Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2 October: TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IV (1776)
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2 October: 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).
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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,1 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.2
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.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Heights of Haerlem, 4 October, 1776.
Before I knew of the late resolutions of Congress, which you did me the honor to enclose in your letter of the 24th, and before I was favored with the visit of your Committee, I took the liberty of giving you my sentiments on several points, which seemed to be of importance. I have no doubt, that the Committee will make such a report of the state and condition of the army, as will induce Congress to believe, that nothing but the most vigorous exertions can put matters upon such a footing, as to give this continent a fair prospect of success. Give me leave to say, Sir, (I say it with due deference and respect, and my knowledge of the facts, added to the importance of the cause, and the stake I hold in it, must justify the freedom,) that your affairs are in a more unpromising way than you seem to apprehend.
Your army, as I mentioned in my last, is upon the eve of its political dissolution. True it is, you have voted a larger one in lieu of it; but the season is late; and there is a material difference between voting of battalions and raising of men. In the latter, there are more difficulties than Congress are aware of; which makes it my duty, as I have been informed of the prevailing sentiment of this army, to inform them, that, unless the pay of the officers, especially that of the field-officers, is raised, the chief part of those that are worth retaining will leave the service at the expiration of the present term, as the soldiers will also, if some greater encouragement is not offered them, than twenty dollars and one hundred acres of land. Nothing less, in my opinion, than a suit of clothes annually given to each non-commissioned officer and soldier, in addition to the pay and bounty, will avail; and I question whether that will do, as the enemy, from the information of one John Marsh, who, with six others, was taken by our guards, are giving ten pounds bounty for recruits, and have got a battalion under Major Rogers nearly completed upon Long Island.
Nor will less pay, according to my judgment, than I have taken the liberty of mentioning in the enclosed estimate, retain such officers as we could wish to have continued. The difference per month in each battalion will amount to better than a hundred pounds. To this may be added the pay of the staff-officers; for it is presumable they will also require an augmentation; but being few in number, the sum will not be greatly increased by them, and consequently is a matter of no great moment. But it is a matter of no small importance to make the several offices desirable. When the pay and establishment of an officer once become objects of interested attention, the sloth, negligence, and even disobedience of orders, which at this time but too generally prevail, will be purged off. But while the service is viewed with indifference, while the officer conceives that he is rather conferring than receiving an obligation, there will be a total relaxation of all order and discipline, and every thing will move heavily on, to the great detriment of the service, and inexpressible trouble and vexation of the general. The critical situation of our affairs at this time will justify my saying, that no time is to be lost in making fruitless experiments. An unavailing trial of a month to get an army upon the terms proposed may render it impracticable to do it at all, and prove fatal to our cause; as I am not sure whether any rubs in the way of our enlistments, or unfavorable turn in our affairs, may not prove the means of the enemy’s recruiting men faster than we do. To this may be added the inextricable difficulty of forming one corps out of another, and arranging matters with any degree of order, in the face of an enemy, who are watching for advantages.
At Cambridge, last year, where the officers, and more than a sufficiency of them, were all upon the spot, we found it a work of such extreme difficulty to know their sentiments, each having some terms to propose, that I once despaired of getting the arrangements completed; and I do suppose, that at least a hundred alterations took place before matters were finally adjusted. What must it be then, under the present regulation, where the officers are to negotiate this matter with the State he comes from, distant perhaps two or three hundred miles, some of whom, without leave or license from me, set out to make personal application, the moment the resolve got to their hands? What kind of officers these are, I leave Congress to judge. If an officer of reputation, for none other should be applied to, is asked to stay, what answer can he give, but, in the first place, that he does not know whether it is at his option to do so, no provision being made in the resolution of Congress, even commendatory of this measure; consequently, that it rests with the State he comes from, surrounded perhaps with a variety of applications, and influenced probably by local attachments, to determine whether he can be provided for or not. In the next place, if he is an officer of merit, and knows that the State he comes from is to furnish more battalions than it at present has in the service, he will scarcely, after two years’ faithful services, think of continuing in the rank he now bears, when new creations are to be made, and men appointed to office (no ways superior in merit, and ignorant perhaps of service,) over his head. A Committee sent to the army from each State may upon the spot fix things, with a degree of propriety and certainty; and it is the only method I can see of bringing matters to a decision, with respect to the officers of the army. But what can be done in the mean while towards the arrangement in the country, I know not. In the one case you run the hazard of losing your officers; in the other, of encountering delay, unless some method could be devised of forwarding both at the same instant.
Upon the present plan, I plainly foresee an intervention of time between the old and the new armies, which must be filled up with militia, if to be had, with whom no man, who has any regard for his own reputation, can undertake to be answerable for consequences. I shall also be mistaken in my conjectures, if we do not lose the most valuable officers in this army, under the present mode of appointing them; consequently, if we have an army at all, it will be composed of materials not only entirely raw, but, if uncommon pains are not taken, entirely unfit; and I see such a distrust and jealousy of military power, that the Commander-in-chief has not an opportunity, even by recommendation, to give the least assurances of reward for the most essential services. In a word, such a cloud of perplexing circumstances appears before me, without one flattering hope, that I am thoroughly convinced, that unless the most vigorous and decisive exertions are immediately adopted to remedy these evils, the certain and absolute loss of our liberties will be the inevitable consequence; as one unhappy stroke will throw a powerful weight into the scale against us, enabling General Howe to recruit his army as fast as we shall ours; numbers being disposed, and many actually doing so already. Some of the most probable remedies, and such as experience has brought to my more intimate knowledge, I have taken the liberty to point out; the rest I beg leave to submit to the consideration of Congress.
