of that also by going in the rear; This I perform’d & found their March to be through Moor’s-Town where they are now. This Devision is commanded by Gen: Kniphauzen. The Detachment in front is commanded by Gen: Lesly consisting of about 2000, Their Flanks are very extensive & Their soldiers plunder daringly & Indiscriminately. some rashally refugees or Common Tories fire upon the Travellers or Videts a great way from their main Body. They have pulled up the Bridges in their rear to secure their rear Guard; but they straggle about unarm’d. 30 Deserters have been here, Who report that another party had taken their Colo: & were hid in the wood—This was told us as we past, by the Inhabitants, but we derided the very Idea. Each party has Waggons & pontoons, but the last devision has Infinitely the most. I believe they will continue at Mt Holly till the rear comes up. It now is left without Dispute that they mean to push through Jersey. Captn Cummings Party will be here as Mitchels is now here. But I have resolv’d to Continue and Collect th so that I may attempt something on their rear. When I see yo will find my Stay necessary. They are fatigued, but have behav’d exceeding well. to be encourag’d now is requisite. Captn Cummings nor Mitchel is here at present but tomorrow I will make a party march to gain their rear as we are now too distant from fatigue & want of provisions but as soon as I reach them I’ll attact their parties in flank & rear. Every body cries aloud the Numbers of the Enemy, & their Camps are very extensive—Please to Let me Know if you Choose I should return, but at present I ought to be here … they have burnt some fiew houses & Plundered all—Please to order my Bay immediately round with my Cloaths” (DLC:GW).

Arnold forwarded Howell’s letter to Maxwell under the following note dated 21 June: “The Inclosed Letter was this Minute Delivered me, The Enemies Fleet were all below Ready Island except two Ships Opposite to it at Seven oClock Yesterday morning.

“Seventy Odd Deserters had Arived last Night at this place, and many more have taken Different Routes.

“I hope you will have it in your power to Ruin the Enemy and reap a harvest of Laurels” (DLC:GW).

Permalink What’s this?

Note: The annotations to this document, and any other modern editorial content, are copyright © The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.

Source Project
Washington Papers
To George Washington from Major General Benedict Arnold, 21 June 1778
Arnold, Benedict
Washington, George
21 June 1778

Cite as
“To George Washington from Major General Benedict Arnold, 21 June 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives ( [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 15, May–June 1778, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006, pp. 485–486.

Top of Page

Last update February 28, 2015
Share Us:
Creative Commons License
Governer Richard Howell by William Henderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
This entry was posted in Letters. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Major Richard Howell writes Benedict Arnold

  1. Jasmine Polson says:

    I would like to find out more about the image depicting Maj. Howell wearing a blue uniform that is displayed on your website. Where does this painting reside?
    Thank you.

    • William Henderson says:

      Hi Jasmin

      I very sorry for waiting so long to reply to your comment. It was mistakenly flagged as spam. To answer your question, the portrait now is in private possession and my Brother and I have been in communication with the owner. We asked him to let us know if he ever plans on selling it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.