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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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 THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Whitemarsh, 17 November, 1777.
I am sorry to inform you that Fort Mifflin was evacuated the night before last, after a defence which does credit to the American arms, and will ever reflect the highest honor upon the officers and men of the garrison. The works were entirely beat down; every piece of cannon dismounted, and one of the enemy’s ships so near, that she threw grenades into the fort, and killed men upon the platforms, from her tops, before they quitted the Island. This ship had been cut down for the purpose, and so constructed that she made but a small draft of water, and by these means warped in between Fort Mifflin and the Province Island. Some complaints are made, that the captains of the galleys did not sufficiently exert themselves to drive this vessel from her station; but I shall not determine any thing upon the matter till a proper inquiry is made.
Nothing in the course of this campaign has taken up so much of the attention and consideration of myself and all the general officers, as the possibility of giving a further relief to Fort Mifflin, than what we had already afforded. Such a garrison was thrown into it, as has been found by experience capable of defending it to the last extremity; and Red Bank, which was deemed essentially necessary, not only for the purpose of keeping open the communication, but of annoying the enemy’s ships and covering our own fleet, has been possessed by a considerable detachment from this army. The only remaining and practicable mode of giving relief to the fort was by dislodging the enemy from Province Island, from whence they kept up an incessant fire. But this, from the situation of the ground, was not to be attempted with any degree of safety to the attacking party, unless the whole or a considerable part of the army should be removed to the west side of Schuylkill to support and cover it.
To account for this, you must be made acquainted with the nature of the ground. In order to have made the attack upon Province Island, the party destined for that service, which would have been at least fifteen hundred, must have marched down the Chester road as far as the Bell Inn near Derby, and thence, turning towards Delaware, must have proceeded about four miles further through a neck of land to the Island. The enemy have a bridge at the Middle Ferry upon the Schuylkill, which is but four miles from the Bell Inn; consequently, by throwing a body of men over that bridge upon the first discovery of our design, and marching down to the Bell, they would have effectually cut off our detachment upon their return. It is true, the covering party might have consisted of a less number than the whole army; but then those remaining upon this side of the river would have been too few to have been intrusted with all the artillery and stores of the army, within twelve miles of the enemy.
There were many and very forcible reasons against a total remove to the west side of Schuylkill. Leaving all our stores at Easton, Bethlehem, and Allen-town uncovered, and abandoning several of our hospitals within reach of the enemy, first presented themselves. Another, and in my opinion a more weighty reason than either of the preceding, was the importance of supporting the post at Red Bank, upon which that at Fort Mifflin in a great measure depended, as through it we sent in supplies of men, provisions, and ammunition. The enemy, sensible of this, endeavored to dislodge us from Red Bank on the 22d last month; which, as Congress have been informed, cost them four hundred men.
Now had our army been up on the west side of the Schuylkill, they might, without any danger of an attack upon their lines, have thrown over so considerable a force into Jersey, that they might have overpowered the garrison, and, by making themselves masters of it, have reduced Fort Mifflin by famine or want of ammunition. Thus we should in all probability have lost both posts by one stroke. They might also, by taking possession of the fords upon Schuylkill, have rendered the junction of our northern reinforcements with us a very difficult, if not an impracticable matter; and, should any accident have happened to them, we should have stood a very poor chance of looking General Howe in the face through the winter, with an inferior army. We should finally have thrown the army into such a situation, that we must inevitably have drawn on a general engagement before our reinforcements arrived; which, considering our disparity of numbers, would probably have ended with the most disagreeable consequences.
It was therefore determined a few days ago to wait the arrival of the reinforcement from the northward, before any alteration could safely be made in the disposition of the army; and I was not without hopes, that the fort would have held out till that time. That we might then have moved without endangering the stores, I had given orders for the removal of them, from the places before mentioned, to Lebanon and other places in Lancaster county, which is at any rate more safe and convenient than where they were.
