Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2 August: TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
2 August: 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).
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.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 2 August, 1776.
Your favor of the 30th Ulto. with Its several Inclosures I was honored with by Wednesday’s post.
Congress having been pleased to leave with me the direction of Colonel Ward’s regiment, I have wrote to Governor Trumbull, and requested him to order their march to this place, being fully satisfied that the enemy mean to make their grand push in this quarter, and that the good of the service requires every aid here that can be obtained. I have also wrote Colonel Elmore, and directed him to repair hither with his regiment. When it comes I shall fill up commissions for such officers, as appear with their respective companies. Colonel Holman with a regiment from the Massachusetts state is arrived. Colonel Carey from thence is also here, waiting the arrival of his regiment, which he hourly expects. He adds, when he left New London he heard that the third regiment from the Massachusetts was almost ready, and would soon be in motion.
The enemy’s force is daily augmenting, and becoming stronger by new arrivals. Yesterday, General Greene reports, that about forty sail, including tenders, came into the Hook. What they are, or what those have brought that have lately got in, I remain uninformed. However, I think it probable they are a part of Admiral Howe’s fleet with the Hessian troops. It is time to look for ’em.1 I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I am extremely sorry to inform Congress, our troops are very sickly.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 5 August, 1776.
I was honored with your favor of the 31st ulto. on Friday with its several Inclosures, and return you my thanks for the agreeable Intelligence you were pleased to communicate of the arrival of one of our ships with such valuable Articles as Arms and Ammunition, also of the capture made by a privateer.
The mode for the exchange of prisoners, resolved on by Congress, is acceded to by General Howe, so far as it comes within his command.1 A copy of my letter and his answer upon the subject I have the honor to enclose you; to which I beg leave to refer Congress.
The enclosed copy of a letter from Colonel Tupper, who had the general command of the galleys here, will inform Congress of the engagement between them and the ships of war up the North River on Saturday evening, and of the damage we sustained. What injury was done to the ships, I cannot ascertain. It is said they were hulled several times by our shot. All accounts agree, that our officers and men, during the whole of the affair, behaved with great spirit and bravery. The damage done to the galleys shows beyond question, that they had a warm time of it. The ships still remain up the river; and, before any thing further can be attempted against them, should it be thought advisable, the galleys must be repaired. I have also transmitted Congress a copy of a letter I received by Saturday’s post from Governor Cooke, to which I refer them for the intelligence it contains. The seizure of our vessels by the Portuguese is, I fear, an event too true. Their dependence upon the British crown for aid against the Spaniards must force them to comply with every thing required of them. I wish the Morris may get safe in with her cargo. As to the ships which Captain Buchlin saw on the 25th ultimo, they are probably arrived, for yesterday twenty-five sail came into the Hook.
By a letter from General Ward of the 29 Ulto. he informs me that two of our Armed Vessels the day before had brought into Marblehead a Ship bound from Hallifax to Staten Island. She had in about 1509£ cost of British Goods, besides a good many belonging to Tories. A Hallifax paper found on board her I have inclosed, as also an account sent me by Mr. Hazard, transmitted him by some of his Friends, as given by the Tories taken in her. Their Intelligence I dare say is true respecting the arrival of part of the Hessian Troops. Genl. Ward in his Letter mentions the day this prize was taken, Capn. Burke in another of our Armed Vessels had an Engagement with a Ship and a Schooner which he thought were Transports, and would have taken them, had it not been for an unlucky accident in having his Quarter deck blown up. Two of his men were killed and several more wounded. The hulks and three chevaux-de-frise, that have been preparing to obstruct the channel, have got up to the place they are intended for, and will be sunk as soon as possible.1 I have transmitted Congress a Genl. Return of the Army in & about this place on the 3d Inst. by which they will perceive the amount of our force.
Before I conclude I would beg leave to remind Congress of the necessity there is of having some major-generals appointed for this army, the duties of which are great, extensive, and impossible to be discharged as they ought, and the good of the service requires, without a competent number of officers of this rank. I mean to write more fully upon the subject; and, as things are drawing fast to an issue, and it is necessary to make every proper disposition and arrangement that we possibly can, I pray that this matter may be taken into consideration, and claim their early attention. I well know what has prevented appointments of this sort for some time past; but the situation of our affairs will not justify longer delays in this instance. By the first opportunity I shall take the liberty of giving you my sentiments more at large upon the propriety & necessity of the measure. I have &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 7 August, 1776.
In my letter of the 5th, which I had the honor of addressing you I begged leave to recall the attention of Congress to the absolute necessity there is for appointing more general officers, promising at the same time, by the first opportunity, to give my sentiments more at large upon the subject. Confident I am, that the postponing this measure has not proceeded from motives of frugality, otherwise I should take the liberty of attempting to prove, that we put too much to the hazard by such a saving. I am but too well apprized of the difficulties that occur in the choice. They are, I acknowledge, great; but at the same time it must be allowed, that they are of such a nature as to present themselves whenever the subject is thought of. Time, on the one hand, does not remove them; on the other, delay may be productive of fatal consequences. This army, though far short as yet of the numbers intended by Congress, is by much too unwieldy for the command of any one man, without several major-generals to assist. For it is to be observed, that a brigadier-general at the head of his brigade is no more than a colonel at the head of a regiment, except that he acts upon a larger scale. Officers of more general command are at all times wanted for the good order and government of an army, especially when the army is composed chiefly of raw troops; but in an action they are indispensably necessary. At present there is but one major-general for this whole department and the Flying Camp; whereas, at this place alone, less than three cannot discharge the duties with that regularity they ought to be.
If these major-generals are appointed, as undoubtedly they will, out of the present brigadiers, you will want for this place three brigadiers at least. The northern department will require one, if not two, (as General Thompson is a prisoner, and the Baron Woedtke reported to be dead or in a state not much better,) there being at present only one brigadier-general, Arnold, in all that department. For the eastern governments there ought to be one, or a major-general, to superintend the regiments there, and to prevent impositions that might otherwise be practised. These make the number wanted to be six or seven; and who are to be appointed, Congress can best judge. To make brigadiers of the oldest colonels would be the least exceptionable way; but it is much to be questioned whether by that mode the ablest men would be appointed to office. And I would observe, though the rank of the colonels of the eastern governments was settled at Cambridge last year, it only respected themselves, and is still open as to officers of other governments. To pick a colonel here and a colonel there through the army, according to the opinion entertained of their abilities, would no doubt be the means of making a better choice, and nominating the fittest persons; but then the senior officers would get disgusted, and, more than probable, with their connexions, quit the service. That might prove fatal at this time. To appoint gentlemen as brigadiers, that have not served in this army, in this part of it at least, would not wound any one in particular, but hurt the whole equally, and must be considered in a very discouraging light by every officer of merit. View the matter, therefore, in any point of light you will, there are inconveniences on the one hand, and difficulties on the other, which ought to be avoided. Would they be remedied by appointing the oldest colonels from each state? If this mode should be thought expedient, the enclosed list gives the names of the colonels from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania inclusive, specifying those who rank first, as I am told, in the several colony lists.1
I have transmitted the copy of a Letter from Mr. John Glover setting forth the nature and Grounds of a dispute between him and a Mr. [John] Bradford respecting their agency. Not conceiving myself authorized nor having the smallest Inclination to Interfere in any degree in the matter, it is referred to Congress who will determine and give direction upon it in such manner as they shall judge best. I will only observe that Mr. Glover was recommended to me as a proper person for an agent when we first fitted out armed vessels and was accordingly appointed one, and so far as I know discharged his office with fidelity and Industry.
I received Yesterday Evening a Letter from Genl. Schuyler containing Lt. McMichel’s report who had been sent a Scout to Oswego. A copy of the Report I have inclosed for the information of Congress, lest Genl. Schuyler should have omitted it in his Letter which accompanies this. He was at the German Flatts when he wrote, which was the 2d Instt., and the Treaty with the Indians not begun, nor had the whole expected there arrived; but of these things he will have advised you more fully I make no doubt.
The paymaster informs me he received a supply of money yesterday. It came very seasonably, for the applications and clamors of the Troops had become Incessant and distressing beyond measure. There is now Two months’ pay due ’em. I have the honor, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Head-Quarters,New York, 7 August, 1776.
By two deserters this day, we have the following intelligence, namely, that General Clinton and Lord Cornwallis, with the whole southern army, have arrived and landed on Staten Island from South Carolina, in number about three or four thousand; that the fleet, which came in a few days since, are the Hessians and Scotch Highlanders, part of twelve thousand, who were left off Newfoundland; in the whole making about thirty thousand men; and that, it is said by the officers of the navy and army, they are to attack New York and Long Island, &c., in the course of a week. The uncommon movements of the fleet this day, together with the above intelligence, convince us, that, in all human probability, there can but a very few days pass, before a general engagement takes place.1 When I consider the weakness of our army by sickness, the great extent of ground we have to defend, and the amazing slowness with which the levies come forward, I think it absolutely necessary that the neighboring militia should be immediately sent to our assistance; and, agreeably to your letter of the 6th of July, I have ordered the colonels with their regiments to march, with all convenient speed, to this place.
The disgrace of the British arms at the southward, and the season being far advanced, will make them exert every nerve against us in this quarter. To trust altogether in the justice of our cause, without our own utmost exertions, would be tempting Providence; and, that you may judge of our situation, I give you the present state of our army.1 By this, you will see, we are to oppose an army of thirty thousand experienced veterans, with about one third the number of raw troops, and these scattered some fifteen miles apart. This will be handed you by Mr. Root. To him I must refer you for further particulars; and have the pleasure to be your Honor’s most obedient servant.2
TO THE NEW YORK CONVENTION.
New York, 8 August, 1776.
I have been favored with your letter of the 6th instant, and am happy to find the nomination I made of General Clinton, in consequence of your request to appoint an officer to the command of the levies on both sides Hudson’s River, has met the approbation of your honorable body. His acquaintance with the country, abilities, and zeal for the cause, are the motives that induced me to make choice of him. However, I am led to conclude, from that part of your letter, which desires me to transmit him his apment, with the resolution subjecting the levies on both sides of the river to his command, that your honorable body entertain ideas of the matter somewhat different from what I do, or ever did.
When I was honored with your letter, of the 16th ulto. with the resolves of the Convention upon this subject, the state of the army under my command would not allow me to send a general officer in the Continental service to command the levies you then proposed to raise, supposing I had been authorized to do it; but considering myself without power in this instance, and the levies altogether of a provincial nature, to be raised by you and subject to your direction, I esteemed the nomination of a general officer over them, entrusted to my choice, a matter of favor and compliment, and as such I gratefully fill it. I am persuaded, that I expressed myself in this manner to the gentlemen, who were pleased to attend me upon the occasion, and that they had the same ideas. Under the influence of this opinion, all I expected was, that an appointment would be made in conformity to my nomination, if there was no objection to the gentleman I proposed, conceiving then, as I do now, that, if he was approved by the Convention, he was their officer, and derived his appointment and authority from them. In this light I presume General Clinton must be viewed, and his powers over the levies you allude to flow from you. Least accident may have mislaid the letter I wrote you on the subject, I have enclosed an extract of it so far as it had relation to it. It is not in my power to send an experienced officer at this time to the post you mention. I trust that Colonel Clinton1 will be equal to the command of both the Highland fortifications. They are under his direction at present.
In respect to the two Commissaries, I thought the matter had been fixed—but as it is not, I have requested Mr. Trumbull, who has the charge of this, to wait upon and agree with the Convention, on proper persons to conduct the business and in such a way that their purchases and his may not clash; to him therefore, I beg leave to refer you upon this subject.
I am extremely obliged by the order for the Telescope, I have obtained it and will try to employ it for the valuable purposes you designed it.
I shall pay proper attention to your members and persons employed in their service and give it in General orders that they be permitted to pass our Guards without Interruption.
Before I conclude, I cannot but express my fears, lest the Enemy’s army so largely augmented should possess themselves of the whole Stock on Long Island; When the further reinforcement arrives, which they hourly expect, they may do it, without a possibility on our part of preventing them.
I wish the Convention may not see cause to regret that they were not removed.
TO THE OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION.1
Head-Quarters,New York, 8 August, 1776.
I had fully resolved to have paid you a visit in New Jersey, if the movements of the enemy, and some intelligence indicating an early attack, had not induced me to suspend it. Allow me, therefore, to address you in this mode, as fellow citizens and fellow soldiers engaged in the same glorious cause; to represent to you, that the fate of our country depends, in all human probability, on the exertion of a few weeks; that it is of the utmost importance to keep up a respectable force for that time, and there can be no doubt, that success will crown our efforts, if we firmly and resolutely determine to conquer or to die. I have placed so much confidence in the spirit and zeal of the Associated Troops of Pennsylvania, that I cannot persuade myself an impatience to return home, or a less honorable motive will defeat my well-grounded expectation, that they will do their country essential service, at this critical time, when the powers of despotism are all combined against it, and ready to strike their most decisive stroke.
If I could allow myself to doubt your spirit and perseverance, I should represent the ruinous consequences of your leaving the service, by setting before you the discouragement it would give the army, the confusion and shame of our friends, and the still more galling triumph of our enemies. But as I have no such doubts, I shall only thank you for the spirit and ardor you have shown, in so readily marching to meet the enemy, and I am most confident you will crown it by a glorious perseverance. The honor and safety of our bleeding country, and every other motive that can influence the brave and heroic patriot, call loudly upon us, to acquit ourselves with spirit. In short, we must now determine to be enslaved or free. If we make freedom our choice, we must obtain it by the blessing of Heaven on our united and vigorous efforts.
I salute you, Gentlemen, most affectionately, and beg leave to remind you, that liberty, honor, and safety are all at stake; and I trust Providence will smile upon our efforts, and establish us once more, the inhabitants of a free and happy country. I am, Gentlemen, your most humble servant.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 8 August, 1776.
By yesterday morning’s post I was honored with your favor of the 2d Instant, with sundry Resolutions of Congress to which I shall pay strict attention. As the proposition for employing the Stockbridge Indians has been approved. I have wrote Mr. Edwards, one of the Commissioners, and who lives among them, requesting him to engage them or such as are willing to enter the service. I have directed him to Indulge them with liberty to Join this, or the Northern Army, or both as their inclination may lead.1 I wish the salutary consequences may result from the regulation respecting seamen taken that Congress have in view. From the nature of this kind of people, and the privileges granted on their entering into our service, I should suppose many of them would do it. We want them much.
I yesterday transmitted the Intelligence I received from the Deserters from the Solebay Man-of-War. The Inclosed Copy of a Letter by last-night’s Post from the Honble. Mr. Bowdoin, with the Information of a Captain Kennedy lately taken corroborating their accounts respecting the Hessian Troops. Indeed his report makes the fleet and Armament to be employed against us, greater than what we have heard they would be; However, there remains no doubt of their being both large and formidable, and such as will require our most vigorous exertions to oppose them. Persuaded of this, and knowing how much Inferior our Numbers are and will be to theirs, when the whole of their troops arrive—of the Important consequences that may and will flow from the appeal that will soon be made, I have wrote to Connecticut and New Jersey for all the succor they can afford, and also to the Convention of this State. What I may receive, and in what time the event must determine. But I would feign hope, the situation, the exigency of our Affairs, will call forth the most strenuous efforts and early assistance of those, who are friends to the cause. I confess there is too much occasion for their exertions. I confidently Trust they will not be withheld.
I have enclosed a copy of a letter from Mr. Bowdoin, respecting the eastern Indians. Congress will thereby perceive, that they profess themselves to be well attached to our interest, and the summary of the measures taken to engage them in our service. I have the treaty at large between the honorable Council of the Massachusetts, on behalf of the United States, with the delegates of the St. John’s and Micmac tribes. The probability of a copy’s being sent already, and its great length, prevent one coming herewith. If Congress have not had it forwarded ’em, I will send a copy by the first opportunity, after notice that it has not been received.
August 9th.—By a report received from General Greene last night, at sunset and a little after about a hundred boats were seen bringing troops from Staten Island to the ships, three of which had fallen down towards the Narrows, having taken in soldiers from thirty of the boats. He adds, that, by the best observations of several officers, there appeared to be a general embarkation. I have wrote to General Mercer for two thousand men from the Flying Camp. Colonel Smallwood’s battalion, as part of them, I expect this forenoon; but where the rest are to come from, I know not, as, by the General’s last return, not more than three or four hundred of the new levies had got in.
In my letter of the 5th I inclosed a Genl. Return of the Army under my immediate command, but I immagine the following state will give Congress a more perfect Idea, tho’ not a more agreeable one, of our situation. For the Several posts on New York, Long and Governor’s Islands and Paulus Hook we have fit for duty 10,514, sick present 3039—sick absent 629—On Command 2946; on Furlow 97—Total 17,225. In addition to those we are only certain of Colo. Smallwood’s Battallion in case of an immediate Attack.—Our posts too are much divided, having waters between many of them, and some distant from others Fifteen miles. These circumstances sufficiently distressing of themselves, are much aggravated by the sickness that prevails thro’ the Army—Every day, more or less are taken down so that the proportion of men that may come in, cannot be considered as a real and serviceable augmentation in the whole. These things are melancholy, but they are never the less true. I hope for better. Under every disadvantage my utmost exertions shall be employed to bring about the great end we have in view, and so far as I can judge from the professions and apparent disposition of my Troops, I shall have their support. The superiority of the Enemy and the expected attack, do not seem to have depressed their spirits. Those considerations lead me to think that tho’ the appeal may not terminate so happily in our favor as I could wish, yet they will not succeed in their views without considerable loss. Any advantage they may get, I trust will cost them dear.
By the Reverend Mr. Madison and a Mr. Johnson, two gentlemen of Virginia, who came from Staten Island yesterday, and where they arrived the day before in the packet with Colonel Guy Johnson, I am informed that nothing material had taken place in England when they left it; that there had been a change in the French ministry, which many people thought foreboded a war; that it seemed to be believed by many, that Congress would attempt to buy off the foreign troops, and that it might be effected without great difficulty. Their accounts from Staten Island nearly corresponded with what we had before. They say that every preparation is making for an attack; that the force now upon the island is about fifteen thousand; that they appear very impatient for the arrival of the foreign troops, but a very small part having got in. Whether they would attempt any thing before they come, they are uncertain; but they are sure they will as soon as they arrive, if not before. They say, from what they could collect from the conversation of officers, &c., they mean to hem us in by getting above us and cutting off all communication with the country. That this is their plan seems to be corroborated and confirmed by the circumstances of some ships of war going out at different times within a few days past, and other vessels. It is probable that a part are to go round and come up the Sound. Mr. Madison says Lord Howe’s powers were not known when he left England; that General Conway moved, before his departure, that they might be laid before the Commons, and had his motion rejected by a large majority. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 12 August, 1776.
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 8th and 10th instant, with their several inclosures. I shall pay attention to the resolution respecting Lieutenant Josiah, and attempt to relieve him from his rigorous usage.1 Your letters to such of the gentlemen as were here have been delivered. The rest will be sent by the first opportunity. Since my last, of the 8th and 9th, the enemy have made no movements of consequence. They remain nearly in the same state; nor have we any further intelligence of their designs. They have not been yet joined by the remainder of the fleet with the Hessian troops. Colonel Smallwood and his battalion got in on Friday; and Colonel Miles is also here, with two battalions more of Pennsylvania riflemen.
The Convention of this State have been exerting themselves to call forth a portion of their militia to an encampment forming above Kingsbridge, to remain in service for the space of one month after their arrival; and also half of those in King and Queen’s counties, to reinforce the troops on Long Island till the 1st of September, unless sooner discharged. General Morris too is to take post with his brigade on the Sound and Hudson’s river for ten days, to annoy the enemy in case they attempt to land; and others of their militia are directed to be in readiness, in case their aid should be required.1 Upon the whole, from the information I have from the Convention, the militia ordered are now in motion, or will be so in a little time, and will amount to about three thousand or more. From Connecticut I am not certain what succors are coming. By one or two gentlemen, who have come from thence, I am told some of the militia were assembling, and, from the intelligence they had, would march this week. By a letter from Governor Trumbull of the 5th I am advised, that the troops from that State, destined for the northern army, had marched for Skenesborough. General Ward too, by a letter of the 4th, informs me that the two regiments would march from Boston last week, having been cleansed and generally recovered from the smallpox. I have also countermanded my orders to Colonel Elmore, and directed him to join the northern army, having heard, after my orders to Connecticut for his marching hither, that he and most of his regiment were at Albany or within its vicinity. General Ward mentions, that the Council of the Massachusetts State will have in from two to three thousand of their militia to defend their lines and different posts, in lieu of the regiments ordered from thence agreeably to the resolution of Congress.
The enclosed copy of a resolve of this State, passed the 10th instant, will discover the apprehension they are under of the defection of the inhabitants of King’s county from the common cause, and of the measures they have taken thereupon. I have directed General Greene to give the Committee such assistance as he can, and they may require, in the execution of their commission; though at the same time I wish the information the Convention have received upon the subject may prove groundless. I would beg leave to mention to Congress, that, in a letter I received from General Lee, he mentions the valuable consequences that would result from a number of cavalry being employed in the southern department. Without them, to use his own expressions, he can answer for nothing; with one thousand, he would ensure the safety of those States. I should have done myself the honor of submitting this matter to Congress before, at his particular request, had it not escaped my mind. From his acquaintance with that country, and the nature of the grounds, I doubt not he has weighed the matter well, and presume he has fully represented the advantages, that would arise from the establishment of such a corps. All I mean is, in compliance with his requisition, to mention the matter, that such consideration may be had upon it, if not already determined, that it may be deserving of.1 . . . I am, &c.2
TO THE NEW YORK CONVENTION.
Head-Quarters,New York, 12 August, 1776.
As the time is certainly near at hand, and may be hourly expected, which is to decide the fate of this city and the issue of this campaign, I thought it highly improper, that persons of suspected character should remain in places, where their opportunities of doing mischief were much greater, than in the enemy’s camp. I therefore have caused a number of them to be apprehended and removed to some distance; there to remain until this crisis is passed. Having formerly mentioned this subject to your honorable body, I would not again trouble them in a business, which former connexions, obligations, and interests must make very unpleasant, and which, I apprehend, must have been in danger of failing in the execution, unless done with all possible secrecy and despatch. I postponed this most disagreeable duty until the last moment; but the claims of the army upon me, and an application from a number of well affected inhabitants, concurring with my own opinion, obliged me to enter upon it while time and circumstances would admit. I have ordered a very strict attention to be paid to the necessities of the gentlemen apprehended, and to their comfortable accommodation in every respect, both here and at the places of their destination. I have also written to the Committee of Queen’s county, that this step is not to be considered as making their property liable to any injury or appropriation, unless they should receive directions from your honorable body, to whom I have referred them on this subject; being resolved in all cases, where the most absolute necessity does not require it, to confine myself wholly to that line, which shall exclude every idea interfering with the authority of the State.
Some of these gentlemen have expressed doubts, and raised difficulties, from engagements they lay under to your honorable body, or to some committees. They do not appear to me to deserve much attention, as they cannot, with any propriety, be charged with a breach of any parole under their present circumstances; but I beg leave to submit to your consideration the propriety of removing the pretence. I am, Gentlemen, with great respect and regard, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
New York, 14 August, 1776.
I yesterday morning received your letter by Bennet, the express, and am extremely sorry to find, that the army is still in a sickly and melancholy state. The precaution taken to halt the reinforcements at Skenesborough, which are destined for your succor, is certainly prudent. They should not be exposed or made liable to the calamities already too prevailing, unless in cases of extreme necessity. Dr. Stringer has been here, with Dr. Morgan, and is now at Philadelphia. I trust he will obtain some necessary supplies of medicines, which will enable him, under the smiles of Providence, to relieve your distresses in some degree. By a letter from General Ward, two regiments, Whitcomb’s and Phinny’s, were to march to your aid last week. They have happily had the small-pox, and will not be subject to the fatal consequences attending that disorder. I am glad to hear, that the vessels for the Lakes are going on with such industry. Maintaining the superiority over the water is certainly of infinite importance. I trust neither courage nor activity will be wanting in these, to whom the business is committed. If assigned to General Arnold, none will doubt of his exertions.
