Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 14 July, 1776.
My last of friday evening which I had the honor of addressing you, advised that Two of the Enemies Ships of War and Three Tenders had run above our Batteries here, and the Works at the upper end of the Island. I am now to Inform you, that yesterday forenoon receiving Intelligence from Genl Mifflin that they had past the Taupan Sea and were trying to proceed higher up, by advice of R. R. Livingston Esqr and other Gentn, I despatched expresses to Genl. Clinton of Ulster and the Committee for safety for Dutchess County, to take measures for securing the passes in the Highlands, lest they might have designs of seizing them and have a force concealed for the purpose. I wrote the Evening before to the commanding Officer of the Two Garrison’s there to be vigilant and prepared against any Attempts they or any disaffected persons might make against them and to forward expresses all the way to Albany, that provision and other Vessels might be secured and prevented falling into their hands. The Information given Genl. Mifflin was rather premature as to their having gone past the Sea. A Letter from the Committee of Orange County which came to hand this morning says they were there yesterday and that a Regiment of their Militia was under Arms to prevent their landing and making an Incursion. The messenger who brought it, and to whom it refers for particulars, adds, that a party of them in two or three boats had approached the shore but were forced back, by our people firing at them. Since the manœuvre of friday there have been no other movements in the Fleet.
General Sullivan, in a letter of the 2d instant, informs me of his arrival with the army at Crown Point, where he is fortifying and throwing up works. He adds, that he has secured all the stores except three cannon left at Chamblee, which in part is made up by taking a fine twelve-pounder out of the Lake. The army is sickly, many with the smallpox; and he is apprehensive the militia, ordered to join them, will not escape the infection. An officer, he had sent to reconnoitre, had reported that he saw at St. John’s about a hundred and fifty tents, twenty at St. Roy’s, and fifteen at Chamblee; and works at the first were busily carrying on.
I have Inclosed a General return of the Army here which will shew the whole of our strength. All the detached posts are Inclosed.
A Letter from the Eastward by last nights post to Mr. Hazard, post master in this city, advises “That Two ships had been taken & carried into Cape Ann. One from Antigua consigned to Genl Howe with 439 puncheons of Rum—The other a Jamaica man with 400 Hogsheads of Sugar, 200 puncheons of Rum, 39 Bales of Cotton, pimento, Fustick, &c &c. Each mounted 2 Guns, Six pounders.
About three o’clock this afternoon I was informed, that a flag from Lord Howe was coming up, and waited with two of our whale-boats until directions should be given. I immediately convened such of the general officers as were not upon other duty, who agreed in opinion, that I ought not to receive any letter directed to me as a private gentleman; but if otherwise, and the officer desired to come up to deliver the letter himself, as was suggested, he should come under a safe-conduct. Upon this, I directed Colonel Reed to go down and manage the affair under the above general instruction. On his return he informed me, after the common civilities, the officer acquainted him, that he had a letter from Lord Howe to Mr. Washington, which he showed under a superscription, “To George Washington, Esq.” Colonel Reed replied, there was no such person in the army, and that a letter intended for the General could not be received under such a direction. The officer expressed great concern, said it was a letter rather of a civil than military nature, that Lord Howe regretted he had not arrived sooner, that he (Lord Howe) had great powers. The anxiety to have the letter received was very evident, though the officer disclaimed all knowledge of its contents. However, Colonel Reed’s instructions being positive, they parted. After they had got some distance, the officer with the flag again put about, and asked under what direction Mr. Washington chose to be addressed;1 to which Colonel Reed answered, his station was well known, and that certainly they could be at no loss how to direct to him. The officer said they knew it, and lamented it; and again repeated his wish, that the letter could be received. Colonel Reed told him a proper direction would obviate all difficulties, and that this was no new matter, the subject having been fully discussed in the course of the last year, of which Lord Howe could not be ignorant; upon which they parted.