I ask pardon for taking up so much of their time with my opinions. But I should betray the trust, which they and my country have reposed in me, were I to be silent upon a matter so extremely interesting.
With the most perfect esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO PATRICK HENRY, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
Heights of Haerlem, 5 October, 1776.
Your obliging favor of the 20th ultimo came duly to hand, and demands my best acknowledgments. I congratulate you, Sir, most cordially, upon your appointment to the government, and, with no less sincerity, on your late recovery. Your correspondence will confer honor and satisfaction; and, whenever it is in my power, I shall write to you with pleasure. Our retreat from Long Island, under our peculiar circumstances, became an act of prudence and necessity, and the evacuation of New York was a consequence resulting from the other. Indeed, after we discovered that the enemy, instead of making an attack upon the city, were endeavouring, by means of their ships and superior land force, either to intercept our retreat, by getting in our rear, or else by landing their forces between our divisions at Kingsbridge and those in the town, to separate the one from the other, it became a matter of the last importance to alter the disposition of the army.
These measures, however, although of the most evident utility, have been productive of some inconveniences, the troops having become in some measure dispirited by these successive retreats, which, I presume, has also been the case among several of our friends in the country. In order to recover that military ardor, which is of the utmost moment to an army, almost immediately on my arrival at this place I formed a design of cutting off some of the enemy’s light troops, who, encouraged by their successes, had advanced to the extremity of the high ground opposite to our present encampment. To effect this salutary purpose, Colonel Knowlton and Major Leitch were detached with parties of riflemen and rangers to get in their rear, while a disposition was made as if to attack them in front. By some unhappy mistake, the fire was commenced from that quarter, rather on their flank than in their rear; by which means, though the enemy were defeated and pushed off the ground, yet they had an opportunity of retreating to their main body. This piece of success, though it tended greatly to inspire our troops with confidence, has been in some measure embittered by the loss of those two brave officers, who are dead of the wounds they received in the action. Since this skirmish, excepting the affair at Montresor’s Island, where Major Henly, another of our best officers, was slain, there has been nothing of any material consequence.1 Indeed, the advantage obtained over the enemy’s light troops might have been improved perhaps to a considerable extent, had we been in a proper situation to make use of this favorable crisis; but a want of confidence in the generality of the troops has prevented me from availing myself of that, and almost every other opportunity, which has presented itself.
I own my fears, that this must ever be the case, when our dependence is placed on men, enlisted for a few months, commanded by such officers as party or accident may have furnished; and on militia, who, as soon as they are fairly fixed in the camp, are impatient to return to their own homes; and who, from an utter disregard of all discipline and restraint among themselves, are but too apt to infuse the like spirit into others. The evils of short enlistments and of employing militia to oppose regular and well appointed troops, I strongly urged to Congress before the last army was engaged. Indeed, my own situation at Cambridge, about the close of the last campaign, furnished the most striking example of the fatal tendency of such measures. I then clearly foresaw, that such an armament, as we had good reason to expect would be sent against us, could be opposed only by troops enlisted during the war, and where every action would add to their experience and improvement, and of whom, if they were unsuccessful in the beginning, a reasonable hope might be entertained, that in time they would become as well acquainted with their business as their enemies. This method, I am convinced, would have been attended with every good consequence; for, besides the militia being altogether unfit for the service, when called into the field, they are much more expensive than any other kind of troops; and the war could have been conducted on more moderate terms, by establishing a permanent body of forces, who were equal to every contingency, than by calling in the militia on imminent and pressing occasions.
I would not wish to influence your judgment with respect to militia, in the management of Indian affairs, as I am fully persuaded that the inhabitants of the frontier counties in your colony are, from inclination as well as ability, peculiarly adapted to that kind of warfare. At the same time, I should think it would be highly advisable, in case you should conceive yourselves to be in danger from any detachment of the British army, or from their marines, not to depend on any troops, but such as are well officered and enlisted during the war.
I make no doubt, but your State have turned their views towards forming some obstacles against the enemy’s ships and tenders, who may go up your rivers in quest of provisions, or for the purpose of destroying your towns. If they have depended on batteries to prevent them, without any other obstructions, a trial of the matter has taught us to believe, that it will be altogether ineffectual; as, when under sail, with wind and tide in their favor, any damage they may receive from a battery will be of very little consequence. At the same time, I must observe, that this kind of opposition is exceedingly proper for the defence of a town, or in any case, where it is necessary that the ships should come to anchor before the batteries, for the purpose of silencing them. In the first instance, I would strongly recommend row-galleys, which, if officered with brave and determined men, and conducted with prudence, would, in my opinion, be productive of the greatest advantage, and be the most likely means, in your situation, of securing your towns and houses, on the navigable waters, from any impression from the shipping.
