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1776. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
White Plains, 6 November, 1776.
I have the honor to inform you, that on yesterday morning the enemy made a sudden and unexpected movement from the several posts they had taken in our front. They broke up their whole encampments the preceding night, and have advanced towards Kingsbridge and the North River. The design of this manœuver is a matter of much conjecture and speculation, and cannot be accounted for with any degree of certainty. The grounds we had taken possession of were strong and advantageous, and such as they could not have gained without much loss of blood in case an attempt had been made. I had taken every possible precaution to prevent their outflanking us; which may have led to the present measure. They may still have in view their original plan, and, by a sudden wheel, try to accomplish it. Detachments are constantly out to observe their motions, and to harass them as much as possible.
In consequence of this movement I called a council of general officers to-day, to consult of such measures as should be adopted in case they pursued their retreat to New York; the result of which is herewith transmitted.1 In respect to myself, I cannot indulge an idea that General Howe, supposing he is going to New York, means to close the campaign, and to sit down without attempting something more. I think it highly probable, and almost certain, that he will make a descent with a part of his troops into Jersey; and, as soon as I am satisfied, that the present manœuver is real and not a feint, I shall use every means in my power to forward a part of our force to counteract his designs; nor shall I be disappointed if he sends a detachment to the southward for the purpose of making a winter campaign. From the information I have received, there is now a number of transports at Red Hook, with about three thousand troops on board. Their destination, as given out, is to Rhode Island; but this seems altogether improbable for various reasons; among others, the season is much against it. In the southern States they will find it milder, and much more favorable for their purposes. I shall take the liberty of mentioning, that it may not be improper to suggest the probability of such a measure to the Assemblies and Conventions in those States, that they may be on their guard, and of the propriety of their establishing and laying up magazines of provisions and other necessaries in suitable places. This is a matter of exceeding importance, and what cannot be too much attended to.
From the approaching dissolution of the army, and the departure of the new levies, which is on the eve of taking place, and the little prospect of levying a new one in time, I have wrote to the eastern States, by the unanimous advice of the general officers, to forward supplies of militia in the room of those that are now here, and who, it is feared, will not be prevailed on to stay any longer than the time they are engaged for. The propriety of this application, I trust, will appear, when it is known that not a single officer is yet commissioned to recruit, and when it is considered how essential it is to keep up some show of force and shadow of an army.1 I expect the enemy will bend their force against Fort Washington, and invest it immediately. From some advices, it is an object that will attract their earliest attention.
I am happy to inform you, that, in the engagement on Monday se’nnight, I have reason to believe our loss was by no means so considerable as was conjectured at first. By some deserters and prisoners we are told, that of the enemy was tolerably great; some accounts make it about four hundred in killed and wounded; all agree that among the former there was a Colonel Carr of the thirty-fifth regiment. The force that will be sent to Jersey after I am satisfied of Mr. Howe’s retreat, in addition to those now there, according to my present opinion, will make it necessary for me to go with them, to put things in a proper channel, and such a way of defence as shall seem most probable to check the progress of the enemy, in case they should attempt a descent there, or a move towards Philadelphia. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
White Plains, 7 November, 1776.
On Tuesday morning the enemy broke up their encampments, which were in front of our lines, after having remained there several days without attempting any thing. They have gone towards the North River and Kingsbridge. This sudden and unexpected movement is a matter of much speculation. Some suppose they are going into winter-quarters, and will sit down in New York, without doing more than investing Fort Washington. I cannot subscribe wholly to this opinion myself. That they will invest Fort Washington is a matter of which there can be no doubt; and I think there is a strong probability, that General Howe will detach a part of his force to make an incursion into the Jerseys, provided he is going to New York. He must attempt something on account of his reputation; for what has he done as yet with his great army?1
Persuaded that an expedition to the Jerseys will succeed his arrival in New York with a detachment of his army, as soon as I can be satisfied, that the present manœuver is a real retreat and not a feint, I shall throw over a body of our troops, with the utmost expedition, to assist in checking his progress. At the same time, I beg leave to recommend to your consideration the propriety and necessity, that some measures should be taken to place your militia on the best footing possible, and that a part of them may be in readiness to supply the place of the troops, denominated new levies, from your State, whose term of service will presently expire. Your vigilance and attention, I know, will not be wanting in any instance. Yet, there is one thing more I will take the liberty to mention; that is, that the inhabitants, contiguous to the water, should be prepared to remove their stock, grain, effects, and carriages upon the earliest notice. If they are not, the calamities, which they will suffer, will be beyond all description, and the advantages derived to the enemy immensely great. They have treated all here without discrimination; the distinction of Whig and Tory has been lost in one general scene of ravage and desolation. The article of forage is of great importance to them, and not a blade should remain for their use. What cannot be removed with convenience should be consumed without the least hesitation. These several matters I thought it my duty to suggest to you, not doubting but you will give them such attention as they may seem to deserve; and that your own good judgment will point out many more necessary regulations, adapted to the exigency of our affairs. I do not know the state of the barracks about Elizabethtown, Amboy, and Brunswic. They may be exceedingly necessary to cover our troops. I think, therefore, it would be advisable to have them examined, and that you should direct such necessary repairs to be made as they may require. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Head-Quarters, 8 November, 1776.
The late Passage of three Vessels up the North River, (which we have just recd. advice of), is so plain a Proof of the Inefficacy of all the Obstructions we have thrown into it, that I cannot but think it will fully justify a Change in the Disposition, which has been made. If we cannot prevent Vessels from passing up, and the Enemy are possessed of the surrounding country, what valuable Purpose can it answer to attempt to hold a Post, from which the expected Benefit cannot be had? I am therefore inclined to think, that it will not be prudent to hazard the Men and Stores at Mount Washington; but, as you are on the spot, leave it to you to give such orders, as to evacuating Mount Washington, as you may judge best, and so far revoking the order given to Colonel Magaw to defend it to the last.
The best accounts obtained from the enemy assure us of a considerable movement among their boats last evening; and so far as can be collected from the various sources of intelligence, they must design a penetration into Jersey, and to fall down upon your post. You will therefore immediately have all the stores &c, removed, which you do not deem necessary for your defence; and as the enemy have drawn great relief from the forage and provisions, which they have found in the country, and which our tenderness spared, you will do well to prevent their receiving any fresh supplies there, by destroying it, if the inhabitants will not drive off their stock and remove the hay and grain, &c. in time. Experience has shown, that a contrary conduct is not of the least advantage to the poor inhabitants, from whom all their effects of every kind are taken, without distinction and without the least satisfaction.
Troops are filing off from hence as fast as our situation and circumstances will admit, in order to be transported over the river with all expedition. I am, &c.1
P. S. I need not suggest to you the necessity of giving General Mercer early information of all circumstances, that he may move up to your relief with what troops he has.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
White Plains, 8 November, 1776.
I have been favored with yours of the 31st ulto. by Monsr. Laytaniac, and must take the liberty of referring you to my former Letters upon the subject of providing for the French Gentlemen who shall incline to enter the service of the States. To me there appears that one of two modes must be adopted: they must either be appointed to places in some of the regiments, or formed into a distinct Corps. The former was advised as the most eligible in Respect to the Gentlemen who were here before. It requires time to form an accurate opinion of the merits of an officer, and the present situation of the Army, will not allow me to pay a particular attention to Monsr. Laytaniac, or such notice as he may wish to receive, or I to give. Nor is there any way of making his stay here agreeable. I have &c.1
TO LIEUTENANT-GENERAL HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 9 November, 1776.
Yesterday evening I received the favor of your letter of the 8th instant. Major Stewart’s servant having never represented himself as a person not enlisted in your army, he was considered as a prisoner of war, and sent as such to Jersey. But upon your information, that he was not in the capacity of a soldier, I will give immediate directions for him to be brought back, that he may return to his master. This servant was charged with a letter of a private and delicate nature; but Major Stewart may be assured the contents neither were nor shall be permitted to transpire.
I regret that it has not been in my power to effect the proposed exchange of prisoners before this time. As soon as the proposition was agreed to, I wrote to the Governors and Conventions of the different States, where the prisoners were, to have them collected and sent to the most convenient places in the neighborhood of the two armies. Their dispersed situation, for their better accommodation, has been the reason of the delay; at least I cannot ascribe it to any other cause. It has not arisen, Sir, from any design on my part; and I am persuaded the difficulty of drawing them together must be evident to you, especially as it was early suggested in some of my former letters. As to the charge of your officers being confined in common gaols, I had hoped that you were satisfied by my assurances on this head before. It is not my wish, that severity should be exercised towards any, whom the fortune of war has thrown or shall throw into our hands. On the contrary, it is my desire, that the utmost humanity should be shown them. I am convinced, the latter has been the prevailing line of conduct to prisoners. There have been instances, in which some have met with less indulgence, than could have been wished, owing to a refractory conduct and a disregard of paroles. If there are other instances, in which a strict regard to propriety has not been observed, they have not come to my knowledge, and if you will be pleased to point them out, and to particularize the names of the officers, the earliest inquiry shall be made into the complaint, and the cause removed, if any exists.
With respect to the stragglers, who have lately fallen into our hands, I cannot, upon the best consideration, discern how the agreement subsisting between us is affected by sending them to places from whence they may be easily collected upon a general exchange. That the custom of war requires, or that the interest of an army would admit of a daily exchange of prisoners, are points on which we are so unhappy as to differ in sentiment. The opportunities of conveying intelligence, and many other consequences flowing from such an intercourse, seem so very obvious, that, upon further reflection, I flatter myself you will think with me on this subject. But if otherwise, it might have been exemplified on your part in the immediate return of such stragglers from our army, as have fallen into your hands, which would have justified an expectation of a similar conduct from us. I am, Sir with great respect, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
The late movement of the Enemy, and the probability of their having designs upon the Jerseys, (confirmed by sundry accounts from deserters and prisoners,) rendering it necessary to throw a body of troops over the North River, I shall immediately follow, and the command of the army, which remains, (after General Heath’s division marches to Peekskill,) devolving upon you,
I have to request
That you will be particularly attentive that all the intrenching and other tools (excepting those in immediate use) be got together, and delivered to the Quarter Master General, or Major Reed, who heretofore has been intrusted with them.
That you will direct the commanding officer of Artillery, to exert himself, in having the Army well supplied with Musket Cartridges; for this purpose a convenient place at a distance, should be fixed on, that the business may go on uninterrupted.
That no troops who have been furnished, with Arms, Accoutrements, or Camp utensils, be suffered to depart the Camp, before they have delivered them, either to the Commissary of Stores or the Quarter Master General, (or his Assistant) as the case may be, taking receipts therefor, in exoneration of those which they have passed. In a particular manner let the tents be taken care of, committed to the Quarter Master General’s care.
A little time now must manifest the Enemy’s designs, point out to you the measures proper to be pursued by that part of the army under your command. I shall give no directions, therefore, on this head, having the most entire confidence in your Judgment and military exertions. One thing, however, I will suggest, namely, that as the appearance of embarking troops for the Jerseys may be intended as a feint to weaken us, and render the strong post we now hold more vulnerable, or if they find that troops are assembled with more expedition and in greater numbers, than they expected, on the Jersey shore to oppose them; I say, as it is possible, from one or the other of the motives, that they may yet pay the army under your command a visit, it will be unnecessary, I am persuaded, to recommend to you the propriety of putting this post, if you stay at it, into a proper posture of defence, and guarding against surprises. But I would recommend it to your consideration, whether, under the suggestion above, your retiring to Croton Bridge, and some strong post still more easterly covering the other passes through the Highlands, may not be more advisable, than to run the hazard of an attack with unequal numbers. At any rate, I think all your baggage and stores, except such as are necessary for immediate use, ought to be to the northward of Croton River. In case of your removal from hence I submit to the consideration of yourself and the General Officers with you, the propriety of destroying the Hay, to prevent the Enemy from reaping the benefit of it. You will consider the post at Croton’s (or Pines) Bridge as under your immediate care, as also that lately occupied by General Parsons and the other at Wright’s mill; the first, I am taught to believe is of consequence, and the other two can be of little use, while the Enemy hover about the North River and upon our right flank.
General Wooster, of the State of Connecticut, and, by order of the Governor, commanding several regiments of militia, is now I presume in or about Stamford; they were to receive orders from me, and they are to of course do it from you. There are also some other regiments of Connecticut militia, who came out with General Saltonstall, and annexed to General Parsons’s brigade; and others, whom you must dispose of as occasion and circumstances shall require; but as, by the late returns, many of those regiments are reduced to little more than a large company, I recommend the discharge of all such supernumerary officers, and the others annexed to some Brigade. As the Season will soon oblige the Enemy to betake themselves to winter-quarters, and will not permit our troops to remain much longer in tents, it may be well to consider in time where magazines of provisions and forage should be laid in for the army on the East side Hudson’s River. Peekskill, or the neighborhood, would, I should think, be a very advantageous post for as many as can be supported there. Croton Bridge may possibly be another good deposit, or somewhere more easterly for the rest, as the Commissary and Quartermaster &c may assist in pointing out.
It may not be amiss to remind you, for it must (as it ought) to have some influence on your deliberations and measures, that the Massachusetts militia stand released from their Contract the 17th this Instant, & that the Connecticut militia are not engaged for any fixed period, &, by what I can learn, begin to grow very impatient to return, and few indeed of whom are left. If the Enemy should remove the whole or the greater part of their force to the West side of Hudson’s River, I have no doubt of your following, with all possible despatch, leaving the militia & Invalids to cover the frontiers of Connecticut in case of need. Given at Head-Quarters, near the White Plains, this 10th day of November, 1776.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Head-Quarters, 10 November, 1776.
I was yesterday evening favored with a call by the gentlemen appointed Commissioners from your State to arrange your officers, and to adopt some line of conduct for recruiting the quota of men, which you are to furnish. In discussing this subject, the gentlemen informed me, that your Assembly, to induce their men to enlist more readily into the service, had passed a vote advancing their pay twenty shillings per month, over and above that allowed by Congress. It is seldom, that I interfere with the determinations of any public body, or venture to hold forth my opinion contrary to the decisions, which they form; but, upon this occasion, I must take the liberty to mention, especially as the influence of that vote will be general and Continental, that, according to my ideas and those of every general officer I have consulted, a more mistaken policy could not have been adopted, or one that, in its consequences, will more effectually prevent the great object, which Congress have in view, and which the situation of our affairs so loudly calls for, the levying a new army. That the advance, allowed by your State, may be the means of raising your quota of men sooner than it otherwise would, perhaps may be true; but, when it is considered, that it will be an effectual bar to the other States, in raising the quotas exacted from them, when it is certain, that, if their quotas could be made up without this advance coming to their knowledge, the moment they come to act with troops, who receive a higher pay, jealousy, impatience, and mutiny will immediately take place, and occasion desertions, if not a total dissolution of the army,—it must be viewed as injurious and fatal point of light. That troops will never act together, in the same cause and for different pay, must be obvious to every one. Experience has already proved it in this army. That Congress will take up the subject, and make the advance general, is a matter of which there can be but little probability, as the addition of a suit of clothes, to the former pay of the privates, was a long time debated before it could be obtained. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Peekskill, 11 November, 1776.
I have only time to acknowledge, the honor of your Letter of the 5th Inst and its several Inclosures and to inform you that agreeable to the resolves of Congress, I shall use every measure in my power, that the moving and present confused state of the army will admit of, for to appoint officers for recruiting. You will have been advised, before this, of the arrival of Commissioners from Massachusetts. Others have come from Connecticut; but, from the present appearance of things, we seem but little if any nearer levying an army. I had anticipated the resolve respecting the militia, by writing to the eastern States and to the Jerseys, by the advice of my general officers, and from a consciousness of the necessity of getting in a number of men if possible, to keep up the appearance of our army. How my applications will succeed, the event must determine. I have little or no reason to expect, that the militia now here will remain a day longer than the time they first engaged for. I have recommended their stay, and requested it in general orders. General Lincoln and the Massachusetts Commissioners are using their interest with those from that State; but, as far as I can judge, we cannot rely on their staying.1
I left White Plains about eleven o’clock yesterday; all peace then. The enemy appeared to be preparing for their expedition to Jersey, according to every information. What their designs are, or whether their present conduct is not a feint, I cannot determine. The Maryland and Virginia troops under Lord Stirling have crossed the river, as have part of those from the Jerseys; the remainder are now embarking. The troops, judged necessary to secure the several posts through the Highlands, have also got up. I am going to examine the passes, and direct such works as may appear necessary; after which, and making the best disposition I can of things in this quarter, I intend to proceed to Jersey, which I expect to do to-morrow.2
The Assemblies of Massachusetts and Connecticut, to induce their men more readily to engage in the service, have voted an advance pay of twenty shillings per month, in addition to that allowed by the Congress to privates. It may perhaps be the means of their levying the quotas exacted from them sooner, than they could otherwise have been raised; but I am of opinion, a more fatal and mistaken policy could not have entered their councils, or one more detrimental to the general cause. The influence of the vote will become Continental, and materially affect the other States in making up their levies. If they could do it, I am certain, when the troops come to act together, that jealousy, impatience, and mutiny would necessarily arise. A different pay cannot exist in the same army. The reasons are obvious, and experience has proved their force in the case of the eastern and southern troops last spring. Sensible of this, and of the pernicious consequences, that would inevitably result from the advance, I have prevented the Commissioners from proceeding, or publishing their terms, till they could obtain the sense of Congress upon the subject, and remonstrated against it in a letter to Governor Trumbull. I am not singular in opinion; I have the concurrence of all the general officers, of its fatal tendency.1 I congratulate you and Congress upon the news from Ticonderoga, and that General Carleton and his army have been obliged to return to Canada without attempting any thing. I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
The uncertainty with respect to the designs of the enemy renders any disposition of our army at this time a little unsettled; but, for the present your Division with such troops as are now at Forts Constitution, Montgomery and Independence, are to be under your command, and remain in this quarter for the security of the above posts, and the passes through the Highlands from this place, and the one on the west side of Hudson’s River. Colonel Tash’s regiment is meant to be included in this command.
Unnecessary it is for me to say any thing to evince the importance of securing the land and water communication through these passes, or to prove the indispensable necessity of using every exertion in your power to have such works erected for the defence of them as your own judgment, assisted by that of your Brigadiers and the Engineer, may shew the expediency of.
To form an accurate judgment of the proper places to fortify in order effectually to secure the two land passes above-mentioned through the Highlands, requires a considerable degree of attention and knowledge of the roads and ways leading through the hills. These you must get from information and observation as my stay here will not allow me to give any direction on this head with precision.
You will not only keep in view the importance of securing these passes, but the necessity of doing it without delay, not only from the probability of the enemy’s attempting to seize them, but from the advanced season, which will not admit of any spade work after the frost (which may be daily expected) sets in. Lose not a moment’s time, therefore, in choosing the grounds on the east and west side of the river, on which your intended works are to be erected. Let your men designed for each post be speedily allotted, and by your presence, and otherwise, do every thing to stimulate the officers (respectively commanding at each) to exert themselves in forwarding them.
The cheapest kind of barracks must be erected, contiguous to these places where no covering now is for the men. These may, I should think be built of logs, and made warm at very little cost. In apportioning your men to the different posts, (those to be established, as well as those already fixed on the river), I advise your keeping the corps as much as possible together, and also desire that in this allotment you will consult your officers, and such gentlemen as have it in their power (from their superior knowledge of the country) to afford you good advice.
Independent of the barracks, which may be found necessary for the men at the posts before-mentioned, I should think others ought to be built at such places in this neighborhood as the Quartermaster-General and Engineer shall point out, as this must from the nature of it, be considered in an important point of view, and as well adapted for winter quarters for part of the army as any other place can be.
If, contrary to the general received opinion, General Howe’s remove to Dobb’s Ferry was only intended as a feint to draw off part of our force from the place which we last occupied, and should [he] make an attempt upon General Lee, you are to give him all the aid you can, taking care at the same time to keep Guard in the posts and passes you occupy. For the speedy and regular punishment of officers, you are hereby authorized and empowered, whilst you remain in a separate camp, to hold general courts-martial, and carry the judgments of them into execution in all cases whatsoever.
Be particularly careful of all intrenching tools, tents (seeing that the bottoms of them are not covered with dirt), and above all take care that no discharged soldier is suffered to carry away any of the public arms or accoutrements. Apply to the commissary of stores for a list of those things furnished to the respective Colonels of regiments, and see that they account for them before the men are dismissed. In like manner should every thing had of the Quartermaster-General be delivered up.
