Front Page Titles (by Subject) FORGED LETTER. TO MR. LUND WASHINGTON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
FORGED LETTER. TO MR. LUND WASHINGTON. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. IV (1776).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
New York, July the 8, 1776.
We are still going on with all imaginable briskness and success with our works, which, I think are already impregnable. It would really astonish you to see the progress we have made. I do not believe that all history can furnish a precedent of so much being done in so little a time, or in so masterly a manner, where you had so little right to look for consummate skill. If in every thing else, we could but come up to our exertions in these fortifications, I should hardly know how to doubt the judgment of those who think that we may bid defiance to the world. But, I know not how it is, I am diffident of every thing. Whilst almost every body else seem to have persuaded themselves that we have nothing to fear, I alone torment myself with thinking that every thing is against us. Even from these very works which have inspired us with such confidence, I anticipate only misfortune and disgrace. By this time the die is cast, and America is authoritatively declared free and independent; and unless we can be contented to appear ridiculous in the eyes of all the world, we must resolve to support this declaration by a suitable conduct; we must fight our way to freedom and independencey; for in no other way, shall we be permitted to obtain it, farther than words.
A war, therefore, and a most serious one, is now inevitable. Next to good finances, which it is not my promise to provide for, a good army is, doubtless, a main requisite to the carrying on a successful war. And a good army, is by no means secured, as some seem to reckon by securing a large number of men. We want soldiers, and between these, and raw, undisciplined men, there is a wide difference.
The question then is, how are these raw and undisciplined men to be formed into good soldiers? And I am free to give it as my opinion, that so far from contributing to this, will strong holds, fortified posts, and deep intrenchments be found, that they will have a direct contrary effect. To be a soldier, is to be inured to, and familiar with danger; to dare to look your enemy in the face, unsheltered and exposed to their fire, and even when repulsed, to rally again with undiminished spirit. The Indian maxim is, that it is equally your duty to take care of yourself and to annoy your enemy. To a general, this may not be an unusual caution; but I will venture to assert, that whenever a private sentinel allows himself to act on this principle, the odds are, that, in the moment of trial, in his exceeding solicitude not to forget the former, the latter will be but little attended to. Now, what I ask, are all these mighty ditches and breast-works, but so many lessons and admonitions to our men of what prodigious importance it is to take care of themselves? It would be almost worth our while to be defeated, if it were only to train us to stand fire, and to bear a reverse of fortune with a decent magnanimity. If it had not been for this ill-judged humor of fighting from behind a screen, the 19th of April, and 27th of June last year, might have been the happiest days America ever saw. All these things have I, again and again, represented to my masters; I am ashamed to say, to how little purpose. They return me answers and instructions, which, though I cannot refute, have not yet convinced what I would call the feelings of my own mind.
This day week, the enemy’s fleet was first descried off Sandy Hook. They have been employed since then, in debarking their troops on Staten Island, where they are cantoned, as far as I can judge, in a very uncompact and unguarded manner; I cannot exactly ascertain their number, but I have reason to believe, that they fall short of seven thousand. It is more extraordinary still, that I am not able to inform you of the exact number of forces under my own command: I fancy, however, we might bring into the field, at this place, double their number at a minute’s warning; and with this superiority of numbers, making all possible allowances for our other disadvantages, one would hope we might be able to give a good account of them. You, who are sanguine in the extreme, and all impatience, will eagerly ask, why we suffered them to land unmolested, and to remain so ever since. What excellent expeditions your fire-side generals can instantly plan and execute! But you forget that they are posted on an island, and that we have no way of coming at them unless they would lend us their ships and boats, which I have not presumed to ask of them. Aware, however, of the importance of falling on them, whilst there is a chance of doing it with success, and e’er they become a match for us, by reinforcements, which they daily expect, I have formed a scheme, which at least, is plausible, and promises fair to be successful. I have submitted it to Congress, and every moment expect their answer; and if they will but support me with alacrity, and in good earnest, my next, I trust will not be so desponding. I expect to be all ready to put my plan in execution on Tuesday, or at farthest, on Wednesday night; so that probably, at the very moment you are reading this, we may be engaged in a very different service. You will, no doubt, be impatient to hear from me as soon as may be after Wednesday, and I will not disappoint you. Meanwhile I shall not need to tell you, that end how it will, all that I freely chatter to you is to remain a profound secret to every body else.
Doctor, now Brigadier-General Mercer, is here, and is a great comfort to me. Like myself, he wants experience; but he is very shrewd and sensible, and though a Scotsman, is remarkable humane and liberal. I have communicated the whole of my design to him, alone; and am not ashamed to own, that I have received much assistance from him. I know not how it may turn out; but though neither he nor I are very apt to be sanguine, we have both confessed to be so on this occasion. Animated, however, as I feel myself with the near prospect of at length doing something, not unworthy the high rank to which I am raised, I own to you, I take a serious pleasure in it, only as it flatters me with the hope of thereby obtaining a speedier and happier peace. Let us, since war must be our lot, distinguish ourselves as freemen should, in fields of blood, still remembering, however, that we fight not for conquest, but for liberty.
I am with the truest Esteem, Dear Lund, your faithful Friend and Servant,