TO LUND WASHINGTON.
Col. Morris’s, on the Heights of Harlem,
30 September, 1776.
Your letter of the 18th, which is the only one received and unanswered, now lies before me. The amazement which you seem to be in at the unaccountable measures which have been adopted by — would be a good deal increased if I had time to unfold the whole system of their management since this time twelve months. I do not know how to account for the unfortunate steps which have been taken but from that fatal idea of conciliation which prevailed so long—fatal, I call it, because from my soul I wish it may prove so, though my fears lead me to think there is too much danger of it. This time last year I pointed out the evil consequences of short enlistments, the expenses of militia, and the little dependence that was to be placed in them. I assured [Congress] that the longer they delayed raising a standing army, the more difficult and chargeable would they find it to get one, and that, at the same time that the militia would answer no valuable purpose, the frequent calling them in would be attended with an expense, that they could have no conception of. Whether, as I have said before, the unfortunate hope of reconciliation was the cause, or the fear of a standing army prevailed, I will not undertake to say; but the policy was to engage men for twelve months only. The consequence of which, you have had great bodies of militia in pay that never were in camp; you have had immense quantities of provisions drawn by men that never rendered you one hour’s service (at least usefully), and this in the most profuse and wasteful way. Your stores have been expended, and every kind of military [discipline?] destroyed by them; your numbers fluctuating, uncertain, and forever far short of report—at no one time, I believe, equal to twenty thousand men fit for duty. At present our numbers fit for duty (by this day’s report) amount to 14,759, besides 3,427 on command, and the enemy within stone’s throw of us. It is true a body of militia are again ordered out, but they come without any conveniences and soon return. I discharged a regiment the other day that had in it fourteen rank and file fit for duty only, and several that had less than fifty. In short, such is my situation that if I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this side of the grave, I should put him in my stead with my feelings; and yet I do not know what plan of conduct to pursue. I see the impossibility of serving with reputation, or doing any essential service to the cause by continuing in command, and yet I am told that if I quit the command inevitable ruin will follow from the distraction that will ensue. In confidence I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born. To lose all comfort and happiness on the one hand, whilst I am fully persuaded that under such a system of management as has been adopted, I cannot have the least chance for reputation, nor those allowances made which the nature of the case requires; and to be told, on the other, that if I leave the service all will be lost, is, at the same time that I am bereft of every peaceful moment, distressing to a degree. But I will be done with the subject, with the precaution to you that it is not a fit one to be publicly known or discussed. If I fall, it may not be amiss that these circumstances be known, and declaration made in credit to the justice of my character. And if the men will stand by me (which by the by I despair of), I am resolved not to be forced from this ground while I have life; and a few days will determine the point, if the enemy should not change their plan of operations; for they certainly will not—I am sure they ought not—to waste the season that is now fast advancing, and must be precious to them. I thought to have given you a more explicit account of my situation, expectation, and feelings, but I have not time. I am wearied to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances—disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat. My time, in short, is so much engrossed that I have not leisure for corresponding, unless it is on mere matters of public business.
I therefore in answer to your last Letter of the 18th shall say
With respect to the chimney, I would not have you for the sake of a little work spoil the look of the fireplaces, tho’ that in the parlor must, I should think, stand as it does; not so much on account of the wainscotting, which I think must be altered (on account of the door leading into the new building,) as on account of the chimney piece and the manner of its fronting into the room. The chimney in the room above ought, if it could be so contrived, to be an angle chimney as the others are: but I would not have this attempted at the expence of pulling down the partition.—The chimney in the new room should be exactly in the middle of it—the doors and every thing else to be exactly answerable and uniform—in short I would have the whole executed in a masterly manner.
You ought surely to have a window in the gable end of the new cellar (either under the Venitian window, or one on each side of it).
Let Mr. Herbert know that I shall be very happy in getting his brother exchanged as soon as possible, but as the enemy have more of our officers than we of theirs, and some of ours have been long confined (and claim ye right of being first exchanged,) I do not know how far it may be in my power at this time, to comply with his desires.
Remember me to all our neighbors and friends, particularly to Colo. Mason, to whom I would write if I had time to do it fully and satisfactorily. Without this, I think the correspondence on my part would be unavailing—
I am with truth and sincerity,
Dr Lund yr affect’e friend.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Heights of Haerlem, 2 October, 1776.
I do myself the honor of transmitting to you the enclosed letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Livingston, with sundry copies of General Delancey’s orders, which discover the measures the enemy are pursuing on Long Island for raising recruits and obtaining supplies of provisions. In consequence of the intelligence they contain, and authentic advices through other channels respecting these matters, I have sent Brigadier-General George Clinton to meet General Lincoln, who has got as far as Fairfield with part of the troops lately ordered by the Massachusetts Assembly, to concert with him and others an expedition across the Sound with these troops, three companies under Colonel Livingston, and such further aid as Governor Trumbull can afford, in order to prevent if possible their effecting these important objects, and to assist the inhabitants in the removal of their stock, grain, &c., or in destroying them, that the enemy may not derive any advantage or benefit from them.