I imagine, before this, Congress have made you acquainted with their resolutions for raising the new army, and that your colony is to furnish fifteen battalions to be enlisted during the war. As this will occasion the choosing a number of new officers, I would, in the most urgent manner, recommend the utmost care and circumspection in your appointments. I do not suppose that there are many experienced gentlemen now left with you, as, from what I have understood, those who have served in the last war are chiefly promoted. However, I am satisfied that the military spirit runs so high in your colony, and the number of applicants will be so considerable, that a very proper choice may be made. Indeed, the army’s being put upon such a permanent footing will be a strong inducement for them to step forth on the present interesting occasion. One circumstance, in this important business, ought to be cautiously guarded against, and that is, the soldiers and officers being too nearly on a level. Discipline and subordination add life and vigor to military movements. The person commanded yields but a reluctant obedience to those, who he conceives are undeservedly made his superiors. The degrees of rank are frequently transferred from civil life into the departments of the army. The true criterion to judge by, when past services do not enter into the competition, is, to consider whether the candidate for office has a just pretension to the character of a gentleman, a proper sense of honor, and some reputation to lose.
Perhaps, Sir, you may be surprised at my pressing this advice so strongly as I have done in this letter; but I have felt the inconveniences resulting from a contrary principle in so sensible a manner, and this army has been so greatly enfeebled by a different line of conduct, that I hope you will readily excuse me. I am, Sir, with sincere regard, your affectionate humble servant.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters, Heights of Haerlem,
I was last night honored with your favor of the 2d with sundry Resolutions of Congress. The officers that concurred in the Acquittal of Ensign Macumber shall be called upon, to assign their reasons for their first judgment which shall be sent as soon as they are collected.
In respect to the exchange of prisoners, I fear it will be a work of great difficulty, owing to their dispersed and scattered situation throughout the States. In order to effect it, I have written to the eastern governments to have them collected, and to transmit me an account of their number, distinguishing the names and ranks of the field and commissioned officers, and the corps they belong to. I have also written to Governor Livingston of the Jerseys upon the subject, and must take the liberty of requesting Congress to give directions, that a similar return may be made of those in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and for their being brought to Brunswick, that they may be ready to be exchanged for an equal number of those of the same rank. I observe, by the resolve of the 26th ultimo, that the exchange is particularly directed to be made of the officers and soldiers taken on Long Island. But should not that follow the exchange of those officers and men, who have lately returned from Quebec, whose imprisonment has been much longer, whose service has not been less severe, and who, in many instances, conducted with great intrepidity? I have had many applications since their arrival, by which they claim a kind of preference as far as their number and the circumstances of their rank will allow, and which I thought it my duty to mention, that I may obtain some direction upon the subject.1
You will observe by a paragraph of a letter received yesterday from General Howe, a copy of which you have at length, that the non-performance of the agreement between Captain Forster and General Arnold, by which the latter stipulated for the return of an equal number of officers and prisoners in our hands for those delivered to him, is considered in an unfavorable light and entirely imputed to me, as having the chief command of the armies of the States, and a controlling power over General Arnold.1 The pointed manner in which General Howe is pleased to express himself could not personally affect me, supposing there had been no good grounds for the treaty not being ratified, having been nothing more than an instrument of conveying to him the resolutions formed upon the subject; yet, as there were but too just reasons, his censure could have no weight, was it not directed against me. However, I would beg leave to observe, that, from the letters from the hostages; from what has been reported by others respecting Captain Forster’s having used his endeavors to restrain the savages from exercising their wonted barbarities, though in some instances they did; his purchasing some of the prisoners for a considerable premium; but, above all, from the delicate nature of such treaties, and because the non-observance of them must damp the spirits of the officers who make them, and add affliction to the misfortunes of those, whom necessity and the nature of the case force into captivity to give them a sanction by a long and irksome confinement,—for these reasons and many more that will readily occur, that I could wish Congress to reconsider the matter, and to carry it into execution. I am sensible the wrong was originally in their employing savages, and that whatever cruelties were committed by them should be esteemed their own acts; yet, perhaps, in point of policy, it may not be improper to overlook these infractions on their part, and to pursue that mode, which will be the most likely to render the hardships incident to war most tolerable, and the greatest benefits to the State. I have ventured to say thus much upon the subject from a regard to the service, and because such gentlemen of the army as I have heard mention it seem to wish the treaty had been ratified rather than disallowed.1
Enclosed is a List of Vacancies in the Third Regiment of Virginia Troops, in part occasioned by the death of Major Leitch, who died of his wounds on Tuesday morning and of the Gentlemen who stand next in Regimental order and who are recommended to succeed to ’em;—you will observe that Captn. John Fitzgerald is said to be appointed to the duty of Major; this I have done in Orders, being the eldest Captain in the Regiment, and I believe an officer of unexceptionable merit and as it was highly necessary at this time to have the Corps as well and fully officered as possible; There, is also a vacancy in the 12th Continental Battallion by the promotion of Lieut. Clark to a majority in the Flying Camp, to which Colo. Hand has recommended William Patten, to succeed as you will perceive by his Letter enclosed.