In answer to those parts of your letter, which so highly resent the conduct of the general officers here, I would observe, Sir, that you are under a mistake, when you suppose a council of officers had sat upon those, who composed the board at Crown Point. When intelligence was first brought, that the post was evacuated, it spread a general alarm, and occasioned much anxiety, to all who heard it, as it was almost universally believed, that it was a post of the last importance, and the only one to give us, in conjunction with our naval force, a superiority over the Lake, and for preventing the enemy’s penetrating into this and the eastern governments. As this matter was occasionally mentioned, the general officers, some from their own knowledge, and others from the opinion they had formed, expressed themselves to that effect, as did all I heard speak upon the subject. Added to this, the remonstrance of the officers, transmitted by General Schuyler at the same time the account was brought, did not contribute a little to authorize the opinion which was generally entertained. They surely seemed to have some reasons in their support, though it was not meant to give the least encouragement or sanction to proceedings of such a nature. Upon the whole, no event that I have been informed of for a long time, produced a more general chagrin and consternation. But yet there was no council called upon the occasion, nor court of inquiry, nor court-martial, as has been suggested by some. I will not take up more time upon the subject, nor make it a matter of further discussion, not doubting but those, who determined that the post ought to be abandoned, conceived it would promote the interest of the great cause we are engaged in, the others have differed from them. By the by, I wish your description perfectly corresponded with the real circumstances of this army. You will have heard before this comes to hand, most probably of the arrival of Clinton and his army from the southward. They are now at Staten Island, as are the whole or the greatest part of the Hessian and foreign troops. Since Monday, ninety-six ships came in, which we are informed is the last division of Howe’s fleet, which touched at Halifax, and by a deserter are not to land their troops. We are in daily expectation, that they will make their attack, all their movements, and the advices we have, indicating that they are on the point of it. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO THE NEW YORK CONVENTION.
Head-Quarters,New York, 17 August, 1776.
When I consider, that the city of New York will in all human probability very soon be the scene of a bloody conflict, I cannot but view the great numbers of women, children, and infirm persons remaining in it, with the most melancholy concern. When the men-of-war passed up the river, the shrieks and cries of these poor creatures running every way with their children, were truly distressing, and I fear they will have an unhappy effect on the ears and minds of our young and inexperienced soldiery. Can no method be devised for their removal? Many doubtless are of ability to remove themselves, but there are others in a different situation. Some provision for them afterwards would also be a necessary consideration. It would relieve me from great anxiety, if your honorable body would immediately deliberate upon it, and form and execute some plan for their removal and relief; in which I will coöperate and assist to the utmost of my power. In the mean time, I have thought it proper to recommend to persons, of the above description, to convey themselves without delay to some place of safety, with their most valuable effects.1 I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE LORD HOWE.
Head-Quarters,New York, 17 August, 1776.
Being authorized by Congress, as their commanders in every department are, to negotiate an exchange of prisoners, and presuming, as well from the nature of your Lordship’s command, as the information that General Howe has been pleased to honor me with, that the exchange in the naval line will be subject to your Lordship’s directions, I beg leave to propose the following mode of exchange for your Lordship’s consideration, namely, “Officers for those of equal rank, and sailors for sailors.” If this proposal should be agreeable to your Lordship, I am charged in a particular manner to exchange any officer belonging to the British navy in our hands, and of equal rank, for Lieutenant Josiah, who was lately made prisoner in a ship retaken by the Cerberus frigate. The reason, my Lord, of my being charged to propose the exchange of Lieutenant Josiah, in preference to that of any other officer, is, that authentic intelligence has been received, that, regardless of his rank as an officer, he has not only been subjected to the duties of a common seaman, but has experienced many other marks of indignity.
As a different line of conduct, my Lord, has ever been observed towards the officers of your navy, who have fallen into our hands, it becomes not only a matter of right, but of duty, to mention this to your Lordship, to the end that an inquiry may be made into the case above referred to. From your Lordship’s character for humanity, I am led to presume, that the hardships imposed on Lieutenant Josiah are without either your knowledge or concurrence, and therefore most readily hope, that, upon this representation, your Lordship will enjoin all officers under your command to pay such regard to the treatment of those, who may fall into their hands, as their different ranks and situations require, and such as your Lordship would wish to see continued by us to those, who are already in our power, or who may hereafter, by the chance of war, be subjected to it. I have the honor to be, my Lord, with great respect, your Lordship’s most obedient servant.1
TO LORD DRUMMOND.1
New York, 17 August, 1776.
I have your Lordship’s favor of this day, accompanied by papers on subjects of the greatest moment, and deserving the most deliberate consideration. I can allow much of your Lordship’s well-meant zeal on such an occasion, but I fear it has transported you beyond that attention to your parole, which comprehends the character of a man of strict honor. How your Lordship can reconcile your past or present conduct with your engagement, so as to satisfy your own mind, I must submit to your own feelings; but I find myself under the disagreeable necessity of objecting to the mode of negotiation proposed, while your Lordship’s conduct appears so exceptionable. I shall, by express, forward to Congress your Lordship’s letter and the papers which accompanied it. The result will be communicated as soon as possible. I am sorry to have detained your Lordship so long, but the unavoidable necessity must be my apology. I am, my Lord, &c.2
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
New York, 18 August, 1776.
I have been duly honored with your favor of the 13th instant; and, at the same time that I think you and your honorable Council of Safety highly deserving of the thanks of the States, for the measures you have adopted in order to give the most early and speedy succor to this army, give me leave to return you mine in a particular manner. When the whole of the reinforcements arrive, I flatter myself we shall be competent to every exigency, and, with the smiles of Providence upon our arms and vigorous exertions, we shall baffle the designs of our inveterate foes, formidable as they are. Our situation was truly alarming a little while since; but, by the kind interposition and aid of our friends, it is now much better.
You may rest assured, Sir, that due consideration shall be had to the several militia regiments that have come, and are marching to our assistance, and that they shall be dismissed as soon as circumstances will admit of it. I trust, so long as there is occasion for their services, that the same spirit and commendable zeal, which induced them to come, will induce their continuance. I sincerely wish it were in my power to ascertain the particular period when they would be needed, that they may not be detained one unnecessary moment from their homes and common pursuits. But, as this cannot be done, as the approaching contest and trial between the two armies will, most unquestionably, produce events of the utmost importance to the States, as the issue, if favorable, will put us on such a footing, as to bid defiance to the utmost malice of the British nation, and those in alliance with her, I have not a doubt but they will most readily consent to stay, and cheerfully undergo every present and temporary inconvenience, so long as they are necessary.
I am happy Captain Van Buren has succeeded so well in the business he was upon, it being of great consequence for us to fit out and maintain our vessels on the Lakes.1 On the night of the 16th, two of our fire-vessels attempted to burn the ships of war up the river. One of them boarded the Phœnix of forty-four guns, and was grappled with her for some minutes, but unluckily she cleared herself. The only damage the enemy sustained was the destruction of one tender. It is agreed on all hands, that our people, engaged in this affair, behaved with great resolution and intrepidity. One of the captains, Thomas, it is to be feared, perished in the attempt or in making his escape by swimming, as he has not been heard of. His bravery entitled him to a better fate. Though this enterprise did not succeed to our wishes, I incline to think it alarmed the enemy greatly; for this morning the Phœnix and Rose, with their two remaining tenders, taking advantage of a brisk and prosperous gale, with a favorable tide, quitted their stations, and have returned and joined the rest of the fleet. As they passed our several batteries, they were fired upon, but without any damage that I could perceive.1 The whole of the British forces in America, except those employed in Canada, are now here, Clinton’s arrival being followed the last week by that of Lord Dunmore, who now forms a part of the army we are to oppose. His coming has added but little to their strength. I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 20 August, 1776.
I was yesterday morning favored with yours of the 17th, accompanied by several resolutions of Congress, and commissions for officers appointed to the late vacancies in this army. I wrote some days ago to General Schuyler, to propose to Generals Carleton and Burgoyne an exchange of prisoners, in consequence of a former resolve of Congress authorizing their commanders in each department to negotiate one. That of Major Meigs for Major French, and Captain Dearborn for any officer of equal rank, I submitted to General Howe’s consideration, by letter on the 17th, understanding their paroles had been sent to him by General Carleton; but have not yet received his answer upon the subject.
