George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 8 August 1776

To Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Head Quarters New York Augt 8 1776


The Account given you by a Deserter as brought me by Mr Tilghman1 is confirmed by two Sailors who came off the Night before last from the Enemy, That Genl Clinton is arrived with his Army from South Carolina, & that Preperations are makeing for an early & vigorous Attack. They farther add that Last Sunday 1000 Hessians landed, Part of 12000, the Remainder beeing left off the Banks of Newfound Land that may be expected every Hour under these circumstances and concidering how much dificient this Army is from the not filling up the new Levies, & Sickness I must desire you to send over one of the Riffle Regiments as we have not one Corps of that kind on this Island. I leave it to you to fix upon that which you think will come with the most Chearfullness & are best appointed but would not have any time Lost. The Quarter Master may set out immediatly to prepair for them. From all accounts the grand attack will be made here & at Long Island—I cannot find any thing meditated against New Jersey at present—I have wrote to the Convention of Jersey & to Connecticut to send in the Militia with all Expedition.2 I am Sir; with much Regard your most Obt Huble Servt


LB, in George Lewis’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1For this intelligence report, see Mercer to GW, 7 Aug., n.1. Tench Tilghman (1744–1786), captain of a Philadelphia light infantry company that recently had joined the flying camp, volunteered his services as an aide-de-camp to GW about this time and acted in that capacity without rank or pay for the next several years. On 21 June 1780 GW officially appointed Tilghman one of his aides-de-camp (see General Orders, that date), and at GW’s request Congress resolved on 25 May 1781 that Tilghman “receive the commission of lieutenant colonel in the line of the army and take rank from the 1st April 1777” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 20:541; see also GW to John Sullivan, 11 May 1781, DLC:GW). In October 1781 GW sent Tilghman to Congress with dispatches announcing the British surrender at Yorktown, and the delegates expressed their gratitude by directing the Board of War to present Tilghman “a horse properly caparisoned, and an elegant sword, in testimony of their high opinion of his merit and ability” (ibid., 21:1082). Tilghman took an extended leave of absence during the spring and summer of 1782, and he left the army for good in December 1782. After marrying his cousin Anna Maria Tilghman of Maryland in June 1783, he settled in Baltimore, where he became a merchant, his occupation in Philadelphia before the war.

GW had become well acquainted with Tench Tilghman’s younger brother James Tilghman, Jr. (1748–1796), of Alexandria, Va., during the early 1770s, and on at least three occasions while serving as a delegate to Congress during 1774 and 1775, GW had visited the Philadelphia home of their father, James Tilghman, Sr. (1716–1793), a former resident of Talbott County, Md., who had become a prominent lawyer in the city (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:103, 276–77, 331, 334). Those family connections and Tench Tilghman’s able performance during the summer of 1775 of his duties as secretary to the Continental Indian commissioners for the northern department undoubtedly brought him to the attention of the commander in chief, who was in great need at this time of additional assistance at headquarters. A well-educated young man of aristocratic background and bearing, Tilghman quickly became not only one of GW’s most trusted aides but also an intimate friend. “I have often repeated to you,” GW wrote Tilghman on 10 Jan. 1783, “that there are few Men in the World to whom I am more attached by inclination than I am to you” (CSmH). Tilghman for his part expressed great admiration for GW from the beginning of his service at headquarters. “You can have no Idea of the Generals Merit and Abilities without being with him,” Tilghman wrote his father on 13 Aug. 1776. “Few Words serve him, but they are to the purpose, and an Order once given by him is implicitly obeyed thro’ every Department. His civilities to me have been more than I had a right to expect, but I endeavour to make it up by my Assiduity in executing his Commands, in some of which I have given him very particular Satisfaction” (Tilghman, Memoir description begins Memoir of Lieut. Col. Tench Tilghman, Secretary and Aid to Washington, together with an Appendix, containing Revolutionary Journals and Letters, Hitherto Unpublished. 1876. Reprint. New York, 1971. description ends , 130–31).

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