I have taken the liberty to transmit a plan for establishing a Corps of Engineers, artificers, &c., sketched out by Col. Putnam, and which is proposed for the consideration of Congress. How far they may incline to adopt it or whether they may chuse to proceed upon such an extensive scale they will be pleased to determine. However I conceive it, a matter well worthy of their consideration, being convinced from exterience and from the reason suggested by Colo. Putnam, who has acted with great diligence and reputation in this business, that some establishment of the sort is highly necessary and will be productive of the most beneficial consequences.—If the proposition is approved by Congress, I am informed by good authority, that there is a Gentleman in Virginia in the Colony service, John Stadler, Esq., a native of Germany, whose abilities in this way are by no means inconsiderable—I am told he was an Engineer in the Army under Genl. Stanwix and is reported to be of skill and ingenuity in the profession.—In this capacity I do not know him myself, but I am intimately acquainted with him in his private character as a man of understanding and of good behaviour. I would submit his merits to the enquiry of Congress, and if he shall answer the report I have had of him, I make no doubt but he will be suitably provided for.
The Convention of this State, have lately seized and had appraised Two new ships valued at 6229£ 2s curry which they have sent down for the purpose of sinking and obstructing the Channel opposite Mount Washington. The price being high and opinions various as to the necessity of the measure, some conceiving the obstruction nearly sufficient already, and others that they would render it secure, I would wish to have the direction of Congress upon the subject by the earliest Opportunity, thinking myself that if the Enemy should attempt to come up that they should be used sooner than to hazard their passing. I must be governed by circumstances, yet hope for their sentiments before any thing is necessary to be done.
Sundry disputes having arisen of late between Officers of different Regiments and of the same Rank respecting the right of succession to such vacancies as happen from death or other causes, some suggesting that it should be in a Colonial line and governed by the priority of their Commissions, others that it should be Regimentally, and there being an Instance now before me between the Officers of the Virginia Regiments, occasioned by the death of Major Leitch, it has become absolutely necessary that Congress should determine the mode by which promotions are to be regulated, whether Colonially & by priority of Commissions, or Regimentally, reserving a right out of the General rule they adopt, to reward for particular merit, or of withholding from office such as may not be worthy to succeed. I have only proposed Two modes for their consideration, being satisfied that promotions thro’ the line as they are called can never take place without producing discord, jealousy, distrust and the most fatal consequences. In some of my Letters upon the subject of promotions and one which I had the Honor of addressing the Board of War on the 30th Ult., I advised that the mode should be rather practised than resolved on, but I am fully convinced now of the necessity there is of settling it in one of the two ways I have taken the liberty to point out and under the restrictions I have mentioned, or the disputes and applications will be endless and attended with great inconvenience. I have &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Heights of Haerlem, 7 October, 1776.
I do myself the honor of transmitting to you a copy of a letter from the Comte d’Emery, governor-general of the French part of St. Domingo, which I received yesterday, and also my answer, which I have enclosed and left open for the consideration of Congress, wishing that it may be sealed, if they approve of the Sieur Dechambault’s releasement, which I think may be attended with many valuable consequences. If Congress concur in sentiment with me, they will be pleased to give direction for his passage by the first opportunity to the French islands; if they do not, I shall be obliged by your returning my letter.1
I have also the pleasure of enclosing a copy of a letter from Monsieur Penet, which came to hand last night, and which contains intelligence of an agreeable and interesting nature, for which I beg leave to refer you to the copy. The polite manner in which Monsieur Penet has requested to be one of my aids-decamp demands my acknowledgments. As the appointment will not be attended with any expense, and will show a proper regard for his complaisance and the attachment he is pleased to express for the service of the American States, I shall take the liberty of complying with his requisition, and transmit to him a brevet commission, provided the same shall be agreeable to Congress. Their sentiments upon this subject you will be kind enough to favor me with by the first opportunity. The enclosed letter for the Sieur Dechambault, you will please to forward to him (if he is to be enlarged) after closing it.
Before I conclude I must take the liberty to observe, that I am under no small difficulties on account of the French gentlemen that are here, in consequence of the commissions they have received, having no means to employ them, or to afford them an opportunity of rendering that service they themselves wish to give, or which perhaps is expected by the public. Their want of our language is an objection to their being joined to any of the regiments here at this time, were there vacancies, and not other obstacles. These considerations induce me to wish, that Congress would adopt and point out some particular mode to be observed respecting them. What it should be, they will be best able to determine. But to me it appears, that their being here now can be attended with no valuable consequences, and that, as the power of appointing officers for the new army is vested in the several States, it will be necessary for Congress to direct them to be provided for in the regiments to be raised, according to the ranks they would wish them to bear, for I am convinced they will never be taken in, let their merit be what it may; or to form them into a distinct corps, which may be increased in time. They seem to be genteel, sensible men; and I have no doubt of their making good officers, as soon as they can learn so much of our language as to make themselves well understood; but, unless Congress interfere with their particular direction to the States, they will never be incorporated into any of the regiments to be raised; and, unless they are, they will be entirely at a loss, and in the most irksome situation, for something to do, as they now are.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters, Heights of Haerlem, 8 October, 1776.
