Raynham Hall Museum boasts an exceptional collection of archives and artifacts that provide an in-depth look at the lives and times of the Townsend family and their neighbors from 1740 to 1940. More than 5,000 items of furniture, works of art, household accessories, tableware, cookware, textiles, costumes, toys, and games are preserved and displayed at Raynham Hall. Many objects have a Townsend family provenance. Highlights include furniture and other decorative arts made on Long Island.

A letter written by General George Washington to Governor George Clinton on August 2, 1777 is part of the Raynham Hall Museum permanent collection. The letter focuses on the decisions Washington made upon learning that British General Sir William Howe’s armada of 228 warships had been sighted off the Capes of Delaware Bay.

Since the sighting, the ships had disappeared into the mist shrouding the Atlantic Ocean. Washington wondered where the armada was going. Was Howe going to double back and attack Washington’s army at Philadelphia? Or was he aiming for the Hudson River to join General John Burgoyne at Albany? Washington knew the outcome of the Revolutionary War might depend on containing the mighty armada. Among the letters he wrote that summer day was one to Governor George Clinton, asking him to send the New York Militia to defend the Hudson Highlands.

Here is the text of the letter:
I had the honor of writing to you last night by express, informing you of the enemy’s fleet having sailed out of the Capes the day before at eight o’clock in the morning, steering towards the eastward and requesting you to use every exertion in your power to bring out the militia of your state to reinforce General Putnam, with all speed. I repeat this, lest that express should be delayed as it was charged with other dispatches, which were swift to be delivered. I need to make use of no arguments to impress on you, the necessity of making every effort to prevent General Howe’s carrying the Highlands by a sudden and rapid impression. You are as sensible of the importance of guarding against this misfortune as I can be, and I am convinced you will exert your utmost influence to strengthen the opposition which will be given him in that quarter. I have desired General Putnam to make a similar application to Governor Trumball, General Sullivan and the troops coming after him are ordered to return, and other reinforcements will follow, as expeditiously as circumstances will permit.
I have the honor to be
With great respect,
Your most obed servant

George Washington

Robert Townsend Account Books

For the past four years, the East Hampton Library Long Island Collection has given serious, dedicated attention to one of its important collections, the Townsend Family Papers. Comprised of numerous manuscript letters, deeds, and the voluminous business records of this prosperous Oyster Bay, N.Y. merchant family, it’s the latter material, specifically the business records of son Robert Townsend, that are best known to researchers of the famed Culper Spy Ring, George Washington’s professional, secret intelligence gathering operation in New York during the British Occupation in the American Revolutionary War.

Raynham Hall Museum has worked with the East Hampton Library to digitize and make accessible ledgers that are related to the collection at the East Hampton Library. You can find the digitized ledgers at the following link: