Letters

Letter #1
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 8, 1778
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 8, 1778

White plains, August 8, 1778.

Sir: I have received your Letter of Yesterday from Norwalk. Let me entreat that you will continue to use every possible means to obtain intelligence of the Enemys motions, not only of those which are Marching Eastward, upon Long Island, but others. In a more especial manner, I have to request, that you will, by every devise you can think of, have a strict watch kept upon the Enemy’s Ships of War, and give me the earliest notice of their Sailing from the hook. To obtain speedy and certain intelligence of this matter may be of great Importance to the French Fleet at, and the enterprize on, Rhode Island; for which reason, do not spare any reasonable expence to come at early and true information; always recollecting, and bearing in Mind, that vague, and uncertain accts. of things, on which any plan is to be formed [or executed]Footnote 1 is more distressing and dangerous than receiving none at all. Let an eye also be had to the Transports, whether they are preparing for the reception of Troops

Footnote 1: The two words in brackets were added by James McHenry.] &ca. Know what number of Men are upon long Island; whether they are moving or Stationary; what is become of their draft Horses; whether they appear robe collecting of them for a move. How they are supplied with Provisions; what arrivals; whether with Men, or Provisions. And whether any Troops have Imbarked for Rhode Island or elsewhere within these few days. I am, etc.

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

[Note: Of the Second Continental Artillery. He was captain-lieutenant in June, 1780; wounded on Long Island Sound in December, 1782; served to June, 1783. He commanded an armed whaleboat on Long Island Sound and conveyed secret intelligence from Samuel Culper to Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge.]

 

Letter #2
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 8, 1778

No transcript

George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 8, 1778

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter #3
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 11, 1778
No transcript
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 11, 1778

Letter #4
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 11, 1778

To Lieutenant Caleb Brewster
Sir Head Quarters White plains 11th Augt 1778

George Washington to Caleb Brewster, August 11, 1778I perceive by a letter of yours to Genl Parsons that Genl Silliman had granted liberty to Lieut. French to return to Long Island upon parole.1 Genl Parsons tells me that upon rect of your letter he directed Mr French to be detained untill he consulted me upon the propriety of the Measure. I desire that he may be immediately sent back to the [292] place from whence he came, and inclosed is a letter for Genl Silliman informing him of my reasons for as doing.2 I am &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1 Brewster’s letter to Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons has not been identified. Lieutenant French may have been Arthur French of the 47th Regiment, who had surrendered with Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga, or perhaps the Loyalist James French (c.1745–1820), who was commissioned a lieutenant in Delancey’s Brigade in August 1777.

2 The enclosed letter to Brig. Gen. Gold Selleck Silliman of the Connecticut militia reads: “By a letter from Lieut. Brewster who is stationed at Norwalk, I am informed that you had granted permission to Lieut. French a prisoner of War to return to Long Island upon parole. There are very particular reasons for putting a stop to this matter at present, and I have therefore ordered Mr French back to the place from whence he came.

“As many inconveniencies arise from a variety of persons undertaking to negotiate exchanges, I must desire that neither Mr French or any other prisoner may be sent out of the State, except by order of the Commander in Chief, The officer commanding in a separate department, or the Commy General of prisoners” (Df, DLC:GW).

Courtesy of the following:
The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, ed. Theodore J. Crackel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.
Canonic URL: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/GEWN-03-16-02-0305 [accessed 26 Nov 2012]
Original source: Revolutionary War Series (16 June 1775–14 January 1779), Volume 16 (July–14 September 1778)

Letter #5
Caleb Brewster to George Washington, August 27, 1778
When I left Long Island this morning, Governor Tyron was at Miller’s Place with about three hundred troops at the main body of Brookehaven about nine miles to the westward under the command of General Delancey. The whole party consists of a thousand men. The party under the command of Tyron are within a half a mile of the Sound. Those under the command of Delancey a mile and a half. The parties arrived there yesterday morning and pitched their tents.
They have large droves of cattle with them and are collecting on their march all that are fit to kill (?). I was so near them that I saw them pitch their camp and also saw the cattle the troops stationed at the Huntington and Lord Neck have some of them marched to the westward, and the remainder are under marching orders.