I would not upon any occasion sacrifice essentials to punctilio; but in this instance, the opinion of others concurring with my own, I deemed it a duty to my country and my appointment, to insist upon that respect, which, in any other than a public view, I would willingly have waived. Nor do I doubt, but, from the supposed nature of the message, and the anxiety expressed, they will either repeat their flag, or fall upon some mode to communicate the import and consequence of it.2
I have been duly honored with your two Letters, that of the 10th by Mr. Anderson, and the 11th with its Inclosures. I have directed the Quarter Master to provide him with every thing he wants to carry his Scheme into execution. It is an Important one, and I wish it success, but I am doubtfull that it will be better in Theory than practice.1
The passage of the ships of war and tenders up the river is a matter of great importance, and has excited much conjecture and speculation. To me two things have occurred, as leading them to this proceeding; first, a design to seize on the narrow passes on both sides of the river, giving almost the only land communication with Albany, and of consequence with our northern army, for which purpose they might have troops concealed on board, which they deemed competent of themselves, as the defiles are narrow; or that they would be joined by many disaffected persons in that quarter. Others have added a probability of their having a large quantity of arms on board, to be in readiness to put into the hands of the Tories immediately on the arrival of the fleet, or rather at the time they intend to make their attack. The second is, to cut off entirely all intercourse between this place and Albany by water, and the upper country, and to prevent supplies of every kind from going and coming.
These matters are truly alarming, and of such importance, that I have wrote to the Provincial Congress of New York, and recommended to their serious consideration the adoption of every possible expedient to guard against the two first; and have suggested the propriety of their employing the militia, or some part of them, in the counties in which these defiles are, to keep the enemy from possessing them, till further provision can be made; and to write to the several leading persons on our side in that quarter, to be attentive to all the movements of the ships and the disaffected, in order to discover and frustrate whatever pernicious schemes they have in view.1
In respect to the second conjecture of my own, and which seems to be generally adopted, I have the pleasure to inform Congress, that, if their design is to keep the armies from provision, the commissary has told me upon inquiry, that he has forwarded supplies to Albany (now there and above it) sufficient for ten thousand men for four months; that he has a sufficiency here for twenty thousand men for three months, and an abundant quantity secured in different parts of the Jerseys for the Flying Camp, besides having about four thousand barrels of flour in some neighboring part of Connecticut. Upon this head, there is but little occasion for any apprehensions, at least for a considerable time.
I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I have sent orders to the commandg officer of the Pennsylvania militia to march to Amboy, as their remaing at Trenton can be of no service.1
[1 ]“He [Lieutenant Brown of the Eagle] then asked me under what title General,—but catching himself, Mr. Washington chose to be addressed.”—Reed to Pettit, 15 July, 1776.
[2 ]On considering this subject, Congress passed the following resolution:—“That General Washington, in refusing to receive a letter said to be sent from Lord Howe, and addressed to ‘George Washington, Esq,’ acted with a dignity becoming his station; and, therefore, this Congress do highly approve the same, and do direct, that no letter or message be received, on any occasion whatsoever from the enemy, by the Commander-in-chief, or others, the commanders of the American army, but such as shall be directed to them in the characters they respectively sustain.”—Journals of Congress, 17 July, 1776.
[1 ]Ephriam Anderson proposed to destroy the British fleet at New York. “The Congress are willing to give him an opportunity of trying the experiment, and have therefore thought proper to refer him to you.” Hancock to Washington, 10 July, 1776. Anderson had made an attempt of this kind at Quebec, but the enemy received intelligence of it, and stretching a cable across the mouth of the harbor, rendered entrance impossible. He was adjutant to the second Jersey battalion.
[1 ]The ships passed all the batteries without receiving any apparent injury. The decks were guarded with ramparts of sand-bags, which protected the men from small shot; and the motion of the vessels was so rapid, that they remained but a very short time within the range of the heavy guns. They ascended to the broad part of the river, called Haverstraw Bay, and anchored so far from shore on either side, as to be out of danger. Their boats were daily sent out to take soundings. When they occasionally attempted to land, they were beaten back by the militia, who watched them narrowly on both sides of the river.
[1 ]Read July 16th. Referred to the Board of War.