In respect to the exchange of prisoners in Canada, if a proposition on that head has not been already made, and I believe it has not, the enclosed copy of General Carleton’s orders (transmitted to me under seal by Major Bigelow, who was sent with a flag to General Burgoyne from Ticonderoga, with the proceedings of Congress on the breach of capitulation at the Cedars, and the inhuman treatment of our people afterwards) will show it is unnecessary, as he has determined to send them to their own provinces, there to remain as prisoners; interdicting at the same time all kinds of intercourse between us and his army, except such as may be for the purpose of imploring the King’s mercy. The assassination, which he mentions, of Brigadier-General Gordon, is a fact entirely new to me, and what I never heard of before. I shall not trouble Congress with my strictures upon this indecent, illiberal and scurrilous performance, so highly unbecoming the character of a soldier and gentleman, only observing that its design is somewhat artful, and that each boat-man with Major Bigelow was furnished with a copy. I have also transmitted Congress a copy of the Major’s journal, to which I beg leave to refer them for the intelligence reported by him on his return from the truce.1
By a Letter from Genl Greene yesterday Evening he informed me, he had received an Express from Hog Island Inlet advising that 5 of the Enemy’s small vessells had appeared at the mouth of the Creek with some Troops on board—also that he had heard Two pettiaugers were off Oister Bay, the whole supposed to be after live stock and to prevent their getting it, he had detached a party of Horse & Two Hundred & Twenty men, among ’em Twenty Rifle men. I have not received further intelligence upon the subject.
I am also advised by the examination of a Captain Britton (master of a vessel that had been taken), transmitted to me by General Mercer, that the general report among the enemy’s troops, was, when he came off, that they were to attack Long Island, and to secure our works there if possible, at the same time that another part of their army was to land above this city. This information is corroborated by many other accounts, and is probably true; nor will it be possible to prevent their landing on the Island, as its great extent affords a variety of places favorable for that purpose, and the whole of our works on it are at the end opposite to the city. However, we shall attempt to harass them as much as possible, which will be all that we can do. I have the honor, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
New York, 22 August, 1776.
As the enemy must pass this place before they can attempt the posts above, and as your troops there are now augmented, I would have you pick out a body of about eight hundred, or a thousand, light, active men, and good marksmen (including the light infantry and riflemen), ready to move this way upon the appearance of the shipping coming up, or upon the commencement of the Cannonade of any of our works. By the time these troops get into the flat grounds of Haerlem, they will be able (especially if you send a horseman or two on before, for intelligence, which will be proper) to determine whether the ships intend higher up than this neighborhood, and regulate themselves accordingly.
There is a road out of the Haerlem flat lands that leads up to the hills and continues down the North River by Bloomingdale, Delancey’s, &c., which road I would have them march, as they will keep the river in Sight, and pass a tolerable landing-place for troops in the neighborhood of Bloomingdale. This detachment should bring a couple of light field-pieces.
I think two, or even four, pieces of cannon might be spared from Fort Washington to the post over the bridge;—but query, whether it might not do to run them from thence when occasion shall seem to require it, as that post never can be attacked without sufficient notice to do this. Colonel Knox will have four carriages ready for that place, immediately, if we have not other employment upon hand, which General Putnam, who is this instant come in seems to think we assuredly Shall, this day, as there is a considerable embarkation on board of the enemy’s boats. I shall therefore only add that you should delay no time in forming your detachment for our aid, or your own defence, as circumstances may require. Yours &c, in haste.
TO THE NEW YORK CONVENTION.
Head-Quarters,New York, 23 August, 1776.
I am favored with yours of the 22d, acquainting me with a report now circulating, “that if the American army should be obliged to retreat from this city, any individual may set it on fire.” I can assure you, Gentlemen, that this report is not founded upon the least authority from me; on the contrary, I am so sensible of the value of such a city, and the consequences of its destruction to many worthy citizens and their families, that nothing but the last necessity, and that such as should justify me to the whole world, would induce me to give orders for that purpose. The unwillingness shown by many families to remove, notwithstanding your and my recommendations, may perhaps have led some persons to propagate the report, with honest and innocent intentions; but as your letter first informed me of it, I cannot pretend to say by whom, or for what purpose, it has been done. As my views, with regard to the removal of the women and children, have happily coincided with your sentiments, and a committee appointed to carry them into execution, I submit it to your judgment, whether it would not be proper for the Committee to meet immediately in this city, and give notice of their attendance on this business. There are many, who anxiously wish to remove, but have not the means. I am, with much respect and regard, Gentlemen, yours, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Head-Quarters,New York, 23 August, 1776.
Yesterday morning the enemy landed at Gravesend Bay, upon Long Island, from the best information I can obtain to the number of about eight thousand. Colonel Hand retreated before them, burning as he came along several parcels of wheat, and such other matter as he judged would fall into the enemy’s hands. Our first accounts were, that they intended, by a forced march, to surprise General Sullivan’s (who commands during the illness of General Greene) lines; whereupon I immediately reinforced that post with six regiments. But they halted last night at Flatbush.1 If they should attack General Sullivan this day, and should show no disposition to attack me likewise, at the making of the next flood, I shall send such further reinforcements to Long Island as I may judge expedient, not choosing to weaken this post too much, before I am certain that the enemy are not making a feint upon Long Island to draw our force to that quarter, when their real design may perhaps be upon this.1 I am, &c.
P. S. The flood tide will begin to make about eleven o’clock, at which time, if the detachment ordered yesterday were to move to the high and open grounds about Mr. Delancey’s and Bloomingdale, they would be ready to come forward, or turn back, as occasion should require; it would give them a little exercise, and show them wherein they are wanting in any matter.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
New York, 24 August, 1776.
On Thursday last the enemy landed a body of troops, supposed to amount (from the best accounts I have been able to obtain) to eight or nine thousand men, at Gravesend Bay on Long Island, ten miles distance from our works on the Island, and immediately marched through the open lands to Flatbush, where they are now encamped. They are distant about three miles from our lines, and have woods and broken grounds to pass (which we have lined) before they can get to them. Some skirmishing has happened between their advanced parties and ours, in which we have always gained an advantage.1 What the real designs of the enemy are, I am not yet able to determine. My opinion of the matter is, that they mean to attack our works on the Island and this city at the same time, and that the troops at Flatbush are waiting in those plains till the wind and tide (which have not yet served together) will favor the movement of the shipping to this place: Others think they will bend their principal force against our lines on the Island, which, if carried, will greatly facilitate their designs upon this city. This also being very probable, I have thrown what force I can over, without leaving myself too much exposed here; for our whole number (if the intelligence we get from deserters, &c., be true) falls short of that of the enemy; consequently the defence of our own works, and the approaches to them, is all we can aim at. This, then, in a manner, leaves the whole Island in possession of the enemy, and of course of the supplies it is capable of affording them. Under these circumstances would it be practicable for your government to throw a body of one thousand or more men across the sound, to harass the enemy in their rear or upon their flanks? This would annoy them exceedingly, at the same time that a valuable end, to wit, that of preventing their parties securing the stocks of cattle, &c., would be answered by it; the cattle to be removed or killed. The knowledge I have of the extraordinary exertions of your State upon all occasions, does not permit me to require this, not knowing how far it is practicable; I only offer it, therefore as a matter for your consideration, and of great public utility, if it can be accomplished.
The enemy, if my intelligence from Staten Island be true, are at this time rather distressed on account of provisions; if then, we can deprive them of what this Island affords, much good will follow from it.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.3
It was with no small degree of concern, I perceived yesterday a scattering, unmeaning, and wasteful fire from our people at the enemy—a kind of fire that tended to disgrace our own men as soldiers, and to render our defence contemptible in the eyes of the enemy. No one good consequence can attend such irregularities, but several bad ones will inevitably follow from them. Had it not been for this unsoldierlike and disorderly practice, we have the greatest reason imaginable to believe, that numbers of deserters would have left the enemy’s army last year; but fear prevented them from approaching our lines then, and must for ever continue to operate in like manner, whilst every soldier conceives himself at liberty to fire when and at what he pleases. This is not the only nor the greatest evil resulting from the practice; for, as we do not know the hour of the enemy’s approach to our lines, but have every reason to apprehend that it will be sudden and violent whenever attempted, we shall have our men so scattered, and more than probable without ammunition, that the consequences must prove fatal to us; besides this, there will be no possibility of distinguishing between a real and a false alarm.