The fleet that lay at Huntington Harbor came to sail this morning and are standing to the westward in all five and twenty on thirty sail. The above is the fleet that was ordered to Rhode Island, but hearing on the island that some of the French Fleet were coming into the Sound they have put to the westward. On the first of this week several regiments crossed from New York to Brookline Ferry and encamped. There is no arrival of Admiral Bryon or the boat (?)

Letter #6
Caleb Brewster to George Washington, September 15, 1778
From Lieutenant Caleb Brewster
Sir Norworlk [Conn.] Septr 15th 1778

This Morning Returnd from Long Island where I find that the Garrison on Lloyds Consists of 250 Men Including Wood Cutters, they Have a Small fort Situated upon a Clift Joyning the Sound, with a Small Entrenchment about three feet in Height, Nearly four Square Abatied on three Sides in about fifteen feet of the Lines & nothing but Musquetry to Defend it, the Garrison Consists Entirely of New Levies Commanded by one Colo. Patterson1—the Ships of war are Left the Harbours in and about Huntington—Genrl Tryon and Delancee have their Quarters at the Fly at the Head of Flushing Bay2 with about Seven Hundred Troops that Returnd with them from the East End of the Island, there is a Garrison of about 500 Men at Brooklins Ferrey, Cobble Hill fort & a Fort on the East Side Fronting the City, I am [5] Informed from Good Authority that Admiral Bryon is not Arrived nor none of His Fleet nor any of the Cork Fleet,3 Likewise that there is but three or four Ships of war at N. York—There is a Large Fleet Laying of[f] Sandy Hook which has been there four Days we dont know who they are, it is thought by the Inhabitants they are French or Spaniards,4 their Transports are in a very Poor Condition. they are Refitting them with all Possible Dispatch. It is Said in N. York that there is Ten thousand Troops to Embark Soon, & Give it out they are going to Canada,5 An Embargo is Laid on all Vessels in N. York. there is the Hottest Press that Ever was known in the City, Tryon is Sent to the East End of the Island for the Inhabitants to Collect & Fat their Swine Immediately as he is Determined to Make an other Excursion there, All the Cattle that Tryon has Collected on the Island is killing & Salting with all Possible Dispatch, It is the Opinion of our Friends and Even of our Enemies that they will Leave us as Soon as they Possibly Can. I am Sir with Due Respect Your Excellencys Most Obedt & very Humbe Servt

Caleb Brewster

ALS, DLC:GW.

Although Tench Tilghman docketed this letter “Norwalk 15 Sept 1778 from Capt. Brewster,” Brewster was a lieutenant at this time. He did not become a captain-lieutenant until 1780, and he never attained the rank of captain. GW refers to him in other letters of this period as Lieutenant Brewster. For GW’s instructions to Brewster regarding his intelligence activities, see GW to Brewster, 8 Aug. 1778.

1 Thomas Pattinson, formerly a cornet in the British 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons, was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Prince of Wales American Regiment in February 1777. This regiment, which had been raised among Connecticut Loyalists and which had participated in the Danbury raid in April 1777, was sent from New York to Newport, R.I., in late May 1778 to reinforce the garrison there. On 17 June 1778 Pattinson took a detachment of two hundred men and six officers to Lloyd Neck on the north shore of Long Island near Huntington, N.Y., where it cut firewood for the Newport garrison until it returned to Newport on 12 October. The fortification on Lloyd Neck that Brewster describes in this letter was called Fort Franklin, in honor of New Jersey’s last royal governor, William Franklin. In the spring of 1780 Pattinson accompanied the regiment to South Carolina, but he returned to New York a few months later because of ill health. In 1781 he went to England on leave and probably did not return to America.

2 “The Fly” is an American corruption of the Dutch term “Da Vly,” which means “the swamps or marshes” (Adams, The Hudson, 261).

3 Vice Adm. John Byron’s fleet, which had sailed from England in June, was scattered by storms while crossing the Atlantic and was not reassembled until later this month (see GW to Stephen Moylan, 30 July 1778, n.1). Byron arrived off Sandy Hook in his flagship, the Princess Royal, on 16 Sept., but not finding pilots to take him into New York Harbor, he proceeded to Newport, where he arrived two days later (see Alexander Clough to GW, 18 Sept., and note 2 to that document; see also John Sullivan to GW, 21 Sept.). The fleet of victualers from Cork arrived on or about 9 Oct. (see Gruber, Peebles’ American War, 225).