Keep persons employed in making of cartridges, and be particularly attentive that the stores are taken care of, and the powder kept from receiving damage. Also, prevent the soldiery from committing any kind of waste and injuries to private or public property.
The men which composed the detachment under Colonel Lasher are all to join their respective corps immediately. Given at Headquarters at Peekskill, this 12th day of November, 1776.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
General Greene’s Quarters,1
I have the honor to inform you of my arrival here yesterday, and that the whole of the troops belonging to the States, which lay south of Hudson’s River, and which were in New York government, have passed over to this side, except the regiment lately Colonel Smallwood’s, which I expect is now on their march. That they may be ready to check any incursions, the enemy may attempt in this neighborhood, I intend to quarter them at Brunswic, Amboy, Elizabethtown, Newark, and about this place, unless Congress should conceive it necessary for any of them to be stationed at or more contiguous to Philadelphia. In such case they will be pleased to signify their pleasure. There will be very few of them after the departure of those, who were engaged for the Flying Camp, and which is fast approaching. The disposition I have mentioned seems to me well calculated for the end proposed, and also for their accommodation.
The movements and designs of the enemy are not yet understood. Various are the opinions and reports on this head. From every information, the whole have removed from Dobb’s Ferry towards Kingsbridge; and it seems to be generally believed on all hands, that the investing of Fort Washington is one object they have in view; but that can employ but a small part of their force. Whether they intend a southern expedition, must be determined by time; to me there appears a probability of it, and which seems to be favored by the advices we have that many transports are wooding and watering.1 General Greene’s Letter would give you the substance of the intelligence brought by Mr. Mersereau from Staten Island in this instance, which he received before it came to me. Enclosed you have copies of two letters from General Howe, and of my answer to the first of them. The letter alluded to, and returned in his last, was one from myself to Mrs. Washington, of the 25th ultimo, from whence I conclude that all the letters, which went by the Boston express, have come to his possession.2
You will also perceive that Genl. Howe has requested the return of Peter Jack, a servant to Major Stewart to which I have consented as he was not in the military line, and the requisition agreable to the custom of War. This servant having been sent to Philadelphia with the Waldeckers and other prisoners, I must request the favor of you to have him conveyed to Genl. Greene by the earliest opportunity in order that he may be returned to his master.1
Before I conclude, I beg leave, not only to suggest, but to urge the necessity of increasing our field artillery very considerably. Experience has convinced me, as it has every gentleman of discernment in this army, that, while we remain so much inferior to the enemy in this instance, we must carry on the war under infinite disadvantages, and without the smallest probability of success. It has been peculiarly owing to the situation of the country, where their operations have been conducted, and to the rough and strong grounds we possessed ourselves of, and over which they had to pass, that they have not carried their arms, by means of their artillery, to a much greater extent. When these difficulties cease, by changing the scene of action to a level, champaign country, the worst of consequences are justly to be apprehended. I would, therefore, with the concurrence of all the officers, whom I have spoke to upon the subject, submit to the consideration of Congress, whether immediate measures ought not to be taken for procuring a respectable train. It is agreed on all hands, that each battalion should be furnished at least with two pieces, and that a smaller number than a hundred of three pounds, fifty of six pounds, and fifty of twelve pounds, should not be provided, in addition to those we now have. Besides these, if some eighteen and twenty-four pounders are ordered, the train will be more serviceable and complete. The whole should be of brass, for the most obvious reasons; they will be much more portable, and not half so liable to burst; and, when they do, no damage is occasioned by it, and they may be cast over again. The sizes before described should be particularly attended to; if they are not, there will be great reason to expect mistakes and confusion in the charges in time of action, as it has frequently happened in the best regulated armies. The disparity between those I have mentioned, and such as are of an intermediate size, is difficult to discern. It is also agreed, that a regiment of artillerists, with approved and experienced officers, should be obtained if possible, and some engineers of known reputation and abilities. I am sorry to say, too ready an indulgence has been given to several appointments in the latter instance, and that men have been promoted, who seem to me to know but little if any thing of the business. Perhaps this Train, &c, may be looked upon by some as large and expensive. True, it will be so; but when it is considered that the Enemy, having effected but little in the course of the present Campaign, will use their utmost efforts to subjugate us in the next, every consideration of that sort should be disregarded, and every possible preparation made to frustrate their unjust and wicked attempts. How they are to be procured, is to be inquired into. That we cannot provide them among ourselves or more than a very small proportion, so trifling as not to deserve our notice, is evident; therefore I would advise with all imaginable deference, that without any abatement of our own in formal exertions, application should be immediately made to such powers as can and may be willing to supply them. They cannot be obtained too early, if soon enough, and I am told they may be easily had from France and Holland.1
Mr. Trumbull, the Commissary General has frequently mentioned to me of late, the inadequacy of his pay to his trouble, and the great risk he is subject to on account of the large sums of money which pass thro his hands. He has stated his case with a view of laying it before Congress and obtaining a more adequate compensation. My sentiments upon the Subject are already known, but yet I shall take the liberty to add, that I think his complaint to be well founded and that his pay considering the important duties and risks of his Office by no means sufficient, and that the footing he seems to think it should be upon himself appears just and reasonable.
A proposition having been made long since to General Howe, and agreed to by him, for an exchange of prisoners, in consequence of the resolutions of Congress to that effect, I shall be extremely happy if you will give directions to the committees, and those having the charge of prisoners in the several States south of Jersey, to transmit me proper lists of the names of all the commissioned officers, and of their ranks and the corps they belong to; also the number of non-commissioned and privates, and their respective regiments. You will perceive by his letter, he supposes me to have effected some delay, or to have been unmindful of the proposition I had made.
I propose to stay in this neighborhood a few days, to which time I expect the designs of the enemy will be more disclosed, and their incursions be made in this quarter, or their investiture of Fort Washington, if they are intended.1
I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
General Greene’s Head-Quarters,
You will see by the enclosed Resolves, that Congress have entered into some new regulations respecting the Enlistment of the new army, and reprobating the measures adopted by the State of Massachusetts Bay for raising their Quota of men. As every possible exertion should be used for recruiting the army as speedily as may be, I request that you immediately publish, in orders, that an allowance of a Dollar and one-third of a Dollar will be paid to the officers for every Soldier they shall enlist, whether in or out of camp. Also, that it will be optional in the Soldier to enlist during the continuance of the War, or for three years, unless sooner discharged by Congress. In the former case, they are to receive all such bounty and pay as have been heretofore mentioned in orders; those who engage for the latter time, that of three years, are not to receive the bounty in land. That no mistakes may be made, you will direct the recruiting officers, from your division, to provide two distinct enlisting rolls; one for those to sign who engage during the war; the other for those who enlist for three years, if their service shall be so long requested.1
I am sorry to inform you, that this day about twelve o’clock, the enemy made a general attack upon our lines about Fort Washington, which having carried, the garrison retired within the fort. Colonel Magaw finding there was no prospect of retreating across the River, surrendered the post. We do not yet know the loss of killed and wounded on either side; but I imagine it must have been pretty considerable, as the engagement, at some parts of the lines, was of long continuance and heavy; neither do I know the terms of capitulation. The force of the garrison, before the attack, was almost two thousand men.
Before I left Peekskill, I urged to General Heath the necessity of securing the pass through the Highlands next to the river, as well on that as this side, and to the forts above; but as the preserving of these and others which lie more easterly, and which are equally essential, is a matter of the last importance, I must beg you to turn your attention that way, and to have such measures adopted for their defence as your judgment shall suggest to be necessary. I do not mean to advise abandoning your present post contrary to your own opinion, but only to mention my ideas of the importance of those passes, and that you cannot give too much attention to their security, by having works erected in the most advantageous places for that purpose.
I am, dear Sir, &c.1
P. S. The enclosed Letter for Governor Trumbull, you will please to transmit by the 1st opportunity.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
General Greene’s Quarters,
Since I had the honor of addressing you last, an important event has taken place, of which I wish to give you the earliest intelligence. The preservation of the passage of the North River was an object of so much consequence, that I thought no pains or expense too great for that purpose; and, therefore, after sending off all the valuable stores, except such as were necessary for its defence, I determined, agreeable to the advice of most of the general officers, to risk something to defend the post on the east side, called Mount Washington. When the army moved up in consequence of General Howe’s landing at Frog’s Point, Colonel Magaw was left on that command, with about twelve hundred men, and orders given to defend it to the last. Afterwards, reflecting upon the smallness of the garrison, and the difficulty of their holding it, if General Howe should fall down upon it with his whole force, I wrote to General Greene, who had the command on the Jersey shore, directing him to govern himself by circumstances, and to retain or evacuate the post as he should think best, and revoking the absolute order to Colonel Magaw to defend the post to the last extremity. General Greene, struck with the importance of the post, and the discouragement, which our evacuation of posts must necessarily have given, reinforced Colonel Magaw with detachments from several regiments of the Flying Camp, but chiefly of Pennsylvania, so as to make up the number about two thousand.
In this situation things were yesterday, when General Howe demanded the surrender of the garrison, to which Colonel Magaw returned a spirited refusal.1 Immediately upon receiving an account of this transaction, I came from Hackinsac to this place, and had partly crossed the North River when I met General Putnam and General Greene, who were just returning from thence, and informed me that the troops were in high spirits, and would make a good defence; and, it being late at night, I returned. Early this morning Colonel Magaw posted his troops partly in the lines thrown up by our army on our first coming thither from New York, and partly on a commanding hill lying north of Mount Washington, (the lines being all to the southward). In this position the attack began about ten o’clock, which our troops stood, and returned the fire in such a manner as gave me great hopes that the enemy was entirely repulsed. But at this time a body of troops crossed Haerlem River in boats, and landed inside of the second lines, our troops being then engaged in the first. Colonel Cadwalader, who commanded in the lines, sent off a detachment to oppose them; but they, being overpowered by numbers, gave way; upon which, Colonel Cadwalader ordered his troops to retreat in order to gain the fort. It was done with much confusion; and the enemy crossing over came in upon them in such a manner, that a number of them surrendered.
At this time the Hessians advanced on the north side of the fort in very large bodies. They were received by the troops posted there with proper spirit, and kept back a considerable time; but at length they were also obliged to submit to a superiority of numbers, and retire under the cannon of the fort. The enemy, having advanced thus far, halted, and immediately a flag went in, with a repetition of the demand of the fortress, as I suppose.1 At this time I sent a billet to Colonel Magaw, directing him to hold out, and I would endeavor this evening to bring off the garrison, if the fortress could not be maintained, as I did not expect it could, the enemy being possessed of the adjacent ground. But, before this reached him, he had entered too far into a treaty to retract; after which, Colonel Cadwalader told another messenger, who went over, that they had been able to obtain no other terms than to surrender as prisoners of war.1 In this situation matters now stand. I have stopped General Beall’s and General Heard’s brigades, to preserve the post and stores here, which, with the other troops, I hope we shall be able to effect. I do not yet know the numbers killed or wounded on either side; but, from the heaviness and continuance of fire in some places, I imagine there must have been considerable execution. The loss of such a number of officers and men, many of whom have been trained with more than common attention, will, I fear, be severely felt; but, when that of the arms and accoutrements is added, much more so; and must be a further incentive to procure as considerable a supply as possible for the new troops, as soon as it can be done. I am, &c.2
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Hackinsac, 19 November, 1776.
At the White Plains, the enemy advanced a second time upon us, as if they meant a general attack; but, finding us ready to receive them, and upon such ground as they could not approach without loss, they filed off and returned towards New York. As it was conceived, that this manœuver was made with a design to attack Fort Washington, or to throw a body of troops into the Jerseys, or, what might be still worse, aim a stroke at Philadelphia, I hastened over to this side, with about five thousand men, by a circuitous march of about sixty-five miles, which we were obliged to take, on account of the shipping that opposed the passage at all the lower ferries. But I did not arrive in time to take measures to save Fort Washington, though I got here myself a day or two before it surrendered, which happened on the 16th instant, after making a defence of about four or five hours only. We have no particular account of the loss on either side, or of the circumstances attending this matter. The whole garrison, after being driven from the outer lines, and returning within the fort, surrendered themselves prisoners of war, but have given me no account of the terms. By a letter, which I have just received from General Greene at Fort Lee, I am informed, that “one of the train of artillery came across the river last night on a raft. By his account, the enemy have suffered greatly on the north side of Fort Washington. Colonel Rawlings’s regiment (late Hugh Stephenson’s) was posted there, and behaved with great spirit. Colonel Magaw could not get the men to man the lines, otherwise he would not have given up the fort.”
This is a most unfortunate affair, and has given me great mortification; as we have lost not only two thousand men that were there, but a good deal of artillery, and some of the best arms we had. And what adds to my mortification is, that this post, after the last ships went past it, was held contrary to my wishes and opinion, as I conceived it to be a hazardous one; but, it having been determined on by a full council of general officers, and a resolution of Congress having been received strongly expressive of their desire, that the channel of the river, which we had been laboring to stop for a long time at that place, might be obstructed, if possible, and knowing that this could not be done, unless there were batteries to protect the obstruction, I did not care to give an absolute order for withdrawing the garrison, till I could get round and see the situation of things, and then it became too late, as the fort was invested. Upon the passing of the last ships, I had given it as my opinion to General Greene, under whose care it was, that it would be best to evacuate the place; but, as the order was discretionary, and his opinion differed from mine, it unhappily was delayed too long, to my great grief; as I think General Howe, considering his army and ours, would have had but a poor tale to tell without it, and would have found it difficult, unless some southern expedition may prove successful, to reconcile the people of England to the conquest of a few pitiful islands, none of which were defensible, considering the great number of ships, and the power they have by sea to surround and render them unapproachable.1
It is a matter of great grief and surprise to me to find the different States so slow and inattentive to that essential business of levying their quotas of men. In ten days from this date, there will not be above two thousand men, if that number, of the fixed established regiments on this side of Hudson’s River to oppose Howe’s whole army, and very little more on the other to secure the eastern colonies and the important passes leading through the Highlands to Albany, and the country about the Lakes.1 In short, it is impossible for me, in the compass of a letter, to give you any idea of our situation, of my difficulties, and of the constant perplexities and mortifications I meet with, derived from the unhappy policy of short enlistments, and delaying them too long. Last fall, or winter, before the army, which was then to be raised, was set about, I represented in clear and explicit terms the evils, which would arise from short enlistments, the expense which must attend the raising an army every year, the futility of such an army when raised; and, if I had spoken with a prophetic spirit, I could not have foretold the evils with more accuracy than I did. All the year since, I have been pressing Congress to delay no time in engaging men upon such terms as would insure success, telling them that the longer it was delayed the more difficult it would prove. But the measure was not commenced till it was too late to be effected, and then in such a manner, as to bid adieu to every hope of getting an army, from which any services are to be expected1 ; the different States, without regard to the qualifications of an officer, quarelling about the appointments, and nominating such as are not fit to be shoeblacks, from the local attachments of this or that member of Assembly.2
I am wearied almost to death with the retrograde motion of things, and I solemnly protest, that a pecuniary reward of twenty thousand pounds a year would not induce me to undergo what I do; and after all, perhaps, to lose my character, as it is impossible, under such a variety of distressing circumstances, to conduct matters agreeably to public expectation, or even to the expectation of those, who employ me, as they will not make proper allowances for the difficulties their own errors have occasioned.
I am glad to find by your last letter, that your family are tolerably well recovered from the indisposition they labored under. God grant you all health and happiness. Nothing in this world would contribute so much to mine, as to be once more fixed among you in the peaceable enjoyment of my own vine and fig-tree. Adieu, my dear Sir; remember me affectionately to my sister and the children, and give my compliments to those, who inquire after your sincerely affectionate brother.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Hackensack, 19 November, 1776.
I have not been yet able to obtain a particular account of the unhappy affair of the 16th; nor of the terms on which the garrison surrendered. The intelligence that has come to hand, is not so full and accurate as I could wish. One of the artillery, and whose information is most direct, who escaped on Sunday night, says, the enemy’s loss was very considerable, especially in the attack made above the Fort by the division of Hessians that marched from Kingsbridge, and where Lieut. Colo. Rawlings, of the late Colo. Stevenson’s Regiment, was posted. They burnt yesterday one or two houses on the Heights and contiguous to the Fort, and appeared by advices from General Greene, to be moving in the evening their main body down towards the City. Whether they will close the Campaign without attempting something more, or make an incursion into Jersey, must be determined by the events themselves.
As Fort Lee was always considered as only necessary in conjunction with that on the east side of the River, to preserve the communication across, and to prevent the enemy from a free navigation, it has become of no importance by the loss of the other, or not so material as to employ a force for its defences. Being viewed in this light, and apprehending that the stores there would be precariously situated, their removal has been determined on to Bound Brook, above Brunswick, Prince Town, Springfield and Acquankinac Bridge, as places that will not be subject to sudden danger in case the enemy should pass the River, and which have been thought proper, as a repository for some of our stores of provisions and forage.
The troops belonging to the Flying Camp, under Genls. Heard and Beall, with what remains of Genl. Ewing’s brigade, are now at Fort Lee, where they will continue till the stores are got away. By the time that is effected, their term of enlistment will be near expiring, and if the enemy should make a push in this quarter, the only troops that there will be to oppose ’em, will be Hand’s, Hazlet’s, the Regiments from Virginia, and that lately Smallwood’s,—the latter greatly reduced by the losses it sustained on Long Island, &c, and sickness. Nor are the rest by any means complete. In addition to these, I am told there are a few of the Militia of this State, which have been called in by Governor Livingston. I shall make such a disposition of the whole at Brunswick, and at the intermediate posts as shall seem most likely to guard against the designs of the enemy, and to prevent them making an irruption, or foraging with detached parties.
The inclosed letter from Cols. Miles and Atlee will shew Congress the distressed situation of our prisoners in New York, and will become greater every day by the cold, inclement Season that is Approaching. It will be happy if some expedient can be adopted by which they may be furnished with necessary blankets and cloathing. Humanity and the good of the service require it. I think the mode suggested by these gentlemen for establishing a credit, appears as likely to succeed, and as eligible as any that occurs to me. It is probable, many articles that may be wanted, can be obtained there, and upon better terms than elsewhere. In respect to provision their allowance perhaps is as good as the situation of General Howe’s stores will admit of. It has been said of late, by deserters and others, that they were rather scant.
By a letter from the paymaster general of the 17th, he says there will be a necessity that large and early remittances should be made him. The demands, when the Troops now in service, are dismissed, will be extremely great; besides the bounty to recruits will require a large supply and he adds that the Commissary General has informed him, that between this and the last of December he shall have occasion for a million of dollars.
21st—The unhappy affair of the 16th has been succeeded by further misfortunes. Yesterday morning a large body of the Enemy landed between Dobb’s Ferry and Fort Lee.1 Their object was evidently to inclose the whole of our troops and stores that lay between the North and Heckenseck Rivers, which form a very narrow neck of land. For this purpose they formed and marched as soon as they had ascended the high ground towards the Fort. Upon the first information of their having landed and of their movements, our men were ordered to meet them, but finding their numbers greatly superior and that they were extending themselves to seize on the passes over the River, it was thought prudent to withdraw our men, which was effected and their retreat secured. We lost the whole of the cannon that was at the Fort, except two twelve pounders, and a great deal of baggage—between two and three hundred tents, about a thousand barrells of flour and other stores in the Quarter Master’s department. This loss was inevitable. As many of the Stores has been removed as circumstances and time would admit of; the Ammunition had been happily got away. Our present situation between Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, being exactly similar to our late one, and our force here by no means adequate to an opposition that will promise the smallest probability of success, we are taking measures to retire over the waters of the latter, where the best disposition will be formed that circumstances will admit of.
By Colo. Cadwalader, who has been permitted by Genl. Howe to return to his friends,1 I am informed the surrender of the garrison on the 16th was on the common terms, as prisoners of War; the loss of the Hessians about Three hundred privates and Twenty seven officers, killed and wounded, about Forty of the British troops and two or three officers. The loss on our side but inconsiderable. * * *
Your favor of the 16th was duly received. My Letter to the Board of War on the subject of the return of the Waldeckers I presume you will have seen.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Hackinsac, 21 November, 1776.
