George Washington's 1778 Papers on the Minisink

To read the commands of General George Washington echoing throughout the Minisink Valley during the Revolution in response to the poignant  requests for aid of October 14 and 24 from the residents of Peenpack and Smithfield and the plea of November 22 by the New Jersey frontier militiamen outlines how sorely pressed the circumstances of the settlers were in the Fall of 1778. The devastation ranged from Peenpack on the Neversink River in New York to Smithfield on the Delaware in Pennsylvania. The arrival of Pulaski's Legion of Horse and Foot soldiers from Sussex Court House, present day Newton, to the Minisink settlement only added to those burdens.

Note Washington's correspondence clearly identifies the location as the Minisink settlement upon Delaware, not to be confused with the present day Minisink, New York, and the region generally as the Minisinks or the neighbourhood of Minisink. For our entry on the Minisink settlement see also The Town Clerks of Minisink 1734 - 1782.

Note some links make require scrolling down, next image, to view.

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tusten, Jr.
Goshen, [NY] Octobr 14th 1778

May it please Your Excellency
From various Accounts as well as the Concuring Testimony of a number of Credable Persons I lern that the Indians joind by a number of Tories who have gone from these parts made a decent on our western Frontiers yesterday & have reduced Pienpack a pleasent & welthy Village to Ashes Murderd numbers of the Inhabitants & Captivated the rest—We have a small Fort in the place guarded by a few Militia who I have the greatest reason to fear, ’tho not posses’d of evidence, have fallen into their hands—By the best accounts from Persons who have had an opertunity of viewing the Enemy from an Advantagious height they cannot be less than five Hundred & when the last Express came away were on their March toward Minisink another Village about six Miles distant—The few Militia in these parts have turn’d out with tolerable Spirit but give me leave to assure Your Excellency that we are very weak as every Regiment in this County except one have March’d into the Jersy; therefore if it might be consistent with Your Excellencies Grand Designs to spare us a Number of Your Troops in this Critical moment & save our Country from impending destruction it will be Joyous to thousands as well as Your Excellency’s most Obedient Servt
Benj. Tusten Lt Col.
p.s. Since writeing the Above I hear part of Minisink is Destroyed.
See also footnote 1. - Col. John Cantine, 3d Ulster County Regiment to Gov. Clinton, 14 Oct., Wawarsing, N.Y:  “I this Moment received Intelligence that a Number of the Enemy came yesterday at Eleven O:Clock at Peinpach—they have burnt the Barns & Barracks of that Place they made an Attack upon the Fort at Jacob Dewits which had about 25 Men in it who with Ease maintained it—The Enemy have burnt as far as Martines Decker’s where there is another Stockade Fort with near the same Number of Men from Dewitts to Decker’s about 10 Miles—the Express had no farther particulars.”

Journals of the American Congress from 1774-1788, October 30, 1778, p 107 
A letter of the 24th, from Nicholas Depui, John Chambers, Benjamin Van Camp, and others, directed to his honor George Bryan, Esq. was laid before Congress, and read, together with two affidavits therein enclosed: Ordered, That the same be referred to Gen. Washington, who is directed to take order thereon.

Henry Laurens to George Washington
Philadelphia, November 1, 1778
... I shall likewise transmit herewith a Letter of the 24th October 1778 from Nicholas Depui and others and two Affadavits referr’d to in the Letter which Congress refer to Your Excellency’s consideration:
Nicholas Dupui, et al to Pennsylvania Council, October 24, 1778.