[6]

4 Brewster apparently is referring to Lord Howe’s fleet, which had arrived at New York on 11 Sept. (see Kemble Papers, 1:162, and Laughton, “Journals of Henry Duncan,” 164).

5 The British were planning to send from New York about five thousand men to the West Indies, about three thousand men to the Floridas, and smaller detachments to Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Halifax.

Courtesy of the following source:
The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, ed. Theodore J. Crackel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.
Canonic URL: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/GEWN-03-17-02-0002 [accessed 26 Nov 2012]
Original source: Revolutionary War Series (16 June 1775–14 January 1779), Volume 17 (15 September–31 October 1778)

Letter #7
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, October 22, 1779
No transcipt

 

Letter #8
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, February 26, 1779
FAIRFIELD, Feb. 26th, 1779.
Dear Sir. I have returned from the Island this day. Genl. Erskine remains yet at Southampton. He has been reininfoced to the number of 2500. They have three redoubts at South and East Hampton and are heaving up works at Canoe Place at a narrow pass before you get into South Hampton. They are building a number of flat bottom boats. There went a number of carpenters down last week to South
Hampton. It is thought by the inhabitants that they will cross over to New London after the Continental Frigates. Col. Hewlet remains yet on Lloyd’s Neck with 350, wood cutters included. Col. Simcoe remains at Oyster bay with 300 Foot and Light Horse. There is no troops from Oyster Bay till you come to Jamaica. There is one Regt. of
highlanders and some at Flushing and Newtown, the numbers I cannot tell, but not a regiment at both places. The most of the shipping of force has left New York. There is one 50, one old East India man, one 20 that is repairing at the ship yard, the Scorpion at N. City Island, one old
man at Huntington, 40 guns, the Halifax Brig at Oyster Bay, one sloop of ten guns they are repairing all their flat bottom boats in New York and building a number at the ship yard. This intelligence is as late out of New York as
the 20th of the month. The inhabitants is fitting a number
of Privateers out in the City. There was one French ship brought in with 500 hogsheads of Sugar last week I am with respect, Yours, &c.

CALEB BREWSTER

Letter #9
No transcipt
Samuel Culper to Caleb Brewster, July 20, 1780

 

Letter #10
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, August 18, 1780

FAIRFIELD, Aug. 18th, 1780. Sir. I came from Long Island this after noon but have no Dispaches. Culper has been down to New York. I ed till this morning and he was to send them by two ck, but before he sent them I was attacked by Glover Hoyght. I left one man taken and one wounded. We d one on the spot. The man that was taken went after r. I shall want two men before I come across again. ve got two boats in fine order. I wish you send me seven and I engage to take some of their boats. Mister Muir- will give you a particular account of our cruse. Austin me that Sir Henry Clinton went down to the east end te Island on the sixteenth. Don’t fail to let me have two s if you can of Continental soldiers. With respect, your u and humble servant,
CALEB BREWSTER

Letter #11
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, August 21, 1780
FAIRFIELD, Aug. 21, I780

Dear Sir. I this morning came from the Island. I got
boats last Saturday night and went over in search of Glover
and Hoyght, but could hear nothing of them. They never
stayed to bury their dead man. They carried another away
with them mortally wounded. Setauket is full of troops if
is thought they are going eastward. Austin came to me
yesterday and told me I had best not come on till the
of next week as the troops is so thick in Town and marching
eastward. I wrote to you the eighteenth instant which I
expect has come to hand. Skinner is so he will be able to
do duty soon as he will be wanted. I heard nothing from
Culper this time. I should been back the next time had not the
wind been so high. There was a small fleet of large ships
pt to the Westward this morning. Capt. Jarvis supplied
with men this time to cross. I shall want one man to
make up my crew for one boat and should be exceeding
glad of five more to man the other boat for the cussed
refugees are so thick I cant go amiss of them. . .