It must be painful to you, as well as to us, that I have no news to send you, but of a melancholy Nature. Yesterday morning the Enemy landed a large Body of Troops below Dobbs’s Ferry, and advanced very rapidly to the Fort called by your Name. I immediately went over, and, as the Fort was not tenable on this side, and we were in a narrow neck of land, the passes out of which the enemy were attempting to seize, I directed the Troops, consisting of Beall’s, Heard’s, the remainder of Ewing’s brigades, and some other Parts of broken Regiments, to move over to the West Side of Hackinsac River. A considerable Quantity of Stores and some artillery have fallen into the enemy’s hands. We have no account of their movements this morning. But as this country is almost a dead flat, and we have not an intrenching tool, and not above three thousand men, and they much broken and dispirited, not only with our ill success, but the loss of their tents and baggage, I have resolved to avoid any attack, though by so doing I must leave a very fine country open to their ravages, or a plentiful storehouse from which they will draw voluntary supplies.
Your favor of the 19th is just come to hand. I approve of your step with respect to the Rhode Island officers, as I am unacquainted with their Merits, I was obliged to leave the Determination of the matter much to Genl. Greene, hoping I confess, that he would make an Arrangement acceptable to his Countrymen; however I am satisfied with what you have done and must leave it upon that footing.
With respect to your situation, I am very much at a loss what now to determine. There is such a change of circumstances since the date of your letter, as seems to call for a change of measures. Your post undoubtedly will answer some important purposes; but whether so many or so great as your removal, is well worthy of consideration. You observe, that it prevents a fine, fertile country from affording them supplies; but now they have one much more so, and more contiguous. They have already traversed a part of that country, leaving little behind them. Is it probable they will return? If not, the distance must be too great in winter time to render it effectually serviceable. Upon the whole, therefore, I am of opinion, and the gentlemen about me concur in it, that the public interest requires your coming over to this side of the Hudson, with the Continental troops, leaving Fellows’s and Wadsworth’s brigades to take care of the stores during their short stay, at the expiration of which I suppose they will set out for home.1
My reasons for this measure, which I think must have weight with you, are, that the enemy are evidently changing the seat of war to this side of the North River, that this country therefore will expect the Continental army to give them what support they can, and, failing in this, they will cease to depend upon or support a force, from which no protection is given to them. It is therefore of the utmost importance, that at least an appearance of force should be made, to keep this province in the connexion with the others. If that should not continue, it is much to be feared, that its influence on Pennsylvania would be very considerable, and more and more endanger our public interest. Unless therefore some new event should occur, or some more cogent reason present itself to the contrary, I would have you move over by the easiest and best passage. I am sensible your numbers will not be large, and that perhaps it may not be agreeable to the troops. As to the first, report will exaggerate them and preserve an appearance of an army, which will at least have an effect to encourage the desponding here; and as to the other, you will doubtless represent to them, that in duty and gratitude their service is due, wherever the enemy make the greatest impression, or seem to intend so to do. * * *1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON, NEW JERSEY.
Aquackenonk Bridge, 21 November, 1776.
I have this moment arrived/at this place with General Beall’s and General Heard’s brigades from Maryland and Jersey, and part of General Ewing’s1 from Pennsylvania. Three other regiments, left to guard the passes upon Hackinsac River, and to serve as covering parties, are expected up this evening. After the unfortunate loss of Fort Washington, it was determined to evacuate Fort Lee in a great measure, as it was in a manner useless in obstructing the passage of the North River, without the assistance of Fort Washington. The ammunition and some other stores were accordingly removed; but, before we could effect our purpose, the enemy landed yesterday morning, in very considerable numbers, about six miles above the fort. Their intent evidently was to form a line across, from the place of their landing to Hackinsac Bridge, and thereby hem in the whole garrison between the North and Hackinsac Rivers. However, we were lucky enough to gain the bridge before them; by which means we saved all our men, but were obliged to leave some hundred barrels of flour, most of our cannon, and a considerable parcel of tents and baggage.
Finding we were in the same danger of being pent up between Hackinsac and Passaic Rivers, that we had been between the North and Hackinsac; and finding the country, from its levelness and openness, unfit for making a stand, it was determined to draw the whole of our force over to this side of the river, where we can watch the operations of the enemy, without danger of their surrounding us or making a lodgment in our rear. But, as our numbers are still very inadequate to that of the enemy, I imagine I shall be obliged to fall down towards Brunswic, and form a junction with the troops, already in that quarter, under the command of Lord Stirling. As the term of the enlistment of the Flying Camp, belonging to Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, is near expiring, it will occasion so great a diminution of my army, that I submit it to your judgment, whether it would not be proper for you to call together such a number of militia, as, in conjunction with the troops I shall have left, will serve to cover the country and stop the progress of the enemy, if they should attempt to penetrate. If the weather continues favorable, I am apprehensive that they will attempt to make amends for the slowness of their operations at the beginning of the campaign. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Newark, 24 November, 1776.
By the negligent and infamous conduct of the post rider, the Eastern mail of Friday was brought to Hackensac and there stopped to fall into the hands of the enemy. Supposing it may have contained some letters from you of a public nature, I have thought it proper to give you the earliest notice, that you may guard against any advantages the enemy may expect to derive from the accident.
I perceive by your letter to Col. Reed, that you have entirely mistaken my views in ordering troops from Gen. Heath’s division to this quarter. The posts and passes in the Highlands are of such infinite importance that they should not be subjected to the least possible degree of risk. Col. Reed’s second letter will have sufficiently explained my intention upon this subject, and pointed out to you that it was your division which I wanted and wish to march. As the enemy have possessed themselves of the usual route of Dobbs Ferry and Hackensac, it will be necessary for you to choose some back way in which you and your troops may come secure. I doubt not they will try to intercept you if this precaution is not used, and therefore have been induced to mention it. I would also mention the necessity of my hearing frequently from you in the course of your march, in order to a due regulation of matters, and that I may know how to conduct myself. I am &c.
P. S. I have received your favor of the 20th and feel with you the distresses of the army for want of necessary cloathing and covering. I have pointed this out to Congress several times. How to remedy it, I know not. From the number of prizes taken at the eastward, I should suppose the troops from thence could have been much better provided with necessaries than from the more southern States, where they have not the same advantages of an open navigation.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Newark, 27 November, 1776.
I last night received the favor of your Letter of the 25th. My former Letters were so full and explicit, as to the necessity of your marching as early as possible, that it is unnecessary to add more on that Head. I confess I expected you would have been sooner in motion. The force here, when joined by yours, will not be adequate to any great opposition. At present it is weak; and it has been more owing to the badness of the weather, that the enemy’s progress has been checked, than to any resistance we could make. They are now pushing this way; part of ’em have passed the Passaic. Their plan is not entirely unfolded, but I shall not be surprised, if Philadelphia should turn out the object of their movement. The distress of the troops for want of cloathes I feel much; but what can I do? Having formed an enterprise against Rogers, &c., I wish you may have succeeded. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Brunswic, 30 November, 1776.
I have been honored with your favor of the 26th, and with the enclosures, by which I perceive the measures that have been adopted for forwarding a reinforcement of militia. Their arrival is much to be wished, the situation of our affairs being truly alarming, and such as demands the earliest aids.1 As General Mifflin’s presence may have a happy influence on the disposition and temper of many of the Associators, I shall not direct his return so long as he can be done without, and till it becomes indispensably necessary.2 On Thursday morning I left Newark, and arrived here yesterday with the troops that were there. It was the opinion of all the generals, who were with me, that a retreat to this place was requisite, and founded in necessity, as our force was by no means sufficient to make a stand, with the least probability of success, against an enemy much superior in numbers, and whose advanced guards were entering the town by the time our rear got out. It was the wish of all to have remained there longer, and to have halted before we came thus far; but, upon due consideration of our strength, the circumstances attending the enlistment of a great part of our little force, and the frequent advices, that the enemy were embarking or about to embark another detachment for Staten Island, with a view of landing at Amboy to coöperate with this, which seemed to be confirmed by the information of some persons, who came from the island, that they were collecting and impressing all the wagons they could find, it was judged necessary to proceed till we came here, not only to prevent their bringing a force to act upon our front and rear, but also that we might be more convenient to oppose any troops they might land at South Amboy, which may be conjectured to be an object they had in view. This conjecture, too, had probability and some advices to support it.1
I hoped we should meet with large and early succors by this time; but as yet no great number of the militia of this State has come in; nor have I much reason to expect, that any considerable aid will be derived from the counties, which lie beyond this river, and in which the enemy are. Their situation will prevent it in a great measure from those parts where they are, provided the inclinations of the people were good. Added to this, I have no assurances, that more than a very few of the troops composing the Flying Camp will remain after the time of their engagement is out; so far from it, I am told, that some of General Ewing’s brigade, who stand engaged to the 1st of January, are now going away. If those go whose service expires this day, our force will be reduced to a mere handful. From intelligence received this morning, one division of the enemy was advanced last night as far as Elizabethtown, and that some of their quartermasters had proceeded about four or five miles on this side, to provide barns for their accommodation. Other accounts say another division, composed of Hessians, are on the road through Springfield, and are reported to have reached that place last night. I do not know how far their views extend; but I doubt not, that they mean to push every advantage resulting from the small number and state of our troops. I early began to forward part of the stores from this place towards Philadelphia. Many are gone; the rest we are moving, and hope to secure. I am, &c.1
P. S. I have wrote to Govr. Livingston who is exerting himself to throw in every assistance and to have guards placed at the ferries to prevent the return of the soldiers who are not discharged.2
TO THE BOARD OF WAR.
Head-Quarters,Brunswic, 30 November, 1776.
I am to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of the 18th 19th and 23d Instant, which from the unsettled Situation of our Affairs, I have not been able to answer before.
That of the 18th incloses a List of Stores taken in the Hancock and Adams Continental Ship, and carried into Dartmouth in New England, with a Resolve of Congress to deliver the Muskets, Powder, Lead and Flints to my order. As the other Articles of the Cargo will be full as useful to the army, as those included in the Resolve, I would advise, that Directions be given, to have the whole Cargo removed from Dartmouth to some secure place in the Neighborhood of Philadelphia and there deposited till called for. It is by no means proper that so great a Quantity of military stores should be lodged with the Army especially at present, as we know not today where we shall be obliged to remove tomorrow, and that will in all probability be the Case, while the Enemy continue with a Light Army, on this side of the North River.1
In answer to that part of yours of the 19th, in which you ask my advice as to the propriety of enlisting prisoners of war, I would just observe, that, in my opinion, it is neither consistent with the rules of war, nor politic; nor can I think, that, because our enemies have committed an unjustifiable action, by enticing, and in some instances intimidating, our men into their service, we ought to follow their example. Before I had the honor of yours on this subject, I had determined to remonstrate to General Howe on this head. As to those few, who have already enlisted, I would not have them again withdrawn and sent in, because they might be subjected to punishment; but I would have the practice discontinued in future. If you will revert to the capitulation of St. John’s and Chamblee, you will find an express stipulation against the enlisting of the prisoners taken there. I remarked that the enlistment of prisoners was not a politic step. My reason is this, that in time of danger I have always observed such persons most backward, for fear, I suppose, of falling into the hands of their former masters, from whom they expect no mercy; and this fear they are apt to communicate to their fellow-soldiers. They are also most ready to desert when any action is expected, hoping, by carrying intelligence, to secure their peace.1 I met Captain Hesketh on the road; and, as the situation of his family did not admit of delay, I permitted him to go immediately to New York, not having the least doubt but General Howe will make a return of any officer of equal rank, who shall be required. I am, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Brunswic, 1 December, 1776.
I wrote to you yesterday; but, as from every information of the motions of the enemy, their intent seems plainly directed through this State, and then on to Philadelphia, I cannot help calling on you, in the most urgent manner, and begging you to fall upon proper means to draw forth the strength of your province to my support. The enemy’s advanced parties were last night at Bonhamtown, four miles on this side of Woodbridge.1 They are impressing wagons and horses, and collecting cattle and sheep; which is a further proof of their intent to march a considerable distance. Unless my force, therefore, is considerably augmented, it will be impossible for me to make any stand at this place, when the enemy advance, as I have not, including General Williamson’s militia, (say 1,000) more than four thousand men. The militia from the counties of Morris and Sussex turn out slowly and reluctantly, whether from the want of officers of spirit to encourage them, or your summons not being regularly sent to them, I cannot say; but I have reason to believe, that there has been a deficiency in both cases. Designing men have been purposely sent among them, to influence some and intimidate others; and, unless gentlemen of spirit and character will appear among them, and rouse them, little can be expected. I wrote to General Williamson last night, and pressed him to exert himself; but, I have reason to believe, he has not the confidence of the people so much as could be wished. My accounts of the reinforcements, to be expected from Pennsylvania, are very encouraging; but, from the distance and necessary delays attending a sudden march, I cannot look for them under a week or ten days; in which time the enemy will have reached the Delaware; at least if not opposed by more than my present numbers. General Lee is on his march down to join me; but, if the enemy should throw in a body of men between us, he will be obliged to make a considerable circuit to avoid them. The boats and craft, all along the Delaware side, should be secured; particularly the Durham boats used for the transportation of produce down the river. Parties should be sent to all the landings, to have them removed to the other side, hauled up, and put under proper guards. One such boat would transport a regiment of men. I am, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Brunswic, 1 December, 1776.
The enemy are advancing, and have got as far as Woodbridge and Amboy, and, from information not to be doubted, they mean to push for Philadelphia. The force I have with me is infinitely inferior in numbers, and such as cannot give or promise the least successful opposition. It is greatly reduced by the departure of the Maryland Flying Camp men, and by sundry other causes.1 I must entreat you to hasten your march as much as possible, or your arrival may be too late to answer any valuable purpose. Your route, nor the place to join me, I cannot particularize. In these respects you must be governed by circumstances, and the intelligence you receive, let the former be secure. I hope to meet a considerable reinforcement of Pennsylvania Associators. It is said they seem spirited upon this occasion.
I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Princeton, 2 December, 1776.
I arrived here this morning with our troops between Eight and nine o’Clock, when I received the Honor of your Letter of the 1st with its inclosures. When the Enemy first landed on this side the North River, I apprehended that they meant to make a push this way, and knowing that the force which I had was not sufficient to oppose ’em, I wrote to Genl. Lee to cross with the Several Continental Regiments in his division, and hoped he would have arrived before now; by some means or other he has been delayed. I suppose he has passed the River, as his Letter of the 26th ulto. mentioned that he had marched a brigade the day before, and should follow the next himself.1 The remainder of the Troops, I conceived necessary to guard the several passes thro’ the Highlands; nor do I think they can be called from thence, their number is very small, being reduced to very few by the departure of the Troops who stood engaged till the 30th ulto. * * * I have &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Trenton, 3 December, 1776.1
I arrived here myself yesterday morning, with the main body of the army, having left Lord Stirling with two brigades at Princeton and that neighborhood, to watch the motions of the enemy and give notice of their approach. I am informed, that they had not entered Brunswic yesterday morning at nine o’clock, but were on the opposite side of the Rariton. Immediately on my arrival here, I ordered the removal of all the military and other stores and baggage over the Delaware; a great quantity is already got over; and as soon as the boats come up from Philadelphia, we shall load them; by which means I hope to have every thing secured this night and to-morrow, if we are not disturbed. After being disencumbered of my baggage and stores, my future situation will depend entirely upon circumstances.
I have not heard a word from General Lee since the 26th of last month; which surprises me not a little, as I have despatched daily expresses to him, desiring to know when I might look for him. This makes me fearful, that my letters have not reached him. I am informed by report, that General St. Clair has joined him, with three or four regiments from the northward. To know the truth of this, and also when I may expect him, and with what numbers, I have this minute despatched Colonel Stewart, General Gates’s aid-de-camp, to meet General Lee and bring me an account.1 I look out earnestly for the reinforcement from Philadelphia. I am in hopes, that, if we can draw a good head of men together, it will give spirits to the militia of this State, who have as yet afforded me little or no assistance; nor can I find that they are likely to do much. General Heard has just informed me, that a person, on whose veracity he can depend, has reported to him that on Sunday last he counted a hundred and seventeen sail of ships going out of the Hook. You may depend upon being advised instantly of any further movement in the enemy’s army or that of mine. I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Trenton, 5 December, 1776.
As nothing but necessity obliged me to retire before the enemy, and leave so much of the Jerseys unprotected, I conceive it my duty, and it corresponds with my inclination, to make head against them so soon as there shall be the least probability of doing it with propriety. That the country might in some measure be covered, I left two brigades consisting of the five Virginia regiments and that of Delaware, containing in the whole about twelve hundred men fit for duty, under the command of Lord Stirling and General Stephen,1 at Princeton, till the baggage and stores could cross the Delaware, or the troops under their respective commands should be forced from thence. I shall now, having removed the greatest part of the above articles, face about with such troops as are here fit for service, and march back to Princeton, and there govern myself by circumstances and the movements of General Lee. At any event, the enemy’s progress may be retarded by this means, if they intend to come on, and the people’s fears in some measure quieted, if they do not. Sorry I am to observe, however, that the frequent calls upon the militia of this State, the want of exertion in the principal gentlemen of the country, or a fatal supineness and insensibility of danger, till it is too late to prevent an evil that was not only foreseen but foretold, have been the causes of our late disgraces.
If the militia of this State had stepped forth in season (and timely notice they had), we might have prevented the enemy’s crossing the Hackinsac, although without some previous notice of the time and place it was impossible to have done this at the North River. We might with equal probability of success have made a stand at Brunswic on the Rariton. But as both these rivers were fordable in a variety of places, being knee-deep only, it required many men to defend the passes; and these we had not. At Hackinsac our force was insufficient, because a part was at Elizabethtown, Amboy, and Brunswic, guarding a coast, which I thought most exposed to danger; and at Brunswic, because I was disappointed in my expectation of militia, and because on the day of the enemy’s approach (and probably the occasion of it) the term of the Jersey and Maryland brigades’ service expired; neither of which would consent to stay an hour longer.
These, among ten thousand other instances, might be adduced to show the disadvantages of short enlistments, and the little dependence upon militia in times of real danger. But, as yesterday cannot be recalled, I will not dwell upon a subject, which, no doubt, has given much uneasiness to Congress, as well as extreme pain and anxiety to myself. My first wish is, that Congress may be convinced of the impropriety of relying upon the militia, and of the necessity of raising a larger standing army, than what they have voted. The saving in the article of stores, provisions, and in a thousand other things, by having nothing to do with militia unless in cases of extraordinary exigency, and such as could not be expected in the common course of events, would amply support a large army, which, well officered, would be daily improving, instead of continuing a destructive, expensive, and disorderly mob. I am clear in the opinion, that if forty thousand men had been kept in constant pay since the first commencement of hostilities, and the militia had been excused from doing duty during that period, the Continent would have saved money. When I reflect on the losses we have sustained for want of good troops, the certainty of this is placed beyond a doubt in my mind. In such a case, the militia, who have been harassed and tired by repeated calls upon them, and farming and manufactures in a manner suspended, would, upon any pressing emergency, have run with alacrity to arms; whereas, the cry now is, “they may be as well ruined in one way as another”; and with difficulty they are obtained. I mention these things to show, that, in my opinion, if any dependence is placed in the militia another year, Congress will be deceived. When danger is a little removed from them, they will not turn out at all. When it comes home to them, the well-affected, instead of flying to arms to defend themselves, are busily employed in removing their families and effects, whilst the disaffected are concerting measures to make their submission, and spread terror and dismay all around, to induce others to follow their example. Daily experience and abundant proofs warrant this information.
I shall this day reinforce Lord Stirling with about twelve hundred men, which will make his number about two thousand four hundred. To-morrow I mean to repair to Princeton myself, and shall order the Pennsylvania troops, who are not yet arrived, except part of the German battalion and a company of light infantry, to the same place.
By my last advices, the enemy are still at Brunswic; and the account adds, that General Howe was expected at Elizabethtown with a reinforcement, to erect the King’s standard, and demand a submission of this State. I can only give this as a report, brought from the enemy’s camp by some of the country people. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Trenton, 6 December, 1776.
I have not received any intelligence of the enemy’s movements since my letter of yesterday. From every information, they still remain at Brunswic, except some of their parties, which are advanced a small distance on this side. To-day I shall set out for Princeton myself, unless something should occur to prevent me, which I do not expect. By a letter of the 4th Inst. from a Mr. Caldwell, a clergyman, and a staunch friend to the cause, who has fled from Elizabethtown, and taken refuge in the mountains about ten miles from hence, I am informed, that General or Lord Howe was expected in that town to publish pardon and peace. His words are: “I have not seen his proclamation, but can only say he gives sixty days of grace, and pardons from the Congress down to the committee. No one man in the continent is to be denied his mercy.” In the language of this good man, “The Lord deliver us from his mercy!”1
Your letter of the 3d, by Major Livingston, was duly received. Before it came to hand, I had written to General Howe about Governor Franklin’s exchange, but am not certain whether the letter could not be recovered. I despatched a messenger instantly for that purpose.2 I have the honor to be, &c.3
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Mr. Berkeley’s Summer-Seat, 8 December, 1776.