The recruiting scheme they are prosecuting with uncommon industry; nor is it confined to Long Island alone. Having just now received a letter from the Committee of Westchester county, advising that there are several companies of men in that and Duchess county preparing to go off and join the King’s army, I have given directions to our guard-boats and the sentries at our works at Mount Washington to keep a strict lookout, in case they attempt to come down the North River; also to General Heath at Kings-bridge, that the utmost vigilance may be observed by the regiments and troops stationed above there and down towards the East River, that they may intercept them, should they take that route with a view of crossing to Long Island. I will use every precaution in my power to prevent these parricides from accomplishing their designs; but I have but little hope of success, as it will be no difficult matter for them to procure a passage over some part or other of the Sound.
I have been applied to lately by Colo. Weedon of Virginia for permission to recruit the deficiency of men in his Regiments out of the troops composing the flying Camp, informing me at the same time that some of those from Maryland had offered to engage; Colo. Hand of the Rifle Batallion made a similar application to-day. If the inlistments could be made, they would have this good consequence, the securing of so many in the service; However as the measure might occasion some uneasiness in their own Corps, and be considered as a Hardship by the States to which they belong, and the means of their furnishing more than the quota exacted from them in the general arrangement, and would make it more difficult for ’em to compleat their own Levies, I did not consider myself at liberty to authorize it without submitting the propriety of it to the consideration of Congress and obtaining their opinion whether It should be allowed or not. * * *
By a Letter just received from the Committee of Safety of the State of New Hampshire, I find a Thousand of their Militia were about to march on the 24th Ulto. to reinforce this army in consequence of the requisition of Congress. Previous to their march Genl. Ward writes me, he was obliged to furnish them with 500 lbs of powder and 1000 lbs of musket Ball, and I have little reason to expect that they are better provided with other Articles, than they were with ammunition; in such case they will only add to our present distress which is already far too great & become disgusted with the service tho’ the time they are engaged for is only till the first of Decemr.—This will injure their inlisting for a longer Term, if not wholly prevent it.
From three Deserters who came from the Galatea Man of War about five days ago, we are informed, that several Transports had sailed before they left her for England as it was generally reported, in order to return with a supply of provisions of which they say there is a want. Genl Mercer in a letter informed me, that Genl Thompson said he had heard they were going to dismiss about a Hundred of the Ships from the service.—I am also advised by a Letter, from Mr. Derby at Boston of the 26th Ulto. that the day before, a Transport had been taken and sent into Piscatawa by a privateer in her passage from N. York to the West Indies—she sailed with five more under the convoy of a Man of War in order to bring from thence the Troops that are there to join Genl Howe—they were all victualled for four months. From this intelligence it would seem, as if they did not apprehend anything to be meditating against them by the Court of France.
Octr. the 3d. I have nothing in particular to communicate respecting our situation, it being much the same as when I wrote last. We had an alarm this morning a little before Four o’Clock from some of our Out Sentries, who reported that a large body of the Enemy was advancing towards our Lines.—This put us in motion. However it turned out entirely premature—or at least we saw nothing of them.
This letter has not a little puzzled me. It was contributed to the National Intelligencer in October, 1862 by Mr. Cassius F. Lee, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., but in an incomplete form. From that newspaper it was reprinted by the Historical Magazine, in January, 1863, and a small part in the Southern Magazine, xiv., 320. Scharf in his History of Maryland, ii., 249, takes the version given by the Southern Magazine, claiming to “print in full, as it [this letter] has not yet found its way into history,” and in a note prints a letter purporting to be written by Washington to Lund Washington, from the “Camp at Cambridge, August 20th, 1775.” The first paragraph of this latter letter might have been taken from a genuine document, as the opinions expressed are not very different from those Washington wrote to Richard Henry Lee, 29 August, 1775, printed in III., 96; but what follows is taken from the letter of 30 September, 1776. It is difficult to conceive how this combination could have been made, as the version of Mr. Lee was accessible to Mr. Scharf, even if the matter had not excited some suspicion of error. An inquiry addressed to Mr. Lee confirmed the authenticity of his version, though he admitted that he had not followed the originals so accurately as he would, were they to be again in his hands at the present day.
The word Congress is omitted in the MS.
After this sentence, the Southern Magazine gives the following: “What does Dr. Craik say to the behavior of his countrymen and townspeople? Remember me kindly to him, and tell him that I should be very glad to see him here, if there was any thing worth his acceptance, but the Massachusetts people suffer nothing to go by them that they can lay hands upon.” With that, the letter is supposed to end, but it is more probable that these sentences belong to the letter of 20 August, 1775.
