TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Headquarters, Harlem Heights,
9 October, 1776.
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.
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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.
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?
“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.
“In respect to the officers, that were in the Canada expedition, their behavior and merit, and the severities they have experienced, entitle them to a particular notice in my opinion. However, as they are under their paroles, I would recommend that vacancies should be reserved for such as you think fit to promote, not wishing them to accept commissions immediately, nor to do the least act, which may be interpreted as a violation of their engagement. Their releasement, I hope, will be soon obtained, as I think them entitled to the first exchange, and this I have mentioned to Congress. I flatter myself, that the freedom I have taken in the instances above, will have the indulgence and pardon of your State, when I assure you, that the list, you will receive, is not intended to exclude gentlemen of greater merit, nor transmitted with other views, than to assist you, and promote the general good; and, also, that the measure has been recommended by a Committee of Congress, who were pleased to honor me with a visit.”—Washington to Governor Cooke, 12 October, 1776.
“The General positively forbids covering the bottoms of tents with earth, as in a few days that Situation must render them totally unfit for service—The Commanding Officer of each Corps, will take care to see that this Order is strictly complied with in his own Encampment. In order that the regiments may get out of tents as soon as possible, the Brigadiers may apply to the Qr. M. General for boards, and under his direction, employ the spare time of their men in building barracks, or hutts, fit for Winter use—these hutts, or barracks, are to be built with regularity. The Works of defense are not to be retarded by these buildings; they are to be advanced by the men off duty, if tools are to be had for them to work.”—Orderly Book, 9 October, 1776.
“If the weather is favorable to Morrow Morning the General purposes to visit the troops at their Alarm-posts. Commanding Officers of regiments, and others, are desired to make themselves well acquainted with their Alarm Posts, and the best ways to them; and also with the Ground in General, upon which they may be called to act, so as to avail themselves of every advantage. If Officers do not acquire this knowledge, they will Miss the best opportunity of distinguishing themselves, and serving their Country.”—Orderly Book, 10 October, 1776.
“Two Sachems of the Caughnuagas, with Mr. Deane, the interpreter, have been with me, and spent three or four days. I showed them every civility in my power, and presented them with such necessaries as our barren stores afford and they were pleased to take. I also had them shown all our works upon this island, which I had manned to give ’em an idea of our force, and to do away with the false notions they might have imbibed, from the tales that have been propagated among ’em. They seemed to think we were amazingly strong, and said they had seen enough without going to our posts in Jersey or to the other side of Harlem river. They took their departure yesterday morning, and I hope with no unfavorable impressions.”—Washington to General Schuyler, 10 October, 1776.
“As there is an absolute necessity for the business of the Army to be carried on with regularity, and to do this, that the Officers of each department should have the regulation and direction of Matters, appertaining to their respective Offices, in Order that they may become amenable to the public, or the Commander in Chief, when called upon;—it is hereby directed by the General, that no Horse, or Waggon, shall be taken by any officer, of whatever Rank, without an Order from Head Quarters, the Qr. M. General, or Waggon Master General. But where either are wanted for regimental uses, the application shall go from the Commanding Officer of the Regiment, in writing to the Q. M. Gl. or W. M. Gl.—who will issue his orders therefor; and if wanted for the dispatch of public business the application to be made by the Engineer in writing—all Teams belonging to the public, or in their pay, are to be delivered to the Quarter Master General, registered, and under his direction.—The Quarter Master General is to take especial care of all Grain and Hay, belonging to the Public, and see that none of it is delivered, but by his order: and as these Articles are scarce, it is ordered, that all Officers, whose duty does not oblige them to be on horseback, dispose of the Horses, or send them out of Camp, immediately, as provender cannot be spared for them on any pretence.
“No Boards are to be taken for the use of any Brigade, or Regiment, without orders, nor delivered but by order of the Quarter Master General, who is to make as equal a distribution among the Regiments as may be, and see they are put to the best use possible, and with as little waste, as there may be difficulty in getting them.”—Orderly Book, 11 October, 1776.
“The General expressly orders, that the Men have four days provisions ready dressed, at all times, for which purpose the Commissaries, or the Deputies, are to keep the Butchers constantly killing, till such supply is had, and one man from every Mess is to be keep cooking. The commanding Officers of regiments, and others, are most earnestly requested to see this order carried into immediate execution.
“As the Enemy seems now to be endeavoring to strike some stroke, before the close of the Campaign, the General most earnestly conjures, both officers and men, if they have any Love for their Country, and Concern for its Liberties; regard to the safety of their Parents, Wives, Children and Countrymen, that they will act with Bravery, and Spirit, becoming the Cause in which they are engaged; And to encourage, and animate them so to do, there is every Advantage of Ground and Situation, so that if we do not conquer, it must be our own faults—How much better will it be to die honorable, fighting in the field, than to return home covered with shame and disgrace; even if the cruelty of the Enemy should allow you to return? A brave and gallant behavior for a few days, and patience under some little hardships, may save our country, and enable us to go into Winter Quarters with safety and honor.”—Orderly Book, 13 October, 1776.
“It being necessary since the late movement of the enemy to form some plan, the General proposes a meeting of the General Officers this day, at twelve o’clock, at or near King’s Bridge. He desires you would give those in your division notice of it, with as little stir as possible, and by the return of the messenger let him know where you would have them meet, as we are strangers to a suitable place.”—Reed to General Heath, 13 October, 1776.
“The Brigades which will then remain on the Island, will be in two Divisions; the first composed of Heard’s, Beall’s and Weedon’s, to be under the Command of Major Genl. Putnam—The second consisting of Lord Stirling’s, Wadsworth’s, and Fellows’s, to be under the Command of Major-General Spencer.
“Genl. Putnam will attend particularly to all the works, and necessary places of defence, from the Line which was intended to be run across from Head Quarters, inclusively up to, and including the Works upon, the Island, above that place, as far as hath usually been considered as belonging to this division of the Army—He will also attend particularly to the Works about Mount Washington, and to the obstructions in the River, which should be increased as fast as possible.
“Genl. Spencer is to take charge of all the Works from Head Quarters to our front lines, to the South; and attend particularly to all weak places; seeing they are secured as well as time, and circumstances will permit. But as there may be more fatigue men wanted in one division than the other, they are each to furnish for such Works as the Chief Engineer shall direct; seeing that the duty fall equally upon the officers and men of each division.”—Orderly Book, 14 October, 1776.
On this day Washington accompanied by the General officers, went into East and Westchester to reconnoitre the various passes and grounds. General Lee was ordered to the command of that part of the army, now the largest, lying above King’s Bridge, but was requested not to exercise the command for a day or two, until he could make himself acquainted with the post, its circumstances, and arrangement of duty. Heath’s Memoirs.