Colonel Reed would inform you of the intelligence, which I first met with on the road from Trenton to Princeton yesterday.1 Before I got to the latter, I received a second express informing me, that, as the enemy were advancing by different routes, and attempting by one to get in the rear of our troops, which were there, and whose numbers were small, and the place by no means defensible, they had judged it prudent to retreat to Trenton. The retreat was accordingly made, and since to this side of the river. This information I thought it my duty to communicate as soon as possible, as there is not a moment’s time to be lost in assembling such force as can be collected; and as the object of the enemy cannot now be doubted in the smallest degree. Indeed, I shall be out in my conjecture, for it is only conjecture, if the late embarkation at New York is not for Delaware River, to coöperate with the army under the immediate command of General Howe, who, I am informed from good authority, is with the British troops and his whole force upon this route.
I have no certain intelligence of General Lee, although I have sent frequent expresses to him, and lately Colonel Humpton, to bring me some accurate accounts of his situation. I last night despatched another gentleman to him, Major Hoops, desiring he would hasten his march to the Delaware, in which I would provide boats, near a place called Alexandria, for the transportation of his troops. I cannot account for the slowness of his march.1 In the disordered and moving state of the army, I cannot get returns; but, from the best accounts, we had between three thousand and three thousand five hundred men, before the Philadelphia militia and German battalion arrived; they amount to about two thousand. I have, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Trenton Falls, 9 December, 1776.
I did myself the honor of writing to you yesterday, and informing you that I had removed the troops to this Side of the Delaware, soon after the Enemy made their Appearance; and their van entered, just as our rear guard quitted.
We had removed all our stores except a few boards. From the best information, they are in two bodies, one at and near Trenton, the other some Miles higher up, and inclining towards Delaware; but whether with intent to cross there, or throw themselves between General Lee and me is yet uncertain.
I have this Morning detached Lord Stirling and his brigade to take post at the different landing places, and prevent them from stealing a march upon us from above; for I am informed if they cross at Corrils Ferry or thereabouts, they are as near to Philadelphia as we are here.
From several accounts I am led to think, that the enemy are bringing boats with them. If so, it will be impossible for our small force to give them any considerable opposition in the passage of the river; indeed they make a feint at one place, and, by a sudden removal, carry their boats higher or lower before we can bring our cannon to play upon them. Under these circumstances, the security of Philadelphia should be our next object. From my own remembrance, but more from information, for I never viewed the ground, I should think that a communication of lines and redoubts might soon be formed from the Delaware to the Schuylkill on the north entrance of the city, the lines to begin on the Schuylkill side, about the heights of Springatebury, and run eastward to Delaware, upon the most advantageous and commanding grounds. If something of this kind is not done, the enemy might, in case any misfortune should befall us, march directly in, and take possession. We have ever found that lines, however slight, are very formidable to them; they would at least give a check till the people could recover from the fright and consternation, that naturally attend the first appearance of an enemy.
In the mean time, every step should be taken to collect a force, not only from Pennsylvania, but from the neighboring States. If we can keep the enemy from entering Philadelphia, and keep the communication by water open for supplies, we may yet make a stand, if the country will come to our assistance till our new levies can be collected. If the measure of fortifying the city should be adopted, some skilful person should immediately view the grounds, and begin to trace out the lines and works. I am informed there is a French engineer of eminence in Philadelphia at this time; if so, he will be the most proper.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I have just recd. the enclosed from Genl. Heath. General Mifflin is this moment come up, and tells me, that all the military stores yet remain in Philadelphia. This makes the immediate fortifying of the city so necessary, that I have desired General Mifflin to return to take charge of the stores; and have ordered Major-General Putnam immediately down to superintend the works and give the necessary directions.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Trenton Falls, 10 December, 1776.
I last night received your favor by Colonel Humpton, and were it not for the weak and feeble state of the force I have, I should highly approve of your hanging on the rear of the enemy, and establishing the post you mention; but when my situation is directly the opposite of what you suppose it to be, and when General Howe is pressing forward with the whole of his army (except the troops that were lately embarked, and a few besides left at New York), to possess himself of Philadelphia, I cannot but request and entreat you, and this too by the advice of all the general officers with me, to march and join me with your whole force with all possible expedition. The utmost exertions, that can be made, will not be more than sufficient to save Philadelphia. Without the aid of your force I think there is but little if any prospect of doing it. I refer you to the route, Major Hoops would inform you of.
The enemy are now extended along the Delaware at several places. By a prisoner, who was taken last night, I am told, that at Pennington there are two battalions of infantry, three of grenadiers, the Hessian grenadiers, the forty-second of Highlanders, and two others. Their object doubtless is to pass the river above us, or to prevent your joining me. I mention this, that you may avail yourself of the information. Do come on; your arrival may be happy, and, if it can be effected without delay, it may be the means of preserving a city, whose loss must prove of the most fatal consequence to the cause of America. I am, &c.1
P. S. Pray exert your influence, and bring with you all the Jersey militia you possibly can. Let them not suppose their State is lost, or in any danger, because the enemy are pushing through it. If you think General St. Clair, or General Maxwell, would be of service to command them, I would send either.1
TO LUND WASHINGTON.
Falls of Delaware,South Side,
* * * * * *
I wish to Heaven it was in my power to give you a more favorable account of our situation than it is. Our numbers, quite inadequate to the task of opposing that part of the army under the command of General Howe, being reduced by sickness, desertion, and political deaths (on or before the first instant, and having no assistance from the militia), were obliged to retire before the enemy, who were perfectly well informed of our situation, till we came to this place, where I have no idea of being able to make a stand, as my numbers, till joined by the Philadelphia militia, did not exceed three thousand men fit for duty. Now we may be about five thousand to oppose Howe’s whole army, that part of it excepted which sailed under the command of Gen. Clinton. I tremble for Philadelphia. Nothing, in my opinion, but Gen. Lee’s speedy arrival, who has been long expected, though still at a distance (with about three thousand men), can save it. We have brought over and destroyed all the boats we could lay our hands on upon the Jersey shore for many miles above and below this place; but it is next to impossible to guard a shore for sixty miles, with less than half the enemy’s numbers; when by force or strategem they may suddenly attempt a passage in many different places. At present they are encamped or quartered along the other shore above and below us (rather this place, for we are obliged to keep a face towards them) for fifteen miles. * * *
December 17, ten miles above the Falls.
* * * I have since moved up to this place, to be more convenient to our great and extensive defences of this river. Hitherto, by our destruction of the boats, and vigilance in watching the fords of the river above the falls (which are now rather high), we have prevented them from crossing; but how long we shall be able to do it God only knows, as they are still hovering about the river. And if every thing else fails, will wait till the 1st of January, when there will be no other men to oppose them but militia, none of which but those from Philadelphai, mentioned in the first part of the letter, are yet come (although I am told some are expected from the back counties). When I say none but militia, I am to except the Virginia regiments and the shattered remains of Smallwood’s, which, by fatigue, want of clothes, &c., are reduced to nothing—Weedon’s, which was the strongest, not having more than between one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty men fit for duty, the rest being in the hospitals. The unhappy policy of short enlistments and a dependence upon militia will, I fear, prove the downfall of our cause, though early pointed out with an almost prophetic spirit! Our cause has also received a severe blow in the captivity of Gen. Lee. Unhappy man! Taken by his own imprudence, going three or four miles from his own camp, and within twenty of the enemy, notice of which by a rascally Tory was given a party of light horse seized him in the morning after travelling all night, and carried him off in high triumph and with every mark of indignity, not even suffering him to get his hat or surtout coat. The troops that were under his command are not yet come up with us, though they, I think, may be expected to-morrow. A large part of the Jerseys have given every proof of disaffection that they can do, and this part of Pennsylvania are equally inimical. In short, your imagination can scarce extend to a situation more distressing than mine. Our only dependence now is upon the speedy enlistment of a new army. If this fails, I think the game will be pretty well up, as, from disaffection and want of spirit and fortitude, the inhabitants, instead of resistance, are offering submission and taking protection from Gen. Howe in Jersey. * * * I am &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Falls of Delaware,
After I had wrote you yesterday, I received certain information that the Enemy after repairing Crosswicks Bridge, had advanced a party of about five hundred to Borden Town. By their taking this route, it confirms me in my opinion, that they have an intention to land between this and Philadelphia as well as above, if they can procure boats for the purpose. I last night directed Commodore Seymour to station all his gallies between Bordentown and Philadelphia, to give the earliest intelligence of any appearance of the Enemy on the Jersey Shore.2
I yesterday rode up the river about 11 miles to Lord Stirling’s post, where I found a prisoner of the 42d Regiment who had been just brought in. He informs me, that Lord Cornwallis was at Penny Town with two battalions of grenadiers and three of light infantry, all British, the Hessian grenadiers, the 42d Highland Regiment, and two other battalions, the names of which he did not remember. He knew nothing of the reasons of their being assembled there, nor what were their future intentions; but I last night received information from my Lord Stirling, which had been brought in by his Scouts, which in some measure accounts for their being there. They had made a forced march from Trenton on Sunday night to Coryell’s Ferry in hopes of surprising a sufficient number of boats to transport them, but finding themselves disappointed, had marched back to Penny Town, where they remained yesterday. From their several attempts to seize boats, it does not look as if they had brought any with them, as I was at one time informed. I last night sent a person over to Trenton to learn whether there was any appearance of building any, but he could not perceive any preparations for a Work of that kind. So that I am in hopes, if proper Care is taken to keep all the craft out of their way, they will find the crossing Delaware a matter of considerable Difficulty.
I received another Letter from General Lee last Evening. It was dated at Chatham (which I take to be near Morris Town) the 8th of this month, he had then received my Letter sent by Major Hoops, but seemed still inclined to hang upon the Enemy’s rear, to which I should have no objection, had I a sufficient force to oppose them in front; but as I have not at present, nor do I see much probability of further reinforcement, I have wrote to him in the most pressing terms, to join me with all Expedition.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Trenton Falls, 12 December, 1776.
I last night received the favor of Mr. Thomson’s letter, enclosing the proceedings of Congress, of the 11th instant. As the publication of their resolve, in my opinion, will not lead to any good end, but, on the contrary, may be attended with some bad consequences, I shall take the liberty to decline inserting it in this day’s orders. I am persuaded, if the subject is taken up and reconsidered, that Congress will concur with me in sentiment. I doubt not, but there are some, who have propagated the report; but what if they have? Their remaining in or leaving Philadelphia must be governed by circumstances and events. If their departure should become necessary, it will be right; on the other hand, if there should not be a necessity for it, they will remain, and their continuance will show the report to be the production of calumny and falsehood. In a word, Sir, I conceive it a matter, that may be as well disregarded; and that the removal or staying of Congress, depending entirely upon events, should not have been the subject of a resolve.1
The intelligence we obtain respecting the movements and situation of the enemy is far from being so certain and satisfactory, as I could wish, though every probable means in my power, and that I can devise, are adopted for that purpose.
The latest I have received was from Lord Stirling last night. He says that two grenadiers of the Ines-killing Regiment, who were taken and brought in by some Countrymen, inform that Gens. Howe, Cornwallis, Vaughan, &c., with about 6000 of the flying army, were at Penny Town waiting for pontoons to come up, with which they mean to pass the river near the Blue Mounts, or at Coryells Ferry, they believe the latter. That the two battalions, of guards now at Brunswick and the Hessian Grenadiers, Chasseurs and a regiment or two of British troops are at Trenton. Captain Miller, of Colonel Hand’s regiment also informs me, that a body of the Enemy were marching to Burlington on yesterday morning. He had been sent over with a strong scouting party, and at daybreak fell in with their advanced guards, consisting of about 400 Hessian troops, who fired upon him before they were discovered, but without any loss, and obliged him to retreat with his party, and to take boat. The number of the whole he could not ascertain, but they appeared to be considerable. Captain Miller’s account is partly confirmed by Commodore Seymour who reports that four or five hundred of the Enemy had entered the town.
Upon the whole there can be no doubt, but that Philadelphia is their object, and that they will pass the Delaware as soon as possible. Happy should I be, if I could see the means of preventing them; at present I confess I do not. All military writers agree, that it is a work of great difficulty, nay impracticable, where there is any extent of coast to guard. This is the case with us; and we have to do it with a force, small and inconsiderable, and much inferior to that of the enemy. Perhaps Congress have some hope and prospect of reinforcements. I have no intelligence of the sort, and wish to be informed on the subject. Our little handful is daily decreasing by sickness and other causes; and, without aid, without considerable succors and exertions on the part of the people, what can we reasonably look for, or expect, but an event that will be severely felt by the common cause, and that will wound the heart of every virtuous American, the loss of Philadelphia? The subject is disagreeable; but yet it is true. I will leave it, wishing that our situation may become such as to do away the apprehensions, which at this time seem to fill the minds of too many, and with too much justice. By a letter from General Heath, dated at Peekskill, the 8th, I am advised that Lieutenant-Colonel Vose was then there with Greaton’s, Bond’s, and Porter’s regiments, amounting in the whole to between five and six hundred men, who were coming this way. He adds, that Generals Gates and Arnold would be at Goshen that night, with Stark’s, Poor’s, and Read’s regiments; but for what purpose, he does not mention.
The enclosed extract of a Letter which I received last night contains intelligence of an agreeable nature. I wish to hear its confirmation by the arrival of the several prizes. That with Clothing and arms will be an invaluable acquisition.
I shall be glad to be advised of the mode I am to observe in paying the Officers, whether they are to be allowed to draw the pay lately established and from what time or how long they are to be paid under the old establishment. A pay roll which was presented yesterday being made up for the New, has given rise to these propositions. Upon my objecting to it, I was told that Congress or the Board of War, had established the precedent by paying the 6th Regiment of Virginia troops commanded by Colo. Buckner, agreeable to the latter, as they came thro’ Philadelphia. I have the honor, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
I was a few days ago favored with yours of the 30th of last month; and this is the first opportunity, that has afforded me the pleasure of answering it. The event has shown, that my opinion of General Howe’s intentions to make an excursion into Jersey was not ill founded. Immediately after the reduction of Fort Washington, he threw a body of men, consisting of about six thousand, over the North River, with an intention to surprise the garrison of Fort Lee; but they withdrew before he could accomplish his purpose. Finding the few troops I had with me insufficient to oppose the enemy, and knowing that my numbers would still be diminished by the expiration of the service of the Flying Camp men from Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, which would take place on the last day of November, it was determined to retreat as far as Brunswic, where I hoped to receive a reinforcement from the militia of the State of New Jersey, sufficient to check the further progress of the enemy. But in this I was cruelly disappointed. The inhabitants of this State, either from fear or disaffection, almost to a man, refused to turn out; and I could not bring together above one thousand men; and even on these very little dependence was to be put. My numbers were now reduced to three thousand men, and that of the enemy considerably increased by fresh reinforcements. I had sent General Mifflin down to Philadelphia, to raise what force he could in that province, and to send them on with all speed to my assistance. I fell down myself to Trenton, in order to wait for supplies, hoping that such numbers would come on from Pennsylvania as would enable me to turn upon the enemy, and recover most of the ground, which they had gained. General Mifflin was very successful with the militia of Philadelphia, who turned out in a very spirited manner, and he immediately marched about fifteen hundred men up to Trenton; but the remainder of the province continues in a state of supineness; nor do I see any likelihood of their stirring to save their own capital, which is undoubtedly General Howe’s great object.1
The Delaware now parts the two armies; and nothing hinders the passage of the enemy, but the want of boats, which we have been lucky enough to secure. General Lee is still in the rear of the enemy, with about four thousand men, with whom he is on his march to join me. If he can effect this junction, our army will again make a respectable appearance, and such as, I hope, will disappoint the enemy in their plan upon Philadelphia. I sent down General Putnam, a few days ago, to begin upon some works for the defence of that city, upon the salvation of which our cause almost depends. I am informed, that the enlistment of the new army goes on very successfully to the eastward and southward. Little or nothing can be expected from New York or Jersey, which are, for the most part, in the hands of the enemy. Every thing must depend upon the regular force we can bring into the field in the spring; for I find, from fatal experience, that militia serve only to delude us.
As my distance from the eastern governments makes me ignorant of their present circumstances, I will not undertake to direct the disposition of the four regiments, you have ordered to be raised till the 15th of March. I would only recommend, if they can be spared, that they should march and take post at the Highlands and at the forts upon the North River, as much depends still upon keeping possession of the upper part of that river. I highly approve of your plan for supplying your new army with necessaries. Our old one has suffered considerably for the want of some such wholesome regulations; and you may depend upon my giving due countenance to such a commendable scheme. I am, with great truth and sincerity, Sir, yours, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
The apparent designs of the enemy being to avoid this ferry, and land their troops above and below us, have induced me to remove from this place the greater part of the troops, and throw them into a different disposition on the river; whereby, I hope not only to be more able to impede their passage, but also to avoid the danger of being inclosed in this angle of the river. And notwithstanding the extended appearances of the Enemy on the other side, made at least in part, to divert our Attention from any particular point, as well as to harrass us by fatigue, I cannot divest myself of the opinion, that their principal design is to ford the river somewhere above Trenton; to which design I have had particular respect in the new arrangement, wherein I am so far happy as to have the Concurrence of the general officers at this place.
Four Brigades of the Army under Generals Lord Stirling, Mercer, Stephen and DeFermoy extend from Yardley’s up to Coryells Ferry, posted in such a manner as to guard every suspicious part of the river and to afford assistance to each other in case of attack. Genl. Ewing with the Flying Camp of Pennsylvania, and a few Jersey troops, under General Dickinson, are posted from Yardley’s Ferry down to the ferry opposite Bordentown. Colo. Cadwalader, with the Pennsylvania Militia, occupies the ground above and below the mouth of Neshaminy River as far down as Dunk’s Ferry, at which place Colonel Nixon is posted with the 3d Battalion of Philadelphia. A proper quantity of the artillery is appointed to each brigade, and I have ordered small redoubts to be thrown up opposite every place where there is a possibility of fording.
I shall remove further up the River to be near the Main Body of my Small Army, with which every possible opposition shall be given to any further approach of the Enemy towards Philadelphia.
As Genl. Armstrong has a good deal of influence in this State and our present force is small and inconsiderable, I think he cannot be better employed than to repair to the Counties where his interest lies to animate the people, promote the recruiting Service and encourage the Militia to come in. He will also be able to form a proper Judgment of the places suitable for magazines of provision to be collected. I have requested him to wait upon Congress on this subject, and if Genl. Smallwood should go to Maryland on the same business, I think it would have a happy effect. He is popular and of great influence, and I am persuaded would contribute greatly to that States furnishing her Quota of men in a little time. He is now in Philadelphia. I have &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Head-Quarters, atKeith’s, 14 December, 1776.
Before this comes to hand, you will have heard of the melancholy situation of our affairs. I do not mean now to detail our misfortunes. With a handful of men, compared to the enemy’s force, we have been pushed through the Jerseys, without being able to make the smallest opposition, and compelled to pass the Delaware. General Howe is now on the other side, and beyond all question means, if possible, to possess himself of Philadelphia. His troops are extended from Pennington to Burlington; the main body, from the best advices, at the former, and within the neighborhood of Trenton. I wish it were in my power to tell you, that appearances were much against him; at present I confess they are not. But few of the militia of this State have yet come out, except those belonging to the city, nor have I any great hope of their assistance, unless we can collect a respectable force; in such case perhaps they will turn out and afford their aid. I have heard, that you are coming on with seven regiments. This may have a happy effect, and let me entreat you not to delay a moment in hastening to Pittstown. You will advise me of your approaches, and of the time you expect to be there, that I may meet you with an express, and inform you of your destination, and such further movements as may be necessary.
I expect General Lee will be there this evening or to-morrow, who will be followed by General Heath and his division. If we can draw our forces together, I trust, under the smiles of Providence, we may yet effect an important stroke, or at least prevent General Howe from executing his plans. Philadelphia is now the object of our care; you know the importance of it, and the fatal consequences, that must attend its loss. I am persuaded no aid, which you can give, will be withheld a single instant; your arrival may be a most happy circumstance. The Congress have adjourned to Baltimore, but previously resolved that Philadelphia should be defended to the last extremity. Lord Stirling is going over to meet General Lee, and concert with him a plan of operations. I wish you could be there, and would advise you not to wait the slow march of your troops. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERALS LORD STIRLING, MERCER, STEPHEN, AND DE FERMOY.
