Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL. - 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 GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Head-Quarters,New York, 9 September, 1776.
I have the honor of your favor of the 5th inst., and am sorry to say, that, from the best information we have been able to obtain, the people on Long Island have, since our evacuation, gone generally over to the enemy, and made such concessions as have been required; some through compulsion, I suppose, but more from inclination. As a diversion upon the Island has been impracticable under these circumstances, I think you have done well in assisting the removal of the persons and effects of our friends from thence. I observe with great pleasure, that you have ordered the remaining regiments of the militia, that can be spared from the immediate defence of the sea-coast, to march toward New York with all expedition. I cannot sufficiently express my thanks, not only for your constant and ready compliance with every request of mine, but for your own strenuous exertions and prudent forecast, in ordering matters so, that your force has generally been collected and put in motion as soon as it has been demanded.
With respect to the militia, both horse and foot, I am of opinion that they will render us more service by rendezvousing at different places along the Sound, in West Chester county and thereabouts, than by coming directly to this city. It will not only give the enemy, who are extending their encampments up the island, an idea of our force along the coast, but if they should attempt a landing above Kingsbridge, they will be in readiness to join our force about that place; the horse particularly, whose rapid motion enables them to be in a short time at any point of attack. Besides, the difficulty of procuring forage upon this island, for any number of horses, is an objection to their being stationed here. I fear, that the militia, by leaving their homes so suddenly, and in a manner unprepared for a long absence, have sustained some injury. To this cause I must impute, in a great measure, their impatience to return, and the diminution of their numbers at this time, to about two thousand. Their want of discipline, the indulgences they claim and have been allowed, their unwillingness, I may add, refusal to submit to that regularity and order essential to every army infecting the rest of our troops more or less, have been of pernicious tendency, and occasioned a good deal of confusion and disorder. But, Sir, these things are not peculiar to those from any one State; they are common to all militia, and what must be generally expected; for men, who have been free and never subject to restraint, or any kind of control, cannot be taught the necessity, nor be brought to see the expediency, of strict discipline in a day.
I highly approve of your plan and proposition for raising such a naval force, as will be sufficient to clear the Sound of the enemy’s ships of war. If Commodore Hopkins will join you, I should suppose it not only practicable, but a matter of certainty; and if it can be effected, many valuable and salutary consequences must result from it. As to drafting seamen from the Continental regiments, it cannot be done; as their numbers have been reduced so low already, by taking men from them for the galleys, boats, and other purposes, that some of them have hardly any thing left but the name; besides, I must depend chiefly upon them for a successful opposition to the enemy. If it can be done out of the militia, I shall not have the least objection, and heartily wish the enterprise, whenever attempted, may be attended with all possible success. Secrecy and despatch will be most likely to give it a happy issue. The enemy’s ships can receive no reinforcements, but such as go round Long Island. Our works at Hell Gate preventing their sending ships that way, they are sensible of their importance, and yesterday opened two three-gun batteries to effect their destruction, but as yet have not materially damaged them, and they must be maintained if possible. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. The more the militia and horse keep on the Sound, towards Kingsbridge, the better, as they will be ready to oppose any landing of the enemy, and also to receive orders for reinforcing any posts on this side in case of necessity.1
[1 ]General Sullivan, taken prisoner at the battle of Long Island, was to be exchanged for General Prescott, and Howe deemed him a convenient messenger by whom he might make advances to the rebellious colonists. This determination must have been reached soon after the retreat of Washington from Long Island, for on August 30th, Sullivan had a conversation with Washington which removed “the only doubt of the propriety” of his going to Philadelphia, and on the 2d he delivered a verbal message to Congress from Lord Howe which was reduced to writing and submitted on the following day. The purport of this message was that while Lord Howe could not treat with Congress as such, yet he was very desirous of having a conference with some of the members, as private gentlemen, before whom he could lay the full powers he and his brother possessed to compromise the dispute between Great Britain and America upon terms advantageous to both. Journals of Congress, 3d September, 1776. Adams held that as thus expressed Sullivan had omitted an essential promise contained in the verbal message, that Lord Howe had said “he would set the act of Parliament wholly aside, and that Parliament had no right to tax America, or meddle with her internal policy”—certainly a most remarkable offer, if made, considering the powers expressed in the commission under which the Howes were acting, and repudiated by his Lordship when Rutledge mentioned it. The suggestion made by Lord Howe met with more favor than opposition in Congress. John Adams, and his party or followers, opposed it, regarding it as a snare, a bubble, an insidious manœuvre, calculated only to decoy and deceive, and expressed surprise that Sullivan should have consented to act on such a mission. But the majority in Congress favored the appointment of a committee to attend Howe as representatives of the free and independent States of America, to know whether he had any authority to treat with persons authorized by Congress for that purpose, in behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shall make respecting the same. Journals, 5 September. In its favor was urged that it would cause a delay of military operations, it would throw the odium of continuing the war on the British, and would silence the Tories; and these considerations induced even the Virginia delegates to cast their votes in its favor. At the same time Washington was to be instructed that no proposals for peace ought to be attended to, unless made in writing and addressed to the representatives of the States in Congress. Sullivan was sent back to Howe with these resolutions, and Franklin, Edward Rutledge, and John Adams deputed to meet the Howes. They had an interview on Staten Island on the 11th, and the result may be found in their report printed in the Journals of Congress, 17 September, 1776, and in John Adams’ Works, iii., 75-80, ix., 446. Nothing was accomplished by the embassy save a little delay, and some political influence favorable to the war in Pennsylvania (Tilghman to Morris, March, 1777). Even Adams admitted it would do “no disservice to us.” Washington did not approve of the mode of negotiation; “but as General Sullivan was sent out upon the business, and with a message to Congress, I could not conceive myself at liberty to interfere in the matter, as he was in the character of a prisoner, and totally subject to their power and direction.” Washington to the President of Congress, 11 September, 1776.