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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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.
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
[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.