Gentlemen we do with Reluctance adress you once more conscerning the aprehensions we are under of the Indin & Torey Incursions on the Frontiers which we have not Neglected to give you Notice of. when we entered into the Combination with you of Defending our Rights & privileges against the unjust Claims of great Briton we expected a Mutual combination would have procured Mutual defence & it has so happened in the Coarse of the War that we were part of those that was first cald on to make up our Co[s]ts of the flying camp which we on the shortest Notice complyd with, the next call was to Trenton when the fate of the war seemd dark on our side but still as Gloomy as our struggle apeard at that time, a Generous Compliance took place & we were the first in the State there ready to take the field excepting the brave Melitia from philadelphia & our atending last winter in that Inclement Season all Cooperates to prove that we have Acted our part in the present Strugle for which Conduct we are singled out by the enenemy & your Neglect to suffer the loss of our lives & our all whilst those persons among us that profest neutrality sits Quiet & none to make m afraid; so in the coarse of the present Strugle the my is comeing to Ruien us an Enemy that is desperate Lost to the feelings of humanity therefore we have nothing to expect but fire sword & Desolation for it seems all in Vain to call on you for assistance you seem Deef to our Complaints if you think this Indecent Languague such can only be expected from a disparing people; but by way of N.B. [Nota bene, Note well] we can assure you by certain Intiligence we receivd from Justice Vannakens [Van Aken or Van Auken] the Indians are at Coshiston [Cochecton NY] or perhaps now neaer on there way down towards this state the Information was from a party of Toreys that came down to Menisink from the great Corn Brant party to warn some of their Connections to move off, the reasons they give for their not proceeding farther after desolateing peanpack [Peenpack NY] was the waters being so high they could not pass therefore they retired as far as Coshiston with a View to turn back when the waters fell: we have here given you the best Intiligence we can, & we mentioned in our last to you that the Inhabiters of uper [Upper] Smithfield [PA] & great part of Deleware [Delaware Township PA] were movd over to the Jerseys where they still remain & the spirits of the fiew that remains amongs us is so depresd being without assistance that we are not able to keep a single scout out & the first Intiligence we may expect is a Stroke  - signed by Nicholas Depui, John Chambers, Benjamin Van Camp, and John Van Campen

George Washington to Continental Congress
Head Qurs., November 6, 1778.
....I have transmitted the Letter from Nicholas Dupui and others, with the Affidavits to His Excellency Govr. Clinton and have ordered Colonel Cortland to march with his Regiment towards the Minisinks and to take such Post as the Govt. may point out. 

George Washington to Count Casimir Pulaski
Poughkeepsie, November 10, 1778.
...Upon consulting Govr. Clinton, of the State of New York, upon a position, in which your Corps can be employed to advantage, and at the same time be plentifully subsisted in the Article of Forage, he advises the Minisink settlement upon Delaware. You will therefore be pleased to march immediately for that place, and take your Station as near Cole's Fort as you conveniently can. ... I must beg you to make use of all means to keep your Corps from marauding or in any way distressing the Inhabitants, who will cheerfully contribute every thing to your support if properly demanded. There are two Gentlemen of particular influence in that Country, Mr. [Nicholas] Depui and Mr. [Benjamin] Van Camp, who will assist you very much in procuring Forage and other necessaries....

Count Casimir Pulaski to George Washington
Rosecrantz, November 15, 1778  - in French, contemporary translation, translation in text,

Rosecrantz refers to the Rosenkrans family holdings on the Shapanack Tract in Walpack Township, NJ.

George Washington to Edward Hand
Head Quarters, Fredericksburg [NY], November 16, 1778
... If it shall not be judged expedient to carry an expedition at this time, you will then consult with the Gentlemen above mentioned upon the most proper disposition of the troops to support each other in case of an attack upon any of the separate posts, and at the same time to afford protection and cover to the Frontier. Count Pulaski's legion consisting of about 250 Horse and Foot are at Coles Fort in the Minisink settlement. I intend to strengthen them, with the addition of some other Corps say about 250 more. Colo. Cortlandts Regt. is between Minisink and Rochester. ...