1 Since I had the honor of writing you yesterday I have been favored with a Letter from the Honble Council of Massachusetts bay, covering one from Richard Derby, Esq., a copy of which is herewith transmitted, as it contains intelligence of an important and interesting character. As an exchange of prisoners is about to take place, I am induced, from a question stated in a letter I received from Governor Trumbull this morning, to ask the opinion of Congress, in what manner the States that have had the care of them are to be reimbursed the expenses incurred on their account. My want of information in this instance, or whether any account is to be sent in with the prisoners, would not allow me to give him an answer, as nothing that I recollect has ever been said upon the subject. He also mentions another matter, namely, whether such privates as are mechanics, and others who may desire to remain with us, should be obliged to return.1 In respect to the latter, I conceive there can be no doubt of our being under a necessity of returning the whole, a proposition having been made on our part for a general exchange, and that agreed to; besides, the balance of prisoners is greatly against us; and I am informed it was particularly stipulated by General Montgomery, that all those that were taken in Canada should be exchanged whenever a cartel was settled for the purpose. Under these circumstances, I should suppose the several committees having the care of them should be instructed to make the most exact returns of the whole, however willing a part should be to continue with us. At the same time I should think it not improper to inform them of the reasons leading to the measure, and that they should be invited to escape afterwards, which, in all probability, they may effect without much difficulty if they are attached to us, extending their influence to many more, and bringing them away also.
The situation of our Affairs and the present establishment of the Army, requiring our most vigorous exertions to engage a New One, I presume it will be possible with money to pay the bounty lately resolved on to such men as will inlist. Prompt pay perhaps may have a happy effect and induce the continuance of some who are here, but without it I am certain that nothing can be done, nor have we time to lose in making the Experiment. But then it may be asked, who is to recruit or who can consider themselves as Officers for that purpose till the Conventions of the different States have made the appointments.
Yesterday afternoon the exchange between Lord Stirling and Governor Brown was carried into execution, and his Lordship is now here. He confirms the intelligence mentioned by Captain Souther, about the transports he met, by the arrival of the Daphne man-of-war (a twenty-gun ship) a few days ago, with twelve ships under her convoy, having light-horse on board. They sailed with about twenty in each, and lost about eighty in their passage, besides those in the vessel taken by Captain Souther. He further adds, that he had heard it acknowledged more than once, that, in the action of the 16th ultimo, the enemy had a hundred men killed, about sixty Highlanders, of the forty-second regiment, and forty of the light infantry. This confession, coming from themselves, we may reasonably conclude, did not exaggerate the number.
In pursuance of the Resolve which you were pleased to transmit me, I called upon the Members who concurred in the acquittal of McCumber to assign their reasons. Inclosed you have their answer, by which you will perceive the direction has given them great uneasiness, and from the information I have received, it has become a matter of much more general concern than could have been expected, in so much that I will take the liberty to advise that it may rest where it is, having heard that most of the Officers have become party to it, and consider that the Resolve materially affects the whole.
October 9th.—About eight o’clock this morning, two ships, of forty-four guns each, supposed to be the Roebuck and Phœnix, and a frigate of twenty guns, with three or four tenders, got under way from about Bloomingdale where they had been lying some time, and stood with an easy southerly breeze towards our chevaux-de-frise, which we hoped would have intercepted their passage while our batteries played upon them; but, to our surprise and mortification, they ran through without the least difficulty, and without receiving any apparent damage from our forts, though they kept up a heavy fire from both sides of the river. Their destination or views cannot be known with certainty; but most probably they are sent to stop the navigation, and cut off the supplies of boards, &c., which we should have received, and of which we are in great need. They are standing up, and I have despatched an express to the Convention of this State, that notice may be immediately communicated to General Clinton at the Highland fortifications, to put him on his guard in case they should have any designs against them, and that precautions may be taken to prevent the craft belonging to the river from falling into their hands.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
You letter of yesterday is before me, with the list enclosed; but this is doing the matter by halves only, and the delay must inevitably defeat the end, as it is impossible, from the nature of things that the different governments can withold the nomination of officers much longer. I therefore entreat you to delay not a moment’s time in summoning the officers (under sanction from me) to consider of this matter, that the lists may be forwarded. The Committee of Congress directed this. General Lincoln earnestly recommended it. Governor Trumbull has requested it in precise terms. In short, the good of the service and our duty, render it necessary let it be received in never so unfavorable a light, (which, by the by I do not conceive to be the case) by the States they are sent to. I think you would do well to consult the field officers with respect to the Captains, &c. I beseech you once more to delay no time. And I beseech you to exhort the officers you consult to lay aside all local prejudices and attachments in their choice. The Salvation of their country, and all we are contending for, depends (under Providence) upon a good choice of officers to make this army formidable to the enemy and serviceable to the cause we are endeavoring to support. Men who have endeavored to support the character of officers, and who have not placed themselves upon a level with the common soldiery, are fit to be preferred. Officers of the latter class will never—in short, they cannot—conduct matters with propriety; but I need not point out the qualifications necessary to constitute a good officer: Your own observations and good judgment will readily point out who are, and who are not fit for the new appointment. I would have you confine yourself to the Massachusetts Bay officers. * * *
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Headquarters, Harlem Heights,
Agreeable to your request, and the promise contained in my letter of yesterday, I beg leave to transmit you the enclosed list, comprehending the names of such gentlemen as are recommended by the general officers from your State as proper persons to be promoted in the regiments you are about to raise, with the ranks which they conceive they ought to bear. Sensible that the very existence, that the welldoing of every army, depends upon good officers, I urged, I pressed, the gentlemen to whom the business was confided, and whose situation has given them an opportunity of being better acquainted through the different ranks than I am, to pay their most serious attention to the matter, and to return such, and only such, as will, in their estimation, by their fidelity, attachment, and good conduct, promote the great end we have in view—the establishment of our rights and the happiness of our country, by that mode which sad necessity has compelled us to pursue. This, I hope they have done; they have taken no notice of any officer in the Northern army, or of those of the Seventeenth Regiment (Huntington’s) who were taken on Long Island, whose imprisonment I should suppose, if they have merit, should be no objection to their having promotion; nor do they mean by the list they have given in, to preclude others of greater merit than those they have mentioned, if they are to be found.