C. BREWSTER.

Letter #12
FAIRFIELD, August 27th, 1780.
Dear Sir: I returned this morning from the Island. I crossed
on 22d. inst. and was detained by Culper until last night. I
did not see Culper, he is sick. He did not appoint any time
for me that I know of. It was with great difficulty that I got
the dispatches. The troops are very thick. They are at
Miller’s Place, and Coram, Setauket and the Branch, and
are like to stay some time, and the Refugee boats are with
them Glover and Hoyt has been to Drowned Meadow and
disarmed them all, on Friday last, and I was obliged to lie
still for the want of another boats crew. There is a fine boat
at Stanford that rows with eight oars that belongs to the
public under Capt. John Suttin, with a crew of Continental
Soldiers that was ordered by General Howe, and I believe
that Jubis Fish has one or two boats at Horse Neck, but I
am not certain what public property and Continental
Soldiers. This is a fine time to take some of the Officers.
They are out with their hounds every day. I lay up back of
Esqr. Strongs yesterday and there came a Lieutenant of
17 Regiment within gun shot of us, looking for Esqr.
Strong’s hounds afoot, but he begged so hard I thought it
not best to taken him as it was so near his hours. They are
riding continually from one staghorn to the other.The
troops are all come from Eastward, as far as Miller’s fleet
has sallied from Gardiner’s Bay..C. Brewster
Back to the index

Letter #13
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, November 6, 1780
No transcript

Letter #14
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, November 13, 1780

FAIRFIELD, November 13th, 1780.
Dear Sir. Returned this evening from the Island. I left on
Saturday. Culper was not at home and had to weight till
this morning for him.

Forrage is at Corum yet in stack where tavern is kept.
their remains about forty Ruffigeus yet at Mastick on
Mr. Smith’s place. They have no connon, nothing but
muskets.

I took a prize a coming across today. A fine large boat
from New Haven, which had been to carry passengers over.
We run up long side of them and made them believe we
came from Lloyd’s Neck. They enformed me who secreted
the persons in New Haven four weeks and their connections,
and I wrote it all down before they found out their mistake.
we up sail and came off together and they engaged to pilot
us to gard on the west side of New Haven harbour to take
them. We got two thirds across the Sound before they
found out their mistake and I got them safe under guard.
I am Dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

C. BREWSTER

Letter #15
Caleb Brewster to George Washington, February 14, 1781

FAIRFIELD, February 14, 1781.
Sir. My appointment on the 6th Inst. was frustrated until the 9th by bad weather, when I crossed and from information found I would not accomplish my business without endangering particular persons, as there were numerous crews of Reffugees scattered in the town,
which made it impossible for me to see the person I wished. I thought it most prudent to return immediately, and take with me an additional boat when I crossed again, both for my own safety, and to annoy them if they fell in my way. On the i2th, at night I crossed again with three boats, and affected my purpose, and on the morning
following just as we were embarking to return I discovered a boat rowing from the eastward. I lay concealed till she came opposite to me when I detached one of my boats in pursuit; she discovering our strength immediately came on shore and proved to be a cruising fefugee boat carrying eight men, a list of their names and character I have the honor to enclose to your Excellency. The interest of my country induces me to inform your Excellency that there is a constant
communication kept up for trade and intelligence by the enemy boats bringing over goods and taking provisions in return, and in such force that renders it impossible and many times makes it dangerous transact my business with my present command. An addition of or two boats will make my appointments certain, and when not command should be able to keep the coast clear from any enterprise they would form. I am with Respect your Excellency’s most Humble
Servant,

CALEB BREWSTER

Letter #16
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, February 23, 1781
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor. (Varick)

Head Quarters, New Windsor, February 23, 1781.

Sir: I have recd. yours of the 14th. Your return mentions the names of eight prisoners sent to the provost Guard. General parsons says only six were committed. You should inquire of the Corporal who had them in charge, how this happened.

It is not in my power, at present, to spare any further number of Men for your detachment, as I am obliged to call in many Guards and weaken other necessary ones to support the Garrison of West point.

You will dispose of the Boat and what you took in her for the benefit of the Captors. I am &c.22

[Note 22: The draft is in the writing of Tench Tilghman.]

Letter #17
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, February 23, 1781
No transcript

Letter #18
Caleb Brewster to David Waterbury, June 18, 1781
No transcript

Letter #19
Caleb Brewster to George Washington, July 30, 1781
No transcript

Letter #20
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, May 7, 1782
No transcript

Letter #21
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, May 7, 1782
No transcript

Letter #22
David Humphreys to Caleb Brewster, June 5, 1782

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

[Note 52: Of the Second Connecticut Artillery. He was wounded in December, 1782, in an encounter with British armed boats on Long Island Sound. Captain-Lieutenant Brewster received and conveyed the intelligence from the Culpers to Major Tallmadge.]