I must therefore, Sir, in earnest terms desire you to call the colonels and commanding officers of corps without loss of time before you; and let them afterwards do the same by their respective officers, and charge them, in express and positive terms, to stop these irregularities, as they value the good of the service, their own honor, and the safety of the army, which, under God, depends wholly upon the good order and government that is observed in it. At the same time, I would have you form proper lines of defence around your encampment and works on the most advantageous ground. Your guards, which compose this defence, are to be particularly instructed in their duty, and a brigadier of the day is to remain constantly upon the lines, that he may be upon the spot to command, and see that orders are executed. Field-officers should also be appointed to go the rounds, and report the situation of the guards; and no person should be allowed to pass beyond the guards, without special order in writing.
By restraining the loose, disorderly, and unsoldierlike firing before mentioned, I do not mean to discourage partisans and scouting parties; on the contrary I wish to see a spirit of that sort prevailing, under proper regulations, and officers, either commissioned or non-commissioned, as cases require, to be directed by yourself or licensed by the brigadier of the day upon the spot, to be sent upon this service. Such skirmishing as may be effected in this manner will be agreeable to the rules of propriety, and may be attended with salutary effects, inasmuch as it will inure the troops to fatigue and danger, will harass the enemy, and may make prisoners and prevent their parties from getting the horses and cattle from the interior parts of the Island, which are objects of infinite importance to us, especially the two last. All the men not upon duty are to be compelled to remain in or near their respective camps, or quarters, that they may turn out at a moment’s warning; nothing being more probable, than that the enemy will allow little time enough to prepare for the attack. The officers also are to exert themselves to the utmost to prevent every kind of abuse to private property, and to bring every offender to the punishment he deserves. Shameful it is to find, that those men, who have come hither in defence of the rights of mankind, should turn invaders of it by destroying the substance of their friends. The burning of houses where the apparent good of the service is not promoted by it, and the pillaging of them, at all times and upon all occasions, are to be discountenanced and punished with the utmost severity. In short, it is to be hoped, that men who have property of their own, and a regard for the rights of others, will shudder at the thought of rendering any man’s situation, in whose protection he has come, more insufferable than his open and avowed enemy would make it; when by duty and every rule of humanity they ought to aid, and not oppress, the distressed in their habitations. The distinction between a well regulated army and a mob, is the good order and discipline of the first, and the licentious and disorderly behavior of the latter. Men, therefore, who are not employed as mere hirelings, but have stepped forth in defence of every thing, that is dear and valuable not only to themselves but to posterity, should take uncommon pains to conduct themselves with the greatest propriety and good order, as their honor and reputation call loudly upon them to do it.
The wood next to Red Hook should be well attended to. Put some of the most disorderly riflemen into it. The militia are the most indifferent troops, those I mean which are least tutored and have seen least service, and will do for the interior works, whilst your best men should at all hazards prevent the enemy’s passing the wood, and approaching your works. The woods should be secured by abatis where necessary, to make the enemy’s approach as difficult as possible. Traps and ambuscades should be laid for their parties, if you find they are sent out after cattle, &c.
Given under my hand, at Head Quarters, this 25th day of August, 1776.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 26 August, 1776.
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 20th and 24th, and am happy to find my answer to Lord Drummond has met the approbation of Congress. Whatever his views were, most certainly his conduct respecting his parole is highly reprehensible. Since my letter of the 24th almost the whole of the enemy’s fleet have fallen down to the Narrows; and, from this circumstance, and the striking of their tents and their several encampments on Staten Island from time to time previous to the departure of the ships from thence, we are led to think they mean to land the main body of their army on Long Island, and to make their grand push there. I have ordered over considerable reinforcements to our troops there, and shall continue to send more as circumstances may require. There has been a little skirmishing and irregular firing kept up between their and our advanced guards, in which Colonel Martin of the Jersey levies has received a wound in his breast, which, it is apprehended, will prove mortal; a private has had his leg broken by a cannon-ball, and another has received a shot in the groin from their musketry. This is all the damage they have yet done us; what they have sustained is not known.
The shifting and changing, which the regiments have undergone of late, have prevented their making proper returns, and of course put it out of my power to transmit a general one of the army. However, I believe our strength is much the same as it was when the last was made, with the addition of nine militia regiments from the State of Connecticut, averaging about three hundred and fifty men each. These are nine of the fourteen Regiments mentioned in my Letter of 19th. Our people still continue to be very sickly. The papers designed for the foreign troops have been put into several channels, in order that they might be conveyed to ’em; and from the information I had yesterday, I have reason to believe many have fallen into their hands.1 I have enclosed a copy of Lord Drummond’s second letter in answer to mine, which I received since I transmitted his first, and which I have thought it necessary to lay before Congress, that they may possess the whole of the correspondence between us, and see how far he has exculpated himself from the charge alleged against him—The Log Book he mentions to have sent Colo. Moylan proves nothing in his favor. That shews he had been at Bermuda and from thence to some other Island, and on his passage from which to this place the Vessel he was in was boarded by a pilot who brought her into the Hook, where he found the British Fleet, which his Lordship avers he did not expect were there, having understood their destination was to the southward.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Long Island, 29 August, half past four, A.M., 1776.
I was last night honored with your favor, of the 27th accompanied by sundry resolutions of Congress. Those respecting the officers, &c that may be wounded in the service of the States, are founded much in justice, and I should hope may be productive of many salutary consequences. As to the encouragement to the Hessian officers, I wish it may have the desired effect. Perhaps it might have been better, had the offer been sooner made. Before this, you will probably have received a letter from Mr. Harrison, of the 27th, advising you of the engagement between a detachment of our men and the enemy on that day.1 I am sorry to inform Congress. that I have not yet heard either of General Sullivan or Lord Stirling, who were among the missing after the engagement; nor can I ascertain our loss. I am hopeful, part of our men will yet get in; several did yesterday morning. That of the enemy is also uncertain; the accounts are various. I incline to think they suffered a good deal. Some deserters say five hundred were killed and wounded.
There was some skirmishing the greater part of yesterday, between parties from the enemy and our people; in the evening it was pretty smart. The event I have not yet learned. The weather of late has been extremely wet. Yesterday it rained severely the whole afternoon, which distressed our people much, not having a sufficiency of tents to cover them, and what we have not got over yet. I am in hopes they will all be got to-day, and that they will be more comfortably provided for, though the great scarcity of these articles distresses us beyond measure, not having any thing like a sufficient number to protect our people from the inclemency of the weather; which has occasioned much sickness, and the men to be almost broke down.1 I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
New York, 31 August, 1776.
Inclination as well as duty would have induced me to give Congress the earliest information of my removal, and that of the troops, from Long Island and its dependencies, to this city the night before last; but the extreme fatigue, which myself and family have undergone, as much from the weather since, as the engagement on the 27th, rendered me and them entirely unfit to take pen in hand. Since Monday, scarce any of us have been out of the lines till our passage across the East River was effected yesterday morning; and, for forty-eight hours preceding that, I had hardly been off my horse, and never closed my eyes; so that I was quite unfit to write or dictate till this morning.
Our retreat was made without any loss of men or ammunition, and in better order than I expected from troops in the situation ours were. We brought off all our cannon and stores, except a few heavy pieces, which, in the condition the earth was, by a long continued rain, we found upon trial impracticable; the wheels of the carriages sinking up to the hobs rendered it impossible for our whole force to drag them. We left but little provisions on the island, except some cattle, which had been driven within our lines, and which after many attempts to force across the water, we found it impossible to effect, circumstanced as we were. I have enclosed a copy of the council of war held previous to the retreat, to which I beg leave to refer Congress for the reasons, or many of them, that led to the adoption of that measure.1 Yesterday evening and last night, a party of our men were employed in bringing our stores, cannon, and tents, from Governor’s Island, which they nearly completed. Some of the heavy cannon remain there still, but I expect they will be got away to-day.
