Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM. - 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 MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Head-Quarters, 2 December, 1777.
The importance of the North River in the present contest, and the necessity of defending it, are subjects which have been so frequently and so fully discussed, and are so well understood, that it is unnecessary to enlarge upon them. These facts at once appear, when it is considered that it runs through a whole State; that it is the only passage by which the enemy from New York, or any part of our coast, can ever hope to coöperate with an army from Canada; that the possession of it is indispensably essential to preserve the communication between the eastern, middle, and southern States; and, further, that upon its security, in a great measure, depend our chief supplies of flour for the subsistence of such forces, as we may have occasion for, in the course of the war, either in the eastern or northern departments, or in the country lying high up on the west side of it. These facts are familiar to all; they are familiar to you. I therefore request you, in the most urgent terms, to turn your most serious and active attention to this infinitely important object. Seize the present opportunity, and employ your whole force and all the means in your power for erecting and completing, as far as it shall be possible, such works and obstructions as may be necessary to defend and secure the river against any future attempts of the enemy. You will consult Governor Clinton, General Parsons, and the French engineer, Colonel Radière, upon the occasion. By gaining the passage, you know the enemy have already laid waste and destroyed all the houses, mills, and towns accessible to them. Unless proper measures are taken to prevent them, they will renew their ravages in the spring, or as soon as the season will admit, and perhaps Albany, the only town in the State of any importance remaining in our hands, may undergo a like fate, and a general havoc and devastation take place.
To prevent these evils, therefore, I shall expect that you will exert every nerve, and employ your whole force in future, while and whenever it is practicable, in constructing and forwarding the proper works and means of defence. They must not be kept out on command, and acting in detachments to cover the country below, which is a consideration infinitely less important and interesting. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
[1 ]General Washington wrote at the same time to Governor Clinton, with a good deal of solicitude, on this subject. “General Gates was directed by Congress,” he remarked, “to turn his views to this matter; but, from some proceedings, that have just come to hand, he may be employed in the Board of War, if it should be his choice. Should this be the case, nothing would be more pleasing to me, and I am convinced nothing would more advance the interest of the States, than for you to take the chief direction and superintendence of this business; and I shall be happy if the affairs of government will permit you. If they will, you may rest assured, that no aid in my power to afford you shall be withheld, and there are no impediments on the score of delicacy or superior command, that shall not be removed.” To this proposal, Governor Clinton replied: “The legislature of this State [New York] is to meet on the 5th of next month. The variety of important business to be prepared for their consideration, and other affairs of government, will employ so great a part of my time, that I should not be able to give that attention to the works for the security of the river, which their importance, and the short time in which they ought to be completed, require. But you may rest assured, Sir, that every leisure hour shall be faithfully devoted to them, and my advice and assistance shall not on any consideration be withheld from the person, who shall be intrusted with the chief direction.”—MS. Letter, December 20th. The same letter contains several important hints respecting the construction of new works on the river, and he especially recommends, that a “strong fortress should be erected at West Point, opposite to Fort Constitution.” This was probably the first suggestion, from any official source, which led to the fortifying of that post.