Congress, by a late resolution, have allowed a paymaster to each regiment; in the appointment of which I would recommend that particular care be had to the choosing men intimately acquainted with, and well versed in accounts, and who will be able to keep them in a fair and distinct manner; as they will have not only to receive the regiment’s pay, but to keep accounts of every transaction incident to them—such as respect their clothes, &c. In some appointments lately made by the field officers, to whom I submitted the matter, they nominated men who could not write their names legibly.
As our present army is upon the eve of their dissolution, it behooves us to exert every nerve to enlist immediately for the new one. Without, I am convinced, we shall have none to oppose the enemy; and who will have it in their power to spread havoc and devastation wheresoever they will. I would therefore submit it to your consideration, whether it may not be proper, as soon as you have made choice of your officers, and which I think should be effected as early as possible, to appoint a committee, with power to repair to this place and make such arrangements as may be necessary with respect to those who are now in the service, in order that they may begin to recruit out of the present corps without any loss of time.
I perceive the Generals in the list they have made, have set down the Commissary for a regiment. In this I think they have done exceedingly right, and that it is nothing more than a reward justly due his merits, in case he should quit his present department. However, I hope the apprehensions which have given rise to this step will never become realities, and that he will continue in his office, and upon such terms as may be agreeable to him; but lest he should decline, the provision they have made is extremely proper.
I this minute saw General Spencer, who informed me that they had never taken the officers prisoners on Long Island into consideration, in making out their arrangements, not knowing whether they could be noticed in their present situation. I have made out a list of them; and as I have before observed, if they are men of merit, their imprisonment most certainly should not operate to their prejudice, if it can be avoided. If a principle of that sort was adopted, it would give the greatest discouragement, and have a direct tendency to suppress every brave and manly enterprise which might be attended with captivity.
* * * * * *
On yesterday morning, three ships of war (two of forty-four and the other of twenty guns), with two or three tenders, passed up the North River, without meeting any interruption from the chevaux-de-frise, or receiving any material damage from our batteries, tho they kept a heavy fire at them from both sides of the river. Their views most probably are, to cut off all supplies of boards, &c., which might come down the river, and of which we shall have great need.
I have given directions to proceed as fast as possible in carrying on the obstructions, and I would fain hope, if they allow us a little more time, that they will be so far completed as to render the passage dangerous, if not altogether insecure. I have the honor, &c.1
P. S. In respect to the appointment of officers, I would beg leave to add, that the merit of the officers who went through the Canada expedition with General Arnold, should, in my opinion, be particularly noticed. They are now upon their parole, and cannot act; but should not suitable provision be made for them against their releasement, which I should suppose ought to be among the first?
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Heights of Haerlem, 15 October, 1776.
I was last night favored with your Letter of the 6th Inst. with the return of Prisoners in your state for which I thank you. It is properly made out. Every day’s intelligence from the Convention of this State mentions plots and conspiracies, which are in agitation among the disaffected.1 The enclosed copy of a letter, which I received yesterday from Robert R. Livingston, one of the members, and who is also of the Continental Congress, will show you his ideas of the situation of affairs in this government, and their apprehensions of insurrections. The observations he has been pleased to favor me with, through the whole of his letter, seem to me to be too well founded.2 The movements of the enemy, their having sent up some of their ships in the North River, their landing a large proportion if not the main body of their army on Frog’s Point, (or rather Island as it is surrounded by water every Flood tide,) nine miles above this on the sound—1 added to these the information of deserters,—all afford a strong presumption, nay, almost a certainty, that they are pursuing their original plan of getting in our rear and cutting off all our supplies. Our situation here is not exactly the same as it was at New York. It is rather better. However, as we are obliged to divide our force and guard every probable place of attack as well as we can, as most of our stores are here and about Kings-bridge, and the preservation of the communication with the States on the other side of Hudson’s River, is a matter of great importance, it will not be possible for me to detach any more assistance, than what I have already done, for the purpose of securing the passes in the Highlands. I have sent Colonel Tash, lately from New Hampshire, with his regiment upon the business; and as it is of the utmost consequence to possess those passes, and to hold them free and open, I would beg leave to submit to your consideration, whether you can spare any aid upon this interesting occasion. I know your exertions already are great; I know you have a large number of men engaged in the service, in this and the northern army; and nothing could have induced me to mention this matter to you, were it not for the alarming and melancholy consequences, which would result from the enemy’s possessing themselves of those communications. The regiment I have ordered up is to receive directions from the Convention, as to the posts they are to occupy, supposing them to be much better acquainted with the places, where they should be stationed, than I am. If it is in your power to afford any assistance, in this Instance you will be pleased to give such instructions to those, you send, as you shall judge necessary. I am just despatching an engineer to the Convention to throw up some small works. I have sent two regiments of the Massachusetts militia up the river, to watch the motions of the ships, and to oppose any landing of men, that they may attempt. I am also extending every part of my force, that I possibly can, towards East and West Chester, to oppose the enemy and prevent their effecting their plan, if it shall be practicable, but our numbers being far inferior to the demands for men I cannot answer for what may happen, the most in my power shall be done. I am, &c.1
TO MRS.PHILIPS OF PHILIPSBORO.