Head-Quarters, atKeith’s, 14 December, 1776.
Lest the enemy should in some degree avail themselves of the knowledge (for I do not doubt but they are well informed of every thing we do), I did not care to be so particular in the general orders of this day, as I mean to be in this letter to you. As much time, then, would be lost, should the enemy attempt crossing the river at any pass within your guard, in first sending you notice, and in the troops to wait for orders what to do, I would advise you to examine the whole river from the upper to the lower guard of your district; and, after forming an opinion of the most probable crossing-places, have those well watched, and direct the regiments or companies most convenient to repair, as they can be formed, immediately to the point of attack, and give the enemy all the opposition they possibly can. Every thing in a manner depends upon the defence at the water’s edge. In like manner, one brigade is to support another, without loss of time, or waiting for orders from me. I would also have you fix upon some central spot convenient to your brigade, but in the rear a little, and on some road leading into the back road to Philadelphia, for your unnecessary baggage, wagons, and stores; that, in case your opposition should prove ineffectual, these things may not fall [into the enemy’s hands] but be got off, and proceed over Neshaminy Bridge towards Germantown, agreeably to the determination of the board of officers the other day.
Let me entreat you to find out some person, who can be engaged to cross the river as a spy, that we may, if possible, obtain some knowledge of the enemy’s situation, movements, and intention. Particular inquiry to be made by the person sent, if any preparations are making to cross the river; whether any boats are building, and where; whether any are coming over land from Brunswic; whether any great collection of horses is made, and for what purpose. Expense must not be spared in procuring such intelligence, and it will readily be paid by me. We are in a neighborhood of very disaffected people. Equal care therefore should be taken, that one of these persons does not undertake the business in order to betray us. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
I was last night favored with yours of the 6th instant. In a letter, which I did myself the pleasure to write to you two days ago, I gave you a full account of my present situation, and of the occurrences, which have happened since I left the neighborhood of Fort Lee. The want of the means of transportation has hitherto hindered the enemy from making any attempt to cross the Delaware; and, I hope, unless the course of the season entirely changes, that the weather will soon prevent their making use of boats, if they should build them.
Your situation at the eastward is alarming; and I wish it were in my power to afford you that assistance, which is requisite.1 You must be sensible, that it is impossible for me to detach any part of my small army, when I have an enemy far superior in numbers to oppose. But I have immediately countermanded the march of General Heath’s division, who were coming down from Peekskill. It is ordered to return again to that place, and hold itself ready to move, as occasion may require. General Lee’s division is so necessary to support this part of the army, that without its assistance we must inevitably be overpowered, and Philadelphia lost. I have ordered General Arnold, who was on his way down from Ticonderoga, immediately to repair to New London, or wherever his presence will be most necessary. The troops, who came down with him and General Gates, are already, from the advices I have received, so far advanced towards this army, that to countermand them now would be losing the small remainder of their services entirely, as the time of their enlistment would expire before they could possibly reach you; whereas, by coming on they may, in conjunction with my present force, and that under General Lee, enable us to attempt a stroke upon the forces of the enemy, who lie a good deal scattered, and to all appearances in a state of security. A lucky blow in this quarter would be fatal to them, and would most certainly rouse the spirits of the people, which are quite sunk by our late misfortunes.
In the interval between the dissolution of the old and the enlistment of the new army, we must put our dependence on the public spirit and virtue of the people, who, I am sorry to say, have manifested but too small a regard to their rights and liberties in the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the citizens of Philadelphia excepted. But I hope such a spirit still exists among your people, as will convince these bold invaders, that, although they may by a superior naval force take possession of your seaport towns, yet, that they cannot penetrate and overrun your country with impunity.
I have the honor to be, with great respect and esteem, Sir, &c.
P. S. I have just received a letter from General Heath of the 10th instant, in which he informs me, that his division was to cross the North River on that day; so that they must be at Morristown by this time, which is but fifty miles from hence. Upon this consideration, I have changed my intention of countermanding him, for the same reasons as are given in my letter above, respecting the troops under Generals Gates and Arnold.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Head-Quarters, atKeith’s, 14 December, 1776.
I last night received your letter of the 11th instant by Major Dehart. I am much surprised, that you should be in any doubt respecting the route you should take, after the information you have had upon that head, as well by letter, as from Major Hoops, who was despatched for the purpose. A large number of boats was procured, and is still retained at Tinicum, under a strong guard, to facilitate your passage across the Delaware. I have so frequently mentioned our situation, and the necessity of your aid, that it is painful to me to add a word upon the subject. Let me once more request and entreat you to march immediately for Pittstown, which lies on the route that has been pointed out, and is about eleven miles from Tinicum Ferry. That is more on the flank of the enemy, than where you are. Advise me of the time you will arrive there, that a letter may be sent to you about your further destination, and such other movements as may be necessary.
The enclosed for Generals Gates and Arnold you will forward by an officer without delay. The former I have requested to come on with the regiments under his command with all possible expedition; the latter to go to the eastward, in consequence of the intelligence received from Governor Trumbull. Part of the enemy have advanced as far as Burlington, and their main body, from the best information, is in the neighborhood of Trenton and at Pennington. The Congress have adjourned from Philadelphia to meet at Baltimore, on the 20th instant, and, sensible of the importance of the former, have directed it to be defended to the utmost extremity to prevent the enemy from possessing it. The fatal consequences that must attend its loss are but too obvious to every one. Your arrival may be the means of saving it. Nothing but a respectable force, I am certain from melancholy experience, can induce the militia to come in and give their aid. The Roebuck and a sloop of war have arrived in Delaware Bay, and from the last advices were lying not far within the Capes. I have wrote to General Heath to proceed with his troops to Pittstown, where I hope to hear of the arrival of General Gates with the regiments that are with him in a short time, if my information is true. I am, &c.1
TO THE COUNCIL OF SAFETY OF PENNSYLVANIA.
With the utmost regret, I must inform you of the loss our army has sustained by the captivity of General Lee, who was made a prisoner on the morning of the 13th by a party of seventy of the enemy’s light-horse, near a place called Vealtown, in the Jerseys. For the particulars, I refer you to the enclosed from General Sullivan. The spirit of disaffection, that appears in this country, I think deserves your serious attention. Instead of giving any assistance in repelling the enemy, the militia have not only refused to obey your general summons and that of their commanding officers, but, I am told, exult at the approach of the enemy, and on our late misfortunes. I beg leave, therefore, to submit to your consideration, whether such people are to be trusted with arms in their hands. If they will not use them for us, there is the greatest reason to apprehend they will against us, if opportunity offers. But, even supposing they claimed a right of remaining neuter, in my opinion we ought not to hesitate a moment in taking their arms, which will be so much wanted in furnishing the new levies. If such a step meet your approbation, I leave to you to determine upon the mode. If you think fit to empower me, I will undertake to have it done as speedily and effectually as possible. You must be sensible, that the utmost secrecy is necessary, both in your deliberations on, and in the execution of, a matter of this kind; for, if the thing should take wind, the arms would presently be conveyed beyond our reach, or rendered useless.
Your favors of the 13th and 14th Inst. are this moment come to my hands. I am glad to find from the latter that the militia of Lancaster county are in motion; and I am in hopes, that General Mifflin’s appearance in the different counties will have as good an effect as it had in Philadelphia. I have received information, that the body of the enemy, which lay at Pennington under Lord Cornwallis, moved this morning back towards Princeton. If so, it looks as if they were going into winter-quarters; and this corresponds with the account brought last night by a prisoner, a servant belonging to General Vaughan’s family, who says, that he heard his master talk of going soon into winter-quarters. The troops, who lay at Trenton, are likewise filing off towards Allentown and Bordentown with their baggage, which makes me conjecture they are taking the road to South Amboy. I have a number of small parties out to make discoveries; and, if the motions of the enemy are really such as I have mentioned above, I shall soon have information of it. In the mean time, my troops are so stationed, as to prevent them from crossing the river at any place without our knowledge. But I am in great hopes, that the disappointment in boats and the lateness of the season, which now begins to put on the face of winter, will prevent their making any attempt on Philadelphia till spring. This, however, should not in the least slacken your exertions in making the necessary preparations for the fortification and defence of the city by land and water; for you may be assured that will be their first and great object in the spring. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Keith’s, 15 December, 1776.
About one o’clock to-day I received a Letter from Genl. Sullivan, a Copy of which you have inclosed. I will not comment on the melancholy intelligence, which it contains, only adding, that I sincerely regret Genl. Lee’s unhappy fate, and feel much for the loss of my Country in his Captivity.
In respect to the Enemy, they have been industrious in their attempts to procure Boats and small craft, but as yet their efforts have not succeeded. From the latest advices that I have of their movements by some prisoners and others, they appear to be leaving Trenton and to be filing off towards Princeton and Allen Town. What their designs are, whether they mean to retreat or only a feint, cannot be determined.1 I have parties out to watch their motions, and to form if possible, an accurate opinion of their plans. Our force since my last, has received no augmentation; of course by sickness and other causes, has diminished; but I am advised by a letter from the Council of Safety which just came to hand, that Cols. Burd and Galbraeth are marching with their Battalion of Militia and also that some small parties are assembling in Cumberland County.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, at Keith’s, 16 December, 1776.
In a late letter, which I had the honor of addressing you, I took the liberty to recommend, that more battalions should be raised for the new army, than what had been voted. Having fully considered the matter, I am more and more convinced, not only of the propriety, but of the necessity of the measure. That the enemy will leave nothing unessayed, in the course of the next campaign, to reduce these States to the rule of a most lawless and insufferable tyranny, must be obvious to every one; and that the militia are not to be depended on, or aid expected from them but in cases of the most pressing emergency, is not to be doubted. The first of these propositions is unquestionable, and fatal experience has given her sanction to the truth of the latter. Indeed, their lethargy of late, and backwardness to turn out at this alarming crisis, seem to justify an apprehension, that nothing can bring them from their homes. For want of their assistance, a large part of Jersey has been exposed to ravage and to plunder; nor do I know that Pennsylvania would share a better fate, could General Howe effect a passage across the Delaware with a respectable force. These considerations have induced me to wish, that no reliance, except such as may arise from necessity, should ever be had in them again; and to make further mention to Congress of the expediency of increasing their army. I trust the measure will meet with their earliest attention.
Had I leisure and were it necessary, I could say much upon this head; but, as I have not, and the matter is well understood, I will not add much. By augmenting the number of your battalions, you will augment your force; the officers of each will have their interest and influence; and, upon the whole, their numbers will be much greater, though they should not be complete. Added to this, from the present confused state of Jersey, and the improper appointment of officers in many instances, I have little or no expectation that she will be able to raise all the troops exacted from her, though I think it might be done, were suitable spirited gentlemen commissioned, who would exert themselves, and encourage the people, many of whom (from a failure in this instance, and who are well disposed) are making their submission. In a word, the next will be a trying campaign; and as all that is dear and valuable may depend upon the issue of it, I would advise, that nothing should be omitted, that shall seem necessary to our success. Let us have a respectable army, and such as will be competent to every exigency. I will also add, that the critical situation of our affairs, and the dissolution of our present force, now at hand, require, that every nerve and exertion be employed for recruiting the new battalions. One part of General Howe’s movements at this time, I believe, is with a design to distract us and prevent this business. If the inclemency of the weather should force him into winter-quarters, he will not remain there longer than necessity shall oblige him; he will commence his operations in a short space of time; and in that time our levies must be made up, to oppose him, or I fear the most melancholy of all events must take place. * * *
The Cloathing of the Troops is a matter of infinite importance, and if it could be accomplished, would have a happy effect. Their distresses are extremely great, many of ’em being entirely naked and most so thinly clad as to be unfit for service. I must entreat Congress to write to the Agents and Contractors upon this subject, that every possible supply may be procured and forwarded with the utmost expedition. I cannot attend to the business myself, having more than I can possibly do besides.1
TO LIEUTENANT-GENERAL HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 17 December, 1776.
I would beg leave to recall your attention to the proposition for the exchange of prisoners, in the several letters I have lately written on that subject, and to inform you, that I have not received such officers in exchange as were requested by me. I am persuaded, Sir, that this mistake has arisen from Mr. Commissary Loring’s1 zeal to facilitate the business; but I would at the same time desire that you would give him orders, whenever any of your officers are sent in by me, not to send others in exchange, till he is furnished with a list from me, of such as I would choose to prefer, which shall always be done as soon as possible. For as the prisoners seldom pass my head-quarters on their way, it is not in my power to transmit such lists by them, without occasioning their delay. If this mode is not complied with in future, I shall be under the disagreeable necessity of stopping others from going in, as my ideas and expectations are by no means answered by what has happened.2
I enclose you a list of 7 officers who were sent in from Bristol on the 14th and of two Officers and two privates who accompany the present flag. As the remainder of all those who were in the state of Pennsylvania are on the Road and expected here daily, I shall defer making a demand of those I would chuse in Exchange till the whole come up.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
By a letter just received from the State of Massachusetts, (copy of which you have enclosed) I find that they had ordered six thousand militia to be immediately raised, and appointed the place of rendezvous at Danbury in Connecticut, where they are to meet General Lincoln, who is to take the command. You will perceive from the tenor of the letter, that the appearance of the men of war and transports off the coast of New England did not seem to alter their intention of sending the militia forward; but I am inclined to think, if the descent should really be made, they will find employ for them nearer home. If this considerable reinforcement should arrive with you, I do not know how you could better employ them, or render more essential service to the cause, than, after keeping a sufficient force to guard the passes of the Highlands, by throwing such a number over into Jersey, as would cover the upper parts of that province, and afford such support and assistance to the well affected, as would encourage them to join you and keep the enemy within straiter bounds than they are at present. You may depend, that the great end they have in view is to spread themselves over as much country as they possibly can, and thereby strike a damp into the spirits of the people, which will effectually put a stop to the new enlistment of the army, on which all our hopes depend, and which they will most vigorously strive to effect. To carry this plan into execution, they have already extended themselves as far westward as the Delaware, and if the whole of your army continues on the east side of Hudson’s River, they will have possession of all the country between that river and the Delaware, which includes the whole province of Jersey and part of New York. As soon as you find yourself in a situation to send a force into the upper parts of Jersey, I would have you immediately communicate your intentions to the people, with assurances that you will be ready to back and support them in any movements, which they may make in your favor. I am certain, that the defection of the people in the lower part of Jersey has been as much owing to the want of an army to look the enemy in the face, as to any other cause, though to be sure neither cost nor pains has been spared to influence them against us.
Whatever steps you take in this affair, I would wish you to consult and coöperate with General Lincoln, of whose judgment and abilities I entertain a very high opinion. I would just add, that your attention should likewise be paid to the country between Peekskill and Kingsbridge, by affording some protection and countenance to the people there, from whom you may draw supplies and perhaps some men for the new army. Particular attention should be paid to the bridge at Croton River, which secures your front. I enclose to you a letter for General Lincoln, which please to forward to him wherever he may be. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.1
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Camp, near the Falls of Trenton,
Owing to the number of letters I write, the recollection of any particular one is destroyed, but I think my last to you was by Colonel Woodford, from Hackinsac. Since that time, and a little before, our affairs have taken an adverse turn, but not more than was to be expected from the unfortunate measures, which had been adopted for the establishment of our army. The Retreat of the Enemy from the White Plains led me to think, that they would turn their thoughts to the Jerseys, if no farther, and induced me to cross the North River with some of the Troops, in order if possible to oppose them. I expected to have met at least five thousand men of the Flying Camp and militia; instead of which I found less than one half of that number, and no disposition in the Inhabitants to afford the least aid. This being perfectly well known to the Enemy, they threw over a large body of Troops, which pushed us from place to place, till we were obliged to cross the Delaware with less than three thousand men fit for duty, owing to the dissolution of our force by short Enlistments; the Enemy’s numbers, from the best accounts, exceeding ten or twelve thousand men.
Before I removed to the south side of the river, I had all the Boats and other Vessels brought over, or destroyed, from Philadelphia upwards for seventy miles, and, by guarding the Fords, I have, as yet, baffled all their attempts to cross. But, from some late movement of theirs, I am left in doubt whether they are moving off for Winter-Quarters, or making a feint to throw us off our guard. Since I came on this side, I have been joined by about two thousand of the city militia, and I understand, that some of the country militia, (from the back counties,) are on their way. But we are in a very disaffected part of the Province; and, between you and me, I think our affairs are in a very bad situation; not so much from the apprehension of General Howe’s army, as from the defection of New York, Jerseys, and Pennsylvania. In short, the conduct of the Jerseys has been most Infamous. Instead of turning out to defend their country, & affording aid to our army, they are making their submissions as fast as they can. If the Jerseys had given us any support, we might have made a stand at Hackinsac, and after that at Brunswic; but the few militia, that were in arms, disbanded themselves & left the poor remains of our army to make the best we could of it.
I have no doubt but General Howe will still make an attempt upon Philadelphia this winter. I see nothing to oppose him a fortnight hence, as the time of all the troops, except those of Virginia reduced (almost to nothing,) and Smallwood’s Regiment of Maryland, equally as bad, will expire in less than that time. In a word, my dear Sir, if every nerve is not strained to recruit the new army with all possible expedition, I think the game is pretty near up, owing, in a great measure, to the insidious arts of the Enemy, and disaffection of the colonies before mentioned, but principally to the accursed policy of short enlistments, and placing too great a dependence on the militia, the evil consequences of which were foretold fifteen months ago, with a spirit almost Prophetic. Before this reaches you, you will no doubt have heard of the captivity of General Lee. This is an additional misfortune, and the more vexatious, as it was by his own folly and Imprudence, (and without a view to answer any good,) he was taken, going three miles out of his own camp, and within twenty of the enemy to lodge, a rascally Tory rid in the night to give notice of it to the enemy, who sent a party of light-Horse that seized and carried him, with every mark of triumph and indignity.
You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation. No man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties, and less means to extricate himself from them. However, under a full persuasion of the justice of our cause, I cannot entertain an Idea, that it will finally sink, tho’ it may remain for some time under a cloud.
My love and sincere regards attend my sister and the family, with compliments to all inquiring friends. With every sentiment of friendship, as well as love, I am your most affectionate brother.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, above Trenton Falls,
I have waited with much impatience to know the determination of Congress on the propositions, made some time in October last, for augmenting our corps of artillery,2 and establishing a corps of engineers. The time is now come, when the first cannot be delayed without the greatest injury to the safety of these States; and, therefore, under the resolution of Congress bearing date the 12th instant, at the repeated instance of Colonel Knox, and by the pressing advice of all the general officers now here, I have ventured to order three battalions of artillery to be immediately recruited. These are two less than Colonel Knox recommends, as you will see by his plan enclosed; but then this scheme comprehends all the United States, whereas some of the States have corps already established, and these three battalions are indispensably necessary for the operations in this quarter, including the northern department.
The pay of our artillerists bearing no proportion to that in the English and French service, the murmuring and dissatisfaction thereby occasioned, the absolute impossibility, as I am told, of getting them upon the old terms, and the unavoidable necessity of obtaining them at all events, have induced me, also by advice, to promise officers and men, that their pay shall be augmented twenty-five per cent, or that their engagements shall become null and void. This may appear to Congress premature and unwarrantable. But, Sir, if they view our situation in the light it strikes their officers, they will be convinced of the utility of the measure, and that the execution could not be delayed till after their meeting at Baltimore. In short, the present exigency of our affairs will not admit of delay, either in council or the field; for well convinced I am, that, if the enemy go into quarters at all, it will be for a short season. But I rather think the design of General Howe is to possess himself of Philadelphia this winter, if possible; and in truth I do not see what is to prevent him, as ten days more will put an end to the existence of our army. That one great point is to keep us as much harassed as possible, with a view to injure the recruiting service and hinder a collection of stores and other necessaries for the next campaign, I am as clear in, as I am of my existence. If, therefore, we have to provide in the short interval and make these great and arduous preparations, every matter that in its nature is self-evident is to be referred to Congress, at the distance of a hundred and thirty or forty miles, so much time must necessary elapse, as to defeat the end in view.