In the engagement on the 27th, Generals Sullivan and Stirling were made prisoners. The former has been permitted, on his parole, to return for a little time. From my Lord Stirling I had a letter by General Sullivan, a copy of which I have the honor to transmit, that contains his information of the engagement with his brigade. It is not so full and certain as I could wish; he was hurried most probably, as his letter was unfinished; nor have I been yet able to obtain an exact account of our loss; we suppose it from seven hundred to a thousand killed and taken.1 General Sullivan says Lord Howe is extremely desirous of seeing some of the members of Congress; for which purpose he was allowed to come out, and to communicate to them what has passed between him and his lordship. I have consented to his going to Philadelphia, as I do not mean, or conceive it right, to withhold or prevent him from giving such information as he possesses in this instance. I am much hurried and engaged in arranging and making new dispositions of our forces; the movements of the enemy requiring them to be immediately had; and therefore I have only time to add, that I am, with my best regards to Congress, &c.2
[1 ]The above vessels proved to be from the south. General Clinton and Lord Cornwallis arrived from Carolina on the 1st of August. General Clinton’s adventure in that quarter, it would seem, was not very gratifying to his superiors. Lord George Germaine wrote to him, August 24th:—“I had reason to flatter myself, that, the season being far advanced, you would not make any attempt at the southward, whereby there could be a possibility of your being prevented from proceeding with your army in due time to the northward to join General Howe, who has long impatiently expected your arrival. I was therefore extremely disappointed and mortified to learn by your letter of July 8th, that you were still in the south, and that the fleet had received a severe check at Sullivan’s Island.”—MS. Letter. General Lee arrived in Charleston on the 4th of June, and took command of the American forces in the southern department. The gallant action at the Fort on Sullivan’s Island was fought June 28th, under Colonel Moultrie, by whose name the Fort was afterwards called.
[2 ]Read in Congress August 5th.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 22 July, 1776.
[1 ]The mode of constucting the chevaux-de-frise was a contrivance of General Putnam’s, as appears by a letter from him to General Gates, dated July 26th: “The enemy’s fleet now lies in the bay very safe, close under Staten Island. Their troops possess no land here but the Island. Is it not very strange, that those invincible troops, who were to destroy and lay waste all this country with their fleets and army, are so fond of islands and peninsulas, and dare not put their feet on the main? But I hope, by the blessing of God and good friends, we shall pay them a visit on their island. For that end, we are preparing fourteen fire-ships to go into their fleet, some of which are ready charged and fitted to sail, and I hope soon to have them all fixed. We are preparing chevaux-de-frise, at which we make great despatch by the help of ships, which are to be sunk; a scheme of mine, which you may be assured is very simple, a plan of which I send you. The two ships’ sterns lie towards each other, about seventy feet apart. Three large logs, which reach from ship to ship, are fastened to them. The two ships and logs stop the river two hundred and eighty feet. The ships are to be sunk, and, when hauled down on one side, the picks will be raised to a proper height, and they must inevitably stop the river if the enemy will let us sink them.”—MS. Letter.
[1 ]Read in Congress August 6th.
[1 ]The list is not with the letter.
[1 ]Read in Congress August 8th.
[1 ]“They [the deserters] further add that when they left Carolina one transport got on shore, so that they were not able to give her relief, upon which she surrendered with 5 companies of Highlanders to General Lee, who after taking everything valuable out of her, burnt her; that the admiral turned General Clinton out of his ship after the engagement with a great deal of abuse; great differences between the principal naval and military gentlemen. That the ships left in Carolina are now in such a weakly distressed condition they would fall an easy prey.
[1 ]Present fit for duty, 10,514; sick present, 3,039; sick absent, 629; on command, 2,946; on furlough, 97; total, 17,225. This return was made on the third, and included troops in New York, Governor’s and Long Islands, and at Paulus Hook.
[2 ]Governor Trumbull replied with his usual promptness and spirit:—“Immediately upon receipt of your letter I summoned my Council of Safety, and ordered nine regiments of our militia in addition to the five western regiments, fourteen in the whole, to march without loss of time and join you, under the command of Oliver Wolcott, colonel of a regiment, as their brigadier-general, who is appointed and commissioned to that office. I have likewise proposed, that companies of volunteers, consisting of able-bodied men not in the militia, should associate and march to your assistance, under officers they should choose, and I have promised them the same wages and allowance of provisions, that the Continental army receives. Colonel Ward’s regiment is on its march to join you. I am far from trusting merely in the justice of our cause. I consider that as a just ground to hope for the smiles of Heaven on our exertions, which ought to be the greatest in our power. These fourteen regiments, sent on the present emergency, consist of substantial farmers, whose business requires their return, when the necessity of their further stay in the army is over; and I doubt not your attention thereto, and that you will dismiss them in whole, or in part, as soon as you think it safe and convenient.”
[1 ]Colonel James Clinton, who was in the Continental service, and was promoted to the rank of brigadier the day after this letter was written.
[1 ]Militia from Pennsylvania, who volunteered to serve till the Flying Camp could be collected. They were now stationed near Elizabethtown, and had become dissatisfied with the service. Many were daily returning home without orders.
[1 ]“Having represented to Congress the expediency of employing the Stockbridge Indians as they are desirous of it, they have authorized me to do it as you will see by the enclosed copy of their resolution passed the 2d. inst. If Mr. Edwards is at the treaty you are now holding shew him the resolve and please to inform him that it is my request he should adopt the most expeditious mode of raising them, giving such of them that choose it, liberty to join the northern, and those that prefer coming here, leave to do it in case they incline to divide. If they do not the whole may go to which of the armies they please.”—Washington to Schuyler, 7 August, 1776. See Journals of Congress, 2 August, 1776.
[1 ]Read 12th. Referred to the Board of War.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 7 August, 1776. Josiah was first lieutenant under Captain Biddle.
[1 ]The Convention ordered, “that each man, who shall not have arms, shall bring with him a shovel, spade, pickaxe, or a scythe straightened and fixed on a pole.” One fifth part of the militia from Albany county were also ordered to be drafted, and marched immediately to the encampment north of Kings-bridge: and it was “unanimously resolved, that, whenever the whole of the militia of any country should be ordered to march, they should bring with them all the disarmed and disaffected male inhabitants, from sixteen to fifty-five years of age, who should serve as fatigue-men to the respective regiments.”—MS. Journal of the Convention, August 10th. On the same day, having learned that the inhabitants of King’s county, Long Island, did not intend to oppose the enemy, the Convention appointed a committee to go into that country, and, if they found them in this temper, to disarm and secure the disaffected persons, remove or destroy the stock of grain, and, if they should judge it necessary, to lay the whole country waste. They were authorized to call on General Greene, who commanded in that quarter, for such assistance from the Continental troops as they should want.
[1 ]“An order is this moment passed for calling General Lee from the southward.”—Hancock to Washington, 8 August, 1776.
[2 ]Read in Congress, August 14th.
[1 ]In his instructions to the Committee of Queen’s county he said:—“The public exigencies having required my apprehending a number of suspected persons in your county, and sending them into another colony for a short time, they have expressed some apprehensions that in their absence their property may be exposed to injury, and their families deprived of the support they would otherwise derive from it. I therefore beg leave to acquaint you, that a temporary restraint of their persons is all, that is intended by the present measure, and that it would give me much pain, if it should be construed to extend to any depredation of property; that matter resting entirely with the jurisdiction of the civil authority of the province.”
[1 ]“I take the liberty of mentioning that Colo. Varnum of Rhode Island has been with me this morning to resign his commission, conceiving himself to be greatly injured in not having been noticed in the late arrangement and promotion of General officers. I remonstrated against the impropriety of the measure at this time and he has consented to stay till affairs wear a different aspect than what they do at present.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 14 August, 1776.
[1 ]A committee was appointed by the Convention conformably to this suggestion, and empowered to remove such persons as they should think proper, and to afford the necessary assistance and support to those in indigent circumstances. A proclamation was likewise issued by the Commander-in-chief, recommending this removal to the inhabitants, and requiring officers and soldiers of the army to afford their aid. The Convention likewise requested the general committee of New York to give their assistance in effecting the removal in the most humane and expeditious manner possible.