Head Quarters, June 5, 1782.

Sir: His Excellency commands me to acknowledge the Rect of the Dispatches addressed to John Bolton Esqr.53 by the bearer of this: and also to request that you will keep up the communication, and give him regularly every information in your power. I am etc.54

[Note 53: John Bolton was the alias of Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge, under which he corresponded with Samuel Culper, sr. and jr.]

[Note 54: The draft is in the writing of and is signed “D Humphrys Aide de Camp.”]

Letter #23
David Humphreys to Caleb Brewster, June 5, 1782 (General)
No transcript

Letter #24
American Intelligence to Caleb Brewster, September 1, 1782
No transcript

Letter #25
Caleb Brewster to Benjamin Tallmadge, October 17, 1782
No transcript

Letter #26
George Washington to Caleb Brewster, June 10, 1784The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.

Mount Vernon, June 10, 1784.

Sir: I believe you have been misinformed as to a resolve of Congress, allowing officers on separate commands, extra pay, I have heard, of no such resolution, on the contrary, that these allowances were withdrawn. It was with great difficulty General Knox could obtain compensation for his extra-expences during his commd. at the post of West-point, where from the nature of it, he was absolutely obliged to encounter them, or turn strangers out of his house. I know also that application was made in favor of Lt. Colo. Hull, who, whilst he was on the lines, exposed to the visits; and in a manner compelled to entertain a number of British officers, and had it not at his option to avoid expence, but with what success it was made I have never heard; this however I do know, that there were powerful objections made to both, lest it should open a door to a multitude of applications which Congress were determined not to comply with.

Lest I shou’d be mistaken, in supposing there is no such resolve as you allude to, I enclose a Certificate55 which may be made use of, if there is.

[Note 55: This certificate stated “that in the year 1778, whilst the American Army lay at the White plains, it became necessary to station an officer and a few men, on the Sound to keep open a communication with the City of New York by the way of Long Island, for the purpose of my secret corrispondence: that Capt. Lt. Brewester of the 2d. regiment of Artillery was chosen for this service; that circumstances made it necessary to continue him therein until the close of the War. And as far as I know or believe, that he conducted the business with fidelity, judgment and bravery, having received a wound whilst he was on that duty, of which I am informed, he is not yet recovered.” This copy is in the “Letter Book” in the Washington Papers.]

I hope you soon will be, if you are not already, perfectly recovered of your wound, my best wishes are offered for it; being with esteem and regard, Dr. Sir, Yrs. etc.56

[Note 56: From the “Letter Book” copy in the Washington Papers.]

Letter #27

From Caleb Brewster
Sir Fairfield in Connecticut March 15. 1792I have presumed upon your Excellency’s known love of Justice, and upon the generous interest you take in the misfortunes of your old faithful military servants, to address to your Excellency the following representation; and I hope that the peculiar circumstances of my case & the unusual Sufferings that have attended my situation will be received as an apology for thus soliciting your Excellency’s aid & support—I will, with your leave, submit to your Excellency a simple and short detail of the facts on which I ground this application.