George Washington to NJ Gov. William Livingston, November 18, 1778

George Washington to Edward Hand,
Head Quarters, Fredericksburg,  November 20, 1778 
 ... I have thought it would be more agreeable to you to remove down to the Minisink settlement and take the command of a Body of troops which we are under the necessity of assembling there to protect that Frontier against the incursions of the Indians. The Corps at the Minisink will consist of Count Pulaski's Legion, Colo. Armands Corps and Colo. Spencers Regt. making about 500 Horse and Foot. Colo. Cortlands Regt. is at Rochester in the neighbourhood of Minisink. ...

If you have in consequence of my last formed any plans of offence you will be pleased to communicate them to Genl. Clinton and repair as speedily as possible to Minisink and inform me upon your arrival there.

Samuel Westbrook, et al to Count Casimir Pulaski November 22, 1778

Samuel Westbrook, et al to Count Casimir Pulaski
Minnisinks November 22, 1778
May it Please your Honour, We the subscribers being Inhabitants of the the place above mentioned - hope your Honour will consider the situation of many distressed people, who as the Inhabitants of this place in humanity, have taken into our habitations, and maintain at our own expense, beings driven from their homes by the Indians and lost thus Cattle Grain [etc etc] - hope your Honor will consider the above - at the same time we are willing to assist any of our fellow soldiers, strugling in this our Glorious cause -  we therefore think that it will not be in our power, from the above circumstances, to support the Cavalry more than Seven days from this date - signed by Samuel Westbrook, Major; Samuel Meeker, Major [wounded at the Battle of Minisink Ford, 1779]; illegible possibly Abraham Shimer; and Peter Westbrook, Capt. [killed at the Battle of Conashaugh, 1780].

N.B. [Nota bene, Note well] we _ subscribers have examined the Country and made every possible means to support the Cavalry and find our efforts in vain to support them any longer than the time above mentioned

 [Enclosed in: 1778 Nov 23 Pulaski to Washington]

Count Casimir Pulaski to George Washington, November 23, 1778

Count Casimir Pulaski to George Washington,
Minnesink, November 23, 1778
Dear General -
agreeable to your order to me while at Sussex Court house [Newton NJ] - I marched the Legion to this Place & find the Indian Enemy have retierd near one hundred miles from this - from which it appears that there will be Nothing for us to do - on examining the Country I find it will be impossible to support the Cavalry with Forage ... the persons appointed for that Purpose have delivered me the enclosed address which will account for the matter - my reason for not marching to Coles Fort the Place pointed out by you; are that there is Neither Inhabitants Nor Forage for our subsistance & the gentleman to whom you refer me for assistance in this County live thirty miles below this Post & have not procured one Dock of Nag or bushel of grain - the People from the Back Country having fled to this Settlement among their friends our stay here will greatly distress the whole - I therefore should be glad your Excellency would remove my Corps to some other Post....

George Washington to Count Casimir Pulaski
Head Quarters, Fredericksburgh, November 24, 1778.
Sir: Your favour of the 15th. by Count Kolkowski, I received a few days since. If I have a right idea of your situation at Rosecrantz it will fulfil the object intended. Cole's Fort appeared a good position for covering a considerable part of the frontier; but any place in the vicinity of it, will answer the purpose as well; and as the circumstances you mention, make that particular spot inconvenient on the score of subsistence, you will either remain where you are or choose for yourself such other position in the neighbourhood as appears to you best adapted to the accommodation of your corps....

... nothing remains but the bears to fight with. - Congressional Edition Vol 2449, p 21

George Washington to Edward Hand
Head Quarters, Fredericksburgh, November 26, 1778.
Sir: When I first ordered troops to the Minisinks, Coles fort on the Delaware was recommended to me, as a proper place for them to be posted at, covering at the same time a part of the Frontier of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, agreeable to which, my directions to Count Pulaski were given. But the Count, on his arrival in that quarter, has represented to me the impossibility of taking post at Cole's Fort, that place and its environs having been desolated by the enemy, and being quite destitute of forage. I have since directed him to make such a disposition of his corps, as appeared to him best calculated for its accommodation, so as to be as near as possible to the place originally intended. When you arrive at Minisink you will dispose of these and all the other troops, under your command, on the same principles; attending as much to their convenience and easy subsistence, and to the convenience of the inhabitants as you can consistent with the main object of your command. You will then inform me where the troops are posted.

