Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
New Windsor, July 10th, 1779.
Immediately upon receipt of Your Letter of this date, I ordered the Quartermaster-General to furnish the Espontoons you wrote for, and presume you will get them in a day or two. My ideas of the Enterprise in contemplation are these: that it should be attempted by the Light Infantry only, which should march under cover of night and with the utmost secrecy to the Enemy’s lines, securing every person they find, to prevent discovery. Between one and two hundred chosen men and officers I conceive fully sufficient for the surprize; and apprehend the approach should be along the Water on the South side, crossing the Beach and entering at the abatis. This party is to be preceded by a Vanguard of prudent and determined men, well commanded, who are to remove obstructions, secure the sentries, and drive in the guards. They are to advance the whole of them with fixed Bayonets and muskets unloaded. The officers commanding them are to know precisely what Batteries, or particular parts of the line, they are respectively to possess, that confusion and the consequences of indecision may be avoided. These parties should be followed by the main body at a small distance, for the purpose of support and making good the advantages which may be gained, or to bring them off in case of repulse and disappointment. Other parties may advance to the works (but not so as to be discovered till the conflict is begun) by the way of the causeway and River on the north, if practicable, as well for the purpose of distracting the Enemy in their defence, as to cut off their retreat. These parties may be small, unless the access and approaches should be very easy and safe.
The Three approaches here mentioned should be well reconnoitred beforehand, and by persons of observation. Single men in the night will be more likely to ascertain facts, than the best glasses in the day. A white feather, or cockade, or some other visible badge of distinction for the night, should be worn by our Troops, and a Watchword agreed on to distinguish friends from Foes. If success should attend the Enterprise, measures should be instantly taken to prevent, if practicable, the retreat of the garrison by water, or to annoy them as much as possible if they attempt it; and the guns should be immediately turned against the shipping and Verplanck’s point, and covered if possible from the Enemy’s fire.
Secrecy is so much more essential to these kind of enterprises, than numbers, that I should not think it advisable to employ any other than the light troops. If a surprize takes place, they are fully competent to the business; if it does not, numbers will avail little. As it is in the power of a single Deserter to betray the design, defeat the project, and involve the party in difficulties and danger, too much caution cannot be used to conceal the intended enterprise till the latest hour from all but the principal officers of your corps, and from the men till the moment of execution. A knowledge of your intention, ten minutes previously obtained, will blast all your hopes; for which reason a small detachment, composed of men whose fidelity you can rely on, under the care of a Judicious Officer, should guard every avenue through the marsh to the Enemy’s works, by which our Deserters or the spies can pass, and prevent all intercourse. The usual time for exploits of this kind is a little before day, for which reason a vigilant officer is then more on the watch. I therefore recommend a midnight hour. I had in view to attempt Verplanck’s point at the same instant, that your operations should commence at Stony Point; but the incertainty of coöperating in point of time, and the hazard which would be thereby run of defeating the attempt on Stony point, which is infinitely more important, (the other being dependent,) has induced me to suspend that operation.
These are my general ideas of the plan for a surprize; but you are at liberty to depart from them in every instance, where you may think they may be improved, or changed for the better. A Dark night, and even a rainy one, (if you can find the way,) will contribute to your success. The officers, in these night marches, should be extremely attentive to keep their men together, as well for the purpose of guarding against desertion to the enemy, as to prevent skulking. As it is a part of the plan, if the surprize should succeed, to make use of the enemy’s Cannon against their shipping and their post on the other side, it will be well to have a small detachment of artillery with you to serve them. I have sent an order to the park for this purpose, and, to cover the design, have ordered down a couple of light field-pieces. When you march, you can leave the pieces behind. So soon as you have fixed your plan and the time of execution, I shall be obliged to you to give me notice. I shall immediately order you a reinforcement of light Infantry and Espontoons.
I am, dear Sir, &c.