Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE COUNCIL OF SAFETY OF NEW YORK. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO THE COUNCIL OF SAFETY OF NEW YORK. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO THE COUNCIL OF SAFETY OF NEW YORK.
Philadelphia, 4 August, 1777.
I have been duly honored by your several favors of the 25th, 27th, & 30th of July. The misfortune at Ticonderoga has given a very disagreeable turn to our affairs, and has thrown a gloom upon the prospect, which the campaign, previous to that event, afforded. But I am in great hopes, that the ill consequences of it will not continue long to operate, and that the jealousies and alarms, which so sudden and unexpected an event has produced in the minds of the people, both of your State and to the eastward, will soon subside, and give place to the more rational dictates of self-preservation, and a regard to the common good. In fact, the worst effect of that event is, that it has served to produce those distrusts and apprehensions; for, if the matter were coolly and dispassionately considered, there would be nothing found so formidable in Mr. Burgoyne and the force under him, with all his successes, as to countenance the least degree of despondency; and experience would show, that even the moderate exertions of the States, more immediately interested, would be sufficient to check his career, and, perhaps, convert the advantages he has gained into his ruin. But while people continue to view what has happened through the medium of suspicion and fear, there is no saying to what length an enterprising man may push his good fortune. I have the fullest confidence, that no endeavors of the Council will be wanted to bring your State (with the distresses of which I am deeply affected) to every effort it is capable of making in its present mutilated situation; and they may rely upon it, that no means in my power shall be unemployed to coöperate with them, in the danger that presses upon the State, and through it threatens the continent. If I do not give so effectual aid as I could wish to the northern army, it is not for want of inclination, nor from being too little impressed with the importance of doing it. It is because the state of affairs in this quarter will not possibly admit of it. It would be the height of impolicy to weaken ourselves too much here, in order to increase our strength there; and it must certainly be considered more difficult, as well as of greater moment, to control the main army of the enemy, than an inferior and I may say dependent one; for it is pretty obvious, that, if General Howe can be completely kept at bay, and prevented effecting his principal purposes, the successes of Mr. Burgoyne, whatever they may be, must be partial and temporary.
Nothing that I can do shall be wanting to rouse the eastern States, and excite them to those exertions, which the exigency of our affairs so urgently demands. I lament that they have not yet done more; that so few of their militia have come into the field, and that those few have behaved so inconsistent with the duty they owe their country, at this critical period. But I have nevertheless great reliance upon those States. I know they are capable of powerful efforts, and that their attachment to the cause, notwithstanding they may be a little tardy, will not allow them long to withhold their aid, at a time when their own safety, that of a sister State, and, in a great measure, the safety of the continent call for their greatest zeal and activity.1 I flatter myself, that the presence of Generals Lincoln and Arnold, in the northern department, will have a happy effect upon them. Those gentlemen possess much of their confidence, particularly the former, than whom there is perhaps no man from the State of Massachusetts, who enjoys more universal esteem and popularity; and, in addition to that, they may both be considered as very valuable officers.
You intimate a wish, that some assistance could be drawn from the southern States at this time. But, while things remain in their present posture, and appearances, however illusory they may prove, afford the strongest reason to keep their force at home, to counteract the seeming intentions of General Howe, I could neither ask nor expect them to detach any part of it to the succor of the northern States, which are so well able to defend themselves against the force they now have to oppose.
I hope an exaggerated idea of the enemy’s force may have no injurious influence on our measures. There is no circumstance, with which I am acquainted, that induces me to believe General Burgoyne can have more than six or seven thousand men; and, if the force left in Canada is so considerable, as the information you send me makes it, he cannot have even so many. The representations of prisoners and deserters, in this respect, are of little validity. Their knowledge is always very limited, and their intention, particularly the former, is very often bad. Beyond what regards the state of their own respective companies, no attention is due to what they say. The number of regiments, your informant mentions, agrees with other accounts. But in the number of men in each company, he gives the establishment, not I am persuaded the actual state. The British army in Canada last campaign, though they suffered little by action, must have decreased materially by sickness and other casualties; and if the recruits, both from England and Germany, bore any proportion to those, who have reinforced General Howe, the state of their regiments must be greatly inferior to what your information supposes. Reasoning from analogy, as far as it will apply, I cannot imagine that the British regiments can exceed two hundred and fifty men each, fit for the field, or that the foreign troops can amount to much more than three thousand men.
The appointment of General Clinton to the government of your State is an event that in itself gives me great pleasure, and very much abates the regret I should otherwise feel for the loss of his services in the military line. That gentleman’s character is such, as will make him peculiarly useful at the head of your State, in a situation so alarming and interesting, as it at present experiences. For the future, agreeable to your desire, I shall direct my applications to him.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
[1 ]“Genl Schuyler urges the necessity of further Reinforcements, alleging that he derives no assistance from the militia. Your post is the only one from whence a Reinforcement can immediately be sent; but as I would not wish to weaken you, as the Enemy seem to bend their course again towards you, without consulting you, I desire that you and the general officers would consider the matter fully, and, if you think you can spare Cortlandt’s and Livingston’s Regiments, that they may be put in readiness to move. I have ordered the heavy Baggage of the army to be thrown over Delaware again, and hold the men in constant readiness to march the moment we receive any accounts of the Enemy. I very much approve of your throwing Redoubts and Obstructions at the entrance of the passes near your posts, as they, with the natural Strength of the Ground, must render the approach of an Enemy extremely difficult without considerable loss.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 7 August, 1777.
[1 ]George Clinton was the first governor under the new Constitution of New York. He was chosen in July, and sworn into office at Kingston on the 30th of that month: and although from this date he exercised the civil functions of his station, yet he continued in active command of the militia of the State till after the defeat of Burgoyne.