Head Quarters at Mr. Valentine’s,
The misfortunes of War, and the unhappy circumstances frequently attendant thereon to Individuals are more to be lamented than avoided, but it is the duty of every one, to alleviate these as much as possible; Far be it from me then, to add to the distresses of a Lady, who I am but too sensible, must already have suffered much uneasiness, if not inconvenience on account of Colonel Philip’s absence.
No special order has gone forth from me, for removal of the stock of the Inhabitants; but from the nature of the case, and in consequence of some resolutions, of the Convention of this State, the measure has been adopted: However, as I am satisfied it is not meant to deprive Families of their necessary support, I shall not withhold my consent to your retaining such parts of your stock as may be essential to this purpose; relying on your assurances and promise that no more will be detained; With great Respect, I am, Madam, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Head-Quarters, Valentine’s Hill,
From my remote situation, and my ignorance of the country in which the army under your command to the northward is to act, it is impossible for me to give my peremptory orders, or scarcely my opinion, as to the direction of matters in your quarter. I am confident your own good sense, zeal and activity will suggest to you the most probable means of making amends for the heavy loss we have sustained by the destruction of General Arnold’s fleet upon Lake Champlain; but my experience of the many evils attending the calling in of a body of raw militia obliges me to give you my sentiments upon that head, and to tell you, that I fear they will render you more disservice than any real good. From their want of every camp necessary, when they join a regular army, they commit an intolerable waste of stores, which once put into their hands can scarcely be regained, and are so much dead loss to the public; and for want of regularity in their drafts of ammunition, provision, and other necessaries, they consume much more than it is convenient to spare from a garrison even near a source of supplies, much less from one at such a distance, that it requires every exertion to keep up the magazines in the best of times.
I have been informed, that Ticonderoga, properly garrisoned and supplied with provision and ammunition, is almost impregnable, even at a season of the year when an army can lie before it with the greatest conveniency. If so, instead of calling up a number of useless hands and mouths, for such I deem the militia generally, I would advise the collecting of as much provision as can possibly be got together, which, if sufficient for nine thousand effective men, of which number your army consisted by General Arnold’s letter, I should imagine you could keep Burgoyne and Carleton at bay, till the rigor of the season would oblige them to raise the siege, not only from want of conveniences to keep the field, but from the fear that the freezing of the Lake would make their return impracticable in case of accident. I would recommend the removal of carriages and draft-cattle of all kinds from the country adjacent, that, if they should attempt to slip by Ticonderoga, by any other route, and come down upon the settlements, the plan should be rendered abortive for want of the means of conveyance for their baggage and stores. I am unacquainted with the extent of your works, and consequently ignorant of the number of men necessary to man them. If your present numbers should be insufficient for that purpose, I would then by all means advise your making up the deficiency out of the best regulated militia that can be got. Some might likewise be useful in bringing up supplies, and fill the places of men, who would render more service with arms in their hands. You will always be kind enough to bear in mind, that I am giving my opinion, not issuing my orders. The vexation I have experienced from the humors and intolerable caprice of militia, at a critical time, makes me feel sensibly for the officer who is to depend on them in the day of trial.1 Upon the whole, I beg you may not be influenced by any thing I have thrown out. You have had experience of the temper of the people, who will probably march to your assistance, and therefore know whether they differ in character from those, who have reinforced the army under my command. In full confidence that you will do what seems best to your judgment, I submit the matter entirely to you, esteeming myself happy if any hints of mine should be serviceable to you. I am, &c.
end of vol. iv.
[1 ]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.
[2 ]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.
[1 ]Read in Congress, 4 October, 1776.
[1 ]Major Thomas Henly was aid-de-camp to General Heath. He volunteered to join a party under Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, who, on the 22d of September, with two hundred and forty men in flat-boats, made a descent upon Montresor’s Island, of which the British had taken possession. The troops in one boat only effected a landing, and these were driven back with the loss of fourteen men killed, wounded, and missing. Henly behaved with great courage, but was shot just as he was entering the boat, and instantly expired. The following honorable tribute is contained in the Orderly Book, September 24th:—“Major Henly, whose activity and attention to duty, courage, and every other quality, which can distinguish a brave and gallant soldier, must endear him to every lover of his country, having fallen in a late skirmish on Montresor’s Island, while bravely leading a party, his remains will be interred this afternoon at five o’clock, below the hill where the redoubt is thrown up on the road.” This was the burial-place of Colonel Knowlton, and Henly was laid by his side.—Sparks.
[1 ]It was decided by Congress, that, in the exchange of prisoners, the officers returned from Canada should have the preference to those captured on Long Island and New York Island.
[1 ]“The particular manner in which you rest upon me, by your letter of the 4th instant, a performance of the agreement between General Arnold and Captain Forster, was entirely unexpected, as I enclosed to you some time ago the resolutions of Congress upon the subject, by which you would perceive that they, to whom I am amenable, had taken upon themselves the consideration of the matter.”—Washington to General Howe, 6 October, 1776.