In may be said, that this is an application for powers that are too dangerous to be entrusted. I can only add, that desperate diseases require desperate remedies; and I with truth declare, that I have no lust after power, but I wish with as much fervency as any man upon this wide-extended continent for an opportunity of turning the sword into the ploughshare. But my feelings, as an officer and a man, have been such as to force me to say, that no person ever had a greater choice of difficulties to contend with than I have. It is needless to add, that short enlistments, and a mistaken dependence upon militia, have been the origin of all our misfortunes, and the great accumulation of our debt. We find, Sir, that the enemy are daily gathering strength from the disaffected. This strength, like a snow-ball by rolling, will increase, unless some means can be devised to check effectually the progress of the enemy’s arms. Militia may possibly do it for a little while; but in a little while, also, and the militia of those States, which have been frequently called upon, will not turn out at all; or, if they do, it will be with so much reluctance and sloth, as to amount to the same thing. Instance New Jersey! Witness Pennsylvania! Could any thing but the river Delaware have saved Philadelphia? Can any thing (the exigency of the case indeed may justify it) be more destructive to the recruiting service, than giving ten dollars’ bounty for six weeks’ service of the militia, who come in, you cannot tell how, go, you cannot tell when, and act, you cannot tell where, consume your provisions, exhaust your stores, and leave you at last at a critical moment?
These, Sir, are the men I am to depend upon, ten days hence; this is the basis, on which your cause will and must for ever depend, till you get a large standing army sufficient of itself to oppose the enemy. I therefore beg leave to give it as my humble opinion, that eighty-eight battalions are by no means equal to the opposition you are to make, and that a moment’s time is not to be lost in raising a greater number, not less, in my opinion and the opinion of my officers, than a hundred and ten. It may be urged that it will be found difficult enough to complete the first number. This may be true, and yet the officers of a hundred and ten battalions will recruit many more men, than those of eighty-eight. In my judgment this is not a time to stand upon expense; our funds are not the only object of consideration. The State of New York have added one battalion (I wish they had made it two) to their quota. If any good officers will offer to raise men upon Continental pay and establishment in this quarter, I shall encourage them to do so, and regiment them when they have done it. If Congress disapprove of this proceeding, they will please to signify it, as I mean it for the best. It may be thought that I am going a good deal out of the line of my duty, to adopt these measures, or to advise thus freely. A character to lose, an estate to forfeit, the inestimable blessing of liberty at stake, and a life devoted, must be my excuse.
I have heard nothing of the light-horse from Virginia, nor of the regiment from the Eastern Shore.1 I wish to know what troops are to act in the different departments, and to have those from the southward, designed for this place, ordered on as fast as they shall be raised. The route should be pointed out by which they are to march; assistant commissaries and quartermasters stationed upon the communication, to supply their wants; the first or second officer of each battalion should forward them, and the other should come on, receive, and form them at their place of destination. Unless this is immediately set about, the campaign, if it should be closed, will be opened in the spring before we have any men in the field. Every exertion should be used to procure tents; a clothier-general should be appointed without loss of time for supplying the army with every article in that way; he should be a man of business and abilities. A commissary of prisoners must be appointed to attend the army; for want of an officer of this kind, the exchange of prisoners has been conducted in a most shameful and injurious manner. We have had them from all quarters pushed into our camps at the most critical junctures, and without the least previous notice. We have had them travelling through the different States in all directions by certificates from committees, without any kind of control; and have had instances of some going into the enemy’s camp without my privity or knowledge, after passing in the manner before mentioned. There may be other officers necessary, whom I do not recollect at this time, and who, when thought of, must be provided; for this, Sir, you may rely on, that the commanding officer, under the present establishment, is obliged to attend to the business of so many different departments, as to render it impossible to conduct that of his own with the attention necessary; than which nothing can be more injurious.
In a former letter, I intimated my opinion of the necessity of having a brigadier for every three regiments, and a major-general to every three brigades, at most. I think no time is to be lost in making the appointments, that the arrangements may be consequent. This will not only aid the recruiting service, but will be the readiest means of forming and disciplining the army afterwards, which, in the short time we have to do it, is of amazing consequence. I have labored, ever since I have been in the service, to discourage all kinds of local attachments and distinctions of country, denominating the whole by the greater name of American, but I have found it impossible to overcome prejudices; and, under the new establishment, I conceive it best to stir up an emulation; in order to do which, would it not be better for each State to furnish, though not to appoint, their own brigadiers? This, if known to be part of the establishment, might prevent a good deal of contention and jealousy; and would, I believe, be the means of promotions going forward with more satisfaction, and quiet the higher officers.
Whilst I am speaking of promotions, I cannot help giving it as my opinion, that, if Congress think proper to confirm what I have done with respect to the corps of artillery, Colonel Knox, at present at the head of that department (but who, without promotion, will resign), ought to be appointed to the command of it, with the rank and pay of brigadier. I have also to mention, that, for want of some establishment in the department of engineers agreeably to the plan laid before Congress in October last, Colonel Putnam, who was at head of it, has quitted, and taken a regiment in the State of Massachusetts. I know of no other man tolerably well qualified for the conducting of that business. None of the French gentlemen, whom I have seen with appointments in that way, appear to me to know any thing of the matter. There is one in Philadelphia, who, I am told, is clever; but him I have never seen. I must also once more beg leave to mention to Congress the expediency of letting promotions be in a regimental line. The want of this has already driven some of the best officers, that were in your army, out of the service. From repeated and strict inquiry I am convinced, that you can adopt no mode of promotion that will be better received, or that will give more general satisfaction. I wish therefore to have it announced.
The casting of cannon is a matter, that ought not to be one moment delayed; and, therefore, I shall send Colonel Knox to put this in train, as also to have travelling-carriages and shot provided, and laboratories established, one in Hartford, and another in York. Magazines of provisions should also be laid in. These I shall fix with the commissary. As our great loss last year proceeded from a want of teams, I shall direct the quartermaster-general to furnish a certain number to each regiment to answer the common purposes thereof, that the army may be enabled to remove from place to place differently from what we have done, or could do, this campaign. Ammunition-carts, and proper carts for intrenching tools, should also be provided, and I shall direct about them accordingly. Above all, a store of small arms should be provided, or men will be of little use. The consumption and waste of these, this year, have been great. Militia and Flying-Camp men coming in without them were obliged to be furnished, or become useless. Many of these threw their arms away; some lost them, whilst others deserted, and took them away. In a word, although I used every precaution to preserve them, the loss has been great; and this will for ever be the case, in such a mixed and irregular army as ours has been.
If no part of the troops already embarked at New York has appeared in Virginia, their destination doubtless must be to some other quarter; and that State must, I should think, be freed from any invasion, if General Howe can be effectually opposed in this. I therefore enclose a memorandum, given me by Brigadier Stephen of Virginia, which Congress will please to adopt in the whole, in part, or reject, as may be consistent with their plans and intelligence.
That division of the army, lately under the command of General Lee, now of General Sullivan, is just upon the point of joining us. A strange kind of fatality has attended it. They had orders on the 17th of November to join, now more than a month. General Gates, with four eastern regiments, is also near at hand; three others from those States were coming on, by his order, by the way of Peekskill, and had joined General Heath, whom I had ordered on with Parsons’s brigade, to join me, leaving Clinton’s brigade and some militia, that were at Forts Montgomery and Constitution, to guard these important passes of the Highlands. But the Convention of the State of New York seemed to be much alarmed at Heath’s coming away, a fleet appearing off New London, and some part of the enemy’s troops retiring towards Brunswic, induced me to countermand the order for the march of Parsons’s brigade, and to direct the three regiments from Ticonderoga to halt at Morristown in New Jersey (where I understand about eight hundred militia had collected), in order to inspirit the inhabitants, and, as far as possible, to cover that part of the country. I shall send General Maxwell this day to take the command of them, and, if to be done, to harass and annoy the enemy in their quarters, and cut off their convoys. The care and vigilance, which were used in securing the boats on this river, have hitherto baffled every attempt of the enemy to cross; but, from concurring reports and appearances, they are waiting for ice to afford them a passage.
Since writing the foregoing I have received a letter from Governor Cooke of Rhode Island, of which the enclosed is a copy.1 Previous to this, and immediately upon the first intelligence obtained of a fleet’s going through the Sound, I despatched orders to Generals Spencer and Arnold to proceed without delay to the eastward. The first I presume is gone. The latter, not getting my letter till he came to a place called Easton, was, by advice of General Gates, who also met my letter at the same place, induced to come on hither before he proceeded to the eastward. Most of our brigadiers are laid up. Not one has come on with the division under General Sullivan, but they are left sick at different places on the road.
By accounts from the eastward, a large body of men had assembled in Rhode Island from the States of Massachusetts and Connecticut. I presume, but I have no advice of it, that the militia ordered from the first to rendezvous at Danbury, six thousand in number, under the command of Major-General Lincoln, for supplying the place of the disbanded men of that State in the Continental army, will now be ordered to Rhode Island. In speaking of General Lincoln, I should not do him justice, were I not to add, that he is a gentleman well worthy of notice in the military line. He commanded the militia from Massachusetts last summer, or fall rather, and much to my satisfaction, having proved himself on all occasions an active, spirited, sensible man. I do not know whether it is his wish to remain in the military line, or whether, if he should, any thing under the rank he now holds in the State he comes from would satisfy him. How far an appointment of this kind might offend the Continental brigadiers, I cannot undertake to say; many there are, over whom he ought not to be placed; but I know of no way to discriminate. Brigadier Reed of New Hampshire does not, I presume, mean to continue in the service; he ought not, as I am told, by the severity of the smallpox, he is become both blind and deaf. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. Generals Gates and Sullivan have this instant come in. By them I learn, that few or no men are recruited out of the regiments coming on with them, and that there is very little reason to expect, that these regiments will be prevailed upon to continue after their term of service expires. If militia then do not come in, the consequences are but too evident.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Headquarters, atKeith’s, Dec. 21st, 1776.
I have been favored with yours of the 13th inst., and wish you may have succeeded in your intended scheme to dislodge the enemy from Hackinsac Bridge.
In my letter of the 18th I transmitted you a copy of a letter from the Council of the Massachusetts Bay, advising that six thousand men were coming from that State, under General Lincoln, to supply the place of the militia which had returned home, and of their troops, whose time of Service will soon expire. At the time of writing, I thought it probable that their reinforcement might be ordered to the State of Rhode Island, in case of an invasion, and which I find has actually taken place; and therefore did not so strenuously urge that it should be sent here. Indeed, I had then hopes, from the information I had received, that a large proportion of the eastern troops who were marching to join me had re-enlisted; but to my great distress and mortification, I find the report to have been without the least foundation, and that in the course of a few days I am to be left with a handful of men. I therefore request, that if these troops have come on to Peekskill, and also the four batallions which I am advised by Governor Trumbull have been raised in Connecticut to serve till the 15th of March next, that, after securing the passes and fortifications in the Highlands, with a sufficient number (which I should imagine need not exceed twelve or fifteen hundred men at farthest,) besides the force which I apprehend will be provided for the purpose by the Convention of New York you will forward on all the rest with the utmost expedition to join such troops as I may be able to collect for the defence of Philadelphia. That city is now the object of the enemy’s designs. Let me entreat you to impress the officers and men with a due sense of its importance in the present contest for our liberty, and that without their speedy and early arrival it may be lost. I am persuaded these considerations will be duly regarded and urge them on to every possible exertion. As yet, but few succors belonging to this State have come in, nor do I hear that many are in motion.1 When they have heard that other States are applied to, and pushing in aids for their defence, perhaps they will arouse from that lethargy which now keeps them back against the most pressing calls of interest. In a word, Sir, my situation, and that of our cause, is critical, and truly alarming. Without vigorous exertions and early succors I do not see what reasonable hope there will be to preserve Philadelphia from falling into the enemy’s hands. They will attempt to possess it as soon as the Delaware is so frozen as to admit of their passage. Appearances and many concurring reports agree in this.
I have received yours of the 15th, and am happy to hear of your success at Hackinsac. The stores you got will be of great service.
By a letter just received from General McDougall, I find he has been much indisposed, and is now at Morristown. I intend to write him to return to Peekskill to conduct matters in that department with General George Clinton requesting you and General James Clinton to come on with the eastern troops which I have mentioned, if they have arrived at Peekskill, and it should be necessary for him to come.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO COLONEL JOSEPH REED, OR COLONEL JOHN CADWALADER,1 AT BRISTOL.
Camp, above Trenton Falls, 23 December, 1776.
The bearer is sent down to know whether your plan was attempted last night, and if not to inform you, that Christmas-day at night, one hour before day, is the time fixed upon for our attempt on Trenton. For Heaven’s sake, keep this to yourself, as the discovery of it may prove fatal to us; our numbers, sorry I am to say, being less than I had any conception of; but necessity, dire necessity, will, nay must, justify any attempt. Prepare, and, in concert with Griffin, attack as many of their posts as you possibly can with a prospect of success; the more we can attack at the same instant, the more confusion we shall spread, and greater good will result from it. If I had not been fully convinced before of the enemy’s designs, I have now ample testimony of their intentions to attack Philadelphia, so soon as the ice will afford the means of conveyance.1
As the colonels of the Continental regiments might kick up some dust about command, unless Cadwalader is considered by them in the light of a brigadier, which I wish him to be. I desired General Gates, who is unwell, and applied for leave to go to Philadelphia, to endeavor, if his health would permit him, to call and stay two or three days at Bristol in his way. I shall not be particular; we could not ripen matters for our attack, before the time mentioned in the first part of this letter; so much out of sorts, and so much in want of every thing, are the troops under Sullivan, &c. Let me know by a careful express the plan you are to pursue. The letter herewith sent, forward on to Philadelphia; I could wish it to be in time for the southern post’s departure, which will be I believe by eleven o’clock to-morrow. I am, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. I have ordered our men to be provided with three days’ provisions ready cooked, with which and their blankets they are to march; for if we are successful, which Heaven grant, and the circumstances favor, we may push on. I shall direct every ferry and ford to be well guarded, and not a soul suffered to pass without an officer’s going down with the permit. Do the same with you.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, above Trenton Falls, 24 December, 1776.
That I should dwell upon the subject of our distresses, cannot be more disagreeable to Congress than it is painful to myself. The alarming situation, to which our affairs are reduced, impels me to the measure. Inquiry and investigation, which in most cases serve to develope and point out a remedy, in ours present more and greater difficulties. Till of late, I was led to hope from report, that no inconsiderable part of the troops composing the regiments that were with General Lee, and those from Ticonderoga under General Gates, had enlisted again. This intelligence, I confess, gave me reason to expect, that I should have, at the expiration of the present year, a force somewhat more respectable, than what I find will be the case.
Having examined into the state of those regiments, I am authorized to say from the information of their officers, that but very few of the men have enlisted. Those, who have, are of the troops from Ticonderoga, and were permitted to visit their friends and homes, as part of the terms on which they would re-engage. In respect to those, who marched with General Lee, I cannot learn that any have. Their refusal, I am told, has not proceeded more from an aversion to the service, or any fixed determination not to engage again, than from their wishes to return home, the non-appointment of officers in some instances, the turning out of good and appointing of bad in others, and the incomplete or rather no arrangement of them, a work unhappily committed to the management of their States; nor have I the most distant prospect of retaining them a moment longer than the last of this month, notwithstanding the most pressing solicitations and the obvious necessity for it. By the departure of these regiments I shall be left with five from Virginia, Smallwood’s from Maryland, a small part of Rawlings’s, Hand’s from Pennsylvania, a part of Ward’s from Connecticut, and the German battalion, comprising in the whole at this time from fourteen to fifteen hundred effective men. This handful, and such militia as may choose to join me, will then compose our army.1
When I reflect upon these things, they fill me with much concern, knowing that General Howe has a number of troops cantoned in the towns bordering on and near the Delaware, and his intentions to pass, as soon as the ice is sufficiently formed, to invade Pennsylvania and to possess himself of Philadelphia if possible. To guard against his designs, and the execution of them, shall employ my every exertion; but how is this to be done? As yet but few militia have gone to Philadelphia, and they are to be our support at this alarming crisis. Had I entertained a doubt of General Howe’s intentions to pass the Delaware, on the dissolution of our army, and as soon as the ice is made, it would now be done away. An intercepted letter from a gentleman of Philadelphia, who has joined the enemy, to his friend and partner in the city, declares that to be their design, that the army would be there in ten or twenty days from the 16th instant, the time of his writing, if the ice should be made; it advises him by no means to remove their stores, as they would be safe.
The obstacles, which have arisen to the raising of the new army, from the mode of appointing the officers, induce me to hope, if Congress resolve on an additional number of battalions to those already voted, that they will devise some other rule by which the officers, especially the field-officers, should be appointed. In case an augmentation should be made to the eastern regiments, a deviation from the former mode will operate more strongly as to them than to other battalions, because there have been many more officers in service from those States, than the regiments voted to be raised would admit of; by which means several deserving men could not have been provided for, had the utmost pains been used for the purpose; and many others of merit have been neglected in the late appointments, and those of little worth and less experience put in their places or promoted over their heads. This has been the case with many of the best officers.
The enclosed letter from the paymaster-general will show the state of the military chest, and the necessity of a large and immediate supply of cash. The advances to the officers, for bounty, and the recruiting service, are great; besides the regiments, at the expiration of this month, will require payment of their claims. At the same time it will show the injustice of the clamors, made by some of the officers respecting their pay, and the abuses, that have resulted from an attention to them. Whenever they have not been paid, it was because their abstracts were not made up. I have the honor, &c.
P. S. If the public papers have been removed from Philadelphia, I hope those which I sent by Lieutenant Colonel Reed,1 before we left New York, have not been forgot. If they have not, I beg the favor of you to break open the chest, and send me the several letter books, sealed up, having frequent occasion to refer to ’em.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Newtown, 27 December, 1776.
I have the pleasure of congratulating you upon the success of an enterprise, which I had formed against a detachment of the enemy lying in Trenton, and which was executed yesterday morning. The evening of the 25th I ordered the troops intended for this service to parade back of McKonkey’s Ferry,2 that they might begin to pass as soon as it grew dark, imagining we should be able to throw them all over, with the necessary artillery, by twelve o’clock, and that we might easily arrive at Trenton by five in the morning, the distance being about nine miles. But the quantity of ice, made that night, impeded the passage of the boats so much, that it was three o’clock before the artillery could all be got over; and near four, before the troops took up their line of march. This made me despair of surprising the town, as I well knew we could not reach it before the day was fairly broke. But as I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered and harassed on repassing the river, I determined to push on at all events. I formed my detachment into two divisions, one to march by the lower or river road, the other by the upper or Pennington road. As the divisions had nearly the same distance to march, I ordered each of them, immediately upon forcing the out-guards, to push directly into the town, that they might charge the enemy before they had time to form.
The upper division arrived at the enemy’s advanced posts exactly at eight o’clock; and in three minutes after, I found, from the fire on the lower road, that the division had also got up. The out-guards made but small opposition, though, for their numbers, they behaved very well, keeping up a constant retreating fire from behind houses. We presently saw their main body formed; but, from their motions, they seemed undetermined how to act. Being hard pressed by our troops, who had already got possession of their artillery, they attempted to file off by a road on their right, leading to Princeton. But, perceiving their intention, I threw a body of troops in their way, which immediately checked them. Finding from our disposition, that they were surrounded, and that they must inevitably be cut to pieces if they made any further resistance, they agreed to lay down their arms. The number that submitted in this manner was twenty-three officers and eight hundred and eighty-six men. Colonel Rahl, the commanding officer, and seven others were found wounded in the town. I do not exactly know how many were killed; but I fancy not above twenty or thirty, as they never made any regular stand. Our loss is very trifling indeed, only two officers and one or two privates wounded.
I find that the detachment of the enemy consisted of the three Hessian regiments of Anspach, Kniphausen, and Rahl, amounting to about fifteen hundred men, and a troop of British light-horse; but, immediately upon the beginning of the attack, all those, who were not killed or taken, pushed directly down the road towards Bordentown. These would likewise have fallen into our hands, could my plan have been completely carried into execution. General Ewing was to have crossed before day at Trenton Ferry, and taken possession of the bridge leading out of town; but the quantity of ice was so great, that, though he did every thing in his power to effect it, he could not get over. This difficulty also hindered General Cadwalader from crossing with the Pennsylvania militia from Bristol. He got part of his foot over; but, finding it impossible to embark his artillery, he was obliged to desist. I am fully confident, that, could the troops under Generals Ewing and Cadwalader have passed the river, I should have been able with their assistance to drive the enemy from all their posts below Trenton. But the numbers I had with me being inferior to theirs below me, and a strong battalion of light infantry being at Princeton above me, I thought it most prudent to return the same evening with the prisoners and the artillery we had taken. We found no stores of any consequence in the town.1
In justice to the officers and men, I must add, that their behavior upon this occasion reflects the highest honor upon them. The difficulty of passing the river in a very severe night, and their march through a violent storm of snow and hail, did not in the least abate their ardor; but, when they came to the charge, each seemed to vie with the other in pressing forward; and were I to give a preference to any particular corps, I should do great injustice to the others. Colonel Baylor, my first aid-de-camp, will have the honor of delivering this to you; and from him you may be made acquainted with many other particulars. His spirited behavior upon every occasion requires me to recommend him to your particular notice. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. Inclosed you have a particular list of the Prisoners, Artillery and other stores.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Newtown, 29 December, 1776.