George Washington to Count Casimir Pulaski
Head Quarters, November 26, 1778.
... I shall only add to what I have already said on the subject, that you will keep your cavalry as near as you can to the place first pointed out, consistent with a proper supply of forage and subsistence without too much distressing the already distressed inhabitants. If this cannot be done where you now are, you will remove them to some other place.

If your cavalry must be sent to any considerable distance, your infantry can still remain, in the vicinity of Coles Fort. General Hand will soon be at the Minisinks, whose knowledge of the Country will be useful in making a proper disposition of the troops.

George Washington to Count Casimir Pulaski
Paramus, December 7, 1778.
I have directed the German Battalion to be stationed at Easton, with a view of ordering them to the Frontier should their assistance be needed. I have thought it better to let them remain there until wanted, than to send them up to consume your stores which I imagine are not very ample. I expect by the time this reaches you General Hand will have arrived. I am etc.

George Washington to Nathanael Greene
Head Quarters, December 15, 1778.
Dear Sir: His Excellency is not a little surprised to hear that Count Pulaski's legion has got back to Easton, from whence he will remove them the moment he knows where to send them. Colo. Moylans Regiment is certainly to remain at Lancaster so they cannot go there, and it will not do to send them to Frederick town upon the chance of that place being vacant. If there is a possibility of subsisting them at or near the Minisink His Excellency would order them back, he thinks their coming down is only a pretence to get into more comfortable quarters. Be pleased to enquire of Colo. Biddle whether he has had any representation of the state of Forage in that Country. If he is of opinion that they really cannot be subsisted there, let him name any place where there are no Horse at present and they shall be instantly ordered thither. All our Compliments wait upon Mrs. Greene. I am, etc.
[This letter is signed by Tench Tilghman, and is from a copy in the Toner Transcripts in the Library of Congress made from the original in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1892.]

Brigadier General Edward Hand to George Washington
Minisink 17th Decr 1778
Since my arrival here which has been much retarded by deep Snows, heavy Rains and consequently high Waters I have been honoured by the receipt of your Excellencies favour of the 26th Ultimo.

I cant find that Count Polaskies Horse can be accomodated so near this place as to be able to afford any assistance—the Forage they have already consumed has distressed the Settlement—indeed the Country is too rough for Horse to act to advantage. the Count has made application to Col. Hooper D.Q.M.G. at Easton for Quarters for the Horse who says he must send them 40 Miles beyond Easton, if that be the case I beleive I must call on the Garman Regt which Genl Clinton tells me lies at Easton subject to my Orders.

The Count has rightly informed your Excellency as to Coles Fort, Pienpack the Sittlement of the greatest consequence in its Vicinity being in a great Measure distroyed—yet there are some Fortified Houses above Coles Fort where I intend to place a few Foot. I beleive I shant be able to make a General Dispotition of the Troops in this Quarter untill Count Polaskies Departure it will take me that time to gain a sufficient Knowledge of the Country....

George Washington to Edward Hand
Head Quarters, Middle Brook, February 7, 1779
... Count Pulaski's Legion being ordered by a Resolve of Congress of the 2nd ... to repair to South Carolina, you will be pleased to direct the Officer commanding the Infantry of the Legion to march immediately, by the shortest Route to Lancaster where he will meet orders for his future destination. 

George Washington to Count Pulaski
Head Quarters, Middle Brook, February 8, 1779
... In consequence of the resolution of Congress of the 2nd Inst. directing your Legion to South Carolina "to act under the command of Major Genl. Lincoln, or the commanding officer of the Southern department I have ordered the Infantry of your corps which were stationed at the Minisink to march immediately to Lancaster in Pennsylvania...

detail of Upper Smithfield, Sussex Court House [Newton], Minisink, Cole's Fort, Montresor map, 1775