[1 ]General Howe had written:—“With relation to the non-performance of your part of the agreement between Captain Forster and General Arnold, that general being immediately under your command, from your situation made known to me under your own subscription, it rests with you to see it fulfilled, agreeably to the plighted faith of the General, which, no doubt, to save his honor, he has a right to expect, or that you will return the prisoners given up by Captain Forster. Meanwhile I trust, from the declaration in your letter, that you will not allow of any delay in the exchange of the officers and soldiers in your possession belonging to his Majesty’s troops. Brigadier-General Woodhull was yesterday reported to have died of his wounds.”
[1 ]“I yesterday had the honor of receiving your favor of the 4th of August, and I take the earliest opportunity of testifying the pleasure I have in complying with your request, by immediately ordering the release of Monsieur Dechambault. He shall be accommodated with a passage in the first vessel, that sails from Philadelphia to the French colonies in the West Indies. Had it not been for your interposition, Monsieur Dechambault must have remained in prison till released by a cartel; but I could not hesitate to comply with a request made by a nobleman, who, by his public countenance of our cause, has rendered such essential services to the thirteen United Independent States of America, whose armies I have the honor to command.”—Washington to the Comte D’Emery (St. Domingo), 7 October, 1776.
[1 ]Read in Congress October 11th.
[1 ]The Board of War reported: “That all prisoners captured by the army of the United States, whether mechanics or not, be included in the exchange to be made between General Washington and the enemy”; but Congress “postponed” the consideration.
[1 ]“The Commanding Officer of the Rangers having represented, that Soldiers are continually straggling down to Harlem, and other Places, frequently without Arms—and that when he has apprehended, and sent them to their regiments, no farther notice has been taken of them; as this is a plain breach of General Orders, the General hopes there is some mistake in the Matter; however to prevent it in future he now orders that no officer or soldier (Rangers excepted) go on any pretence beyond the lines, without leave from himself, a Major General, the Brigadier of the day, or the Adjutant General, in writing; unless either of those officers are with them in person. And in order to distinguish the Rangers, they are to wear something white round their arms. If any such straggler is found hereafter, he is to be sent to the quarter-guard of the regiment, tried by a Regimental Court Martial, and receive ten Lashes immediately.
[1 ]“I shall, therefore, beg leave to add only, that, as the well-doing, nay, the very existence of every army, to any profitable purposes, depends upon it, too much regard cannot be had to the choosing of men of merit, and such as are not only under the influence of a warm attachment to their country, but who also possess sentiments and principles of the strictest honor. Men of this character are fit for office, and will use their best endeavors to introduce that discipline and subordination, which are essential to good order, and inspire that confidence in the men, which alone can give success to the interestingand important contest in which we are engaged. I would also beg leave to subjoin, that it appears to me absolutely necessary, that this business should have your earliest attention, that those, who are nominated, may employ their interest and influence to recruit men out of your corps, who are now here, and without loss of time.
[1 ]Mr. Harrison wrote to the President of Congress on the 14th, the General having gone to view the passes above King’s Bridge:—
[2 ]“The enclosed copy of a letter received last night from the Convention of this State will show you the apprehensions they are under, on account of the disaffected among them. I have ordered up a part of the militia from Massachusetts under General Lincoln, to prevent, if possible, the consequences, which they suggest may happen, and which there is reason to believe the conspirators have in contemplation. I am persuaded, that they are upon the eve of breaking out, and that they will leave nothing unessayed, that will distress us and favor the designs of the enemy, as soon as their schemes are ripe for it.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 12 October, 1776.
[1 ]“The grounds from Frog’s Point are strong and defensible, being full of stone fences, both along the road and across the adjacent fields, which will render it difficult for artillery, or indeed a large body of foot to advance in any regular order, except through the main road. Our men, who are posted on the passes, seemed to be in good spirits when I left them last night.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 13 October, 1776.
[1 ]“The Brigades are now to be formed into Divisions (those on York Island as Mentioned in Yesterday’s Orders) Nixon’s, McDougall’s, and that commanded by Col. Glover, to compose one, under the Command of Major Genl. Lee—Parson’s, Scott’s and Clinton’s another, under the Command of Major Genl. Heath—Salstonstall’s, Sergeant’s and Hand’s, another, under the Command of Major General Sullivan; and the Massachusetts Militia another, under the Command of Major Genl. Lincoln.
[1 ]“Upon the due regulation and management of the Waggons, the health and safety of the Army entirely depends, and it will be impossible for the Quarter-Master-General to have any regularity, if officers of the Army undertake to seize Waggons, and compel them to go where they please. The General therefore absolutely forbids any officer, or Soldier, taking a Waggon by his own Authority, and more especially stopping them, when sent on other services, as it is easy to see that the greatest confusion must in that case ensue—When teams are wanted application must be made to the Quarter-Master-General or his Deputy, and every Brigade, or Regiment, must wait till the service adjusts their having them in that channel. The commanding officers of regiments are also required to appoint some spirited, resolute officer, to attend the loading of the Waggons, and prevent their being filled with lumber and improper articles. Tents, and the proper Baggage of the Regiment are only to be put into the Waggons; all others must be left behind; and the General calls upon the General officers, and the Commanding officers of regiments, to set an example to the Soldiers.”—Orderly Book, 26 October, 1776.