As the keeping possession of Red Bank, and thereby still preventing the enemy from weighing the chevaux-de-frise before the frost obliges their ships to quit the river, has become a matter of the greatest importance, I have determined to send down General St. Clair, General Knox, and Baron Kalb, to take a view of the ground, and to endeavor to form a judgment of the most probable means of securing it. They will at the same time see how far it is possible for our fleet to keep their station since the loss of Fort Mifflin, and also make the proper inquiry into the conduct of the captains of the galleys mentioned in the former part of this letter.1
I am informed that it is a matter of amazement, and that reflections have been thrown out against this army, for not being more active and enterprising than, in the opinion of some, they ought to have been. If the charge is just, the best way to account for it will be to refer you to the returns of our strength, and those which I can produce of the enemy, and to the enclosed abstract of the clothing now actually wanting for the army; and then I think the wonder will be, how they keep the field at all in tents at this season of the year. What stock the clothier-general has to supply this demand, or what are his prospects, he himself will inform you, as I have directed him to go to York Town to lay these matters before Congress. There are, besides, most of those in the hospitals more bare than those in the field; many remain there for want of clothes only.
Several general officers, unable to procure clothing in the common line, have employed agents to purchase up what could be found in different parts of the country. General Wayne, among others, has employed Mr. Zantzinger of Lancaster, who has purchased to the amount of four thousand five hundred pounds, for which he desires a draft upon the Treasury Board. Enclosed you have a copy of his letter. I am not clear whether this application should properly be made to the treasury, or the clothier-general, who should charge the money to the regiments for whom the clothes are, as so much advanced to them. If the latter should appear the most proper mode, I will order it to be done. I am anxiously waiting the arrival of the troops from the northward, who ought, from the time they have had my orders, to have been here before this. Colonel Hamilton, one of my aids, is up the North River, doing all he can to push them forward; but he writes me word, that he finds many unaccountable delays thrown in his way. However, I am in hopes that many days will not elapse before a brigade or two at least will arrive. The want of these troops has embarrassed all my measures exceedingly.
18th. Your despatches of the 13th & 14th have this moment come to hand, they shall be attended to and answered in my next. I have the honor to be, &c.
[1 ]For six days preceding the evacuation of Fort Mifflin, the fire from the enemy’s batteries and shipping had been incessant. Major Fleury kept a journal of events, which was daily forwarded to General Washington, and from which the following are extracts.—“November 10th, at noon. I am interrupted by the bombs and balls, which fall thickly. The firing increases, but not the effect; our barracks alone suffer. Two o’clock; the direction of the fire is changed; our palisades suffer; a dozen of them are broken down; one of our cannon is damaged; I am afraid it will not fire straight. Eleven o’clock at night; the enemy keep up a firing every half hour. Our garrison diminishes; our soldiers are overwhelmed with fatigue.—11th. The enemy keep up a heavy fire; they have changed the direction of their embrasures and instead of battering our palisades in front, they take them obliquely and do great injury to our north side. At night; the enemy fire and interrupt our works. Three vessels have passed up between us and Province Island without any molestation from the galleys. Colonel Smith, Captain George, and myself wounded. Those two gentlemen passed immediately to Red Bank.—12th. Heavy firing; our two eighteen-pounders at the northern battery dismounted. At night; the enemy throw shells, and we are alarmed by thirty boats.—13th. The enemy have opened a battery on the old Ferry Wharf; the walk of our rounds is destroyed, the block-houses ruined. Our garrison is exhausted with fatigue and ill health.—14th. The enemy have kept up a firing upon us part of the night. Daylight discovers to us a floating battery placed a little above their grand battery and near the shore. Seven o’clock; the enemy keep up a great fire from their floating battery and the shore; our block-houses are in a pitiful condition. At noon; we have silenced the floating battery. A boat, which this day deserted from the fleet, will have given the enemy sufficient intimation of our weakness; they will probably attempt a lodgment on the Island, which we cannot prevent with our present strength.”