[1 ]In his reply, dated August 19th, Lord Howe, concurring in the proposition for an exchange of prisoners, added: “Principles and conduct form the true distinctions of rank amongst men; yet, without competent habit in the manners of the world, they are liable to meet with unmerited disregard. But insults and indignities to persons of whatever rank, who are become parties in these unhappy disputes, cannot be justified, and are, I persuade myself, as much disapproved of by every officer under my command, as they can never cease to be by me.”
[1 ]For various particulars respecting Lord Drummond, see vol. III., p. 420.
[2 ]“They will observe my answer to Lord Drummond, who I am pretty confident has not attended to the Terms of his parole, but has violated it in several Instances. It is with the rest of the papers, but if my Memory serves me he was not to hold any correspondence directly or indirectly with those in arms against us, or to go into any port or harbor in America where the Enemy themselves were or had a Fleet or to go on board their Ships.
[1 ]Captain Van Buren had been sent down to Connecticut and Rhode Island to obtain sail-cloth, cordage, and other articles for the flotilla on Lake Champlain.
[1 ]It appeared afterwards, that the ships sustained a good deal of injury in passing the upper batteries, near Fort Washington and the Haerlem River. General Heath was on the spot, and reported, that the Phœnix was three times hulled by the shot from Mount Washington, and one of the tenders once; and that the Rose was hulled once by a shot from Burdett’s Ferry on the opposite side of the river. Riflemen were posted along the banks of the river, but the men on board were kept so close, that it was not known that any damage was done by the rifles. Grape-shot were fired from the vessels as they passed, but without injury except to a tent. The Phœnix and Rose had been five weeks in the river, and, by the aid of their tenders and small boats, soundings had been taken in every part as far up as the entrance of the Highlands. The tender, which had been burnt by one of the fire-ships, was towed on shore the next day, although under the fire of the enemy’s cannon. This was effected by a lieutenant and two men, in a manner that reflected great credit upon their enterprise and courage. A six-pound cannon, three smaller ones, and ten swivels were taken out of the tender.
[2 ]“As nothing contributes so much to the good order and government of troops, as an exactness in discipline, and a strict observance of orders; and as the Army is now arranged into different divisions, those divisions formed into brigades, and brigades composed of regiments; the General hopes and expects that the several duties of the Army, will go on with regularity, cheerfulness and alacrity; As one means of accomplishing this, he desires, that no regiment, brigade, or division, will interfere with the duties of another, but walk in their own proper line; the Colonels taking care not to contravene the orders of their Brigadiers; the Brigadiers of their Major Generals; and that the whole, pay due attention to the General Orders, which can only be set aside, or be dispensed with by orders of equal dignity.
[1 ]The events attending the capitulation at the Cedars, and the agreement for the exchange of prisoners entered into by Arnold, were of so extraordinary and irritating a nature, in regard to the conduct of the enemy, that Congress, at the same time they confirmed Arnold’s stipulation, resolved, “that, previous to the delivery of the prisoners to be returned on our part, the British commanders in Canada be required to deliver into our hands the authors, abettors, and perpetrators of the horrid murder committed on the prisoners, to suffer such punishment as their crime deserves; and also to make indemnification for the plunder at the Cedars, taken contrary to the faith of the capitulation; and that, until such delivery and indemnification be made, the said prisoners be not delivered.” Journals, July 10th. This was in effect a refusal to confirm the treaty, and was so considered by the commanding officers in Canada. The report of the committee of Congress on this subject, and the resolves respecting the treaty, were forwarded to General Burgoyne. The despatch was sent under the charge of Major Bigelow from Ticonderoga. He proceeded down the lake to Isle-aux-Noix, which was then a British outpost, where he was detained, and the despatch was forwarded to General Burgoyne then at St. John’s. Major Bigelow stayed ten days at Isle-aux-Noix, where he and his party were treated very civilly by Captain Craig, the commander of that post, and by the other officers. At length the messenger came back from St. John’s, with a letter directed to “George Washington, Esquire,” which was handed to Major Bigelow, and with which he returned immediately up the Lake to Ticonderoga, being escorted on his way as far as Gilleland’s by a boat with two British officers and nine Canadians.
[1 ]Read August 22nd. Referred to the Board of War.
[1 ]“The General would be obliged to any officer, to recommend to him a careful, sober person who understands taking care of Horses and waiting occasionally. Such person being a soldier will have his pay continued, and receive additional wages of twenty Shillings pr. month. He must be neat in his person, and to be depended on for his honesty and sobriety.
[1 ]“I have no doubt but a little time will produce some important events. I hope they will be happy. The reinforcement detached yesterday went off in high spirits; and I have the pleasure to inform you, that the whole of the army, that are effective and capable of duty, discover the same, and great cheerfulness. I have been obliged to appoint Major-General Sullivan to the command on the Island, owing to General Greene’s indisposition; he has been extremely ill for several days, and still continues bad.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 23 August, 1776.
[1 ]“Yesterday there was some skirmishing between a detachment of them, and a party from our troops. Their detachments were obliged to give ground, and were pursued as far as where they had a post at a Judge Lefferts’. His house and outhouses served as quarters for them, and were burned by our people. We sustained no loss in this affair, that I have heard of, except having two men slightly wounded. Our people say the enemy met with more.”—Washington to Schuyler, 24 August, 1776.
[1 ]This was an error, as a part of the Germans,—Col. Donop’s corps of chasseurs and Hessian grenadiers—were landed on the 22d. Lieutenant General De Heister, with two brigades of Hessians, joined the army on Long Island on the 25th.
[2 ]“The passage of the East River being obstructed, in such a manner, with Chevaux-de-Frizes &c. as to render it dangerous for any Vessels to pass, the Sentinels along the river, contiguous to where the obstructions are placed, are to hail and prevent any Vessels attempting to pass, otherwise than between the Albany Pier; and a Mast in the river, which appears above water, nearly opposite.—Orderly Book, 24 August, 1776.
[3 ]Putnam had just been sent over to take the general command on Long Island. Sullivan had the immediate command of all the troops not within the lines at Brooklyn.
[1 ]As the Hessians and other foreign troops were mercenaries, hired to fight in a cause in which they could feel no personal interest, the Congress thought it expedient to endeavor to entice them away from the service, and induce them to settle in the United States. For this purpose a resolution, drawn by Wilson, Jefferson and Stockton, was passed, promising to all such as would leave the British army a free exercise of their religion, and investing them with all the rights, privileges, and immunities of natives, and moreover engaging to every such person fifty acres of unappropriated land, to be held by him and his heirs in absolute property. This resolution, and other papers explaining the nature of the war, and of the part taken in it by the foreign troops, were ordered to be translated into German and circulated among them. Journals, August 14th. With this intent they were forwarded to General Washington. Concern having been expressed that no distinction had been made between officers and privates, by another resolution, Congress held out to foreign officers, who should leave the British army and become citizens of the United States, the encouragement of a bounty in land; to a colonel one thousand acres, to a lieutenant-colonel eight hundred, and so on according to the rank of the subordinate officers. Journals, August 27th.
[1 ]Read in Congress August 28th.
[1 ]Printed in Sparks’ edition, iv., 513. The history of this battle is fully treated in Field, Battle of Long Island.
[1 ]In addition to the forces on the Island at the time of the action, General Mifflin had come down from Fort Washington with Shee’s, Magaw’s, and Glover’s regiments, amounting to about thirteen hundred men, who had passed over to Brooklyn on the 28th, without tents.
[2 ]Read in Congress August 30th.
[1 ]At a council of war held 29th August, it was unanimously agreed to remove the army to New York, for the following reasons:—
[1 ]According to General Howe’s return of the American prisoners taken on Long Island, the whole number amounted to one thousand and seventy-six. This list includes General Woodhull, and the militia under him, probably about two hundred, who were not in the action, but were taken afterwards at Jamaica. The British loss, as stated by General Howe, was ninety-four killed and missing, and two hundred and eighty-three wounded. In nearly all the accounts of the action, Woodhull has been erroneously written Udell.
[2 ]Read in Congress September 2nd.