Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GOVERNOR COOKE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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TO GOVERNOR COOKE. - 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 COOKE.
Head-Quarters, Colonel Morris’s House,
I received the honor of your favor of the 6th inst. by Messrs. Collins, Babcock, and Stanton, and should have acknowledged it before now, had I not been prevented by the peculiar situation of our affairs. I communicated my sentiments to those gentlemen upon the subject of your letter, and the several propositions that were before us, who, I doubt not, will make a full and due report of the same to you and your honorable Assembly. However, I shall take the liberty of adding, that the divided state of our army, which, when collected in one body, is inferior to that of the enemy, and that their having landed almost the whole of their force on Long Island, and formed a plan of cutting off all communication between that and the city of New York, which we had but too good reason to believe practicable and easy to effect with their ships of war, made it necessary, and prudent to withdraw our troops from the former, that our chance of resistance and opposition might be more probable and likely to be attended with a happy issue.
I feel myself much concerned on account of your apprehensions for the town of Newport and the Island of Rhode Island, and should esteem myself peculiarly happy, were it in my power to afford means for their security and that of the State in general, or to point out such measures, as would be effectual for that purpose. But circumstanced as I am, it is not possible for me to grant any assistance; nor can I with propriety undertake to prescribe the mode, which will best promote their defence. This must depend on such a variety of circumstances, that I should suppose you and the Assembly, who are in the State, will be much more competent to the task, than I or any person out of it can be; and therefore I can only recommend, that you will pursue such steps as you, in your judgment, shall think most conducive to that end; observing that it appears to me a matter of extreme difficulty, if practicable, to prevent the enemy’s ships from doing damage to every island accessible to them, unless the passes between them and the main are so narrow, as to oblige them to come very near such batteries, as may be erected for their annoyance, on commanding ground.
I cannot sufficiently express my thanks for the readiness you and your Assembly manifested in ordering troops, &c., to Long Island, on hearing of my request to Governor Trumbull upon that subject. At the time that I made it, I conceived the plan of much importance, and that many valuable and salutary consequences might have resulted from it; but as things have undergone a material change since, it may not be improper to consider and be satisfied of some facts, which ought to be clearly known previous to any attempt to carry it into execution and on which success of it will greatly depend; such, as an intire conviction of the friendly disposition of the Island; the number that would join the troops that might be sent over; the length’s they would go; the support they would and can give, and whether a retreat from thence could be safely effected in case it should be necessary. These matters and others which a more minute consideration of the Plan will present to your view, should be well weighed and digested, and which I thought it my duty to mention; especially as the scheme had originated with me. My anxiety and concern for the inhabitants of the East end of Long Island, who have been represented always as friendly and well attached to the cause of the States, prompt me to wish them every assistance; but if the efforts you could make in conjunction with Governor Trumbull would not promise almost a certainty of success, perhaps they might tend to aggravate their misfortunes. The Committee stated sundry propositions respecting this Expedition, such as, if any thing was attempted, where a stand should be made? This must be left to the discretion of those who command, nor can I spare an officer for that purpose nor recommend one. What number of Men should be sent and what proportion from the Massachusetts?
The number necessary will depend upon the force they will have to oppose and the assistance they would derive from the islanders; The proportion from the Massachusetts on the Will of the Legislature, or voluntary engagement of the people, in the service. What artillery they should have? I am of opinion the artillery would be subject to loss without any great advantage resulting from it. They also asked whether any frigates should be sent, &c.? As the Enemy have now the free and intire command of the Sound, and many Ships-of-War in it, they will be much more liable to be taken, than they would have been some time ago, and when it was proposed by Governor Trumbull to make an attempt upon the Ships above Hell-Gate. In this instance, however, I do not conceive myself at liberty to say any thing peremptory one way or the other, having no power over the frigates.
I am sensible of the force of your observation that the Common Cause might be benefitted by the several States receiving early and authentic intelligence of every material occurrence. Permit me at the same time to assure you, that I often regret my incapacity in this instance, and that the neglect does not arise from want of inclination, or thro’ inattention; but from the variety of important matters that are always pressing upon and which daily surround me. Before I conclude, I shall take this opportunity to inform you, that having received certain information that the Enemy’s plan was to pass from Long Island, and land in the country and for which they are making every possible disposition; a Council of General Officers determined last week, on a removal of the Army from the city, in order to prevent the fatal consequences which must inevitably ensue, if they could have executed their scheme, resolving at the same time, that every appearance of defence should be kept up, till our Sick, Ordnance and Stores could be removed. This was set about with the greatest industry and, as to the Sick, was compleatly effected. But on Sunday Morning (13th) before we had accomplished the removal of all our Cannon, provision and Baggage, they sent three Ships of War up the North River, whereby the Water carriage was totally stopped. * * *
I am now Encamped on the Heights above mentioned which are so well calculated for defence, that I should hope, if the Enemy make an attack and our men will behave with tolerable Resolution, they must meet with a repulse, if not a total defeat. They advanced in sight yesterday in several large bodies, but attempted nothing of a general nature; tho’ in the fore noon there were some smart skirmishes between some of their parties and detachments sent out by me; in which I have the pleasure to inform you our men behaved with bravery and intrepidity, putting them to flight when in open ground and forcing them from posts they had seized, two or three times. From some of wounded men which fell into our hands, the appearance of blood in every place where they made their stand and on the fences as they passed, we have reason to believe they had a good many killed and wounded; tho’ they did not leave many on the ground: In number, our loss was very inconsiderable, but in the fall of Lieut. Colo. Knowlton, I consider it as great, being a brave and good officer and it may be increased by the Death of Major Leitch, of the Virginia Regiment, who unfortunately received three balls thro’ his side.—Having given you a summary account of the Situation of our affairs, and in such manner as circumstances will admit of, I have only to add that I have the honor &c.
P. S. The Committee have expressed their apprehensions of being obliged to abandon the Island of Rhode Island and Newport, and requested my opinion. At present I can see no cause for it, and the propriety of the measure must depend upon circumstances; but I should suppose they ought to be very pressing and the necessity great, before they ought to be given up,—most certainly no imaginary ills or necessity should lead to such a measure. At this time the danger can only be Ideal, and if the Enemy persevere in their plans, and our men behave as they should do, I am persuaded they will not have an opportunity to employ their attention elsewhere this Campaign.1
[1 ]“The General most heartily thanks the troops, commanded yesterday, by Major Leitch, who firstadvanced upon the enemy, and the others who so resolutely supported them,—The behavior of yesterday was such a contrast, to that of some troops the day before, as must shew what may be done, where Officers and Soldiers will exert themselves—Once more therefore, the General calls upon Officers and men, to act up to the noble cause, in which they are engaged, and to support the Honor and Liberties of their Country.