In the year 1777 I was honored with a commission of Captain in the line of the State of New York and was placed on a detached service, commanding an armed boat for the purpose of cruizing in the Long Island Sound, and for the more important service of obtaining & conveying intelligence from the Enemy. Under this commission I acted till the close of the late war—Of the services I rendered in this capacity your Excellency who was acquainted with the details of these secret operations at that period, is a competent Judge1—Early in the war, on the shore of Long Island from an exertion of bodily labor in carrying the boat I commanded into a place of safety & concealment, I recieved a dangerous & incurable rupture which has ever since been subject to the painful & inconvenient application of those modes of local support which are common in such cases—On [112] the 7th of December 1782 while in the aforesaid service in a bloody engagement with two armed boats of the Enemy I received a wound by a ball thro. my breast2—With this wound I languished & was confined two years & a half under distressing chisurgical operations & a most forlorn hope of cure. The nature of these wounds together with the impairing of my constitution by the long continuance of my confinement have rendered me incapable of any labour that requires a considerable exertion & have reduced me to the melancholy condition of an invalid for life. These are the facts on which I claimed a place on the invalid list of the United States. Of the truth of them there is ample & abundant evidence in detail from the Vouchers now in the possession of the Hon. Aaron Burr of the Senate of the United States. Having thus stated to your Excellency the merits of my situation as they existed before any application was made for public relief, I intreat your Excellency’s attention to a short account of the means I have used to obtain it. At an early day I applied to Col. Richard Platt & Col. Richard Varrick authorised by the State of New York to hear & examine the claims of invalids of the New York line of the late army and produced to them my evidence & vouchers, but they refused to recommend and report me as a proper object of relief solely on the ground of A law of their state enacting that none should be placed upon the Pension list of New York, who were residents within any other State and as I was then an inhabitant of the State of Connecticut I came within the operation of this clause of exclusion. I next sollicited relief from the State of Connecticut and met here with the same ill success on the ground of my being an Officer of the line of the State of New York and not entitled to compensation according to the laws of Connecticut. In this distressing dilemma I laboured for several years under the embarrassments resulting from my personal Disability, and the enormous expences I had incurred in my long & dangerous indisposition. Early after the assembling of the Congress of the United States under the new constitution I presented a petition to Congress praying relief as an invalid of the United States and at their last session in the City of New York I obtained a resolve in my favour providing for the reimbursements of the expences I had incurred on account of my wounds; and also an allowance of half pay for life, under the [113] express condition of my returning & giving up to the United States the commutation notes I recd in common with all the officers who had served on the continental establishment.3 These had long since been expended at the depriciated rate of three shillings in the pound to support the expences I mentioned above & to support myself & Family. On the Credit however of this resolve & of an eventual settlement at the treasury, I procured Final settlement securities at the enhanced price of thirteen shillings & six pence in the pound and applied at the office of the Auditor of the Treasury for an adjustment in Execution of the above resolve but the Auditor refused such an adjustment unless I should deliver the identical certificates which has been issued to me in my own name. This was utterly impracticable. Despairing of relief I replaced the securities I had procured of my Friends & came home—In the course of the last winter I made another application at the Treasury and met with the same success as before—But was then informed that a bill was depending before Congress which was probably calculated to remove the embarrassment & restraint under which the treasury had acted in doing me justice.4 As this bill is designed to embrace my subject if not to provide for me expressly & as it is to pass the examination & decision of the President in its passage to a law, I humbly intreat your Excellency to take my distressed case into his benevolent consideration and lend such a favorable notice to my unfortunate situation as will ensure me that Justice which I have long sought & hitherto sought in vain. I am with profound respect Your Excellency’s most obedt & Most humble Servant

Caleb Brewster

Courtesy of: The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, ed. Theodore J. Crackel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.
Canonic URL: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/GEWN-05-10-02-0062 [accessed 26 Nov 2012]
Original source: Presidential Series (24 September 1788–30 April 1794), Volume 10 (1 March 1792–15 August 1792), The Founding Era Collection.

Footnotes from same source:
A descendant of Mayflower passenger William Brewster, Caleb Brewster (1747–1827) was born at Setauket, N.Y., and had sailed on a whaler to Greenland and on a merchant ship to London before the Revolutionary War. Upon his return to America in 1776, he accepted a commission as an ensign in the 4th New York Regiment. Appointed a first lieutenant in the 2d Continental Artillery in January 1777, Brewster was promoted to captain lieutenant in June 1780, and he served until June 1783. Brewster became first mate of the federal revenue cutter for New York in 1796, and he acted as its commander after the death of Capt. Patrick Dennis early in 1798. Brewster resigned that August when he was denied promotion on account of his political views. He later reentered the cutter service, became a commander, and served until his retirement [114] in 1816 (see Brewster to Henry Dearborn, 27 April 1801, DNA: RG 59, Applications and Recommendations for Public Office; DHFC, 7:400; Pennypacker, General Washington’s Spies, 285, 287).