“Having considered the inclosed Memorial which you were pleased to transmit for my advice thereon, I beg leave to inform you, that in my opinion, the service will be most advanced in general cases, by directing promotions in a Regimental Line. However I should think this had better be practised than Resolved on, always exercising a right of promotion on account of extraordinary Merit, or preventing a succession to office where It is wanting and the person claiming unfit for it.”—Washington to the Board of War, 30 September, 1776.
“It is absolutely necessary, that the measures of the enemy should be effectually counteracted in this instance, or, in a little time, they will levy no inconsiderable army of our own people. The influence of their money and their artifices has already passed the Sound, and several persons have been detected of late, who have enlisted to serve under their banner and the particular command of Major Rogers. Being in haste, and having the fullest confidence, that your favors will not be wanting in this instance, I have only time to add, that I have the honor to be, &.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 30 September, 1776.
“The General also thinks it proper to acquaint the officers and soldiers, who have stayed and faithfully attended to their duty, that he has wrote to the respective States, to order back all officers and soldiers, who have absented themselves with or without leave; and that he will take the most effectual measures for the purpose.
“From the movements of the Enemy, and other corroborating Circumstances, to say nothing of the advanced season, and the necessity which must induce them to bring on a decisive Engagement; the General has abundant reason to believe, that an Attack may be hourly expected.—He exhorts every commanding officer therefore of Corps, to pay particular attention to the state of the Arms and Ammunition of their men; that nothing may be amiss whenever we are called upon, however sudden it may happen—At the same time he once more recommends, to every officer and soldier, the importance of the cause they are engaged in, and the necessity there is of their behaving like men, who are contending for every thing that freemen should value—He assures the whole, that it is his first determination to defend, the Posts we now hold, to the last extremity; and nothing but unpararelled Cowardice can occasion the loss of them, as we are superior in number, and have a better cause to contend in, than the enemy have—He further declares, that any spirited behavior, in Officers, or Soldiers, shall meet with its reward, at the same time that Misbehavior and Cowardice, shall find exemplary punishment.
“Every Brigadier, or Officer commanding Brigade, is hereby enjoined and ordered, to select some good officers to be in the rear of their Battalions, and these Officers are positively ordered to shoot any Officer, or Soldier, who shall presume to quit his Ranks, or retreat, unless the Retreat is ordered by proper Authority, and to prevent the confusion which is occasioned by every person’s undertaking to give, or carry Orders, none are to be looked upon as valid, that are not delivered in the manner mentioned in the Orders of the 17th Ultimo.”—Orderly Book, 1 October, 1776.
Before the battle of the 27th of August, Colonel Henry B. Livingston had been sent with a detachment of troops to the east end of Long Island, with others to protect the well-affected inhabitants in that quarter, and prevent the enemy from landing and driving off the cattle. But after the success of the British arms near Brooklyn, parties of the enemy marched to the interior of the Island, the people generally submitted to their authority, some from inclination, others from fear; and Colonel Livingston was obliged to retreat with his remaining forces across the Sound to Connecticut. It was thought advisable to make a descent upon the Island with a larger force; but Generals Clinton and Lincoln, not finding that a body of men could be collected sufficient to warrant the enterprise upon a large scale, joined the main army in a few days without having attempted it. The project was not immediately abandoned, however, and Governor Trumbull concerted a plan with Colonel Livingston, which promised favorably at first, but was finally given up as impracticable, on account of a deficiency both of men and of water-craft to transport them across the Sound.
In one of his letters to Colonel Livingston on this subject, Governor Trumbull wrote.—“I have received intelligence, which I believe may be depended on, that Major Rogers, now employed by General Howe, and who you know was a famous partisan, or ranger, in the last war, is collecting a battalion of Tories on Long Island and from the main, many of whom have joined him at Huntington, and that he proposes soon to make a sudden attack in the night on Norwalk, to take the Continental stores, and lay waste the town. I hope we shall be able to frustrate his designs. I have no need to apprize you of the art of this Rogers. He has been a famous scouter, or woods-hunter, skilled in waylaying, ambuscade, and sudden attack. I dare say you will guard against being surprised by him or any other party.”—MS. Letter, October 13th.
Oliver Delancey had received from General Howe the appointment of brigadier-general in the British army, with authority to raise a brigade of loyalists on Long Island. General Delancey issued at Jamaica a notice of his appointment, on the 5th of September, offering as an encouragement to those who would enlist, that they should be paid and subsisted in the same manner as British soldiers, and promising a captain’s commission, and the power of appointing a lieutenant and ensign, to any person properly recommended, who should raise a company of seventy men. He added, that he hoped the people would cheerfully come forward in the service, as he should otherwise be obliged to fill up the companies by drafts. Thus no alternative was left, and as the inhabitants of Long Island were entirely in the power of the British, after the battle of the 27th of August, General Delancey found it no difficult task to obtain men for his brigade.
Read in Congress, 4 October, 1776.