I am just setting out to attempt a second passage over the Delaware, with the troops that were with me on the morning of the 26th. I am determined to effect it if possible; but know that it will be attended with much fatigue and difficulty on account of the ice, which will neither allow us to cross on foot, nor give us an easy passage with boats. General Cadwalader crossed from Bristol on the 27th, and, by his letter of yesterday, was at Bordentown with about eighteen hundred men.3 In addition to these, General Mifflin sent over five hundred from Philadelphia on Friday, three hundred yesterday evening from Burlington, and will follow to-day with seven or eight hundred more. I have taken every precaution in my power for subsisting the troops, and shall, without loss of time, and as soon as circumstances will admit of it, pursue the enemy in their retreat, try to beat up more of their quarters, and, in a word, adopt in every instance such measures as the exigency of our affairs requires, and our situation will justify.
Had it not been for the unhappy failure of Generals Ewing and Cadwalader in their attempts to pass, on the night of the 25th, and if the several concerted attacks could have been made, I have no doubt that our views would have succeeded to our warmest expectations. What was done occasioned the enemy to leave their several posts on the Delaware with great precipitation. The peculiar distresses to which the troops, who were with me, were reduced by the severities of cold, rain, snow, and storm; the charge of the prisoners they had taken, and another reason that might be mentioned, and the little prospect of receiving succors on account of the season and situation of the river, would not authorize a further pursuit at that time. Since transmitting the list of prisoners, a few more have been discovered and taken in Trenton; among them a lieutenant-colonel and a deputy-adjutant-general, the whole amounting to about a thousand. I have been honored with your letter of the 23d, and its several enclosures, to which I shall pay due attention. A flag goes in this morning with a letter to General Howe, and another to General Lee. For the latter, Mr. Robert Morris has transmitted a bill of exchange, drawn by two British officers, for a hundred and sixteen pounds, nine shillings, and three pence, on Major Small, for money furnished them in South Carolina, which I trust will be paid. This supply is exclusive of the sum you have resolved to be sent to him, and which Mr. Morris will procure in time.
I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I am under great apprehensions about obtaining proper supplies of provisions for our Troops. I fear it will be extremely difficult if not impracticable, as the Enemy from every account, has taken and collected every thing they could find.1
[1 ]Sparks prints no letters of Washington between October 22d and November 6th, and it was through Colonel Harrison that he communicated with Congress. The interval was crowded with movements of both armies, hardly a day passing without some skirmish. On the 27th the British attacked the position of the Americans on Chatterton’s Hill, and remained in possession of the field. On the two following days preparations were made by the enemy for again attacking the Americans, but something occurred to prevent, and not till the third was there an active movement, when the American sentries noted an unusual commotion in the British camp that resulted in the sudden march towards Kingsbridge.
[1 ]The council agreed unanimously, that, in case the enemy were retreating towards New York, it would be proper immediately to throw a body of troops into New Jersey, that those raised on the east side of Hudson’s River should be detached for this purpose, and that three thousand men should be stationed at Peekskill and the passes of the Highlands.
[1 ]“The situation of our affairs is critical and truly alarming; the dissolution of our army, is fast approaching, and but little if any prospect of levying a new one in a reasonable time. A large part of it, under the denomination of new levies are now on the eve of their departure, and this at a time when the enemy have a very numerous and formidable force, watching an opportunity to execute their plans, and to spread ruin and devastation among us. Impressed with the importance of these matters, I this day laid them before a council of general officers, with a view of obtaining their opinion upon the same, and of the measures, which in their judgment should be immediately adopted. The result was that I should apply to several of the States for supplies of militia. . . . The hope and probability of raising a new army within a convenient time are so little, and the consequences so evidently alarming, if a sufficient force is not kept up to counteract the designs of the enemy in the meantime, that the council and myself have unanimously agreed that the militia should be engaged, if possible, to continue till the 1st of March. We flatter ourselves by that time, if not long before, such an army will be levyed as to render any future claims, upon them, unless in cases of the most pressing emergency, altogether unnecessary.”—Washington to the Massachusetts General Assembly, 6 November, 1776. He asked for 4000 men from Massachusetts, but “well knowing the condition of your State, and the difficulties you have experienced on account of the frequent and large drafts from it from time to time” declined to mention any quota for Connecticut.
[1 ]Read in Congress November 11th.
[1 ]On the same day, that is, November 7th, General Washington wrote to General Greene, then at Fort Lee, expressing his conviction, that the enemy would invest Fort Washington, and adding, “I must recommend to you to give every attention in your power, and give every assistance you can, to that garrison.”
[1 ]General Greene wrote in reply on the 9th:—“The passing of the ships up the river is, to be sure, a full proof of the insufficiency of the obstructions to stop the ships from going up; but that garrison employs double the number of men to invest it, that we have to occupy it. They must keep troops at Kingsbridge to prevent a communication with the country, and they dare not leave a very small number for fear our people should attack them. Upon the whole, I cannot help thinking, that the garrison is of advantage; and I cannot conceive it to be in any great danger. The men can be brought off at any time, but the stores may not be so easily removed. Yet I think they can be got off in spite of them, if matters grow desperate. This post is of no importance, except in conjunction with Mount Washington. I was over there last evening, The enemy seem to be disposing matters to besiege the place; but Colonel Magaw thinks it will take them till December expires before they can carry it. If the enemy do not find it an object of importance, they will not trouble themselves about it; if they do, it is a full proof, that they feel an injury from our possessing it. Our giving it up will open a free communication with the country by the way of Kingsbridge. That must be a great advantage to them and injury to us.
[1 ]“By every information I can obtain, and the accounts I had last night by Two deserters, who were very intelligent and particular, Genl. Howe still has in view an expedition to the Jerseys, and is preparing for it with the greatest industry. I have detached the first division of our Troops, which was thought necessary to be sent, and which I hope will cross the River at Peekskill to day. The Second, I expect, will all march this Evening, and tomorrow Morning, I propose to follow myself, in order to put things in the best train I can, and to give him every possible opposition. I hope when the two divisions arrive and are joined to such other forces, as I expect to collect, to check his progress, and prevent him from penetrating any distance from the river if not to oblige him to return immediately with some loss. Whatever is in my power to effect, shall be done.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 9 November, 1776.
[1 ]Howe’s reply is printed in Sparks’ Washington, iv., 529.
[1 ]“As it is more than probable (unless General Howe should throw his whole force into the Jerseys and bend his course towards Philadelphia,) that there will scarce be a junction of our troops again this season, it may be well for you to consider of a proper partition of the field artillery, artillerists, and stores for each service; and delay no time in the arrangement and despatch of those destined for the western side of Hudson’s River. . . . It is unnecessary to add, that if the army of the enemy should wholly or pretty generally throw themselves across the North River, that General Lee is to follow.”—Washington to Colonel Knox, 10 November, 1776.
[1 ]Congress on the 4th had passed resolutions authorizing Washington, after consulting with such of his generals as he could conveniently call together, to grant warrants to officers of States which had not sent commissoners for appointing officers. He was also desired to take such steps as he might think most proper for continuing the militia then in camp.
[2 ]The command of the posts in the Highlands, including the passes on both sides of the river, and the forts Constitution, Montgomery, and Independence, had been assigned to General Heath, and a division of the army had already marched to Peekskill for that purpose. General Washington reconnoitred these posts on the 11th of November, and passed over into New Jersey the next day. General Heath’s division consisted mostly of Connecticut and Massachusetts troops, and General George Clinton’s brigade of New York militia.
[1 ]Although Congress had determined what inducements should be offered to officers and men inlisting to serve during the war, the individual States undertook in some cases to alter the rewards. Maryland, having no lands in the west, offered to its recruits ten dollars in lieu of the 100 acres of land promised by Congress; but Congress decided that its faith was pledged to a performance of the promise of land, that the promise was equally obligatory upon its constituents, and no one State could by its own act be released therefrom, and requested the convention of Maryland to “reconsider” its resolution. Journals of Congress, 30 October, 1776. See also Journals, 12 November, 1776.
[2 ]Read in Congress November 15th.
[1 ]At Fort Lee.
[1 ]To prevent the Americans from receiving supplies by the North River and check further progress in obstructing the channel at Jeffrey’s Hook, three of the British ships had, on the 9th, passed up the river, suffering much on their masts and rigging. On the night of the 14th, thirty flat-bottomed boats were ordered to King’s Bridge, now left open by the retreat of the Americans, and troops were carried over to invest Fort Washington, succeeding in this venture with little loss. On the 18th, twenty more flat boats passed the American works undiscovered in the night, and a detachment of the army “commanded by Lord Cornwallis, being landed on the Jersey shore the 20th in the morning, above the enemys redoubts, opposite to Jeffrey’s Hook, and unperceived by the rebels for some time, they soon became possessed of the redoubts [Fort Lee] without loss.” Lord Viscount Howe, 23 November, 1776. See Journals of Congress, 14 November, 1776.
[2 ]Timothy Dod, an express rider, received despatches from Washington for Congress and reported that they had been stolen from him at Bristol, Pennsylvania. A committee of Congress investigated the matter and discovered no traces of the robbery or stealth. The statement of Dod not being so clear or satisfactory as fully to exculpate himself, he was placed under arrest, but, after a month’s confinement was released. Journals of Congress, October 29th and 31st; and December 12th. The deputy postmaster at Bristol, one Bessonet, and his barkeeper, were arrested, and search made for one Wilkins, who was at the tavern when the packet was lost. Nothing, however, was proved against the prisoners.
[1 ]While these negotiations for an exchange were pending Howe sent a Lieutenant Barker to New London to propose to the “principle inhabitants or persons of the greatest authority in that colony” an exchange of prisoners “officers for officers in each class, and sailors for sailors.” It was very justly determined that such an application to a State was “improper and inconsistent” and could only be made to General Washington.—Hinman, Connecticut in the Revolution, 572.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 19 November, 1776.
[1 ]Read in Congress November 18th.—Referred to Board of War.
[2 ]“As an exchange of prisoners is likely to take effect as soon as the nature of the case will admit, and as in the course of the transaction it may possibly happen that an attempt may be made by the enemy to redeem their prisoners by men who were never engaged in our service, I must request you immediately to direct the colonies or commanders of regiments in your division, to make out an exact list of the particular officers and privates who have been killed, taken prisoners, or are missing, in the respective regiments and companies to which they belong.”—Washington to General Lee, 14 November, 1776.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 12 November, 1776.
[1 ]A similar letter was sent to Major-General Heath.
[1 ]Colonel Magaw returned the following answer to the British adjutant-general, who sent him the summons to surrender the fort:
[1 ]General Howe in his public despatch stated, that Colonel Rahl had brought his column within one hundred yards of the fort, when he summoned it to surrender, and a treaty was acceded to by Colonel Magaw.
[1 ]They were required to surrender as prisoners of war, giving up their arms, ammunition, and stores of every kind; but the men in the garrison were allowed to keep possession of their baggage, and the officers to retain their swords.
[2 ]Read in Congress November 9th.
[1 ]In connection with this letter should be read Washington to Reed, 22 August, 1779.
[1 ]On the 23d Congress named Wilson, Smith, Chase, Clymer, and Stockton a committee, “with full powers to devise and execute measures for effectually reinforcing General Washington, and obstructing the progress of General Howe’s army.” The two Pennsylvania battalions commanded by Colonels Cooke and Mackay were ordered to join Washington, and the General was directed to order “under his immediate command such of the forces now in the northern department as have been raised in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.” The full report of this committee is printed in Force, American Archives, Fifth Series, iii, 828.
[1 ]“You know that body [Congress] possesses its share of human weakness; and that it is not impossible for the members of that House to have their attention engrossed by subjects which might as well be postponed for the present, while such as require despatch have been—I had almost said—neglected.”—Edward Rutledge to John Jay, 24 November, 1776.
[2 ]As an example may be cited the effects of General Greene’s recommendations. They “threw the officers to whom I communicated it into so great a flame of discontent, that I ventured notwithstanding your orders, to hesitate. They accused him of partiality to his connexions and townsmen, to the prejudice of men of manifestly superior merit; indeed, it appears from the concurrent testimony of unbiased persons, that some of the subjects he recommended were wretched; in short, I was so stunned with their clamor that I delayed until the arrival of the committee.” Lee to Washington, 19 November, 1776.
[1 ]Grayson described the landing-place as Closter Dock, “nearly opposite to Philip’s house.”
[1 ]Colonel Cadwalader was immediately released without parole by Sir William Howe, at the instance of General Prescott, who, when a prisoner in Philadelphia, had received civilities from Colonel Cadwalader’s father.
[1 ]Read in Congress November 23d. On the 15th Congress had given Washington “leave to negotiate an enchange of the foreign troops in the pay of Great Britain, that are prisoners to these States.”
[1 ]On the day before Grayson had written to Lee: “His Excellency thinks it would be advisable in you to remove the troops under your command on this side of the North River, and there wait for further orders.”
[1 ]Lee replied to Reed on the 21st: “Withdrawing our troops from hence would be attended with some very serious consequences, which at present would be tedious to enumerate.” But he did order Heath to send two thousand men to cross the river, an order which Heath very properly declined to obey, pleading the positive instructions given him by Washington. “By your mode of reasoning,” retorted Lee, “the General’s injunctions are so binding that not a tittle must be broke through for the salvation of the General and the army.” Lee to Heath, 23 November, 1776. To this Heath replied: “Be my mode of reasoning as it may, I conceive it my duty to obey my instructions. . . . The least recommendation from him [Washington], to march my division or any part of them, over the river, should have been instantly obeyed, without waiting for a positive order. . . . I shall strictly abide by them [his instructions] until they are countermanded in such manner, as will justify a deviation from them, to him who instructed me, and to the world.” Heath to Lee, 24 November, 1776. “I sent Heath orders to transport two thousand men across the river . . . but that great man (as I might have expected) intrenched himself behind the letter of his instructions, and refused to part with a single file, tho’ I undertook to replace ’em with a part of my own.” Lee to Washington, 24 November, 1776. Washington informed Heath on the 25th that he never meant to take troops from Heath’s division. Lee’s letter to Heath of the 26th should be read, and also Heath’s Memoirs, under date November 30th.
[1 ]James Ewing, who had served in the Braddock expedition, and had been elected on 4 July, 1776, a brigadier-general of the Pennsylvania militia. His name has suffered at the hands of historians: Marshall spells it Irvine; Wilkinson, Irvin; Botta, Irwin, and Gordon, Erwing.
[1 ]“The situation of our affairs is truly critical, and such as requires uncommon exertions on our part. From the movements of the enemy, and the information we have received, they certainly will make a push to possess themselves of this part of the Jerseys. In order that you may be fully apprized of our weakness, and of the necessity there is of our obtaining early succors, I have, by the advice of the general officers here, directed General Mifflin to wait on you. He is intimately acquainted with our circumstances, and will represent them better than my hurried state will allow. . . .
[1 ]“I wrote you this morning of the probability, that some of your letters to me had fallen with the mail into the enemy’s hands. My apprehensions on that head have been since confirmed, by direct intelligence from their camp. I am informed, that a letter from you is confidently said to have come to their hands, and that measures are taking to intercept your march. To prevent them from effecting this object, I have judged it proper to acquaint you of this accident, and of their design; at the same time I must request, that you will take every precaution to come by a safe and secure route. I am told, by those who have an intimate knowledge of the country, that, after you leave Haverstraw, the western road by Kakiat will be proper for you to take; but I will not undertake to prescribe any one in particular, only observing, that you will by all means keep between the enemy and the mountains. . . . I need not urge the necessity of your gaining intelligence of the enemy’s situation, in the course of your march. I will be silent on that head, nor need I mention the propriety of your sending frequent expresses, to advise of your approaches. . . .
[1 ]The associators in the city and liberties of Philadelphia, and in the counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, and Northampton, were to be called out, to serve for six weeks from the time of joining the army, unless sooner discharged. The German battalion was also ordered to join Washington. This order was countermanded on the 27th, but was again renewed on December 1st, some delay arising in calling out the associators.
[2 ]On the 28th a meeting of the Council of Safety and Assembly was held at the State House, with David Rittenhouse presiding. Marshall reports that “It’s said Gen. Mifflin spoke animatedly pleasing, which gave great satisfaction.” See Mifflin to Washington, 26 November, 1776; Force, American Archives, Fifth Series, iii., 852.
[1 ]“Resolved, That General Washington be informed that he has the full approbation of Congress to order the troops on the east side of Hudson’s river over to the west side of that River, whenever he shall think it conducive to the public service so to do.”—Journals of Congress, 1 December, 1776.
[1 ]By a despatch from General Howe, dated November 30th, it would appear, that it was not his expectation to cross the Delaware during the present campaign. He considered it essential to gain a footing in New Jersey, where he might quarter a large body of troops for the winter, with the advantage of obtaining shelter, forage, and fresh provisions. In the same despatch he proposed a plan for the next campaign, in which he contemplated extensive operations, an incursion into Rhode Island and Massachusetts and if possible the possession of Boston, an ascent up the North River to Albany, and an attack on Philadelphia and Virginia in the autumn. To effect this scheme he required thirty-five thousand men. The rapid retreat of the American army across New Jersey gave him fresh hopes of further successes, but these were defeated by the battle of Trenton. Meantime he suggested another plan to the minister, for the next campaign, which had for its chief object the reduction of Pennsylvania. The want of sufficient reinforcements from Great Britain prevented either of them from being put into execution according to the original design. See Sir William Howe’s Narrative, p. 9. Almon’s Parliamentary Register, vol. xi., pp. 361, 371.
[2 ]“The time of General Heard’s brigade of flying campmen for this State and that of General Beale’s from Maryland expires today, so that the army will, by that means suffer a considerable diminution. But what is still worse, altho’ most of the Pennsylvanians are enlisted till the first of January, I am informed that they are deserting in great numbers. I therefore entreat that you would without loss of time, give orders to the officers of militia on the roads and the ferries over Delaware to take up and secure every soldier that has not a regular discharge or pass. In order to effect this, proper guards should be immediately posted.”—Washington to Governor Livingston, 30 November, 1776.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 15 November, 1776. The Hancock and Adams, Samuel Smith, Master, employed in the Continental service, had been taken by an American privateer, the Gamecock of Rhode Island, commanded by Timothy Pierce, and taken into Bedford. Journals, November 12th and 13th. For a little political episode arising out of this matter, see Conway, Edmund Randolph, 34.
[1 ]Major Lutterloh, a foreign officer, proposed to enlist deserters and prisoners, assigning as precedents the example of the King of Prussia, and the practice of the last war.
[1 ]“The defenceless legislature [of New Jersey], with their Governor at their head, wandered from Princeton to Burlington, from Burlington to Pittstown, from Pittstown to Haddonfield, and there, finally, at the utmost verge of the State, dissolved themselves on the 2d of December, leaving each member to look to his own safety, at a moment when the efforts of legislators would be of no avail.”—Sedgwick, Life of William Livingston.
[1 ]On November 30th the Council of Safety of Philadelphia published a notice warning all who would wish to avoid the “insults and oppressions of a licentious soldiery” should be prepared to leave the city on a short warning. The news that arrived on December 2d, placing Howe’s army at Brunswick and on the road to Philadelphia, produced a panic, and for days after the roads were crowded with wagons, and all was hurry and confusion in the city. Shops were closed, schools “broke up,” and the inhabitants engaged in providing for their own safety or for the defence of the city.
[1 ]“Two brigades left us at Brunswick, notwithstanding the enemy were within two hour’s march and coming on. The loss of these troops at this critical time reduced his Excellency to the necessity to order a retreat again. . . . When we left Brunswick, we had not 3000 men.”—General Greene to Governor Cooke, 4 December, 1776.
[1 ]“General Lee is this day beginning to pass the river with his division.”—Heath to Washington, 2 December, 1776.
[1 ]Washington’s head-quarters were in George Clymer’s house, afterward Morrisville.