1 Brewster’s invaluable contributions to the Continental war effort while serving under Benjamin Tallmadge (1754–1835), chief of GW’s intelligence service during the Revolutionary War, consisted of delivering secret dispatches from GW’s spies in New York City; providing intelligence on the strength, movements, and positions of the British army; destroying their stores; harassing and capturing enemy boats in Long Island Sound; and discomforting Loyalists in Connecticut and on Long Island (see GW to Brewster, 8 Aug. [ADfS, DLC:GW], 11 Aug. 1778 [copy, DLC:GW], 23 Feb. 1781 [LS, in private hands], 7 May 1782 [copy, DLC:GW], 10 June 1784 [LB, DLC:GW], and Brewster to GW, 27 Aug., 15 Sept. 1778, 14 Feb., 30 July 1781, all in DLC:GW; Pennypacker, General Washington’s Spies, 37–38, 91–94, 116, 191). For GW’s certificate of 10 June 1784 attesting to Brewster’s “fidelity, judgment & bravery” in those operations, see GW to Brewster, 10 June 1784, note 2.

2 On 7 Dec. 1782 three armed whaleboats under Brewster’s command engaged a similar number of enemy boats in Long Island Sound off Fairfield, Connecticut. William Wheeler wrote in his journal that Brewster held his fire until his boat was within 150 feet of the lead British boat, when he “poured in a broadside & then another, & boarded” (quoted in Schenck, History of Fairfield, 2:398). Brewster was wounded by a rifle ball through his shoulder, and in the hand-to-hand fighting that followed he sustained back injuries from a steel gun rammer wielded by the captain of the British vessel. Four other members of his crew were wounded, one mortally. Brewster’s second boat, armed with a swivel gun, captured another enemy boat, but the third British vessel escaped (Tallmadge to GW, 8 Dec. 1782, DLC:GW; see also GW to Tallmadge, 10, 26 Dec. 1782, both Df, in DLC:GW). Three months later Brewster’s exertions as commander of a sloop out of Fairfield that engaged and captured another British armed vessel exacerbated his wounds and incapacitated him from further military service (Pennypacker, General Washington’s Spies, 286–87; see also Report of the Secretary of War on the Petition of Caleb Brewster, 21 June 1790, delivered to Congress on 23 June, DHFC, 7:416–17).

3 When Brewster’s petition was presented to the U.S. House of Representatives on 13 April 1790, it was referred to the secretary of war, “with instruction to examine the same.” Henry Knox’s favorable report of 21 June was presented to Congress on 23 June, when it was ordered to lie on the table. The House resolved on 28 June to place Brewster on the pension list, and his case was referred to the committee preparing the disabled soldiers and seamen bill, which reported on 16 July. The House read, debated, and amended the bill on 17 and 19 July and agreed to it on 28 July, when it was sent to the Senate, which read it on 29 July and amended it on 6 Aug. before returning it to the House (DHFC, 3:365, 474 n.102, 479, 7:405–6, 416–17, 420, 422). GW signed “An Act for the relief of disabled soldiers and seamen lately in the service of the United States, and of certain other persons” on 11 Aug. 1790. Section 2 reads: “And be it further enacted, That Caleb Brewster . . . be allowed three hundred forty-eight dollars and fifty-seven cents, the amount of his necessary [115] expenses for sustenance and medical assistance, while dangerously ill of his wounds, including the interest to the first of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety. And that the said Brewster be allowed a pension equal to his half pay as lieutenant, from the third of November, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, he first having returned his commutation of half pay” (6 Stat. 4). A payment to Brewster of $348.57 was authorized on 21 Dec. 1790 (see Alexander Hamilton’s Report on the Receipts and Expenditures of Public Monies to the End of the Year 1791, 10 Nov. 1792, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, 13:105).

4 The House passed an engrossed bill to ascertain and regulate the claims to half-pay and invalid pensions on 26 Jan. 1792, when it was sent to the Senate. The Senate read it for the first time the same day and amended the bill upon its third reading on 29 February. The House received the amended bill on 2 Mar. but did not consider it until the next day. On 3 Mar. the House notified the Senate of its rejection of the amendments, and a joint committee was appointed two days later. On 14 Mar. the Senate informed the House that it insisted on its amendments and also proposed a new one. Two days later the House agreed to all the Senate amendments (Annals of Congress, 2d Cong., 77–78, 96–97, 337, 433–35, 470, 472). On 23 Mar. 1792 GW signed “An Act to provide for the settlement of the Claims of Widows and Orphans barred by the limitations heretofore established, and to regulate the Claims to Invalid Pensions,” which, among other things, enacted “That any commissioned officer, not having received the commutation of half pay, . . . shall be entitled to be placed on the pension list of the United States, during life” (1 Stat. 243–45).

Back to the index