Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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TO JOHN AUGUSTINE 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).
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TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
New York, 22 July, 1776.
Whether you wrote to me or I to you last, I cannot undertake to say; but as it is some time since a Letter has passed between us, and as I expect every hour to be engaged in too busy a Scene to allow time for writing private Letters, I will take an opportunity by this day’s post to address to you a few lines, giving a brief acct. of the situation of affairs in this Quarter.
To begin, then, we have a powerful Fleet within full view of us, distant about eight miles. We have General Howe’s present army, consisting, by good report, of abt eight or nine thousand men upon Staten Island, covered by their Ships. We have Lord Howe just arrived, (that is about 10 days ago) and we have ships now popping In, which we suppose but do not know, to be part of the Fleet with the expected Reinforcements. When this arrives, if the Report of Deserters, Prisoners, and Tories are to be depended upon, the Enemy’s numbers will amount at least to twenty-five thousand men; ours to about fifteen thousand. More, indeed, are expected, but there is no certainty of their arrival, as Harvest and a thousand other excuses are urged for the Reasons of delay. What kind of opposition we shall be able to make, time only can show. I can only say, that the men appear to be in good spirits, and, if they will stand by me, the place shall not be carried without some loss, notwithstanding we are not yet in such a posture of defence as I could wish.
Two ships, to wit: the Phœnix of forty-four Guns, and Rose of twenty, run by our Batteries on the 12th, exhibiting a proof of what I had long most religiously believed; and that is, that a Vessel, with a brisk wind and strong tide, cannot, unless by a chance shott, be stopped by a Battery, without you could place some obstruction in the Water to impede her motion within reach of your Guns.1 We do not know that these ships received any capital Injury. In their Rigging they were somewhat damaged, and several shot went through their Hulls; but few if any Lives were lost. They now, with three Tenders, which accompanied them, lye up the North or Hudson’s River, abt. forty miles above this place, and have totally cut off all communication, by water, between this city and Albany, and between this army and ours upon the Lakes. They may have had other motives inducing them to run up the River, such as supplying the Tories with arms, etc., etc., but such a vigilant watch has hitherto been kept upon them, that I fancy they have succeeded but indifferently in those respects, notwithstanding this country abounds in disaffected Persons of the most diabolical dispositions and Intentions, as you may have perceived by the several publications in the gazettes, relative to their designs of destroying this army by treachery and Bribery, which was providentially discovered.
It is the general report of Deserters and Prisoners, and a prevailing opinion here, that no attempt will be made by Genl Howe, till his reinforcement arrives, which, as I said before, is hourly expected. Our situation at present, both in regard to men and other matters, is such as not to make it advisable to attempt any thing against them, surrounded as they are by water and covered with Ships, least a miscarriage should be productive of unhappy and fatal consequences. It is provoking, nevertheless, to have them so near, without being able in their weakness [to give] them any disturbance. [Their ships] that passed us are also saf[ely moored] in a broad part of the river, out [of reach] of shott from either shore.1
[1 ]On July 21st (Sunday) Duer of the Provincial Congress consulted with Washington at White Plains concerning obstructions to be placed in the Hudson river opposite to Mount Washington. The General expressed himself “extremely anxious” about this, and “measures are daily used for executing that purpose.” “If we succeed” wrote Duer, doubtless echoing Washington’s opinion, “the Designs of the enemy in this campaign are effectually baffled—if we fail, we cannot be in a more lamentable situation than we are now.” The intention was to sink a chevaux-de-frise, and two ships, about seventy feet apart, with heavy logs between. The work was not seriously begun until late in September, and before it was completed its efficacy to prevent the enemy’s vessels from passing was tested, and proved to be of no account. The obstructions were removed by the British after they had obtained possession of Fort Washington. Ruttenber, Obstructions in the Hudson River, 33-57.
[1 ]Original mutilated, the words in brackets being supplied by Sparks.