[1 ]Congress seemed to be as much in the dark about General Lee’s plans and movements as General Washington, and on the 2d of December they instructed a committee “to send an express to General Lee to know where and in what situation he and the army with him are.”—Secret Journal, vol. i., p. 50.
[2 ]“Lieutenant Symes came over to me at Brunswick from Bethlehem without the least guard or escort and a lieutenant of the seventh regiment went through our whole army, and was at last discovered by a mere accident. He had a pass from the Council of Safety, and that was all. Such an irregular mode of suffering prisoners to go in alone must be put a stop to, or the enemy will be as well acquainted with our situation as we are ourselves. If they are left at liberty to choose their own route, they will always take that through our army for reasons too obvious to mention.”—Washington to the Board of War, 4 December, 1776.
[1 ]General Adam Stephen, who had lately joined the army with a detachment of Virginia troops, was the same officer that had been a colonel under Washington and second in command of the Virginia forces during the last French war. Congress had appointed him a brigadier-general in the Continental service on the 4th of September.
[1 ]Read in Congress December 6th.
[1 ]A proclamation was issued, on the 30th of November, jointly by Lord Howe and General Howe, offering a pardon to all such as had opposed the King’s authority and who should within sixty days subscribe a declaration, that they would remain in peaceable obedience to his Majesty, neither taking up arms nor encouraging others to take up arms against him. In the present discouraging state of the affairs of Congress and of Washington’s army, many persons in New Jersey and Pennsylvania sought to secure their safety behind the protecting shield of this proclamation, and went over to the British; among others was Galloway, a member of the first Continental Congress, and afterwards the author of some attacks on Sir William Howe and strictures on his military operations in America. See Sir William Howe’s Narrative, and Observations upon a Pamphlet, &c., p. 37.
[2 ]Congress had directed General Washington to propose an exchange of Governor Franklin for General Thompson, but on a second consideration they rescinded their vote, and countermanded the order.
[3 ]Read in Congress December 7th.
[1 ]“This moment a captain has returned that went to reconnoiter last night, and it is beyond a doubt the enemy are advancing; and my Lord Stirling thinks they will be up here by twelve o’clock.”—Greene to Washington, 7 December, 1776.
[1 ]On the 8th Lee wrote to Washington, from Morristown: “If I was not taught to think that your army was considerably reinforced, I should immediately join you; but as I am assured you are very strong, I should imagine we can make a better impression by hanging on their rear, for which purpose, a good post at Chatham seems the best calculated. It is at a happy distance from Newark, Elizabethtown, Woodbridge and Boundbrook.” He addressed a similar letter to the Committee of Congress sent to learn his position and situation. On the same day, after Major Hoops had reached him, he again wrote to Washington: “I am certainly shocked to hear that your force is so inadequate to the necessity of your situation, as I had been taught to think you had been considerably reinforced.” He expressed a belief that the main effort of the enemy was to be directed against the Eastern States, and concluded by saying: “It will be difficult, I am afraid, to join you; but cannot I do you more service by attacking their rear?”
[2 ]Putnam took command on the 12th; and established martial law.
[1 ]General Washington wrote again the next day to General Lee pressing him to hasten forward. “Nothing less,” he observes, “than our utmost exertions will be sufficient to prevent General Howe from possessing Philadelphia. The force I have is weak and entirely incompetent to that end. I must therefore entreat you to push on with every possible succor you can bring.”
[1 ]By a forced march Cornwallis threatened Brunswick on December 1st, and was prevented from following the retreating Continental army only by the destruction of the bridge at that place. Howe’s original design was to obtain possession of East Jersey, but considering the advantages to be gained by pushing on to the Delaware and the possibility of getting to Philadelphia, he joined Cornwallis on the 6th at Brunswick. “On the 7th, Lord Cornwallis’ corps . . . marched to Princeton, which the enemy had quitted on the same day. This corps marched in two divisions on the 8th; the first advancing to Trenton reached the Delaware soon after the enemy’s rear guard had crossed; their main army, having passed the preceding day and night, took post on the other side of the river. Lord Cornwallis with the rear division, halted at Maiden-head, six miles from Trenton, and marched at one o’clock next morning to Corryell’s Ferry, thirteen miles higher up the Delaware, in some expectation of finding boats there, and in the neighborhood, sufficient to pass the river, but in this he was disappointed, the enemy having taken the precaution to destroy or to secure on the south side all the boats that could possibly be employed for this purpose.” Cornwallis then took post at Pennington, remaining there till the 14th, when the severe weather warned them to go to their winter cantonments. “The chain I own, is rather too extensive, but I was induced to occupy Burlington, to cover the county of Monmouth, in which there are many loyal inhabitants; and trusting to the almost general submission of the country to the southward of this chain, and to the strength of the corps placed in the advanced posts, I conclude the troops will be in perfect security.”—General Howe to Lord George Germaine, 29 December, 1776.
[1 ]Copied in 1862 from the original, by Mr. Cassius F. Lee, Jr., of Alexandria. I have not been able to discover the ownership of this letter, and print it from Mr. Lee’s copy.
[2 ]Journals of Congress, 10 December, 1776. Minutes of the Philadelphia Council of Safety, 39.
[1 ]“I shall only say that Philadelphia, beyond all question, is the object of the enemy’s movements, and that nothing less than our utmost exertions will be sufficient to prevent General Howe from possessing it. The force I have is weak and entirely incompetent to that end. I must therefore entreat you to push on with every possible succor you can bring. Your aid may give a more favorable complexion to our affairs. You know the importance of the city of Philadelphia, and the fatal consequences that must attend the loss of it.”—Washington to Lee, 11 December, 1776. This letter never reached Lee.
[1 ]The timidity of Congress increased daily as the British advanced, their nervousness being shown by the curious resolutions passed directing Washington and Putnam in military matters, appointing a day of fasting and humiliation, recommending to “all the members of the United States, and particularly the officers civil and military under them, the exercise of repentance and reformation,” the strict observation of the articles of war, and particularly of those forbidding profane swearing and all immorality. All the vessels in the harbor were placed at the disposal of Putnam, Continental stores were directed to be removed, and a bold front assumed by directing Putnam to defend the city “to the utmost extremity,” and by passing the following resolution which is found only in the first rough draft (MS.) of the journals and does not appear either in the MS. transcript or in the printed Journals of Congress, but was sent to Washington in Thomson’s letter of the 11th:
[1 ]“We have been endeavoring to draw a force together to check General Howe’s progress; but the militia of New Jersey have been so frighted, and the Pennsylvania militia so disaffected, that our endeavors have been ineffectual. . . . The militia of the city of Philadelphia are the only people that have shown a disposition to support the cause.”—Greene to his wife, 16 December, 1776. “The fright and disaffection were so great in the Jerseys, that, in our retreat of one hundred and odd miles, we were never joined by more than a hundred men.”—Greene to Governor Cooke.
[1 ]“The enclosed lists, which I have taken the liberty of transmitting, comprehend the officers belonging to your army, who were returned on the 4th, 7th, and 8th current by Colonel Moylan, in pursuance of my direction. I have affixed X against their names such belonging to us, as I wish to have released, and who are of the same rank, except in the instance of Colonel Allen. His exchange, on account of his long imprisonment, I have been particularly instructed to propose. The officers, whose enlargement I now require, are chiefly on parole, and of those who were sent from Canada by General Carleton. In respect to the privates, you will be pleased to direct an equal number to be returned, out of those who were made prisoners on Long Island on the 27th of August, including six volunteers described in one of the lists. I thank you for the ready attention, that was given to the return of Major Bird and others who came out with him, in exchange for the officers, who went from Brunswic; but I must request, that, upon any future occasion, the particular officers to be returned shall be of my appointment, or some person authorized for the purpose.
[1 ]General Clinton and Earl Percy, with six thousand British troops detached from the main army at New York, took possession of Newport and Rhode Island on the 8th of December. For the letters of General Clinton and Sir Peter Parker relating to this event, see Remembrancer, vol. iii., pp. 261, 262.
[1 ]On the 13th Lee wrote to Gates from “Basking Ridge”:—“Entre nous, a certain great man is most damnably deficient. He has thrown me into a situation where I have my choice of difficulties. If I stay in this Province, I risk myself and army; and if I do not stay, the Province is lost forever. . . . Our counsels have been weak to the last degree.”
[1 ]Howe states that “the weather having become too severe to keep the field, and the winter cantonments having been arranged, the troops marched” to their respective stations.
[2 ]“From information received of the enemy’s movements, it appears to me that they intend leaving this part of the country, and to retire towards Brunswic and the towns contiguous to it, perhaps for the purpose of going into winter quarters, unless indeed the whole should be intended as a feint. There does not, therefore appear the same necessity for your advancing as was conjectured at the time my orders for your marching were determined on. For this reason (as well as on account of the danger which the State of New York would be exposed to, and which the Convention has represented to me by their letter) I should conceive it to be expedient for you to return with Parson’s brigade to your former station: these troops you are to post in the most advantageous manner to answer the purposes of defending the country from the incursions of the enemy and of curbing the insolence of the disaffected. However, previous to your departure from the Jerseys, I entirely agree with you in sentiment, that the troops cannot be better employed than in surprising any of the enemy’s posts, either at Hackinsac or the parts adjacent that are so situated as to admit of a strong probability of success. An enterprise of this sort will encourage our friends and advance the recruiting service, which is a matter of infinite importance. As to Colonel Vose, with Greaton’s, Bond’s, and Porter’s regiments, I would choose they should move forwards to join General Gates.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 16 December, 1776.
[1 ]In apologizing for not making an earlier reply to a letter from the Convention of New York, Washington wrote on the 16th: “The continued motion of our army for some time past, put it out of my power to sit regularly down to business. Indeed I have now so much on my hands and such a choice of difficulties, that I hardly know which first to attend to. . . . As the office of Aid Major has been hitherto unknown in the Continental Service, perhaps by introducing it among your regiments, umbrage might be given to the others if they were not likewise provided with an officer of the same kind, and therefore to avoid disputes, I could wish the matter might be waived. . . . When I ordered down Gen. Heath from his post at the Highlands, it was done in consequence of a determination of a Council of General Officers, who agreed that we had no other means of stopping the progress of General Howe who was so evidently making a grand push to make himself master of Philadelphia. The advantages of keeping possession of the posts in the Highlands were not unattended to. We considered that the Enemy had thrown the main body of their army over into Jersey, that they were about to make a considerable embarkation (which has since turned out to be against New England), and that it would take most, if not the remainder of their army to keep up the garrisons at New York, &c., and that therefore they had not a sufficient force left to attempt the strong posts at the Highlands, tho’ only guarded by General George Clinton with the force of the State of New York.
[1 ]Joshua Loring, commissary general of British prisoners.
[2 ]“Whether General Howe can accommodate them [the prisoners] better in point of room, I will not determine. To be sure he cannot safely trust them abroad in a country which he has but just taken possession of. I have already sent in all or most of the prisoners that were in the States of Pennsylvania, Jersey and Maryland, and made a demand of such officers in exchange as I thought were best intitled to a preference, beginning with those taken at Quebec under Gen. Montgomery and Arnold. But General Howe, without paying any regard to my request sent out such as best pleased him, or who made the most urgent application. I have remonstrated sharply upon this head, and told Gen. Howe in express terms, that unless he will agree to send out such only as I name, I will not send any more of his prisoners in. But to this letter I have received no answer.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 21 December, 1776.
[1 ]“Were it not for them [these new forces], in a few days, by reason of the impolicy and fatal system of short inlistments, there would not be the least shadow of an army to check the operations of the enemy. I should be happy if there had been just grounds for the report of the success of our arms at Hackensack, but matters have been entirely the reverse. By the expiration of the service of the troops denominated the Flying Camp men on the 1st. inst., and their return home, our force on this side Hudson’s River, (which before that period was not competent to a successful opposition,) was reduced to a mere handful. With this small number, without deriving the least aid from the militia, notwithstanding the earliest and most pressing application, I have been pushed thro’ Jersey by the main body of the enemy’s army, and for want of their assistance a large part of that state has been exposed to all the effects of ravage and of the most wanton plunder. The Delaware now divides what remains of our little force from that of Gen. Howe, whose object beyond all question is to possess Philadelphia. They have been industrious in their efforts to procure boats for their transportation, but the precautions I have taken, have hitherto rendered their attempts unsuccessful. How things will terminate I must leave to itself; as yet I have received but little or no augmentation except that of the city militia, who have turned out in a spirited manner. Convinced that Philadelphia was the object of Mr. Howe’s movements and of the fatal consequences that would attend the loss of it, I wrote for Genl. Lee to reinforce me with the troops under his immediate command. By some means or other their arrival has been retarded, and unhappily on Friday last, the General, having left his division and proceeded three or four miles nearer the enemy, then 18 miles from him, of which they were informed by some Tories, was surprised and carried off about 11 o’clock by a party of 70 Light Horse. I will not comment upon this unhappy accident. I feel much for his misfortune and am sensible that in his captivity, our country has lost a warm friend and an able officer. Upon the whole our affairs are in a much less promising condition than could be wished, yet I trust, under the smiles of Providence, and our own exertions, we shall be happy. Our cause is righteous and must be supported. Every nerve should be strained to levy the new army. If we can but procure a respectable one in season, all may be well, and to this no pains can be too great. The next campaign will be an important [one], and the issue may lead to happiness,—or the most melancholy of all events.”—Washington to Governor Bowdoin, 18 December, 1776.
[1 ]“Nothing ever amazed me more than the note said to be wrote by John Dickinson, Esqr. to his brother, the general. If he applies to me to show him the contents, I see no reason for refusing, because he may easily be informed by applying to the writer.” Washington to the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, 19 December, 1776. Dickinson had written to his brother not to accept any more Continental money in liquidation of bonds and mortgages held by him. The letter had been intercepted.
[2 ]Vol. IV., 476.
[1 ]The eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
[1 ]Governor Cooke wrote on the 8th that 78 British ships of war and transports had entered the harbor of Newport on the 7th; that Rhode Island had been evacuated with the loss of about 20 heavy cannon; that eight thousand of the enemy had landed and were marching upon Newport, Howland’s and Bristol Ferry. Washington replied that he could not afford any assistance, and believed that the enemy would confine themselves to the island.
[1 ]Read in Congress December 26th.
[1 ]“The first chiefly relates to your wishes, that the troops of the State of Connecticut, whose time expires on the first of January, may by intreaties and promises of reward be induced to stay beyond their term. Past experience has repeatedly convinced us, that troops, at the most favorable season of the year and well supplied with every necessary, cannot be prevailed upon to stay a day longer than what they engaged for; if that has been the case under the circumstances I have mentioned, it cannot be expected that men worn out with a fatiguing campaign and in want of even necessary cloathing at the most inclement season of the year, will or can stay beyond their engagement. Indeed, except they would enlist anew, or consent to stay a considerable time, I think they had better go home as fast as possible, for thereby they will have time to have refreshed themselves, and when they have forgot their fatigues, they will probably inlist again time enough to take the field in the spring . . . When I reflect upon what our situation in this quarter will be, in ten days from this time, I am almost led to despair. As I said before, I cannot count upon those troops whose time is to expire upon the first of January. I am thus left with a few southern regiments almost reduced to nothing by sickness and fatigue, to oppose the main body of General Howe’s army, laying close upon my front, and most assuredly waiting for the dissolution of our army to make as easy a conquest of the province of Pennsylvania as they have done of Jersey. I do not find the militia of Pennsylvania inclined to give me as much assistance as they are able to do, were they willing; tho’ I am endeavoring to bring them out by every means, and am making use of both threats and persuasion to gain my end. I shall draw the new inlisted troops together as fast as they can be collected, armed and accoutred, but much cannot be expected from that source for some time. If the four regiments of militia from your State, and the six thousand men ordered in by the State of Massachusetts should arrive at Peeksskill, General Heath will have a much larger body of men than he will have any occasion for at that place, and I had determined that they should cover the upper part of Jersey; but under my present difficulties, I shall order as many as can be spared to proceed thus far. The necessity of the times must plead my excuse for calling men so far from home, and at this season of the year, who have an enemy just landed on their own coasts, and have not even a Continental regiment to assist them; but I trust they will undertake this chearfully, when they reflect, that they cannot ensure that liberty which they have so nobly contended for, while our common enemy maintains any footing upon any part of this continent.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 21 December, 1776.
[1 ]Brother to Colonel Lambert Cadwalader, of the Continental service.
[1 ]Reed had written to Washington from Bristol on the 22d urging the necessity of attempting something “to revive our expiring credit, give our cause some degree of reputation, and prevent a total depreciation of the Continental money, which is coming on very fast; that even a failure cannot be more fatal than to remain in our present situation; in short, some enterprise must be undertaken in our present circumstances, or we must give up the cause. In a little time the Continental army will be dissolved. The militia must be taken before their spirits and patience are exhausted; and the scattered, divided state of the enemy affords us a fair opportunity of trying what our men will do, when called to an offensive attack. Will it not be possible, my dear General, for your troops, or such part of them as can act with advantage, to make a diversion, or something more, at or about Trenton?” The result was a conference at head-quarters and “on the Adjutant-General’s return to Bristol, where he conferred with Cadwalader, in company with Colonel John Cox, he crossed the river and proceeded to the quarters of Colonel Griffin at Mount Holly, to determine on measures of immediate and active co-operation. They found that officer seriously ill, and the condition of his troops, their number and equipment, such as to put an end to all hope of effective effort on his part. All that could be promised was a partial diversion, which was carried into effect the next day, and by means of which Count Donop was drawn from his quarters at Bordentown further into the interior, Griffin retiring, slowly skirmishing, before him.” Reed, Life of Joseph Reed, i., 273. See Galloway, Reply to the Observations of Sir Wm. Howe, 86, 93.
[1 ]By the adjutant’s return on the 22d of December, the army under Washington amounted to ten thousand one hundred and six men rank and file. Of this number five thousand three hundred and ninety-nine were sick, on command, and on furlough; leaving an immediate effective force of four thousand seven hundred and seven. But this return did not include the four regiments just arrived from the northern army, nor Lee’s division now commanded by Sullivan, nor the Pennsylvania militia under General Cadwalader at Bristol. The four regiments, having been greatly reduced by disease, amounted to about twelve hundred, Cadwalader’s militia to eighteen hundred, and Sullivan’s division to about three thousand.
[1 ]Bowes Reed.
[2 ]Now Taylorsville. It was also known as the Eight-Mile Ferry.
[1 ]“I should have most certainly pursued those that retreated had it not been for the distressed situation of my troops (about three or four and twenty hundred in number) who had experienced the greatest fatigue in breaking a passage through the ice, and all the severities of rain and storm. This with the apprehension that we could receive no succors, and that the difficulty of passing and repassing the river might become greater, led us to conclude our return eligible. The officers and men who were engaged in the enterprise behaved with great firmness, perseverance, and bravery, and such as did them the highest honor.
[1 ]“General Greene and Colonel Knox would have persuaded the commander in chief to have pushed on and improved the alarm given the enemy, to which he was inclined; but the generality of the officers were against it, and his Excellency did not then think he could answer going contrary to the judgment of the majority of the council of war. He has since regretted his not seizing the golden opportunity.”—Gordon, History, ii., 396.
[2 ]Read in Congress December 31st.
[3 ]General Cadwalader passed over very early in the morning of the 27th, with fifteen hundred of the Pennsylvania militia, without knowing that Washington had recrossed the Delaware. He was informed of this movement after a large part of his men had landed on the Jersey side, and at ten o’clock he wrote from Burlington to the Commander-in-chief,—“As this defeated the scheme of joining your army, we were much embarrssaed which way to proceed. I thought it most prudent to retreat; but Colonel Reed was of opinion, that we might safely proceed to Burlington, and recommended it warmly, lest it should have a bad effect on the militia, who were twice disappointed. The landing in open daylight must have alarmed the enemy, or we might have been cut off by all their force collected at this place. We had intelligence immediately after landing, that the enemy had left the Black Horse and Mount Holly. Upon this we determined to advance to Burlington. Colonel Reed and two other officers went on from one post to another, till they came to Bordentown, where they found the coast clear. We shall march at four to-morrow morning for that place.” Accordingly he reached Bordentown the next day about noon, and wrote that he had then with him eighteen hundred men, and five hundred more were advancing from below. Here he received orders from General Washington to remain till he should himself pass over with the Continental battalions, which would take place on the 29th, the men being too much fatigued to make the attempt sooner.
[1 ]Read in Congress January 3d.