Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO HENRY LAURENS, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 2 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO HENRY LAURENS, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 2 - 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).
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TO HENRY LAURENS, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.2
Camp, atWhitemarsh, 10 November, 1777.
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 4th and 5th instant, with their several enclosures. Among those of the former, I found the resolution you are pleased to allude to, respecting your appointment as president. Permit me, Sir, to congratulate you upon this event, and to assure you I have the most entire confidence, that I shall experience in you during your presidency the same politeness, and attention to the interests of the States, that marked the conduct of your worthy predecessor.
With respect to the views of the Navy Board for securing the frigates, the situation of the army would not admit of a compliance with them, supposing they would answer the end. I have therefore written to the Board, in the most pressing terms, to have the frigates scuttled in such a way, that they may be raised when it shall be necessary, and that in the mean time they may not be liable to injury from floating ice. I see no measure so likely to secure ’em to us, and against the enemy’s attempts. I have been extremely fearful they would have possessed and employed them, with the Delaware and their batteries, on the rear of the galleys and the fort, while the ships below attacked in front. I need not point out the probable consequences of such an event; they are too obvious. The resolves, which you request to be communicated to the army, shall be published in general orders.1 The letters for Commodore Hazelwood &c. have been put in a proper channel of conveyance.
As to the disposition of part of the northern army, my letter of the 1st contains my ideas upon the subject, and those of my general officers. I shall be sorry if the measures I have taken on this head should interfere with, or materially vary from, any plans Congress might have had in view. Their proceedings of the 5th, I presume, were founded on a supposition, that the enemy were still up the North River, and garrisoning the forts they had taken. This not being the case, and all accounts agreeing that reinforcements to General Howe are coming from York, I hope the aids I have required will be considered expedient and proper. Independent of the latter consideration, I think our exertions and force should be directed to effect General Howe’s destruction, if it is possible.2
Among the various difficulties attending the army, the adjustment of rank is not the least. This, owing to the several modes, the several principles, that have prevailed in granting commissions, is involved in great perplexity. The officers of the Pennsylvania troops are in much confusion about it. In many instances, those who were junior in rank, from local and other circumstances, have obtained commissions older in date than those which were granted afterwards to officers, their superiors before. This, with many other irregularities, has been and is the cause of great uneasiness; and, though precedency of rank so claimed should not be supported in justice or upon any principle, we find all, having the least pretext for the title, strenuous to support it, and willing to hold a superiority. I was therefore induced to order a board of officers to take the matter under consideration. The result, respecting the field officers of this State, I now enclose, and wish Congress to adopt the regulation, which the Board have made, and to transmit me, by the earliest opportunity, commissions dated according to their arrangement. At the same time it may be proper, that there should be a resolve vacating the commissions they now have, and directing them to be delivered to me. Their attention to this business, I trust, will be immediate; the disputes and jealousies with the officers require it.
I have enclosed the memorial of Colonel Duportail and the other engineers for their promotion, referred to me by the Board of War for my sentiments. As to the terms these gentlemen mentioned to have been proposed and agreed to when they first arrived, I know nothing of them further than the memorial states. In respect to their abilities and knowledge in their profession, I must observe they have had no great opportunity of proving them since they were in our service. However, I have reason to believe, that they have been regularly bred in this important branch of war, and that their talents, which have been hitherto, as it were, dormant, want only a proper occasion to call them forth; in which case, I have no doubt they would do themselves honor, and the States essential service. It is of great importance, too, to consider the practicability of replacing these gentlemen with persons equally qualified, if they should quit the service; and how indispensable men of skill in this branch of military science are to every army. While I am on this subject, I would take the liberty to mention, that I have been well informed, that the engineer in the northern army (Kosciuszko I think his name is) is a gentleman of science and merit. From the character I have had of him, he is deserving of notice too.1
I would beg leave to mention, that we are in great distress for want of money. This will be more urgent every day; and it is probable there will be a good deal of pay due the troops coming to reinforce us. General Putnam writes pressingly for a supply, and says, he is in a most disagreeable situation for want of it. I must request the attention of Congress to this subject.
Your favor of the 7th came to hand this morning. I shall pay proper attention to the enclosures. The rank of the officers of cavalry I will attempt to have settled as soon as circumstances will admit. I have nothing very interesting to communicate. The enemy have lost one of their new floating batteries; it sunk in a little time after it was launched. There has been a cannonade to-day; it still continues. I do not know the occasion, but imagine that it is between the ships and galleys. I have, &c.
[2 ]Henry Laurens was chosen President of Congress on the 1st of November, as the successor of President Hancock.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 4 November, 1777.
[2 ]“Since the engagement at Germantown no material alteration has happened in the situation of the two armies. General Howe has withdrawn himself close within his lines round Philadelphia, and we have fallen down with the main body of the army to this place, about 13 miles from Philadelphia. Our light parties are much nearer and cut off all communication between the country and city. I am in daily expectation of a reinforcement from the northern army, and General Howe has drawn the principal part of his force from New York. Happy would it be for the liberties of this country could a sufficient head of men be suddenly collected to give a fatal blow to the remainder of her oppressors now drawn together in such a situation that it would be impossible to make a retreat after the Delaware is rendered unnavigable by frost.”—Washington to Governor Henry, 13 November, 1777.
[1 ]Kosciuszko was appointed an engineer in the Continental service, October 18, 1776, and had been constantly employed in the Northern Department, first at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, and afterwards in the army of Generals Schuyler and Gates. He planned the encampment for the American army at Bemus Heights; and he was afterwards the principal engineer in executing the military works at West Point.